Friday, 13 January 2017

Tipping me over the edge

I finished my last post with the word DIRE and will start this post with the same word, repeated many times: DIRE, DIRE, DIRE, DIRE

Wednesday’s storm blew quickly over and yesterday it was sunny and just a strong breeze. I went forest birding and birding conditions were good. In the same area of Lillomarka that gave many good birds in November and December I had to list a calling Black Woodpecker as the best bird.
Others had a good day yesterday though. The storm had blown in a number of good gulls (although why did I see none when the wind was blowing?) and a Med Gull was found on the other side of the fjord from where I had been seawatching the day before and Østfold had a number of good gulls. The great big dump at Øra had two different Caspian Gulls and a Glaucous Gull and Jerry Skogbeck had yet another good find when he visited a rarely visited dump near Askim and turned up Iceland and Glaucous Gull. The pictures were so good and the birds so close that I found myself unable to resist a trip there this morning. This was dump and gull watching as it should be. You could stay in your car, it didn’t smell and the area was small enough that you felt you had good control of the birds. In addition, I was not the only birder there and had the company of Morten Olsen as we sat in my car from 0935 until 1115. I think anyone would agree that that is a sterling effort for gulling at a dump and in my opinion it should have been rewarded with gold. Unfortunately, though that was not the case and despite there being at least 500 Herring Gulls all we could find amongst them was 15+ Great Black-backs. An adult Herring Gull with small dark eyes made me get the camera out but the wing pattern ruled out any thoughts of an adult Caspian. Morten stayed when I left to take the scenic route home and predictably it was only half an hour after I left that he rang to say that the Iceland Gull had turned up……DIRE.

 I was in two minds as to whether to turn round but decided to continue back to Oslo where I hoped that a dose of Hawkie would save my day. I got my dose but it didn’t hit the spot at all and I feel that I need something very hardcore quite soon or else this birding business will lose some of its charm.

There was very little else to see along the way and my last hope for the day was to find a good gull at the tip in Oslo. I’m not sure that I have ever visited two different dumps on the one and the same day so yet again felt I should be rewarded by the birding gods but yet again I failed to see anything other than Herring and GBBG. Maybe I should try stamps, or planes or how about trains?
Tangen tip, near Askim 

possibly rarest bird of the day - a Russian ringed 3cy Herring Gull. It was ringed as a nestling 1343km away near Murmansk on 14 June 2015 and was seen in September 2016 at the Great Big Dump.

my small, dark eyed Herring Gull which I also thought a bill that was good for Caspian. Structure and leg length though were as Herring
but I don't think this wing pattern says anything other that Herring
my first dose of Hawkie in 2017
The Maidalen Great Grey Shrike (varsler). I only had one other of this species during the day in what seems to be a poor winter for the species

Wednesday, 11 January 2017


It is not often that I have such a long gap between blog posts but the weather has been so bad this week that birding has just been a waste of time. After temperatures fell to -14C last week we have had a rapid increase to plus temperatures which has bought first fog and now the last two days rain! Winter seems like a distant memory at the moment.

Yesterday afternoon and today winds rose to storm force in the fjord and were directly from the south something which was surely going to result in some seabirds so I thought I would give Krokstrand a go. I didn’t hurry down though as heavy rain was forecast first thing. As I drove down there was a sign saying the ferry from Moss to Horten was not running. I assume this was because of the wind and was a promising start. When I arrived at Krokstrand the waves were high but that was as good as it got! There was no movement of birds AT ALL. I gave it 45 minutes but didn’t even have a single auk. I had also hoped there might be some white winged gulls to find as there have been a few on the south and west coasts so I checked a number of places where there are normally lots of Herring Gulls but they were not many of them to see either. The rain and wind made looking for Hawk Owls pointless. I checked out the Inner Oslo Fjord on the way back and had nothing here either and was feeling that this could well go down as the worst days birding EVER.

The only consolation was the Great Grey Shrike in Maridalen (which I thought had departed) and apart from three Crows this was the only bird I saw in the Dale. DIRE.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Fornebu and redpolls

After a bit of driving yesterday I decided to keep things local today and be a bit more environmentally conscious. We awoke to “only” -11C today and it gradually warmed up as the day went by and is forecast to be plus degrees tomorrow. As the warmer weather arrived it clouded over and there fell some very light snow.

I started at Fornebu where I was hoping to find the Bearded Tits were still around but I have had enough negative visits that I am resigned to the fact that they have either moved on or perished. There were quite a few Blue Tits in the reedbed which are probably birds that arrived in the huge invasion from the east in the autumn. There were also a few Wren’s calling and when I played the alarm call on my phone an amazing 8 birds appeared! Otherwise it was incredibly quiet but as I returned to the car a flock of 9 Waxwings brightened things up. Then a flock of 14 Redpolls flew over and landed in a nearby alder. I studied them to see if they were Mealy (flammea) or Lesser (or at least birds showing the morphological characters of these described (sub)species..) when almost the first bird I focused on proved to be a bit of a fluffy snowball – a northern Redpoll or an Arctic Redpoll (exilipes) as they are also still called. I managed a few photos before it then moved a bit higher amongst some other birds after which it became surprisingly hard to find when I had to look up against a white cloudy sky. There was a lot of variation in the redpoll flock with the majority of birds being quite pale Mealy’s but there was also a single smaller warm brown bird which matched my interpretation of the morphological characters of a Lesser (cabaret). This bird also occasionally kept a bit apart from the rest of the flock. I am usually very sceptical to claims of all three redpoll (sub)species/forms in the same flock but feel confident that was the case today…..

The fjord off Fornebu was very quiet with 3 Long-tailed Ducks and 30 odd Velvet Scoters the clear highlight.

A drive into Sørkedalen revealed nearly nothing and definitely no Hawkie and Maridalen was equally quiet. A trip to the dump at Alna was equally disappointing with no white-winged gulls to find.

Arctic Redpoll (polarsisik). This picture shows how pale it was with a nice straw coloured wash around the head and a small bill. The flank streaking is on the strong side and some would argue too strong for Arctic Redpoll but new ID criteria eg Garner says that this is OK for Arctic Redpoll especially as this bird would seem to be a 2cy based on pointed tail feathers.
here the extent of the white rump can be seen plus just a single thin black feather on the undertail coverts. Note also the white fluffy feathers on the leg

the bird showing the morphological characters of a Lesser Redpoll (brunsisik) 
all three of these birds look to be Common/Mealy Redpolls (gråsisik)

the same male as in the above picture. Note the heavier bill than the Arctic

The two upper birds are Mealy and note that extensive streaking on the undertail coverts. The bird on the lower right is possibly an (the?) Arctic (although I didn't notice it when I was taking the pictures as I was focusing on the Mealys). Note the small bill and fluffy trousers although the flank straking is possibly too strong.
Waxwings (sidensvans)

a frosty Wren (gjerdesmett)

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Starting the New Year

The New Year was spent in England with birding definitely not on the menu - I was on holiday ;-)

Back in Norway I started my 2017 birding with a much needed walking and public transport tour of Oslo yesterday where highlights were the Shag (which hadn’t been reported since 14 Nov although I don’t think many people have been looking), a Long-tailed Duck and a Peregrine. 39 species were in the notebook by the end of the day.

This morning we awoke to -14C (and just a dusting of snow) and I thought I would head up to Minnesund and the Vorma river where a few good birds have been seen recently. When I arrived it was even colder than -14 and an icy fog was swirling over the water making viewing conditions very difficult. I eventually found a Long-tailed Duck plus some swans, Tufted Ducks and Goosander.
Moving south to Eidsvoll I stumbled upon some Whooper Swans in a stubble field and then noticed some dark heads amongst them. It was very difficult viewing conditions but I eventually found there were 9 Tundra Bean Geese, 2 Pink-footed Geese, 2 Greylag Geese and 28 Canada Geese. Apart from the odd mixture of injured, feral and hybrid geese that spend the winter at Østensjøvannet, geese are extremely rare in January in Oslo & Akershus and this flock of 4 species is a sign of how mild and snow free the winter has been so far (although that looks like it will change soon with the river starting to freeze over). I was also hoping to find some White-fronted Geese during the course of the day as this species is in Southern Norway in apparently record numbers at the moment although none have been recorded in Oslo & Akershus.

I checked various other places along the Vorma and Glomma rivers without finding anymore geese although a (previously reported) male Gadwall was also a very rare January record.

My driving revealed no roadside Hawkies or Great Grey Shrikes and a single Sparrowhawk was my only raptor.
The geese were very difficult to view in the stubble. Here are 2 Greylag (grågås) and a Tundra Bean (tundra sædgås) in the left inset and a Tundra Bean and 2 Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) in the right inset
The 2 Pink-feet
In this picture I captured 12 (of the 13) grey geese but normally there were just a couple of heads visible
The geese are I think sitting down but the size difference to the Whooper Swan looks enormous 

Tundra Bean and Greylag 
Tundra Bean and Pink-foot

Whooper Swans (sangsvane) and Canada Geese with the town of Eidsvoll in the background 

Whooper Swans coming in for landing

note how pink the feet of the juv Whooper Swan is compared to the black feet of the adult. I have never noticed this before 
The male Gadwall (snadderand) 
Long-tailed Duck (havelle). I don't think there is any doubt this is a 1st winter bird but I am unsure as to sex. I previously thought the grey scapulars were a sure sign of male but after reading up I am not so sure now.

Mallards (stokkand) in flight

looking NE over Mjøsa from Minnesund 
and looking NW from the other side

Udenes Church. The Glomma River to the right is favoured by the Taiga Bean Geese in the spring. Today the river was starting to freeze over and the swirling mist made it difficult to see if there were any birds

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2016 The Year That Was IV

October, November and December and usually quite quiet but can host some good species especially if there are arrivals of taiga species.

The Whooper Swan family succesfully fledged and moved from their tiny breeding lake to the large Maridalsvannet
the invasion of Hawk Owls continued but rodents weren't always easy to find as this frog eating bird demonstrates

a most welcome Østfold Little Bunting was good compensation for a lack of Russian Dunnocks
Tundra Bean Geese with Pink-feet

and a very unexpected Brent Goose
rarest bird of the year in Akershus an Isabelline Shrike at Fornebu

a huge arrival of Scaup included a record 18 on Maridalsvannet (here with Tufted and Common Scoter)
Hazel Grouse

4 1cy male Scaup on Bogstadvannet
unexpcted flyover Bewick Swans at Fornebu

Long-tailed Tits also arrived in very large numbers
another Hawkie

and Bearded Tits once again arrived at Fornebu

my second Norwegian Turtle Dove was this bird in Akershus found by Zak
Pintail at Bogstadvannet

Long-tailed Ducks also arrived in unusually large numbers although were never photogenic
after the succesful breeding it was not surprising that a few Kingfishers were hanging around

Pygmy Ows have been surprisingly difficult to find this year although this bird showed ridiculously well in Maridalen
and a few Pine Grosbeaks turned up close to Oslo including this ringed male


Three-toed Woodpeckers can be a bugger to find but when you do find one they can show ridiculously well

Hawk Owl can also be very confiding although seeing them in sunlight and low down is normally a challenge
a single Scaup and Tufted Duck remained on Maridalsvannet until the ice came in mid December

last birds of the year - very confiding White-fronted Geese and Tundra Bean Goose escaping cold weather somewhere further south in Europe