Bearded vultures on winter vacationFebruary 13, 2023
East Bohemian SaharaAugust 25, 2023
This year’s winter was very mild by Central European standards. On the other hand, it was as if spring had not arrived at all. Even in mid-May, ground frosts were calling for a word almost every morning. Nevertheless, in clear weather in the sun, the trees, flowers and their pollinators did their duty. They sprouted, bloomed and flew. Nevertheless my friends and I were waiting for a trip north, back to winter. At least that’s what we thought at the time.
Although it was already the end of April and spring weather prevailed, most of the lakes were still frozen.
Witnessing an amazing show like a lek of Black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) is an unforgettable experience. Many years ago, I used to go to watch these theater performances here in Bohemia, in the Jizera Mountains. It was possible to watch it directly from the gable of one of the local cottages. Today, a newly built boarding house stands on this place of lek. The habitat for Black grouse in our mountains is disappearing despite all conservation efforts. After several years of unsuccessful attempts to see Black grouse in our mountains, I finally decided. If I can’t see them in the Jizera Mountains, I’ll go see the Black grouse elsewhere. To Sweden.
The beautiful Nordic landscape was an amazing backdrop for the rare fights.
The older I get, the more tired I get of flying. Not so much the flight itself. Rather, it’s waiting for departure, check-in, airport control, lengthy boarding. In Czech conditions, the journey through Prague to the airport in Ruzyna is an adventure in itself. However, Stockholm is not that far away and the trip and flight went well. We even got on the right bus to the rental car the first time.
Thanks to the warm weather, the roosters didn’t really want to fight.
Although my English is not very good, I still have a certain advantage over my fellow travelers who do not speak a word of English. I somehow understandably became the spokesperson for the entire trip. The Hyundai i30 Kombi Hybrid passenger car with automatic transmission is not a bad car. It’s too “chatty” for my taste. It emits all kinds of noises in almost every action that it does not consider standard, it jerks the steering wheel when driving on the roadside or in the opposite direction, it bores the driver to comply with the regulations, especially the speed limit, and it also makes an otherwise comfortable stay behind the wheel unpleasant. However, these attacks on the part of the machine could be tolerated with the feeling that for the same money we received this larger, more spacious and more economical model instead of the originally ordered VW Golf. The smiling lady at the ALAMO rental office announced this surprising information to us and we surprisingly accepted it.
This picture will probably interest photographers in particular. it’s a completely unedited image, just converted from RAW to JPG. exposed to the maximum value of ISO 51200. Its quality is incredible. It’s Canon!
On the way northly from the Swedish capital, we were constantly waiting to encounter that Nordic winter, or at least its echoes. To our surprise, the weather was even nicer than the previous day here in the Czech Republic. Clearly, no wind, flying bees, twirling feathers. Accommodation in a beautiful location in the town of Krylbo on the Dalalven riverside. Although the guesthouse had its glory days long ago, including its equipment. But the host was easy-going, we were the only guests, and besides – many times we’ve been sleeping in worse places.
Meeting this amazing bird up close is an unforgettable experience.
Finding a Western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) or Black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) place of lek is not an easy task. In addition, every year the location and the course of the flow can change, so it is almost impossible to go anywhere where one does not know, literally speaking “blindly”. We used the services of the agency Nordic safari Sweden. In addition to my favorite Black grouse, another, one might say, bonus experience awaited us. Western capercaillie lek place. We were very much looking forward to it, but we still didn’t know what was waiting for us. Above all, boarding the tent shelter was already at four o’clock in the afternoon. Western capercaillie roosters arrive at the lek place already in the evening before twilight. They spend the night high up in the branches of old pines and in the morning, still in the dark, they fly down to the lek place and begin to defend their piece of forest. And you have to hope that he chooses the patch of forest near your tent. In addition, the Western capercaillie has a species name of “deaf” in Czech, but don’t be misled. The roosters is always on the lookout, and any careless, inadvertent movement or sound of the photographer will scare him off and he will not show up that day. It means exercising a lot of self-control and caution throughout the night and even more during the actual photography. The slightest movement can cause the movement of the wall of the tent and startle the Western capercaillie. The fact that out of two attempts in the shelter I did not even see a rooster in one case shows how big a lottery it is.
Although the photographer is primarily focused on getting a good shot, in this case he has to be just as scrupulous about maintaining the mount and not scaring the birds.
We didn’t get much sleep on this Scandinavian trip. The Black grouse expedition also started in the afternoon. The path to the shelters led us through a beautiful Nordic landscape. Waterlogged peatland with extensive growths of mosses and lichens, dwarf willows and birches lined with low pine forest. Pastel shades of dark and bright green, yellow, ocher, brown. After a quiet night, the show starts again before four o’clock in the morning. Seeing ten Black grouses on a lek place field is a real experience. We were also looking forward to cockfights, but apparently due to the warm weather (around 4 degrees C), they didn’t happen. And this despite the fact that for a while the females also arrived at the farm. Just staying in the beautiful countryside was an experience, the wonderful grouse were the crown of this experience.
On the other hand, when photographing Black grouse, so much caution is not needed.
The two remaining days that we did not spend in tent shelters we made trips around the area. We liked lake Dickasjon the most. In addition to the beaver dam and the beavers themselves, Whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus), Common mergansers (Mergus merganser), Canada goose (Branta canadensis) and Common crane (Grus grus) performed wedding dances here in full.
Common Crane flying in the rain in the setting sun. Don’t take a picture of it!
Canadian geese were just forming nesting pairs and defending their territory.
Unfortunately, the short trip in the beautiful Nordic landscape had a bitter aftertaste upon returning to Stockholm. When returning the car, the Technician discovered several scratches on the front spoiler. We accepted that without saying a word, we got stuck in the terrain with the car and it could have happened during recovery. We wrote a handover protocol where everything was stated. The technician also signed it and we headed to the airport with the understanding that everything was resolved. However, while still in the airport hall, an email arrived with the message that an additional defect was detected on the car. Damaged interior doors from cigarettes and cigarette ash! From us, three non-smokers! And since smoking is not allowed in the car, this damage is not covered by insurance, so we have to pay for the damage. I probably don’t need to emphasize our indignation. In addition, we have taken out a zero-deductible insurance policy! We wrote to the ALAMO car rental company that we are three well-known wildlife photographers from the Czech Republic and if they insist on their request, we will not advertise them well with us. In three days, the news came that they would not require additional payment for “damages”.
Neighbors on the Nordic lakes. Common gull and Beaver.
Sweden is a wonderful country for a photographer, no matter what subject he focuses on. I believe that the incident with the car rental company is an experience that can happen anywhere, and it is good to learn from it. Definitely can’t deter either of us from visiting again. We are already looking forward to it. When we are already known as the famous photographers in Sweden 😊 .