Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Two and a Half Corvids

The last couple of days have not seen too much in the way of successful birding. Yesterday was an isolated day of clear sunny weather with little wind and I had hopes of raptors in Maridalen but had to be content with just two Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk) in four hours.

Today it was back to wet, grey weather and I ditched, initially at least, my plans of heading east for lots of wildfowl and chose to twitch in Akershus. On Sunday a fine White-billed Diver (gulnebblom) was seen on a boat trip and then later twitched by others from land at a range of 3km and yesterday a Kingfisher (isfugl) was seen not too far away. Needless to say my twitching proved fruitless and I quickly decided that I would head east whilst I still had time. 

The large numbers of Greylag Geese (grågås) were now just a fraction of their numbers from last week with probably yesterdays good weather encouraging them on their way. I wasn’t Greylags I was interested in anyway, it was Bewick’s Swans (dvergsvane) or White-fronted Geese (tundragås) but these were not to be found despite me locating some flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans (sangsvane) as I continued on my travels. A few Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) were new though and correlate with large flocks reported heading south from Trøndelag the last couple of days.

The only excitement of the day came from corvids and actually a new bird for me. A flock of Hooded Crows (kråke) feeding in a stubble field attracted my attention and I stopped the car to scan them and to my surprise there were two black birds amongst them. One was an obvious adult Rook (kornkråke) but the other had a black bill. At some range in the binoculars I wasn’t sure whether it was a Carrion Crow (svartkråke) or a young Rook. I noticed what looked like a brownish tinge to the plumage which I couldn’t explain. So I decided to fire off as many pictures as I could to see if I could work out what it was at home (Carrion Crows and young Rooks look very similar). At home I actually found it was something else:  a hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow and the first time I’ve seen this type of hybrid. What I took to be a brown tinge to the plumage was actually dark grey.

At home the Blackcap (munk) is still feeding on the elder berries and our window feeder is very popular.

I had only one Great Grey Shrike (varsler) in the day which was at a new location although I failed to see any at six other locations where I have seen the species over the last couple of weeks.

Two and a Half Corvids- Rook, Hood Crow and Carrion x Hooded Crow hybrid

Carrion x Hood Crow


the hybrid

Long-tailed Tits (stjertmeis) showed today as well

Blue Tit (blåmeis) and the popular window feeder

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Garden owl

It’s not normal that I update the blog this early with “live” news but today has started off in a very special way.

After brewing some much needed coffee I saw that the feeders were empty so went out to fill them up. Whilst doing so I scared off a new neighbourhood cat that has taken a real liking to our feeders and although I have yet to see any deaths he is definitely good at scaring the birds away. Shortly after he ran off I heard a chorus of scolding birds but they were too far away to be mobbing this particular predator. I walked around the side of the house and saw a line of birds on a telegraph wire with birds flying into a birch tree and mobbing a dark shape. I immediately assumed it to be a Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) because it was sitting on a branch (obscured) and not against the trunk as I would expect from an owl. However the birds were very angry at it with Blackbirds (svarttrost) repeatedly flying at it and I could even here the local Blackcap’s (munk) call. I was curious enough that I decided I would walk around to see the bird although my clothing was hardly appropriate. However as I started walking which meant going around the house I heard the calling change. I ran back round to see the thrush in flight but couldn’t see what they were obviously chasing. The mobbing started again further away aimed at another tree before an owl flew out this time with a Crow chasing it (kråke). There could be no doubt it was a Long-eared Owl (hornugle) – or could there be no doubt? It flew in circles over the house for long enough for me to run in, change the lens on the camera and run out again and get some pictures.

Checking the pictures has had me scratching my head and for a while I thought that it must be a Short-eared Owl (jordugle)  which would be an amazing find in a garden and some of the pictures do show plumage characters which can only be Short-eared – apparent white trailing edge to the wing and solid black wing tips rather than finely barred wing tips. However, I believe this to be more as a result of bad light and grainy photos as the overall impression is still of a Long-eared Owl and location would have to suggest so.


Quite why it was seeking refuge in a garden I can only guess at but I assume it was migrating overnight and then when dawn came over the city it just decided it had to seek a safe roost. Why choose a garden rather than nearby Maridalen? It looks like there might be lots of fog further inland so it could be that it is only over the city that it could see somewhere to land?

What a start to the day!

Short-eared Owl (ugle) over the garden
the picture top left looks like it shows a pale trailing edge which is a Short-eared Owl character. The bottom two pictures also show rather solid dark wing tip. After trynng to convince myself these were photographic effects I now accept them to be real and it really was a Short-eared Owl that flew out of my neighbours garden!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

In the news

Jon Olav Larsen has written two great articles (Norwegian only) on birding in Værøy and Røst and on our encounter with the Jack Snipe which you can read here:

This is his picture of me with Jackie

Friday, 17 October 2014

Stoat or do I mean Weasel?

The winter weather continues today although the precipitation is falling as rain in the city and only higher up as snow. Maridalen did have some new arrivals to show me today. On the lake a flock of 19 Goosander were feeding very actively in the shallows as a flock and looked like they were chasing a shoal of small fish. The two Common Scoter were still present in their preferred spot but have not managed to attract any more of their kin.

Avian highlight was a Rough-legged Buzzard that flew low over the valley in a vain attempt to find a snack. This bird could well be one that is hanging around the Oslo area as there have been a number of records to the east of Maridalen that could indicate 1 or 2 birds are finding the area to their liking.

Mammalian highlight came at one of the feeding stations when a movement on the ground was not a mouse but a stoat, correction weasel (snømus). It was always amazes me how small this predator is – smaller than a rat but it must be a fearsome predator if it manages to take rabbits. My attempts at a photo were pretty hopeless but I did capture the characteristic short tail (the larger weasel has a long tail).

a Nutcracker (nøttekråke) with Maridalsvannet in the background

a Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) with snow covered trees

back end of a weasel (snømus)

weasels really are small

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Winter arrived early today. Cars coming into the city with a thick layer of snow on showed that a bit higher up the rain that was falling had taken a more solid physical form and a trip up into Maridalen revealed snow in the higher areas. The weather seemed also to have helped push thrushes on their way south with Redwings being very numerous in the air.

I thought a trip to Fornebu would reveal enormous numbers of thrushes and finches seeking refuge but I was as wrong with this thought as I have been in all previous autumns. In fact there were far fewer birds at Fornebu than there were around the house. Waders were the only birds of note and it wasn’t quantity that was to be noted – just that there were some! Checking out the bay in Koksa I scared up Common Snipe, Jack Snipe and a Greenshank. Interestingly the Common Snipe flew up at close range from grass and without making a noise thus resembling a Jack Snipe whilst the Jack Snipe flew up at over 10 metres range (quietly though) which is more like a Common Snipe. Jackie flew up from an open area of mud where she presumably had been feeding and it could be that she didn’t feel that her cryptic plumage would work too well so plan B (flight) was the best option.
Maridalen didn’t have any large congregation of thrushes on the ground although there were a lot flying over. I had a hope that large numbers of seaducks would have been forced down from the mountain lakes where they breed and the lake would have lots of interest but here again my thoughts were wrong and there was nothing new although the 2 Common Scoters are still present.

The day’s highlight if it counts as such was in the garden. I checked out the elder bush which still has lots of berries and found that a Blackcap continues to find it attractive. In the cold weather the bird seemed happy just to sit by a large bunch of berries and gorge itself. It was sitting only 2 metres over the pavement and allowed people including me with my camera to walk right under it. The light wasn’t great but the pictures are probably my best of this species.

getting close doesn't always help if the angle is wrong

just one more berry please

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Always a glutton for punishment, I paid another visit to Hærsetersjøen in Østfold. With wind from the NE and no fog I was hoping for more wildfowl and hopefully some raptors. Yesterday there was a very interesting movement of Rough-legged Buzzards (fjellvåk) flying north along the coast in SW Norway and I hoped that there might also be some on the move in these parts. It would be very interesting to know where yesterdays birds were going and why so many (at least 90 seen at one site) had the same idea. I assume that they were on their way to exploit a food source (there are reports of many lemmings in the mountains) but how does their jungle telegraph work?

My day though started without any raptors but still 1000’s of geese. Amazingly amongst at least 2000 Greylags (grågås) I had only the same two Bean Geese (sædgås) from a week ago plus around 50 Canada Geese – I really did expect to find at least some White-fronted Geese (tundragås) amongst them. Redwings (rødvingetrost) were obviously migrating today but I had no flocks of Wood Pigeons (ringdue) which I had also expected to be on the move.

The geese at Hærseter were unusually wary for Greylag Geese and it would be interesting to know where such large numbers come from. Unfortunately none were ringed here but not too far away at Hemnesjøen there was a single neck collared bird. The rings on these birds are in my experience very difficult to read as they have a letter and a number vertically and another letter horizontally and one really does need good views at different angles to read the ring despite the fact that the colours (white on blue ring) are advantageous. The bird I saw B2G was ringed 19 June 2012 in Vestfold, spent February 2014 in Germany and has been seen last autumn and earlier this autumn close to where I saw it. Quite a disappointing reading – I had hoped to find out it came from much further to the north although the lack of records for April- mid June could mean that it does breed further north.

the observations of Greylag Goose B2G as reported to

Working my way back though Akershus I had a couple of roadside Great Grey Shrikes (varsler) at new locations but still no raptors. Then I stopped to try to locate my third GG Shrike for the day (unsuccessfully) and during the course of 10 minutes had 5 Rough-legged Buzzards and a single Sparrowhawk migrating SW following exactly the same line. But as soon as they started then they finished and there were no more birds after them. What caused this little rush? I got very excited whilst it was happening and thought I might be in for a Flasterbo Lite experience but was quickly disappointed again.

The two Taiga Bean geese with hundreds of Grelyags and a few Whooper Swans

this flooded field was very popular

Hellesjøvannet held 22 Pochard (taffeland)

the only one of the Rough-legged Buzzards that I managed to capture. A 1cy if I am not mitaken