Thursday, 15 December 2011

There’s always time for another…

..seawatch! Today myself and Rune Z decided on a tour of Vestfold.  Due to a rather shortened day the tour became more of a single destination with a couple of stops on the way. Driving down the E18 we had an obligatory Great Grey Shrike (my 20th sighting this autumn) by the road just north of the turning to Horten. We made a detour to Horten as  I persuaded Rune that a little seawatch from Møringa would be a good idea. Even though there was practically no wind there would surely still be birds left over from the last few days (and who knows maybe I would still have a chance for Leach’s..).
Arriving at Møringa we immediately saw some Oystercatchers (6 in total) which must be the first I’ve seen for a couple of months and looking out to sea began to see Kittiwakes in all directions with at least 100 being counted. Most were just feeding but a few were also heading south back to open sea. A handful of Fulmars with most going south but one also feeding close inshore. Then it started to get interesting. I picked up a skua sitting on the water at some distance feeding on a dead Kittiwake with a Great Black-backed Gull in close attendance. My first thoughts turned to Pomarine but I was hesitant because it looked pretty large and fairly uniform in colour. I needed to wait for it to flap its wings which it did when the gull came too close and there were big white flashes on the upper and under wings – an immature Great Skua! Rune then decided to get in on the act and found another imm. Great Skua feeding on a (presumed) Kittiwake with its size and wing flashes very evident even though it was at quite a range. We then noticed another, smaller, skua on the water nearby which took off and chased the Kittiwakes – an immature Pomarine Skua (a fairly light bird) with its double white underwing flash and pale rump being very visible. Quite a skuafest!

Aware of the time we had to leave after only 45 minutes although I felt sure that a whole day’s seawatching would have paid dividends.
Our destination for the day was Moutmarka at the end of Tjøme. We were hoping that there might be some storm driven birds here (Grey Phalarope or maybe a large diver) and a hope of finding Water Pipit. The wind was really blowing when we got out of the car (see picture below) which made viewing a bit difficult but we put some effort in.
Unfortunately there was nothing particularly interesting to see. We went through the Rock Pipit flock but found only 16 Rock and 3 Meadow Pipits although for this time of year this was a reasonable sighting. It was very difficult to make anything out on the sea but there were 20 or so Kittiwakes and a couple of Little Auks of note.
With time now against us we headed back towards Oslo with a quick stop at Rosanes. This is home to a long staying Black Duck. On our first scan of the area (a marina!) we saw it sitting with 15 Mallards on a jetty. On the assumption that they were waiting for some bread I headed briskly towards them with camera in hand (ignoring Rune’s requests to not be “so offensive”). Well, I should have been less offensive because they all jumped into the water and headed away. I managed a couple of very poor shots of the Black Duck but rued my haste.
Male Black Duck (right) with Mallard
Male Black Duck in flight
I have some nagging doubts about the purity of this bird as I can detect green on the head and on a previous trip thought I saw a hint of a white neck collar â la Mallard but it has been officially accepted as a pure Black Duck (with I believe the blessing of American experts)
Otherwise here a fine female Smew, a pair of Goosander, 14 Teal and a couple of Kittiwakes.

On the way home the anticipated message came through... Stormsvale (Leach’s Petrel) seen going south on the other side of the fjord from Møringa. Can’t win them all!

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