Sunday, 4 August 2013

Red-backed Shrikes

adult male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) - bird of the weekend

Another weekend at the cabin in Hulvik gave me the chance for a couple of early morning visits to Kurefjorden. My visits in July were just after Little and Black Terns had been found there and afterwards there has been a Pectoral Sandpiper (alaskasnipe) so I was hoping (and feeling I was due) to find something good.

On Saturday there was no wind and quite a few birds. On Sunday after thunderstorms and strong winds the previous afternoon and evening I had hoped for a lot more birds (there had been a good "fall" of waders at Årnestangen during the thunderstoms) but actually saw a lot less. There were a few waders on Saturday with 2 summer plumaged Grey Plovers (tundralo) and 13 Ruff (brushane) the highlights and Ringed Plover (sandlo) the most numerous with ca.40 birds present.
The best birds however were not on the mud but rather behind the seawall with a singing Quail (vaktel) and a calling flyover Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) quite unexpected. There were also a few Crossbills around but I could only find Common (grankorsnebb).
The turf fields at Roer are also now starting to attract waders with Golden Plover (heilo) rising from 21 to 45 - all adults - from Saturday to Sunday and a few Lapwing (vipe), Ruff, Ringed Plover and Curlew (storspove).

Highlight for me though on both days were a good showing of Red-backed Shrikes (tornskate) which also finally allowed me to take some decent pictures which I think have been lacking on the blog of late. On Saturday I found youngsters at three locations (1,2 & 2) all of which were well fledged, looking after themselves and had probably moved some distance from the nest site. On Sunday I located two of the youngsters again and played a game of cat and mouse with one as I tried to get some close pictures which I ultimately failed to achieve. Moving on I had only driven max 200metres when I saw a shrike in some bushes in a field used by horses. I have always fancied this as a breeding site for shrikes due to a good variety of bushes and long grass but have never seen one here whilst driving past despite always scanning for one. As I got out of the car to try to get some photos I heard alarm calling shrikes from all directions. It did not take long to realise there was a pair with three very recently fledged young (one at least didn't have a fully grown tail or wings). The young were begging for food and the adults were giving alarm calls due to my presence. I was able to get very acceptable pictures of both adults and at least two of the young and as I tried to count how many young there were I realised there were more birds calling less than 100m away. Locating them in the bins revealed there to be another family party with three youngsters which were also only just out of the nest. I captured one picture that had four birds from this family in the same bush.
very newly fledged Red-backed Shrike - note the lae bill and very scaly uperparts. Also tail and wings are not yet fully grown

same bird as above

an older (and independent) juvenile with longer wings and tail and a less "fluffy" appearance
adult female Red-backed Shrike - note the lack of scaling on uperpars and greyer bill

same bird as above
adult male and begging juvenile Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

adult male

The second family group- Four birds are visible although the bottom most bird only just so.

So my thoughts that this was a good site for shrikes were correct but it surprises me that two pairs could breed here without me having seen them before. Before the sightings of the last three days (I also had a juvenile in Maridalen on Friday) I had been thinking this year was a particularly bad one for shrikes (also commented by others) but there would appear to be a quite a few pairs out there and breeding had been successful after the hot summer weather.

The shrikes gave an incredible variety of calls with some sound like silvia warblers, other chats and occasionally like a shrieking falcon. Normally when I have encountered breeding or passage birds they have been silent.

There was little bird life at the cabin but butterflies were much in evidence with at least 9 species:
Peacock (dagpåfugløye), Red Admiral (admiral), Small Tortoiseshell (neslesommerfugl), Brimstone (sitronsommerfugl), Large White (stor kålsommerfugl), Scarce Copper (oransjegullvinge), Small Copper (ildgullvinge), an unidentified small species of blue butterfly, an unidentified small species of fritillary and the largest fritillary of them all, Silver-winged (keiserkåpe) which allowed me to photograph it. I got quite into butterflies many years ago in England and started photographing them but haven’t paid too much attention to them in the last decade or so but would like to increase my knowledge especially with the difficult fritillaries and blues.

Silver-washed Fritillary (keiserkåpe). This butterfly was missing the tips off both its forewings - the result of a close escape from a bird?
As I was writing this I was rung with the news that a Trumpeter Finch (trompeterfink) has been found at Øra only half an hour away from where I was earlier in the day (back home now unfortunately). It is a male and a new species for Norway so could well have persuaded me to yet again visit the great rubbish dump and my least favourite birding locality!

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