Friday, 3 July 2015

Lapland Bunting

A visit today to Vinstri Lake produced some of the birds that I have been missing namely Yellow Wagtail and Bluethroat although neither were numerous. A male Lapland Bunting showed ridiculously well and back at our cabin Yellowhammer and Willow Warbler were also very photogenic.

this male Lapland Bunting (lappspurv) ended a song flight on a fence post right by me

Willow Warbler (løvsanger)

with food for young

here singing with a mouth full of food
I am awaiting confirmation from experts in leaf warblers but it looks like this bird will be Norway's first record of the east-asian Semi-crowned Warbler (phylloscopus beito) - watch this space !

male Yellowhammer (gulspurv)- note the shape of the lower mandible

pair of Cranes (trane) - for the second time I have seen a pair of Cranes walking around in a manner suggesting they had young in tow but without me seeing any young although if they were very small then they may not have been visible in the vegetation

Thursday, 2 July 2015


I woke early yesterday morning and used the opportunity to get up to Valdresflya where I hoped there would be some song activity. It was sunny but on the top there was mist off the snow and the wind was stronger than I had expected (I need to stop trusting the forecasts on – when they choose to present data by the hour it is easy to believe there is a high degree of accuracy to the forecast but experience time and time again shows that to be foolish). Three hours of watching and listening between 0500 and 0800 gave me a surprising number of birds and there was a lot of song activity. I was confined to the road as attempts to cross the snow and get closer to the birds were normally thwarted by my what my wife calls “rotten snow” meaning old snow that even though it is thick is in the process of melting and therefore doesn’t hold your weight.

I had two Dotterels: one on the ground but whose presence I was drawn to by it calling and another engaged in song flights over the snow. A single Temminck’s Stint feeding by the road that then display flighted. A Dunlin that did the same. Two Ringed Plovers flying over displaying and at least 8 Golden Plover of which some were also flying around displaying.

Passerines also got in on the act with at least 4 singing Shore Larks and a singing Lapland Bunting and both these species were also engaging in display flights. I also had at least four other Lap Bunting that looked like they were newly arrived and were flying together. Meadow Pipits were also quite numerous and I had a couple of Wheatears. Flyover Redpolls and Siskins completed the species list – giving a grand total of 11 species!

A short afternoon visit to Valdresflya resulted in far fewer birds although I did have my first predator(s) with a Raven searching for food on one of the bare patches of ground plus a potentially very unusual record. Whilst scanning the mountain sides with the bins a large white bird shot through. I immediately concluded Gyr Falcon and reached for the camera. I fumbled around and failed to find the bird in the view finder. I switched to bins again, found it, immediately reached for the camera again and again failed to find the bird which must have disappeared over the top of a peak. If it was a Gyr and I can’t think what else it was then it would have been a white phase bird and these are not supposed to be in Norway (at least not in the breeding season) so I’ll let this record pass (it was all far too brief and distant anyway) but it is reason to spend a bit more time up there.

I gave my Cuckoos another visit and got some slightly better pictures. At 0830 there were none to be seen but at noon there were two feeding together although I realised in the evening that a visit around 2000 would have given the best light.
calling Golden Plover (heilo)
my only proof that I saw Dotterel (boltit)

Dunlin (myrsnipe)

it was also displaying in flight including over my head

female Lapland Bunting (lappspurv)
male Lapland Bunting

comparison of the two

Shorelark (fjellerke) in song flight
male Cuckoo (gjøk)

a different bird - this one had miscoloured eyes

snowy mountains in the background

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


The late spring seems to have a real impact on the birdlife around Beitostølen and Valdresflya. I have yet to see or hear a single Redshank, Yellow Wagtail or Bluethroat, the only ducks I’ve seen so far are a few Tufted Ducks and there are hardly any Common Gulls or Ravens. There are some birds that seem more numerous though. On a drive in the valley below Beitostølen yesterday Cuckoos and Ring Ouzels seemed far more numerous than I can previously remember. We had 4 Cuckoos, both male and female, together on roadside wires that were feeding on caterpillars in the roadside vegetation. I can never remember coming so close to this species and if it wasn’t for the bright midday sun and four impatient females in the car then the photo opportunities would have been fantastic (not to self: go back again alone early in the morning). I assume that these are birds that are finished with breeding and are feeding up before heading back south to Africa although I did hear a male singing a couple of nights ago whilst at the Great Snipe lek.

Ring Ouzels were at three separate locations and were carrying food and it could well be that numbers of this species are increasing which would match increased records from Maridalen in the spring.
a male Cuckoo (gjøk)

female Cuckoo - told by the browny chest




Monday, 29 June 2015

Siberian Jay

One bird I don’t see enough of is Siberian Jay (lavskrike). It occurs in much of mid and northern Norway even occurring only an hours drive from Oslo but is never an easy bird to find, living as it does in very low densities in often remote forest areas. When you do find them though they can be very confiding, even taking food from the hand, although they often just disappear into the forest after a couple of minutes once there curiosity has been fulfilled.

The forests below Beitostølen have always looked very good for this species but when we are here in the summer my focus is normally on and above the treeline. Today however we climbed a lower peak which took us through nice forest. On the way up Redstart, Kestrel, Ring Ouzel, a high-up Lesser Whitethroat, some fly lover crossbills that sounded very much as though they should have wingbars and many Willow Warblers were the only birds we noted. On our way down though we heard a real commotion in front of us where the girls we walking and weren’t at first sure what the noise was. It soon clicked though it was a group of Sibe Jays and they were flying around the girls (who quite incredibly were unaware of this before I pointed it out to them). The birds then showed very well for about 4 minutes and responded very well to pishing before melting away.

Soon after this an angry Ring Ouzel was evidence of a nearby nest or youngsters but we had no other interesting birds to add to our exciting Siberian encounter.

I was carrying my old Sigma 70-300mm lens which I must rate as the best value lens on the market and is so easy to carry on walks.
this bird with a tatty tail is probably an adult

the fresher plumage of this bird suggests a youngster

the worn plumage suggest another adult


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Great Snipe lek - photo time

Three days after guiding to the Great Snipe lek I was back on the first day of summer holiday and this time I was focused on digital capture of these great birds. Conditions could not have been different and the cold (5C) and cloudy conditions of Wednesday night had become warm (22C during the day) and a near cloudless sky. The warmer conditions brought out the mosquitos which had been completely absent on Wednesday but they were not too much of a nuisance. When I was walking up to the lek I heard a bird displaying already at 2218 and when I sat myself down there were a couple of birds singing about 50m from the lek. I thought this would mean serious activity would start early whilst there was still good light but it was not until after 2330 that regular display started on the lek and not until 0030 that there was constant action. There were a minimum of 6 displaying males but could easily have been 9 or more. There was also a calling Willow Grouse close by.

I chose to sit close to where the main action had been on Wednesday and although the initial action occurred away from me eventually I had birds less than 5 metres away. At this distance you would have thought I would have got great photos but it is so dark that autofocus doesn’t work and trying to get manual focus plus a fast enough shutter speed is not that easy. If I had invested another $10,000 in my equipment I may have got better shots though…


Friday, 26 June 2015

The nest

A variation on the theme today with guiding in the middle of the day and then a check on the Red-breasted Flys in the afternoon.

I was guiding Russ and Gail from Florida who were in Oslo for the day on a cruise. I guided them for a few hours around lunch and we visited Østensjøvannet and Maridalen where the usual species showed well. There is little song at this time of the year especially in the middle of the day but there are many young birds begging to be fed which makes finding them easy. Østensjøvannet is full of life at the moment with young of many species and literally thousands of birds to be seen. An overflying Peregrine looked like he was viewing the lake as an appetizing buffet table.

I managed finally to find the Red-breasted Flycatcher nest which was as predicted just a few metres from the Robin’s nest and I had probably stood under it yesterday. It was about 4 metres up and in a very old woodpecker hole which had gone through the tree so had openings on two sides. The female was sitting in the nest when I arrived and it was half an hour before the male brought food. I think that my presence, even though I thought I was as a safe distance, prevented the male coming earlier as I had seen him in the area with a beak full of insects soon after I arrived so I left straight after witnessing the food drop. When the male arrived the female then flew off the nest and the male fed the young. I was unable to see how many young there were and the fact that the female had been brooding them means they can only be a few days old. In a weeks time the young should be visible in the nest begging for food.
the Robins nest on the left and the Red-breasted Flycatcher on the right

the tree

the female brooding the young
a blurred male in a dark forest with a mouthful of food

three shots showing feeding time. On the left the female is sitting on the nest and the hole on the other side can be seen. In the middle the male arrives and the female is still on the nest. On the right the female has flown off and the male is in charge

this Moorhens nest at Østensjøvannet was a couple of metres up in a tree. Two youngsters had clearly just hatched and it appeared there were still unhatched eggs in the nest. One youngster jumped out of the nest and was perched 30 cm below the nest.