The most common birds in Sweden

I woke up early this morning to the wonderful Spring sound of birds twittering outside the window. It made me think about how many birds are in Sweden, and what are the most common?

There are an estimated 140 million birds in Sweden, consisting of 275 different species, and numerous subspecies. The vast majority of these are migrating birds that nest in Sweden. Around 25 species pass through Sweden on their way to nesting sites on the Siberian tundra. Birds exist all over Sweden, from the southern-most coast of the country to the northern glaciers.

So what are the most common bird species? Interestingly, I’ve never heard of the first one on ornithologist Richard Ottvall’s list:

1) Lövsångaren – 16.4 million (Willow warbler)

2) Bofinken – 16.8 million (Chaffinch)

3) Rödhake – 7.6 million (Robin)

4) Kungsfågel – 6 million (Goldcrest)

5)Talgoxe – 5.2 million (Great tit)

6) Trädpiplärke – 4.8 million (Tree pipit)

7) Bergfink – 4.2 million (Brambling)

8) Taltrast – 2.8 million (Thrush)

9) Koltrast – 3.6 million (Blackbird)

In the winter, the Great Tit, the Pilfink (Sparrow) and the Gråsiska (Redpoll) are the most common. In my garden, the Domherre (Bullfinch), the Skata (Magpie), the Gulsparv (Yellowhammer) and the Kaja (Jackdaw) are frequent visitors. Maybe it’s one of them I can hear? Being close to the harbour, I also hear the hungry screech of the seagulls.

One thing this small piece of research has made me realise is how little I know about birds. We are outnumbered by them 14:1, and yet I pay little attention. Maybe I should buy a book and some binoculars and head out into the countryside?

Swedish water – in rich supply

Yesterday, 22 March was World Water Day. It was inaugurated in 1993 to focus on the importance of fresh water.

According to the UN, World Water Day ‘’celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis and support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.’’

Sweden contributes to this work via its Stockholm International Water Institute and, under normal circumstances, the annual World Water Week is held in the Swedish capital city. During the week, the organisation awards water prizes to researchers and institutes who work to improve water quality, accessibility and sanitation around the world.

Sweden itself is blessed with water. About 9% of the country is covered with water. Sweden is the EU country that has the most lakes – in fact, 40% of the EU’s lakes are located in Sweden. Lake Vänern, at 5655 square km, is the EU’s largest. Interestingly, Sweden’s total coastline including archipelago, is 48000 km, which is slightly more than a lap around the globe.

Much of Sweden’s freshwater is potable. Most Swedes have the privilege of uninterrupted access to drinking water, with occasional problems in rural areas during summer months. Even the water in the toilet is drinking water, not that anyone drinks from that particular vessel!

The Swedish market of Jokkmokk

On the first weekend in February since 1606, Jokkmokk market and festival has taken place in Swedish Lapland. But not this year. Corona has, as with many other events, caused this year’s event to be cancelled.

Jokkmokk is the cultural center of the Sami population. At the market, you can buy local produce, arts and crafts and also learn about Sami culture and history. Live music and performances are also a feature of the market.

Warm clothes are a must, as temperatures can drop below a terrifying minus 30 degrees! However, this year the festival can be enjoyed from the warmth of your living room. Go to http://www.jokkmokksmarknad.se to participate via the live stream.

For more info about go to http://www.swedishlapland.com

The Swedish market of Jokkmokk

On the first weekend in February since 1606, Jokkmokk market and festival has taken place in Swedish Lapland. But not this year. Corona has, as with many other events, caused this year’s event to be cancelled.

Jokkmokk is the cultural center of the Sami population. At the market, you can buy local produce, arts and crafts and also learn about Sami culture and history. Live music and performances are also a feature of the market.

Warm clothes are a must, as temperatures can drop below a terrifying minus 30 degrees! However, this year the festival can be enjoyed from the warmth of your living room. Go to http://www.jokkmokksmarknad.se to participate via the live stream.

For more info about go to http://www.swedishlapland.com

Historical day in Stockholm – the Golden Bridge

In the center of Stockholm, a large building project is starting to take shape. The Slussen Project started 5 years ago and is an enormous feat of engineering that aims to replace a current structure connecting the southern island of Södermalm to the Old Town. The current concrete structure has been in place since the 1930’s and is literally crumbling. The entire structure needs to be demolished and constructed from scratch.

Ever since 1642, there has been a lock between Södermalm and the Old Town in Stockholm. It has been rebuilt four times. This is the fifth, and it is not without controversy.

Today, an important milestone in the project was reached. An enormous new bridge, known colloquially as the Golden Bridge (although it is in fact ockra), was inaugurated by the Swedish King. The bridge connects the two parts of the city, but divides the residents of Stockholm. Some think it’s very effective and attractive, others think it is a monstrous metal clump.

It really doesn’t matter what people think, the Golden Bridge (correct name Slussbron) is now in place and opens tomorrow at 5am for traffic. Then, the demolishing of the rest of the old structure will begin. The whole project is due to be completed in 2025, assuming no delays.

In the meantime, Stockholmers can walk, cycle and drive over the Golden Bridge knowing they are an integral part of the city’s urban history.

Sweden’s 7th city at the meeting of 7 roads

Sweden is rich with history and historical places. One such place is the city of Örebro. This city is built on the Black River that flows into the Lake Hjälmaren, in the southern third of this long, narrow country. From Stockholm, it takes about 2 hours in a car.

Örebro became an official town in the 1200’s but a settlement pre-dates this by a few hundred years. The name Örebro means ’bridge over a gravel bank’. ’Öre’ is a deviation of ‘eyrr’ which is a old Norse word for gravel bank. At this point, the Black river was shallow and it made sense to build a bridge, so that passers-by didn’t have to wade through the water to cross it.

The position of Örebro in time became very strategic and was a junction between 7 different ancient roadways. These roadways are still preserved today. Because of the usefulness of this geographic position, King Magnus Eriksson built a fortress in 1350 in an attempt to defend the site. Over time, this site has been involved in a great many conflicts and wars. In 1573, the fortress was then transformed into a magnificent Renaissance castle, similar to the one that we see today. The Castle of Örebro is one of the city’s most famous and recognisable landmarks and it certainly is a proud building towering up in the middle of the city. For more information about the castle, go to http://www.orebroslott.se

Today, the Örebro area has about 160,000 residents, making it Sweden’s 7th largest city.

If you, like me, are on a road trip in this area of the country, it is well worth a stop over.

Fun with flags – Sweden

Anyone who’s watched ‘Big Bang Theory’ has seen character Sheldon Cooper’s banal video series ‘Fun with Flags’. Nerdy it might be, but it inspired me to do a Swedish version. So here goes…

The Swedish flag is a well-known yellow cross on a blue background. It is modelled on the Danish flag – the Dannebrogen – which is thought to be the oldest official flag in the world. The cross represents Christianity and forms the basis of all the Nordic flags. The Swedish flag was initiated in the early 1500’s and the yellow is said to represent gold and blue represent the sea. Sweden depicted itself as a wealthy sea-faring realm.

Within Sweden, there are 25 counties and each county has its official flag, some even have an unofficial but well-used flag. An example of this is the southern-most county of Skåne. The unofficial flag is the most commonly used. It depicts a yellow cross on a red background, a combination of Sweden and Denmark. The official flag has actually a red background and a coronated griffin.

Sweden’s islands of Gotland and Öland have their own flags. Gotland’s flag depicts a sheep and Öland’s flag depicts a deer. Öland also has a flag that is a yellow cross on a green background.

There are so many flags in Sweden. Counties, regions, cities, towns all have their own flag, it’s impossible to describe them all. So, as my final flag, I will reference one of my favourites. The Sami population of Arctic Sweden have their own flag. Firmly embedded in Sami mythology it is colourful and beautiful.

If you are interested in reading more about all the Swedish flags that exist, go to https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flags_of_Sweden for more information.

Sweden the pariah

It is well known that Sweden has taken a different approach to the pandemic, one that didn’t involve totally locking down society and enforcing quarantine and curfew. Instead, the Swedish way relied on the responsibility of the population to go about life, with some restrictions and be careful. Time will tell if this was the right choice in the long run.

In the short run, we see that Sweden has a relatively high incidence of death from Covid-19. It is of course hard to compare figures, because it depends on what and how you are counting. Sweden cross checks against the death register and counts every death, in every location. Not just in hospitals, or in intensive care units. Because the virus got into care homes, the vast majority of deaths is unfortunately found in the over 80 age group.

It seems like Sweden is now paying a price for the more relaxed corona strategy. With countries around the world slowly opening up, they have released lists of approved countries from where tourists are allowed. Sweden is not on many of these lists. Swedes are perceived as plague-carrying high risk tourists.

Sweden’s neighbours Finland, Norway and Denmark have opened up for travel after their lockdowns. But the borders to Sweden remain closed. Sweden has become the social pariah of Scandinavia. Norway released an interesting decision this week. No traveling to Sweden, except to the Swedish Baltic island of Gotland. However, domestic travel is allowed in Sweden, so the popular holiday island of Gotland will be packed with Swedes, mostly from Stockholm, crammed in together with Norwegian tourists. Not sure how Norway was thinking on that one.

Of course, as time goes on, Swedish tourists will be welcome again around the world. As Sweden’s death toll reduces, and the virus ebbs out, borders will open again. It’s just an usual situation right now for Swedes to find themselves unpopular.

So, staycation is the melody of summer 2020. My plans include a socially-distanced trip to lake Vättern, and a road trip up north. I’m also going to explore my hometown of Stockholm more.

If you’re staying in Sweden, what do you plan to do?

The great Swedish moose migration

Sweden isn’t only an urban country of towns and cities, it also has an amazing countryside and wildlife. Wild animals that roam the Swedish countryside include wolves, brown bears, lynx, deer, wolverines, reindeer and moose.

Every year, a wonderful wildlife event happens. Called ‘the great moose migration’, the Swedish moose walk the same path to get to their summer grazing pastures.

If you are interested, you can watch this event unfold as it happens. Part of the concept known as slow TV, the Swedish National TV is currently broadcasting the migration around the clock. It is slow, it is snowy and it is spectacular at times.

To see the broadcast go to: https://www.svtplay.se/den-stora-algvandringen

Please note: the moose is the national animal of Sweden. Called ‘älg’ in Swedish, there is frequent debate about whether it is translated as moose or elk. The answer is that it is both! It is called ‘moose’ in American English and ‘elk’ in British English. In North America, there is an animal called an elk, but it is a different animal, known also as a wapiti. The North American elk looks like this, and is a kind of deer:

The North American moose/ European elk/ Swedish ‘älg’ looks like this:

The ‘älg’ has the same Latin name as the British elk, and the North American moose (alces).

Whether moose or elk, it surely is impressive.