Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Black-throated Divers back in the Dale

It's all getting a bit too busy for blogging! The end of April is always my favourite time and at the moment it is the movement of Teal and other dabbling ducks that is occupying me with the never-ending searching for something rare in their midst.
Yesterday I was at Nordre Øyeren. At this time of the year it is usually the mighty Svellet where all the action is but the very abrupt end of winter over the last two weeks has caused a surge of melt water with water levels rising 45cm over the last 3 days and being now 60cm over normal levels. This means Svellet has gone from being iced over to immediately being flooded so conditions are pants. There is a chance that water levels will fall again before the melt waters from the mountains start coming but all predictions are for serious flooding this spring. The only area with any mud showing is in Snekkervika and at the tip of Årnestangen. Fog and rain (which came too late in the morning to force birds down) made viewing tricky but amongst at least 2000 Teal I found a pair of Garganey, a pair of Shoveler, a male Gadwall, 6 Pintail and a 100 odd Wigeon so it was only a yank that was missing.

Wader passage hasn’t really started but there were 40 Curlew, 7 Ringed Plover and a couple of LRPs; things will be very different in a little over a weeks time.

Today I did the tour de Aurskog-Høland. Here there is if anything too much flooding but conditions will be perfect once the floods subside. There were lots of Teal to be seen here as well but I found nothing of note amongst them despite grilling every single one!
I had Marsh Harriers at three localities including a nest building male, a pair of Smew at Hellesjøvannet, my first House Martins of the year and also some waders. A few Greenshank were to be expected alongside many Green Sandpipers but two Wood Sandpipers were early and deserved to be grilled properly (this is a real stringers species and the vast majority of April records (or at least 99% of those before 20 April) will be Green Sandpipers – the earliest record ever documented with a photo in Artsobs is 23 April.

At Fornebu yesterday I caught up with a couple of Shore Larks that have been there for a while plus saw a ringed Ringed Plover (in addition to 6 unringed Ringed Plovers and a Little Ringed Plover) that had been ringed 2.8.2017 further south in Norway. My sighting of will I hope in someway help justify the rather obscene bling it has had to carry.

In Maridalen, Willow Warblers and Black-throated Divers have arrived and there are a few Ring Ouzels on the fields and Teal on floodwater.

Black-throated Diver (storlom), the closest of 4 in Maridalen today

and a pair

this male Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) was nest building (although I did not see a female). This is 3cy male and will be breeding (or at least attempting to) for the first time

another an much older male. The younger male has a dark trailing edge to the wing and tail and juvenile like head whereas this bird is much cleaner

the same older male

this female Marsh Harrier is very dark and I am unsure of age 

these 3 collared Pink-footed Geese were amongst 34 of their kin. S94 was ringed on Svalbard on 03.08.2012 and has been regularly recorded in NO, DK, NL & B since then. GA5 was ringed in mid Norway on 02.05.2017 and since then has been seen in DK & B. GH2 was ringed at the same time as GA5 (unsurprisingly as they seem to be paired) and would appear to have been seen together with him since

pair of Smew (lappfiskand) at Hellesjøvannet. Embarassingly enough I only noticed the female on the computer..

male Wheatear (steinskvett)
I'll let you decide if this counts as a record shot of a Wood Sand (grønnstilk)

although think this one of a Greenshank (gluttsnipe) is OK

Gadwall (snadderand) in the rain yesterday

a/the Pied Wagtail like wagtail at Fornebu although I think it is most likely a hybrid with White

Ring Ouzel (ringtrost) in Maridalen

this unfortunate Ringed Plover (sandlo) received its bling on Jomfruland on 02.08.2017. It was with the breeding birds at Fornebu but I only saw it briefly and couldn't find it again so it may just have been passing through.

crappy photo but at least educational in that it shows Ringed and Little Ringed Plover (dverglo) together

Shore Lark (fjellerke) at Fornebu

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Birthday present guiding

Eary yesterday morning I was guiding as a birthday present to a lucky mum J
I had intended on a walk around Maridalen but decided that the spring hadn’t come far enough there so chose the barmier climate of Bygdøy. Here there were a lot of birds but early on it was perhaps a touch too cold for insect eaters and it was only towards the end that we had a lot of activity. Chiffchaffs are now quite numerous but a Wood Warbler was very early and most unexpected although a male Blackcap, also my first of the year, was expected. The flood waters are unfortunately receding and just held a handful of Teal and Green Sandpipers.

Rain is forecast for tomorrow morning and we will have a period of southerly winds all of which gives me a good feeling J

My first (and Oslo's) Wood Warbler (bøksanger) of the year and the earliest EVER record for Oslo and Akershus in Artsobservasjoner by 2 days

the first Blackcap (munk) of the year also deserves documenting

this Goldcrest (fuglekonger) showed well. Goldcrests seem to have survived the winter in OK numbers but Wrens (gjerdesmett) definitely have not and we only had a single singing bird on Bygdøy where I would normally have expected double figures

Friday, 20 April 2018

Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers

Yesterday evening/night and this morning I was guiding Rob Tizard who I had previously guided in June 2014 when we had a great Oppland and Hedmark trip seeing Dotterel, Great Snipe, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Siberian Jay and Great Grey Owl amongst others.

This time round Rob had some specific world lifer goals with Tengmalm’s (Boreal) Owl top of the list. We went to where I had a number of singing birds earlier in the spring and where I felt very confident we would both hear and most importantly see the owl. Not to be though. We did not hear a single owl let alone see one which would suggest that the rodent population has crashed and the owls have moved on. Very frustrating! A big surprise was a drumming Snipe in the dark over a clear fell area – it is only in the last week that migrant birds are turning up at wetland sites so for one to be in the forest displaying was not what I had expected although the Woodcock that we also heard was not a surprise.

Today we were going to look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Parrot Crossbill and Capercaillie. In the end we used up most of the day in a fruitless search for the pecker. We went to Årnestangen where yesterday I had great views (pictures below) of two territorial females. Today in the course of 6 hours we only heard a bird calling from the other side of the river! It was very foggy until 14:30 today and conditions were not good for birding even though they were atmospheric. We only had a single raptor which was a male Hen Harrier that showed at close range and highlighted how different yesterday’s hybrid was. Willow Warbler and Sand Martin were new for the year. A Woodlark close to the airport at the end of the day was a good end note.

female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett)

both the females. The bird on the left was calling on the other side of the river and flew for a bit of a bust up. I assume that both brds were unpaired and are searching for a mate

pulling a grub out of the tree

this male Hen Harrier differs noticeably from yesterday'shybrid- With ,uch more black in the wing, black outer primaries, a broader and darker trailing edge and a more blue grey colour to the upperparts

Woodlark (trelerke)

big chunks of ice were floating down the river at Årnestangen!

Another hybrid Harrier!

It is difficult finding time to blog and edit photos at the moment which is a sure sign that it is spring migration and observing the birds (and spending time with the family) is taking up all my time.
On Wednesday I kept it local again with visits to Bygdøy and Maridalen. The flood at Bygdøy is looking really good and 43 Teal and 3 Wigeon are very good counts for Oslo as were 22 Curlews that flew low over and their calls gave a magical feeling. In Maridalen I was hoping to observe raptors as the winds had turned south and it was nice and sunny. Six species must go down as a good showing. Local Buzzards and Goshawks were frequently up in the air, a Kestrel, a Peregrine and 4 Sparrowhawks went north and three different Ospreys were presumably newly arrived birds checking out breeding sites before returning to the open waters of the fjord for some fishing.

Yesterday, Thursday, was a GOOD day. I gave Bygdøy a quick once without finding anything new, before heading for Årnestangen. Once again I had hopes of finding raptors and I succeeded. I had two and half species of harrier, Osprey, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk and the Harriers were the real joy. First, I had prolonged views of a male Hen Harrier hunting in the scope. He was then joined by another male which flew through going north and I lost both these birds. I then had a female Hen Harrier going north, a female Marsh Harrier going north and then a female Marsh Harrier hunting. After a couple of hours I sat down to eat my lunch and scanned with the scope. I picked up a male Harrier hunting in the same area as the male Hen from a couple of hours earlier, but this bird was different. It was long range but the black in the primaries was not that large, the dark trailing edge to the wing was indistinct and the bird was a pale grey rather than blue grey. All this pointed towards Pallid Harrier yet the jizz of the bird was more Hen and the pattern of the black in the wing tip wasn’t right for Pallid. But it needed closer views. I hastened to cover the 1km between me and the bird and sat down on the edge of some trees where I had last seen it. 5 minutes later and it appeared and didn’t seem to notice me at first such that I got some OK pictures (although that 7D mkII would have done the trick…). The bird was clearly not a Pallid but there was still lots that didn’t fit with Hen. Looking at the pictures at home and consulting with friends seems to confirm that the bird is yet again a hybrid Pallid x Hen and the second time I have found one (and both at the same site and therefore possibly the same bird). When will I find a pure male Pallid??
Other birds of note were a hybrid (yes another hybrid) Pintail x Mallard, a brief glimpse of a Long-eared Owl, a very early Tree Pipit and two territorial female Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers of which I took loads of photos that I will have to edit and publish later as there are too many to go through.
An obligatory stop in Maridalen on the way home revealed much less snow, the first Wheatear of the spring, lots og Meadow Pipits and a Swallow so things are looking good!

presumed hybrid Pallid x Hen Harrier. It has 5 "fingers" which excludes a pure Pallid but the limited black in the primaries and especially the grey outer two primaries is not right for Hen as is the thin grey as opposed to broad black trailing edge to the wing

the 2 blurry pictures botom right could easily have been used to document a pure Pallid and just show how careful one must be with photos.
a Long-eared Owl that I accidentally disturbed

male Pintail x Mallard hybrid

and an early Tree Pipit (trepiplerke)

Curlews (storspove) from Bygdøy

and Pink-footed Geese (kortnebgjess) over Maridalen 

the first Wheatear (steinskvett) of the year on the church ruins in Maridalen

and a piece of plastic that will udoubtedly become the most photographed bird of the year

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Finally more Beans

I had a good outing with Conor again today. No wind and overcast conditions coupled with fog in the morning made it a quieter day than I had hoped and a single Osprey was the only raptor we noted. We did have other good birds. We started at Akershus’s only known breeding site for Woodlark and had good views of a singing male. After this we visited the traditional Taiga Bean Goose staging site as both the transmitting birds were now here (one returning on the 14th and other on the 15th). Conditions were very improved from when I was here with Angus and Denise on the 9th but there was still some snow on the fields.

When we first went to the fields the fog was too thick to see anything so we went down to the river. Here the fog was patchier and eventually lifted. Two Beans were on the river when we arrived and a group of 7 and then a group of 6 plus a Pink-foot flew in whilst we watched. None of these had collars and we waited patiently for the whole flock to fly in (as they would usually due but nothing is usual this spring). When no more birds flew after over half an hour of waiting in we returned to the fields and 10 minutes later could see that the fog had lifted. The birds were spread out over two adjoining fields with lots of undulating ground. I made four counts and had 80,94,112 & 102 birds showing just how difficult they are to count (much easier when the whole flock is in the air or on the river). I am pretty certain that these were in addition to the 15 on the river so have a minimum count of 127 birds which is up from previously this autumn but still lower than expected. I spotted all the collared birds that I have previously seen this spring but two new birds: the pair 6X and 6Z.

After this we visited the river at Lillestrøm where 8 Little Ringed Plovers were displaying and a high count of 28 Green Sandpipers feeding. An Osprey was also here and exactly as on Sunday caught a fish so large that it could not fly off with it.

A quick foray into Maridalen revealed little life but a Swallow was a most welcome surprise although heaven knows what it will find to eat as winter has not yet loosened its grip on the Dale.

we saw a few Cranes (trane) today but I think the main passage is already over 
Osprey (fiskeørn) with large fish

Ring Ouzels (ringtrost)

Two Taigas in the fog

the river banks are now ice fre and a few of the Beans can be seen here

there are 40 odd Beans spread out over this field

and here are some of them a bit closer
Woodlark (trelerke)

Little Ringed Plovers (dverglo)