Monday, 8 February 2016

Garden Yellowhammer

I wasted some time this weekend on virtual birding with some joker who had posted pictures online of a Common Gull but insisted they were a Ring-billed. Every time anybody including myself commented his pictures to explain why the bird was a Common the pictures and corresponding comments would just be deleted only for the pictures to be posted afresh (and without the comments) a short time later and then to be deleted again once it was commented again and so on and so forth. Someone’s idea of an April Fool’s joke just seven weeks too early….but note to self: don’t get so wound up next time ;-)

Today was time for real and not virtual birding but the weather was better suited for virtual. It is warm again and has been raining all weekend. Today the rain turned into snow even though it was still +2C but temperatures are not forecast to go below zero again until Thursday so it will all melt. I did have a hope that strong southerly winds that begun yesterday would have blown a few seabirds into the Oslo fjord so I spent a bit of time at Huk, Bygdøy this morning hoping for some Oslo year ticks but except for a fly by Whooper Swan there was nothing unexpected.

In the garden though I had a couple of Yellowhammers which is a rare sight in my garden and the first this winter. One of the birds was, I assume, a young male and had a very yellow crown appearing in otherwise brown plumage that made it look like a displaying male Goldcrest.
Yellowhammer (gulspurv) in the garden. I'm not sure but I would imagine that the so yellow crown that is appearing makes this a young male that is moulting into adult plumage

Saturday, 6 February 2016


I was recently challenged on Facebook to post a bird picture a day over the course of a week. I accepted the challenge and decided to post a different species of owl from Norway each day. For those of you who've not seen them on FB, here are the pictures. All the pictures are already on the blog but with some I've improved the original picture, for example I've lightened up the shadows on the Ural Owl.
And as a bonus there are also three owl species that didn't make the final FB cut.

Great Grey Owl (lappugle)
Ural Owl (slagugle)
Tengmalm's Owl (perleugle)
Long-eared Owl (hornugle)
Tawny Owl (kattugle)
Hawk Owl (haukugle)
Pygmy Owl (spurveugle)

So I managed pictures of seven species of owl taken in Norway and there are still three species that I have not shown. Here are the three remaining species but my pictures are not so good.

Snowy Owl (snøugle)

Eagle Owl (hubro)
Short-eared Owl (jorduge) together with a Marsh Harrier (sivhauk)

Friday, 5 February 2016


Today I was back to my good old routine of Maridalen, Bygdøy and Fornebu in nice conditions with no wind and sunny spells. Maridalen held no bird surprises but I saw three Moose which were my first sighting of the real deal so far this winter (just tracks and droppings until now). One was right by the road and in the end crossed the road in front of cars whilst I sat in mine and watched – with the size of these beasts you would definitely not want to ever hit one in a car.

Bygdøy was also quiet with a couple of close Razorbills and four flyby Common Scoters the only birds of any slight interest although a total of 38 Guillemots out on the fjord was a very high count.

Fornebu only revealed the usual suspects but this time I saw some of the Beardies. The much photographed group of three females and a male showed high but distantly in the reeds whilst at least two more birds called 100 metres away. I also managed slightly better views and photos of Water Rail and saw there were two birds using the same ditch.
Moose (elg) crossing the road in Maridalen

a drive by shot
Male Bearded Tit (skjeggmeis)
all four of the Beardies that I saw - as you can see not exactly close range
the flock of 4 1st winter Common Scoters (svartand) that seem to be the only ones of their kind wintering in the inner Oslo Fjord this year
female Great Spotted Woodpecker (flaggspett) in Maridalen

the male Teal (krikkand) at Fornebu

could have been a great shot

Water Rail (vannrikse)

Willow Tit (granmeis) Maridalen
eating pork....

a possible arty shot - Treecreeper (trekryper)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Too far for too little but ton up.

Today was one of those days when I drove far too far and saw far too few birds. I started up at Minnesund and Mjøsa but despite the viewing conditions being the best of all my visits this winter there were far fewer birds and nothing exciting. I then decided to drive through the extensive forests in the Mangen area which is where I will soon be going for owls. Here there were also very few birds with surprisingly far fewer Crossbills than in the forests around Maridalen.

The only highlight here was my first Black Woodpecker of the year which also became my 100th species for 2016. I have had a very good start to the year with only 2012 (30 Jan) seeing a faster ton up. In comparison the ton came on 26 Feb in 2015, 25 Feb in 2014 and 7 March in 2013.
Black Woodpecker (svartspett)
Per Christian's Ural Owl (slagugle) nesting box that we put up last winter. Still looking very attractive so let hope an owl finds it
and the Great Grey Owl (platform) still standing. What a kick it will be if later in the spring we hear one of these owls calling in the same area!


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Nice weather, few birds

Today was a beautiful day with no wind, blue skies and temperatures around zero. A walk around Maridalen revealed a lot of activity from Common Crossbills with many singing and a female also acting in a way that suggested she had a nest close by. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were very obvious and I heard a single Green Woodpecker but I heard no other pecker species which I had hoped but it is still very early in the season (peak activity is not until end March/beginning of April).

The Great Grey Shrike was the best bird and some feathers/fur stuck to the end of its bill showed it had recently had breakfast.

At Fornebu I put out food for the Water Rail but only managed to attract a Jay and Blue and Great Tits so there were no pictures to improve on yesterday’s terrible attempt. Beardies were calling very close to the path but once again I failed to see any. Wrens have been noticeable by their absence during my last few visits and have probably been negatively affected by the cold.
I found tracks in the snow in both Storøykilen and Koksa which resembled Water Rail but looked too large and would appear to be from Pheasant.

Looking up towards Mellomkollen from Maridalen

the 2cy Great Grey Shrike forgot to clean his face after breakfast

male Common Crossbill (grankorsnebb)

Pheasant tracks. Compare to Water Rail tracks here

this picture is from Storøykilen yesterday when the sea water was incredibly high and had completely flooded the reedbed on the seaward side

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Pygmy Owl

We are having very topsy turvy weather at the moment. After yesterday’s minus temperatures and snow we were back to plus and drizzle today but with it forecast to go down to -10C on Friday and then up to +5C and rain on Saturday.

I followed a similar route to yesterday but was rewarded with the Pygmy Owl again in Maridalen. At Fornebu I again heard Beardies and also a Reed Bunting today but highlight was seeing a Water Rail feeding in one of the areas of open water although it was very obscured by vegetation. There was a fair amount of singing today including from Jay, Bullfinch, Great Tit and Blue Tit.
I visited the rubbish dump at Alna today where at the weekend a new Caspian Gull was found and incredibly this was a ringed bird and was the same bird that had overwintered last year (most often seen at Langvannet) but that has as far as I know not been reported in the meantime. I failed to find either of the Caspos or anything else interesting but there were 300 odd Herring Gulls and also 22 Great Black-backs (usually I only see around 5 or 6 here) so there was plenty of birds to go through.
Pygmy Owl (spurveugle)

Pygmy Owls have eyes in the back of their heads!
but it doesn't need to have eyes in the back of its head when it can turn the head through 180 degrees

Robin (rødstrupe) in the garden
male Bullfinch (dompap) at Fornebu

just about recognisable as a Water Rail (vannrikse)

Monday, 1 February 2016

Oslo Purple Sand

It looks like there has been a weather related movement of Purple Sandpipers. After Thursday’s birds at Drøbak there was a report of one at Huk, Oslo yesterday (accompanied by a cryptic photo of the rock it was seen on) and I went there this morning hoping to see a very rare Oslo species with only three previous records including a group of 4 from the very same rock in 2010.

The bird was not initially present but with only one side of the offshore rocks being visible I sat down to wait and after a while the bird walked into view. It was close to high tide and the sources of food were now covered by water so the bird promptly roosted and did precious little other than slowly inch up the rock as the water continued rising. Then suddenly it was gone – probably just to the other side of the rock but my hope of an intimate encounter with this species was dashed as it just wouldn’t show again.

I then tried Fornebu where the Kingfisher has shown again a couple of times but I had no joy and it started snowing whilst I was there and there was hardly a bird to be seen although the Beardies were calling from two different areas of the reedbed.
In the garden there are still very few birds and the snow did not bring any more but a Lesser Redpoll was a good bird.
Purple Sandpiper (fjæreplytt) in typical winter habitat

This adult male (judging by size) Goshawk (hønsehauk) in Maridalen was an impressive sight

Fieldfare (gråtrost) - one of the few birds still in the garden
female Goldeneye (kvinand)
the Lesser Redpoll (brunsisik)  in the garden. Notice how the colours change depending on lighting. This individual has a lot of white in the rump plus very pale tramlines on the mantle and lacks a buffish hue to the undertail-coverts but everything else screams Lesser.

the male Teal (krikkand) still at Fornebu