This year I decided to take an earlier trip to Sweden in the hope of getting some recordings of species like black woodpecker and possibly even lynx or wolf (unlikely but you can always hope!). Again I went with Stefan Taylor, who owns a hut in the area of central Sweden I go to and knows the area well, and Richard Youell, a photographer and sound recordist. We decided to stay at ‘the old cottage’ bed and breakfast (shown above) which is a beautiful old traditional 17th century Swedish log cabin CLICK HERE .
The place is owned by John de Jong who has lived in the farm house next door with his family for around 12 years after moving from Holland. It is lovely, comfy and warm and proved a great place to return to after long recording trips and walks in the forest.
The last few years I have come to Sweden later in the year (towards the end of April) and the difference in the landscape earlier in the year is very noticeable. Snow was still deep on the ground and it reminded me of a book I used to love as a child called ‘The Tomten’ by Astrid Lingren. Especially at night, after it had snowed, the landscape had a magical quality and I half expected to see some Tomten footprints in the snow! An image from one of the Tomten books is shown below. Its amazing how much this image has stuck in my head. I think its part of the reason I feel drawn to places like Sweden and Norway.
A few days into the trip we took a trip to Farmansbo reserve. It was a very different experience to coming in April. Initially it seemed very quiet and barren but after trekking through the forest for half an hour or so things started to happen. It started to snow with big heavy beautiful snowflakes which seemed to fall in slow motion.
In my experience, this seems to happen a lot with nature: it takes around half and hour for you to tune into your environment and then you start to see things and things start to happen.
Suddenly we spotted some wolf footprints in the snow. John de Jong thought it looked like a lone female from the size of the prints. (Photo by Richard Youell). No other sign of her though but the tracks were fairly fresh so we carried on.
Then the sun came out for a while and black and green woodpecker started to drum. When the sun comes out the bugs start to come closer to the surface of the trees which instantly makes the woodpeckers become more active.
Later on that day we got word that there were some Lynx in the area. It’s very rare to see Lynx, as they are very elusive creatures, so we were all very excited. In the whole 12 years John de Jong has lived in the area he has only seen them a handful of times. March seems to be the best time to see them in this area though as it is mating season and they are a bit more active but there are only around 30 in the whole region so this was very lucky.
We quickly headed to the area where they had been spotted and lo and behold at the edge of a clearing in the forest there were two fully grown wild Lynx in their full winter coats! We couldn’t quite believe it. The encounter was very short lived (only around 3 minutes) but Richard managed to get a couple of pictures (shown below).
Such an amazing experience to see them up close! It took me quite a while to process it. Sadly there was no time to get any sound recordings but just seeing them was enough to make the whole trip worthwhile. The Lynx tracks are show below (photo by Richard Youell). They are easily confused with hare tracks as hare rear paws look similar in the snow but they can be distinguished by the size of the front paws as hare’s front paws are much smaller.
Another highlight of the trip was heading out in one of John de Jong’s canoes early in the morning. I decided I would try and get a wee video and do a binaural recording. The results are below. I was using my own head with two DPA 4060s on my ears. A better solution might have been to use a dummy head and put it at the front of the canoe to avoid the noise from my breaths all the winter clothing I had on but in some ways this adds to the listening experience so I was fairly happy with it and I didn’t have a dummy head with me anyway so the only option was to use my own head!
Overall it proved quite a difficult time of year to get good recordings as, although there was generally very little wind, there was quite a lot of sleet and snow. Also, lots of geese showed up a few days into the trip which caused problems, as they are noisey buggers, but there were a large numbers of black woodpeckers and green woodpeckers which were drumming pretty much throughout the day at this time of year and seeing the lynx more than made up for any sound recording struggles.
Stefan Taylor runs trips to the black river valley in April and May so if you are interested check it his website here