For the ninth consecutive season we visited Storulvån in Jämtland, central Sweden, to study Great Snipes. As in previous years, our team consisted of people from Handöl (the local village), Lund, Uppsala, Stockholm, the Netherlands and Poland. The goal for this season was to retrieve some of the 20 accelerometers that we put on birds in 2016.
It was a season filled with greater challenges than normal. In April, a month before departure, we learned that the bridge over river Handöl had been torn to pieces earlier the same winter by moving ice. This bridge is crucial to us for reaching some key leks in the area.
The next challenge would be the snow conditions. The combination of an unusually snow-rich winter, and a very late spring, resulted in “a lot of snow” waiting for us. As if this was not enough, the weather forecast suggested five days of more or less continuous rain.
Indeed, the first two evenings in the field gave us a combination of the strongest snow cover so far and on top of that, wind, rain and fog. Luckily our local team member had secured a set of snow shows from the tourist station, which significantly facilitated the walks to the first leks.
After the first two evenings, our wet, cold and slightly troubled moods were raised significantly by the recapture of two birds wearing accelerometers.
The third day the weather had improved, and we decided to have a go at the most distant leks, via the dirt road. In the early afternoon, Peter, our local team member, took us by four-wheel bike on the dirt road for six kilometers. After that the road was blocked by snow and ice. This meant that we needed to walk the remaining distance…
In mild and still weather, and a blazing sun, one team of three persons walked in snow shoes the 7 km to Laptentjakk. After a steep climb up the mountain side, six mistnets were raised and nine birds trapped, of which two carried accelerometers! After a very tiring walk back they reached the meeting point for the four-wheel bike at 6 am. For some in the team it was by far the toughest walk in the nine years of the project. This was dwarfed, however, by the team of four who walked 11 km one way to Tjallingen, trapped 30 birds including one with accelerometer, and finalized their 23 km walk already at 6.30 am! After another four-wheel ride back, we all gathered at the field station at 8 am for breakfast.
With all the focal leks visited, five accelerometers retrieved, and 29 out 30 new accelerometers attached, we felt that the season had definitely been a success - despite all the initial problems and worries. However, there was one more night available for trapping, and we decided to try the nearest lek again. The first evening we had seen two birds with accelerometers there, but only trapped one. The activity level of Great Snipes this evening was very low but we managed to trap one single bird – a bird with an accelerometer!