Friday, 22 March 2019

Pink-footed Goose migration starts

New species keep coming. The first Lapwings of the year were in Maridalen despite their breeding field being knee deep in snow. A horse field was clear though and here they found food. I also had Oslo’s first Reed Bunting for the year as well as my first Ringed Plover. At Østensjøvannet over 100 Black-headed Gulls were now back and making a lot of noise but bird of the day and a real sign of spring was skiens of migrating Pink-footed Geese. I had 4 over Maridalen and 2 cackling flocks right over the house totaling over 1300 birds with the largest flock being 560! With quite strong winds that ended up being from the west as well as the sight of snow as far as the eye could see it was obvious that the birds were not sure what to do once they got to the end of the Oslo Fjord and had to cross land. One flock turned around, 2 flocks let the wind take them and headed east whilst three flocks managed to keep going in a northerly direction. These flocks have all left Denmark this morning and some will probably not stop until they get to Trøndelag in mid-Norway.

Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) over the house

10 years of data but I don't think any real pattern can be seen

Lapwing (vipe) in the snow

and in the horse field

Oystercatcher (tjeld)

just one Purple Sand (fjæreplytt) showing at Huk today
but this Ringed Plover (sandlo) was much rarer. 4 species of wader in a day in Oslo in March might be a record

gulls gathering on the ice at Østensjøvannet

displaying Goldeneyes (kvinand)

Goosander (laksand) pair

Grey Wagtail (vinterlerle) in the horse field in Maridalen
male Reed Bunting (sivspurv)

These two moose were with another animal that swan across the water where the river enters the lake at Hammeren but I failed to capture that excitement

a distant porpoise (nise) off Huk

Thursday, 21 March 2019

First butterfly and reptile

Lots more signs of spring today with the most obvious being me having a sun burnt face (although that doesn’t take too much). A Brimstone butterfly was my first flutterby of the year and an adder my first reptile. Chaffinches have also arrived with singing birds at four sites and Hawfinches and Blackbirds seemed suddenly more numerous.

I have taken the Beast on post-lunch walks in Maridalen the last two days which has been surprisingly successful and I have even been able to take photos which bodes well. Although the lake is still frozen there is enough open water where the two rivers flow in for there now to be waterfowl with Whooper Swans, Canada and Greylag Geese, Mallard and Goldeneye proudly proclaiming that winter is over. The fields are still deep in snow and there are not even small snow free areas for Snow Buntings yet but there should be by next week. On south facing banks though the snow has melted and this is where I saw the adder which showed really well and even slithered from a rock and over some branches above the ground as though it was a tree snake.

Some interesting behaviour, which I have observed once before and in exactly the same trees, was a flock of Waxwings eating bark, lichen and sap from the branches of trees. They must be quite desperate for food at this stage of the spring with no berries left and insects which are there summer food not yet available and lichen seems to be enough to get them by.

here the Waxwings (sidensvans) seem to be taking sap

the left bird is picking at lichen

this one is picking at bark

this one is picking at moss

Long-tailed Tit (stjertmeis)

adder (hoggorm)

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Kingfishers 2019

Despite temperatures rising to +11C and a warm(ish) SW wind there was still no real start to migration today although the first flock of Pink-footed Geese were noted over Oslo.

Evidence of the struggles owls are having finding food continues to build with a Hawk Owl having been found in a residential area and a Tengmalm’s Owl flying into a school window this morning. I went looking for the Hawkie but judging by the closeness of the mobile phone picture that was taken of it I reckon it was on its last legs so may have passed on like so many other owls this winter. After this I did have some luck with a young White-tailed Eagle flying low over the car although I was unable to stop in time to get any photos. I then went to Sandvika to see if I could see the Kingfishers which are back for their 4th year which must be a Norwegian record for a species that is a very scarce and normally not even annual breeder in the country. I could hear them before I even got to the river and then was witness to some fascinating behaviour which unfortunately I did not get to record as well as I hoped. With all the noise I assumed that the birds were courting/mating and when I saw two birds chasing each other this seemed to be confirmed. However, I soon realised there were at least three birds– 2 males and a female and it was the 2 males who were chasing each other and calling. I do not know whether they were singing or whether it was a threat call but it differed from the normal call which the female could be heard making occasionally. Twice the males started fighting and tumbled to the ground. It was not clear whether the female was already paired with one of the males and the fighting was to try and evict an intruding male or whether the two males were still vying for the attentions of the female. The birds and especially the female often disappeared into the nest area (which is behind a tree trunk) and made lots of noise and I would love to know what was going on in there.

My video doesn’t really do justice to what I saw and as usual when trying to take both video and still photos I often failed to capture the really exciting sequences because I was changing cameras at the time…

male Kingfisher (isfugl) with a fish

I expected the fish to be presented to the female but he ended up eating it himself

this was the immediate aftermath of one of the fights between the two males but unfortunately I failed to capture both birds

but Jørgen Lønø got this great shot

one of the males (black bill)

one of the males behind the tree roots where the nest it

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Still waiting

 Despite afternoon temperatures reaching +6C, overnight frosts and thick snow and ice means that there are very few signs of spring. Apart from a couple of scouts, finches and thrushes have yet to arrive and that is no surprise as there would be no food for them to find. It is still a long way off before insect eaters arrive with Meadow Pipits arriving first and then White Wagtails, Wheatear and Chiffchaffs which will follow although they are still a while off as there is zero for them to eat at the moment and they will follow the thaw as it spreads north (some southerly winds will help aswell).

Anders and I went east to the Akershus / Østfold border today looking for signs of spring but there was incredibly little to see despite there being some snow free field in Østfold. No dabbling ducks other than Mallard, just a handful of Lapwings as the only waders and amongst seed eaters just a few flocks of Skylarks, one flock of Snow Buntings, a few Starlings and 3 Linnets and a single Twite. Three Mistle Thrushes and a Grey Wagtail were a welcome sign though. Whooper Swans were in good numbers but only at a couple of sites (no flocks in Akershus where there were flocks a couple of weeks ago but which have been pushed out by the freeze) and there were only a few Canada and Greylag Geese although no large flocks. Six Cranes at three sites were the start of something much bigger that will unfold over the the next couple of weeks. Raptors are also yet to come with just a scattering of Buzzards (and only in Østfold) and a single very distant White-tailed Eagle. Two Great Grey Shrikes were probably wintering birds rather than migrants.

We are forecast to start having nights without frost and some southerly winds so birds will start coming soon but there is a lot of snow and ice that needs to melt first.

Yesterday I enjoyed the Huk Purple Sandpipers and Østensjøvannet in great light and at ridiculously close range and had FAR too many photos to go through.

Purple Sandpiper (fjæreplytt)
they amazingly enough find food amongst the algae on rocks

they are keen swimmers like a number of waders
the 1st winter male Smew

here the white feathers appearing on the head are easy to see
and here we can see lots of white feathers under the red

male Tufted Duck (toppand) about to dive

the regular overwintering female Pintail (stjertand)

Cranes (trane) today. My first of the year

Great Grey Shrike (varsler)

my first Mistle Thrush (duetrost) of 2019

Snow Buntings (snøspurv) 
Whooper Swans (sangsvane)

there wasn't much open water at Kallaksjøen but tit was packed