Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The sound of silence

Simon and Garfunkel could have written a song about today!

The plan was to do some real frontier birding by driving to Fjellsjøkampen in the north of Akershus county on the border with Oppland, putting on our skis and exploring some real wild forest. This we were sure would reveal such exciting (and locally rare) species as Siberian Jay, Willow Grouse, Pine Grosbeak, Hawk Owl and Golden Eagle, not to mention species like Capercaille, Black Grouse, Three-toed Woodpecker, Hazel Grouse and various crossbills.
Well I scored with 2 of the species on that list and Rune had three but we saw precious little else. On the drive up (a bit over an hour from Oslo) it began to snow and the thermometer went as low as -14C – hardly conducive for a bird rich enjoyable ski. A Great Grey Shrike by the road was in a habitat that looked more suitable for Hawk Owl but was nice enough. The trees were all covered in a thick layer of snow as we got to our first location. We went for a 5km ski and in that time heard or saw ABSOLUTELY nothing avian. We did see squirrel and hare tracks so knew there was life in these parts but birds were only noticeable by their absence.
The second 10km long ski resulted in a bit (but only a bit) more life. As we parked the car Rune glimpsed a Hazel Grouse in flight and then as we started skiing animal tracks were very evident with moose, hare and squirrel. We met one other person on skis who had seen moose and a group of 12 Black Grouse but was actually out looking for signs of Lynx although hadn’t seen any. As we left the main ski track and took a narrow path that went up and up my skiing skills were put severely to the test but we did see some birds. First 2 male Black Grouse exploded from the snow beside the path (they were buried down in the snow) and then Rune again glimpsed a Hazel Grouse in flight (due to his far superior skiing abilities he was able to look around far more than I managed). As we tried unsucessfully to relocate the grouse we heard a tapping woodpecker that failed to see what must have been a Three-toed. We continued skiing towards the top of Fjellsjøkampen but due to the time had to turn around before making the top where Siberian Jay is supposed to be found. The ski back down was noticeable only for the number of times I fell but as I reached the bottom I stopped for a listen (and breather) and again heard a tapping. This time the bird showed and proved to be a fine Three-toed Woodpecker which even allowed itself to be photographed with my compact camera.
On the way home we made a brief stop for a reported Siberian Jay. Last weekend was the annual garden bird count and a surprising record was of 2 Siberian Jays very close to Gardemoen airport. This is unusually far south and also a lowland record which is very unexpected in these parts. We located the garden easily enough and it had plenty of birds but its location surround by fields and a road with the nearest forest a couple of hundred metres away made it a strange location. The 10 minutes we had did not reveal the birds..
Three-toed Woodpecker

The ski track at the bottom of Fjellsjøkampen

The snowy view over endless forest

Oslo Birder nearly looking like he was born with skis on his feet

Oslo Birder falling

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