Thursday, 15 March 2012

My goal for today was to find a Bewicks’s Swan or two.  Destination was therefore Aurskog-Høland where there are a number of areas that attract Whooper Swans and geese in the spring which are prefect hosts for a lost Bewick. The trip would also hopefully turn up a few raptors and the first Cranes of the year.

Well, after individually counting a total of 714 Whooper Swans during the course of the day I had to admit defeat on the Bewick front, it is clearly still too early for Cranes but raptors put on a good show and I had a return to form on the Great Grey Shrike front with 3 different birds.

First stop was Hanneborg where the snow has all melted yet there was no flooding of note so there will be no concentrations of waterfowl here this year. A flock of 12 Canada Geese here was the only interest. Onto Haugrim where 51 Whooper Swans were making a lot of noise although couldn’t drown out the sound of many singing Skylarks. At Kjelle there was a little water but it was mostly frozen.  There were 57 Canada Geese here and among them an early Pink-footed Goose (Bean would have been far more expected). Further south at Bjørkelangen there was a very impressive mixed flock:  395 Whooper Swans, 142 Canada Goose, 18 Greylags, 10 Mallards and 21 Lapwings.
This video gives a feel of the flock (remember to turn on the sound)

The Bjørkelangen flock from a dsitance

close up

Making my way on the side roads towards Hellesjøvannet  I had a road side Great Grey Shrike (after another on the drive from Oslo) and whilst admiring this heard a drumming woodpecker from a nearby spruce wood which had to be a Three-toed (I’ve been listening to rather a lot of recordings of drumming woodpeckers recently!). Hellesjøvannet and Hemnessjøen were both completely frozen although it is surely only a few days before it all melts. There was therefore little to see here except for a scattering of Lapwings and Skylarks. There are still no flocks of Brambling and Chaffinches which will soon arrive in their thousands.
Arriving at Kallaksjøen there was another big concentration of whooper Swans (260) and a few Canada and Greylag Geese. Surprisingly no Cranes at this site which can hold hundreds but it is just too early still (despite the lack of snow). It was now around noon and the mist finally burned off making ideal conditions for raptors. I soon saw one soaring Buzzard and eventually five which thermalled up very high and also seemed to be displaying although were not calling.
Driving on I had another Buzzard, a Great Grey Shrike and then the highlight of the trip. I saw a distant large bird flying away from me and thought first maybe Crane but soon realised it was a raptor and it was big. I also noticed a second bird but was most interested to catch up with the birds and stop the car. I could see that the birds would soon disappear behind a ridge but was able to stop the car, get the scope out and briefly admire 2 White-tailed Eagles. The birds were immature and I would guess 2nd winter. They were heading north and were presumably on a spring walk about. My third raptor of the day was a male Sparrowhawk and I then drove past Haugrim again and decided to have a look for raptors here as there is a good panorama. Another large raptor showed up and this was also a ca. 2nd winter White-tailed Eagle!! I must just have had good timing to see 3 wandering/migrating eagles inland on the same day but a migrating female Goshawk also showed that today was a good one for raptors.

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