Saturday, 25 October 2014

Proper seawatching

Through the gloom of the weather this week there has been an ever growing light at the end of the tunnel with strong southerlies forecast from Thursday evening and through the weekend which as you will have guessed means seabirds or at least the promise of.

I persuaded Per B to join me at Krokstrand and he was already braving the elements when I arrived at 0830. The wind was as predicted but rain and mist made viewing conditions difficult at times. Until 11am we had very little just a few auks and a couple of Red-throated Divers (smålom). A wall of rain coming our way prompted Per to depart and also me to move position to where I could use the car as cover.

Poor Per!! The wall of rain seemed to bring the birds and also my new position gave a much better viewing angle. First I noticed a couple of Kittiwakes (krykkje), then a Puffin (lunde) on the water with a couple of Guillemots (lomvi) before it all kicked off at 1130. First three Pomarine Skuas (polarjo) shot through heading north, then 3 adult Little Gulls (dvergmåke) appeared. Whilst watching these 2 more Poms flew north stopping up briefly to harrie some Herring Gulls. A small grey bird that popped above the waves was a Grey Phalarope (polarsvømmesnipe) but as I grabbed my camera I lost sight of it but was happy when half an hour later it or another flew south allowing good scope views and some dodgy photos. At times it looked like it couldn't cope with the wind and landed on the sea where it promptly disappeared but it was probably actively feeding because it soon headed purposely and quickly south into the wind.
Pomarine Skuas again made their presence known. A group of 7 hang around to the south of me for over an hour and when I picked up a group of 10 flying high and fast to the north I assumed they contained these 7 but no it was a new group and the group of 7 continued to fly around before an increase in the wind also three them north. So 22 Poms in total!  There have been huge numbers passing southern Sweden recently and these are undoubtedly birds from there pushed north.

Other seabirds were a couple of Gannets (havsule) and Fulmars (havhest), an Arctic Tern (rødnebbterne) and a few more Little Gulls and Kittiwakes.

I called it a day at 1530 after 7 hours and a sore back. Heading back to Oslo I thought I would give the fjord off bygdøy a try as those skuas had to be somewhere. Just as it was getting dark one flew by - an Oslo tick and a great way to end the birding day!

Pictures will come tomorrow!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Israel raptors

Here is my second installment from this April's Israel trip. This time raptors other than Harriers which were the subject of my first post.
Booted Eagle (dvergørn). This is a dark morph

Black Kite (svartglente) - looks quite red in this light

a young male Common Kestrel (tærnfalk)

male Lesser Kestrel (rødfalk). Long range picture but showing the important plumage characters to separate from Common Kestrel: white underwing, grey on the upper wing

Steppe Buzzard (russevåk)

raptors in a thermal and a mucky lens. Steppe Eagle (steppeørn) in the middle with Steppe Buzzards

more Steppe Eagle and Buzzards

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Two and a Half Corvids

The last couple of days have not seen too much in the way of successful birding. Yesterday was an isolated day of clear sunny weather with little wind and I had hopes of raptors in Maridalen but had to be content with just two Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk) in four hours.

Today it was back to wet, grey weather and I ditched, initially at least, my plans of heading east for lots of wildfowl and chose to twitch in Akershus. On Sunday a fine White-billed Diver (gulnebblom) was seen on a boat trip and then later twitched by others from land at a range of 3km and yesterday a Kingfisher (isfugl) was seen not too far away. Needless to say my twitching proved fruitless and I quickly decided that I would head east whilst I still had time. 

The large numbers of Greylag Geese (grågås) were now just a fraction of their numbers from last week with probably yesterdays good weather encouraging them on their way. I wasn’t Greylags I was interested in anyway, it was Bewick’s Swans (dvergsvane) or White-fronted Geese (tundragås) but these were not to be found despite me locating some flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans (sangsvane) as I continued on my travels. A few Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) were new though and correlate with large flocks reported heading south from Trøndelag the last couple of days.

The only excitement of the day came from corvids and actually a new bird for me. A flock of Hooded Crows (kråke) feeding in a stubble field attracted my attention and I stopped the car to scan them and to my surprise there were two black birds amongst them. One was an obvious adult Rook (kornkråke) but the other had a black bill. At some range in the binoculars I wasn’t sure whether it was a Carrion Crow (svartkråke) or a young Rook. I noticed what looked like a brownish tinge to the plumage which I couldn’t explain. So I decided to fire off as many pictures as I could to see if I could work out what it was at home (Carrion Crows and young Rooks look very similar). At home I actually found it was something else:  a hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow and the first time I’ve seen this type of hybrid. What I took to be a brown tinge to the plumage was actually dark grey.

At home the Blackcap (munk) is still feeding on the elder berries and our window feeder is very popular.

I had only one Great Grey Shrike (varsler) in the day which was at a new location although I failed to see any at six other locations where I have seen the species over the last couple of weeks.

Two and a Half Corvids- Rook, Hood Crow and Carrion x Hooded Crow hybrid

Carrion x Hood Crow


the hybrid

Long-tailed Tits (stjertmeis) showed today as well

Blue Tit (blåmeis) and the popular window feeder

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Garden owl

It’s not normal that I update the blog this early with “live” news but today has started off in a very special way.

After brewing some much needed coffee I saw that the feeders were empty so went out to fill them up. Whilst doing so I scared off a new neighbourhood cat that has taken a real liking to our feeders and although I have yet to see any deaths he is definitely good at scaring the birds away. Shortly after he ran off I heard a chorus of scolding birds but they were too far away to be mobbing this particular predator. I walked around the side of the house and saw a line of birds on a telegraph wire with birds flying into a birch tree and mobbing a dark shape. I immediately assumed it to be a Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) because it was sitting on a branch (obscured) and not against the trunk as I would expect from an owl. However the birds were very angry at it with Blackbirds (svarttrost) repeatedly flying at it and I could even here the local Blackcap’s (munk) call. I was curious enough that I decided I would walk around to see the bird although my clothing was hardly appropriate. However as I started walking which meant going around the house I heard the calling change. I ran back round to see the thrush in flight but couldn’t see what they were obviously chasing. The mobbing started again further away aimed at another tree before an owl flew out this time with a Crow chasing it (kråke). There could be no doubt it was a Long-eared Owl (hornugle) – or could there be no doubt? It flew in circles over the house for long enough for me to run in, change the lens on the camera and run out again and get some pictures.

Checking the pictures has had me scratching my head and for a while I thought that it must be a Short-eared Owl (jordugle)  which would be an amazing find in a garden and some of the pictures do show plumage characters which can only be Short-eared – apparent white trailing edge to the wing and solid black wing tips rather than finely barred wing tips. However, I believe this to be more as a result of bad light and grainy photos as the overall impression is still of a Long-eared Owl and location would have to suggest so.


Quite why it was seeking refuge in a garden I can only guess at but I assume it was migrating overnight and then when dawn came over the city it just decided it had to seek a safe roost. Why choose a garden rather than nearby Maridalen? It looks like there might be lots of fog further inland so it could be that it is only over the city that it could see somewhere to land?

What a start to the day!

Short-eared Owl (ugle) over the garden
the picture top left looks like it shows a pale trailing edge which is a Short-eared Owl character. The bottom two pictures also show rather solid dark wing tip. After trynng to convince myself these were photographic effects I now accept them to be real and it really was a Short-eared Owl that flew out of my neighbours garden!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

In the news

Jon Olav Larsen has written two great articles (Norwegian only) on birding in Værøy and Røst and on our encounter with the Jack Snipe which you can read here:

This is his picture of me with Jackie

Friday, 17 October 2014

Stoat or do I mean Weasel?

The winter weather continues today although the precipitation is falling as rain in the city and only higher up as snow. Maridalen did have some new arrivals to show me today. On the lake a flock of 19 Goosander were feeding very actively in the shallows as a flock and looked like they were chasing a shoal of small fish. The two Common Scoter were still present in their preferred spot but have not managed to attract any more of their kin.

Avian highlight was a Rough-legged Buzzard that flew low over the valley in a vain attempt to find a snack. This bird could well be one that is hanging around the Oslo area as there have been a number of records to the east of Maridalen that could indicate 1 or 2 birds are finding the area to their liking.

Mammalian highlight came at one of the feeding stations when a movement on the ground was not a mouse but a stoat, correction weasel (snømus). It was always amazes me how small this predator is – smaller than a rat but it must be a fearsome predator if it manages to take rabbits. My attempts at a photo were pretty hopeless but I did capture the characteristic short tail (the larger weasel has a long tail).

a Nutcracker (nøttekråke) with Maridalsvannet in the background

a Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) with snow covered trees

back end of a weasel (snømus)

weasels really are small