Monday, 19 March 2012

Counting swans

I went looking for the Bewick’s today. The location was along the valley of the Glomma River which is Norway’s longest and drains the mountains of central Norway, forms a delta at Nordre Øyeren and then enters the sea at Øra. It is therefore very important for birds and seems to be an important migration route for waterfowl. I have never been to this area before and on first glance it didn't look to be that special with quite undulating farmland. I stopped the car where I thought the flock would be but saw no swans. Then a group of Whoopers flew over, coming from the river and landed behind some trees. I was able drive up a track and there in a stubble field on the edge of woodland were nearly 300 Whooper Swans. Going through them (at some range) I picked up first one and them two adult Bewick's. A long awaited Norwegian tick although a bird I saw plenty of back in the UK. At range and when feeding in stubble the size difference to Whooper was surprisingly difficult to see on an initial scan of the flock. Also here a single Crane (my first of the year) but no geese.
Looking through the pictures I took it appears there could have been 3 Bewick's (as reported yesterday morning). Check the photo yourself where birds 2 & 3 are the ones I saw in the field and 1 is the (possible) bird I only noticed in the pictures. Basically the pictures are not good enough to be certain and after posting the picture I received feedback from Sindre regarding the length of bird 1’s neck such that I think it is safest to only report the 2 birds I noted in real life. The angle of the bird can make it look smaller than it actually is and also make the bill look deceptively small with little yellow (alternatively it could be a Bewick’s Swan but it would also be strange that I didn’t notice it at the time).
Is #1 a Bewick's or just a Whooper sitting at a funny angle to the camera?

A genuine Bewick

Here the smaller size of the Bewick's vs. Whooper is clear although in the field was not that obvious during a quick scan of the flock

As I drove on I glimpsed some geese on the river but was not able to see properly through the trees. I drove a long detour to come closer and at Utnes Church I had a great view over the river and there on some distant mudfalts was a large flock of Bean Geese loafing around. I counted 172 birds which is a very large number for southern Norway. Those who saw them closer yesterday saw that they were Taiga but the distance was too great for me to assign them to race. Also some of the birds had neck collars but it has also not been possible to read these. I have always wondered as to the origin of this flock that migrates through Akershus each year and have wondered if they could be one of the two flocks that winter regularly in the UK. If someone is able to read the neck rings then maybe we will get the answer.
The Glomma River. The Bean Geese were loafing on the mudbanks in the distance

Distant view of some of the Bean Goose flock

After this I visited the area near Gardemoen Airport where Woodlarks breed but it is probably still to early and the cold westerly wind definitely didn’t help either. A quick drive around Maridalen revealed a pair of Whooper Swans which is not surprising given the large numbers elsewhere and it will interesting to see if this is the breeding pair.

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