Looking north over the Falsterbo Peninsular Photo: Stock
The Scandinavian Peninsula is a vast region rich in birdlife. Every autumn, countless millions of breeding birds empty out of the northern forests and fells for southern climes. Located at the very tip of this landmass, Falsterbo acts like a very narrow delivery end of an enormous funnel. Consequently, it has long been regarded as one of Europe’s premier birding sites, and indeed the flight of birds there is one of the great natural spectacles on the planet. With migration already well underway in July, beginning with species on long-distance journeys to the equator or beyond, and continuing practically unabated through November, it is difficult to recommend a time to visit Falsterbo. Our tour aims for a transition period between movements of a diverse host of African migrants, including shorebirds, flycatchers, pipits, and warblers, and the staggering later-season flights of doves, finches, corvids, tits, and thrushes bound for continental Europe. This is also an excellent time for raptors, for which Falsterbo is arguably the best site in all of Europe. When the conditions are right, the sky is an ever-shifting gallery of kites, hawks, and falcons. And there is a good chance for rarities as well – just as Falsterbo funnels Northern Europe’s breeding birds, it is also bottleneck for any stray that might have wandered into the region.
We’ll keep a close eye on the weather (which is very often glorious and autumnal) and plan our days accordingly. On days of heavy migration, we will never tire of the gardens, pastures, and dune forests right around town. Much of the migration takes place overhead, and we may spend an entire morning in one location, waiting to see what passes by and over us. If conditions seem safe to leave, we’ll venture short distances off the Falsterbo peninsula to search for sparse local breeders such as Bearded Tit, and visit good locations for waders, gulls, and terns, always to return to our home base in the hamlet of Skanör (the sister-town to Falsterbo), and to lodgings in a beautiful historic inn. With excellent food, a gorgeous setting, a strong community of local birders, and world-class birding at a relaxed pace, Falsterbo is the place for anyone wishing to increase their experience with European birds, or, perhaps, simply with the wonders of bird migration.
Day 1: Our tour begins this morning in Denmark, at Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport. Once gathered, we’ll have a short introductory meeting before driving across the bridge to Sweden. If the weather looks good for migration, we’ll likely head straight to Falsterbo to get some birding in before dinner. We’ll check into our cozy, centrally located, hotel in the village of Skanör, which shares the little peninsula with Falsterbo. Our accommodation is within walking distance of good birding, including a large area of cow pastures that can be excellent for waders, pipits, and wagtails, among others. The trees right around town are often good for small flocks of migrant warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers. We’ll determine where the activity is and spend the rest of the day getting immersed in the local birdlife. Night in Skanör.
Days 2-5: From our base in the village, all the wonders of the Falsterbo-Skanör peninsula will be within easy reach. Our daily itinerary will hinge on the weather and the magnitude of bird migration. Most mornings we’ll be out at first light near the famous Falsterbo Bird Observatory lighthouse gardens. On days of heavy migration, the sky can be filled with an unceasing passage of wagtails, pipits, finches, corvids, doves, and, as the morning increases, raptors. One of the long lasting memories of Falsterbo will be seeing a sky full of birds on a good morning, and the experience is as much about the sight and sound of tens-of-thousands of birds in flight overhead as it is about the variety of species. As Stephen’s day job is Observatory Manager, we’ll also be able to gain unique access to the ringing area in the lighthouse garden, giving us the chance to see many of the migrants up close and personal, as well as taking a look at the important scientific work that the observatory does. Our mornings at the point will allow us to assess the day’s migration, and determine how we’ll spend the rest of the day. When the weather is right, the birds keep coming, and we’ll want to spend as much time as we can birding the gardens, marshes, and meadows (as well as the golf course!) around the point on the hunt for any birds that have chosen to land, while always keeping an eye to the sky where the bulk of the action remains. We’ll also take pleasant walks through a forested area which opens up to rolling sand dunes and a large heath. Here, when the raptors are on the move, one can sit down and watch a stream of Sparrowhawks, Red Kites, Kestrels, Hobbies, and Common and European Honey Buzzards, all the while noting warblers, tits, and other songbirds flitting through the birches and pines. Lunch will be taken in a nearby restaurant – several of which have terraces and outdoor eating areas, so keep your coats on as we will be eating al fresco. On previous trips, lunch-time sightings have included White Stork, Black Kite and White-tailed Eagle.
While it is the prospect of staying put and letting the birds come to us which is the great appeal of spending a week at Falsterbo in the height of autumn migration, we’ll take some time to visit local areas of interest off the peninsula. One such is Lomma Bay, just north of Malmö, which can be excellent for gulls and waders, while the nearby campus of Alnarp, with its many plantings and some very old oaks, is often good for migrants as well as resident birds. We’ll also visit Lake Krankesjön, where we’ll hope to find species not typically present at Falsterbo, including Crane, Kingfisher, and Bearded Tit. Other times we may venture along the southern coastline in search of waders, terns, and gulls. And, with a strong community of birders in the area, we’ll stay updated as to what is being seen, and will be prepared to go in search of any rarities that may turn up in the region.
Regardless of whether we remain at Falsterbo or venture farther afield, our days promise to be filled with first-rate birding, fresh air, good meals, optional downtime, and minimal time on the road. All nights in Skanör.
Day 6: After morning birding, we’ll make our way towards Malmö, Sweden, across the straight from the Kastrup airport in Copenhagen, sometime after lunch. Depending on how we’ve fared, we may do some birding somewhere along the way. Night in Malmö.
Day 7: The tour concludes this morning with transfers to Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport.
Updated: 17 November 2020