Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Maridalen - the year that (nearly) was

Red Kite (glente) - one of the year's highlights in Maridalen

With the year rapidly coming to an end I thought I would write some posts summarising the year’s highlights starting with the year in Maridalen.

Maridalen is my local patch and is a broad, shallow valley directly north of Oslo City. The valley is a cul-de-sac meaning there is limited car traffic although it is very popular with cyclists and skiers. The focal point in Maridalen is the large lake, Maridalsvannet, which is the source of Oslo's drinking water. To avoid pollution of the water there is no access to the lake or fishing allowed which makes it undisturbed thereby increasing its attractiveness to birds. The rest of the valley consists of a mosaic of farmland and mixed woodland with the valley edges being mixed spruce and pine forest. This rich mix of habitats plus its position at the head of the Oslofjord makes Maridalen a very attractive area for birds and especially in April and May during spring migration.

2012 has undoubtedly been my best year in Maridalen and the only thing lacking was low water levels in May which meant that there were few waders recorded.

The undoubted highlights for me were Hawk Owl (haukugle) and multiple Pine Grosbeaks (konglebit) at the end of the year but these were not the rarest birds. Two national rarities put in an appearance: Mediterranean Gull (svartehavsmåke) and River Warbler (elvesanger) plus a former one in the form of Red Kite (glente).
The year started quietly with just regular sightings of a Pygmy Owl (spurveugle)  to liven things up. Spring came on 13 March with 5 Skylarks (sanglerke) including singing birds and less than a week later the first Lapwings (vipe) and Starlings (stær) were back. Migrating Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) are a regular sight every spring and this year the first were a flock of 55 on 26 March and the last a resting flock of 450 on 2 May which also included 3 rossicus Bean Geese (sædgås).

part of a flock of 450 Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) with three rossicus Bean Geese (sædgås) at the back
29 April was a very special day with at least 70 Teal (krikkand), a pair of Shoveler (skjeand), female Smew (lappfiskand), 10 Red-throated Divers (smålom) and most surprisingly a male Eider (ærfugl). Also at the end of April there were up to 11 Black-throated Diver (storlom), a male Common Scoter (svartand) and a pair of Slavonian Grebes (horndykker). Oslo’s overwintering 1st winter Med Gull put in three occurences in April/May but was probably present daily.

Overhead there was a regular raptor passage with Kestrels (tårnfalk) predominating plus Common (musvåk) and Rough-legged Buzzards (fjelvåk), Merlin (dvergfalk), Osprey (fiskeørn) and best of all a Red Kite (glente) which flew right over my head. 
Cranes (trane) were also a regular sight. Interestingly there was a noticeable southerly movement of raptors in the beginning of May which I attribute to the near complete absence of lemmings in the mountains which caused many raptors to seek out alternate breeding grounds.
In the fields there was as usual a good passage of thrushes with upto six species in a day, finches and buntings with a male Bluethroat an colourful guest.
Male Bluethroat (blåstrupe) - a scarce spring guest to Maridalen

The breeding season was very interesting with River (elvesanger), Grasshopper (gresshoppesanger), Marsh (myrsanger) and Icterine (gulsanger) Warblers, Corncrake (åkerrikse), Wryneck (vendehals), Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) and Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) in the farmland. On the water both Whooper Swan (sangsvane) and Black-throated Diver (storlom) bred succesfully.
River Warbler (elvesanger) - a proper rarity in Maridalen!

Grasshopper Warbler (gresshoppesanger) - although not a national rarity this was my first record for the patch

One of the smartest birds you'll find, a male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate). A pair bred this year

Male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) - one of up to three birds in Maridalen this year

Wrynecks (vendehals) bred succesfully and were a constant highlight of the summer
Autumn passage is far more protracted than spring passage with fewer scarce birds but both Common (makrellterne) and Arctic Terns (rødnebbterne) were new patch ticks for me and flocks of 12 Black-throated Diver and 18 Common Scoter were high counts. There was also a number of Guillemots on the lake and this one which needed help finding the lake after ditching down on the road instead.

out of place Guillemot (lomvi)
It is the late autumn / early winter period though that I will remember for many years to come. The first Pine Grosbeaks turned up on 29 October with 5 birds and peaked with 26 in the beginning of December although they were never easy to locate as they fed unobtrusively high in spruce trees.
part of an astonishing flock of 26 Pine Grosbeaks (konglebit) and an undoubted highlight of 2012

 The Hawk Owl graced us for four days staying loyal to roadside wires although was unfortunately pushed on by the first significant snowfall.
perhaps even better than the grosbeaks? This Hawk Owl (haukugle) graced Maridalen with its presence for four days

At the beginning of December before the lake froze a mixed flock of Whooper and Mute Swans (knoppsvane) added some style. Also at this time a Great Grey Shrike (varsler) was as always a fine sight, a Grey-headed Woodpecker (gråspett) put in a fleeting appearance and a to mirror the start of the year, a Pygmy Owl proved to be a regular sighting.

The Whooper Swan (sangsvane) pair succesfully raised four young and stayed until the lake froze in the beginning of December

Tawny Owls (kattugle) breed in a number of places in Maridalen and this youngster had just jumped out of a nest box when I found him

My recorded year list was 138 species although I note I never recorded Blackbird which must be an oversight. I failed to see Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Short-eared Owl which luckier individuals recorded.

After such a great 2012, it will take something special for 2013 to top it. Great Grey Owl maybe?

1 comment:

  1. Nice and ionteresting blog
    I would like to visit in the future Noray (varenger).
    Saludos !