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WHAT DO YOU CALL FOUR TERNS? A CIRCLE
How many species of common birds can you recognize on sight? Besides the flashy obviousities of bluejay, cardinal, hummingbird, oriole and robin, I mean? I'm not really thinking of the songbirds so much or the "little brown jobs" of field and hedge. And I'm not really thinking of the one-hit wonders of flamingo, pelican, parrot or ostrich, either, since I assume those are the ones EVERYONE knows, whether or not they've ever actually seen one in real life.

There are an awful lot of big birds here in Sweden that I am now on familiar terms with that I had no knowledge of before I moved across the ocean. I think part of it is because there are so few OTHER small animals for me to give my attention to. I've lamented this dearth before, I know. No chipmunks, no squirrels to speak of (and no grey ones at all), no raccoons or skunks or woodchucks. No oppossum.

We get hedgehogs and mice and rabbits, and moles and voles, though except for the hedgehogs and rabbits they are pretty rare sightings. I'm told there are weasels in this country, but I've never seen one. Birds, however? They're everywhere, and most of them are HUGE.

I can tell the difference between all the dark birds now. I recognize the differences between crows and ravens and rooks. I can tell a jackdaw from a crow and both from a magpie (easy peasy if you can see his wings). Not only do I know what a blackbird looks like, I can recognize his shyer, brown mate and differentiate his liquid trill.

I'm confident of my ability to point out a wood pigeon as opposed to a common pigeon and I'm on nodding terms with the doves.

There are pheasants in the backyard and red-tailed hawks in the fields, hovering over the hay, glowering from posts. There are owls, though I confess I don't know them all, nor do I know the myriad species of falcons and other raptors that abound here, they're usually at a distance. When we feed the mallards at the pond in my parents-in-law's village I can identify their food-grabbing diving rivals and tell the Mediterranean gulls from the Glaucous and Common ones.

I know swallows and swifts when I see them on the wing and can call hello to the little pied wagtail bopping along on the ground; a sure sign of spring, that one. When I am driving swiftly on a country road past plowed acres edged in tall grass I can still identify a northern lapwing as I whiz by, a feat which would have escaped me without these years of living in the farmland of Skåne.

Storks are obvious for us all, thanks to the abundance of them from the Flyinge Stork Project here in the village, as are cranes and herons and the wild mute swans. And geese are practically a national symbol of Sweden so we're familiar with all kinds of geese, not just Canadian.

But after a few sightings in the past weeks of some plover-ish, gull-like white and black bird, low to the ground, with a stabbity red beak, seen only briefly once or twice from the car window, I finally found time to grab my trusty Birds of Britain and Europe from the shelf of reference books in the den (doesn't it sound oh-so-much-classier when you call it a den or a study than if you just say computer room??)

I spent several minutes paging through the color plates, stopping at every black-and-white bird with a red beak, only to discover that there are several birds that look as if they were separated at birth in terms of the skimpy glimpses I'd gotten with each sighting. I waffled over the oystercatchers, but finally ruled them out since they stick to the shorelines for the most part and are more black than white, while my mystery bird was the opposite. And I ruled out the arctic terns too since they're too small to be the bird I'd seen. So it must have been a Caspian Tern!

Yay! I love knowing the names of things. It seems so much easier to greet them when you've been introduced. :)

I didn't take this photo, I found it
 happy
mood: happy
music: Calaisa—Never Lookin' Back


Comments

There are an awful lot of big birds here in Sweden that I am now on familiar terms with that I had no knowledge of before I moved across the ocean. I think part of it is because there are so few OTHER small animals for me to give my attention to. I've lamented this dearth before, I know. No chipmunks, no squirrels to speak of (and no grey ones at all), no raccoons or skunks or woodchucks. No oppossum.

We get hedgehogs and mice, and moles and voles, though except for the hedgehogs they are pretty rare sightings. I'm told there are weasels in this country, but I've never seen one. Birds, however? They're everywhere, and most of them are HUGE.


Replace Sweden with Holland and I could have written this.

I'm awfully fond of all the terns.

An odd thing with Colorado, you can find gulls here, not many, but an occasional pair now and then, by some bigger water reservoir. How the HELL did they stumble this far inland??

Back in Uppland, as opposed to Skåne, I saw lots of badgers and big hares, as well as an occasional weasel, among small animals. In general I think they exist in abundance..but are much more reserved and shyer, the squirrels are a good example. Squirrel population is pretty decent in Sweden, but boy are they timid wallflowers compared to the cocky bastards we have here in Colorado.

Also, parts of Skåne is fairly heavily populated and clutivated, so if you want to se weasels you need to be out really really early in the morning, the so called "wolf hour" just before sunrise, that's when I've commonly seen badgers and weasels in best view. Also, there is more of those kinds of animals further north from where you are. As well as tons of bear, lynx and moose.

Skåne on the other hand is a bird-watcher´s Shangri-La, and they have wild-Boar!!

We see the hares as well, down here, and I forgot rabbits, so I edited my post to include them cuz I hate hurting bunny feelings. :P Gulls seem to get around...guess they just follow the food sources! I've never seen badgers here, but you're right I'm not only NOT up early, I'm in a substantially populated area.

(Anonymous)

Hedgehogs?!!!! Oh, I love hedgehogs. I think I would gladly swap some squirrels for some hedgehogs!!!

xoxoxoxox wee

they ARE cute, but they're not very sociable. :) I think squirrels are more fun, in that sense, though I know most people consider them a pest.

Try to imagine cross-breeding squirrels with hedgehogs, ending up with a squirrel full of sharp spikes on his back. :-) That would be something!

Apart from the mammals Liz wrote about, we also have badgers in places, and on occassion foxes, but maybe they're too big to fit in the list of small and medium sized mammals.

Jonas Wahlström, the manager of the Skansen aquarium at his house on the countryside outside of Stockholm has loose lemurs! Obviously they're not wild, but loose to the point they walk by the neighbours' houses. I think a number of exotic animals could survive rather well in Sweden, but of course we don't want to introduce foreign animals in our fauna. From time to time, there are reports in the newspapers about people who have seen wild kangeroos in the forests, but most of the time it seems to be a result of too much alcohol and imagination.

Ooooh...pretty new bird!

I had no idea there were so few medium sized mammals in Sweden.

Compared to the US (which you can't really do), there is a huge difference...but Sweden is a far northern peninsula so it's isolated in that sense. I forgot to mention rabbits, though! I'll have to go back and add that in. :) We have lots of rabbits :)

I would miss squirrels... How's Sweden for bugs?

I've often wondered how to use a bird book since there's a couple of birds around here that I'd like to identify. With plants, it's a bit easier to classify, first by annuals/perennials, and then by bushy or climbing or spreading, and then flower/leaf patterns. With birds I don't even know where to start. Um, Brown? Small? Flies?

They're divided up in categories in the reference books as well, and there are usually lots of color plates to help with identification as well as silhouette of posture, tails, birds in flight, etc.

We've got most of the regular bugs here, as far as I know, but one awesome thing about Sweden: no cockroaches!

How many species of common birds can you recognize on sight?

Great question. This is something I'm trying to increase my knowledge of with the help of my two trusty bird books.

Oh, and I love your new word creations: obviousities

Re: How many species of common birds can you recognize on sight?

It sort of rolls and bounces right off the tongue, doesn't it? :)

(Anonymous)

I remember sitting at the window, watching birds come to our feeder, with the slick bird book my parents got me for the holidays. We had a lot of mourning doves. And I remember moving from Tennessee to Wisconsin and being so sad at the obvious change in geography--Tennessee being on a glacial path, leaving seedings galore. The landscape was much duller in Wisconsin, which is probably why I couldn't settle there. Here on the Mississippi River with the bluffs, the topography is a little more dramatic, a little better suited for me.

(Anonymous)

(me, above)

I keep forgetting with your journal, I don't have a login. Weird.

- Molly
www.sylviatheteacher.blogspot.com

I know, it's one of the things about LiveJournal that is aggravating. I hope at some point they will change it so that other types of bloggers can login as well.

I so wish I knew the names of birds. It's one of those things I keep MEANING to study...just like the names of trees...

I learned a whole lot of trees when I lived in Chicago, because I realized one day while riding on the El that everything going by below me tree-wise was just a big green blur. Now I know about 20 on sight and it's really a cool feeling to recognize them :)

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