Sunday, 27 July 2014

Broad-billed Sandpiper

The last week of our holiday in the north ended up with one good bird. On a trip to visit relatives we passed the very bird rich fjord west of Fauske. Armed with only bins many of the birds had to remain unidentified but I did clock up Slavonian Grebe (horndykker), Red-throated Diver (smålom), Velvet Scoter (sjøorre) and Long-tailed Duck (havelle). When we got to the vast mudflats at the end of the fjord I was hoping for some waders especially as it was close to high tide which would make my job in locating them easier. I was very disappointed to only find Oystercatcher (tjeld) and a single Redshank (rødstilk) but kept searching and finally found a couple of roosting Ringed Plovers (sandlot) together with a calidris wader. I assumed it was going to be a juvenile Dunlin (myrsnipe) but something didn’t click and I moved in closer and was very happy to find an adult Broad-billed Sandpiper (fjellmyrløper). This species is recorded less than annually in Nordland county although it most likely does breed in the mountains. Seeing it on the mudlfats it seemed a very different bird to the mountain marsh runner of a month ago. As is nearly always the case when I have seen this species on passage it was together with Ringed Plovers. Quite why this is when the two breed in very different habitats is a mystery to me.

An area of fields and muddy beaches near the cabin has often held a few waders and especially a flock of young Ruff (brushane). This year there were no Ruff although it could be too early but I did have a flock of 13 Ringed Plovers which were all adults plus a single juvenile Dunlin alongside 14 Lapwing (vipe). The area here has a lot of potential in my eyes but is as far as I can see only visited by me on a couple of occasions each year. I also had a flock of 14 Cranes (trane) flying over plus 14 Greylag Geese (grågås) which were suitably wary as these are proper wild geese.

Back in Oslo it is the delights of autumn wader migration that await in the coming weeks.

adult Broad-billed Sandpipier (fjellmyrløper) with adult Ringed Plover (sandlo)

part of the muflats at Klungset / Fauske with only 3 waders on show. At low tide the mudflats extend many hundreds of metres further out

a view showing where we have out hytte (circled)

post breeding Ringed Plovers which have already moved down from the mountains. All were adults

juvenile Shelduch (gravand) which is a scarce breeder this far north.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Costa del Arctic

We are whiling away the summer at our cabin near Bodø, north of the Arctic Circle. Temperatures have hit 30C (in the shade – no kidding!) and it is over 20C in the sea. Birding has been just an incidental activity and I have spent more time in our newly acquired rubber boat trying my fishing luck – so far I have only managed to feed the family on one occasion when a decent sized cod was careless enough to take the lure although I have had a number of fish that were small enough to deserve a second chance.

There a number of “comic” terns in the area and I have always had problems in deciding what they are which I eventually concluded is because both Arctic (rødnebbterne) and Common Tern (makrellterne) are breeding here. That I am losing my touch though came with a small breeding colony that I found and was able to observe through bins. I convinced myself they were Common Terns but the pictures show them to be Arctic. My only defence was that it was overcast and difficult light conditions...

I have seen Arctic (tyvjo) and Long-tailed Skua (fjelljo) and a migrating flock of Cranes but strangest sighting must be this White-tailed Eagle which seems to be missing a major part of its wing rather than just moulting some feathers. It flew without any problems and as can be seen was able to catch food.
Arctic Skua

Arctic Tern

Fritilary Butterfly of some description

White-tailed Eagle missing a chunk of wing

midnight sun

Monday, 14 July 2014

Great Grey Owl videos

Here are two videos of the Great Grey Owls that I filmed in June. The first is proper video whilst the second is a sequence of still shots put together. It is best if you choose the highest quality option in Youtube.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A little bit of Maridalen

Back for a few days in Oslo I paid my first trip in a while to Maridalen. The hot weather we have had most of this spring and summer seems to have resulted in a very good breeding season for Swallows (låvesvale) and White Wagtails (linerle) with many youngsters to be seen. A single Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) showed itself and two singing Lesser Redpolls (brunsisik) are an indication of breeding which would be the first time here. I saw a single beaver and more disturbingly a family of mink which showed no fear of me – will it be ever possible to get rid of this disastrous introduced species?

Five adult Black-throated Divers (storlom) together on the lake were probably a group of failed breeders but a Red-throated Diver (smålom) that flew off with a fish is most likely breeding nearby.

Signs of a good breeding season can also be seen in the garden where broods of Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Fieldfare were being fed by parents today.

Mink: an unwanted species in Maridalen and Norway

Saturday, 5 July 2014


I am back in Beitostølen although this time is for our annual family holiday rather than birding. I have been so focused on family, relaxations and perhaps a few too many late night World Cup games that I haven’t even been up to see the Great Snipe again. As always here though there are birds to seen and around the cabin we have nesting Redstarts (rødstjert), Wheatear (steinskvett) and Redpolls (gråsisik). Walks in the area have also given us Hen Harrier (myrhauk), Golden Eagle (kongeørn), Dotterel (boltit), Cuckoo (gjøk) and Golden Plover (heilo) plus an adder at over 1000m (I had no idea they came this high) and Reindeer.
male Redstart (rødstjert)

male Dotterel (boltit)

Golden Plover (heilo)

Friday, 4 July 2014

Water Rail video

Here is a short video of the Water Rail baby from Fonebu a couple of weeks ago. Remember to choose max quality in Youtube when viewing.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Yet more Great Grey Owl pictures........yawn

And yet more Great Grey Owl pictures:

this camera man was heeding warnings that Grey Grey Owls can attack if they feel their young are threatened. It is exactly this attack instinct that the ringers use to trap the adults but one does need to be careful as someone nearly lost an eye earlier this spring

the bird on the right had not been fed when we were there the previous evening with its sibling getting 3 out of thrre mouse deliveries so we feared the worst when we found it lying on the branch. It just seemed to be taking a nap though.

with ring. Another ringed youngster was recently found trapped and with a broken leg after getting a branch stuck between its leg and the ring. This occurence hasn't exactly done anything to increase my support for the ringing of these (or many other birds) without in my eyes any worthwhile research being behind the trapping.

taking a nap

eyes closed but giving a warning call - "I know you're there"

"don't think I don't know where you are"

"I can still see you even if I don't move my head"

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mountain Marsh Runner and more great Norwegian birds

The rare Mountain Marsh Runner is a bird that I have struggled to see on its breeding grounds in Norway but whist guiding Rob Tizard from USA c/o Myanmar over the last two days I finally got to see why its name is so appropriate. If you are struggling to know which species I am talking about then I have taken the literal (or at least my literal) translation of the Norwegian name: fjellmyrløper. In English it goes normally under the name Broad-billed Sandpiper which seems odd as I can’t say that I have ever noticed it having a particularly broad bill. I normally find Norwegian names to make little sense but in this case I will definitely say the Norwegians have chosen a completely appropriate name. This bird spent its time running half hidden running through a mountain marsh and remained invisible to us most of the time even though it was in 12cm high grass only a few metres from us. On migration I have considered it to be the size of a small Dunlin (myrsnipe) but here it appeared smaller than a stint although there were no other waders to compare it to as its choice of habitat (marshes of sodden black peat with short grass) seems to be one shunned by other birds. On our way out to the marsh we had a chorus of angry Whimbrel (småspove), Redshank (rødstilk) and Greenshank (gluttsnipe) wishing us good riddance but the Mountain Marsh Runner did anything but makes it presence known. We walked around the suitable habitat for over half an hour before I flushed up one from nearly under my which then landed less than 10 metres away and promptly disappeared to be only seen on a couple of more occasions as it scurried through the grass and on three occasions it called. It was frustrating but also very exhilarating to see this bird in its very special breeding habitat.

This guiding trip was mostly based in the county of Oppland with a diversion into Hedmark. The reason for this was that Rob wanted to see Dotterel (boltit) and Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin). Nearly every bird on this trip required a bit of work to find it and our first target, Dotterel, was no exception. It was cold up on the mountain, with drizzle and much snow still on the ground but eventually we found three birds and had exceptional views with Rob taking some first rate photos although mine are nothing to write home about. Strangely we had little else although three singing Shorelarks (fjellerke) were a year tick for me and a Snow Bunting (snøspurv) was perhaps surprisingly the first one I have seen despite many visits.
After a good dinner and a beer we headed up to a Great Snipe lek which I discovered a few years ago and have visited every year since. The birds took a while to get going and I feared the lek was smaller than in previous years but my midnight we had a dozen males displaying with their strange “song”, running around, jumping and fighting. As Rob said, this has to be one of nature’s greatest spectacles. Even at midnight it was still light enough to see the birds and although still photography is difficult, video (on Robs camera at least) can produce great results.

We were in bed just after 1am with the hotel receptionist giving us a very strange look as we returned to the hotel with cameras and binoculars in the middle of the night!

Day 2 begun at 7am and ended at 1am! Ring Ouzel (ringtrost) was our first target but again we had to work a but before finding a pair feeding a fledgling. Whilst searching we found Bluethroats (blåstrupe) and Redstarts (rødstjert) amongst others. Siberian Jays (lavskrike) also took a while but we had Golden Eagle (kongeørn), Wood Sandpiper (grønnstilk) with young and Crested Tit (toppmeis) as we searched. In typical fashion when the jays did turn up they gave fantastic close views and Rob revealed that he is half jay by being able to imitate their call and having them fly at him.
A good drive took us into the mountains and the marsh Mountain Marsh Runners. We drove through lots of suitable Hawkie habitat but rather surprisingly failed to see one. There was one owl I felt confident of finding though hence the detour to Hedmark. We arrived at the Great Grey sight at 9pm and although there was dampness in the air and rather more wind than I would have liked I expected to open the car doors and hear the young begging for food. This wasn’t to be though and we searched the area for 15 minutes with sight or sound of an owl. After the display less than two weeks ago I was very surprised especially when I did find a youngster high up in a tree. It appeared healthy and was stretching and standing and looking well-fed but over the course of an hour and a half it did not make a single noise nor did we see a parent. This for me was baffling given the frequency of food deliveries previously and the constant begging from the youngsters. We only found the one youngster though so maybe the parents were with the other that had managed to move further away but then surely the bird we had found would have been screaming even louder for food? Perhaps the bird is now of an age that it recognises humans as a threat and it therefore quiet but the bird was still far from fledging with down still on it underparts and far from full grown wings although the pattern of the adults wing feathers was starting to show.

Day 1 was 12 hours birding and Day 2 18 hours before I got home – tiring but some absolutely great birding!

I’ll start with pictures of the Mountain Marsh Runner first. I was shocked to see that one picture was actually quite OK. The rest though were either blurd, I couldn’t find the bird or after much searching I found the tail. I’ve included some of these.

I think this picture was OK - especially when you see all the others

great camo

here I managed a bit of tail and wing

bird in habitat

a bit more wing
the bird stood like this for about 30 seconds just a shame there was all the grass in the way

Add caption

male Bluethroat - one of Norway's finest birds but sadly in decline

female Bluethroat with food for young. This is a colourful and therefore old female

Dotterel, snow and happy photographer

there were not many species to see on the mountain but here two different plovers briefly posed together

my best Dotterel shot which ain't too bad
Great Snipe at 2330 ISO 12800 1/15 sec

Great Snipe 00:30 ISO 12800 1/3 sec - not quite light enough!

the young Great Grey Owl slowly losing its down

Siberian Jay

Whimbrel. We also saw Redshank, Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper standing on top of trees - suddenly "shorebirds" seemed like the wrong name for these birds

Wood Sandpiper and tree

male Yellow Wagtail of the scandinavian race thunbergii. It has green and yellow in the grey on the head and if I had seen this in Israel this spring then I may have thought hybrid

A video as well and I stand by the title but choose to show it anyway. I had lent Rob my tripod so was handholding at midnight so I think it is amazing you can see anything!