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BIRDING TRIP REPORT:

Lake Annsjon (Ånnsjön) region - central Sweden

15 - 18 May 2009

By Stephen Burch, England

Introduction
Another business trip, this time to Bergen in mid May presented me with a further opportunity to revisit the Lake Annsjon area, that I had visited slightly later in the season in both 2008 and 2002.

Having visited this area twice before in June, I was interested to see what a difference 2-3 weeks earlier in the year made. In the event, spring was noticeably less advanced. At Storlien (the highest point), it was still almost winter with plenty of snow remaining in drifts, and with ice on the lakes. It was not surprising that some of the summer visitors seemed to be missing.

At the lower levels of Valadalen and Annsjon there was also a little snow, and while many migrants were present, they didn't seem to have started nesting in earnest yet. One of the benefits of the early season was plenty of vocal wader activity, including song flighting Greenshank which was new to me.

Another plus was the almost complete absence of mosquitoes!

General
Flights and car hire
From Bergen, I caught the SAS flight to Trondheim, and then picked up an Avis hire car at Trondheim airport. From here it was a drive of less than 2 hours to Duved, to the east of Lake Annsjon.

Accommodation
The self catering cabins (stugby) at Duved, had served me well last year, and so I had no hesitation in going back there this year - for details see the end of this account.

Maps
F
rom my previous visit, I had a 1:100,000 map of the area Z6 Storlien-Ljungdalen which was quite good. Smaller scale maps would probably be quite adequate, unless you want to take long walks through the forests or up into the hills along the various paths in the area.

Birding information
There is some general information about the Lake Annsjon area on the Internet and also a short piece in John Gooder's old "Where to Watch Birds in Europe" book. More detailed site information is hard to come by - searching the Internet turned up one good report by Geoff Dicker, who stayed for a couple of the days in this area. I also had information from my previous visit in 2002, and I managed to obtain some useful information by contacting the Bird Observatory in Handol, in advance of my visit. There is another interesting trip report from 2004, in which Fraser Simpson spent a couple of days in the area. This report is difficult to find as it uses the proper Norwegian spelling of Ånnsjön!

Weather
The weather was somewhat mixed. Having had almost a week of sunshine for the business part of my trip in Bergen this was too good to last, and for my first day in Sweden there was a fair bit of cloud, with a few heavy showers. The second day was however uniformly sunny, with temperatures up to about 17°C. The third day started well, but quickly deteriorated into cloudy conditions.

Photos
All the pics shown below were taken with my DSLR equipment - Canon EOS 350D with a EF400mm/f4 DO lens, usually mounted on a tripod - apart from the flight shots. For many a x1.4 teleconverter was also used. All pics were taken in RAW format, and I use NeatImage for noise suppression, with PhotoShop Elements 3.0 for subsequent processing. For further details see the equipment and image processing pages elsewhere on this website.

Sites

Lake Annsjon
Ann Reserve - first section
Ann reserve map (click to enlarge)As last year, it seemed that the most productive part of the huge Lake Annsjon region was the reserve at Ann. This time I discovered there are two useful entrances to this reserve off the E14. The main one is by the Ann railway station. There is also another track in, a few km to the west of here, by buildings with flags and canons at the back! Here there is also an information board, and the track goes over the railway. The advantage of this second entrance is that the walk to the Dolparna hide is then much shorter than from the main entrance - as it cuts out the long east-west section of the boardwalk.

From the main entrance, my main interest was in trying for more photos of the Slavonian Grebes, at the first obervation tower (Logunen). These birds were indeed again present this year, but there was much more vegetation than last year, which made clear shots very difficult.

The adjacent small lake with two hides was notable only for several Wood Sandpiper one evening, but none came close enough good pics.

Slavonian Grebes in sunny conditions on Lake Annsjon (click either to enlarge)

Further on, over the main marsh, waders were more in evidence this year than last, with Greenshank song flighting, and also vocal Whimbrel. From the vicinity of the second tower (Nataholmen), I had distant views of two Cranes, in the vicinity of the Dolparna tower.

Ann Reserve - second section
From the more westerly E14 Annsjon entrance, the remote Dolparna hide can be reached in less than half an hour. At one point the boardwalk is elevated over a particularly wet section - some care needed here (see below)!

This hide has views over some pools, generally too distant for any good DSLR photography. In addition to a pair of Cranes and two Whooper Swans, waders provided the main interest with my first ever summer plumage Ruff - a bizzare sight they were too! Also Wood Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Redshank and Greenshank. But no sign of Broad-billed Sandpiper or Red-necked Phalarope, both of which are reputed to occur here. Maybe mid May is too early for them.

The elevated boardwalk section en-route to the tower! Distant cranes from the Dolparna tower
View of pools from the Dolparna tower Lake Annsjon

Valadalen
This site is reached from Duved by first going east along the E14 to Undersaker, and then turning south on a minor road to Valadalen. Go through this village to the end of the road near a lake. For a map, see last years report. En-route earlish one morning, I found an Elk (Moose) by the roadside but it quickly disappeared back into the forest before I could get the camera onto it.

Last year, I had considerable success here, with good views of two northern specialities - Three-toed Woodpecker & Siberian Jay. No such luck this year though!

I visited here twice, and on the first occasion went along the obvious path which skirts the east edge of the first lake, then goes between two further lakes before heading up into the wilderness in a north west direction. But this time there was no sign or sound of my hoped for repeat sightings/photos of Three-toed Woodpecker or Siberian Jay. In fact, apart from a noisy song flighting Greenshank the area was very quiet.

There was however some interest in the general vicinity of the car park, and in the trees going down to the lake shore. Here were several Brambling, the odd Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and northern Willow Tit. The best birds though were seen actually from the car park - a very flighty group of Parrot Crossbill.

All these birds were difficult to get close to, and all in all this was something of a disappointing site compared with the highs of last year.

Brambling feeding on a snow drift Distant Parrot Crossbill

Lake at Valadalen

Storlien
Storlien is on the E14, just by the Norway/Sweden border, and is somewhat higher than Lake Annsjon. It is notable for a Great Snipe lek in the hills above, which I successfully visited back in 2002. For a sketch map of the area, see last years report.

For this visit, there was plenty of snow around, and the track from the caravan site was blocked by a large drift! The trees were barely in bud let alone leaf, and there was a distinctly wintry feel about the place. There was no sign of Bluethroat or Red-necked Phalarope (seen well last year in early June), presumably because they hadn't arrived yet.

There were a few hardy Willow Warblers around, and waders included several Wood Sandpiper feeding along the icy shore line of the second lake and drumming Snipe above. Persistence eventually resulted in some close pics of the Wood Sandpiper. To my surprise a pair Slavonian Grebe were also present, without any vegetation in the way (as had been the case at Annsjon), but on my first visit the sun was in the wrong direction, and on my second visit it was cloudy!

Wood Sandpiper (click either to enlarge)
Slavonian Grebe at a cloudy Storlien A wintry scene of the second lake at Storlien

Also in the Storlien area, there was a group of six male Goosander, but no sign of any divers (seen last year).

Lake Gevsjon
Lake Gevsjon is to the east of Annsjon, and I passed it a few times on the way to/from my cabin at Duved. One afternoon, I was delighted to find Arctic Terns well positioned on some posts on the marsh side of road, allowing close approach. The marsh had noisy Whimbrel, and maybe other waders as well.

The lake through the trees had fishing Artic Tern, a pair of Whooper Swan, and a Common Sandpiper. Also Goosander. The place had a good feel to it, and could have warranted further exploration, which I didn't have time for.

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern at Gevsjon (click to enlarge)

Gevsjon after sunset

Storulvans
This ski station is at a similar altitude to Storlien, and was similarly wintry. It is reached along a rough road that goes south from Handol. The drive up and back was only notable for my first sightings of Reindeer, and an obliging Lapwing by the roadside. There is apparently a Great Snipe lek about 3km from the end of the road at Storulvans (contact the Handol bird observatory for details), but with deep snow drifts across the tracks this was not something I was going to attempt. The whole area up here is immense and wild - it may well hold good northern upland species, but you would need to be fit & energetic to explore it using the several paths in the area.

Reindeer by the Storulvans road

Lapwing by the Storulvans road

E14 east of Stjordal (Norway)
En-route back to Trondheim airport on the E14, as last year, I saw Cranes in the farm land, along the river. This time there were two groups, totaling 3 birds - what they were doing there is a bit of a mystery, as it doesn't seem like breeding habitat.

Accommodation Details

Place Web Comment
Stugby (Cabins) Duveds Semesterby Stugby website Good quality and value self catering cabins at Duved, which was c. 15-20 mins by car east of Lake Annsjon, along the E14. My grade B cabin came with a well equipped kitchen with fridge/freezer, cooker & microwave. Also a huge plasma screen TV, and a balcony for admiring the view over the valley. Local supermarkets in Duved (small) and Are (larger - built into the station) for all your self catering needs (which of course means not being tied to any set meal times). Good fast response to e-mail enquiries in advance. Recommended.

© All pictures copyright Stephen Burch

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