Sunday, 20 February 2011

A wrecked body, frost bite (possibly!) and a TICK

Saturday was a great, if cold, day. It started with my, to date, longest cross country ski over 27km in Nordmarka from Skar in Maridalen to Kikut hut and then to Songsvann. This should have resulted in a few interesting birds but in the end all I noted were a single Crossbill and a couple of Great Tits. There have been reported enormous numbers of Crossbills and great densities in the forests around Oslo with estimates of over a hundred thousand birds - quite how I managed just one is a mystery to me. Maybe it had something to do with the complete mental and physical exhaustion I experienced! 27km is not that far (if you are Norwegian) but was by far my longest ever ski and with my atrocious technique resulted in pain in parts of my body I have never realised could experience pain.
I spent late afternoon and early evening recuperating at home before embarking on the annual owl trip of the local bird club. This involved driving around from 10pm until 3am on snow covered forest tracks in Aurskog Høland (an hours drive from Oslo) stopping the car every kilometre or so and listening. Conditions were supposedly perfect. The time of the year was optimal for singing owls, it was a cloudless night with a near full moon, there are apparently good numbers of mice and voles and it was suitably cold. In fact it was the coldest I have ever experienced with the thermometer in the car recording -25C. The trick to listening to owls is to stand very still and listen - do not move any part of your body and make a noise. This is unfortunately not conducive to staying warm and my toes were still in pain when I awoke this morning and I sure I have frost bite on one toe! So much for my wonderful winter boots.
What about the owls then? Well we did hear Tengmalm's owl which is a tick for me but they were all very distance and a strain to hear. I heard 3 and in total the group heard 6 different birds plus one Pygmy Owl which escaped me. Previous years have recorded over 40 Tengmalm's Owls including very close birds but for whatever reason we did not have the same luck despite the conditions having been announced as being perfect. The area is also home to Wolf and Lynx which have been heard in previous years but these were also silent. We did hear trees "cracking" in the cold which is quite an odd sound and caused by the extreme temperatures causing dead wood to contract.

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