Friday, 21 November 2014

Refugees fleeing.....and returning

The weather forecast has us to believe that we will get our first real taste of winter tomorrow and the rain that fell yesterday in downtown Oslo has settled as snow on the hills around the city. I therefore accepted that I could no longer put off changing to winter tyres on the car so set to work. Just as I was beginning a message came through that the refugees were stil present but more excitingly there was a PS that a probable Great Northern Diver (islom) was offshore the same location. GN Diver is equally rare in Oslo as the ugly ducklings so this was exciting news. I had 4 wheels to change over though so would have to wait a bit. 20 minutes later and I was half way through changing the second wheel when the phone beeped again. With the bolts safely tightened I checked the phone to see that the ID was confirmed and it was feeding close inshore. What to do? I chose to continue with the wheel changing and whilst struggling with the final wheel (I will need to visit a garage....) came a message that the diver was actually most likely a White-billed Diver. Equally as rare in Oslo but an even more exciting bird. I gave up changing wheel 4, cleaned up and headed down. A phonecall on the way revealed it had been lost to sight but was most likely further in Lysakerfjord so I headed to a place that would give me a view of this area and searched for 30 minutes without joy. This bird could very well be the same one that has been seen a couple of times in the Oslofjord in the last month so may turn up again.

One “highlight” of searching for the diver was that I saw the two refugees in flight flying from Huk over to Fornebu and therefore got a new Akershus tick. 5 minutes later they flew back to Oslo having obviously not found Bærum to their liking.

I went up to Huk where there was a small twitch in motion and some pleasant people to talk to but I was most interested in scanning the sea for the diver. Here again I failed though even though the sea was nearly without a ripple. There was only one auk, a Guillemot (lomvi), to see. As I’ve said before I hope the birds that were pushed in by the storms have managed to fly back out of the fjord rather than perishing of starvation.

the refugees in flight over Fornebu with the blue building to the left being the very pleasant Sjøflyhavnakro resturant

the last bird I took a picture of here was a Manx Shearwater, not quite the same...

Thursday, 20 November 2014


In grey, cold and damp conditions James Ewen and I stood on the top of an office block and didn't film or even see a Peregrine Falcon (vandrefalk) so there is still a lot of work and much luck needed to get the final footage in the can. A subsequent trip to Frognerpark revealed a hoped for Grey Heron (hegre) but that flew off before being captured on the hard drive so not much luck today.

Whilst not filming Peregrines we did have this Goshawk (hønsehauk) flyby with a Crow in tow. I really think that Canon should look at how poor this picture is and accept that it is down to their poor equipment (a 550D camer body) and should immediately make me a Canon Ambassador and send the new 7D for field trials

I persuaded James to head towards Bygdøy with the promise of Herons (4 there last week) but with me really hoping to find a Little Auk (alkekonge) or Razorbill (alke) to add to my Oslo year list. No herons or auks but a few Velvet (sjøorre) and Common Scoter (svartand) and a pair of Hawfinches (kjernebiter). Also a couple of African refugees looking cold and confused.
Hawfinch - just look at the size of that bill

this poor African refugee has been failed by Norway's usually generous welfare system and was forced to scavenge around rubbish bins

here the two refugees looking longingly south and reflecting how life wasn't really so bad before

if the footage James is taking here makes it to the final cut then that will be a sign that all his other plans went pear shaped
and the refugee posing for a mug shot ofr his new identity papers

These Egyptian Geese (niland) were seen two days ago on one of the islands off Oslo. A rather unsatisfying Norwegian tick to be honest and not the way I had thought I would equal the Oslo year list record (173 species). Difficult to know where they have come from (except of course that its not from the species native Africa) but previous Norwegian records have been accepted into Category C based on the feral populations elsewhere in Europe but they could just as easily be escapes especially a bird from a couple of years back which was incredibly tame. But come to think about would anyone really want to keep such an ugly bird in captivity? Well maybe they bought a couple of cute, downy ducklings and when they grew up and revealed they really were the ugly ducklings they just decided to let them go?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bean Geese surprise

As regular readers will know I follow the comings and goings of the Taiga Bean Goose population that winters in Scotland, breed in Sweden and pass through Akershus close to Oslo each spring and autumn. The GPS tags have stopped transmitting after a couple of years with the solar driven batteries having died however sime of the birds have radio tags from which data can be downloaded if one can come close enough to the bird with the right equipment. Data from two such collars was downloaded at the end of October showing birds that use two different migration routes - part of the population migrates through Sweden and doesn't (at least in 2014) use Norway at all. One interesting thing from the plots is that one bird has a cluster of plots in the North Sea suggesting it rested for a least a few hours in October when it flew from Norway to Scotland.

This seemed very interesting but I just discovered on Twitter some even more amazing pictures. A group of 6 Bean Geese (probably a family group) were on an oil rig 100 miles East of Wick right in the NE corner of Scotland) yesterday.  I'm not sure whether they are Tundra or Taiga Bean Geese (the one I link to below looks like a classic Taiga to me but another picture shows birds looking like Tundra) but if they are Taiga then there must be a good chance that they are part of the same population as there are not so many Taiga Beans around and the research shows them to be very loyal to the same sites and migration routes. Maybe this family were migrating late due to a weak or injured youngsterand hit bad weather which knocked them off course?

Here is also a blog entry of another 3 Beans (these ones seemingly rossicus) landing on a boat east of Aberdeen. Clearly something strange going on.


I’ve written before about a Documentary on Oslo’s wildlife that I have been helping out on. Last winter we filmed Peregrines on the roof of the Radisson Plaza hotel but more footage is needed. So far this winter there have been no reported sightings from the hotel or any of the other regular hangouts in downtown Oslo so we were getting a bit worried.

A report from Ketil Knudsen early this morning though of one on the roof of the KPMG building in Majorstua had us visiting the site at lunchtime and sure enough the bird was still present and looking very much at home. The hundreds of local pigeons which are presumably what attracts it here all looked very at ease with the birds presence which may be an indication that it has been here quite a while and that this is its new “home” although there could easily be more than one Peregrine using Oslo each winter which wouldn’t be a surprise given the growing breeding population in these parts. This bird was small and therefore most likely a male whereas the bird from last winter seemed a larger bird from memory.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Waxwings & mistletoe

Today’s birding was as grey and uninspiring as the weather. At Fornebu I confirmed the continued presence of the Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) but it flew up before I had a chance to locate it on the ground despite the fact I was methodically trying to.

This weekend I received a quite impressive magazine in the post or at least it looks impressive because due to it being in German I cannot understand a word inside it. I was contacted a few weeks ago by the magazine asking to use a picture of mine of Waxwings (sidensvans) feeding in mistletoe. The magazine was an Austrian hunting magazine so I was a bit sceptical about letting them use the picture but the article on mistletoe was not in itself about hunting. The magazine came in a wax paper envelope and seems to be more a magazine for a certain social class rather than specifically about hunting and it is clear that there is a lot of money in that class judging by tone of the articles, adverts and also the fact that a quite fat magazine can be published monthly.

Here a couple of pictures of the magazine plus my original picture.

Waxwings and mistloe - sidensvans og misteltein - Seidenschwanz och misteln

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Return of the Zak

On the road with Rune Z in Østfold today. Relatively modest hopes of Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Firecrest or Stonechat didn't materialise but we did alright. The reedbeds at Arekilen were enlivened by the sounds if not the sight of calling Bearded Tits (skjeggmeis) and Water Rails (vannrikse). What at first seemed like a birdless sea off Virkekilen eventually offered up 5 Little Auks (alkekonge), 2 Razorbills (alke), 7 Guillemot (lomvi), 2 Black-throated Divers (storlom), 3 Red-throated Divers (smålom) and 4 Long-tailed Duck (havelle). 5 Rock Pipits (skjærpiplerke) were grilled to see if they were damp and a calling Chiffchaff (gransanger) failed to show itself.

Two drive by Great Grey Shrikes (varsler) revealed themselves and at Kurefjorden there were 8 Slavonian Grebes (horndykker) amongst the more numerous Great Crested (toppdykker). A perfectly acceptable days birding for the middle of November aka the worst month for birding ever.

Two not particularly close Little Auks