Sunday, 19 January 2020

Adders from April 2019

In addition to the the Three-toed Woodpeckers I had also promised a blog post on Adders from last spring but have only just realised I had never got around to doing so with the reason being that I had taken far too much video and stills from that day and kept putting off going through them until I finally forgot about them...
I have now gone through them though and have some quite satisfying pictures of males fighting. I also filmed what I thought was mating but my videos only seem to show a male earnestly trying to mate but a female who was not yet opening up to his advances. I have put together a video though which while being quite long shows some interesting behaviour and was fun to make.

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the female was very distinctive
as was the Black (male) Adder

but the blue/grey males could also be told apart due to their head markings especially between the nostrils. Male #1
male #2

male #3

male #4

Friday, 17 January 2020

Swedish ringed Pine Grosbeak

I have previously this winter managed to read rings on two Pine Grosbeaks (a 100% success rate) in Oslo this winter and both turned out to have been ringed in Finland, see here and here.

Yesterday, I found another ringed bird and managed good enough pictures to see it was from Sweden and read the whole ring number. I have submitted the details and await a response - judging by how shiny the ring was I am assuming it was ringed this winter rather than on the breeding grounds but it will interesting never-the-less to know where it has come from . The response from the Swedish ringing centre took less than half a day and shows the bird was ringed (one of 15 that day according to on 25.10.2019 at Hammarö Bird Observatory at the northern end of the enormous Lake Vänern). Huge numbers (day totals in excess of 1000) were seen migrating south around Lake Vänern at the end of October and these birds will have re-orientated since them and some clearly have then headed north east.

I reckoned the bird to be an adult female due to rounded tail feathers but it will be interesting to see what the ringers recorded (I was wrong the ringers aged it as a first winter female). The bird was part of a flock of 7 birds of which 5 were red adult males and I judged the other bird to be a 1st winter male so very interesting that there was only one female and two youngsters but no adult females.

That Pine Grosbeaks are so confiding and such a popular subject for photographers has certainly resulted in a number of rings being read in southern Scandinavia this year and has increased the retrap/control rate infinitely as I think the chances of a bird being randomly retrapped in a net are as close to zero as it gets. A few birds have also been ringed in Norway, some by chance and others intentionally targeted and trapped. A picture of a bird was recently posted in Facebook from close to Oslo with a ring. I don’t think that the photographer had noticed the ring but had fortunately taken enough photos of good enough quality that the ring could be read. It turned out it had been ringed nearly two weeks previously in the same spot. Now, you would have thought that as ringing is all about collecting “useful” information that the ringer would have publicly recorded the ringing either on the local ringing group’s website, on the national bird records site or on Facebook because if photographers are kindly asked to keep a look out for these ringed birds and take photos then the chances of a control increases exponentially. Just look for example at the publicity the guys who colour rings Waxwings in Aberdeen make to ensure that people look for and report “their” birds. Now, I don’t know who the ringer is (due to them not having publicly reported the ringing) so will not draw any conclusions except to say that this type of thing is what makes me question the real motivation behind ringing. If the real motivation for trapping, man-handling and permanently blinging the Grosbeak was really to gain useful information then surely you would spend a further 5 minutes to make the photographers aware and ask for their help (there aren’t many who are like me and notice the ring and then think how helpful I could be by spending the (rather long) time to document it properly…).

the ringed bird eating spruce buds. Tail feathers look fairly rounded to me but the ringers aged it as a 1st winter female

and eating rowan berries 
and the ring succesfully deciphered

this bird was ringed whilst heading south earlier in the autumn and has clearly re-orientated and moved north west to Oslo at some point

I still can't get the back lit pictures to live up to my expectations when I press the shutter
this wasn't so bad but the photo is far too cluttered

this was the other non adult male in the flock of 7 (in addition to the ringed bird) and the pointed tail feathers and red feathering on the face mean I am confident this is a 1st winter male

perhaps the photo I am most happy with

the birds spent quite a bit of time feeding hidden in spruce trees but frequently returned to the rowan berries

Monday, 13 January 2020

Three-toed Woodpecker reunion

Today, I bumped into an old friend: the one toe, three toe who is a female Three-toed Woodpecker with a damaged right foot. She bred successfully in 2018 but in 2019 was chased away by another female who took the male she was already holding territory with. So, it was exciting to see that she is still going strong in Maridalen and hopefully I will bump into her in April and May when she should attempt to breed again.

Seeing her reminded me that I had not yet had the post I had promised about last years Three-toed Woodpeckers. Here at least is the video I had taken when the two females were fighting on 7 May 2019 and a couple of extra pictures that I never published last year. The video is 5 minutes long but shows fascinating behaviour between two females clearly fighting for a male and the chance to breed.

female Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett) today

the damaged middle toe that is very thin and sticks straight out can be seen

the same female photographed 24 April 2019. Note the same middle toe on the right foot plus the left hand toe that is broken and sticks up. One could often see the right foot slipping
male from last year


Saturday, 11 January 2020

Blessed by the Birds Gods

Well, the Bird Gods obviously weren’t quite sure what they thought of me yesterday and took a long time deliberating before finally giving me their blessing. And what a blessing it was. If anything they ended up over doing it so I must have used up all credit and now be in debt to them.

Whilst they were still deliberating in the morning we failed to find a GGO despite nearly three hours of searching. We then went to look for Grosbeaks and at this point the Gods teased me. We were rewarded with great views of the Grozzas for about three minutes before they and nearby Waxwings and Fieldfares were spooked and flew off. After this both Dave and Mark fell on the ice, we had the birds fly over us but not land and then a Sparrowhawk really spooked them seemingly for good. The Gods had clearly abandoned me and we retreated to the car to return to look for the owl. We stood by the car for a bit of food and drink and at this point the Gods looked down and clearly felt I had passed their test and was now worthy. I spotted a Grosbeak a couple of hundred metres away feeding on rowan berries and we made our way there. Three birds showed really well at very close range, memory cards were filled and things started feeling good. Deciding we really did need to go looking for the owl again we took a longer but safer path back to the car (the ice was treacherous) and passed the area where we had first seen the Grozzas two hours earlier and what do you know there were 10 birds back in glorious sunshine. More images were digitally recorded but we couldn’t stay long.

Driving back to look for the owl I really felt that things were going my way although I don’t think Dave and Mark were so optimistic. I decided our best bet was to stake out one of my news areas for the owl and after a half hours wait it finally showed!! Bingo and praise to the Gods 😊 It was initially moving about a bit too quickly and we lost it. Despite carefully looking for it we couldn’t find it but just as we all stood shoulder to shoulder and wondered where to do next I noticed something 5 metres above us in the next tree! I didn’t dare speak and just tapped a shoulder and pointed but could tell Dave and Mark were looking too far away but after what seemed like an age (probably just a couple of seconds) they adjusted their focus to macro and OMG the Gods clearly loved me. We were then treated to over half an hour of awesome GGO action and there were three very happy Englishmen who watched the sun setting, the moon rising and the owl hunting in silhouette.

I think I will be permitted to show a few more pics of my (current) two favourite species.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Still performing

Lots of Great Grey and Grosbeak action the last few days which bode well as I am guiding a couple of English guys for just these two species tomorrow. I hope I still have credit with the Bird Gods 😊

I finally saw a kill although have suspected a number of times before that a mouse has been caught and then eaten whilst the owl is out of sight on the ground

the plumage is actually good camouflage in a pine forest

here the ow had just had a preen and had this strange expression for a few seconds afterwards

and from the side the bill became far more visible

looks like two different ages of secondary feathers
it is still difficult to get tired of these beauties

difficult to know which plumage is best