Updated: Mar 1
It is early February 2022 and my first trip to our host Conny Lundstrom. The place is Kalvtrask in the Vasterbotten Lan region of Sweden and the trip is to see Golden Eagles in the wild, from Conny’s 2 fabulous Hides.
Travelling to Sweden my day starts at 03:30 and a drive to Manchester airport to catch the first flight to Copenhagen and a short stop before we are on the next flight to Stockholm arriving there a little after lunch. We Grab a Pizza and a traditional glass of Juice from the kiosk. Then it’s on to the next flight to Skeleftea in Sweden where we are met by Conny to be taken to his house in Kalvtrask.
On arrival at his house, we are greeted with a bowl of warm soup, bread and a brief of what would happen the next day and timings.
Day 1 of seeing the birds. Another early rise to get ready for our 05:15 breakfast and ready to travel to where we could see the Golden Eagles, it was about a ten-minute walk from where we were dropped off in minus 7 degrees so by the time, we reach our spot my feet were already like ice blocks, (Snow boots needed next time). We arrived at the hide, it’s still dark and light comes around about 08:15 in the morning.
To my pleasure there are heaters in the hide to keep us warm, and it did not take long for my feet to thaw. The day started nice and slow giving me chance to acclimatise to the sub-zero temperatures of Sweden. To our rear we could see lots of small birds ranging from willow tits to greenfinches, bull finches and many more. The camera to the rear already set up was clicking away nicely capturing all these wonderful birds sat on perches looking for their breakfast.
Mid-morning and I start to see different birds flying by us, great tits, blue tits and great spotted woodpeckers, but no Golden Eagles yet. Will I see them I ask myself?
Time trundles on and before I know it, lunch time, get the sandwiches out that we prepared at breakfast, and a warm drink to keep me going through the rest of the day. It’s now one o’clock and there, about 60 yards in front of us a Golden eagle flies on to the branch of a tree, “Wow” I say to myself, a truly magnificent bird and in the wild. He is looking around constantly to see what is about, is he looking for food or other predators, I don’t know, I grab my second camera and start to take pictures of him hoping I make no noise to scare him off. I get the picture I wanted and watch him for what seemed an eternity and then he flies off into the forest. To my amazement he flies around and lands in front of us about 50 yards away, he has found food being eaten by the magpies, no guesses to who would be eating there first.
For the next few hours, I am spoilt with watching this beautiful bird feed and being tormented by magpies who want the same feedings. During the few hours he is there I never noticed the sub-zero temperatures and soon the darkness came in. it was time to return to the house, Conny picked us up around 5:15 and back to the warmth of the house and dinner, the conversation turned to The Northern lights.
Conny told us we may see them around 10:30, but there was only a small chance of seeing them, so we went out to a frozen lake in the middle of nowhere and waited around to see them. About 15 minutes into our wait there was a glimpse of the Aurora, not brilliant but it was there, and I could now say that I had seen Aurora Borealis.
We had to be up early for the next days, and it was time to once again return to the house for some sleep.
Up at 04:30 and by 06:15 we arrived at the hide. The weather started out fine for a little while and the stars and moon could still be seen. When light came, we had our guest at first light, the small birds had returned for there breakfast. To my amazement it was not long before our main guest arrived, not 1 but 2 golden eagles, I think they must have been a breading pair as they where very close to each other.
The snow started to fall but this did not bother them, and they continued to feed but always keeping an eye out for other predators. The other birds, greenfinches, tits and Jays were still around and 3 pairs of great spotted woodpeckers, a tough decision on which to photograph. As the day progressed the eagles stayed around feeding and flying backwards and forwards to different points where they found food, the pair of eagles sticking together. A little after lunch a 3rd golden eagle appeared and a small battle for the dominance at the point of food with the pair losing out and the third eagle clearly the stronger getting the prize. The day continued with the eagles feeding and the magpies harassing them while they ate.
Conny picked us up to return to the house at around 5:15pm the way to the truck was quite easy in the dark, as the snow and the moon lit up the short walk back. Tonight (Wednesday we did not see the Northern Lights, so it was an evening downloading the images to my laptop and recharging the camera batteries, not to say my own batteries as it had been 2 long days so far.
Day 3, Thursday, did not disappoint, like clockwork the little birds arrived at day brake looking for food, the woodpeckers could be heard hammering the trees, quite surreal to hear and see them just busying away foraging for food.
Without notice, the eagles had landed for their daily feed and the magpies always annoying them. The trusty 500mm f4 lens being put to work to capture once again these magnificent birds of prey.
Lunch time came, time for yet more cheese & ham sandwiches and Katarina’s specially made cocoa, at minus 6 degrees it was needed. The weather although cold has been kind to us with the birds in constant supply to photograph. The eagles also did not disappoint with an aerial fighting display, unfortunately they were directly in the sunlight so the only picture I have of them is silhouetted, yet another truly brilliant sight to see these huge birds in action. Last day of watching the eagles and it is time to return to the house and some food. 6pm and dinner is ready, and I am told the chance of seeing the Northern lights tonight is high, what time I ask and told as early as 8pm, I can’t wait, dinner rushed down and now time to get the warm clothes back on, this time I walk to the outskirts of the village to see if the Aurora was about,
no sooner as I reach the edge of town, I am presented with what I can only describe as the most magical display I have ever seen, the dancing Northern lights in the night sky, my eyes focussed on this natural phenomenon I almost forget to press my remote shutter release to take the pictures. I move the camera around after a few shots as the lights are all around me, wherever I look swirling green and purplish red rivers of light move and dance unpredictably. I am so lucky to have seen this tonight and a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life.
A trip i hope to make again in the not to distant future