Monday, 27 March 2017

Adding up

Temperatures dropped to zero overnight - I find the 20C drop in temperature just as amazing as it being (+)20C in March in Norway. It ended up being warm again today but there are still remarkably few birds and the large passage of Pink-footed Geese and a few raptors that I hoped for today did not materialise.
Pink-footed Geese had continued migrating through the night and I heard a flock as I went to bed but this wasn't the start of the mass exodus from Denmark that I expected although I did note a few small flocks today.

I visited Årnestangen where rarest bird was a heard only Rock Pipit but it was exciting to see that the mighty Svellet was now ice free and already had 220 Black-headed Gulls and 300 Crows feeding on it. A few Lapwing were the only waders but hundreds of Curlew will turn up soon.

The main interest in Maridalen was non-avian with 3 adders including a black one basking in the sin, a couple of lizards and a small tortoiseshell butterfly.

The Black Adder!  This black individual is, I am told, a male 

tongue out shots just wouldn't be in focus 
except for this one but then there's that twig....

here the black male has joined a female (again so I am told)

the female

and this third individual was a lot smaller and apparantly born (hatched) last year

a lizard (brown means female?)

a Small Tortoiseshell (neslesommerfugl) catching some rays
there was the odd bird to see today including this Crane (trane)

and a few flocks of northward bound Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås)

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Maridalen first!

On Saturday I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to join Halvard H for a pre breakfast jaunt but luckily didn’t miss anything too exciting. In the afternoon I had the rare treat of some time alone with Mrs OB and we cycled up into Maridalen. Here we had remarkably few birds but were able to tick off a long list of Oslo’s finest birders. Almost the only bird we saw was a White Wagtail which was my first of the year.

This morning though I did manage to drag myself out of bed (the clocks changing seemed to help) and beat Halvard into the Dale. Very unexpectedly I had a Maridalen tick and not one I would have predicted. On one of the small ice free areas of the lake I spotted three geese one of which was much smaller than the others. The light was behind the birds and it was a bit difficult at first. I saw that the two larger were Greylags and suddenly suspected the smaller bird would turn out to be a Lesser White-front (from the failed Swedish reintroduction scheme). However, it turned out to be a Brent Goose! The markings show it, unsurprisingly, to be the same bird seen elsewhere over the last week but that it would turn up in Maridalen hadn’t even crossed my mind.

There was no large arrival of birds but Oslo’s first Mistle Thrush and Redwing of the year were noted and a flyby Wagtail from the car was possibly a Pied rather than a White but couldn’t be relocated. The Great Grey Shrike was singing very loudly and was giving a version of its “song” that I don’t remember having heard before.

In the afternoon temperatures reached an astonishing 20C!!! This brought with it Pink-footed Geese and I had three flocks totalling over 300 birds over the house. Two flocks came over just before sunset and with all lakes still being frozen may well have decided to continue migrating through the night.
you only realise how small Brent Geese (ringgås) are when you see them next to a Greylag or Canada Goose

Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) over the house 
and three minutes later another flock

Twite (bergirisk) in Maridalen

currently there is only one pair of Lapwing (vipe) in Maridalen and I really hope more turn up. They were displaying today with the male appearing to make a nest scrape to impress the female 
Mistle Thursh (duetrost)

Friday, 24 March 2017

A SUCCESFUL wild goose trip

For what must be the first time in my loooong birding life I saw all 7 common(er) goose species on the same day and to make it even more impressive it was in Oslo & Akershus.

Getting a goose full bag was not the plan as I started the day but was a nice addition to what would have been a good day anyway. I started with one of the bird world’s best singers: Woodlark. This species is expanding in Norway presumably as a result of a warmer climate although numbers remain small. Today I had birds at Akershus only known locality with 3 singing males and a fourth individual which was presumably a female. Two males were battling out very close to each other and this is where the additional individual was so they were presumably vying for her attentions. The Woodlarks are close to Gardemoen Airport and have changed their favoured sites over the years as tree growth has made the initial location less favourable and they have moved around but now seem to be settled again.

After this I wanted to give the Taiga Beans some attention to see if any additional birds have turned up (there is one ring that was seen in Scotland this winter that I haven’t seen). The birds were split between the fields and the river and were too distant for any meaningful ring reading but I counted 128 birds which compares to the 129 last week so there is no sign of any new arrivals. On the fields there were 4 Cranes which were missing yesterday and on the river 99 Pink-footed Geese were resting.

With Canada and Greylag Geese I was now up to four species of goose.

Zak had found 4 White-fronted Geese at Årnestangen on Wednesday and this was as good an excuse as any to visit Nordre Øyeren. The geese were easy to find feeding with 220 Canadas and a few Greylag. The White-fronts consisted of an adult and 3 2cy birds. One of the 2cy had a very orange bill although it did become pinker towards the nail and another of the 2cy had a distinct orange tinge. I considered the possibility they were of the Greenland (sub)species flaviostris but there were no other plumage or structural difference from the 2 obvious albifrons. Reading up I see that albifrons can rarely have a largely orange bill so this must be what I saw but it was striking to see such a bird.
A small flock of Pink-footed Geese migrated north here and an adult White-tailed Eagle circled in the distance. The ice is starting to melt 17 Lapwings were a nice sight and a taste of the wader bonanza that will occur over the next 7 weeks.

The White-fronts were goose species number 5 and it was now I thought that I could stop off at Bygdøy on the way home for two more: Barnacle and Brent (the Østensjøvannet bird had turned up on Bygdøy this morning). These were bagged straightaway and gave time for the obligatory check of Maridalen.

The stubble fields held 7 Snow Buntings today which showed well. Incredibly after the 23 birds I had on Wednesday morning a flock of 100 birds was reported on Wednesday afternoon and also yesterday. Surely an Oslo record.

Still no flock of thrushes today with 6 Blackbirds, a Mistle Thrush and 1 Fieldfare being the total. Chaffinches are more common and I had flocks of 15 and 20. With no trickle of birds at the moment we can hope for a mass arrival which always makes for exciting birding.
Woodlark (trelerke) 

4 White-fronted Geese (tundragås). The three that we see the heads of are 2cy birds due to a very limited white patch above the bill, a black nail on the bill and no black barring on the belly 
three of the White-fronts with the adult in the middle plus Canada Goose and Greylag Goose
here are the heads of all four of the White-fronts. Note how the two left hand birds have a definite orange tone especially the second bird.
here we see the bird with the most orange bill in close up but note that it is pink towards the nail. Note also that teh bill is the same shapre and size as the other two birds and the plumage tones are the same. Therefore there is nothing apart from bill colour to suggest this is a flaviostris

the four White-fronts with a Greylag 

the orange bill taken with the superzoom (all other pics were with the bazooka)

the adult White-front
Barnacle Geese (hvitkinngås)

Brent Goose (ringgås) 
Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) and a plane
distant Taiga Bean Geese (sæggås) with Cranes (trane) and Whooper Swans (sangsvane)
the Glomma River from Udenes Kirke. There are 99 Pink-footed Geese and 24 Bean Geese out there
Two Great Grey Shrikes (varsler). I have only ever seen birds this close to each other when they are paired. Even though the habitat is good the species will not breed here and these birds have presumably paired up on their way to their breeding grounds
A Reed Bunting (sivspurv) in Maridalen. Hopefully there will be a Lapland Bunting in the same spot in a few weeks

9 Roe Deer (rådyr) in Maridalen. I've never seen so many together before. Note the lake is still very frozen
adult White-tailed Eagle (havørn)
Whooper Swans
the Snow Buntings (snøspurv) in Maridalen were incredibly difficult to see and in the stubble and snow

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Guiding in the cold

I was guiding Dianne and Becky from the USA today and we had to deal with a surprisingly cold day despite the sun shining but good birds were still to be had and a good day was had (as always). Maridalen and Bygdøy were on the cards plus a trip out east for geese and Cranes.

The cold weather seemed to put a brake on new migrants and once again passerines were very thin on the ground. Tits, Yellowhammers, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Grey Shrike and a singing female plumaged Common Crossbill showed though in Maridalen. Despite the cold a pair of Lapwings were displaying although it was the male doing most of the work and the female didn’t look too impressed. We also had the first Common Buzzard and Grey Wagtail of the year in the Dale.
Heading out to the Bean Geese they had lost the company of Cranes and Pink-feet but I was able to count a minimum of 119 and suspected more were out of sight. I had to work quite hard to find Crane. The fields are very dry and held very few birds but I did eventually find 6 Cranes some of which were displaying. We really need some rain and then warm weather to make the fields more attractive for the next wave of migrants.

We finished the day at Bygdøy where walking out to the beach two male Great Spotted Woodpeckers were having a Mexican standoff and a pair of Treecreepers showed very well. Close offshore we had a single Purple Sandpiper and Long-tailed Duck showing well. I returned here later to get pictures and was lucky enough to also have a Rock Pipit. I picked it up on call and it then landed behind the Purple Sand but the camera refused to take a picture and then the bird flew to the next rock and landed out of sight. It appeared again briefly before flying off calling – a typical observation around Oslo.

rarest bird of the day if not the best picture. Rock Pipit (skjærpiplerke)

It wouldn't have been possible to come closer to the Purple Sand (fjæreplytt) without a boat (and a guy did kayak between us and the bird without it minding) but the light was challenging 
this boat had to pass on the other side of the island ;-) The sandpiper is visible

Lapwing (vipe) 
female Long-tailed Duck (havelle)
displaying pair of Black-headed Gulls (hettemåke) 
Cranes (trane) were unusually difficult to find today although it is still very early in the season
Eiders (ærfugl)