Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Rough-legged Buzzard

After a slow start to the autumn birding scene in Norway things really kicked off today when a Cape May Warbler was pulled out of a net on the famous island of Utsira – this is a first for Norway and I believe only the fourth in the WP. With the winds dying down after westerly storms have pounded the coast of Norway it won’t be a surprise if more Yanks are uncovered. The forecast for the coming week is for easterlies so there should also get a good arrival of sibes. I won’t be able to get to Værøy but maybe I can find something good locally.

Yesterday I did decide to leave the forests of Oslo and head south east to Hellesjøvannet and then worked my way back via Nordre Øyeren. This proved to be a good choice and I had a number of good species. Hellesjøvannet gave me my first Great Grey Shrike of the autumn plus a flock of 36 Pochard (this species is surprisingly scarce in Norway and Hellesjøvannet is the best place for the species in the country). I also got to hear and then see at least 4 Bearded Tits – the species bred here for the first time in 2019 and if we have some more mild winters could become a regular fixture.

Buzzards were very visible over the stubble fields but I had no harriers and only a couple of Kestrels. I was hoping for Rough-legged Buzzard and did eventually find one which gave my probably best ever views of the species. It was a juvenile and I saw it first on the deck in a stubble field where it clearly had something in its claws. Two Ravens then gave it grief before it flew up with a mouse in its beak. The Ravens pursued it and the mouse was transferred to its claws before it flew away and evaded the Ravens. It turned up again not too long later and I was able to view it hunting whilst I used the car as a hide and sometimes it was too close for the 600mm lens. I also saw it sparring with Common Buzzards, had another one in the distance and a male Kestrel that caught a vole so it was all good but a Hen or Pallid Harrier would have topped it off.

Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were numerous on the fields and the presence of so many Skylarks reminded me of how I haven’t noted this species in Maridalen since the early summer. There were many singing males in Maridalen in May and there must have been breeding but during the course of July they all just seem to have vanished.

I checked out the Svellet area of Nordre Øyeren and did finally see a harrier with a juvenile Marsh showing well. A pair of White-tailed Eagles were eating something, probably a goose and looked very majestic. There were lots of geese during the day but I found nothing unusual amongst the hordes of Greylags and Barnacles.

I took so many pictures of the Rough-legged Buzzard and have struggled to choose the best ones to bare with me...

juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) with me in its sights

they hover a lot

getting grief from a Raven. Here with a mouse in its bill

which it transferred to its talons

female Bearded Tit (skjeggmeis) the faint black streaks in the crown make it a 1cy bird I think

it was quite windy which made it difficult to see them in the reeds but they made a lot of noise

and flew around occasionally so may be getting ready to irrupt as the species often does in the autumn (which is when they may turn up at Fornebu)

this Dunlin (myrsnipe) was a surprise at Hellesjøvannet

first Great Grey Shrike (varsler) of the autumn

biggest surprise of the day was this eacaped Swan Goose - not a species that turns up very often in Norway

a late and very warm coloured Wheateat (steinskvett)

White-tailed Eagles (havørn)

Comon Buzzards (musvåk) were numerous

juvenile Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) playing with a bullrush

some of the Pochards (taffeland) at Hellesjøvannet

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Pygmy Owl

Hazel Grouse is a species that is good to have staked out for guiding so I intend to use some time to get to know exactly where birds have territories this autumn and hopefully I will get payback for this later (if and when Covid-19 restrictions allow foreigners to visit without quarantining).

Currently feeding conditions are such that birds are seemingly using large areas as I am not finding birds in the same place two days on the trot. I am finding birds though and fairly easily. Yesterday I had two birds in the same area which I think were rival males rather than a pair. One bird was very cooperative and I got to see it both on the ground and perched in trees. Taking pictures of this species is always a challenge though: it is dark within the forest and they choose to walk or perch where they are protected so there are nearly always branches in the way and the autofocus (or at least mine) has huge problems locking onto the correct thing. With enough patience though they show in the open and as long as you don’t muck it up by having the wrong camera settings then an acceptable picture should be achieved. Today I had lots of out of focus shots and wasted opportunities but did walk away with some shots I am very happy with. In addition to the usual high pitched song of the male I also heard (for the first time) a quiet bubbling call which I have previously understood is the call of the female but unless there was an unseen female hiding behind the male then it seems that males also make this call.

I came across a large mixed tit flock today which had quite a few other species with it: Long-tailed, Blue, Willow, Great & Coal Tits plus Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Chiffchaff but the absence of finches is really noticeable. After last autumns bumper seed and berry crop (which was apparently in response to the very dry summer of the year before) it seems that the forest has nothing to give this year and a couple of Bramblings flying over were the only finches I noted.

I saw lots of signs of rodents though and had a VERY happy meeting with a Pygmy Owl. This species is usually the most likely owl you will encounter in Oslo’s coniferous forests but after rodent numbers crashed at the end of 2018 there have been hardly any observations and in 2020 there have been more Great Grey Owls seen (the first Oslo record was only in autumn 2019..) than Pygmy Owls! My last Oslo sighting of Pygmy Owl was on 7 Dec 2018 although I did hear one last October so to hear and then track down and spend some quality time with a male today was magic 😊

Pygmy Owl (spurveugle)

male Hazel Grouse (jerpe)


there were still at least 4 Common Buzzards (musvåk) in Maridalen. Hopefully some Rough-leggeds will come soon

I got close enough to this frog to see the reflection in its eyes

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Good weekend

Friday’s Hazel Grouse guiding was a success, I got an Oslo tick yesterday afternoon and then in the evening had a rare date night with Mrs OB so I have to say that this has been a good weekend so far 😊


Hazel Grouse is never an easy species to find and especially when it is your one and only target but whilst guiding on Friday we found two males including one just a couple of minutes from the car. Finding them is one thing but taking pictures and especially good ones is another. The first bird disappeared before allowing a shot but the second bird was far more interested in us and we had it around us and occasionally singing for a long time. Views though were usually in flight or very hidden behind branches although a couple of times it did show very well but flew off again before it could be digitally captured. My own photos were not my priority as I was guiding but I did manage a couple. Although nothing like the photos I had got earlier in the week (which I don’t think I will ever beat) they are not so bad for this species.


Yesterday whilst preparing Saturday morning breakfast of pancakes and a fry up a message came through of a Yellow-browed Warbler in Oslo. I still need this species for my Oslo list and was keen to see it. It was along a river through than industrial area that is supposed to be a nice place to walk and I suggested it as a nice place to walk the Beast and surprisingly enough was met with an affirmative response 😊 The bird was not easy to find but fell at last and even allowed itself to be digitally shot. Yellow-browed makes my autumn and as I will not be going to Værøy this year it means a lot to have seen this bird but I am still lacking something – I didn’t HEAR it! The call of YbW is actually the best bit of the bird and what really encapsulates the autumn birding feeling for me. My ears are open though and maybe I will hear one in the coming weeks as I walk the Beast…


Date night involved a very good dinner and then a social distanced cinema visit to see The Personal History of David Copperfield which once I realised wasn’t a biography of the illusionist turned out to be an exceedingly good film 😉

Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger)

Hazel Grouse (jerpe) - never easy whilst guiding but this isn't so bad

Common Buzzard (musvåk) in Maridalen

another Buzzard with a young Goshawk (hønsehauk)