Monday, 14 October 2013


Yesterday morning at Fornebu, Eric Roualet recorded Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis gransanger), Bearded Tit (skjeggmeis), Woodlark (trelerke) and Two-barred Crossbill (båndkorsnebb) – in other words a very good day.

I was at Fornebu with the family in the afternoon but didn’t squeeze in any birding and none of the aforementioned birds happened to fly over me. Today though I was able to fit in a proper birding trip to Fornebu and while not having as much joy as Eric I did at least locate the tristis Chiffchaff. I was waiting by the reed bed at Koksa hoping that the Bearded Tits would reveal themselves (in vain) but after a while I did hear the “chicken” call of a tristis. Siberian Chiffchaffs, or more precisely Chiffchaffs of the race tristis have only officially been recorded in Norway a handful of times but the true status is that the species is most likely a regular late autumn migrant in small numbers. Problems in agreeing how to safely identify tristis have led to this uncertainty but now there is more agreement on the criteria and if you have a Chiffchaff that calls like a tristis should, i.e the chicken call (which to my ears also resembles a Water Rail) plus it lacks green in the head, underparts and mantle (a gross over simplification on my part) then it should be a tristis. I.e if it looks like sh*t and smells like sh*t then it is sh*t.

It took me a lot of chasing around before I located the bird(s) and finally I found three Chiffchaffs in the reeds which occasionally flitted up into some trees before leaving the reedbed when they went high in the trees. In the beginning one of them gave a normal Chiffchaff call but after they moved high up they were all completely silent and very difficult to follow and study. The one bird that showed best allowed me to take some photos which are just good enough to support the ID as tristis. I played calls of both types of Chiffchaff without eliciting any response.

not a good picture but it showswell the brown cheeks and lack of green tones characteristic of a Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff

lack of yellow in the supercilium is also a tristis sign

I will return to hopefully get some better pictures. Otherwise at Fornebu there were a couple of hundred Redpolls (gråsisik) which did not allow themselves to be studied but will hopefully contain some Arctic (polarsisik) which are turning up all over Norway now.

So I left Fornebu more frustrated than satisfied and decided on a quick trip to Maridalen. The lake was completely flat allowing me to scan for ducks. In October there are often scoter to be seen here but all I managed to find were 8 Wigeon (brunnakke) which is quite a good record. One final sweep revealed that the “cormorant” sitting on an island 2km away from me was actually a White-tailed Eagle (havørn) – a Maridalen and Oslo tick! I wanted to get closer to get some photos but when I went down to the waters edge as close as I could to the island I was unable to see it as it was on the other side. I therefore had to go round to the other side of the lake where the views were the views were from 800m instead of the hoped for 200m but I was at least closer than 2000m!

The bird was standing in the water all the time I saw it which surely is not the most sensible thing to do and I wonder whether it could be a sign of a sick bird. A couple of Crows and Magpies came close and mobbed it but it didn’t respond. In fact during the hour I watched it I only saw it move its head and one time it stretched down and may have drunk some water. The bird was a youngster and probably in its 2nd year but without seeing it fly I am not able to be more specific.

White-tailed Eagle (havørn) at about 800m at Maridalsvannet - a patch tick!

bit closer with a Crow for size comparison
Whilst watching the eagle I also located a Common Scoter and heard a 2BC flying over.

a Goldfinch (stillits) at Fornebu

Blue Tits (blåmeis) were the only tits in the reedbeds

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