by Jake Brendish
In the last days of term, the mention of a field trip to Sweden drove me to run through campus like a Sports Direct employee trying to find a sandwich on their five-minute lunch break.
I had always loved what I had seen of the Scandinavian landscape (not to mention the wildlife) and crudely scrawled my name on the sign-up sheet.
We arrived in the middle of August. Our base for the week was Tovetorp Zoological Field Station, an oasis of meatballs and cake at the centre of dense forest. Without leaving the station we were able to see many creatures rarely seen in the UK, including red squirrels and common cranes.
Our outings the first weekend included a trip to the islands and VERY slippery rocks of Stendörren Nature Reserve where, upon losing my footing, I discovered why something very cold is often described as ‘Baltic’.
The scenery was almost perfect, save for a few half-naked Swedes, but was beaten by the almighty Tyresta National Park. The 20km2 forest was as picturesque as it was soggy, with narrow trails and a huge variety of flora.
Along our trek, we briefly stopped at Bysljön, a large lake. Though I thought leaving my camera behind would aid me in the park, it instead meant I was unable to photograph the beaver dam on the lake. Dam(n).
At the end of our walk we arrived at Stensjön (“Stone Lake”), featuring an osprey plus nest and a black-throated diver, another bird not commonly found in the UK.
Over those same days, we were also given two demonstrations: bird ringing by the owners of the field station, and bat-detecting, on which I became quite hooked.
Though we had enjoyed our hikes over the weekend, it was now time to get to work. Split into trios by our supreme leaders, we each chose a group of organisms on which to base an ecological project. With an entomologist present, we decided it would be a great idea to study crickets and grasshoppers.
This was a mistake.
While many groups smartly elected to study things like moss, we spent an afternoon wading through long, tick-infested grass and pouncing on poor Orthopterans.
At the end of the day, we were given a talk by a spokesman for the local hunting association, which centred around the philosophies of and regulations imposed upon hunters in Sweden. Admittedly, I expected to very much dislike said hunter, being strongly opposed to what I thought were similar hunting activities. However, I was surprised by how Swedish hunters believe they aid the region’s ecological balance and genuinely seemed to care about the wildlife that they were blasting with their rifles.
I had more than a suspicion I would love Sweden, but was taken aback by the population’s ubiquitous love of nature and how they seamlessly integrated human recreation with natural environments. This is something that has stuck with me and has made me promise to return one day (fika helped, too).