BIRD GUIDING AROUND OSLO

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Thawing

Today I made a half-hearted search for Siberian Jays (lavskrike) in the spruce forest below Beitostølen. No joy today but I did hear a singing Greenshank (gluttsnipe). In the evening a brieftrip to Valdresflya revealed much more snow free ground - the thaw has really set in now and in a week or so I am sure it will look completely different. A single Dotterel (boltit), the pair of Temminck's Stints, a handful of Ringed Plovers (sandlo), a singing Shore Lark (fjellerke) were still close to the road and we had a small group of Reindeer crossing the road.

Magical Great Snipes

After the excitement of thursday morning I took a little (everything is realtive) break  from birding. We paid a visit to Valdresflya on Thursday evening in glorious sunshine. The Temminck's Stints were displaying along the road as we drove by (the roadside ditch being probably one of the best sources of food amongst all the snow). Alas no Dotterel to show the girls but a fast moving herd of 400 Reindeer on a nearby mountainside was good compensation. I couldn't resist another visit to the Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin) lek tonight. It was misty and chilly but this seemed to encourage earlier action with nearly continuous visible display from kust before 23:00. I found a good place to observe the action and was able to determine that there were at least 10 displaying birds. There were birds flying around with whirring wings, birds jumping, birds chasing each other and a continuous chorus of singing birds. I had birds singing within 10 metres of me on three sides after midnight but by then it was far too dark due to mist. I did manage some fairly decent video this time though which I will upload later. With the risk of repeating myself I can only describe it as MAGICAL!!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING!!

In the course of 8 hours i have had two of the most memorable birding experiences one could ever hope for (and I even managed to sleep a little bit aswell). It started last night when I went back to see the GREAT SNIPES (dobbeltbekkasin) properly. I left at half-time in the football and was on site before 10pm. I could hear a bird displaying about 300m from where we had the birds earlier although it was very sporadic. Even though it could only have been 15 metres from me and the vegetation was short I could not see the bird. I walked up to the afternoon site and a bird sang here but then flew down to the new site. I returned here and made myself comfortable as I waited for the games to begin. One or two birds sang sporadically but still invisibly until around 23:15 when I finally saw a bird and managed some grainy pictures and video. This was probably a female as it didn't display even though two other birds were singing but it did give a weak call. As it got closer to midnight things started to hot up. I could hear another bird singing further away and this caused two to sing in front of me. The birds also started showing themselves amongst the dwarf birch vegetation although they were not perching prominently on grass tussocks as I expected. At one stage I actually saw four birds and then another flew in. After midnight when the light was too poor for any decent pictures then there was almost continuous display with birds standing in the open and interacting with each other and birds were flying in. There were at least 6 birds at the lek with a minimum of 4 displaying males but could have been more with birds perhaps flying between other leks in the area. It really  was an amazing experience to see and hear these mysterious birds. The lek was also only 10 metres from a well used footpath! I will post pictures and video later. Even though I didn't manage any close up views of leking birds which many people manage from photography hides elsewhere this was a truly memorable experience. Also here a roding Woodcock (rugde) and a calling (and seen flying) Common Snipe (enkeltbekkasin). Then after 4 hours sleep (I finally managed to fall asleep with the song of Great Snipe ringing in my ears) I was up again. Target was Valdresflya in good weather. I was there at 06:40 and it was blue skies, no wind and temperatures around zero although in the sun it was not cold. On the very top of Valdresflya the snow cover was 90% and I stopped in a lay-by next to a small area of clear ground. Getting out of the car I was greeted by the sound of singing waders!! It was magical. There were 4 Dotterel (boltit), 3 Temminck's Stint (temmincksnipe), Purple Sandpiper (fjæreplytt) and 4 Ringed Plovers (sandlo) with a Shore Lark (fjellerke) singing overhead. The birds were quite trusting allowing me to take many photos although i have yet to see if any have turned out well as the light was quite challenging. Other patches of open ground held a couple of Dunlin (myrsnipe), more Ringed Plover, a Redshank (rødstilk), 2 Raven (ravn) and the odd Wheatear (steinskvett) and Meadow Pipit (heipiplerke). At one stage I heard a singing Temminck's Stint close by but couldn't see it until there it was less than 5 metres from me. Close up they are even smaller than they normally appear to be. I have always wanted to be in the mountains when the birds are concentrated on small areas of snow free gound and are displaying and finally i have experienced it and it was just as magical as I had hoped for. It will take a lot to beat 28 June and it isn't even lunch time yet!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Beitostølen

We walked today in the hills above Beitostølen passing through the tree line. Bluethroats (blåstrupe) and Redshank (rødstilk) were noticeable through their absence when we would normally expect to see many here. Is this due to the late spring or other factors? Ring Ouzels (ringtrost) though were obvious with at least 5 birds, Willow Warblers (løvsanger) were everywhere, a pair of Lesser Whitethroats (møller) were collecting food for their nestlings, a Cuckoo (gjøk) sang and then flew past us, Bramblings (bjørkefink) were singing in the birch woodland, a Kestrel (tårnfalk) was hovering above the treeline and a couple of male Tufted Duck (toppand) were on a small lake. Butterflies were also very noticeable through their absence with just a single Small Tortoiseshell (neslesommerfugl) and a few Mountain Ringlets. The days undoubted highlight was also completely unexpected or at least so in the middle of the day. As we walked down through the tree line and followed a path alongside a downhill ski track where there was areas of both dry Nand wet grass I heard a sound that could only be a Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin) - but in the middle of the afternoon 15:50) on a sunny day and under a skilift? Then Fieldfares (gråtrost) began scolding and I began to doubt myself. But there it was again. As we walked towards where we thought the noise came from (it is difficult to pinpoint) a Great Snipe exploded from an area of dwarf birch trees showing off its white tail feathers. Then shortly after another bird started "singing" close by. We couldn't locate this bird but I will be back this evening! I have long suspected that there are Great Snipe around Beitostølen but had never expected to find my first one displaying mid afternoon literally under a skilift!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Valdresflya

Pictures will follow later but today we finally got up onto Valdresflya. Known as one of the best sites in Southern Norway for mountain birds and especially Long-tailed Skua I always look forward to our annual trip here. Today was one of the earliest times we have been here and snow still covered most of the ground and the lakes were still frozen. This and rain meant that there was very little to see. I did have 2 singing Shore Larks, 3 resting Dotterel (great pictures to follow) and heard a Dunlin singing but no ducks, no plovers or other waders and no skuas. When the thaw is so late as this year I suspect that many birds chose other areas to breed which would explain why the numbers of birds we have seen in previous year in mid July has varied considerably. No sign of Lemmings would explain Merlin being the only raptor (Rough-legged Buzzard is normally guaranteed here)and 20 distant Reindeer were the only mammals.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Even more mountains

Another nice day in the mountains with mostly sun and blue skies but a couple of heavy showers . A distant 2k Hen Harrier (myrhauk) was the birding highlight alongside singing Lapland Buntings (lappspurv) , Whimbrel (småspove), Kestrels (tårnfalk) and more scoters.

We walked up a small hill where previously we have had Dotterel (boltit) and Willow Grouse (lirype) but none to be found this year,

male Golden Plover (heilo)

male Lapland Bunting
pair of Common Scoters (svartand) and three Velvet Scoters (sjøorre)

Vinstre lake and the Jotunheimen mountains

Whimbrel

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Mountains

We are up on the edge of the Jotunheimen by Vinstre lake at 1027 metres. There is still some snow on the ground here and higher up on Valdresflya we could see there was still a considerable amount of snow. On the lake here were 3 Long-tailed Ducks (havelle) which are presumably waiting for the ice on their breeding lakes to disappear. Also a few Common (svartand) and Velvet Scoter (sjøorre) and surpisingly 4 Cormorants (storskarv) resting on an island.
On the way up we had an immature Golden Eagle (kongeørn) flying over the road and when we stopped to admire it an adult also flew over.
Immature (3k?) Golden Eagle

Adult Golden Eagle

Haugseter Mountain Hotel (fjellstue) - great hotel in great location

old summer farms by Vinstre lake

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Willow Warblers

The youngest also wanted to see Beaver this evening but bedtime meant unfortunately meant we were not able to be there late enough so no mammal sightings today. Did pick and eat our first wild strawberries of the year, saw Willow Warblers (løvsanger) taking food to young, the Wrynecks (vendehals) going into the nest, Swallows (låvesvale) flying into their nest under the bridge with food and leaving with poo sacks which they just dropped into the river and Spotted Flycatchers (gråfluesnapper) making sorties out over the river.

The ornithological highlight was a singing Marsh Warbler (myrsanger) but it really had me going for a minute. It was singing on the edge of a wood and 5 metres up a tree. Marsh Warblers aren't supposed to do this! This is where you find Blyth's Reed (busksanger) and finding one in Maridalen has been top of my wish list for the last month! But I had to accept it was just an out of habitat Marsh - maybe this is even rarer than a Blyth's ;-) This bird was singing 250metres from where one has been singing in more typical habitat for a week and could very well have been this bird moving around a bit.

Here are both the hard working Willow Warbler parents
W
Willow Warbler


Maridalen mammals


Last night I took my eldest daughter on a long promised trip to look for Beavers (bever) in Maridalen. We had to wait until 21:30 for one to show after having previously seen a Mink swimming with a prey item in its mouth. The Mink swam out from where the Beavers lodge is and had me struggling for a bit until it came closer to us. We picked up the Beaver from its air bubbles and saw it swimming underwater beneath us as we stood on a bridge. We never saw it surface and it was another 20 minutes before we saw it again at some distance swimming away from us over the lake.
Birds included the Wrynecks, Red-backed Shrike and Grasshopper Warbler which is now singing right by the road. No sound from the Corncrake though.

Due to poor light and incorrect camer settings there were no decent pictures but I'll upload these two anyway
Underwater beaver. If you let your imagination run wild you will see the tail and two back feet. Only half the body is visible as I managed to cut the head off

Mink with prey item in mouth. You can see the legs of the prey but I am not even sure if it is an animal or bird
 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Corncrake

I couldn't resist a trip round Maridalen last night and even chose to be environmentally friendly and go by bike which is actually a much more effective way of hearing birds. With cloud free skies and the longest day of the year it was still relatively light at midnight but luckily the thrushes still need their sleep so all was quiet except for the "nightsingers".
The Corncrake (åkerrikse) I had been told about was singing regularly and strongly just 20 metres from the road in a field of relatively short crops but I failed to see it. The Grasshopper Warbler (gresshopesanger) was reeling away, both Marsh Warblers (myrsanger) were singing, a Tawny Owl (kattugle) called from my fourth location in the valley this year and Woodcock (rugde) flew over calling.
All in all a very pleasant bike ride but it would have been nicer with a Great Grey Owl (lappugle), one of which was photographed in Nesodden, just south of Oslo last night.

Here you can here the very special "song" of the Corncake

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Summer?

Today was finally a day worthy of being called summer with the temperature up to 25C and blue skies. Mrs. Oslo Birder joined me for a ride around Maridalen. We had great views of the male Red-backed Shrike busily finding food and returning to the presumed nest site. No sign of the female, though I read that females brood continually until the young are at least 6 days old.
At the Wryneck nest both parents were regularly in and out of the nest with food (they seemed to have balls of ants in their beaks/throats) and often left with poo-sacks. Finally undeniable proof of succesful breeding.
Also spoke with a nature interested local who had heard a Corncrake last night so that gives me another reason for a nocturnal wander :-)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish


I was out birding with Rune today. We briefly flirted with the idea of a ten hour round trip (driving only) to “tick” Norways third Rose-breated Grosbeak (rosenbrysttykknebb) which is feeding at a bird table in deepest Hedmark but instead chose to visit a rubbish dump. The Black Kite (svartglente) has not been seen for a week but neither have many people been looking for it so we thought we would give it a try. On the way we took a detour to Fiskumvannet where we had 3 singing Marsh Warblers (myrsanger), a Little Ringed Plover (dverglo) and a Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk) as the highlights. Driving down towards Tønsberg we went through some countryside that looks great for a “nattsanger” tour and even managed Marsh Warbler from the car. The rubbish dump at Taranrød was no pleasant place although there were enough gulls there that some birders would undoubtedly find it an irresistible place. We spoke with an employee there who told us he had seen the Kite yesterday which encouraged us to stay for around an hour although for our troubles we only had a Little Ringed Plover. We then went to Gjennestadvannet where the Kite has also been seen and on the way had another Honey Buzzard and at Gjennestadvannet had a fine pair of Hobbies (lerkefalk) that were regularly in the air hunting dragonflies. We chose to give the rubbish dump another go and did this time have a Buzzard (musvåk). As we were leaving (the wind had picked up and foul dust was being blown about) the employee we had spoken to earlier waved us over to say he had literally just seen the bird fly over. We had seen nothing except a Raven and although it tempted us into staying another half an hour I fear it was a case of mistaken identity.
Hobby

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Strange nightime noises


I couldn't resist another nocturnal outing yesterday this time choosing Nittedal as the main destination. In the end it was too cold and there was too much traffic noise such that I only heard some distant noises that I was unable to identify. At Hellerudsletta though I did hear a warbler singing and was able to get close to it in the dark. It was singing slowly and I was really unsure as to its identity for a long time. There were some extended periods of song when I was convinced I was listening to a Blyth's Reed (busksanger) but it failed to utter any of the characteristic notes of Blyth's and it did have short periods when it just sounded like a Marsh. On xeno-canto there are recordings which have been labelled as possible hybrid between the two species and this bird resembles them but there is so much variation within Marsh Warbler (myrsanger) that I’ve concluded it was just a laid back Marsh.

On the way home I had to try Maridalen although the Fieldfares (gråtrost) started making a din already at 01:45 which made it hard work. Two Marsh Warblers eventually announced their presence, Tawny Owls (kattugle) were calling at a new location and the Grasshopper Warbler (gresshoppesanger) was reeling away close to the lake and therefore much harder to hear than normally.
A Fieldfare (with a cold) had me going for a bit as it was making a noise very similar to a begging young Long-eared Owl (hornugle) but I eventually saw the bird. A Whinchat (buskskvett) started singing just after 2am and did an excellent mimic of both Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) and Yellowhammer (gulspurv) - I would have loved to have heard the Whinchat that apparently mimicked River Warbler (elvesanger) so well that birders were ticking it (I think it took a while before people realised it was a bit odd that it always sang (invisibly) from the same bush that a Whinchat was sitting in!).

Today I walked up to Dausjøen but failed to see the Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family although they could well have been in an area not visible to me. An Osprey (fiskeørn) was searching for food over the lake before eventually circling to such a height that it was just a black dot in the binoculars before drifting off north east. I disturbed one of the Wrynecks (vendehals) whilst it was feeding on the ground but didn’t succeed in locating a Marsh Warbler which I had hoped to be able to photograph.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Old favourites


The parents are visiting from England so there has been little time for birding. Today though I took them on the Tour de Maridalen. Even though it was a bit windy and overcast the birds were cooperative. The Grasshopper Warbler (gresshoppesanger) was singing away, the male Red-Backed Shrike (tornskate) was very obliging as he made forays to the nest with food; a red male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) sang just metres from us and was briefly joined by a female. The Wrynecks came in and out of their nest hole a couple of times and are possibly bringing food to young although the frequency of visits was not too high. A pair of Pied Flycatchers (svarthvit fluesnapper) showed well by their nest box and an Osprey (fiskeørn) flew over with an agitated Lapwing (vipe) nipping at its tail.
This male Swallow (låvesvale) from a pair nesting under a bridge sang at length from a wire over the road allowing me some nice pictures and also a chance to appreciate how pleasant the song actually is. Notice how it has lost one of its outer tail feathers.
Barn Swallow

Bran Swallow

Barn Swallow