Without sharing my dark ideas with my wife, I had two bird targets for the trip to northern Sweden. One was Hawk Owl, the second was Pine Grosbeak. I birded Scandinavia as an advanced teenager in the early 1990's, so I didn't 'need' other classic Scandinavian species. Both targets are not easy in the relatively southerly and coastal region of Luleå - 'only' 66° N. I got some pre-trip intel from a local birder, but news from my friends Nanette and Thomas who were birding the area and found a family of Hawk Owls about 1.5 hrs north of Luleå, near Boden, enticed me to lose one night of sleep. I headed out of Luleå on July 1st shortly after midnight. I checked some other small roads where Hawk Owl was possible, and tried for other owls too, but only had quite many roding Woodcock. At 02:30 I got to the spot provided by Nanette, and as I drove in I heard many thrushes mobbing aggressively - it had to be an owl. A quick scan in the big tree and - Ural Owl! It quickly flew off and out of view, leaving me astonished. Unexpected and awesome, but not quite the owl I wanted... A short drive further, and as I got out of the car I immediately heard begging Hawk Owls - boom!
Here they are:
Quickly I spotted an adult, presumably daddy owl sitting on top of a spruce - my heart skipped a beat. What a bird! I have been dreaming to see this boreal owl for many years. I quickly secured some record shots in the low sunlight:
Then, in a more relaxed mode, I just enjoyed the family action. The adult did a few fly-byes, displaying its remarkable hawk-like silhouette. So cool!
I did not see any actual feeding but at first the chicks were hidden so I might have missed it. Then they moved out to the open, but stopped begging and the adult disappeared.
Can you spot all three?
Here they are:
The habitat was very nice, some proper boreal forest but like everywhere in Sweden, logging created open patches. Dawn chorus was nice but nothing more exotic than Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Common Redstart etc.
Very happy with this encounter, I left the owl family in peace. I had a spot for Pine Grosbeak near Luleå airport, but when I got there I was disappointed to find degraded forest by a landfill - not very attractive and very few birds. At 06:00 I snuck back into bed for a snooze before the family woke up for another day of activities...
Thanks again to Andreas, Nanette and Thomas for the info.