Sunday 3 March 2024

LONG LIVE THE FLOOD

One of, if not THE, highlights of early spring for me is goose migration. We get a very large passage of Pink-footed Geese over Oslo with some stopping to rest and always the chance of something scarcer amongst them (in the coming weeks we will be hoping to find the famous Ross’s Goose pair amongst them). And we also, of course, have the Scottish Taiga Bean Geese which I do not appear to have turned up yet but will do so soon.

In Oslo itself there are few places where one can find resting migrating geese. Østensjøvannet attracts lot of Canada, Greylag and Barnacles but is still frozen. Maridalen can have the odd flock of resting Pink-feets but perhaps the best place is on Bygdøy where the agricultural fields can attract quite a few geese although disturbance is a big problem here. Bygdøy’s big asset is its location at the head of the Oslo fjord so any migrating geese looking for a place to land will see the fields with local Greylags and Barnacles on and be tempted to land. Another pull factor is that every now again there can be big floods when melt water and rain outgun the pumps and drainage ditches. When this happens then a fantastic wetland is created which has you dreaming of it being a permanent feature (but those sort of (wet) dreams never come true in anti-nature Norway).

A visit to the fields at Hengsenga on Saturday revealed amazing flood waters. Two Whooper Swans were the first birds I saw but then I noticed the geese and there were grey geese of two sizes – the expected Greylags but also smaller birds. There were not one, not two but EIGHTEEN White-fronted Geese which is by far and away an Oslo record. With so many geese having been seen further south (see my last post) then we can hope for more to come here in the coming weeks especially if the flood waters persist. The longer they do then we can also look forward to dabbling ducks and even wader – LONG LIVE THE FLOOD!

the flood waters looking from the south

and the north - that ploughed field is just waiting to hold flocks of plover


White-fronted (tundragås), Greylag (grågås) and Barnacle Geese (hvitkinngås)


7 White-fronts and a Greylag



I am prepared to bet quite a lot that the Whooper Swan (sangsvane) pair are the Maridalen breeders who are waiting for conditions to improve there

the Smew (lappfiskand) is still delighting at close range at Østensjøvannet

Thursday 29 February 2024

Rook

When guiding a couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a surburban Rook. This less than annual species in Oslo has attracted a bit of attention since then and has been added to a few Norway/Oslo/year lists since then. Despite its propensity to sit in tall trees and call a lot I have failed to see it again despite regularly driving through the area which is where Jr Jr’s school is. Today though I had to pick her up and made sure I got there a bit early so I could scan for it and this time I relocated it right by her school!

It was raining a lot (and is forecast to do so for a number of days) and I was not inclined to get out of the car but was able to get a few shots from within the car. I always feel very uncomfortable using the camera by a school but no one called the police on me😉

I had been unsure as to the age of the bird previously but its darkish (although not black) bill surely makes it a 1st winter.

The coming rain will cause lots of melting and floods so fields around Oslo will soon be suitable for migrants although predominantly northerly winds from Sunday onwards will unlikely lead to a big rush.


Rook (kornkråke)



with a Hooded Crow (kråke)



Tuesday 27 February 2024

More Stonechats and geese

There is suddenly lots to see, to photograph and to write about. I have not been to see the Smew again but it has apparently been standing room only with up to 40 photographers filling their memory cards. Having been through the (many) images I took I am rather happy with the ones I got on Saturday so have no need for more.

 On Sunday Jack discovered Oslo’s second Stonechat of the year on Bygdøy and I chose to visit there on Monday and then found the third (a female) and then Anders found the fourth later in the day! Prior to 2021 there had only been 5 records in Oslo but it has been annual since then but 4 in a year is a new record and it isn’t even spring yet!

Bygdøy also gave me very up close and personal views of 16 Purple Sandpipers which appears to be an Oslo high count. I have also added Skylark and Chaffinch to my Oslo year list which now stands at 85 species.

Today Jack and I headed to Østfold and it was a visit that reminded me I should go more often as the 1 hour drive is well worth it. The fields around Kurefjorden were already free of snow and packed with geese and Skylarks. A lot of different geese have been seen here in the last few days including both Beans and both subspecies of White-fronted. Greenland White-front is a species that has eluded me before so I was really hoping to see it but we only found Russian birds but a count of 48 was very good. Taiga Beans also eluded us but we did see 2 Tundras.

Other new birds for the year included Lapwing, Ringed Plover and Shelduck as well as Slavonian Grebe and Scaup.

On the way home we witnessed a new experience with a Great Grey Shrike. I have seen this species hover occasionally before but only for a few seconds at a time but this bird was hovering in Kestrel style and was changing height and position for many tens of seconds at a time. It was hovering over an area if rough grass that was full of vole holes so there was clearly food there for it.

male Smew (lappfiskand)






the pattern at the back of the head changes a lot depending on the mood of the bird






Little and Large


with a male Goldeneye (kvinand)



a female Stonechat (svartstrupe) at Bygdøy




Purple Sandpipers (fjæreplytt)







from today's Østfold trip - a White-fronted Goose (tundragås) on the left with a Tundra Bean Goose (tundrasædgås)

the two Tundra Beans

Russian White-fronted Geese (tundragås) and Greylag Geese (grågås). Three of the adults had such extensive black barring on their bellies that it became solid

hovering Great Grey Shrike (varsler)

when it hovers the wings barely go above the horizontal




hovering head on


And some commoner birds

Stock Dove (skogdue)

Willow Tit (granmeis)


Yellowhammer (gulspurv)

Jay (nøtteskrike)


Mute Swan (knoppsvane)

landing on the ice





finally coming to a stop


This spring seems to be terrible for singing owls in southern Norway but there is at least some activity from Tawny Owl (kattugle) in Maridalen