Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Watching the sea

It is now seawatching time in the Oslofjord. A good southerly wind is normally a requirement for success but with just northerly winds forecast for at least the coming week I thought I'd give it a go today. There was in fact no wind and the see was flat making for good viewing conditions. Given that birds have to head north I thought that I would at least witness some passage. Well I was wrong. Of the few birds I saw there were more just milling around or heading south than heading north. There was more excitement in the trees behind me with my first Redstart (rødstjert) and Lesser Whitethroats (møller) of the year. On the sea a single Black Guillemot (teist) was the only highlight.

I gave it an hour and a half before heading to Kurefjorden where mist meant I had to wait half an hour to see anything! Here there wasn’t as much as I had hoped to see based on reports from yesterday. Best bird was a Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) which flew round a couple of times calling before heading north and is the first record this year in Østfold. There were also a few Whimbrel (småspove) showing they are now arriving.
I checked nearby fields for harriers and Dotterel (boltit) but perhaps unsurprisingly didn’t succeed. Some excitement came with a small dove flying over fields. I hoped it would be a Turtle Dove (turteldue) which woud be a great find but had to settle for a Collared Dove (tyrkerdue).

On the way home I stopped in at Østensjøvannet. There is a lot of life in the Black-headed Gull (hettemåke) colony and a couple of pairs of Great Crested Grebes (toppdykker) have nests only metres from the path and are very popular with photographers. Another popular bird is the plastic Ruddy Shelduck (rutstand). Whilst undoubtedly pretty and a good photo subject due to its tameness it remains completely unexplainable to me how this bird is being ticked as a wild bird. The large blue ring and lack of a metal ring (wild birds which are colour ringed always have a normal metal ring on the other leg) combined with tameness, wrong location and wrong time of year do not seem to have raised too many any red flags. This bird escaped from a farm in Østfold last year and was seen at a couple of sites in the autumn where the blue ring was also ignored until some good detective work (not by me) traced its origin. What is interesting though is where the bird has been in the meantime. What was most likely the same bird was seen a week ago to the south in Telemark county but where did it spend the winter? Probably in Denmark or Holland where many other feral species find a winter home. It is fascinating though that it has survived in the wild and developed a migration strategy – a bit like the feral Bar-headed Geese from Holland which now migrate north to Norway in the summer and have been found breeding high in the mountains exactly as they would do in the Himalayas.

In a fresh northerly wind Maridalen was quite quiet with the exception of a singing Wryneck (vendehals). It was singing at the old breeding site but was unmated and soon moved on no doubt looking for a mate. I walked the marsh where I had the snipe on Saturday and found lots of tracks of them but no birds – I suspect that I had been beaten to looking for them today. In addition to dropping and footprints one could also see where they had been probing with their bills in the mud!
Great Crested Grebe Østensjøvannet

male Redstart Brentetangen

plastic duck

White Wagtail (linerle) - this bird had a broken leg and will presumably struggle to survive

evidence of snipe: dropping, footprints and holes from a probing beak

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