Saturday, 27 May 2017

Guiding Gold again – Greenish Warbler!

Guiding is proving to be good at turning up rare birds for me. This morning I was showing Pete from England the highlights of Maridalen. Hazel Grouse was top of the wish list so we headed straight for the site where I had them whilst guiding recently (without trying all the other seemingly empty territories). It is a good hike up to the site so when we didn’t find them to begin with I began to worry but there was nothing to worry about as after few minutes as a male flew in (on unusually silent wings) and perched nearly above Pete’s head. My view was obscured but when I did get a chance for a photo the camera wouldn’t focus which was to prove to be a problem later in the day.

Later in the day was when we were walking back to the car and a loud song close to us had us scratching our heads. My first suggestion was a Tree Pipit not quite in the swing of things but just before I glimpsed the bird I remembered the song – GREENISH WARBLER!! What had I predicted only a few days ago??

It showed really well but taking photos proved a real challenge with the camera either not focusing or when it did focus then it wouldn’t take a shot. In the end though there were a couple of record shots and I recorded the song.

Greenish Warbler is a national rarity and this was the first record in the country this year.
We didn’t spend a long time with the bird as we had more ground to cover but the bird was well watched by others later and it is possible there is more than one singing male in the area.

The rest of Maridalen did of course also deliver and we had Goshawk including close views of an adult male, ridiculously good views of a male Black Woodpecker, Common Rosefinch plus the usual selection of flycatchers and warblers.

singing Greenish Warbler (østsanger) 

male Black Woodpecker (svartspett)
male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink)

Friday, 26 May 2017

Guiding delivers the goods

I was guiding Dan from the US of A today for an early morning outing. We had a great morning with sun, no wind, great landscapes and plenty of birds. All the local specialities were on show including Black Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Rosefinch, beaver, various flycatchers and warblers, Goshawk and Wryneck. I have no pictures to show from today but here is a highlights video from the Oslo area from this week.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cheeky Hedmark trip

A long(ish) staying Black Tern was enough to tip the scales and prompt me to make a cheeky trip to Hedmark today ahead of some trips in the next few weeks for guiding and survey work.

Of course the fact that I was attempting to twitch it was all the incentive the tern needed to move on. Black Tern is very scarce in Norway and a hole on my list. This one had chosen to hang around on a tiny pool in an arable field that held a small (ca.25 pairs) colony of Black-headed Gulls. This colony also attracted Coot, Moorhen, Slavonian Grebe, Tufted Duck and a Little Gull (have been two) which is quite extraordinary considering how small it is (see the picture).

Well the tern was only one of the attractions Hedmark had and the other two didn’t disappoint. First I had an adult and young Great Grey Owl in a nest I had also seen used in 2014 (the last year of mass breeding in Hedmark) and then I had three singing Ortolan Buntings. Two of Norway’s rarest and coolest breeders enjoyed on a nice warm spring day – cheers!

After this I drive the scenic route home hoping for raptors as the weather seemed perfect to get them up in the air. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to really find them if they were there and only had two Kestrels plus a couple of second glimpse of my first Honey Buzzard of the year.

A big surprise though came when I stopped at a site where Hawk Owl bred in 2014. I didn’t find any this year but did see a Grey-headed Woodpecker in flight that then landed on and disappeared into a tree. I had found my first ever breeding Grey-headed Woodpeckers – a species that I don’t even see annually. I got to see the male really well and will maybe be able to follow this site more later.

Lots of pictures and video taken today. Here are the first batch of photos:

I can see you 
Great Grey Owl (lappugle)

singing male Ortolan (hortulan). Note it is ringed and from what I can make out not a Norwegian ring (more work needed here)

male Grey-headed Woodpecker (gråspett)

the small pool that had housed a Black Tern until yesterday

2cy Little Gull (dvergmåke) and Slavonian Grebes (horndykker)

Very good guiding

What a day’s guiding I had yesterday! I’m sure I’ve said it before but the Oslo area doesn’t fail to deliver the goods at the end of May and beginning of June.

Today I was able to show Alex from Kent the likes of Common Rosefinch, Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Thrush Nightingale, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Icterine Warbler, Black Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Goshawk, Long-tailed Tit, Scaup and Brent Goose to name but a few. It was a hot sunny day but bird activity remained high even in the early afternoon and a combination of Maridalen, Sørkedalen and Fornebu gave a great variety and quality of birds.

I also was a bit more active on the photo front myself than I normally am and with good light there are some better than average photos to show although I’ve only got time to publish a couple now and will hopefully find time to put more out later.

male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) with bumblebee

Icterine Warbler (gulsanger)
Two large, noisy and curios young Black Woodpeckers (svartspett)
Thrush Nightingale (nattergal)

Monday, 22 May 2017

Red-backed Shrikes are back

A new week and the last summer migrants are arriving. I have a bit of guiding coming up so wanted to make sure that I have control over the goodies. I located my first Red-backed Shrikes of the year with 2 males in Sørkedalen (although not in Maridalen yet), a Rosefinch in Sørkedalen (and others had in Maridalen) and 3 Wryneck territories in Maridalen. The Scaup was still on Maridalsvannet (what is it thinking of?) and some of the scarce/rare breeders were also still going strong.

At the Tawny Owl nest an adult was giving alarm calls audible from a long distance and when I got there was a mob of crows around the nest box. I only saw two youngsters in the nest and found some Tawny Owl feathers on the ground (from the adult I think) so wonder if one of the youngsters had jumped out and been discovered and taken by the crows with the adult having tried to defend it?

I also discovered a Common Sandpiper nest for the first ever time when two adults flew up calling from a woodland edge 20 metres from the water. The nest was just a depression in the grass with a single egg.

male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) - I think it is easy to see where the English name comes from

Tawny Owl (kattugle)

half closed eye lids
Wryneck (vendehals) 

Two large Black Woodpecker (svartspett) young. This nest has come a lot further than in Maridalen where they are stil excavating

Common Sandpiper (strandsnipe) nest 
Icterine Warbler (gulsanger)

Pied Flycatchers (svarthvitfluesnapper) are now back in good numbers

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Avoiding the good stuff

Per Christian and I had a very early start with the intention of enjoying Great Grey Owl but the owls decided that they preferred the company of the deep forest rather than entertaining two birders.
After that we failed to find anything particularly exciting although yet again there were good birds being found with a Night Heron at Nordre Øyeren and a Sandwich Tern around the islands in Oslo both of which would have been Norwegian ticks for me.

A walk with Jr to Sognsvann gave a Greylag gosling, tree nesting Black-headed Gulls and a couple of Nutcrackers which is my first May record in the urban Oslo (failed breeders?).

This spring may well be the best ever for Oslo and Akershus with regards rare birds with Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, Caspian Tern, Bee-eater, King Eider, Sandwich Tern, Golden Oriole, Dotterel, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Pomarine Skua found so far. Maybe there are some rare breeders out there waiting to be found? Red-breasted Flycatcher, Greenish Warbler or perhaps a Firecrest?

a young Greylag (grågås) gosling

adult male Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) seen on our travels

2 Nutcrackers close to the house - a very unusual and unexpected May sighting. I am certain they do not breed in urban Oslo and wonder if they are failed breeds from the forests that have come into Oslo looking for food?

tree nesting Black-headed Gulls (hettemåke) at Sognsvann. It would appear to be very unusual for them to nest in trees but a number of pairs were doing so with even more nesting on the ground beneath on a small island

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Rosefinch in apple blossom

Well tomorrow (today) didn’t bring too much for me or anyone else locally. I started early at Huk to see if there was anything on the sea which there wasn’t and then against my better judgement went to look for the King Eider which of course I couldn’t find. After that it was Maridalen where the male Scaup was still present and three large Tawny Owl babies were peering out of their nestbox with mum (or dad?) watching. Interestingly when the young actually stuck their head out of the hole the adult started alarm calling loudly as if to say “get back in”.

A shopping trip to Fornebu with the girls gave us a chance to check out the breeding Ringed Plovers which we had found on 29 April when the nest had four eggs. Today the adults were present and giving warning calls and distraction displays. We found an empty nest scrape (but looking at the pictures from 29 April this was a different scrape) and after some careful searching I found a single very small youngster. It was crouched motionlessly and was well camouflaged which probably explains why I saw no other youngsters. We left them in peace and as we left found an eggshell a good 30 metres from the nest. I wonder if the parents had moved it there or if a predator had taken an egg? With an incubation of period of 23-25 days and an assumed age of only a couple of days for the youngster we saw then when we saw the eggs on 29 April incubation would have begun about 5 days before. Interestingly these coastal southern breeders have young at the same time as the peak passage through our area of northern and mountain breeders.

I did not have too much else at Fornebu except for my first Common Rosefinch of the year which was a fine red male singing from amongst apple blossom!

singing Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) in apple blosson

here it is eating buds or possibly the blossom

this male Pied Flycatcher (svarthvitfluesnapper) was trying to take over a nest box already being used by Great Tits (kjøttmeis)
three baby Tawny Owls (kattugle) are now looking out of the nest box and will soon jump out

adult Ringed Plover (sandlo)

very small baby Ringed Plover

I found this nest scrape and assumed it was the plovers but comparing to pictures from 29 April (below) it isn't the one that held the four eggs this yea

egg shell found some distance from the nest
pictures from 29 April

where they are breeding - a very temporary habitat that it is more typical of Little Ringed Plovers to exploit