Sunday, 20 October 2013

weekend birding

Yesterday I again heard crossbills outside the house and this time made a dash from the bathroom finally paid off with a flock of seven birds feeding in some ornamental dwarf pine trees. The trees, in the next door garden, are not more than 3 metres high and have very small cones but clearly provide a tasty snack. One nice red male was even singing! The birds flew up onto nearby wires where they were relatively at ease with my presence and allowed me some to take a couple of pictures. Unfortunately there were none with wing bars or big deep bills. Maybe I should have taken a recording of the voice to identify them to one of the at least six races of Common Crossbill (grankorsnebb) that are said to occur in northern Europe (or maybe not...) and for which call is the only sure means of separating amongst them.

adult female Crossbill (grankorsnebb) in the garden. It is aged due to the clean plumage and ssexed due to the green colouration

juvenile (left) with scaly plumage and adult female right
Today was the day for the annual bird club boat trip in the Oslo fjord. There was little to suggest that we would see much but it is always a nice trip so Per Christian and I put on some warm clothes (although in my case not warm enough) and joined the rather small turnout.

Velvet Scoter (sjøorre) were quite numerous and far outnumbered Common Scoter (svartand) but auks were very scarce as there have not been strong southerly winds to blow them into the inner fjord. A single Little Auk (alkekonge) was nice though although was only seen distantly in flight. Three Guillemots (lomvi) showed better and a flyby auk was probably a young Razorbill (at this age these have much slimmer beaks and require close views to nail). Raptors put on a good show though with three Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk), one Kestrel (tårnfalk), two Peregrines (vandrefalk) and a Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) hunting over a small island which must have a population of voles.
Guillemot (lomvi)

Two Common Scoters (svartand) in female/immature plumage

the same two birds again. Here we can see they have dark bellies showing they are adult females although I don't know the significance of the pale tips to the greater coverts.

Velvet Scoters (sjøorre)
 Interestingly most of the Velvet Scoters we see are adult males and this has been the case in previous years. Common Scoters have normally always been immatures -shown by them having pale bellies in flight. This year though the only two Common Scoters that allowed themselves to be aged and sexed (out of 5 birds in total) were adult females. Maybe there has been a poor breeding season for them?

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