Friday, 27 March 2015

Fornebu post snowfall

Yesterday's snow was still thick on the ground today despite temperatures being a few degrees on the plus side. I thought there would be a chance of some congregations of birds searching for food and headed for Fornebu. Every visit here is depressing in terms of the rapid building development that is taking place. It is a bit ironic that the new developments are being given bird names but it is doubtful that the new human residents will ever see the birds whose names adorn their apartments.
There is still plenty of birdlife here though especially in migration periods and the land awaiting development has lots of seed bearing plants. As soon as I got off the bus I could hear Twite (bergirisk) and soon found an active flock of around 80 birds. Amongst them were also many Skylark (sanglerke) with over 30 birds present. Best of all though were 14 Snow Buntings (snøspurv). Strangest siting was 2 Ringed Plovers (sandlot) which first flew over calling and then landed amongst the feeding passerines and stood on the snow. This is the area where they at least attempted to breed last year so this is likely to be a pair already back on territory. This area turned out to be the best bit of Fornebu and it was quite hard work trudging around in the heavy snow which resulted in my knee complaining loudly. A calling Water Rail (vannrikse) briefly glimpsed as it ran over frozen ditch was my first of the year.

I next headed for Bygdøy where I quickly refound the White-fronted Goose (tundrågås). The geese were digging through the snow to get to the grass and were feeding actively.

In Frognerparken birds were mostly the same as the previous couple of days. The Coots (sothøne) are a male and female and now look like a pair although two days ago seemed to be rivals. The male tried his luck although was rebuffed. The female sports a green colour ring and after studying my picture I found out she is called A028 and was ringed 2km away at Smestaddammen as an adult in July 2013. It looks like she bred at Hovindammen also in Oslo in 2014 and was spotted there on 18 March but has now chosen Frognerparken. If they breed here then this would be for the first time as far as I can make out. It is interesting to think of these Coots flying over Oslo and choosing new locations. I have never seen them flying around and I guess it happens only at night. Highlight though was a Moorhen (sivhøne) which was also a year tick and which seems to be establishing itself as a regular breeder here.

Collecting Jr Jr from school I heard geese and had a flock of 75 Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) flying west as relatively low altitude. To the north were low clouds and rain so they had probably thought better of continuing their northerly migration and were looking for somewhere to go down.

Twite (bergirisk)


Snow Buntings (snøspurv)

a bit of squabbling

male Snow Bunting and 2 Twite

habitat shot
Skylark (sanglerke)


Ringed Plover, Twite and snow - an unexpected combination

the other Ringed Plover with a Snow Bunting sneaking into the pictures

The White-fronted Goose

The ringed Coot and my attempts to read off the ring


immature Cormorant - the angles of the gular patch and the placement of the bottom corner of the gular behind the eye show this to be of the continental sub species sinensis rather than the northern sub species carbo

Mallard (stokkand) on a branch

Thursday, 26 March 2015


As forecast and as the birds seem to have been expecting we had some serious snow today: 40cm of wet heavy snow. Now lots of snow in March in Oslo is no big deal in a historical perspective but it looks like the council has really taken to heart the consequences of this Global Warming thingy migigy. All buses were cancelled and the roads were chaos and the reason why? There were not enough snow ploughs because all the tractors have changed over to spring cleaning equipment and nobody thought to tell them to switch back!

The underground trains were still running though so I thought I would check out Frognerpark which would seem to be a likely place for birds to congregate in this type of weather. 140 Black-headed Gulls (hettemåke) were quite a sight including two birds with real pink flushes to their chests. Best birds though were a couple of Grey Wagtails (vintererle) that seemed particularly unimpressed with the weather.

I slogged on down to Bygdøy hoping to find even more geese but only managed to find Greylags (grågås) who were all lying down on top of the snow so could conceivably have been hiding other species in their midst. Surprisingly there were also 13 Lapwings (vipe) with them although 12 flew off at lunchtime presumably thinking they needed to find a place where lunch could be found. A Song Thrush (måltrost) flying over here was my first of the year.

The snow gave some great photo opportunities today with persil white backgrounds without having to resort to tricks in Photoshop.

male Grey Wagtail (vintererle). Its Norwegian name suggests that it is the wagtail you can see in the winter in Norway but that is just nonsense! This is an insect eating summer visitor although it does arrive earlier than White and Yellow wags.

Black-headed Gulls (hettemåke) and snow

portrait photo

one of the birds with a pink flush
Greylag Goose and a naturally white background

I had hoped for some white-winged gulls today but had to make do with this Herring Gull

Lapwings and Greylag Geese - not much food to find here!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Oslo starting to shine

The snow came as forecast this morning and was very thick for an hour or snow but had all meted by early afternoon. I didn’t really expect there to me much in the way of new birds today but in fact there was more to see today.

In Maridalen the number of Lapwings (vipe) had increased to 10 but none were searching for food and there must be a limit to how long they can survive here in such weather. Maridalen bird of the day were the first Twite (bergirisk) of the year with 2 flyovers stopping to join 3 others feeding on a field edge. Precious little else in the fields other than 2 each of Mistle Thrush (duetrost) and Skylark (sanglerke). At the feeders Chaffinch numbers had increased to 30 with a single female amongst the males and I heard some quiet song from the handful of Bramblings also present.

I was very unsure as to whether I should continue birding in this weather but thought that a trip to Bygdøy to check the geese which have in the past held a few interesting species and then to Frognerpark would be worthwhile as it is a while since I have visited either of these sites. And it was a good decision.

Arriving at the favoured geese fields on Bygdøy one of the very first birds I saw was a White-fronted Goose (tundrågås)! Only my second ever Oslo record of this species it was on exactly the same field as my first record in April 2010. The 2010 bird was a dull 1st winter but today’s bird was a fine adult. It was not a particularly wary bird and allowed itself to be viewed at quite close range although I never tried to find out how it would react to me throwing bread at it ;-) A single Barnacle Goose (hvitkinngås) was also present amongst the Greylags but no Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) yet. I also had my first Oslo Redwings (rødvingetrost) of the year here.

In Frognerparken my main aim was to see if the Iceland Gull (grønlandsmåke) was present for its third spring but when I arrived I saw all gulls flying nervously high up and they had presumably just been scared by a raptor and didn’t come down again in the 15 minutes I was there. On the lake I had 2 Coots (sothøne) which is the first time I have seen this species here. Also a pair of very tame Teal (krikkand). During the winter there have been 5 females and a male here. One female is ringed and thinks it is a Mallard whereas the other 5 birds acted like true wild ducks and I never saw them coming for bread. I therefore assumed that the ringed and tame female had snagged herself a mate but both these birds were unringed and therefore quite possibly new birds altogether. The male was particularly photogenic and I will most more photos of him at a later date.
adult White-fronted Goose (tundragås). The pink bill shows it to be of the European subspecies albifrons

Hybrid Greylag x Canada Goose paired with a Canada Goose. This right b*strd was clearly the gander in this pair

rare Coot (sothøne) at Oslo's Frognerpark

a male (left) and female Lapwing (vipe) riding out the snow in Maridalen

Starling (stær), Fieldfare (gråtrost) and Redwing (rødvingetrost). A few Fieldfares winter in Oslo but the other two are purely summer visitors

Jay (nøtteskrike) in Maridalen feeding on belly of pork

Tree Sparrow (pilfink), Yellowhammer (gulspurv) and Brambling (bjørkefink) - you would do well to see these three species together in the UK

pair of Teal (krikkand) in Maridalen

I don't think I've ever managed such a good photo of Teal before


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Spring takes a pause

Signs of avian spring have pretty much dried up at least in Maridalen. Today was a nice sunny, warm, and nearly windless day and I had high hopes. The birds are clearly reading the weather forecast though and know that snow is forecast tomorrow and Thursday so are not getting ahead of themselves. I had hoped that today’s weather would encourage woodpeckers to drum throughout Maridalen but that just goes to show how little I understand what makes a woodpecker tick. I had just a single drumming Great Spot (flaggspett). Cleary it is still too early for much activity or at least I hope that is the reason. A flyover crossbill today had a deep call and was quite possibly a Parrot Crossbill (furukorsnebb) but did not allow itself to be viewed.

A couple of long-tailed Tits were acting rather strangely and being uncharacteristically quiet and gave the impression they were prospecting for a nest site – one bird kept going into a bush and looked like it was trying different places out for size. A bee of some description was a first for the year and my sinuses are detecting pollen but this in no way makes up for lack of birds! And where were the raptors? A single high flying, thermalling Raven was not what I was searching the skies for.

A trip out to Nordre Øyeren revealed great looking mudflats at Svellet which held two species of wader: Oystercatcher (tjeld) and Lapwing (vipe) so wader season has arrived! The next two months will be very exciting as long as the water levels do not rise too quickly. Teal (krikkand) and Mallard (stokkand) numbers have risen with the Teal being very vocal and groups of males chasing unpaired females around as they try to pair up before continuing their migration to the breeding grounds.
montage of the same Long-tailed Tit (stjertmeis) in Maridalen today

and now for something different. The moon last night taken from the house. Jupiter and two of its moon plus Venus were also visible although we couldn't min Mars which should have been visible but was probably to close to the horison

Monday, 23 March 2015


Yesterday’s snow has already melted but it was cold and unpleasant today and there was only a slight increase in bird activity. I kept things local with just a short trip up into Maridalen. A pair of Snow Buntings that flew in to the fields by Kirkeby were the undoubted highlight but they flew off again before I could get any pictures. The Whooper Swan flock had increased to 8 birds but the new pair did not seem to be welcomed and were chased off.

I had a couple of Black Woodpeckers that were drumming and making a lot of noise and it will be nice to follow these through the breeding season. I also had a calling flyover Common Crossbill which is my first of the year in Oslo. There were actually a few spruce trees here with cones on so maybe they could hang around and breed.
With the cold weather red squirrels were again using the feeding stations
as was this male Bullfinch (dompap)
and these 3 Hawfinches (kjernebiter) which were part of a group f 9
 Also a couple of pictures from a second trip I took up into Maridalen yesterday afternoon when the snow was thick on the fields and the trees.

MistleThrush (duetrost)

Roe deer (rådyr)

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Winter bites back

Even though it was forecast it was still a shock to wake up to snow and wind this morning which could not be any more different to the weather when I was owling only 12 hours earlier.

A drive around Maridalen revealed the effects of this change in the weather. The fields at Skjerven that had held 9 active Lapwings (vipe) yesterday afternoon now held just a single bird that was hunkering down and seeing out the blizzard. Where are the others? Presumably down by the fjord in a muddy bay.
The fields seemed devoid of passerines but I did eventually find a single Mistle Thrush (duetrost) and Reed Bunting (sivspurv) alongside Starlings (stær). By contrast, the feeding stations were heaving with birds. I have often noticed this that as spring develops the feeders get used less and less but if the weather turns then they are suddenly a magnet for all the birds in the valley. Chaffinches (bokfink) were prominent but I only saw males whereas of the three Bramblings (bjørkefink) I saw only one was a male. This difference is I think due to the fact that the Chaffinches are all early migrants and it is males that arrive first whereas the Bramblings may well be some of the birds that have wintered in and around Oslo this winter and therefore not migrants per se. I also had three Hawfinches.

a Starling (stær) on the church ruins in Maridalen

rather grainy pictures showing male (left) and female Hawfinch (kjernebiter)

the field at Skjerven which held 6 Whooper Swans and 9 Greylag Geese but only a single Lapwing today
It continued snowing through the afternoon and this bought the first two Chaffinches of the year to the garden - again both were males.
male Chaffinch (bokfink) in the garden

I've already updated this post so there's no harm updating it again. I've just had an SMS and a couple of pictures from Simon and Trevor who I guided on Thursday. Look what they have just found in Vardø and down to only 2 metres:
adult Ivory Gull! Photo: Simon Colenutt

Photo: Simon Colenutt