Wednesday, 19 October 2016

I'm going on a Sibe Acc Hunt

Today was the day for the big Siberian Accentor Hunt. I had delegated all family responsibilities to Mrs.OB, was up at 5am and out of the house for 13 hours. Did I find one? Of course not but I did hear a number of unidentified accentors and when I played Sibe Acc call to a couple of them they responded…….but they turned out to be of the Hedge variety. I heard the first calls when it was still dark (could well have slept 45 minutes more) and I did get myself well and truly excited thinking that I had flocks of Sibes flying over but will never know. I could actually see the site in Sweden where there has been a Sibe Acc the last few days and took a picture at 12km range which I’m sure if I blow up enough will reveal my target ;-)

So I didn’t succeed in my main target but I did find a pretty damn good bird for the parts in the form of a Little Bunting. I was riding quite high off this but felt that some of the air leaked out of the balloon when I got messages that a Desert Wheatear was at Fiskumvannet (where I was yesterday…), then a picture from Kjell M who had found a Tawny Pipit (but then again I have no chance of competing against him due to geography), then another Sibe Acc was pulled out of a net on the west coast (it is pretty embarrassing collectively for us Norwegian birders that we can’t find one in the field) and the last message was of an unidentified swift in Oslo from a birder without bins needing assistance (do any self-respecting birders ever go out without bins, or at least a superzoom in their pocket? I can see the makings of a joke there..).

So the day’s plan was to head to the island of Søndre Asmaløy right in the south east of Norway and an area which has good viz mig and a history of scarce and rare birds. I started at Håbu from 0720 to 0910 but it wasn’t until 0800 that I could see anything. There was lots to hear though from the moment I left the car with a steady, if light, passage of finches, thrushes and tits (including Long-tailed of which I must have had over 100 in the day).  Nothing too scarce here though so I headed for the area around Vikerkilen and Skipstadkilen. Here I worked hard but for a long time three Wheatears were all I had of interest. A Lapland Bunting flew over and finally I felt I had found something worthy of an October day.

Shortly after a migrating flock of Blue Tits was buzzing around in low vegetation and whilst watching them I thought I saw a small warbler fly into a bush (was probably a Goldcrest). As I raised my bins to the bush I saw a bird I immediately realised was a Little Bunting! I panicked a bit as I got my camera out of my bag and then couldn’t the bird again. I searched and searched and then decided to follow the Blue Tit flock as they were the only other birds in the area and maybe it was associating with them. A bunting flew up and away and then turned round and came back and landed in a bush where the tits were. The Blue Tits were flying out and feeding on the ground and thankfully the bunting did the same and I got really rather good views!!! It interestingly did not call once. After it flew into some bushes I retreated to send out the news and then just waited as I didn’t want to risk scaring it. The first birder arrived after about an hour and a few more after that but I left them to look (unfortunately in vain) as I was by now starving. On the way back to the car I put up two Short-eared Owls and had another Lap Bunting. Nice!

It was now 1330 and I felt I had used my luck up so instead of searching other places for Sibe Acc I decided to work my way home via a number of previously reported birds. At the Great Big Dump, Øra I had Brent and  White-fronted Goose. At Lysakermoa I had Bewick’s Swan (becoming very rare in Norway) and more White-fronts. There have been a lot of White-fronts in Norway the last few days and the ones at Lysakermoa were two juveniles. It is interesting that they had already managed to lose their parents as the Taiga Bean Geese seem to keep together as a family group until the next spring. Continuing into Akershus I had a large flock of Greylags at Hemnesjøen. I couldn’t find any Beans here (had them last week) but did find a family party of 5 White-fronts. Then at Hellesjøvannet I had a single juv White-front with Greylags. I first saw this bird in flight and it was tiny such that I got quite excited until I got to see it properly on the water. So White-fronts at four locations is certainly not something I have ever experienced before.

A very good day!
The day's undoubted highlight a momentarily photogenic Little Bunting (dvergspurv)

here in the unlikely company of Blue and Great Tit

Short-eared Owl (jordugle)

Bewick Swans (dvergsvane). The inset show an adult pair with a juvenile. To the right of the picture is the fourth bird which was a 2cy

Brent Geese (ringgås) at Øra
Scaup (bergand) at Øra. Note the left hand bird is a 1cy male (grey feathers on back)

15 White-fronted Geese (tundragås) at Øra

juv White-front with Greylags at Hellesjøvannet

family of 5 White-fronts at Hemnesjøen

2 juv White-fronts at Lysakermoa

The cloest I got (12km or so) to a Siberian Accentor although surely I must have heard one (there must thousands of them out there!)

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Heading west to Buskerud

Regular readers of this blog with an understanding of Norwegian geography will know that when I venture out of Oslo that it is normally to the east. This by no way means that there is no good birding within easy reach to the west of Oslo but with the traffic in Oslo being how it is then heading east is normally a quicker option for me. Today however I headed west. I have plans to find a Sibe Acc but there was rain and low cloud today so I have put those plans on ice until tomorrow and instead headed to Buskerud county (around Drammen) where a few locally good birds have been seen recently. Linnesstranda has had Spotted Crake, Jack Snipe, Kingfisher and Bearded Tit and Fiskumvannet has had Red-necked Grebe, Hawk Owl and a few different ducks.

I have visited Fiskumvannet only a couple of times before but had never got the taste for it even though it has a very good reputation. Today though I finally saw the potential it could have and almost wished that I could take it with me and plonk it in the middle of Maridalen ;-) On the walk out to the watch tower I saw the Hawk Owl that has been here a few weeks. It was perched up by the path in a small wood and was bedraggled and looking very sorry for itself. It was clearly actively looking for food on the woodland floor but it all seemed far too wet to me for there to be any rodents. From the tower I saw quite a few ducks but realised that there were a number of birds not visible behind the reeds. I eventually realised that I could get up onto the roof and here I had a much better view and saw a lot more birds. I found the Red-necked Grebe, 3 Scaup, 5 Long-tailed Ducks, heard a couple of Water Rails and had more common wildfowl. On the way back to the car Hawkie was still by the patch but had clearly just been hunting as it had a frog! In its claws which would explain why it was hunting in such a damp area. It stashed the frog whilst I watched but looking at its expression it is difficult to know whether it did so because it fancied a delicious snack later or whether it was just hoping to catch something furrier instead. BWP does mention frogs as having been recorded as a food item but very rarely and I’m sure this is a sign of desperation if it is hunting them.

At Linnesstranda, which also has a watch tower the water level was not as low as it has been the last couple of days and the area of mud where the Spotted Crake and Jack Snipe had been showing was under water. The crake however had been spotted in an area where the reeds were cut but not for me. A Kingfisher which eventually showed after I had been hearing it on and off for an hour was nice though.
iphone panorama of Fiskumvannet

a very bedraggled Hawk Owl with ears

frog for lunch?

stashing it in the larder

it was dark in the wood and this picture was taken at 6400 ISO and 1/160s

not quite sure what to do with the frog (bottom left)

Kingfisher (isfugl). The black bill shows it to be a male. I'm not sure if it can be aged

a Dipper (fossekall) in the same place was unexpected

this shot of the Red-necked Grebe (gråstrupedykker) can barely be called a record shot

this adult and juv Red-throated Diver (smålom) have been at Linnesstranda a few days and are often close to land. The youngster doesn't seem to want to look after itself

Monday, 17 October 2016

Whooper Swan family

It is grim, damp, cold and dark October weather at the moment although the Norwegian birding scene was enlivened by the country getting in on this year’s North Russian Dunnock bonanza with a bird pulled from a net on the west coast. I’ll have to find one in the field soon…..

I limited myself to a very short trip to Maridalen where a Common Snipe had replaced the Jack and the Great Grey Shrike showed itself but I didn’t even hear or see a Southern Scandinavian Accentor let alone its Northern Russian cousin.

The Whooper Swan family put on a nice show. With these seven young the pair has now brought a minimum of 16 young to fledging since they first bred in 2010 with possibly as many as 21:

2016: 7 young fledged (7/7)

2015: 4 young fledged (4/4)

2014: no nest ever seen and a non-breeding pair on lake in May and June but a pair with 4 young in October could have been from Maridalen but may also have come from Triungsvann (0/4). In 2015 & 2016 the pair bred in a new (and not previously visited location) to that in 2013 so could well have been here also in 2014.

2013: pair were sitting on nest in May but no young seen. Breeding failed (0/0)

2012: 6 young hatched, 4 fledged (4/4)


An impressive sight and achievement from these Whooper Swan (sangsvane) parents to succesfully raise 7 youngsters

A study in black and white - Great Grey Shrike (varsler)

Sunday, 16 October 2016


Today was the day for the local bird clubs annual boat trip around the islands in the Inner Oslo Fjord. Perhaps because of the cold weather, perhaps because a lack of southerly winds means a general lack of seabirds in the fjord or perhaps just general apathy meant that we were barely more than 20 people who took the trip. Those who didn’t come have nothing to regret. No divers, no grebes, no terns, no skuas. Auks were represented by just 2 Razorbills, waders by a single Dunlin and it was only sea ducks that were in any (relative) numbers. Highlight was a group of 5 Long-tailed Ducks, there were over 50 Velvet Scoters and about 10 Common Scoters and quite a few Eiders and R-b Mergansers. No interesting raptors either with just Sparrowhawks and a probably Goshawk (seen only from behind). A single flyover Snow Bunting was a fairly god record and 21 Blue Tits migrating north over the fjord were a sign of the large invasion of this species into Southern Scandinavia.
We had at least 6 Common Seals but no Grey Seals.

After the boat trip was over I thought I would strop briefly in Maridalen to see if there were any scoters on the lake. Of course not but there was a Red-throated Diver (why none on the fjord?). The Jack Snipe was still there although I failed to see him on the deck. A small bunting that didn’t call had me going for a bit but ended up being a Reed (what looks like Oslo & Akershus’s first record of Little Bunting was seen in suburban Oslo yesterday).

Long-tailed Ducks (havelle) The bird on the left is definitely a (young) male and the bird to its right also has pale scapulars making it also a male but not as advanced in its plumage
Two male Common Velvet Scoters (sjøorre). The left hand bird may well be a 2nd winter bird as its bill is not as yellow and the white eye patch not as large as the bird on the right
Razorbill (alke) - a 1st winter bird based on the relatively small bill
Dunlin (myrsnipe), Cormorant (storskarv) and Herring Gull (gråmåke)

The Dunlin
Two Common Seals (steinkobbe)
The Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) - slightly better exposure but still a crap picture

this young Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås) has been in Maridalen a couple of weeks. It can fly but presumably has some weakness, otherwise it would be with its kin further south

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Jack Snipe Maridalen

I only managed to squeeze in a short trip to Maridalen today but it revealed that there had been an arrival of new birds. On the stubble field there were 19 Twite, 31 Meadow Pipits, 4 Tree Sparrows, 20 Yellowhammer and 10 Reed Bunting. I also thought I heard amongst the buntings both Lapland and a Little/Rustic Bunting but never heard the calls again or saw these species so will have to let them go.

Highlight though was a Jack Snipe. There are not many marshy areas left in Maridalen as the farmers try to become more “efficient” and drain any wet areas of their fields. The old “Snipe Marsh” has been well and truly drained but another wet area has survived despite the farmer’s best attempts and I regularly check this area for snipe. I have had up to 11 Common Snipe, a single record of Great Snipe and Jack Snipe there three times before. The previous Jack Snipe have all been in April including this memorable bird but I have never previously had an autumn record when the species is generally much more common.

When I have checked the field this autumn I had 11 Common Snipe on 29 Sept and 2 on 10 October. On 11 October there were no snipe to see but I did notice a lot of droppings, footprints and beak marks that I was not entirely convinced were from Common Snipe. It was therefore no great surprise when a Jack Snipe flew up today. Compared to Common Snipe, Jack Snipe flies up in such a feeble way that it is amazing to think that this individual has probably come from Finland and may well continue all the way to the UK to winter.
never easy to photograph a Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) in flight

one picture that was nearly sharp but exposure completely wrong

Twite (bergirisk)
Autumnal colours and some Goosander (laksand)

a closer picture of a 1cy Goosander

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Multiple Hawkies

If I was writing this post two or three years ago I would have been talking about orgasms, ecstatic highs and my addiction to Hawkie. Now though as the years have passed I find that Hawkie, to be perfectly honest, no longer hits the mark in the way that it used to and I think I may need something a bit stronger.

Hawk Owls are a nomadic species (even though some guide books give a different impression) and follow the fluctuating populations of rodents across Scandinavia and Russia. When rodent populations crash in the area where the owls have bred then they flee that area and search for other areas where there is food. They can travel very long distances and many turn up on the coast or on islands (e.g Værøy). This autumn has seen a significant invasion of Hawk Owls into Southern Norway. 1984/5 is spoken about as the big year with 30 reports in Oslo and Akershus and within my time 2012/13 was a good year with closer to 40 reports in OA. In between these invasions the species is very scarce and in some years, for example 2011 is not seen at all in OA.

It is looking like this year may be an even larger invasion year although it is clear that only a fraction of birds are ever reported and observer effort makes a difference. So far there have been around 20 reports and the frequency is increasing and given that in 2012/13 it was only in November when significant numbers arrived there could be many more to come. None of the birds seems to have settled down yet either which may be a sign that there is not so much food in our parts either and the birds are just moving through.

After finding a bird on Saturday I thought I would put in a focused effort to day and drive a route that would take me through forest and farmland in Aurskog-Høland. My theory was that there would be more birds in the forest as there was not any snow to drive them out into farmland. My sightings did not bear this out but the theory may still hold water as to be honest the chances of finding Hawk Owl whilst driving along a forest road are a lot less than when driving through farmland when one can scan much larger areas. I ended up finding three birds all of which were new and this equals my best self-found day from 2012 when Rune and I had three in Østfold. Three different birds is not a record though as on one very memorable day in  Jan 2013 I had 5!!

Today I had one bird in forest and two in farmland. The forest bird was close to a house and some fields in the forest and the two farmland birds actually perched up on houses and were actively looking for food in the gardens! This must be a sign that food is hard to come by and I don’t suspect these birds to be seen again in the same places. Other than Hawkie I had four Great Grey Shrikes which is up there amongst my better day counts.

I visited Hærsetesjøen where I had thousands of geese on Saturday but today there were only just over a hundred Greylag. Not too far away though (as the goose flies) at Hemnesjøen there were many hundred Greylags and amongst them 6 Taiga Beans. Raptors were in short supply today although a Kestrel on a tree top did try to fool me into thinking it was Hawkie.
The most photogenic of the Hawk Owls which was perched right above the road

look at those claws

it first flew to a nearby chimney

and then on to a fence in the back garden where it plunged unsuccessfully for something in the grass

the day's first Hawkie in the forest

and the day's last - wish that was my house
6 Taiga Beans (sædgås) with Greylags

the closest of four Great Grey Shrikes (varsler) today

fake Hawkie - a Kestrel (tårnfalk)

Mistle Thrushes (duetrost)

Shoveler (skjeand) - there were still 14 at Merkja