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Woodland birding

Woodland birding, in Norway as in most other places, is all about finding the right spot. Of course you will always find birds, but when searching for the prime sites with mature natural forest for maximum diversity, you need to know where to go. Forestry and birding don't go well together, so forget about monocultures of pine and spruce when you look for some really good birds.

Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa
Photo (c) Håkon Heggland

Visiting birders in Norway often want to see Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, woodpeckers, owls, Siberian Jay and Siberian Tit. You will not find all of them in one area anywhere, but some places could probably turn up most of them. The diversity of owls is greater in central Norway, and the Trøndelag counties will alway be a good place to start. This area is normally good also for Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse and Siberian Jay. Siberian Tit is also a possibility here, but a safe bet only up north in Finnmark. Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers are easier to find in western Norway.

It is impossible to cover all the different woodland types in this rather short text, we shall limit ourselves to a short intruduction, so that you can get the large picture. About 37% of Norway is covered by woodland, and only 3 % by agricultural land. Probably the most numerous tree-species is the Birch, which seem to tolerate colder and harsher climate and therefore occuring higher up and further north than any other tree species. Naturally, the treeline is normally made up of small-grown birch forest, except in a few areas where Pine is the dominating forest type.

The most diverse deciduous woods, both in terms of plant- and bird species, is occuring in the south-eastern coastal regions. This is also the warmest region, and woodlands dominated by oak and other broad-leaved forest, mixed with agricultural land and eutrophic lakes creates habitats that hold a number of bird species more rare in other parts of the country. A few of those species normally found in these habitats have colonized Norway during the last 60 years. These include Great Crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Trush Nightingale, Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler and Common Rosefinch. The deciduous forestes grade into conifer-domiated woodlands away from the coast, and these areas offer the best chance of seeing species such as Osprey, Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Nightjar, Black Woodpecker, Woodlark, Mistle Thrush and Red-backed Shrike.

In Western Norway, the terrain is more dramatic, with fjords and mountain ridges cutting through the landscape. The woods are very diverse, depending on altitude, soil type and solar radiation. The scenery is dominated by species-rich deciduous forests, pine forest and birch forest. Often pine forest is mixed with Birch, Aspen and Oak, these woodlands hold species such as Northern Goshawk, Grey-headed Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker and Marsh Tit.

Central Norway (Hedmark and the Trøndelag-counties) are dominated by coniferous woodland, but there is no place where deciduos woodlands are totally absent. These forests are the soutwestern limit to the taiga zone, stretching all the way across the Eurasian continent. A nice selection of owls and woodpeckers breed in these areas together with species like Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Siberian Jay, Crossbills etc.

Juvenile Siberian Jay Perisoreus infaustus. Golsfjell May 2003. Photo (c) Alf Tore Mjøs

Northern Norway mainly have to types of woodland: Birch and Pine. Pine forests are mainly inland, and the best areas are in Pasvik in Eastern Finnmark. While the total number of birds in these forests is not comparable to the more diverse southern forest types, this is the easiest place to find Three-toed Woodpecker, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay and Pine Grosbeak. The Pasvik forest also contain many small lakes and bogs, with a good selection of northern waders, and nowhere the opportunity for a chanse-meeting with a Hawk Owl or a Great Grey Owl is larger. This is also the place to find Arctic Warbler and Little Bunting, but keep in mind that the Arctic Warbler is a very late migrant and rarely present before the second half of June.

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