After just a couple hours of sleep we sat down at the breakfast table at 3 (!) AM sharp. Today was D-day; we would search for a needle in a haystack: Siberian Tit (Bruinkopmees), a lifer for all and a nemesis bird for Jelmer who had been living in Sweden for the past five years.
Our trusty Opel made its way north across frozen moonlit roads, we had to clear the inside of the rear windows of ice as the moister in our breath froze to the windows; the thermometer said 22 degrees below zero… finding a Siberian Tit would require some sacrifices.
We made a few roadside stops to listen for owls, but only as dawn set in a Northern Hawk Owl (Sperweruil) started calling distantly. The following happened all within just 10 minutes…. Max shouted ‘Grouse’ and as we looked in the given direction we saw two immaculate snowy white Willow Grouse (Moerassneeuwhoen) creeping over the road, upon raising our binoculars they darted off down the hillside. Just 5 minutes later we noticed 5 dark shapes next to the road. These ‘shapes’ turned out to be 4 females and a displaying male Western Capercaillie (Auherhoen), one of the avian wonders of the Scandinavian taiga. The male bird allowed for point blank views as it even started displaying to our car at one point while uttering its unique bubbling call, truly an amazing experience.
Capercaillie, what a beast! By Max van Waasdijk
Following this spectacle we had fantastic views of two Snow Hares (Sneeuwhaas) and I found a Northern Hawk Owl perched on the antenna of a roadside building!
Snow Hares, by Max van Waasdijk
Northern Hawk Owl
Our toes and fingers felt painfully frozen while scoping 3 displaying Black Grouse (Kornhoen) on a frozen lake (!), so we decided to drive to the nearest village for some well deserved coffee.
Simply stunning scenery, by Sander Smit
We needed the coffee to refuel; it was just 9 AM and we still had a long day to go. Morning now was well on its way and the beautiful weather caused the temperature to rise. We were ready to look for that Tit!
The little information available all pointed in the direction of Käringsjön, a series of lakes close to the Norwegian border.
Before reaching the site we stopped at some good looking forest. The only bird present was a Siberian Jay (Taigagaai), brilliantly spotted by Sander. Unfortunately it remained distant and quickly disappeared from view.
Siberian Jay, by Sander Smit
The road ended near some langlauf cabins on the shore of a frozen snow covered lake. Luckily there was a langlauf path that seemed to lead straight in the direction of the GPS coordinates given by a Swedish birder over WhatsApp. Still the closest we could get to the coordinates was about 400 meters. I played the tape and we held our fingers crossed. Almost immediately we got a response and to our amazement 3 small birds flew in from over the ridge and landed next to us in a spruce: Siberian Tit (Bruinkopmees), mission accomplished!
On the way back we even saw the Siberian Jay again, this time allowing close-up views!
Siberian tit, by Sander Smit
Siberian Tit, by Max van Waasdijk
Very tired, but very satisfied we collapsed on our beds, what a thrilling day!