Friday, 13 December 2013

They'll be back

guess what turned up again today

Yesterday’s temperature of 5C stood today with just the substitution of a “+” for a minus “-“. This, not surprisingly, resulted in really slippery roads. At Fornebu I slid into the curb on a very gentle swing. The car was OK but the hub cap fell off and when I went back to get it the next two cars both slid off in exactly the same place despite none of us having been driving too fast.

It was a fantastic morning with no wind, sun and a crispness in the air. Fornebu didn’t have any surprises to offer up though. The Bearded Tits (skjeggmeis) were pinging in the reedbed, or more precisely a bird pang, the Long-tailed Tits (stjertmeis) had resorted to feeding in the reedbeds, there were three Hawfinches (kjernebiter), a calling Black Woodpecker (svartspett) and a Nutcracker (nøttekråke). In the reedbed at Storøykilen the Teal (krikkand) was still present on the mysteriously ice free pool but there was no sign of Water Rails (vannrikse).

I searched for footprints in the snow and did find some good tracks around a snow free marshy area that then led to the small stream which must be Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) based on their size. I walked the area repeatedly but failed to find the bird although it would probably sit tight unless I was in danger of treading on it. The picture below shows the tracks with a 20kr coin (27mm) for size comparison. The footprints must be a day or 2 old since there has been some melting which has increased their size but you can see that the longest toe is about the same size as the coin. According to BWP the toe of Jack Snipe is 28.7mm which seems to fit. The other possible species based on time of year and habitat are all much larger: Common Snipe 36.4mm, Woodcock 39.4mm and Water Rail 50.9. Here is a link to a similar picture of Jack Snipe tracks although in that picture there has not been melting so the toes looks much thinner.
presumed Jack Snipe tracks

male Greenfinch (grønnfink)

male Siskin (grønnsisik)

I headed into town to enjoy the concentration of birds in the Botanical Gardens. The change in weather had resulted in a complete change in the bird life compared to yesterday. Hawfinches were down to three and not feeding in the berry trees (because they are frozen?), finches and thrushes were far less obvious but the Two-barred Crossbills (båndkorsnbebb) were back! They used the berry tree regularly and were also down on the ground to eat snow. At one stage a bird landed less than a metre from me!  but I didn’t manage to take any pictures when they were so close. Good light (although never with sunlight actually on the birds) meant that I have yet again a few hundred new pictures of this species on my hard disk. They did fly to the larches a couple of times and also once to a leylandiaa type conifer tree. Here they were feeding on the tiny cones and were side by side with a female Crossbill of the slightly wing barred type. They then flew to a larch where there was another Common Crossbill but when the three 2BCs later returned to the berry tree their common cousins did not follow. I had both types of Crossbill calling simultaneously and I wouldn’t exactly say there is a huge difference in their calls.

Only three Hawfinches and a couple of Chaffinches in the park today and Fieldfares were down to about 20 individuals.

When the 2BCs are so close in such marginal light it is difficult getting the camera settings right. I try to take at F9 as this is the best aperture for the lens and then with as low an ISO as possible whilst still having a fast enough shutter speed for a sharp picture (at least 1/160sec when hand holding). The problem is when birds move and are suddenly in a darker area and the resulting pictures are then all unsharp as I had the shutter speed as the variable factor.

When they were feeding in the berry tree the grey female was, as on previous occasions, always the bird that fed lowest and was most photogenic. I reckon I got some pretty good pictures today showing feeding behaviour.
Two-barred Crossbill: the grey female having sliced open the berry and extracted the seed

the greener female also with an extracted seed
grey female close up

the greener female

the male discarding seed husks

see how mant berries have already been sliced into

using its feet to hold a berry whilst performing the extraction

Add caption

feeding on the cones of a leylandii type conifer

a female Common Crossbill  showing weak wing bars in the same conifer
yet more foot dexterity

having a drink (of sorts)

I just love snow

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