Raptor Wednesday

This is the all-Swedish edition. We saw twelve species of raptors on our trip. Here are some of the highlights:

Tornfalk or Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). These were seen every day, often in multiples. For instance, one morning there were five over fields with a scattering of cattle who had clearly whirlwinded up some insects for the cloud of (Barn) Swallows around them and the Yellow Wagtails at their feet. Larger than our American Kestrels, the Eurasian Kestrel is Hopkins’ Windhover, the “dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon” that seems to hover in place as it matches the force of the wind with its wingbeats and scans the ground below for prey. I delayed a short walk with long observation of two hunting from fence posts in a marsh; one put a Snipe to flight.

Havsörn or White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). The southwestern portion of Falsterbo is a sandy cape called Måkräppen. It’s had a varied career over the years and ocean currents: some maps show it as a separate island. It’s a seal preserve now, closed to people except during winter. At the cape’s top, the landmark above seems to have something to do with navigation; it is also the local eagle hang — we saw eagles perched atop it on three different days. Once, I was looking at one of these big birds standing on the beach next to a blubber of harbor seals way out on the point. A Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) wandered onto the scene from the right, putting the eagle to flight and scattering at least half the seals, although I don’t see how a fox could have threatened a healthy adult seal.

Lärkfalk or Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo). This is a long-winged falcon with no equivalent in our part of the world. The birds are fast enough to prey on swallows and swifts. We saw two taking big mosaic darner dragonflies over the dunes, swooping down upon their prey and then devouring them in flight, dropping off the wings and other inedible bits before making another pass. Elsewhere, in the face of a good stiff wind, an adult and juvenile zoomed over the ruins of a 13th century castle hunting for dragonflies. Another notable sighting had one of these falcons plucking a song bird (several observers thought it was a Blue or Great Tit) in the air, the feathers fluttering away as the falcon flew back and forth.

Sparvhök or Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). Another daily sight, often spotted flying extremely low over the ground as they attempted to surprise prey. Lots in the air during our one big sunny day (394 in the official count that day; I randomly looked at a more recent day, 9/17, when over 2000 were counted). This species is not dissimilar from our own Accipiters, but don’t let that big Goshawk-like supercilium (“eyebrow” line) fool you; these are bigger than Sharp-shinned and smaller than Cooper’s.

Other species in order of frequency: Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Osprey, and Red Kite. We also had single sightings of Peregrine, Hen Harrier (now split from our Northern Harrier), and Pallid Harrier. That last was a scope-view as he hurried along off the coast. Such movement in the air! While weather bollixed much of the anticipated migration, we had one good day at the Skanörs ljung or heath preserve, where birder’s line up to see migrating raptors swirl up in kettles and/or coast along in their quest for the south. Birders there had spotted the Pallid Harrier first and gotten word to the also-crowded scene at the lighthouse, where we saw it, generally found further east, powering southwards.

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