Friday, 11 April 2014

Not enough superlatives

What a day (yesterday was – as I am writing this after 15 hours in the field)! I know I've started blog entries with exactly those words before but every now and then you do get one of those days.

I was guiding Brian today and we started off in the forest north of Maridalen searching for Hazel Grouse and woodpeckers which along with owls stood on the wish list. Passing Maridalsvannet it was completely calm and a quick look revealed a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers (siland) which are barely annual here plus an equally rare Great Crested Grebe (toppdykker). We continued to the forest where we wandered for three hours, often through snow, during which time is started drizzling and a wind picked up. We heard Hazel Grouse (jerpe) singing on and off for probably a whole hour but despite being close all the time we were limited to just three glimpses in flight in the thick forest which was quite frustrating. We had two separate singing males and with better weather it should be possible to get better acquainted with these birds as they did not seem bothered by our presence. At one stage Brian went rolling down a slope and there was a lot of commotion and talking and then a minute later the grouse was singing again only 15 metres away. Woodpeckers were limited to a couple of Black (svartspett). A migrating flock of 140 Cormorants was a sign of things to come. B.

Driving out through Maridalen it started raining constantly and the southerly wind had now whipped up waves on lake. Our attention was caught by first a Kestrel (tårnfalk) and then a large skein of geese which were at least 400 Pink-footed (kortnebbgås) with a couple of Greylag (grågås). They were headed north into low cloud and 5 minutes later they had turned and landed on the lake. We stayed in the area at the church ruins because it was clear things were happening. Southerly winds and rain and a bank of low cloud cause birds to arrive and them force them down. During the course of the next hour more flocks of geese came in from the north (having been forced to turn round) and the flock swelled to at least 800 Pink-feet and 60 Greylag. Three Cranes (trane) flew over north but then turned and looked like they were landing but I never saw this happen as a fly over Lapland Bunting (lappspurv) which we had earlier scared off flew over and took my attention. A small flock of Twite (bergirisk) were feeding in the fields, a Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) flew over, we scared up a Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) from a ditch (this bird uncharacteristically flying at a few metres range and also making a quiet short call) and everywhere there were Chaffinches (bokfink), Yellowhammer (gulspurv) and various thrushes. The area was literally alive with birds.
We were both quite elated although also wet and cold and I decided that a trip to Svellet should reveal more good birds brought down by the rain. A flock of 231 Curlew (storspove) was a good prize but there was nothing else particularly exciting and certainly no flocks of duck that I had hoped for. We continued into Aurskog-Høland where I had hoped the rains would have caused new flooding in the valley and although there was standing water at Kjelle there was hardly a bird to see except for a scattering of Cranes and a flyover Merlin (dvergfalk).

It was not 7pm and getting gloomy but we continued to Hellesjøvannet. On the way we had the first of three groups of three Moose (mothers with two youngsters) feeding out in fields. At Hellesjøvannet there were a few ducks on the water including a group of Teal (krikkand). I scanned for my first Norwegian Garganey (knekkand) of the year and guess what I found – a male Green Winged Teal (amerikakrikkand)! This bird is most likely the same one I found at Kjelle last spring as they are known to be long lived returning birds but even so it was a great find and only the second in Norway so far this year.

Quite elated we then went owling. The overcast skies and wind meant that I had zero hope of finding any singing birds but we were close to owl country and Brian wanted some! We drove into the deep, dark forests and stopped at Søndre Mangen where
I know both Pygmy (spurveugle) and Tengmalm’s (perleugle) have been heard this year. As it got dark we had a roding Woodcock (rugde) and I thought I heard a distant owl. We drove towards where I thought it was and after struggling to find a place out of earshot of running water I played the call of Pygmy. No response. I then played Tengmalms and almost immediately we became aware of bird perched in a nearby tree. A Tengmalms Owl was watching us! It then flew low over us, like a large silent moth and was clearly trying to work out where the other owl was. It called quietly a couple of times but did not give a full song and may well have been a female. One call even resembled Tawny Owl. It gave us a great showing and I was even able to go back to the car, retrieve the camera and take pictures with the flash. An unforgettable experience and two very happy birders!! As we were leaving a white ghost walked over the road and showed itself to be a hare still with its white winter coat – with so little snow left this animal will make an easy target for a wandering Golden Eagle.

Due to the rain there were few pictures taken today. I did of course get a record shot of the yank but was unable to get close and the light was bad but it does the job. Amongst a load of pictures of the Tengmalm’s a few were OK. I had forgotten my head torch so without a light on the bird the autofocus doesn’t work so I was having to use manual focus plus the flash causes terrible red-eye. Enjoy!!

Green-winged Teal (amerikakrikkand). This bird was clearly paired but to the identity of the female is unknown

800 Pink-footed and 60 Greylag Geese strung out over Maridalesvannet
Tengmalm's Owl (perleugle). Red-eye removed and photo lightened up

the devil's owl

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