Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Great Grey Owl

I awoke with excitement today as I had agreed last night to make the trip for the Great Grey Owl in the company of Kjetil Johannessen. We punctuated the 2 hour drive to Hvaler with one stop and some decent drive-by birding. The drive-by birding consisted of 2 Great Grey Shrikes plus a third on the return journey and a Carrion (as opposed to Hooded) Crow which we saw fly over the road at a regular site for this rare Norwegian bird. The stop was at the lake of Skinnerflo where we had a good selection of geese with 5 Tundra Bean, 26 Taiga Bean, 3 Pink-footed, 3 Greylag, 80 odd Canada and a Canada x Greylag Hybrid plus 90 odd Teal and a similar number of Mallard. Strangely not a single diving cuck and the only swans were 3 Mute. At one time I had the 2 Bean sub-species plus Pink-footed in the same 'scope view. The structural differences of Tundra Bean were very apparent when seen in direct comparison with the larger, longer necked Taiga.
Enough digresion though, today was about one bird and one bird only: Great Grey Owl. I have seen one bird very well previously in 2009 plus a bird we glimpsed on our Finnmark trip this May which was flying on the Russian side of the border. It is a majestic bird and well worth travelling to see. We arrived on site at 1030 to the news that the bird had been seen well just after 9 but not since. Well time to start looking. There were 10 of us there but the majority seemed happy to stand and chat on the assumption that the bird would return to hunt over its favoured meadow. I decided to put in a bit more effort but eventually returned to where the others were standing. After a few minutes at 11.50 I saw a movement in the trees on the other side of the meadow and there it was perched looking at us! After a couple of pats on the back we were all enjoying great views and were slowly able to approach the bird to within about 30 metres (on Sunday it had sat 7m from the road and was oblivious to the big lens being pointed at it).
In poor light these were the best photos I managed (heavily cropped) but the video has come out a bit better.

A stop at Kurefjorden on the way back revealed that the Scaup flock had increased to 30 with now 2 adult males amongst them.

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