...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

But, where are the birds?

At the end of last month, Margareta, Mats and I joined a bird-watching tour at one of Northern Europe's biggest bird lake, Tåkern, which happens to be about an hour's drive from where they live. M&M are bird enthusiasts (which I am not). At identifying bird sounds, I stop at the cuckoo. Besides, learning bird names in Swedish when I don't even know what they're called in English, is what some might call överkurs, i.e. “supplementary studies”.

Tåkern boasts of a newly opened museum / information center that was finished last May, so we decided to go check it out. The information center itself, Naturum Tåkern, is one of 20 such information centers located in biologically diverse / geologically interesting places all around Sweden. Here they inform about the history of the place, the flora and fauna, and the national and local policies that pertain to the area's wildlife conservation. Naturum Tåkern is also architecturally interesting in itself; worth a visit just to see natural elements like wood and reed built into an ultramodern angular “hut”.

Naturum Tåkern, from the bird-watching tower

Inside, they display individually carved, painted and to-scale models of all the hundreds of birds reported to have been found in Tåkern lake, with some of the smallest models being no bigger than the nail of a pinky finger. Someone used a very powerful magnifying glass. If you'd rather be outside, there are hiking trails around the lake too.

Our short tour around the lake was led by an über-pedagogical guide who managed to lure a bunch of grown-ups to flap their arms like certain birds while walking from place to place. At the end of October, they say, you are sure to spot some of the birds that rest in Tåkern on their way down to the continent. Fish and insects are never far for these tired hungry birds, as the lake is in average less than one meter deep. In the 1800s, Tåkern was sunk to its present depth to make way for surrounding farmlands. It would have been sunk even more, perhaps disappeared from the map, if conservationists hadn't pointed out its importance to bird life. I found this bit quite interesting. Most people tend to believe that the human footprint on the planet only causes destruction. Perhaps, in a macro and long-term view, this is true. But there are also examples of humans, by accident, creating advantage for other species (the most used example is domestication of plants and animals). The lowering the lake for economic purposes proved to be one such example, and became an advantage for wild migratory birds.

 One of the bird-viewing towers 

Inside the tower, humans huddling together for warmth

Okay, but where are the birds? From the viewing towers at the banks of Tåkern, and even on an October evening where you supposedly don't have a chance of missing those feathery creatures, the birds are microscopic! Or rightly said, you need a pretty powerful scope to see any detail that is even distinguishable for a beak. So, 40 tour group members, clothed in the warmest things they own, huddled with a small number of telescopes on a cold frosty evening is what summarizes my first bird watching trip. Exciting? Not the least. But at least you could go walk on the trails.




Feels nice to be writing about something informative about Sweden again! It feels like a long time since. Till next time!

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