Thursday, 23 June 2016


A lunchtime trip into Maridalen was supposed to deliver raptors but the tally stopped at a single Osprey. I plucked up the courage to visit the mystery warbler (after having heard the unmated Marsh at Kirkeby singing his heart out). I heard the mystery bird after some encouragement but he was as skulky as ever and did not show himself, not even in flight.

Dragon- and damselflies are now on the wing and I took more pictures of these than birds. I had some help with the ID and saw Four-spotted Chaser and Common Blue Damselfly.
Four-spotted Chaser (Firflekklibelle) Libellula quadrimaculata

Common Blue Damselfly (Stor blåvannymfe) Enallagma cyathigerum


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Lapwings close to fledging

Maridalen deserved a visit today and it gave me a chance to check up on some of the breeding birds. This season seems to have been a good one for many birds. We have had a hot May and June with little rain and many birds seem to have prospered due to this. Tits seem to have had a good breeding season with many fledged young to hear and warblers and flycatchers are taking food to young in the nest. This year also looks to be a good one for butterflies.

I didn’t have the courage to visit the mystery (for me at least) acro warblers at Nes but instead got to grips with those at Kirkeby where it looks like there is a breeding pair in vegetation along a stream and an unpaired male who was singing for full in the middle of the morning and moving around the area. When he came too close the breeding male then the breeding male answered with a short burst of song.
The water level in the lake has risen after a couple of days of heavy rain and the Lapwings no longer have any mud to feed on. The family of four had now moved about 100 metres onto a newly sown field bordered by a field of corn where they could hide if necessary. They only had the adult female looking after them but all four are now so large that they are looking like Lapwings and will hopefully fledge. With all the dangers they face this shows what good parents they have. They have moved over 600 metres from the nest to get to the water, having to cross a road, go round a farm and through lots of dense and high vegetation. There are cats, foxes and Goshawks in the area plus people, tractors and cars. I don’t know how it is going with any of the other pairs but hopefully there were some other adults who were as good as these ones such that even more youngsters will survive to fledging and help maintain the population in the valley.

I had three singing Common Rosefinches including two red males in the same area with one male chasing the other away suggesting that there was a breeding pair with another unpaired male trying to get in on the act.
The Goshawk nest now revealed itself to contain three youngsters of which one is a lot larger than the other two and suggests that dad has struggled to bring enough food and that the oldest youngster (who is presumably also a larger female) has got more food than the other two.

The Black Woodpecker nest still has no youngsters hanging out of the hole but nearby a couple of newly fledged Great Spotted Woodpeckers were looking for food.

Apart from the Goshawks I didn’t have any raptors and have still to see Honey Buzzard and Hobby in Oslo this year. I wonder if there will suddenly be a number of records of both this species in August as there was last year.
A short video of a singing Marsh Warbler (you get to see him will after about 40 seconds) plus a recently fledged Great-spotted Woodpecker with a very vivid scarlet crown.

Two young Lapwings (vipe) - they now look more like their parents

mum with all four youngsters. One is sitting down in the middle of the picture and difficult to see

all four

the only parent who was with them. The smudgy facial markings show it to be the female

singing Marsh Warbler (myrsanger)

take off or possibly just waving to me

Goldfinches (stillits) are always nice to see

all three young Goshawks (hønsehauk). I have previously only noted 2 youngsters but today was very happy to see there are three. All are growing and losing their down but the lefthand bird is noticeably larger which suggests that dad may have struggled to bring enough food at times

juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (flaggspett)

lots of Ringlet butterflies (gullringvinge) today

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Twitchy Terek

Today reminded me how much I dislike twitching. It was not that I didn’t see the bird – it’s just that I’m a useless twitcher! I found the bird after half an hour searching, got to see it poorly for five minutes before it flew off and then waited another 4 hours in vain for it to reappear. If I had been a good twitcher I would have been fantastically happy with the tickable views and then moved on instead of hanging around for FOUR hours hoping for better views….

The bird in question was a Terek Sandpiper which was a Norwegian tick and as far as I can remember only the second one I’ve seen after one in Eilat in 1991.

Terek Sands are not super rare in Norway but are seen less than annually and mid June is the right time to see one. This bird was found on Saturday but it wasn’t until last night that I had worked up the enthusiasm to have a go for it. Yesteray, it was only reported early morning but with rain in the afternoon and overnight I reckoned it would still be there this morning and with the rain forecast to finish at 5am and be replaced by sun plus high tide at 7am I thought I would be in for a good chance to see the bird at close(ish) range and in good light with the chance of a photo (this doesn’t seem to have been the case up until now). I arrived at 0615 and was the only observer there. The water was very high and still rising with only a few stones sticking up above the water. Never-the-less it took me half an hour to find the bird and then 5 minutes after I had found it flew off with a couple of Greenshank probably due to the rising water. They flew to the far west of the bay where I definitely saw the two larger Greenshank go down although never quite saw what the Terek did. I decided to wait for the tide to turn and the mud to be exposed assuming the bird would come back. Well it took a long time for the mud to be exposed but slowly waders, including the Greenshank, appeared but after four hours the Terek hadn’t appeared and that was about all I could take. Additionally, the light had become challenging so any potential photos wouldn’t have been any better than those I had already managed.

The four hour wait did of course produce a few other birds but not so much as if those four hours had been a month earlier or later. Highlight was my first Honey Buzzard of the year with two sightings of presumably the same bird. Two Marsh and a few Reed Warblers sang in the area. There were few waders. Redshanks breed here and I saw a single half-grown juvenile, Oystercatchers also had young and Lapwings acted as though they did. Non-breeding waders comprised 3 Ringed Plovers, 4 Greenshank, 11 Curlew, 1 Whimbrel and 2 male Ruff.

Terek Sandpiper (tereksnipe) sleeping with a Greenshank (gluttsnipe)

It was only in flight I actually got to see the bill!

here one can see it is considerably smaller than Greenshank

Marsh Warbler (myrsanger). I don't really think it is possible to make a positive ID just from this picture but it helps to hear it singing

here it is IDable with the long primary projection, pale tipped primaries and "kind" face


habitat shot

Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk). I reckon you can call this a record shot but in the 'scope it was much easier

Sunday, 19 June 2016

LEO guiding

This morning I succesfully guided Bent to his 250th species photographed in Norway. The target was the Long-eared Owls I found on Friday. We were searching in unforecast (as usual) heavy rain which made searching difficult but did keep the mozzies slightly as bay. It took surprisingly long to find them but when I did finally get my eye on one of the youngsters it was less than 10metres from where I had it on Friday. It was at eye level in a bush so had either “flown” there or more likely had ended up falling to the ground and then scrambled up. We couldn’t find an adult but in the rain it was tough going.

A Terek Sandpiper has been found at Kurefjorden showing that searching for waders in Mid-June isn’t complete madness and Årnestangen definitely has the potential to host a species of this calibre.
In the rain my cameras stayed safely in the dry but I did snap Bent and the owl with the mobile.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Long-eared Owl

After the rain on Wednesday, yesterday was hot and sunny but today was back to overcast with a hint of rain in the air. I decided therefore to give Årnestangen another try. There were some waders to see and interestingly I believe I had both spring and autumn migrants of the same species! A Spotted Redshank in full summer plumage would most likely have been a female on return migration as in this species the female leaves the male to bring up the young. 3 Common Redshank were probably also autumn migrants as were 4 Greenshank whereas 3 Ringed Plovers were I believe late spring migrants. The interesting species was Ruff with a fine male in breeding plumage being I’m sure a bird that is finished with his lekking and is on return migration whereas a female would I believe be a late spring migrant as even if she had had a failed breeding attempt I would have thought she would try to breed again rather than head south so early. I never saw them together which is a shame as maybe the male would have tried his luck and put on a display. Little Ringed Plovers, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Lapwing and Snipe were all local birds and gave me 11 species of waders – not bad for an inland site in Mid-June.

Duck numbers had increased since Wednesday with now 90 Teal and 13 Wigeon and the Corncrake was singing again although did not show.
The undoubted highlight, although it cost me dear in terms of mozzie bites, was seeing the Long-eared Owls. I head the squeaky door again but realised it was not coming from the crows nest I had seen on Wednesday. Looking around I saw another old nest in a tree 10 metres away and then saw a baby Long-eared Owl hanging upside down from a thin branch just under the nest before controlled tumbling down to a thicker branch where it composed itself and perched the right way up. I also found another youngster perched only about 4 metres above the ground (it may well have fallen to the ground and then climbed back up) and eventually I found an adult paying close attention to everything that was going on from high up in a birch tree. Magical stuff!!

I had a stop in Maridalen to check out whether any ducks or waders were on the mud. 12 male Teal were loafing about and have begun their moult so may well stay here to complete the moult. On the Lapwing front there was an interesting development. There were now six youngsters on the mud at Kirkeby. Four were quite large and I believe were the same brood that I saw three of on Monday and there were also two very small youngsters. The four larger youngsters had two adults looking out for them whilst the two very small birds seemed to be fending for themselves although there was another adult perched a few hundred metres away. I am at a loss to know where these birds have come from although the two small youngsters are too small to be the bird I saw on the fields at Kirkeby so it could well be that the four large youngsters are the birds that bred on the fields whereas the two small youngsters represent another breeding pair that I didn’t have control over. At Skjerven there are no Lapwings to see on the fields although the grass is long but I suspect that they have been taken down to the waters edge which I don’t have an overview of. In total I know therefore of at least 4 pairs that have bred in Maridalen with three definitely having hatched young and probably a fifth pair (the farmer mentioned three nests at Skjerven to Per Christian although I had only seen two).  So the population in the valley is holding up even though fewer fields are used.
mum or dad. Long-eared Owl (hornugle)
Baby 1
Baby 2
Baby 2
the same adult
Baby 1 when I first saw him tumbling (in a controlled manner) down the tree


male Ruff (brushane)

the male Ruff, a Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) and 3 Redshank (rødstilk)
male Teal (krikkand) in Maridalen

male Whinchat (buskskvett)

male White Wagtail (linerle)

the four well grown Lapwing (vipe) chicks in Maridalen with one of their parents

the other 2 much smaller and more distant chicks who had no adult obviously looking after them

Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Corncrake (åkerrikse) - never seen one like this before!
Birding in mid-June is primarily about breeding birds with spring migration over and autumn migration yet to start. However, on a day like today with overcast skies and rain then there is always the chance of some waders turning up so I headed out to Årnestangen. I also knew that the water levels have receded since the spring floods and with the overcast skies viewing conditions would be OK in the middle of the day. I also had a hope of a rare tern (Black, Caspian or something even rarer). A Corncrake has also been reported singing the last couple of days and I hoped that it might utter a noise or two when I was out there. So there was definitely the chance of something to make the trip worthwhile J

After the 45 minute walk out to the viewing platform I was happy to see there were some waders but before I could start grilling them I heard a strange grunting call from the long grass and realised it must be a Corncrake. It was coming from close by and I tiptoed to the edge of the platform and peered over the edge. I then nearly jumped out of my skin as a Corncrake started singing from directly beneath me!!!! I was able to hear the quiet noise it makes before starting to sing. INSANE! I hadn’t even got my camera(s) out of the backpack so had to tiptoe again to where I had put my backpack, get the cameras out and then I had to work out where to stand to catch a glimpse of the bird when it came out from under the platform. I decided to set the superzoom to video as I reckoned this would give the best chance of capturing something including it singing. I then noticed some movement right under me and the bird was peering out! I held my breath and hoped the sound of the cameras wouldn’t scare it and managed to take both video and stills with both cameras before it vanished in the grass. This was amazing! I have seen Corncrake five times before (heard them many more) – three were in flight, one was a head sticking out of vegetation and another was quite good views of a singing bird in Maridalen but it was night time so no good photos. This though was in the middle of the day and the bird was less than 5 metres from me! I will never ever see a Corncrake so close again I’m sure. It was all very brief but quite magical. I didn’t actually see it singing which would have been cool and due to overcast skies the ISO on the camera is quite high so the digital record is not as good as the mental record. After this the bird moved unseen out into the vegetation and sang every now and again over the course of the next hour.
After calming down a bit I scanned the water and mudbanks in the rain (and ended up getting quite cold). There were 6 Greenshank, 2 female Ruff, 3 Dunlin, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 1 Curlew, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper and 1 Wood Sandpiper. Quite a good selection for mid-June and interesting to speculate if they were spring or autumn migrants. My guess is that the Dunlin, Ruff and Ringed Plovers were late spring migrants whereas the Greenshank and Green and Wood Sandpipers were early autumn migrants. The Curlew and LRPs were probably local (failed?) breeding birds.
Post breeding ducks were also starting to congregate with 64 Teal comprising 61 males and 3 females and 5 male Wigeon. There were no rare terns and the Common Terns look as they will have a miserable breeding season. On my last visit on 24 May there were a number of nesting birds but these would all have been flooded out over the next couple of days. Today there were at least 20 Common Terns in the area but only one bird was sitting on a nest. It is possible that others are nesting elsewhere or that they will try again later but I fear not.
Starlings though seem to have had a good breeding season and a flock of 250 birds was mostly youngsters. Raptors were scarce with a couple of Ospreys that were collecting nesting material from the mud and then flying towards the forests on the east side of the delta – presumably young birds preparing for next year. Two separate Marsh Harriers were a 2cy male and a 2cy female. Finally, on the walk back to the car I heard the squeaky door begging call of a young Long-eared Owl. It came from an area where I have seen lots of droppings and pellets and there is an old crows nest high in a tree which one cannot see into but this would seem to the nest site and will be worth a visit next week (an adult bird has been seen frequently hunting in the evenings). 

I have not had much luck with “night singers” this year and the Corncrake was the first one I have had in 2016. I therefore thought I may as well try my luck with a Spotted Crake that has been heard singing on the other side of Nordre Øyeren in the last few days. It has only been reported in the middle of the night but I thought what the heck. By the time I got there though it had started raining quite hard so predictably there was no dripping water sound of a Spotted Crake to hear. Two Marsh Warblers were singing though. This species is now quite widespread around Oslo and is definitely on the increase and has now become commoner and more widespread than Reed Warbler.

this is an uncropped version of the above picture. The bird was so close that the 150-500mm zoom was just set to 213mm.

taken with the superzoom when I was directly above the bird.

a montage as the bird decided it was time to disappear
this stick really was too large both for the bird and I assume for the nest and I saw the bird flying over 2km with it during which time it kept flying lower and lower

there is a nice area of mud showing at the tip of Årnestangen now
and here is something interesting I noted on the satellite map of Årnestangen. The pictures were taken during extreme flooding when all the of grass areas in the above picture were under water