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As the summer draws to a close, thepeaceful forests, lakes and watermeadows of central Sweden act as amagnet for thousands of migrating birdsas they head south through Scandinavia towarmer climes. Huge flocks of BeanGeese and Common Cranes gather in thefarmland, while up to a dozen species ofraptors hunt overhead, from the diminutiveMerlin to the huge White-tailed Eagle.Bluethroat numbers also peak in earlySeptember; these attractive birds spend acouple of weeks in central Swedenfattening up before continuing easttowards their Asian winter haunts. Inaddition to an abundance of migrants, themany resident birds will be active andbusily putting on weight to see themthrough the snowy months ahead. PygmyOwls are at their most vocal in the autumn,and up to six species of woodpecker arepossible in the forests, along withCapercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Nutcracker andCrested Tit. To add variety to this new tour,we will not only focus on the birdlife, butalso enjoy such dragonfly species asBaltic, Azure and Green Hawkers, andseveral interesting butterflies and moths -among them the Camberwell Beauty andLight Crimson Underwing. Mammals, too,will be on the cards, including the mightyElk, the bulls of which will be in primecondition and ready for the autumn rut with a full rack of antlers!We begin with a short flight to Västerås, anhour to the west of Sweden's capital,Stockholm. From here we transfer to thepeaceful meadows, wetlands and forestsof nearby Svartådalen (the Black RiverValley) for a 2-night stay. Flocks of TaigaBean Geese are commonly seen feeding inthe roadside fields along with parties ofCommon Cranes. Hen and Marsh Harrier,Rough-legged Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle,Hobby, Merlin and Peregrine are allpossible overhead, while in the forestsnearby we will look for Nutcrackers, Willowand Crested Tits, Parrot Crossbill, PygmyOwl, grouse and woodpeckers. Thehighlight of our time in Svartådalen,however, will be the evenings at LakeFläcksjön where hundreds of CommonCranes gather to roost each evening. Thesight and sound of these spectacular birdsflying overhead backed by the setting sunis sure to remain in the memory long afterwe return to the UK.We next drive on peaceful, empty roads foraround 150 kilometres to Kvismaren,where we spend two nights. En route wewill stop at an excellent area of forest tolook for the carpenters of the bird world,the woodpeckers. Up to six species canbe seen in this part of Sweden includingBlack, Grey-headed and the elusive Three-toed Woodpecker. The wetlands here arealso home to a variety of dragonfliesincluding Keeled Skimmer and BogHawker, while the forest edges are anexcellent place to search for Elk.The Kvismare Valley - a patchwork offarmland, lakes and restored wetland -attracts up to 20,000 Taiga Bean Geese.Mixed in amongst this mass are smallflocks of Tundra Bean, Barnacle, White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese and eventhe odd Lesser White-fronted Goose.Overhead we must keep a careful watchfor a variety of raptors including many of the species already outlined above, but also Osprey, Honey Buzzard and for the fortunate perhaps even a PallidHarrier, a rare species but one that does move through the valley in smallnumbers at this time of year. On one morning we will join staff from theKvismare bird observatory to watch theringing of Bluethroats and otherpasserines. These beautiful but elusivelittle chats (of the red-spottedScandinavian race) spend a couple ofweeks in central Sweden fattening upbefore continuing on to their winteringgrounds. In addition to Bluethroats,Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting, Red-backedShrike, Redstart, and a variety of warblers,pipits and other species are often caught.The grand finale to our holiday awaits atdusk, for the sight of the Crane roost atLake Fläcksjön was only a mere taster forthe main crane event! Nearly, 20,000Common Cranes congregate in theKvismare Valley each September and wewill position ourselves under their flight-path at sunset to watch them fly to roost.Backed by the setting sun, the sight offlock after flock of trumpeting cranespassing overhead, joined by equally largenumbers of geese and other waterfowl,must be one of the most breathtakingwildlife spectacles Europe has to offer, anda fitting end to our autumnal exploration ofSweden before we must head back toVästerås to catch our return flight home.Sweden in AutumnA 5-day natural history holiday to central Sweden in search of migrating Common Cranes,geese, Bluethroats and other birds ... plus mammals, dragonflies, butterflies and moths.Thursday 12th September - Monday 16th September Cost: £1,195Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationNORWAYBALTICSEAKALMARGOTLANDÖLANDMALMÖGOTHENBURGSTOCKHOLMVÄSTERÅSSVARTÅDALENKVISMARENSWEDENOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Västerås; transferSvartådalen. Day 2Svartådalen.Day 3/4Kvismaren.Day 5Fly London. AccommodationComfortable hotels andguesthouses; all rooms have privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price except for lunch on Day 1 and dinner onDay 5.GradingA. Gentle day walks only.FocusBirds, mammals, dragonflies,butterflies and moths.LeaderDaniel Green.Single room supplement£120.Web quick search: SWE10147Common Cranes flying to roostBluethroatPygmy Owl

The village of Wengen is an idyllicalpine resort, set high on a shelteredalp above the dramaticLauterbrunnen Valley, right in the heart ofthe Bernese Oberland. Few placescommand such a spectacular setting!Lying at an altitude of 1,163 metres,Wengen is backed by one of the finestmountain landscapes in Europe. Herestand the ice-clad peaks of the Wetterhornand Schreckhorn, but even more majesticis the famous trio of peaks - the Eiger,Mönch and Jungfrau. These dominate theview and form an awesome backcloth tothe lush, botanically rich alpine meadowsand spruce forests at their feet. In lateJune, all but the highest peaks are freefrom snow and the newly exposedpastures become awash with a carpet offlowers. Our tour is timed to coincide withthe peak of this display. We begin our holiday by flying to Zürich,then transfer to the train for a rail tripacross the beautiful Swiss countryside toLauterbrunnen. The final stage of ourjourney is by the exciting cogwheel railwaywhich climbs steeply up the side of theLauterbrunnen Valley, past waterfalls andflower-filled hay meadows, to Wengen.There we transfer to our base for theholiday, a small, friendly, family-run hotelset on the edge of the village andcommanding wonderful, unobstructedviews of the snow-clad Jungfrau. Fromhere we will explore the excellent networkof footpaths that radiate out into the adjacent countryside. We will also makefull use of the extensive cable car andmountain railway network to carry usquickly and comfortably high into thesurrounding alpine meadows - a networkrun with the precision and timing of aSwiss clock! At this time of year the high alpine pasturesaround the Männlichen hold a rich diversityof flora. An exhilarating cable-way ascent ofnearly 1,000 metres takes us up to thissmall ski station, transporting us into abeautiful panorama of rugged mountainsdominated by the vertical north wall of theEiger. Species such as Alpenrose(Rhododendron ferrugineum), Globeflower(Trollius europaeus), Broad-leaved MarshOrchid (Dactylorhiza majalis), Small WhiteOrchid (Pseudorchis albida), MossCampion (Silene acaulis), Mountain Avens(Dryas octopetala) and Alpine Bartsia(Bartsia alpina) are common, and severalspecies of saxifrage, Pedicularis,Campanula, gentian, Primulaand violet arelikely to be encountered. We will endeavourto locate some of the more sought afterplants such as Lady's Slipper Orchid(Cypripedium calceolus), Creeping Azalea(Loiseleuria procumbens), Alpine PasqueFlower (Pulsatilla alpina), Alpine Snowbell(Soldanella alpina), Alpine Stonecrop(Sedum alpestre), Reddish Stonecrop (S.rubens), Mountain Houseleek(Sempervivum montanum) and AlpineButterwort (Pinguicula alpina). The area isalso rich in ferns. Excursions around Kleine Scheidegg andMürren will add further to the variety ofplants encountered, and a visit to the footof the 'Eigergletscher' (Eiger Glacier) willallow us to search the screes andmoraines for species such as AlpineButtercup (Ranunculus alpestris), YellowMilk Vetch (Oxytropis campestris), Round-leaved Pennycress (Thlaspi rotundifolia),Chamois Cress (Hutchinsia (Pritzelago)alpina), species of dwarf willow and Broad-leaved Mouse-ear (Cerastium latifolium).Ibex are fairly common around the glacier,and can be remarkably confiding; we mayeven spot a group of Chamois high aboveon a grassy slope. Alpine Marmots peerinquisitively from their burrows and highaltitude birds such as Snow Finch, Citril Finch, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit,Alpine Chough, and Ring Ouzel are alllikely to be seen.The natural limestone flora of the SchynigePlatte is legendary amongst botanists, andfor many will be the highlight of this tour.Our day here will start with a visit to thefamous botanical gardens, before weexplore the undulating pastures along theridge in search of plants such as St.Bruno's Lily (Paradisea liliastrum), YellowBellflower (Campanula thyrsoides), BlackVanilla Orchid (Nigritella nigra) and AlpineSainfoin (Hedysarum hedysaroides). Theviews down over Interlaken arebreathtaking, as are those back towardsthe high mountains and Wengen.We will also explore at lower altitudes,searching the hay meadows and spruceforests around Wengen and Lauterbrunnenin search of plants such as Greater andLesser Masterwort (Astrantia major andA.minor), Greater Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthusalectorolophus), Bearded Bellflower(Campanula barbata) and many species ofbutterflies. Birds such as Nutcracker, BlackWoodpecker, Wood Warbler, Fieldfare andFirecrest all breed in these woodlands,whilst Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrikeand Serin favour the more open areas.There may even be time to visit thedramatic Trümmelbach Falls where themelt water from the mountain glacierscorkscrews downwards inside the verticalvalley walls.The 'Jungfrau Region' undoubtedlycontains one of the most spectacularlandscapes in Europe. The mountainscenery, the outstanding botanical richesand other wildlife coupled with the area'sclassical Swiss charm are sure to remain inthe memory long after we return to London. Wengen - Alpine Flowers of the Swiss AlpsAn 8-day appreciation of the wonderful alpine flora - and birds and butterflies - of the Bernese Oberland, based in the idyllic Swiss village of Wengen.Sunday 16th June - Sunday 23rd June Cost: £1,695Sunday 23rd June - Sunday 30th June Cost: £1,695 (This tour can be combined with our 'Switzerland - Alpine Flowers of the Upper Engadine' holiday outlined on Page 149)Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Zürich and transferby train to Wengen.Day 2/7Botanical walks andexcursions fromWengen.Day 8Transfer by train toZürich and fly London.AccommodationA single-centre holiday, based in avery comfortable, small andfriendly, family-run hotel (withprivate facilities) on the edge of thevillage of Wengen. FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade B. Between915 and 2,280 metres (thoughmostly by cable car!).FocusAlpine flora ... though birds andbutterflies will also be enjoyed.LeaderDavid Tattersfield.Single room supplement£80. ExtensionsExtra time in Wengen, or elsewherein Switzerland, can be arranged.Web quick search: CHE02148Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryFRANCEITALYGERMANYAUSTRIAGENEVABERNINTERLAKENJUNGFRAUWENGENMATTERHORNLUCERNEZÜRICHLAKEGENEVALAKENEUCHATELLAKEZÜRICHLAKELUCERNESWITZERLANDTrumpetGentianLauterbrunnen Valley