BIRD GUIDING AROUND OSLO

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Wren surviving

Despite the cold weather we have now had for way over a month the local Wren is still surviving. On a walk to the shops this morning he gave away his presence with his characteristic buzzing call before flying over the road. Otherwise no surprises on the birding front. In the last week I have noted a couple of Waxwings, 2 Redpoll and a Siskin alongside the regular birds in the garden and surrounding area.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

London calling

A weekend trip to England around Henley and West London produced Red Kite, Buzzard, Redwing, Stock Dove, Ring Necked Parakeet - all birds you would be very hard pressed to find in Norway at the moment.

Here in Oslo it is now 3 weeks since the mercury was north of zero and at last we have enough snow to enable some skiing which will hopefully be on the cards this weekend.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Peregrine

A biting cold walk around the city centre in Oslo was rewarded (as hoped) with a Peregrine. I didn't find it on the church spire where it usually hangs out but as I approached the government offices where is also is seen I looked up to see feathers floating down. A sure sign that it was up there somewhere plucking at a kill and sure enough I soon located it on a window sill on the relatively low 9th floor with a pigeon for its lunch. This quality picture taken with the mobile shows all the salient features!
Some exotic berry bearing bushes had 15 Fieldfares and 5 Blackbirds feeding on them but no Waxwings.
It is now -16C with possibly down to -20C at the weekend. At these temperatures it does start getting unpleasant if you forget to wrap up!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Chilly

The air temperature is -10C and with a biting northerly wind it feels much colder when you are out. Nothing much to report other than the comings and goings at the garden feeder. Highlight today was 3 Goldfinches briefly joining 12 Tree Sparrows. The Robin and a Blackbird are still around but there is no guarantee that they will hang around if the weather continues like this and especially once the snow comes.

Friday, 26 November 2010

It ain't over until the......

A norwegian tick yesterday was very welcome and proof that birding can always be interesting no matter the weather or time of the year.
A Grey Phalarope had been present for the last 3 days at Linnesstranda just 30 minutes from Oslo and I had the opportunity to pop down. When I first got there I was worried that the bird had left as there was a lot more ice than I expected however I soon found it at about 300m range amongst some Mallards. The bird was very active and was flying around a lot. At one stage it came a lot closer but by the time I had attached the camera to the 'scope then it had gone again this time flying a large loop of the area including over trees inland. I assume that the ice and cold was getting enough for the bird and reminding it that it should be a long way south in nutrient rich waters. It returned briefly to the water but then soon was flying away over the fjord until lost out of sight. 15 minutes after arriving it was gone - good timing by me for once.
Very little else to see although a calling Marsh Tit was only my 3rd record this year.

Monday, 22 November 2010

I was home again today with an ill 2 year old. Yet another opportunity to chart the comings and goings at the garden feeder. Significantly more birds today than on Friday with minimum of 10 each of House and Tree Sparrow and Greenfinch. Fewer Blue and Great Tits today though but the Robin is still around. Highlight though was 2 male Redpolls which hung around for a while. One was at the whiter end of the spectrum and invited thought of an Artic Redpoll briefly.
The forecast is for temperatures down to -15C by the end of this week so maybe this will result in an even further increase in bird numbers.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Garden birding

A day working from home allowed me to observe the comings and goings in the garden and I was surprised by the numbers of birds. Best were 2 male Bullfinches feeding on seedheads, 2 Fieldfares feeding on fallen apples, a male Blackbird and a Robin finding food under the feeders and on the feeders a couple of Greenfinches, at least 10 Great Tits, 4 Blue Tits, 6 Tree Sparrows and around 10 House Sparrows. The Great Tits are looking to be very healthy with shiny plumage and seeming good body weight - in previous years they have looked very taty so presumeably this summer and autumn has been good for them.

Maridalen in the cold

It is under -5 ceclcius at the moment and forecast to go below -10 next week but without any significant snow. I drove around Maridalen this morning hoping for something exciting (maybe Pine Grosbeak - I am ever hopefull). The lake now has ice round the edges but less than I expected probably as a result of fresh winds keeping the water moving.
3 Cormorants and a Goldeneye were to be expected but a Great Crested Grebe was definitely not. This is only my second record on the lake and a november record is unusual anywhere around Oslo. 4 Whooper Swans flew over heading south and in fields I had 60 Yellowhammer and 40 Tree Sparrows still managing to find some food.
I also had these3 Roe Deer:

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Winter is still coming

It is below freezing all the time at the moment and snow is forecast for tonight. A quick drive around Maridalen today revealed 3 adult Whooper Swans and a Goldeneye on the lake, a male Goshawk over and a few Bullfinches and Yellowhammers.
There was a frost covering the fields, the edges of the lake are starting to freeze and the there was mist over the lake - very atmospheric.


This isn't at Maridalen, but something I saw in London at St. James Park on Tuesday, can I tick it?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The gloom decends

The day before the clocks change and it was really gloomy. Low dark cloud and rain all day meant that it never really got light - we had to have the lights on in the house all day. I tried some half hearted birding cum car driving in an attempt to find Pine Grosbeak which are now invading norway. I checked out areas with berry trees that I know of with no luck. I did find about 50 Waxwing, a Redwing and a Nutcracker though. Later on a drive around Maridalen revealed a Cormorant, Tufted Duck, 2 Goldeneye and 8 Mallard on the lake and in the fields 300+ Fieldfare, 1 Brambling and a couple of Yellowhammer.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

It was cold

Today I travelled with Per Christan Moan to particpate in the NOFOA autumn trip to Aurskog Høland. We left Oslo at 0730 whilst still dark and as we made our way to the meeting point at Fetsund it slowly became light revealing a frost covered countryside that didn't look particularly conducive to a goods day birding. After meeting up with the 15 or so other keen birders we drove on to our first stop of Haneborg. Along the way there were many Roe Deer although still few birds. At Haneborg there was no flooding and just bare fields with a Sparrowhawk overhead and a tailess Meadow Pipit in a field. Next stop was Kjelle where there was some flooding but it was all frozen so no waterbirds! A Great Grey Shrike here was the highlight of the trip along with fly over Waxwing and Goshawk.

Onto Bjørkelangsjøen where there was open water but no birds! A flock of 11 Long Tailed Tits errupting out of nearby were as always a good record.

On the way to Hellesjøvannet was a flock of 120 Canada Geese and 3 Whooper Swans in roadsode fields. Whilst watching these we picked up a distant Buzzard and another 4 Whooper Swans flew over. At Hellesjøvannet there was only ice around the edges but again few birds. In the fields were 10 Whooper Swans with 15 Canada and 1 Greylag Goose and on the water a Tufted and a handful of Goosander. Around the edges were 2 Snipe and a Reed Bunting. By now a northerly wind was blowing across the flat farmland and it was getting cold...very cold. A little walk and some food managed to warm me up a bit.

Final stop of the day was Hemnesjøvannet. At various stops around the lake we had a flock of 50 or so Starlings, another Buzzard, 300 Grelags, 4 Coot, Great Crested Grebes, Goldenye, Whooper Swan and Greylag Goose.

Autumn feels like it is nearly over. There will be probably be little productive birding in the coming months although records from further north in Norway and in Sweden suggest that an invasion of Pine Grosbeaks may be on the way which is a much needed tick.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Cruising the Oslo fjord

Seal

Velvet Scoters

Pomarine Skua




Veclvet Scoters and Purple Sandpiper (can you see it?)

Today was the annual boat trip in the Oslo fjord organised by the local birding society (NOFOA). The weather was lovely, sunny and no wind which unfortunately was not too promising for birds but as it turned out the day was a big success. There was a good turn out with at least 30 birders and I had my eldest daughter with me.
Highlight of the trip was a skua which I was lucky enough to find but took a long time to identify despite it sitting on the water less than 10 metres from the boat. Problem was that it didn't want to fly! Eventually it did fly but then away from us. However we were lucky enough that someone took a couple of hundred (!) pictures of which a couple captured the underwing including the diagnostic double white flashes (before seeing these pictures I had proclaimed with certainty it was an Arctic! - we live and learn). Studying the my own pictures of the bird on the water also show it has dark tips to the primaries which further distinguish it from Arctic which pas pale tips.
2 Little Auks were also great birds and unexpected in such calm weather. 3 Red Throated Divers, a Long Tailed Duck, 1 Common Scoter, 30+ Velvet Scoters, 3 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Dunlin complemented the common species such as Eider, Red Breasted Merganser
We als had very good views of four seals (not sure which type) and jelly fish were quite numerous.

Waxwings

A clear sign that winter is soon coming (in addition to be it -4C over night) was the sound of Waxwings flying over head yesterday. I didn't actually see them but heard them twice during the day along with Hawfinch.
Today is the annual NOFOA boat trip in the Oslo fjord. Apart from frost bite I'm not sure what we'll see this year as there have not been any southerly storms to push birds up the fjord recently.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Local birding

A walk around the local area turned up a few birds. The best bird was also one of the first: a Merlin dashing over the road in front of us. Flocks of Starlings andd Fieldfares were obvious as they fed on apples in the gardens, amongst them were as few Song Thrush, Redwing and Blackbirds. Finches were scarce but I saw a flock of 7 Bullfinch, a few Siskin and a single Chaffinch. Amongst a flock of Blue and Great Tits was a single late Chiffchaff. A calling Wren was an unusual sound this year after the cold winter cut the population to, I believe, under 10% of its level last year.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Brighton Birding

A few days back in the UK included a rare 24 hours alone with the wife staying in Brighton. There was a constant stram of hirundines along the beach, mostly Swallows but also a few Sand Martins among them. Little else to see except a Sandwich Tern offshore.

It was still 20 celcius in the south of england and you got the feeling that autumn was aournd the corner with some yellow leaves on the trees. Back in Oslo with 8 degrees and the trees now golden there is no doubt autumn is here.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

On the bike

An hours bike ride around Maridalen this morning gave me a little bit of exercise and a little bit of birding.
Birding highlights were 150 Greylag Geese, the family of Whooper Swans and an adult Black Throated Diver. A couple of distant black ducks were most likely Common Scoter and a group of 7 ducks that flew in and joined the geese were probably Wigen but by this time I was watching the geese at over 1km range. Around the lake were Fieldfares and Redwings, Yellowhammers and flocks of Tits and Goldcrests which seem to have had a good breeding season after being very scare this spring following the cold winter. A female Sparrowhawk flew across the road in front of me and a flock of 10 Jays was an unusual sight.
Exercise highlights were a massive 17km and a top speed of 45km/hour - Tor Hushovd should be afraid - very afraid.

I have just started feeding the birds in the garden again and already Blue and Great Tits, House and Tree Sparrows, Greenfinches and a Nuthatch have discovered the sunflower seeds. Nutcrackers are still in the area but will soon disappear as suddenly as they appeared in August.

Monday, 27 September 2010

"local" patch

Yesterday I managed a visit to local patch, Maridalen for the first time in what feels like months.

The lake had good numbers of geese which looked like they had been disturbed from the nearby stubble fields. There were 340 Greylag and 20 Pink Feet along with 2 adult and 2 juv Whooper Swans which were presumeably the family that bred there this year. This is by far the largest flock of Greylags I have ever seen here. Little else to see, just singles of Goosander and Goldeneye.

A Blackcap in the garden was a latish migrant.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A norwegian tick






Finally I managed some birding with a couple of hours at Årnestangen on friday and was rewarded with a norwegian tick in the form of a Red Throated Pipit. No great veiws unfortunately just a flushed bird calling but the call is distinctive enough.
Unfortunately the water levels have risen very quickly lately so there was only a tiny amount of mud left which held just a single Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plover (a couple of days earlier there had over 100 waders of many species).
A late Cuckoo was the closest I came to a raptor and my first Great Grey Shrike of the autumn was nice. There were many hundred wildfowl and swans but as is often the case they were very distant and difficult to identify to species. 400+ Cormorants were feeding close in though in a fast moving flock that was obviously chasing a shoal of fish.
A very large caterpillar feeding on vegetation in a field was I presume a Swallowtail Butterly.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Garden birding

A new job is all good and well but it really puts a damper on my birding. Garden birding is the best I can do at the moment.

Today 5 Blackcaps were feeding on berries in the garden, Fieldfares feeding on fallen apples and a Nutcracker has been a regular guest this week feeding on hazlenuts. It bites off the end of the branch that holds the nuts and then flies with it to a perch where it extracts the nuts. These 2 pictures show the Nutcracker through the kitchen windown and also the results of its activities.




Sunday, 22 August 2010

Camp as a row of tents

Time for the family's second camping trip of the year and a chance for the first birding in a couple of weeks. Destination was Øyungen, a lake in Nordmarka just north of the city. Arriving in the evening it was very quite. A Black Throated Diver was on the lake and a few Swallows and House Martins were hawking insects but in the firest it was almost completely silent. Towards dusk a couple of Nutcrackers flew over and a Black Woodpecker called in the distance.
At night there was not a sound to be heard - no owls unfortunately. Waking early in the morning I was rewarded by an Osprey, 2 Grey Herons and singing Willow and Crested Tits in the forest. Overhead a Tree Pipit flew south but by 9am everything had gone quiet again.
Highlight of the trip was in fact not a bird but catching a medium sized perch.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Little time for birding

Birding is taking a bit of a back seat at the moment as I'm back in gainful paid employment rather being able to bird at my leisure as I have been lucky enough to do over the last few months.
Despite not being out in the field it is difficult to escape the sings of autumn: in the garden I hear the gentle "hoet" call of Willow Warblers moving through, overhead Nutcrackers are a frequent sight as they search for hazelnuts in the gardens and Swifts and Fieldfares are starting to flock and move through in a purposeful manner.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Quiet August days

Back in Oslo I have been too busy to do any serious birding but a couple of trips into the forests of Nordmarka where we picked some very juicy blueberries revealed mixed feeding flocks of Tits containing Crested, Willow and Coal, Black Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatchers, Bullfinches and singing Crossbills.
This time of the year should be producing waders a plenty at Nordre Øyeren but unfortunately water levels are too high for much mud to be exposed and apparantly an adult and juvenile Peregrine have also taken up residence by the best area of mud resulting in very waders being brave enough to hang around!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Oslo

We are back in Oslo now after 5 weeks holiday around norway. The last days around Bodø saw little in the way of birding with other activities taking precedence including some swimming in truly ice cold water. Whilst on a fishing come boat trip I twice saw a young Peregrine Falcon which whilst being nice to see was a disappointment as I know the area to have the even more impressive Gyr Falcon.

Back in Oslo I was woken by a calling Wryneck in the garden which I failed to see but did see an overflying Nutcracker (they descend on Oslo in late summer to feed in gardens with Hazel nuts being a favourite) and had a young Blackcap singing in the garden.

There is now very little bird song/call to hear and most birds are young ones. In the garden in addition to the Blackcap there are young Robins, Fieldfares and Wood Pigeons and overhead young House Martins are making lots of noise.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Hytte birding

We have spent 3 days at the family cabin (or hytte as they say in Norway) near Naurstad which is 30 minutes inland from Bodø by a small fjord. The fjord had feeding pairs of Red and Black Throated Divers alongside more numerous Oystercatchers and Common and Herring Gulls. A lone Lesser Black Backed Gull was of the race fuscus and a Grey Heron, Redshank and Common Tern also put in an appearance. 2 Waxwings flying over were unexpected and perhaps indicative of local breeding. Redpolls were common including a fine male feeding om grass seedheads only yards away. A Woodcock flew over in the evening and nearby we had an elk and fox. A well worn animal track up from the fjord to the cabin which continued under the veranda was presumeably from an otter. Nearby farmland turned up a surprising flock of 13 Ruff which comprised both males and females all of which appeared to be juveniles. The size difference between the sexes was very obvious with the males appearing twice as large as the females. Also nearby a flock of 15 GoldenPlover and a single Shelduck, 3 Yellow Wagtails and a family party of Spotted Flycatchers.


A day trip to visit relatives at Røsvik (north of Fauske) had us passing Klungsevika which is a well known bay which often holds good numbers of duck, divers and waders. There were many duck but without a scope I had trouble identifying them at distance. There were definitely many hundred Velvet Scoter plus over 100 Goldeneye and Eider, 3Long Tailed Duck and small numbers of Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Red Breasted Merganser along with 7 Black Throated Divers. We also passed Kvittblikvannet where again a telescope would have come in handy. I did pick out a couple of Slavonian Grebes, a family party of Whooper Swans, Wigeon and Tufted Ducks. Røsvik is a small village by a bay in a fjord and we were greeted by glorious sunshine and 23 degrees. There were many hundreds of gulls here including Black Headed which must have bred nearby as there were many newly fledged young. Eiders, Goosanders and Red Breated Mergansers were on the see and waders were represented by Oysrtcathcer, Redshank and Curlew. 2 porpoises were also glimpsed. A Golden Plover in a small cemetry under large trees was an unexpected sight. 2 Reindeer along the road must have been tame animals but 3 elk by the road on the way home were definitely not and included the first horned male I have ever seen.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Værøy, Røst & Bodø

We took the ferry back from Værøy to Bodø today via Røst. We all took sea sickness tablets after the uncomfortable journey out but in the end had a relatively gentle trip. The birding was quite rewarding a well worth getting cold for. Birds seem to be most numerous between 1 and 2 km offshore and in sight on the breeding cliffs with relatively little to see further out or closer in. Highlights were in total 13 STRORM PETRELS close to Røst which is a norwegian tick for me despite having taking this same ferry route 3 times previously. Also 4 Great Skuas were a good bird. Puffins were easily the most numerous bird and in addition to many flocks of birds on the sea they could be seen distantly swarming around their breeding sites on both Værøy and Røst. Razorbills and Black Guillemots were seen in 10's but I noted only a single Guillemot. Kittiwakes were also numerous including a breeding colony on a house in the harbour at Røst which you can just about mak out in this picture. I also saw my first Fulmars of 2010 and noted a single Cormorant amongst numerous Shags.

On Thursday I noted Ring Ouzel on Værøy and also saw a single seal.

Here are a selection of pictures showing Værøy from various angles and in different weather conditions. When the sun shines it really is a beatiful place. In the middle picture the pond to the left of the picture was the location for the King Eider.




Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Still on Værøy

Another day on Værøy. Off the north of the island were good numbers of Kittiwakes plus a few Goosander (rather than Mergansers). A pair of Lesser Black Backed Gulls looked to be closer to the race Intermidius although apparantly there might be a hybrid population in this part of Norway between Graellsii and Fuscus which rather complicates matters . Highlight was a light phase Arctic Skua. On land a Cuckoo seen twice perched on wires and dropping down for food was possibly a returning migrant bird as were 2 Whimbrels on the shore. Overhead 2 adult White Tailed Eagles were circling over the cliff top.
Back around the wetlands near the harbour the female King Eider was still present on the same pool alongside a female Pintail with 7 young in tow.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Værøy

Lesser Black-backed Gull ssp.Graellsii
Female King Eider
Spending a few days on the island of Værøy which is one of the outer Lofoten islands. Birdlife is scarce here (if you don’t count the seabird colonies which are only accessible by boat). Around the harbour were numerous Herring and Common Gulls with smaller numbers of Great Black backed Gulls. Amongst them were 2 Lesser Black Backed Gulls which were of the British race Graellsii. Birds of this race apparantly breed in Lofoten alongside fuscus. A couple of Kittiwakes were year ticks as were a couple of Gannets seen distantly over the sea. A few Common Terns were fishing in the harbour to add to a couple of Arctic Terns seen yesterday on the ferry ride over (this was a very very choppy ride with much vomiting!!). Eider ducks, Greylag Geese and Red Breasted Mergansers were common and all had young along with a a handful of Mallards including a female with 3 young. Best duck though was a female King Eider which gave great views and was even heard calling. This bird had a large amount of fishing line around its body which probably explains why it was here at this time of the year.Waders were represent by a pair of Runged Pover, Redshank and Oystecatcher. Passerines were represented by numerous Redpolls pluss maller numbers of Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, House Sparrow, Starling and Willow Warbler.
A scan of the sea at the north of the island had close in Black Guillemot, Razorbill and Shag and distant groups of Puffins flying past.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

North of the Arctic Circle

Spending a few days in Bodø which lies just north of the arctic circle. Little to report birdwise so far with just a White-tailed Eagle, a Black Guillemot and some truly wild Greylag Geese to liven things up. The following picture was taken at quarter to one at night!
The midnight sun unfortunately was not visible as it was behind an island but here you can see the light from the sun as it rises!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Further mountain sightings

Bygdin Lake

Rainbow over Valdresflya

Haugseter hotel from Vinstre lake

We were unexpectedly without internet the last week of our stay in the mountains so I was unable to post any updates. We moved down slightly below the tree line to the town of Beitostølen for the last week. Here birdlife was richer than at Haugseter. Around the town regular species included Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Bluethroat, Golden Plover, Redshank, Lesser Whitethroat, Teal, Cuckoo, Redpoll, Willow Warbler, Wheatear, Reed Bunting, Swift, Swallow and House Martin. A little more special was an immature Golden Eagle on 8 July and rarest of all a hybrid Swallow x House Martin on 5 July. This was consorting with Swallows (and was perhaps paired with one) but was seen inspecting nest sites under the eaves of a barn that would have been more suitable for a House Martin. I saw the bird well and noted the general Swallow appearance but with White Rump, short tail streamers and much reduced red throat and chest band. This is the second I have seen in Norway after one in Bodø about 10 years ago. Another trip to Valdresflya on Friday 2nd July did not reveal too many more species. This time I walked around the lakes to the east of the road and yet again was struck by how few birds there were. On the lakes 2 males Long Tailed Ducks were very nice as was a male Scaup but otherwise there was just a pair of Tufted Duck, a female Teal and a handful of Common Gulls. Waders were represented by 4 Golden Plover, 2 Dunlin and a Ringed Plover. A single Rough Legged Buzzard was the only raptor and passerines were represented by a nesting pair of Wheatear and a single Shorelark. The most numerous bird was Raven with 16(!) spread around the area mostly feeding on the ground – presumeably looking for insects of some kind. Such a high density of Ravens must surely have a negative effect on breeding ducks and waders especially when rodents are lacking. Best sighting was probably reindeer which unfortunately are not wild but nonetheless an impressive sight.


Otherwise we tried to identify the butterflies we saw. There appear to be at least 3 different types of Fritillary butterfly in these parts and below are pictures of what I believe are 2 different species:



Thursday, 1 July 2010

Valdresflya



We went up to Valdresflya today one of the most accesible areas in southern norway for mountain specialities. This area is one of the most reliable for Long Tailed Skua in Norway but their abundance along with many other species is dependent on the rodent population and this year appears to be at the bottom of the cycle with no sign of lemmings at all. Correspondingly there was little to see today. We did find one Dotterel though - a male that was acting as though we had disturbed it from its nest. Dotterel is one of my very favourite birds and a trip to the mountains does not feel complete without seeing one.
Otherwise there were a few Wheatear and Meadow Pipits, three singing Shorelarks, a fine singing Lapland Bunting, a single Rough Legged Buzzard, just one Ringed Plover and most surprisingly only one Golden Plover. Normally I would have expected to see many tens of Golden Plovers along with Dunlin and maybe Purple Sandpipers aswell as Skuas.
Driving back along Vinstre lake there were more Ducks visible than previously and one flock contained 3 Scaup alongside 13 Tufted and 13 Goldeneye.

Yesterday evening I was out from 2130 until 0130 (which involved getting locked out of the hotel) in a quest to find lekking Great Snipe. Despite is being virtually windless and this perfect listening conditions, and despite the habitat looking good I was unable to find any. I did have 2 Woodcock in an area of birch trees and an Elk above the tree line but the only Snipe were 2 singing Common Snipe one of which was at the hotel.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Rain sets in

The area yesterday in the sun
The weather turned for the worse today and a morning walk had to be cut short as the protestations from the kids could no longer be ignored. Highlight was a male Scaup and 3 Cranes.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Jotunheimen

We are holidaying in the Jotunheimen mountains of central norway. Currently we are staying at Haugseter, a small mountain hotel 1050 metres up by the lake of Vinstra. We have been lucky with the weather with temperatures around 17C and a good deal of sun. Birds around the hotel and lake are typical mountain birds. On lake I have had Black Throated Diver, Goosander and Red Breasted Merganser and a flock of 8 Common Scoters. There is an unusually diverse range of gulls and terns for an inland lake at such altitude with 5 Arctic Terns, numerous Common Gulls, 2 Black Headed Gulls and a Herring Gull. 3 Cranes in flight over the lake were probably non breeders although they do breed in the area. Waders are in shorter supply with a few Snipe, Redshank and Golden Plover in the marshes bordering the lake and Common Sandpiper on the margins of the lake itself. Also in the marshes bordering the lake are Tufted Duck and Teal. On looking out of the window this morning the first bird I saw was an adult Golden Eagle over the ridge behind the hotel. The only other raptors we have seen so far have been 2 male Hen Harriers which are a rare breeder in Norway (I would much prefer to see the relatively far commoner Gyr Falcon!). Passerines are represented by Bluethroat, Willow Warbler, Yellow and White Wagtail, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Fieldfare.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Cuckoo

I tempted the girls out to Maridalen this evening with the hope of seeing baby Tawny Owls out of the nest. Unfortunately we could not find them but judging by the noise being made by a couple of Blackbirds they were there but unfortuantely in area we would not get to. We did get to see a couple of broods of Pieds Flys in nestboxes and heard a Cuckoo which was a patch tick for me.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Summer lull

After a week of so so weather the sun has returned and temperatures will rise over 20C this week. A bike ride around Maridalen this morning revealed that summer is here and birds are busy raising families with nothing in the way of migration to note. Warblers were well represented with Willow, Garden, Icterine, Blackap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff heard along with a few Spotted Flycatchers and a Hawfinch. No further sign of the Hobby but if they are breeding then they will become more obvious later in the summer when they have young to feed.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Joy and sadness

The Blue Tits are very active and vocal in the nest box and a quick look today showed 5 large young which will surely fledge in the next couple of days (2 weeks later than in my parents garden in UK). The Great Tits on the other hand suddenly stopped visiting the box and both adults were causing great consternation for the Blue Tits by investigating their nest box. After being sure that the Great Tits were no longer visiting their own nest I took down the box to find 5 unhatched eggs which the female has been brooding for over 6 weeks nos. Presumeably after sitting on the eggs for over a month the female had accepted that they were not going to hatch. I wonder whether the bird feels anything or if there is just a natural response after a certain period of time. After I had taken the box down both Great Tits returned to where it had been and looked very confused. I put it back up (with eggs and nest removed) and will see what they do. In previous years they have failed at the nestling stage and then gone on to try again either in the same box after I have cleaned it out or in the other box if it was empty. I feel that this year it is too late for them to try again but we will see.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Some real birding

A full mornings birding was the order of the day. Started at 5am at Årnestangen. With a brisk northerly breeze it was quite chilly despite the sun. By the car park were 2 singing Marsh Warblers who were interacting quite a lot and a third bird present was presumeably a female. I walked all the way to the end and was not really rewarded for my efforts. A ploughed field held a Little Ringed Plover and Curlew and on the water a flock of 14 Wigeon and 4 Teal (all males) was a sign that autumn is just around the corner. Snipe were still displaying over the wet fields though and 2 pairs of Yellow Wagtails were collecting food. 150 Starling the majority of which were young birds also gave a distinct summer feeling. 2 singing Reed Warblers and a distant singing Sedge Warbler gave me 3 species of acro. Driving away from the site I stopped in at a small Sand Martin colony which had 10 birds buzzing over it and at least 20 holes although it is difficult to know how many are in use.

Next stop was Hellesjøvannet. As I pulled up in the car a male Marsh Harrier was quarting the reeds and I saw three birds in total. 2 were the pair I had seen previously with the female returning to the same area of reeds where I had seen them carrying nesting material. In addition there was another male which may just have been moving through as he soon disappeared but not before being mobbed by a nice Hobby. Also here was a male Pochard which is a good bird and was a year tick for me and an Osprey was circling over the lake.

Heading back to Oslo I stopped at an area called Storfelten (I had meant to go to an area called Midtfjellmåsan but had not paid enough attention to the map and chose to explore the wrong side of the road!). Here I had breeding Wood Sandpipers with the adults very vocal and giving a distraction display, a singing Cuckoo and 2 family parties of Crossbills. If I had chosen the correct side of the road I would have seen a lot more judging by recent reports!!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Falco Subbuteo



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Continuing the football theme a family walk in Maridalen this afternoon revealed a Hobby perched very close to the path.
This was a long awaited patch tick and I wouldn't be surprised if they are breeding up here.
There is a great story around this birds name which is also the football connection. The inventor of the english schoolboys favourite(or at least favourite before the invention of computers) football game was searching for a name for the new "hobby" he had created. Being a birder he chose the scientific name of the bird with the name Hobby which is Subbuteo. Makes sense right!

The Silence of Shame

Even the (norwegian) birds seemed shamed by Englands performance against the US last night. After watching the match at a friends house I used the drive home to check out any nocturnal avian activity. Nothing, nix, nadda. Just one Woodcock was the result of an hours effort.
If teh football and birding stay this poor for the rest of June I'll have to find some other interests. Luckily Wimbledon and then Tour de France are not too far away!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Bad weather and other commitments have meant no birding in the last couple of days. In the garden at home the adult Blue and Great Tits are being kept busy feeding their hungry young in the nest boxes - this is the first year that both species have succesfully hatched young. We have a few days of very heavy rain forecast ahead of us. In previous years this has been enough to cause the nests to fail so I hope that doesn't happen again this year.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Birding Mentor

I have agreed to be a "mentor" to a new beginner birder who has just completed a course in birding and today we had our first field trip together at Fornebu. He was armed with a smart DSLR camera and 300mm lens and was quickly snapping away everything we saw plus he had a digital recorder for taking up songs. I am obviously getting a bit long in the tooth only armed with scope, bins and compact digital camera although I do now have a rather natty loud speaker for my ipod. This came in useful when I wanted to get better views of a Reed Warbler. The day was quite succesful with many singing Garden and Reed Warblers, Whitethroats, Wheatears, breeding Kestrels and Sand Martins plus more usual fare.
In Sweden there has recently been Blue Cheeked Beeater and Bridled Tern so who knows maybe I will still manage to find a mega!

Nocturnal wanderings

The weather turned out to be a bit better than expected this evening so I decided to try for some night singers. First stop was 25 minutes drives from Oslo at a lake called Østensjovann (different to the one in Oslo). As soon as I got there at 10pm I could hear Grasshopper Warbler which was a norwegian tick for me aswell as 2 Thrush Nightingales and then a Reed Warbler and finally a Marsh Warbler. Not bad at all. The following video clip allows you to hear the nightingale and Marsh Warbler and you might also make out the Gropper over the sound of traffic.
No Corncrake or Quail to be heard here although with some drizzle and falling temperatures it wasn't ideal conditions. Time to head for Maridalen where the habitat is far worse but it is the local patch so has to be given a go. The Tawny Owls were very vocal with 2 birds calling in the wood and begging young calling from the nesting box giving final confirmation of succesful breeding. In this video you can hear what I assume to be an adult and also a quieter sound which was from the young bird in the nesting box.
Also at this site a couple of Woodcock flying over and at another site in Maridalen a singing Marsh Warbler which you can hear here. No Corncrakes to be heard (3 males last year) but there is still time. Warmer weather tomorrow will increase the chances of them singing. The damp conditions tonight had attracted dozens of toads onto the roads in Maridalen making driving quite hazardous as I swerved to miss them.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Nocturnal excitment

Back home in Oslo and I see that the "nattsangere" or night singers are upon us. By this I mean Corncrakes, Thrush Nightingales, Nightjars, Quail and Grasshopper Warblers plus anything rarer (Blyths Reed and River Warbler are almost annual but have not been seen or heard yet this year). I won't be able to take a trip out until Wednesday night but I am really looking forward to it.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The motherland

Back in good old blightly for the weekend - and boy it is hot. Paid a trip to my old secondary school and was surpised to see a Spotted Flycatcher there. This was a bird I never saw when I was a pupil there and indeed in the whole of Mid Sussex I only ever had a handful of sightings over a period of 10 years or so. Spot Flys are luckily still doing well in Norway however and a walk in woodland around Oslo will always reveal birds especially if you recognise the call. Buzzards are another bird that I hardly ever saw when I was a snotty nosed teenager but now seem to be everywhere with a pair circling over my old primary school.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

3rd time NOT lucky

Another attempt for the Slavonian Grebes with my 5 year old - she wanted to practice riding her bike and I got to choose the location. Yet again no luck. When birds like this go missing it makes you wonder what else is hiding out there.
A male Gadwall was scant compensation.
Summer has now arrived: temperatures are now over 20C and the nights are warm. Soon there should be Corncrakes and Marsh Warblers turning up and with luck also in Maridalen.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dipping again

I went looking for Slavonian Grebes at Østenjovannet in Oslo again today after having failed to see them on Saturday during a family walk. And I failed again. It was therefore a but galling to find out later that they were seen whilst I was there. Apparantly though they were frequently hiding in the reeds (getting ready to breed?).
I did see White-fronted and Pink-footed Goose which appear to be oversummering but failed to see the Bar Headed Goose (did see it on Saturday). Given this bird is quite large and distinctive my powers of observation were obviously not at their peak today. A Brent Goose was seen here yesterday so along with the resident Greylag, Canada and Barnacle that makes 7 species of geese at the same site in summer. Can't be many places that can match that.-

750km

Left the house at 0440 and home at 2310. Eighteen and a half hours and 750km on the road!! The day started well and ended well but the two main targets of the trip eluded me.
Today's trip was planned as a tour of Hedmark county and the targets were Rustic Bunting and Siberian Tit (both lifers) and Ortolan Bunting. Both the Buntings are in serious decline in Norway and Rustic could well be extinct in the next couple of years with Ortolan not lasting much longer.
At 0630 I was watching 2 singing Ortolans not far from Elverum.
I did not spend enough time enjoying these fine birds as I was too keen to search for the Rustic Bunting. The sight for these is along the Kynna river. This year a handful of birds have been recorded but it is a very large area. I spent 4 hours searching along the river in suitable habitat but without joy. I did see Redstart, Cuckoo, Pied Fly, Black Grouse, Whinchat, Icterine Warbler, Mistle Thrush, Yellow Wagtail and this Parrot Crossbill.
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Animals were represented by a female Elk with a baby and a Roe Deer plus countless Beavers dams along the river. Birding is hard going in this area and birds are quite few and far between but it is a fascinating habitat.
It was already 1230 and I decided that I would cut my losses with the Rustic Bunting and head north for Siberian Tit. The drive was a bit longer than I expected - 3 hours - through wide river valleys and pine forests with occasional lakes and marshes. Along the way were a couple of Cranes, Black Throated Diver, Wigeon, Tufted Ducks, Greenshank and Redshank.
At the Siberian Tit site (which I have visited twice before without luck) I walked around for a couple of hours and saw Willow Tits in 3 sites, a pair of Great Tits, Pied Fly and Redstart but no sign of Siberian Tit or Siberian Jay which I have seen here before. I had a bird calling away in the firest which I did not recognise. I had stuplidly left my ipod in the car so could not check what it was but on returning to car discovered it was a singing Hawk Owl! I decided not to go back to locate it as time was getting on and I had at least four hours drive home. Lesson learned: do not forget ipod in future!!
So the good end to the day? The return trip took me over Ringebufjellet which rises to over 1000m. There was still ice on the lakes and lots of snow and it appeared that birds were only just arriving back with Golden Plovers still in flocks on the lower slopes. On the open water were 4 Velvet Scoters, Wigeon & Tufted Ducks and the highlight: 6 Red-necked Phalaropes:

They gave fantastic views feeding around the edge of a small lake. Also in the area Whimbrel, Redhank, Bluethroat and Lapland Bunting.
Despite missing out on the 2 lifers the day was a fantastic birding trip.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Birds to the north...birds to the south

Yesterday evening there was some movement of birds in the outer Oslo fjord (skuas, Black Tern and Brent Geese) so with suitable weather conditions (light southerly winds) forecast for today I decided for an early start. Up at 4am and with destination Hulvik which is in the south of Oslo & Akerhus county and a good place for seawatching. Now seawatching in the Oslo fjord rarely produces large numbers of birds but patience can (apparantly) be rewarded. I was patient for 2 hours and 20 minutes and did I get rewarded? Not really.
I did have 11 Red Throated Divers and 4 Guillemots flying north and about 30 each of Common and Velvet Scoter sitting on the sea but this does not set the pulse racing. The divers will be heading for inland Norway to breed but quite where the Guillemots were heading I am not sure. On land I heard 6 species of Warbler singing including Wood Warbler aswell as both Flycatchers.
I continued south into Østfold county to check out Kurefjorden - a supposed wader hotspot. 6 Ringed Plover and 3 Redshank were not very hot though (especially as on the other side of Oslofjord there are currently 3 Broad Billed Sandpipers). Next stop was Brentetangen near Moss which is where the seawatching was good yesterday. The presence of 6 other birders told me that something was happening and when I asked what was about I was told there had been 2 male Surf Scoters but htey had now flkown off south! I had considered making this my original destination but chose Hulvik instead. Oh well. I stayed there an hour and a half but was only rewarded by a handful of migrating divers.
On arriving home and checking the internet I saw that someone else had been seawatching about 10km north of Hulvik and had seen Sandwich Tern (a norwegian tick and rarity) and Arctic Skua this morning.
So choosing a point in the middle could have given me the best of both worlds but instead gave me the worst of both worlds...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A twitch ensued?

Chose to visit Østensjøvannet today, a shallow, reed fringed lake within the Oslo city limits.
When I got there at 10am the paths around the lake were already heaving with kids from the nearby school having running practice. The birds here though are quite used to this. I had Garden Warblers and Pied Flycatchers singing from scrubby areas and a Long tailed Tit getting very agitated with a pair of Magpies that were presumeably close to its nest. Overhead there were around 300 Swifts which have now arrived in force with a few House Martins and Swallows mixed in.
On the lake there were the usual Great Crested Grebes, Canada & Greylag Geese, Tufted Ducks, Coots and Moorhens aswell as many Black Headed Gulls which breed here. As I scanned the lake I heard a call which I couldn't place as a gull or a tern. And then I saw only 20 metres away a fine summer plumaged Little Gull. It was a very confiding bird and would have allowed me to take a great photo if only I had my camera with me. A mobile phone through the bins though is always a good alternative as this fine potrait proves.

I texted the bird's presence to a friend who then put it out on the national alert system and after half an hour got a call from a birder who had come to look for it. He soon joined me and we had great views. Does one other birder qualify as a twitch?
The bird had a very small amount of black in the primary tips making it a 2nd summer but it also had a hint of pink on the body feathers. A fine fine bird.
Continuing around the lake I heard 3 (and saw 1) Reed Warblers and found a Pink-footed Goose and White-fronted Goose (which has been around for a coupe of months) amongst the Greylag Geese.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Great habitat...but no birds

Today I walked 12km through the forest north of Maridalen including an area of old spruce forest which holds Capercaille and Three Toed Woodpecker. What did I see? Droppings of the first and marks on trees from the second but did I see the birds? Of course not.
In fact I saw nothing out of the normal in the forest at all. The best birds were in Maridalen itself where I had in total 3 singing Roesfinches. The only one I actually saw was a brown bird so still no fine red male. Also good numbers of Spotted Flycatchers which looked to be newly arrived and a very distant singing Wood Warbler. Whilst sitting down to listen to the Wood Warbler, a Willow Warbler with a beak full of nesting material landed only a few metres away from me. After a couple of minutes it dropped down to the ground and after it had left I was able (after a bit of searching) to discover its tiny nest on the ground hidden under some long grass.
Also in Maridalen were 3 very small Lapwing chicks with a parent which was very satisying to see as they seem to get less common each year.
In this picutre from the high point of my walk (Mellomkollen) you can see Maridalsvannet (lake) on the left with Oslo city and Oslofjord rear right.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Today was a national holiday (Pentecost) and a family trip to Fornebu was again in order. Whilst we walked around I saw my first Hobby of the year. My attention was drawn to it by a small colony of Sand Martins I was watching which suddenly flocked together and flew away. I didn't manage a picture of the Hobby but did get this short video of the Sand Martins.

Otherwise there was a Wood Sandpiper feeding on a very small pond in which we also saw some Great Crested Newts.

Garden nature

When birds are scarce then butterflies often offer some interest. In the garden today we found this female Green Hairstreak which was very tired and presumeably on its last legs after having survived the winter and laying its eggs.

This is a very small butterfly. The picture was taken at a distance of 1cm and the picture has been cropped.
Otherwise in the garden we have nesting Blue and Great Tits, singing Lesser Whitethroat, a Pied Flycatcher singing from 3 houses away.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Rosefinch

A cycle ride around Maridalen this afternoon turned up the desired species: a singing Rosefinch. At first I was unable to see the bird but after I walked under the tree it was singing from I was a little disappointed to see it was a young male and therefore completely lacked any red in its plumage. Nevermind, more will surely turn up and if they are as confiding as this bird then I should managed some decent photos.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Quite possible the best birder in.....his own mind

I rescued an email from my SPAM folder today that confirmed (?) what I have long suspected… I am the best birder in Norway :-). The email didn’t actually use those words but it announced that I was the winner of the latest NOF (Norwegian equivalent of RSPB) mystery bird competition. Here is a link to the 2 photo’s I had to identify. http://www.birdlife.no/organisasjonen/pdf/fotonott_2010_1.pdf
Joking aside, it was nice to win a competition for once but the prize could have been different – it was the (great) Norwegian where to watch book that I have recently purchased!
Birding today was limited to a short trip to Maridalen where I again saw the Wryneck as well as an Osprey and 2 singing Icterine Warblers, which were the first there this year.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Good things come to those who put in the effort..

Today was another up at 0430 day. I was in the field from 0515 until 1430 and then had another hour out in the evening. Highlight was one of my very favourite birds which I was beginning to fear I would not see this year - a Wryneck and to make it even better it was in Maridalen. I permit myself to show a picture and 2 videos, the second of which has a better recording of the call which to my ears is very like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.



Not much else at Maridalen although i did hear Black Woodpecker. Scarlet Rosefinches are starting to turn up now and although I didn't find one in Maridalen today I expect to soon. The Wryneck was seen on my evening outing.
The morning destination was Årnestangen. I was very lucky here to have just walked the couple of kilometres to the hide before it began to rain (very heavily) for 2 hours. I had a hope that this rain would ground many waders and Black Terns and Little Gulls - well dream on.
For my 9 hours of effort I was rewards by a Temminck's Stint
a few Dunlin, a very distant immature Peregrine, a Merlin, a flock of 120 Goosander, 4 Ospreys, a Garden Warbler and some Yellow Wagtails. The 2 males that I saw well appeared to be a cross between the race Thunbergi (Grey Headed Wagtail) which is the commonest race in Norway and race Flava (Blue Headed Wagtail) which does breed in southern norway. The 2 pictures below are of different birds but both show the white supercilium of flava but the head colour is the grey of thunbergi rather than the blue of flava




Additionally a singing Reed Warbler and singing icterine Warbler were year ticks taking me to 162 so far in 2010.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Can 4 days really make such a difference?

4 days ago the Svellet area of Nordre Øyeren held around 2000 waders, primarily Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. I have not been able to get out birding the last 4 days so I was very excited when I arrived at Svellet this morning. And what did I see? Well in total I had 14 waders!!! The water level has risen a lot but there was still very large areas of mudflats. Perhaps these were not so rich in food as they have been exposed for so long but just as likely is that the spring migration is very concentrated and the birds simply cannot wait to move north to their breeding grounds. This picture shows what was present:

Greenshank, Redshank and Wood Sandpiper.

I checked a few other sites trying to find the Caspian Tern that had been moving around the area of the last few days but failed to find it. The best I managed were a pair of Marsh Harriers at a presumed breeding site and a couple of Honey Buzzards which looked to be migrating.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Mr & Mrs Toad

Another late evening visit to Maridalen produced large numbers of toads in the margins of the lake and these two hopping along the road.

We also saw the Owl again and found its preferred roost site which was remarkably low down in a spruce tree. There were 3 pellets and they appeared mostly to have bird remains including feather shafts and a beak.

Early this morning a Red Rumped Swallow was seen at Fornebu and I was able to get down there an hour and a half later with the girls. Unfortunately we didn't refind it (as did nobody else) but there were good numbers of Swifts which were new for the year.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Promise made....promise kept

On the way home from kindergarten I asked my 5 year old if she wanted me to show her Tawny Owl and Beaver in Maridalen after her little sister had gone to bed. She did and then the I realised that I would be lucky to find them both.

Well.....

The Tawny Owl showed as it has the previous 2 evenings although and this time we had the scope and had breathtaking views although the following picture does not do full justice

Then we approached the beaver dam and straightaway spotted a beaver swimming towards us which submerged when only 15m away and then swam under us as we stood on the bridge.

I really don't know who was happier the 5 year old or the 37 year old!