Professional birder Gigi Sahlstrand got deep into birding around the age of 30. Although interested in birdlife from a young age, it wasn’t until her adult years that the spark really hit her. She tells us more about her passion and her patch.
“I regularly visit the birds at the bird feeder I am running all year. In my free time, I take a lot of walks in the forest around my home (in southeastern Sweden). I love to watch the owls and woodpeckers there.”
“My favorite birding spot is the island Öland (including Ottenby) in the southeastern corner of Sweden. The island is connected to the mainland via a bridge, and I can go there easily as I live nearby.”
“It is hard to pick one moment, because nature and birds give me so much every time. However, I saw a misplaced ruby nightingale in Sweden, recently. It was great to watch this Swedish mythical bird! Two of my favorite birding destinations would be Alaska and the Galapagos.”
“I was already interested as a child. My parents used to feed birds, but my mother had little knowledge. Then I lost interest, but came back in 1994, when I turned 30. My boyfriend at the time was a birdwatcher. He told me about club300 and that you can twitch birds, which means to travel a long distance to see a rare bird. He let me look through his old scopes. When I watched the birds passing by through good optics, I was hooked! Today, I have twitched over 400 birds in Sweden. However, I probably enjoy watching birds more than twitching and taking photos now.”
“I met my fiancé and colleague Bo Thoor because he saw a barn owl on Öland. This species is very uncommon in Sweden. I have been dreaming about seeing a barn owl here for a long time but have not been so lucky yet. So, I sent a Facebook message to Bo congratulating him on his discovery. We became Facebook friends. Later, we started talking on the phone. At the time, I was living in Stockholm, 400 km away from Bo’s home. Then, one day we finally met. Now we are living together.”
Born in 1964, Gigi was interested in birds in her childhood, but only after turning 30 did she dive deeper into the field. After working as a clerk at the Swedish Tax Agency, Gigi decided to start her own horse breeding and riding school. She then turned to the IT industry, where she spent 12 years, before daring to invest in becoming a full-time professional birdwatcher (as the first Swedish woman to do so!). Gigi has been running the company Fågelguidning AB since 2012. Her fiancé Bo Thoor joined her some 3 years ago. Together, they organize trips around the world, offer courses and guided tours as well as lectures. Gigi wrote the award-winning book "Start watching a bird", hosted the very popular TV show “Det stora fågeläventyret” (The big bird adventure), and was honored with the "Silvertärnan" award for her efforts to create interest in birds in Sweden by Birdlife Sweden.
In her free time, when she’s not watching birds 24/7, Gigi loves to do anything that has to do with water (in frozen or liquid state): paddle sea kayak, scuba diving, snowboarding, ski skating, skating, or swimming.
Gigi gets closer to birdlife with her NL Pure 8x42, which she loves very much. However, it was the clear vision and depiction of details of spotting scopes that first got her excited with birding. She therefore especially enjoys watching birds through her ATX 65 and 95.
Ever wanted to learn some Swedish bird names? Check out Gigi’s bird bingo template.