Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Oslo islands

With just 2 DAYS TO GO UNTIL VÆRØY 2017 begins I thought I would get some practice for island birding in today with a trip to Oslo’s own rarity (un)filled islands. I took the public boat and had an hour each on Gressholmen, Lindøya and Nakholmen.

Passerine wise I guess I have vague hopes of one finding something along the lines of a Yellow-browed Warbler, Richard’s Pipit or Little Bunting out here one autumn but more realistically I can hope to see some waders. My Oslo list still lacks the likes of Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone and Grey Plover and it these islands that offer the best chance of encountering these species (which are far less than annual).

Today’s trip did not deliver any of the sought after rare passerines but a Wheatear and a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were enough to keep me looking for more. Waders were not exactly numerous either but a juvenile Knot showed well (it was only last year I added this species to my Oslo list) and three flyover Ruff were only my fourth Oslo record. But surprisingly there were no other waders what so ever.

A couple of seals were hauled up and one showed well. These were Common/Harbour Seals and both this species and Grey Seal seems to be becoming far commoner in the Oslo Fjord.

Knot (polarsnipe) a rare species in Oslo 

overflying Ruff (brushane)
a resting Seal (steinkobbe)

and another Seal. This one looks to be a young animal
over 130 Cormorants (storskarv) were resting on Galteskjær but I didnæt have a shag today - not so far anyway...;-)

my first auk of any kind in Oslo this year - a Guillemot (lomvi)

Monday, 18 September 2017

And some more videos

I found this post in drafts and had obviously intended to post it some time during the summer.....

And here is the second instalment:

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Woodpecker guiding

Yesterday morning I was guiding Paul from Oxford and woodpeckers were high on the list of desired species. These are never easy to find and out of the breeding season are especially difficult as I cannot just visit a nest. I considered that Great Spotted, Green, Black and Lesser Spotted would be possible and succeeded in finding three of these. The lack of Green was hardly a loss for an Englishman and Black and Lesser Spotted were definitely good birds. The Black flew low over our heads and then showed in a tree whilst the Lesser Spotted called a lot before finally giving itself up and showing well. Result!
Bird of the day was a Great Grey Shrike which Paul found hovering over a reedbed at Fornebu hunting Blue Tits!

I can also start my countdown to my annual autumn Værøy trip – 4 DAYS TO GO J

As usual when guiding I had my camera in my bag and was not focused on pictures but did manage to record some of the highlights

Great Grey Shrike (varlser)

male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) doing an impression of a hummingbird

a late(ish) Greenshank (gluttsnipe).

Friday, 15 September 2017

Water Rail

Even though I did not witness a large raptor movement yesterday there were birds on the move further south in Østfold close to the border with Sweden. Today’s weather was raptor friendly with sun, blue skies, a light northerly wind and a few nice fluffy clouds. I therefore thought it would be worth a trip to the Hellesjøvannet area. There were lots of Common Buzzards in evidence today, mostly perched feeding birds but also a few thermalling although none gave any real sign of being on migration. A single juvenile Honey Buzzard and a couple of Rough-legged Buzzards were migrating though and seeing all three buzzards in a day is I am sure a first for me. Despite this though it was far from a big day and the only other raptors I had were 3 Sparrowhawks and a single Kestrel.

Hellesjøvannet did give me some quality birding though. I had found a good sitting position to scan for raptors and from the nearby reedbed I could hear calling Water Rails (were at last 4 birds and probably a family). The edge of the reedbed went over into grassy vegetation and was bathed in sun and at least one of the rails liked this and showed really well (for a Water Rail that is). I fired off hundreds of photos but amazingly enough not a single one shows the whole bird unimpeded by either vegetation or shadows. Nice bird though.

I finished the day looking for the Taiga Beans. One of the tagged birds which had gone radio silent for a few weeks suddenly transmitted on the 13th from the breeding areas. It sent many plots that day and then went silent again before phoning home last night to say it was on the Glomma in Akershus. I wanted to find out how many birds were now on site and hopefully read some new collars. I found the birds on the river and counted 136 birds but distance was too great for any collars to be read. 136 is a lower autumn max count than I have had before so I hope there are still birds to arrive. The birds were disturbed by a boat on the river and flew up as one flock. They subsequently split into smaller flocks though and headed in different directions which is unusual and probably a result of smaller flocks only recently having come together and not settled into a common mindset. 

spot the Water Rail (vannrikse)

Water Rails are adapted for a life in the reedbed and are very thin birds

The Beans along the bank and some Canada Geese further out on the river

after taking off they headed SWW 

before heading north

this shows roughly the route I observed the birds taking. They split into at least three groups when they reached the northernmost point with I believe one group heading north to where there was a plot at 16:00. Two other groups (of 41 and 21) headed south again before turning round and heading north (before I lost sight of them) and I expect they joined up again at the 1600 plot which is the peat bog at Flakstadmåsan. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Whooper CranesTh

After we had been in Maridalen yesterday both Hobby and Merlin were seen and at Årnestangen in the evening a juvenile Honey Buzzard passed at close range so yesterday was definitely a good day for migrating raptors. I hoped that today would also be good but it ended up being a bit to cloudy for a big movement I think although I could also have left Maridalen too early in the day. Around four hours in Maridalen gave only 4 Sparrowhawks and a Buzzard but a flock of 29 Cranes heading east was a very pleasant sighting. This species has become noticeably commoner in the 16 years I have lived in Norway and to be honest I think there are too many now. The reason for the increase is apparently less hunting but also a lot of human feeding on wintering and migration sites which has resulted in a high (and unnatural?) survival rate. I think Cranes are fantastic birds but especially when breeding they can take a huge toll on other species whose eggs and chicks they eat.

I found the Whooper Swan family at their breeding site after having failed to see them on my last couple of visits. The young are looking large now and I hope I get to see them taking their flying lessons this year.

Cranes (trane)  
The Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family

a nicely posed Reed Bunting (sivspurv)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Juvenile Honey

Today I had an enjoyable day guiding Eric from Connecticut. After over a week of rain it was relief to have some sun and little wind. We headed first for Årnestangen where there was an immediate autumnal feeling with lots of calling Meadow Pipits, Fieldfares and geese in the air. Unfortunately, all the rain has meant an increase in water levels so there was little mud but still around 100 waders. Best were a couple of Knot and 3 Little Stint. There were around 500 Wigeon and among them a lot of Pintail – I counted 35 but better eyes later counted 90 which is a site record.

I had hoped that raptors would put on a show as the weather was finally suited for soaring. We had no harriers unfortunately but did see Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Merlin quite close. A couple of distant soaring raptors were most likely juvenile Honey Buzzards but were just a bit too far to be certain. On the passerine side we had Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and lots of Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits.

We moved on to Maridalen where good numbers of Swallows and a few House Martins were in the air. They started alarm calling and a search for a raptor revealed a clear Honey Buzzard (although this was doubtfully the cause of their alarm). It proceeded to fly right over our heads and was a juvenile in one of those confusing Common Buzzard like plumages. There are very few published photos of juvenile Honey Buzzards from Norway and one reason for this may be that they are passed off as Common Buzzards. The Swallows alarm called on two more occasions and we found a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel sparring in the air on the first and a close male Sparrowhawk on the second. We had two other Sparrowhawks and a Common Buzzard in the valley so today was probably a good day for raptor migration if one had spent time sky gazing.

The best passerine was a young Red-backed Shrike and we also had a Whinchat and a few Nutcrackers. On the lake 4 adult Black-throated Divers showed well.

juvenile Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk)

juvenile Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

male Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk)

a black Adder

Two young Adders 

Black-throated Divers (storlom)

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Some seawatching

Since Sunday there have strong southerly winds blowing up the Oslo Fjord. I had a quick look from Krokstrand yesterday morning without seeing a single sea bird but sightings from further south showed that birds were moving and when the forecast changed and the winds were forecast to continue today I decided to give Hulvik a go. It took a long time to get there due to the rolling programme of tunnel work that is going on in Norway but at 0950 I was in place. The wind was strong and from the south, the light was good and approaching heavy rain clouds were also welcome as they can often bring birds with them. And birds there were. In the distance, I could see lots and lots of Gannets and as the rain clouds approached so did the birds. There were at least 200 out there and I have never seen such numbers here before.

The first good bird I had was an enormous Great Northern Diver that was heading south. Soon after this I got a message from ca.20km south at Brentetangen that lots of birds including Manx Shearwater and Great Skua were heading north. That was good motivation to keep scanning. Before any of those appeared, I had a tick! When, on Friday, I listed the “easy” species that I had yet to see in Norway I forgot to mention Sandwich Tern and that was what I saw today. Long range scope views so no photos of what may well be my 300th Norwegian species (or 299th depending on which list I look at).

After this a Great Skua showed and then in front of a rain storm a Manxie showed very briefly but disappeared from view in the rain plus I had to run for cover. Whilst seeking cover under trees I could see that loads of Gannets were heading north in the rain and I hoped that the shearwater had also done the same. After the rain stopped the Gannets came south again but no shearwater unfortunately. About this time Zak turned up and in addition to the Gannets we enjoyed a Great Skua that came through at relatively close range. After this though things really slowed down and even the Gannets evaporated. But what (by local standards) a seawatch I had had! There were very few other birds though, not even commoner gulls. I had two commic terns, a Razorbill and a Hobby so if it wasn’t for the large numbers of Gannets it would have been long and far between birds.

What with the distances and the rain it is amazing I took any pictures but Gannets and one of the Bonxies cames close enough for an attempt at a record shot.

I reckon this just about counts as a record shot. Great Skua/Bonxie/Storjo

some of the Gannets that started heading north ahead of a rain storm

adult Gannet

a younger bird probably a 2cy

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Black Tern

My Norwegian list is not large. The fact that I haven't yet seen 300 species bears witness to the fact that I am a lousy twitcher. My self-found list isn't too shaby though but both lists still lack a few breeding or regular migrants such as White-backed Woodpecker, Stonechat, Leaches Petrel and Black Tern. Today I reduced that list by 25%.

After first checking out the Taiga Bean Geese (more about them later) I made my way to Svellet and walked out to the northern end where a lot of geese have been resting and on Monday there was a nice mud bank with a few waders. The water had risen after all the recent rain so no mud or waders but there were loads of geese: over 700 Barnacle, 1400 Greylags and amongst them single White-front and Pink-foot.

After a bit I started scanning and picked up a distant tern (>1.5km). At this time of year any tern is unusual but the way this was flying immediately cried a marsh tern. At the long range I struggled with plumage especially as I was expecting a juv bird but then it clicked - adult Black Tern!!! I had to get closer but that wasn't possible on foot. The 1 km back to the car was half run and after a short drive and another run I was, 25 minutes later, where I thought the tern had been.
Scanning didn't reveal it at first but a blob on top of a buoy revealed itself to be the bird! Views were still distant but in the scope I could enjoy my first Norwegian Black Tern. It was very settled and spent most of its time feeding although did also perch on buoys or floating logs. Whilst hoping it would come closer (it never did) I also had a White-tailed Eagle and fly over 2BC.

The Taiga Beans had risen to 79 birds with a new collared bird (T8) plus a bird with just a metal ring (one that has lost its neck collar). I was able to thoroughly go through 54 of the birds and amongst them found only 2 broods: one of 3 young plus the 2 young with 27&29. This population doesn't seem to have had good breeding success recently and so far few birds have turned up - let us hope more make it to Scotland via another migration route.

It really was quite hopeless trying to photograph the Black Tern although that didn't stop me trying. This video shows the bird best:

Black Tern (svartterne) Svellet. In the top left picture we see the underside although if you thought this was the upperside then you might be asking why it wasn't a White-winged Black Tern!

I would like to live in one of those houses!

with Cormorants

Taiga Bean Goose T8

the flock likes undulating fields and many birds were out of sight


the three youngsters that I managed to identify due to rounder mantle feathers 

from a distance only a third of the flock was visible

these birds were very well hidden 
closer view


a particularly pale juvenile (male based on size) Goshawk