Saturday, 24 September 2016

Værøy - after I left....

Before I post any of my own none to impressive pictures I can update on the birds I didn’t see on Værøy because I clearly left too early…...

I have already mentioned the Olive Backed Pipit that Kjell found whilst I was waiting for my helicopter off the island, well here is the back of camera picture.
Olive-backed Pipit (sibirpiplerke). Photo: Klell Mjølsnes

This morning things got much worse though when I first got a message from Kjell that he had found a Lanceolated Warbler and then I later got a picture of it in the hand after it had the misfortune to be flushed into a net erected just for its pleasure. After Kjell had found the PGTips (Starrsanger in Norwegian) he had started to talk about finding Stars & Stripes with the Stripes being Stripesanger (Lanceolated in Norwegian). Well his dream was fulfilled and well deserved too.

Lanceolated Warbler (stripesanger). Photo: Kjell Mjølsnes

And then I’ve just got a message saying a White’s Thrush (gultrost) has been seen although so far only by one observer. This is a notoriously difficult species to get past the bitter soles in the Rarities Committee though and I would know ;-).
Værøy has now, and finally, more than lived up to expectations!


it seems the White's Thrush was seen by all birders who were (still) the island. This pictures was sent to me by Egil Ween but was I believe taken by Håvard Eggen. My only consolation was that it would appear to have been another frustrating, skulky bird (I'm stuggling here.)

Friday, 23 September 2016

Værøy 2016 - the end

That’s Værøy 2016 finished. I’m sitting waiting at the heliport for the prescribed 1 hour ahead of a 15 minute flight but at least there is free wifi.

So my last day continued the frustrating theme. After the flyover, heard only Little/Rustic Bunting in the morning at Nordland, a Little Bunting was found in the south in the afternoon. It was in some very high, reed like vegetation and for me only showed in flight after being flushed when it at least called. Apart from the call and small size in comparison to the Reed Buntings it was with I did see that it had reddy ear coverts.

I had a total of 8 Yellow-browed Warblers, a Jack Snipe and a Golden Eagle (as well as the White-tailed Eagles that are common here) whilst others had another 11 Yb Warblers which were ringed, the Turtle Dove was relocated, the PG Tips was also seen (after only possibly being seen yesterday), a Barred Warbler was found and a OBP/Tree Pipit was heard (and just as I am about to press the "publish" button I get a message from Kjell that he had pinned down an OBP and got pics...)

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks very promising so I hope that it doesn’t transpire I left the island a day too early.

This year for the first time there has been some concentrated ringing efforts. I have not involved myself but there have been some interesting results. A huge number of Yb Warblers have been ringed (80 and counting) with a max of 28 ringed in a day. The numbers of retraps is very low (less than 10% I think) and amongst us we have hardly noted a ringed bird in the field. This means that there is very high turnover with new birds are arriving each day (whereas before we had thought that a number of birds were hanging around) and also has us wondering what happens to all the birds after they are ringed because we were not seeing them in the field.
Here are some pictures of the Red-throated Pipit and I will post more pictures and some videos later.
Red-throated Pipit (lappiplerke) At first it was typically skulky

but then showed really well. I was very surprised to see it was an adult with a red throat

still eminently identifiable from this view

note the broad pale mantle streaks and the heavily patterned rump


Værøy 2016 Day 6 - final day

I had no final update yesterday for two reasons:
1. I was exhausted after walking for hours and hours
2. I had nothing to report
After the excitement of the Pechora the day just ebbed out into the quietest day I can remember on Værøy.
There were extremely few birds in the air especially in the afternoon but a couple of the others had a flyover presumed OBP.
I did see Hawk Owl, Jack Snipe and double figures of Y-b Warbler.

This morning has started very quietly with very few birds and just frustration. A skulky warbler that got the pulse up but disappeared, an unseen but calling Little/Rustic Bunting. I have yet to have Yb Warbler....and have only until 1530 when I leave for the helicopter.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Værøy 2016 Day 5 - Pechora Pipit

Kjell has done it again. He had a calling flyover Pechora Pipit which we then relocated. Very frustrating bird though just like the Tips. We now need something rare and obvious!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Værøy 2016 day 4 - day ends with a PG Tips

Well the day ended very well whch was good as spirits had started to sink in the afternoon after Tor "I've just found my 5th first for Norway Olsen" sent us pictures of an American Flycatcher sp he had just found in Southern Norway (may end up being one of those that requires DNA for a specific ID).
We were still having lots of Yb Warblers with another day of over 50 (edit: 64) on the island (28 ringed) but where was everything else? I had a total of 4 Pied Flys which was a good sign but no more than that. I covered different areas of the island and had one Yb that made my day. Ever since we first visited Værøy and stayed at my wife's aunts house I have been hoping to see a Yb in her garden and I did for the first time today!! Whilst watching this I heard a Red-throated Pipit and saw it land in some grassland nearby. I approached and a few Meadow Pipits flew up but I heard it again and then there it was on a rock. AND it was an adult with a red throat! AND for once it was showing really well. I fired off loads of pics and even ensured the others could arrive and see it.
Buoyed by this I went searching more grassland and had a Jack Snipe.
Energy levels started waning though and we decided to head back to the house, seeing the Rook on the way. Kjell and I then went separately searching fields and gardens in Nordland. After a while I found a warbler that I was just getting to grips with (turned out to be a Wood) when I saw Kjell nearby. He was pishing and staring through his bins but I didn't think he had anything special. When he realised I was there he incredously shouted STARSANGER (or PG Tips to the english). Apparantly it had been sitting out in the open showing really well but Kjell didn't have his camera.... After this followed a very frustrating period whilst we waited for the others to arrive during which I also got to see the bird briefly when before it again ducked down into cover. After the others arrived we tried to see it in an organised manner but ended up just getting glimpses, although at very close range, and photos were not bagged unfortunately.

Things are warming up!

By the way a PG Tips is a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler.

Værøy 2016 Day 4 early update

Another promising start to the day with a number of Y-b Warblers, Blyth’s Reed still around (and probably two birds in same area), a Pied Flycatcher and good numbers of birds in the air.

Last night, after going to be early, I was awoken before midnight to a nice surprise – a trapped Storm Petrel. Regardless of what I may think of ringing it was a privilege to see this pelagic species so close up and boy are they small birds. It is amazing that they live their lives at sea and hardly ever seem to be driven into land by storms unlike their large cousins. Maybe their small size makes them less susceptible to be blown by storms?

Here are a few pictures from the last few days.

Wood Warbler (bøksanger)

Pied Fly (svarthvit fluesnapper)

Storm Petrel (havsvale)

Barred Warbler (hauksanger)

Blyth's Reed Warbler (busksanger)

Turtle Dove

juv Waxwing
Y-b Warbler

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Værøy 2016 Day 3

Things aren't quite as they should be. There were at least 40 (edit: at least 51) Y-b Warblers on the eisland today but frustratingly little else despite it being so still in the air that you could pick up warblers by the snapping of their bills.
I saw 17 of the Y-b Warblers and there were also 11 new birds ringed and only three retraps from yesterday. As seems to be the norm the pre breakfast Nordland session gave grounds for real optimism with many Y-b Warblers (only 2 here yesterday) but the south again disappointed.
I picked up Barred Warbler today and the Turtle Dove again showed well but once again I'm left looking forward to tomorrow (the wind has finally turned to the east).
In the evening the Blyth's Reed was also refound and was even more skulky than yesterday.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Værøy 2016 Day 2 Scores at the doors

A strange kind of day that didn't quite live up to the pre breakfast hype. The south of the island definitely had Yellow broweds - probably around 30 (of which I saw ca.12 and 20 were ringed) but otherwise there wasn't much to see. I did see the Rook and had species like Wood Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler which are all scarce here but a new day awaits.

Værøy Day 2 2016 – an early update

We are staying as usual in the north of the island in a house without internet (that is new for this year) and where mobile coverage is so poor that we cannot receive calls in the house. The south of the island has good 4G coverage though so I have the PC in the van and am posting a quick update.

Yellow-browed Warbler fell at 0740 and I had good photos of the Turtle Dove and saw a Blyth’s Reed Warbler that Kjell found before breakfast so the day has had a good start. Can’t wait to get going on the gardens in the south!

Blyth's Reed Warbler (busksanger)

Turtle Dove (turteldue)

Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger)

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Værøy Day 1 2016

Internet connection is going to be a problem this year so my posts might be light on photos although today I have none to post.

My two hours of birding after arriving gave me a Norwegian tick (Turtle Dove) and I found a Værøy first (Wryneck) but I DIDN'T have a single Yellow-browed Warbler. I only birded the north of the island and the boyz had had 14 in the south earlier but even so I don't think I have ever failed to get YbW on my first evening. There are generally few birds around at the moment but the others have seen Barred Warbler, Gyr Falcon, Hawk Owl and another Værøy first in the form of Rook so I'm excited about what tomorrow will bring.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Counting the hours to Værøy

Just two days before I am on Værøy but Kjell and the others are arriving this evening so I am awaiting anxiously to hear “what’s about”. Yellow-browed Warblers at least seem to have already arrived in good numbers so I expect they will have a good double figure count already in the last few hours of daylight when they arrive. I have previously mentioned that Kjell must have the best birding garden in Norway and yesterday he ringed in the garden PG Tips, Barred Warbler and Y-b Warbler – look at this mouth watering picture and then ask yourself why he would leave that for Værøy…. must be my dazzling company ;-).

Here in Oslo there has finally been a change in the weather and there was a slight autumnal feel in the air. The last week of hot, sunny weather with morning fog was replaced with drizzle and heavy clouds in the morning with it drying out in the afternoon but nothing like as hot as it has been. The change in the weather didn’t do much for the birdlife though. A quick visit to Fornebu revealed 3 Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler the only significant thing about this appalling total being that Chiffchaffs outnumbered Willow Warblers for the first time.

I thought a visit to Østensjøvannet might be more productive but here the surface water weed that attracted large numbers of waterfowl (including record numbers of Coots) is absent this year and there were very low numbers with less than 10% of the number of coots that were present last year. The only interesting observation was Great Crested Grebes with a minimum of 41 birds including a number of stripy young still being fed by their parents despite the late date. It seems that the first breeding attempts were nearly all unsuccessful (pike predation) but that second clutches have been more successful.
A flock of 6 Pink-footed Geese flying around calling were definitely an autumnal sight and sound.

Willow Warbler (løvsanger)

it had no problem finding small caterpillars

and here swallowing it

young Great Crested Grebe (toppdykker) eating a small fish given to it by the parent

Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås)

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Cruising the fjord

This morning I was lucky enough to go out with Andreas G on his boat to check the sea and islands in the inner Oslo fjord. We had an early start at 6.30am and had to contend with poor light to start with and then once the sun had risen fog descended. The fog was a problem all morning and must be a result of the unseasonal warm temperatures and no wind.

We saw the Shag on Galteskjær on the way out and managed to get much better pictures than when I found it from the public boat to the islands. There were no terns left on Lindøya and a single Knot was the only wader.
But it was the two Skjælhomene islands which I was looking forward to. These small islands are only accessible by private boat, having no cabins and minimal disturbance and are where Andreas has had his most exciting finds. Two Peregrines and a Buzzard flew off the smaller northern island which was a pretty good start but as we rounded the southern island there was little so see with 3 Dunlin the only waders and a flyby Common Tern the only tern we had all day. Go ashore the island gives a really good feeling (what would be called a “bomb” island in Norwegian). The island is small with a pool, a few areas of bushes, some short grass and lots of weedy vegetation. A flock of 30 Linnet gave the impression of there being lots of birds but a Garden Warbler was the only warbler we saw and a Wheatear the only other long distance migrant. A Short-eared Owl that flushed at close range and then flew above us in the mist was a great find though and made the whole trip worthwhile. Walking around the island we also added Common Sand, Ruff and Teal to the list.

The boat trip back also gave us Red-throated Diver and Guillemot.

We also had some mammals with 2 Common Seals and 1 Grey Seal. Grey Seal is very rare in South Eastern Norway but this summer there have been a male and female regularly seen around the Skjælholmene islands and they have given the impression of establishing themselves with future breeding being a possibility. We saw only the smaller female today and her behaviour was noticeably different to the two Common Seals with her not appearing afraid of us and indeed approached the boat and loudly splashed the water before diving as if demonstrating that this was her territory. It was good to be able to see Common and Grey Seal so close to each other as I have often struggled to ID seal and the female Grey is a far less obvious beast than large males.

 After the boat trip I headed to Årnestangen where the fog was really thick. I had hoped for some good views of raptors, particularly Hen Harrier but the fog hampered that ambition. I did have 3-4 Marsh Harrier, 2 Sparrowhawks, 2 Buzzard, Kestrel, Osprey, Merlin and Hen Harrier though so there were some raptors! Wader numbers have really fallen with only ca. 30 birds of 5 species. After 1230 the fog lifted and Svellet revealed itself to be full of birds. When I arrived there were few geese but I counted 1150 Teal! Suddenly the air was full of noise and then birds and the geese flew in from a nearby field. Barnacle Geese were the most numerous species today with 1100 birds and “only” 500 Greylags.
Værøy Countdown: 4 days to go

Shag (toppskarv) with Cormorants (storskarv)

juv Shag

Norway's first ever Booby?

Short-eared Owl (jordugle) just after being flushed

lightening the load

Knot (polarnipe). This is an uncropped picture (500mm) and shows how close one can come to birds in a boat
adult Red-throated Diver (smålom) still in summer plumage

Garden Warbler (hagesanger) - the only warbler seen today
my first Guillemot (lomvi) of the autumn
female Grey Seal (havert)


The two Common Seals (steinkobbe) we saw were much warier than their Grey Cousin

Common Seal

Different head and nostril shapes separate the two seal species