Signpost to south tower
Amanita Muscaria mushroom (Rød Fluesopp), poisonous, near south tower
Goosanders (Laksand) foraging
Cormorant (Storskarv)
South observation tower

Birding in Åkersvika

In the fall of 2008, while visiting family nearby, I had a good opportunity to go bird watching in Åkersvika.

Åkersvika is a nature reserve on the western side of lake Mjøsa, Norway's largest lake and one of the deepest in Europe. The nature reserve is a wetland area connected to the lake, and fed by the rivers Flagstadelva, Finsalbekken, and Svartelva.

Åkersvika is about an hour and fifteen minutes drive north of Gardermoen airport on the E6 highway, on the south western side of the town of Hamar.

From a tourist map of Hamar that my aunt provided to me, I knew that within Åkersvika there are three separate observation towers easily accessible by car from the E6.

South Tower

View from south tower
– GPS coordinates N 60 47.231 E 11 08.390

I drove first to the south tower. It lies east of and within sight of the E6 on the north side of Kjonerudvegen. There is a signpost and a parking area on Kjonerudvegen.

On the short walk through the woods from the parking area, I found a lot of mushrooms growing, including Amanita Muscaria. This is the poisonous mushroom the Vikings may have eaten before battle. It was also used in the middle ages to kill flies, thus the Norwegian name, Rød Fluesopp, or Red Flymushroom.

I didn't want to go into a berserker rage and destroy the neighborhood, or to die eating some nasty poison mushroom. Nor did I need to kill any flies. So I left the mushrooms alone and proceeded to the tower.

The large wooden tower has both an enclosed windowed observation room and an open air platform, and faces north. There is a picnic table near the base. It is a quiet, shady area in the woods on the shore.

Facing north over the water from the top of the tower, you can see the E6 on the left and the Vikingship Olympiahall in the distant center. The tower is at the edge of the trees and has a good view into the treetops as well. I didn't spend much time trying to spot birds in the woods, but I certainly heard a number of them.

Looking out over the water, I quickly spotted a Grey Heron among the grassy islands. It flew and walked around the islands for the better part of an hour before departing to the distant side of Åkersvika.

Grey Heron (Gråhegre), on landing approach

Grey Herons are common in Norway, and are enjoyable to watch as they are large and easy to follow as they move about. They have a habit of standing as still as a statue for extended periods, and their large wingspan makes an impressive sight when they take flight.

While the heron was moving around the area I also spotted a pair of swimming Goosanders, who were intently searching for something to eat under the water around the islands.

Åkersvika seemed to have so many birds that they were competing for my attention. The heron swooped into my shot as I filmed the Goosanders, as did a flock of dozens of Lapwings.

Lapwings (Vipe)
Lapwings (Vipe)

During the next few hours I saw many Canada Geese, a Cormorant, Hooded Crows, Mallards, and many other birds. I also encountered a number of other bird watchers, who were quite friendly to me.

Canada Geese (Kanadagås)
Canada Geese (Kanadagås)

North Tower

– GPS coordinates N 60 47.900 E 11 06.472
View from north tower

Next I drove to the north tower, east of and within sight of the E6, north of highway 25. There is an unmarked parking area off of 25. The tower is a large wooden structure like the south tower, with a spacious open platform at the top. It looks north.

This tower is much closer to the road than is the south tower, and for this reason is not as peaceful. Despite being close to busy roads, the tower appeared to be less frequently visited than the south tower. There were nests on the stairs, and I did not encounter any other people while there. Yet it's a nice enough spot once you are on the platform.

While there, I did not see the same number or variety of birds as at the south tower. There was a large group of Mallards present, including a pair that zoomed past the tower. And a hooded crow flew through. But in comparison to the south tower, there were fewer birds here and they were much more distant from the tower.

I don't know whether the day was typical for the area in terms of what I saw, but I definitely found the south tower area more interesting during my visit.

Mallards (Stokkand)
A pair of Mallards (Stokkand) make a fly by of the north tower

West Tower

– GPS coordinates N 60 47.432 E 11 05.769
The welcoming committee, west tower

Finally, due back soon, I hurried over to the west tower, which sits adjacent to a parking lot near the the Vikingship building of Hamar Oympiahall, on Åkersvikvegen. This is a narrow, painted, metal tower with a much smaller platform than the other two towers, facing the water to the south.

The area is much more open and busy than the south or north tower areas, and appears to be much more part of the town proper.

Approaching the tower, I was immediately confronted by a Hooded Crow sitting atop it, who proceeded to drop part of its dinner down in my direction. I took this to be hostile rather than generous, but perhaps I was too cynical. Pressed for time and impressed by this display, I opted not to join the crow up on the tower. I explored the shore nearby instead.

Unfortunately, at the time I visited, I did not see any birds on or near the water. At a different time perhaps its good vantage point of the water might prove useful, but on the day I visited, the south tower was definitely the most interesting area.

View from near west tower's base
View from near west tower's base
Grey Heron
Grey Heron (Gråhegre)
West tower
West tower
Hooded Crow (Kråke)
Hooded Crow (Kråke)
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