During our road trip around Mälaren this summer, we ended up one unplanned day in the vicinity of the bird lake Tåkern. A lake we had all heard of, but none of us had visited before. Would it really matter to us? We're not bird watchers, are we? Tåkern turned out to be one of the highlights of the road trip – not only for the beautiful nature and all the birds, but also for the nature reserve's interesting natural area!
There are several different places to visit around Tåkern, however the Glänås visitor site is a good place to start if you haven't been here before. Here on the southern shore of the lake is the nature park Tåkern with a staffed exhibition and easily accessible birdwatching tower.
What is unique about Tåkern?
Tåkern is one of Northern Europe's largest and most important bird lakes. Thousands of migrating birds stop here every spring and autumn, but also during the rest of the year you will find large numbers of nesting birds here. The reason for the lake's popularity with the feathered population is the lake's depth. Or rather, the lake's lack of depth.
In the middle of the 19th century, the lake's water depth was lowered in order to create more arable land for the area's farmers. A rather drastic change, which completely changed the conditions of the lake and gave the reeds the opportunity to grow on the shores of the lake. Today, the average depth in the lake is 80 centimeters and the reeds cover an area of 2400 football pitches. In the shallow water, sunlight can reach the bottom of the lake and both seaweed, fish and small animals thrive. A true a la carte menu of bird food for all types of birds, all within an edible depth.
Beautiful nature center Tåkern
Naturum Tåkern not only has interesting exhibitions, but also the building itself is a place that deserves to be seen from an architectural perspective. Designed by Wingårdh's architects to blend in with the surroundings, you are met here by a house covered in reeds, almost a bit in the South Seas style. A completely unique house in a very unique location.
Inside the exhibition you can read lots of information about the lake and its flying visitors. One of the highlights of the exhibition is the board showing which birds have been seen in the lake in recent days. Sea eagles, ospreys and gray herons are just some of today's visitors. There are currently also 2350 mute swans here. The white swans on the lake are therefore not foam, but real swans. I have probably never seen so many swans in one place before. How do they all get here?
Another highlight of the exhibition are the small wooden statues that, in proportional size, show the birds that have ever been seen in the lake. In total, over 270 bird species are frequent guests, of which around a hundred species also nest in the lake. Although the small statues are very small, it gives a good sense of how much difference there is in size between different bird species. A robin is (not entirely unexpectedly) very small compared to a pigeon hawk.
At the far end of the exhibition, several binoculars are set up, so that we can all get a chance to see the birds up close. We sit here for a long time and watch the chirping of birds in front of us. It's mostly ducks and geese that we see, we don't really have the technology to zoom in on the flying birds. I guess you need to be a bit more of a professional viewer to be able to see these fast rascals.
The bird tower
Just south of the nature center is an accessible bird tower, where you can get all the way to the top with both a pram and a wheelchair. Up in the tower are several bird watchers with their big binoculars watching birds. They stand silently and wait. It is unclear if they appreciate all the kids making noise and running around the tower. I carefully sneak past just to be safe.
On a day like this, I regret not having a better zoom lens with me. My all-round camera lens is good for a lot, but unfortunately it's not a lens for close-ups of birds from a distance. I also wished that I had been better at identifying all the different kinds of birds we see today, or perhaps rather able to identify all the birds we hear. Most birds hide in the reeds with their little balls of down this time of year and are easier to hear than to see.
From the nature center there is a 4 kilometer hiking trail to the next bird tower at Svanshals, but we don't have time to walk that round today. Instead, we scout for birds from the nice promenade, which takes us on wooden bridges through a high portal of reeds. It is easy to feel small here among the tall reeds and seeing the small birds nesting in the reeds is definitely not easy for the untrained eye.
What catches our eyes instead is the large number of birds of prey that stand completely still in the air and ride above the lake. With some zoomed-in pictures, we conclude that these large white birds with a black pattern must be ospreys. Not too bad looking, if I do say so myself.
Along the promenade there is both a tip tour and audio boxes, where you learn about the area's flora and fauna. Perfect for the slightly older children who can compete against each other when they are tired of quietly watching birds.
How do I get to Tåkern?
Tåkern is located on the eastern shore of Lake Vättern, west of Linköping and just south of Vadstena. There are several places to visit along the edge of the lake, but the nature center is located in Glänå's visitor area.
We had intended to just make a quick stop, but ended up spending several hours here.
It is possible to visit Tåkern all year round, but in order not to disturb the nesting birds, the nature reserve is closed between 1 April and 30 June each year. Then you can only visit marked roads, visitor areas and hiking trails.
Do you want to read more about Tåkern?
- Really good information folder from the County Administrative Board about the Mist and its birds
- Naturum Tåkern's website
- You can read about what it's like to hike at Tåkern on the wonderful blog On Discovery
- You can find the current opening hours for the nature center on their website Facebook page
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