Thursday, 27 February 2014

Bounce back with style

What a day. I know I come with comments like that quite often but today was good, really good. One of those spring days that you only have a chance for a couple of times each year and this year it has happended about a month earlier than usual.

My initial goal for the day was to check the spring staging grounds of the Scottish Bean Geese. One of the two satellite tagged birds has already left Scottland and is in Denmark. Its journey over the North Sea was initially towards Norway before it took a sharp right to Denmark so I though that there was a chance that some birds could have already come to Norway despite the VERY early date. The fields at the staging site are all snow free and it looks perfect for the geese with already green grass. However there were no geese or swans here although a Grey Wagtail (vintererle) and five Lapwings (vipe) were year ticks. Down on the river by Udenes there was also a lack of water birds lthough I dud hear Great Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Blacks Woodpeckers and had a flyover flock of Waxwings. The water level is very high for the time of year due to the mild and wet winter and the seasonal sand banks were under water. The sand banks are used by the Bean Geese for roosting/resting and without use of them it will be interesting to see what the geese will do. Will they, as they did in the autumn, roost on forest lakes (if they are ice free) or will they not use the area at all? Hopefully the satellite tags will still be working such that we can locate the geese once they come.

With plenty of time available to me I headed for the Hølandselva valley north of Bjørkelangen. Here the spring flood is already happening , a month earlier than usual and with it loads of swans and geese have come. Most exciting was the presence of Bean Geese. First I had a group of 13 fabalis  none of which had neck collars. A few kilometres away amongst many Whooper Swans, Canada and Greylag Geese I had another 14 fabalis and 2 rossicus! Again none of the geese bore neck collars so we can’t know whether these are Scottish birds are not. Along the valley I had in total 296 Whoopers which were very vocal as they displayed, 150 (exactly!) Canada Geese and 54 Greylag Geese alongside the in total 30 Bean Geese. Ducks have yet to really come but amongst a wary flock of 260 Mallards (perhaps indicating a distant origin?) was a male Pintail.

Despite a loaded buffet table I did not have any raptors.

Checking that the original group of fabalis was still present (to avoid double counting) I had a flock of 30 Redpolls, at least one of which had an enormous white rump showing it to be an Arctic (looking at the poor pictures I took it looks like the flock actually contained a number of Artic Redpolls). Could the day get better?

Well actually it could. On the way home I stopped at the small wetland at Merkja which borders the much larger Svellet (part of Nordre Øyeren) and is sandwiched between a railway line, main road and houing estate. Despite this it still attracts birds and I could see 50 odd swans were on the water. I have spent a lot of time previously checking Whooper Swans for the smaller cousin Bewick Swan which I have only seen a couple of times in Norway and have yet to find myself. The easiest way to check is to count each Whooper one-by-one so I set about doing this. After about 10 birds one looked a lot smaller with a lot of black on its bill but I continued my count and once I had my total I returned to bird # 10. It was indeed a Bewick’s!!

I could have chosen a trip to Fredrisktad today for a Caspian Gull which would have been a Norwegian tick but the experience of today including a new self found Norwegian tick was incomparably better.

all three Swan species - a unique Norwegian picture?

The Bewick's Swan is so much smaller than the Whoopers and has more black on the bill

Bewicks is bird 2 from the left. The size difference is clear to see

the first group of 13 Tundra (fabalis) Bean Geese

The second group of fabalis with one rossicus (Tundra) Bean Goose plus Canada & Greylag Geese. In the inset look how much smaller the rossicus is - it is difficult to believe these have not been split into two full species

the second rossicus is on the left in the inset and is again a much smaller bird than the next door fabalis

the scene at Bjørkelangen

this goose at Kjelle may well just have been an odd Canada but the head markings and smaller size than the neighbouring Canadas suggests to me that it is a hybrid with Barnacle Goose (hvitkinngås). In the foreground a dead Whooper Swan that was underneath a power line which was its presumed cause of death

Redpolls. The bird on the left in the inset must be an Arctic and the other bird definitely looks like one aswell. In facr most of the birds could well be Arctic Redpolls but it was difficult viewing them before they flew off

Lapwings at the Bean Geese staging site

Whooper Swans migrating over where the sandbanks should be if the Bean Geese are to roost here

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