Thursday, 3 September 2015

Beans back!

Today I reacquainted myself with my dear fabalis friends after we had been apart for 147 days.

 It nearly didn’t happen though. I drove up to the chosen fields this morning to look for them only to find that they had yet to be harvested. I drove to various fields finding them all with high crops which I doubt the birds would land in although I was thwarted from driving to one favoured autumn field as there were roadworks. Not finding them on the fields I was in half a mind to drive home as 3 September is still an early date and the birds weren’t necessarily back yet but I thought I would drive up to the peat bog at Flakstadmåsen/Johdalsmåsen which was proven to be used regularly as a day time loafing site daily in the autumn. On my way I saw a flock of geese in flight going down on the field that I had not been able to drive to. Parking the car I walked there and sure enough there was a flock of geese and they were Taiga (fabalis) Bean Geese!! I had not taken my scope and struggled to get good views in the bins at a range of 200m but counted 60 birds and could see one with a gps/radio neck collar (unfortunately these are no longer transmitting) and one with an inscribed neck collar but it was not possible to see any details. I fired off some pictures though hoping to be able to read the inscription on the PC later. The geese were feeding on the far side of the field against the woodland edge which seems to nearly always be there want. These geese are truly wild geese unlike the majority of other geese in these parts which are feral and they were very wary with birds always on look out. They flushed possibly due to me (although I was 200 metres away) and flew a couple of circuits before flying right over my head (not particularly smart if they are the subject of illegal hunting) and I took loads of pictures which has allowed me to identify the ringed birds.
This flock flew off to the north in the general direction of the peat bog and I headed for the car. On my way to the car I heard geese and a flock was coming in from the south. The flock was roughly the size but they couldn’t be the same birds - surely. They flew low over the field calling before also heading north to the bog. Now I really needed to go to the bog – something desperate!

 When I arrived I heard geese but they are very difficult to find here in what must be similar habitat to their breeding grounds. I eventually saw some birds sticking their heads up but no more than 60 birds so it didn’t look like there were 2 flocks although I could see 5 birds with neck collars which didn’t correspond with the feeding flock earlier. After nearly an hour the birds took flight and suddenly there were a lot more than 60 birds - 118 bird to be precise after counting from the photos I took. So there were 2 flocks after all. The birds flew North West this time looking to head for a field which I have never seen them on but we know from the GPS tracking that they have used before.
So autumn is well and truly upon us and as if to confirm it, Jon Olav Larsen has been the first birder to visit Værøy this year and had the first Yellow-browed Warblers of the autumn plus even more exciting Værøy’s first ever Arctic Warbler – only 13 days to go until I am there……….

the first flock feeding in exactly the same field where we had the first ever autumn record (thanks to the GPS tags) in September 2013


here the bird with GPS collar flies over and proves to have a black leg ring showing it to be 07

7P in flight. I wonder if the groups of three birds in these two photos are family groups

Flakstadmåsan. Can you see the geese?

7P again



6S plus I also saw 6Z

the best photo I managed

the orange legs can be so noticeable!

anyone know what grasshopper this is? The spike at its rear end is interesting but does this mean it is a female?

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

A deluge

Yesterday’s rain in the air turned into a full blown deluge overnight with reports of flooding from much of South-Eastern Norway. The rain continued this morning and when I eventually ventured out I chose the hide at Østensjøvannet. It may suck as a birding hide but it does at least have a roof! I thought there may be lots of hirundines to see but had just 5 Swallows – it looks like the vast majority of hirundines and Swifts have left in the last week. One good bird was a female Shoveler which showed well from the hide. I also counted a massive 390 Coots (sothøne) which would appear to be a Norwegian record. As these were only birds I could see from the hide and there are normally quite a few by the bridge in the south then must have been well over 400 on the lake today.

In the rain I saw a surprising number of passerines with the football pitches by the lake holding 21 Yellow Wagtails, 15 White Wagtails and 3 Whinchats.
I drove around Maridalen but didn't bother getting out of the car as rising flooding on the road from a usually small stream made concerned that I wouldn't get home if I stayed too long...
Shoveler - the dark eye shows it to be a female and I assume it to be a 1cy bird without knowing exactly how to prove it..

one really appreciates the bill when viewing it head-on

the Shoveler with Coots (sothøne), Mute Swans (knoppsvane), Wigeon (brunnakke) and Mallards (stokkand)

Three Wigeon and a 2cy Mute Swan
With few pictures from today I can offer a couple of my, as usual, exceptional quality videos. Taken yesterday the first shows a selection of the raptors I saw and the second the Red-throated Pipit but be warned you may feel dizzy from the experience.



Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Now we're talking!

What a day or more precisely morning. With rain in the air I reckoned there would be payback for the long walk out to Årnestangen and this time those birds they really did cooperate! Nothing rare but plenty of scarce and exciting birds and everything made easier by good light that meant that I could grill birds with the scope in all directions and at distance.

There were so many exciting avian encounters that it is difficult to rank them but seeing and photographing Red-throated Pipit (lappiplerke) on the deck for the first time in Akershus must take the crown after my moaning about this species in my post from last week. A bird flew around the observation platform calling and as I watched and prayed it landed on the raised walkway just 30 metres away – talk about luck! I also saw and heard at least one more individual in flight

Raptors put on a great display for me with 9 species in total. There were three Marsh Harriers: an adult male that was trying to pick up a dead creature (not sure if bird or fish) out of the thick weed out in the water, an adult female that was on view almost continually and a smart and fresh juvenile that made a fly by.
A juvenile (and therefore new bird from last week) Hen Harrier was also nearly continuously on view and often together with the adult female Marsh Harrier where the size difference was extreme and had me wondering if it was something rarer but no it was “just” a Hen and most likely a small male whereas the Marsh was clearly a very large female. Watching a distant harrier in the scope and trying to ascertain key features such as number of fingers is, for me, very difficult and I do often wonder how other people can note so much detail when they write descriptions especially on birds seen for just a few seconds.

A small (male) juvenile Goshawk sat in some branches out in the water for a long period and tried the same tactic as the male Marsh Harrier to try to pull a dead something out of the pond weed but like the harrier failed.
A juvenile Merlin frequently buzzed the waders including birds as large as Golden Plover and a juvenile Peregrine sat out on the sandbanks probably digesting breakfast. Add to this distant Kestrel and Honey Buzzard plus a Common Buzzard on the approach road gave a great raptor day. No Ospreys is a clear sign of the approach of autumn.

Waterfowl didn’t disappoint either with a group of 3 Garganey, 2 Shoveler and a high count of 133 Pochards being the spice alongside hundreds of Teal, Wigeon, Mute Swans, Barnacle and Canada Geese and at least 700 Cormorant feeding in a tight flock.
Waders were not in great numbers or variety with 4 Temminck’s Stints the best of the bunch.

a photo of a Red-throated Pipit (lappiplerke) in Akershus!

here the various ID features can be seen. Top left you can just make out the streaked rump, bottom left the large black malar patch and white belly, top right the long claws (eliminating Tree Pipit) and bottom right the broad pale tram lines on the back. The call helps aswell although to my ears is quite close to Tree Pipit

juvenile Hen Harrier (myrhauk). The small size and pale iris show this to be a young male
here the Hen Harrier is flying past a perched adult female Marsh Harrier and has flushed a load of Snipe
the adult female Marsh Harrier (sivhauk)
the juvenile Marsh Harrier flying over a perched juvenile Goshawk
the adult male Mrsh Harrier trying to pull a dead creature out of vegetation in the water
the juvenile Goshawk (hønsehauk) also tried to pull something from the water weed but failed
juvenile Merlin (dvergfalk)
Peregrine (vandrefalk)
Common Buzzard (musvåk)
and adult Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) - quite a day for raptors!
mummy, daddy and baby Crane (trane)
Ringed Plovers (sandlo) and Dunlin (myrsnipe)
the three Garganey (knekkand) although it is difficult to tell based on this picture
the Garganey again - honestly!
Golden Plover (heilo)
the Merlin flying in front of the large Pochard (taffeland) flock
can you make out the Shoveler (skjeand)?

On the way home I stopped at Langvannet in Lørenskog. This is where last winter’s Caspian Gull showed so well but today the rarest gull was a 2CY Lesser Black-back which is an unusual age class in Norway. There were any juvenile LB-bGs here and I wonder where they breed – inland breeders or birds from the fjord? This lake is also a regular site for tame Mandarin Ducks with hardly any other records in Akershus. Mandarin is on the Norwegian list as a Category C species due to some records (proven by ringing?) being from the feral populations that exist in the UK. However the vast majority of records, judging by behaviour, locality and timing, are of birds that have a much closer origin. The cluster of records from Langvannet strongly suggests that they are escaping from close by and we know that multiple birds are involved as one (more?) have been caught and ringed whereas the current bird is unringed. This bird has also been the source of much internet discussion as when it was discovered 3 weeks ago it was in eclipse plumage and many people refused to accept it was a drake in eclipse plumage (despite the pink bill telling otherwise). During the course of these weeks though it has worn into nearly full breeding plumage which seems to happen much faster than in Mallards.
2cy Lesser Black-backed Gull (sildemåke)
4 species of gull in juvenile plumage. Clockwise from top left: Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull (gråmåke), Black-headed Gull (hettemåke) and Common Gull (fiskemåke)
the male Mandarin


Monday, 31 August 2015

Little again

After Fornebu having given the impression of an improvement in affairs at the end of last week it was disappointing this morning to find a distinct decline in the number of birds. Despite it being warm and there being a number of insects there were very few insect eaters and Willow Warblers failed to make it into double figures. Four Redstarts though was a good count and I cannot remember ever having seen so many and so regularly here.

An hour and a half around noon in Maridalen revealed quite a few raptors. A Merlin and a Kestrel flew very purposefully south and at least 7 Sparrowhawks were thermalling or hunting around the valley and were probably local birds which was confirmed for one at least as a photo I took showed it to have been ringed in the nest in the Oslo area this summer. Of larger raptors I had 2 Honey Buzzards, a single Buzzard and an Osprey that flew north into the forest with a fish which may mean that it still has young in the nest.
1cy Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) with colour ring. Another bird ringed in the nest this summer in Oslo has already made it to the west coast of Norway
the days Merlin (dvergfalk)
a resting Grey Heron. All the blacks spots in the picture are midges and not my mucky lens

juvenile male Redstart (rødstjert)

Spotted Flycatcher (gråfluesnapper)

juvenile Starling (stær) coming into adult winter plumage

13 Lapwings at Fornebu included many youngsters. One can hope they came from Maridalen

Friday, 28 August 2015

A distinct improvement

I braved Fornebu again today this time in sunny conditions and was rewarded by a nice selection of scarce birds. I don’t think any new birds had arrived and indeed most of the Yellow Wagtails had moved on but the warm weather and increased insect activity just made the birds more visible as they fed out in the open.

Pretty much the first bird I saw was a Wryneck which was sunning itself in the dead bush normally favoured by a Red-backed Shrike and later in the morning the Wryneck had been substituted and a shrike was in the same place. Tw of my all-time favourite birds in the same bush means the birding day has been a success. In the same small area were 3 Redstarts, 4 Spotted Flycatchers and 4 species of warblers so it felt very good and spurred me to check the rest of Fornebu with high hopes only to find out that the small area held nearly all the birds there were to find!

On the water in Storøykilen I saw the Little Grebe that has been present for a week or so and in the reeds I heard the Water Rails calling so tried to see them. I settled down in a good place and waited. I had two birds (possibly three) calling very close by but only managed to see one bird. It was actually quite close but the encounter was so brief that I just managed a blurred photo.

A short stop in Maridalen gave me just a single raptor but it was a new one for the autumn namely a Kestrel.
Wryneck (vendehals) with a curious Willow Warbler (løvsanger)


Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

same shrike

Reed Warbler (rørsanger). note long primary projection and weak supercilium compared to the Blyth's Reed from Maridalen

my first migrant Chiffchaff (gransanger) of the autumn. Note the short primary projection compared with the Willow Warblers I have photo'ed recently. This bird also pumped its tail a lot which is a good Chiffchaff character and first drew my attention to it

a blurred Water Rail (vannrikse)

Wheatear (steinskvett)

very distant Little Grebe (dvergdykker)

Three Greenshanks (gluttsnipe)

yet another caterpillar of Bedstraw Hawk Moth (hyles gallii) (mauresvermer). Note the ant hitching a lift

My first Kestrel of the autumn in Maridalen with three Swallows mobbing it

a load of bull in Storøykilen