Monday, 31 March 2014

Eilat day 2

I had planned to just upload a selection of mouth watering pictures each day during my week in Eilat but due to the foibles of modern technology I cannot connect the PC to the internet but the iphone connects no problem.
So you'll have to wait for the pictures but here are some of the good birds we have seen: Crowned Sandgrouse, Ruppel's Warbler, Little Crake, Citrine Wagtail, Siberian Stonechat, Greater Sand Plover, Namaqa Dove and Montagu's Harrier.
We have had small numbers of many species but no big falls and very little raptor migration so far.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Israel arriving

After nearly a whole  day spent travelling via Aqaba in Jordan i am now at Lotan north of Eilat where I will be workig and birding for the next week. We only had a half an hour of light after arriving which didn't result in much birding of note but I will be up at dawn tomorrow.

Exciting news from Oslo sas of a Great Grey Owl (lappugle) found dead on Thursday after flying into a barbed wire fence. It was found in Nittedal, the valley to the east of Maridalen. Maybe a dream soon will come true....

Friday, 28 March 2014

Jack Snipe video

A video of yesterdays Jack Snipe - remember to choose HD quality in You Tube.

The bird doesn't do much but right at the end you can see it breathing!

Now I'm off to Eilat. Good birding!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Far from Jack sh*t

Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) is a bird I cannot say I know very well, until today that is....

 In the UK I can only ever remember seeing it on a couple occasions although on both of these it was birds that were feeding along the edge of a reedbed and allowed prolonged if distant views. In Norway I have only seen birds that I have flushed although have had considerably more birds, although this is primarily due to the 12 I had on one afternoon at Lyserakermoa in October 2012. Seeing and most importantly hearing displaying birds in Finmark last June though was an amazing experience. Today though everything changed. I was eating my lunch overlooking Snekkervika at Nordre Øyeren and not seeing very much because the water level is incredibly low and there was over a kilometre of pretty much birdless mudflats in front of me. There is a nice bit of marsh there though and the pond held a couple of Wigeon (brunnakke) and the same number of Teal (krikkand). I thought that I may as well see if there were any snipe in the neighbouring field where summer grazing of cows has created a muddy damp area with tussocks of grass.

I flushed a Meadow Pipit (heipiplerke) and a Reed Bunting (sivspurv) and then started walking through the most interesting area for snipe. I soon saw some tell tale white droppings that showed that there had been snipe here recently. I continued walking and almost immediately a Jack Snipe flew up at about 3 metres distance. I watched where it landed and started walking that way hoping that I would be able to relocate it in not particularly long grass. Three steps later I looked down at my feet and saw a nice collection of white droppings and incredibly less than 30 cm from my foot a crouching Jack Snipe which then immediately flew off. Wow!! Determined now to actually see one properly on the deck I walked on looking down at my feet. I came to an area with two or three patches of droppings and started methodically searching. Incredibly there was a Jack Snipe crouching only a metre away!! I was able to take a picture with my mobile almost directly over it. To use the big lens I had to step back. The bird was clearly trusting in its camouflage and just stayed put. I took pictures from every angle and it didn’t move although you could see it breathing! Its camouflage was so good that when I walked a couple of metres to get a different angle I had to work really hard to find it again. It was so tiny!!! It also felt as though I could just reach out and pick it up although I resisted the temptation to try. An experience I will cherish for a long time.


Jack Snipe

a very poor shot with the mobile 1.7m directly over the bird
The day had started early looking for geese...again. I arrived at the current favoured field at 0640 but even though it had been light since before 0600 there were no geese there yet. I went down to the church and saw that they were still on the river. The view from the church does not allow one to see the eastern bank where the GPS tagged birds have spent a lot of their time. Therefore the 93 Bean Geese (sædgås) and 1 Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås) were clearly not the whole flock. Although it was quite a distance I was able to see 6 colour leg rings of birds standing on a sand bank. At about 0725 the first birds flew off the river and I drove up to the field again. The majority of the birds beat me there because after I arrived at 0740 there were only two small groups that flew in to complete the flock. As usual it was very difficult counting the flock and it was only when they flew off at 1005 (towards the peat blog this time) that I was able to accurately count. I counted 157 geese of which 151 were fabalis, 2 White-front (tundragås) and Pink-feet had increased to 4. Most excitingly I got to see tag 06 who has been leading a life of his own and migrating separately from the rest of the flock. He looked physically fine and I suspect may just be a lonely old widower who wanders around aimlessly looking for his life’s love. Judging by the large size I assume the bird is a male and he held himself often separate from the rest of the flock although did leave with them unlike two other single birds that stayed on the field. So it was good to see this bird and confirm there was no obvious physical reason for his strange behaviour. 
The Glomma with Bean Geese by the sandbank

Tag 06 at last - this tag can be read

but blue ring on right leg also confirms

Bean, Pink-footed and White-fronted Goose in same shot

The Svellet area of Nordre Øyeren also has very low water levels which promises good things for the forthcoming wader migration.  Today there were 62 Lapwing (vipe), 5 Oystercatcher (Tjeld) and 80 Black-headed Gulls (hettemåke) although on Tuesday I had had 500 B-h Gulls and 90 Lapwings. Curlews (storspove) should soon arrive in large numbers to be followed by tringa and calidris waders in May.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


I’ve spent too much time in the car and staring at geese recently and my body was demanding some action so I chose a birding by bike day. The weather forecast had prepared me for a cold NW wind but I think the blizzard that drove snow into my face also deserved a mention, or am I just too wimpy?
The snow and wind concentrated the birds and there were the first flocks of thrushes in the fields. Not many but enough to make themselves known: 70 Fieldfare (gråtrost), 12 Mistle Thursh (duetrost), 2 Song Thrush (måltrost), 1 Redwing (rødvingetrost) and a handful of Blackbirds (svarttrost). A flock of 400 Chaffinches (bokfink) didn’t contain a single Brambling (bjørkefink).
The stubble field at Kirkeby held a flock of 60 Yellowhammers (gulspurv) and amongst them 3 Reed Buntings (sivspurv), a Snow Bunting (snøspurv) and 4 Skylarks (sanglerke). Hopefully a Lapland Bunting (lappspurv) will join them later in the spring.
Evidence that there is a second wave of Whooper Swan (sangsvane) migration came in the form of 10 birds on the lake, 9 of which flew off north. Lapwing (vipe) numbered 12 today: 10 on the fields at Skjerven looking sorry for themselves in the snow and a pair at Kirkeby who looked keen to establish a territory.
The only raptors today were two male Goshawks (hønsehauk) with one, an adult, chasing the other out of Maridalen – presumably the male from the breeding pair defending his territory.

No pictures worth showing today, so I’ll leave you with a video of a guy apparently called Simon Ricks (you just can’t get the staff these days) who is describing why Bjørn Olav Tveit makes him jealous – the bird that is shown at the end is the Lesser Kestrel (rødfalk) that Bjørn found last year and which I did indeed feel jealous about!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Bean Geese addiction continues.....

The bird 06 which migrated seemingly alone north from Denmark on Friday and missed the staging grounds in Akershus by 100km or so before flying south and being seen on a lake in Sweden then flew north to the breeding grounds in Dalane in Sweden on Saturday. Yesterday though he started heading south west and after stopping at Gjesåssjøen in Hedmark  he arrived this morning to join the rest of the flock on the Glomma. How amazing is that??!! And also what was the point of all that??

These two pictures show the progress of Tag 06 and Tag 07.
Here is up until Saturday. Tag 07 is the red bird doing what he is supposed to do. Tag 06 is the green bird who doesn't appear to have a clue...

The plots from Monday showing Tag 06 starting the day at Gjesåssjøen and then making it down to the Glomma at Udenes but not before strangely heading off NW before then turing round.

I set off this morning to see if I could find him and if there were any other new arrivals.

I arrived at the fields at Nikivegen just before 0900 to find the flock present. I initially thought they weren’t all there but soon saw that a number of birds were feeding nearly out of site over a slight rise in the field. From 0919 the birds started flying south towards the river being led out by the 2 White-fronts which are still present and did a close fly by without me being ready with the camera. The geese kept on leaving in small groups until at 0942 a large group left leaving a single bird on his own. I half expected this to the bird 06 who has seems to enjoy his own company but it was an untagged bird. Counting the birds flying off gave me 169 which is a clear increase over the 151 I counted on 20th March. I saw no new neck collars although I couldn’t read all, however there were 12 inscribed neck collars of which I read 9 compared to 11 that I have read previously.

I was able to follow a flock down to the river which were clearly flying faster than the 80km/h speed limit I had to (theoretically) follow. I was able to time them at 5 minutes for 8km which gives a very impressive average speed of 96km/h!!

On the river there are now wide muddy banks and two sandbanks for the birds to rest on. Here I was able to see colour leg rings on the radio/GPS collared birds when they came out of the water and identified 5 of these birds today.

Unfortunately I did not (knowingly) see 06 although I did see 07 who has a black ring on his left leg. The GPS data for today shows something very (at least for me) interesting. Whilst 07 and the flock I saw was on the field at Nikivegen 06 was on the fields at Horgen. Was he on his own? Or are there even more birds? And why does he continue being different even after rejoining the rest of the flock?

A summer plumaged Red-throated Diver (smålom) feeding on the river was exceptionally early and very unexpected. There were no dabbling ducks here though except for a few Mallard and it is clearly still too early for them. There does seem to be a second wave of migrating Whooper Swans today with small flocks at three locations including on the sandbanks.

There were clearly many new passerine migrants in today with singing Dunnock (jernspurv) and Redwing (rødvingetrost) joining the increasing numbers of Chaffinches (bokfink) and Robins (rødstrupe). I also noticed (small) flocks of thrushes feeding in fields for the first time this spring.

It was frustrating to not see 06 today and I feel there is unfinished work to be done.....
panorama shot of the river Glomma under Udenes Kirke (church). To the right can we see a sandbank with resting Whooper Swans and Bean Geese. The other sandbank is behind the trees closest the camera

Two Taiga (fabalis) Bean Geese and a Pink-footed Goose (right)

7P who has always one of the closest birds and easiest to read



the four radio/GPS collared birds

the field at Nikivegen. A number of birds are over the hump close to the trees

both of these are fabalis but if the bird on the left was on its own it could very well be called rossicus

Bean Geese on the closest sandbank.

Bean Geese on the water under Udenes Church

Bean Geese on the river

green leg ring on right egg: 03

Red-throated Diver

the two White-fronted Geese (tundragjess) and a radio/GPS collared Bean Goose


Monday, 24 March 2014

Ignore the Blue Tits at your peril

Far too little cloud (and lots of quite pleasant blue sky and sun) coupled with a slight wind from the north meant that today was not going to be good for much other than taking some photos of commoner species and maybe a raptor or two and that is exactly what today delivered.

I started at Fornebu where I hoped to see if the Bearded Tits (skjeggmeis) were still present but failed to find any and the lack of recent records strongly suggests they have moved on. There was precious little else but I did have my first Linnet (tornirisk) of the year and a couple of Twite (bergirisk). I also had my first Song Thrush (måltrost) of the year doing what its name suggests it should to do. It took me a while to tune in and realised what I was listening to – it is a fantastic song!
A Song Thrush picture of this quality doesn't really deserve a place in the public demain but it was my first of the year and is what from I can see the only picture I have ever taken of this species

A Common Redpoll (gråsisik) rather than a Lesser Redpoll (brunsisik) that breed at Fornebu
A message from Per B that he was coming in to give Maridalen his first visit of 2014 persuaded me to drop Fornebu (not that much persuading was needed) and head to the local (patch that is). Here a pair of Long-tailed Tits (stjertmeis) were extremely cooperative and the light was probably the best I’ve had to take pictures of this species. They came very close but it is SOOOOOOO difficult taking pictures of these beauties. I had the camera on 1/800 sec but that is clearly not enough as they are moving all the time and some of the best motifs are when they are flying which just ended up being blurred – something to work on at a later date.  Then when they sit still for more than a nano second and you do get a sharp picture there is a twig in the way...

could have been better

this is better

always a twig in the way.....

I positioned myself at Kirkeby thinking Per was still on his way and scanned for raptors, and scanned for raptors and did a bit more of the same without seeing anything. Then a Blue Tit (blåmeis) started giving an alarm call and I scanned the sky directly above. A fast moving raptor looked like a Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) but once the bins were raised metamorphosised into a Golden Eagle (kongeørn)!!! A young bird it was heading purposefully NW but eventually started thermalling over a distant hillside where it showed for over 5 minutes and just long enough for Per (who was actually already in Maridalen) to arrive and see it.
After this we had a couple of Buzzards (musvåk) and three Sparrowhawks heading over plus seven Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) heading north. A flock of over 40 Snow Buntings (snøspurv) flew past (probably having been feeding unseen on a nearby field) and allowed me to take a picture but Per somehow couldn’t get on to them.
Golden Eagle - not quite sure about the age of this one but reckon it to be a 3cy due to the pale area on the upperwing

Snow Buntings. I picked them up when they all showed their white underparts like the bird in the inset but unfortunately they had changed direction when I got the camera on them

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pre breakfast birding

I really like the Sunday mornings when I can have a pre-breakfast birding trip in Maridalen and be home before everyone else has woken up.

Today I awoke at 6am to be surprised by it already being light outside and I could hear my first Redwing (rødvingetrost) of the year singing.

There was lowish cloud over Maridalen and a southerly wind which gave it a good feeling but it is still too early for a really big day. Never-the-less there were a lot more birds than last week.

Over 400 Chaffinch (bokfink) and a single Brambling (bjørkefink) made thmselves known. I had my first Snipe (enkeltbekksin), Redwing and Dunnocks (jernspurv) of the year. Mistle Thrushes (duetrost), migrating Wood Pigeons (ringdue), Reed Bunting (sivspurv), a few Hawfinches (kjernebiter), Grey Wagtail (vintererle) and a couple of Snow Buntings (snøspurv) were all good birds.

The lake is now holding more wildfowl with Canada and Greylag Geese, Whooper Swan, Tufted Duck (toppand), Goosander (laksand), Goldeneye (kvinand) and Mallard (stokkand). All but the Tufted will probably breed. The Mute Swan pair that had been acting territorially have moved on so won't be added to Maridalen’s list of breeding species this year at least.

There were still 8 Lapwings (vipe) on the field at Skjerven and another 9 resting on an island in the lake. The 8 would therefore appear to be this year’s breeding population and the 9 were resting migrants heading further north.

As the morning progressed there was a slight increase in numbers of finches and thrushes on the ground as overflying migrants decided to land probably encouraged by some snow that started falling!

There is a pair of Goshawks (hønsehauk) that breed in Maridalen. I have never gone searching for the nest but have seen a large but old nest and found newly fledged young last year. Today though I heard a bird calling and followed the call to disturb the bird from a low perch. Nearby was an obvious Goshawk nest but much smaller than the old nest. This nest cannot have been used often and was also directly over a (little used) path. It will be very interesting to see if this is used this year.

Back home whilst eating breakfast Oslo Birder jr jr excitedly pointed to a bird outside. I suspected a Magpie (skjære) but was pleasantly surprised that she was pointing to a flock of 70 Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) flying north - good girl!