BIRD GUIDING AROUND OSLO

Monday, 28 March 2011

The first Chaffinch of the year in the garden today and a couple of Waxwings in a neighbouring street but it is still slow going out there.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

A quick trip in Maridalen revealed singles of Skylark, Starling and Black Woodpecker and a group of 12 migrating Canada Geese which hopefully heralds the start of a great spring migration.

Friday, 25 March 2011

A Lapwing doth not spring make....

....but maybe Starling and Skylark help.

A quick drive around Maridalen revealed my first Lapwing of the year sitting forlornly on a snow covered field on the way in and absent on the way back (given up and headed south?), singing Hawfinches at two separate sites and a group of 9 Crossbills. Otherwise very quiet.
Then onto Nordre Øyeren. First stop was Dynovika in Lillestrøm . Here there were a couple of Lapwings on some ice free mud, plus a Coot, a handful of Canada Geese, Mallard, Goldeneye, Goosander (first for the year) and a singing Marsh Tit (also year tick). It took me a while to locate the Marsh Tit which I had heard singing but could not see and I was unsure as to what I was listening to. It is probably over a decade since I last heard Marsh Tit singing and that was in England. The birds in Norway are a different race and a check on the internet showed that the song of these subspecies are quite different - so I didn't feel too bad for not having been able to ID on song alone!
On to Årnestangen where the river was free of ice and on this were 100 Whooper Swans making a lot of noise as they displayed to each other (interestingly there were no more than 10 young birds indicating a poor breeding season last year), 25 Canada Geese, a single Mute Swan and a scattering of Mallard and Goldeneye. 9 Lapwing flew north and in a field with some bare earth showing (due to it being on a southward facing slope) were another couple of Lapwing and a flock of 20 Starlings and an equal number of Skylarks. Three different spring migrants together in the same field surely has to be proof that spring is here...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Dawn Chorus


Up at 6am today to squeeze in a tour around Maridalen before work. Should probably just have stayed in bed...
Despite plus temperatures and a blue sky, the fields are still covered in snow and this combined with a fresh northerly wind is a bit of an impediment for migrants.
There were some positive signs though. The dawn chorus is now getting going. Greenfinches, Yellowhammers, Blackbird and a few newly arrived Chaffinches were all going strong backed up by drumming Great Spotted Woddpeckers and my first Black Woodpecker of the year heard calling and seen in flight. The feeding stations were mostly devoid of birds although a Hawfinch was seen very briefly.
Visibile migration was not entirely absent: 2 Wood Pigeons flew south (!) and a flock of 9 Great Tits gave the impression of being on active migration as they flew over heading north.
2 Goldeneyes were on the small area of open water (my first here in 2011) and a moose showed well.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Swans

A couple of ski trips in Maridalen and Nordmarka this weekend revealed little in the way of birds. The weather was fantastic with blue skies and temperatures up to 7C but there is just too much snow on the ground for most migrants to attempt to come this far north just yet.
A Green Woodpecker was signing by the church in Maridalen on Saturday and today I followed the same route when I went owling earlier in the week. I finally noticed the good numbers of Crossbills that others are reporting with birds calling and singing at a number of places on the way. The ski back didn't go quite as planned after the binding on one my skis snapped meaning I had to walk the last 4km - this was quite a shame as I had finally mastered (or at least nearly so) the steeper downhills.
On the one (small) area of open water at Maridalsvannet were 3 Whooper Swans (a pair and a youngster) who were fast asleep presumably after having flown in today from further south. I wonder if these are on their way further north of whether they are the pair that bred successfully here last summer. If the temperatures remain in the red then the area of open water at Maridalsvannet will quickly grow meaning that it should start attracting a few more waterbirds.
In the afternoon a tight group of 22 Waxwings not far from the house feeding on apples (which judging by their sweet smell have fermented) and also engaging in some song.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Bird song

Over the last couple of weeks there has been an increase in the amount of bird song with various tits and Bullfinches being the most vocal. Today though there were 2 welcome additions to the chorus. Both were quite cautious and didn't seem to want to risk straining their vocal muscles but were none-the-less a joy to hear. On the way into work this morning a Robin was singing from a neighbour's garden - presumably the bird that has over wintered in the garden and on the way home a Blackbird was also warming himself up.

I've checked through my notebooks and saw that 3 years ago there were already singing Skylarks in Maridalen at this time in March. With so much snow and continuing minus temperatures it is difficult to see any singing Skylarks there until well into April this year. Something to look forward to.....

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

One of those things

On the way to drop the kids off this morning I had my first Wood Pigeons of the year - a pair in courtship. There have been a growing numbers of reports in the last week so it was no surprise to see them but it is a real mystery to me how birds of this size just turn up. As far as I know they only migrate in daylight yet they seem to turn up early morning without me having seen any birds flying over. Later in the spring it is possible to see large flocks migrating north over Oslo but these birds that turn up early in Oslo seem to just appear and get straight down to setting up a territory and finding a mate.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Owling by ski

A cloudless sky, no wind, temperatures approaching -10C and a nearly full moon were all I needed to try finding my own owls in the forests close to Oslo. Bouyed on by reports from other observers of Tengmalm's Owls, Per Christian Moan and myself strapped on our skis and set off from Skar in Maridalen at around 8.30pm.
We skied up to Øyungen lake and then across the lake before climbing up to Rottungen lake. We stopped frequently but heard absolutely nothing even though we could see in the moonlight endless pine forest which I had expected to be good habitat. We had decided to turn round at Rottungen after 5km as it was already approaching 10pm. Just as we stopped what did we hear? Yep, you've guessed it: a Tengmalms Owl! Now it wasn't exactly close and I still haven't actually seen one but it was a great feeling to be on skis in the middle of a frozen lake under a star filled sky and listening to my own Tengmalm Owl. Per Christian heard another calling from a different direction so we had 2 in total.
The ski back was downhill so went a lot quicker but also a lot more painfully as I fell 4 times on steep, narrow sections (or at least I found them to be steep and narrow - Per Christian seemed to have no problems). We saw the distinctive tracks of a hare in the snow but few other signs of life.
Driving home through Maridalen we stopped at Låkeberget car park hoping for Tawny Owl and sure enough had one calling at only 15m distance but were unable to see it.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Don't blame it on the sunshine

Today felt like a proper spring day with completely blue skies, the warmth of the sun noticeable on my ghostly white skin and temperatures which have been above zero for at least 24 hours!

A walk at lunch down to the fjord by the Opera revealed some open water but the fjord is still 99% frozen. The gulls were enjoying the open water though with much bathing and cleaning of feathers. In amongst many hundreds of Herring Gulls, the Glaucous Gull was still present along with my first Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the year and 3 Black-headed Gulls in fine summer plumage. There were also many more Common Gulls than previously. The Smew was still present along with 3 Tufted Ducks and a handful of Goldeneye

This picture gives a flavour of the scene today

and here is a picture of the Oslo Peregrine that I "found" on my camera from a few weeks ago

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Walking

A walk in Maridalen gave me year ticks in the form of Raven and Goldcrest aswell as singing Treecreeper, Hawfinch, Yellowhammer and the usual suspects. In the small wood where Tawny Owls bred last year I was quite sure I could hear one calling (during daytime) but when I located the bird it turned out to be a Jay doing a very good imitation. I have heard something similar once before but never as persistently as this bird. I also found a Goshawks nest which I had been tipped off about and it was quite an impressive construction although judging by the amount of snow still on top of the nest it is not (yet) in use this year. Also evidence that the beavers are active came from a lot of tracks orginating from their lodge and what appeared to be new tree damage.
The year list rises to 59!
I have booked tickets for a trip to Finmark at the end of May which I am getting really excited about. There should be some magical birding with a handful of ticks including Lesser White Fronted Goose which has always been a dream bird for me especially to see undoubtedly wild birds close to their last remaining breeding grounds in Europe. This is why we are going at the end of May rather than the end of June when most people visit and the Arctic Warblers and Little Buntings have returned. By going in May we should also get to see the end of the spring migration and lots more displaying birds especially waders.

Monday, 7 March 2011


More signs of spring on a drive around Maridalen. At one of the feeding stations now 7 Yellowhammers after there being none only a week ago and also 2 Blackbirds back. Also more song with Bullfinches really making a racket with their far from pleasing tune. I managed a half decent picture of this Crested Tit and and also got a picture of 2 of a group of 30 Waxwings feeding on apples as I returned home.

Crested Tit

Waxwings

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Two Barred Crossbill

Unfortunately not seen by my good self though. The sighting was made last Sunday by a dutch birder who had asked me for some advice on birding around Oslo and was lucky enough to find a fine adult male amongst one of the many Crossbill flocks that are to be found currently in the forests bordering Oslo. This is a good record with very few records so far this year in Norway although it is an invasion species and with the vast numbers of Common Crossbills being recorded it is no surprise that there is the odd rarer cousin in amongst them. Parrot Crossbills which are always a scarce bird in this part of Norway have also been recorded in the last week or so and there are still a few Pine Grosbeaks being reported in amongst the Crossbills.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Collared Dove

Collared Dove is now a fairly scarce species in the Oslo area and there is only one site that has been getting regular records this winter. Seeing as I needed it for my year list I took a slight detour on the way to work and found a group of 21 birds. From what I can see this is the largest group seen around Oslo for at least of couple of years and beats the total of 6 or 7 birds I have previously seen in the whole of Norway!
I assume that this gathering contained pretty much the entire Oslo population. They were in Marienslyst park where locals put out food for the birds so this has presumeably kept them alive through the cold winter. At least 3 birds were singing despite the zero temperature, snow and overcast conditions.
The year list has now risen to impressive 56 species - pitiful!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Smew

Smew

I finally caught up with a Smew that has been knocking around the Oslofjord all winter. The bird was in a small patch of open water by the Opera in the centre of Oslo. There seems to be some debate as to the sex of this bird but it appears to probably be a young male. There were many hundreds of Herring Gulls on the ice which is still completely covering the inner fjord but I couldn't locate the Glaucous Gull.
A quick drive around Maridalen revealed that spring is springing with drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and singing Great Tits and Bullfinches despite the thermometer still showing minus temperatures. In the last couple of the days the first Wood Pigeons have been reported which are the first spring migrants and there have even been a couple of Skylarks reported migrating over Oslo.

A female Great Spotted Woodpecker posed for a photo (heavily cropped).