A close beaver encounter

We’ve just returned from a week in the Swedish countryside, staying in a summerhouse amongst the lakes, meadows and forests. Over the past 20-odd years I’ve been a frequent visitor to this stunningly lovely country but this was my first since the summer of 2019; COVID getting in the way of seeing family for far too long. I will write a more comprehensive post about the wildlife encounters during the trip but just had to start with the beavers!

Close to the summerhouse is a small lake teeming with wildlife above, on and below the water’s surface. Over the course of my previous stays there, I have made almost daily trips down to the lake to see the family of beavers that live there. Most often, the views are distant, across the lake, around their large lodge, and are certainly not guaranteed. However, this trip was very different, at least at the end.

We saw one or more beavers everyday and up to three at once but the penultimate night of our stay was particularly special. As usual we walked down to the lake towards dusk (although you can often see the beavers during the day) and we stood where the little jetty reaches out into the water. Going any further onto the jetty itself risks its clanking frightening off the animals and sending large ripples rolling out across the lake.

Soon after we arrived a beaver approached us. Not swimming far off on the other side of the lake but within five metres. Judging by its size it was likely to be a youngster from last year, coming up to take an inquisitive look at us. At first it swam into the little bay by the jetty, floating and turning for a while as its beady eyes kept a watch on us. It then suddenly splashed its tail and disappeared under the water. However, it wasn’t gone for long as it reappeared towards the little bay beside us and came back for another look.

Seeing one beaver so close was incredible but once the first had eventually made its way back to the other side of the lake, a second came in for a look. Similarly, it was likely to be a a kit from last year and it was equally as inquisitive and spent as much time floating about watching us and making several passes. Eventually, it too made a final pass and disappeared into one of the channels they have dug a the edge of the lake.

The sightings of these two beavers was made all the more special by the other wildlife in the surroundings and the sunlight as the dusk came in. The background sounds were of calling cuckoos, chattering fieldfares, several roding woodcock, numerous smaller songbirds and some croaking frogs in the lakeside reeds. The clouds lit up by the setting sun as well as the light on the trees gave the water a golden shimmer as the gentle breeze broke the glassiness spread across much of the lake.

This was not only one of the most memorable wildlife moments I’ve had in Sweden but one of the most memorable I’ve ever had. Fortunately, I have some photographs and video that captured the moments.

A fine way to spend Christmas Day

I was in Sweden over Christmas this year and spent part of the big day out in Färnebofjäden National Park. With Christmas celebrated on the 24th in Sweden, like much of the rest of Europe, this freed up Christmas Day for something else. When I’m in Sweden, there’s little I like more than to grill sausages on an open fire out in wilderness. So my brother, nephew and I headed out into the cold and wintry outdoors for a bit of alfresco cooking.

Färnebofjäden is the closest national park to where my brother lives and is less than an hour’s drive away. The ground was covered in snow but not the nice, deep, fresh powdery stuff but old, hard and icy snow that would have brought the UK to a standstill. Many of the roads were sheet ice but with studded tyres, the journey to the national park  wasn’t too troublesome.

Just near Gysinge, we stopped by the River Dalälven and set ourselves up in a wind shelter on the river bank. Wind shelters, small open-fronted ‘log-cabiny’ huts, are dotted around the Swedish countryside, usually by rivers or lakes. With fireplaces in front and a good supply of wood topped up by the park rangers, the shelters are a brilliant facility used by many.

With the fire started very quickly, we waited for the ash-bed to grow until it was hot enough to cook the sausages. We had a wander around the spot while the fire got going. The weather was cold enough for the river to start freezing with plates of ice growing from the banks outwards, joining together to form a larger sheets. With low cloud and mist, the scene was one of a dark and harsh winter’s day.

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There was little wildlife around in the gloom, few birds could been seen or heard, although we were joined by a treecreeper by the shelter. On the way back, however, we saw a large group of roe deer eating out in the middle of the snow fields.