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.

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