Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Værøy 2018 day 1

The first full day on Værøy was plagued with strong westerly winds and frequent showers in the morning. Not exactly the conditions you hope for but we are not going to sit inside feeling sorry for ourselves.

There was no viz mig to talk about and birds were generally scarce but when you have Kjell Mjølsnes in your “crew” (I absolutely hate that word but can’t think of anything better at the moment…) then there will always be something. Kjell has an almost supernatural talent for finding acros and locustellas and today he found a Blyth’s Reed. He flushed it out of waist high vegetation and was confident of the ID just based on flight views. In the end the bird was chivvied into a specially erected net and the ID was confirmed although the bird was especially pallid in colour and I had hoped for something even scarce based on the flight views I had. Blyth’s Reed is always a cool bird but is in fact the only (and pretty much annual) acro we have had on Værøy and a Marsh or Reed would be more welcome.

Otherwise there were a few Snow Buntings and Twite, I flushed a Jack Snipe, had a Spotted Flycatcher (a Værøy first for me) and (only) a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers. With the strong westerlies I thought a seawatch would deliver the goods but gave up after 15 minutes when I hadn’t even seen a Fulmar. So, a bad day on Værøy.

the net is being erected in the background and the BRW was in the vegetation in front 
Blyth's Reed Warbler (busksanger)
the classic banana posture ;-)

Two Golden Plovers but unfortunately just of the common or garden variety

this flock of Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) have been feeding in gardens right up against the houses

Snow Bunting (snøspurv) 

this one was in a garden

late Spotted Flycatcher (gråfluesnapper)

Twite (bergirisk)

Monday, 24 September 2018

Værøy Prelude

Every year on the way to Værøy I have a long enough layover at Bodø airport to have a walk around the nearby graveyard. My hope has always been to find a Yellow-browed Warbler here and although I have found other good birds such as Hawk Owl and Arctic Redpoll I have never succeeded -until today that is. It was really quite windy and I wasn't expecting to find much but as I walked through some scrub I put up a couple of Meadow Pipits and Dunnocks.

I stopped to get my bins out of my backpack and whilst doing so heard a Chiffchaff and then a Yellow-browed - bingo!

It was cooperative enough that it even allowed me to get my camera out and take some photos (which can be seen here as I am unable to upload photos whilst blogging on my phone).

This surely bodes well for Værøy where the weather forecast is improving with less wind and rain now expected.

an hour on Værøy before it got dark gave a couple of Yellow-broweds, Snow Bunting, and Ring Ouzel. I now have internet so here is the Y-b from Bodø.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Sunday Morning Twitching!

I awoke just before 9 this morning and a check of my phone revealed a load of bird messages. Andreas was on his boat and seeing lots of nice things. A great Skua eating a Herring Gull off the bow of his boat at least provided the answer to the ID of a skua reported by a number of people over the last couple of days. He also had Gannet and Fulmar in Oslo territorial waters and the King Eider was still present. This was a bit too much as it offered two Oslo ticks, so I headed off (although had to first reassemble all my optics which were already ready for the Værøy trip).

My first destination was the museums at Bygdøy where I was early enough to park where I shouldn’t park and have a very short walk to a good vantage point. A flock of 4 Oystercatchers and a Bar-tailed Godwit was a good start (the godwit being most likely the bird I had on Nakkholmen last week and which has been reported on and off from Bygdøy since) and a scan of the fairly calm fjord revealed the Great Skua on water aside a dead gull. Well that was an easy start! It was a bit distant and soon flew a bit and allowed some poor photos. After this I headed for Huk where a juvenile Gannet, and my second Oslo tick in the course of 10 minutes was sitting on the sea. A further scan revealed that the reported Fulmar was now eating the dead gull that the skua had previously been on and my twitching could be classified as a resounding success!

Things got even better though as Anders BS reported a Yellow-browed Warbler from Fornebu and I discovered that it only takes 10 minutes to drive there. And after a couple of minutes wait I heard and then more importantly saw the bird. I’ve never experienced twitching like this before 😊

Fornebu was very birdy with lots of Linnets, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings plus Wheatear, Whinchat and Long-tailed Tits in the course of under a half hour and I’m sure there was more lurking out there.

My next update will be from Værøy. Over & out.

Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger) at Fornebu!

Great Skua (storjo)

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Better seawatching

The winds became even more favourable yesterday afternoon with them being pure southerly and up to storm force. I positioned myself at Krokstrand for nearly six hours using the car as a base to seek cover during the frequent deluges. Things started well with the first rain storm bringing with it a load of Gannets and Fulmars with both of these species then being seen regularly after this with a single group of 38 Gannets and 8 Fulmar seen on a single sweep although estimating the total numbers was very difficult because I think I was seeing the same birds circling around during the whole period (others take a far less conservative approach though and would have probably reported at least twice the numbers I did).

With Gannets and Fulmars being such proper seabirds then I was expecting other species, but a single Kittiwake and a few auks was it!! This is clearly a sign that there were very few birds in the outer Oslofjord in the first place and sites further south had a bit more variety but no large numbers with especially Kittiwake being surprisingly scarce. The winds continued until around midnight before becoming more westerly and this must have pushed in more birds because people who were watching from dawn in Østfold today had Cory’s, Sooty and Manx Shearwaters all heading south and out of the fjord.

I leave for Værøy on Monday but I have to be honest and say that expectations are not high. With the current weather forecast I am not even sure I will see Yellow-browed Warbler and our sights are set more on seabirds and a yankee or two.

Fulmar (havhest) - there was areal swell today and the Fulmars were shearing around

13 or so Gannets (havsuler) from a single group of 38

some closer Gannets

and the days only Kittiwake (krykkje)

Thursday, 20 September 2018


Seawatching, or at least the form of it that I occasionally engage in, must be a sign of madness. You sit there for hours on end, getting cold, staring at the sea, staring at more sea, drinking some coffee to stay awake and warm and if you are lucky you see a couple of seabirds. Such was it today when strong southerly winds had me scurrying to Krokstrand early in the morning where I found Øyvind H and Jerry S were already staring through their scopes at…….a birdless sea….

There was wind though and white tops to the waves so hope lived on. Three and half hours of watching though gave only 3 Fulmars, 15 or so Guillemots going in both directions and strangest of all a young Hobby flying south, into the wind, in the middle of the fjord only a couple of metres over the water. At one stage I had the Hobby and a Fulmar in the same scope view which cannot have been seen by many others before.

One of the Fulmars stayed in the area all the time and was often sitting on the water. This was a sure sign that the bird was weak (possibly with a stomach full of plastic) and at one stage we had it over the water only 15 or so metres from us. I can’t remember having seen a Fulmar so close before but despite this intimacy I really struggled to get sharp and well exposed pictures – I still have to get used to the new camera and which settings I need to use.

Add caption

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Back to normal

 A new week and a new chance to find something suitably rare at Nordre Øyeren.

Yesterday I enjoyed a couple of Hen Harriers, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine as well as the first Great Grey Shrike of the autumn. I again spotted the Great White Egret from the car but the highlight was a Great Snipe that flew up from under my feet and flew in a nice arc around me before landing on the other side of a ditch. I had my scope over one shoulder and camera on the other but unfortunately didn’t even think of trying to lift the camera and just enjoyed the bird in the bins. The extensive white on the tail and especially the white bars on the wing coverts were diagnostic. Unusually (and a first I think for me) it called when flying up (a low, deep grunt). Otherwise there were hardly any waders left despite there being mud – just 5 Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plovers.

Today I had the company of Anders BS and we had an even better day. We had three Hen Harriers which we saw together (an adult female and 2 1cy birds) and the two youngsters spent a lot of time playing together and at one stage had the company of two equally playful young Peregrines. The views were a bit too long range (they always appeared where we had been 5 minutes previously) but it was absolutely fantastic watching them. We also had an adult Peregrine, 2 late Ospreys and distant adult White-tailed Eagle, the first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn and most interesting 5 fabalis Bean Geese. I picked them up calling in flight and took a little while to be happy with their identity before they briefly landed before leaving again heading to the south. The last remaining functioning GPS transmitter on the Scottish birds has recently phoned in from the traditional staging grounds further north at Horgen and these 5 birds are quite likely to be from the same population that just lost their way a bit in the bad weather of late.

The highlight of the day though came when we were scanning through the geese at Svellet. The unmistakeable (or nearly so) call of a Yellow-browed Warbler came from an area of willows. Over the course of the next half an hour we heard it three more times but just couldn’t see it (despite use of playback). There were at least 3 Chiffchaffs with easterly calls in the same bushes and a Blackcap also popped up for a couple of seconds but otherwise didn’t call during the whole period. Very frustrating not to see the bird although it was almost an expected species as a few have been turning up inland over the last few days.

Due to an atrocious weather forecast (although it does open up for the chance of a yank) I have postponed and shortened my trip to Værøy so instead of 20-27 Sept it is now 23-28 Sept. The current weather forecast is still not great for that period with too much wind from the wrong directions but I am at least more or less guaranteed seeing a Y-b Warbler 😉

Bar-headed Goose (stripegås) yesterday

juvenile Buzzard (musvåk) yesterday

same bird - I saw it from the car and came a bit too close

and an adult Buzzard in Maridalen yesterday with clear cut dark trailing edge to wing and tail a well moulting primaries 
Great Grey Shrike (varsler) yesterday

Great White Egret (egretthegre)

adult female Hen Harrier (myrhauk) yesterday

1cy Hen Harrier yesterday hunting Common Snipe (enkeltbekkasin)

same 1cy Hen Harrier - probably a female

my first Long-tailed Tit (stjertmeis) in a long time

1cy Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) yesterday
same bird

Osprey (fiskeørn) - another adult male I believe

juvenile Peregrine (vandrefalk)

same bird which looks to be UNringed

the Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family in Maridalen has lost another youngster (from 7 to 4 and now to 3). I have seen a fix in the area and mink but dogs are also a potential cause of the deaths/disappearances
the 2 juvenile Hen Harriers today.
the upper bird was very red in colour (also visible on the upperside). The head pattern of the lower bird looks to be the same as I photographed yesterday

one of the two juveniles, the pale eye shows this to be a male and the other bird seemed larger and was probably a female

adult female Hen Harrier probably the same bird as on previous ays

5 Taiga Bean Geese (taigasædgjås)

Whooper Swan
the Great Grey Shrike today

and a ringed juvenile Peregrine today

Kestrel (tårnfalk) - the qualities of the new camera and lens are very apparant in flight photos like these