Flying visitors and hardy
In summer you hear cawing and chirping in Gränslandet’s fells, bogs and forests. Osprey, golden plover, dotterel, bluethroat, redstart and whimbrel are examples of birds that fly here from their warmer winter quarters. They want to make use of the light, insect-rich Scandinavian summer to feed their young. During the long, light nights they can catch plenty of food for their greedy chicks, which makes the very long flight worthwhile!
Only the hardiest stay over winter. The metallic call of the raven echoes through the mountains and the gyrfalcon swoops down on snow-white ptarmigan. Siberian jay and Siberian tit manage with the food they have stored in tufts of lichen and crevices.
Ptarmigan has been coveted game for a long time in the birch forests and on the barren fells. A rich catch of ptarmigan has saved many people from starving to death. Ptarmigan is a nice acquaintance, whether you’re planning to eat them or just enjoy their company.
Willow ptarmigan is mainly found in the birch forest where it eats buds and shoots in the winter. In summer, it lives on herbs, leaves and berries. The easiest way of distinguishing a willow ptarmigan from rock ptarmigan is by the call of the male – a somewhat ghostly “go-back, go-back”.
Rock ptarmigan also feeds on buds and shoots in the winter. But it makes do with low-growing shrubs such as crowberry and dwarf birch on the bare mountains. The call of the rock ptarmigan is loud and croaking, like an old door.
Siberian jays are faithful companions when you walk in the forests in Gränslandet. They live in constantly chattering family groups and are always curious about new visitors to their forest. The best chance of seeing Siberian jay is at one of the camp sites or rest cottages. They come to snatch a few breadcrumbs or food scraps. Siberian jay is not, however, found in the fells. They are agrophobic and never leave the safe haven of the forest.
Siberian tits have declined significantly in Scandinavia but Gränslandet is still one of their strongest holds, perhaps because of the abundance of old-growth forest. Gränslandet is also one the southernmost outposts for Siberian tit, and therefore many birdwatchers come here to “tick” it. They are easiest to find at one of the camp sites in the Rogen and Långfjället nature reserves.
On the dry alpine heaths in Gränslandet you often hear the melancholy call of golden plover. Its song captures the desolation of the mountain landscape better than any other bird.
If you see a large falcon swooping down at lightning speed to catch a ptarmigan – then you have probably seen a gyrfalcon. In winter, you can be absolutely sure, for no other falcons overwinter in the fells. Gyrfalcons live almost solely on ptarmigan, even during good lemming years.
Golden eagles breed on steep precipices or in large old pines. Adult eagles remain in the mountains over winter, while young birds migrate south. It’s easy to recognise the young by their white tail base. By the age of three, the tail is completely dark.
Golden eagles feed mainly on mountain hare, capercaillie, grouse and ptarmigan, but also carrion. Occasionally they take reindeer calves.
Black-throated diver and red-throated diver often fish in the lakes in Gränslandet’s mountains, heaths and forests.
If you go canoeing in Gränslandet, black-throated diver will be your constant companion. In the daytime, you’ll see it swimming, flying and fishing. At your camp in the evening, you may hear its desolate call or see its classic silhouette against the sunset
Capercaillie and black grouse
Capercaillies like the old-growth forest. You can find large amounts of droppings, looking like cheese doodles, under their favourite pines. Such pines usually have a thin crown since the capercaillie only eats pine needles in the winter.
On early April mornings, the bogs in Gränslandet vibrate with the bubbling call of black grouse. The males gather at the ancient lekking sites to measure their strength in dance-like duels. In winter, black grouse feed mainly on birch buds. This is why you often see them in young, leafy birch forests.
A sturdy pine, fish-rich waters, and peace and quiet. That’s all the osprey asks for. Osprey declined significantly throughout Scandinavia in the 1960s and 70s, mainly due to environmental toxins. For some years it had completely disappeared in Gränslandet, but already in 1971 it was seen fishing in the lakes again. If you see osprey flying around anxiously you have come too close to the nest.
Photo: Naturcentrum AB.
Don’t disturb birds of prey or divers on their nests!
If you get too close, the parents may desert the nest and their young, which may then suffer a premature death. Birds of prey and divers are particularly sensitive.
Siberian tit can...
... lower its body temperature to five degrees Celsius to conserve energy during cold winter nights. In the morning it needs 15 minutes to warm up again. In this way it can survive the very cold winters in the northern coniferous forests.