Friday, 30 May 2014

Great Grey video

Something for the weekend sir?

How about a video of Great Grey Owl with sound and use of tripod - impressive huh? Best viewed in youtube with highest quality chosen.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bloody big owls

Great Grey Owl (lappugle) - finally a self found bird

Ural Owl - niiiiice!

Paid birding work is not particularly easy to come by but a national systematic survey scheme called TOVE does pay. All routes close to Oslo are taken but 9 routes were available in Hedmark and I took these. The survey work has to start at 4am and should be finished by 9am leaving me free to bird in some potentially interesting areas for the rest of the day. And within the first 24 hours I saw Great Grey (lappugle), Ural (slagugle) and Hawk Owl (haukugle) plus Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk) and Ortolan Bunting (hortulan) so quality birding is I believe a suitable description ;-))

On my drive up I had an adult Hawk Owl at a known breeding site. I saw the nest hole but believe the young were already out of the nest and also out of sight. Also here I had two male Red-backed Shrikes (tornskate) that were clearly singing but were too distant for me to hear properly!

Next stop was the Great Grey Owl pair I know of. I saw two cars parked nearby when I arrived so approached the nest very cautiously as I didn't want to disturb whoever else was there. Wasn't really necessary as it was Roar "Mr. Owl" Solheim who was ringing the birds with two willing helpers. As I went up to them hardly believing my luck I was asked my name in a slightly challenging way but once introductions were made we had a swell time! I saw that they were holding an adult but took a while to notice the youngster sitting on a nearby rock. Apparently they had got hold of the youngster which had already hopped from the nest and then captured the adult in a big net as it came in to attack - this being a well used technique. Now, I think I have made my reservations about ringing and trapping of birds known before unless there is a very specific piece of research being carried out (which is why I like the use of GPS tags which deliver do much information for so few birds caught) but I have to be honest and say it was amazing to be so close to this bird. It was actually a bit of a dream like experience and I'm glad I have the footage to remember it by. That said though I don't understand why these birds need to be so brutally trapped as I don't know what will be done with any data collected and it was many times better observing the bird up a tree than in the hand.

Whilst the ringing was going on the male came in with food to three young that were still in the nest (although two were exploring nearby branches). I enjoyed the birds for a bit after they had been released but didn't get to see an adult come in again with food. The female who had been trapped was keeping guard on the ringed youngster who had been returned to a tree and actually called a few times.

I left them feeling very elated and made my way to my survey site where I managed four fitful hours of sleep before work began. This route was through mainly commercial woodland and was not very bird rich. I had hoped to come across grouse and woodpeckers but there was none of that going on! Best birds were a couple of Honey Buzzards with a male displaying and a singing but unseen Common Rosefinch.

After this I dropped into Norway's only (?) remaining Ortolan nesting site - this species is competing with Rustic Bunting (vierspurv) to see which will be the first species to become extinct as a breeder after Barred Warbler (hauksanger). I located three singing males - two were almost certainly unpaired as they sang constantly at each other but the third sang much less which may imply it was paired. Research had shown that for these outlying populations the biggest cause of decline is lack of females - the males return to their natal site but females wander and in a declining population not enough females make it to the non core areas.
After this I had a date with a Ural Owl. Finding them was not so easy though as the young have already left the nest. This spring seems to have been a very good and early one for owls of all species judging by how early the young of all species I have encountered have hopped out. I was sure though that the young couldn't have moved far and diligent searching eventually revealed an adult. It was first seen in flight gliding between trees and its subsequent behaviour clearly suggested there were young nearby and sure enough I found a youngster. The adult even made a barking sound suggesting it to be the female. I settled down to observe if there would be any activity although being the middle of a hot sunny day this was perhaps unlikely. An adult hooting was probably the male and then something made me look up from where I was sitting and there was a youngster right above my head! Although I did get to see both young and adults exceptionally well I really should pay an evening visit to see prey being delivered - some real action! Later on a Kestrel (tårnfalk) came and mobbed an adult (not caught digitally unfortunately) - awesome stuff!

Later whilst searching for more owls I had raptor purple patch with four Honey Buzzard, 2 Buzzards (musvåk) and a Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) soaring together. But my good fortune was far from over. Determined to find my "own" Great Grey I followed some advice I had once read and drove the forest tracks close to Elverum and suddenly sitting only a metre from the road was a self found (edel) Great Grey Owl. I got to watch this bird hunting in a clearing in daylight before it floated away into the forest. This bird and also the ringed and released adult from the previous day perched in a peculiar way with its wing hanging down as though injured but it flew without problem.

My second morning of survey work provided little excitement and I then drove the three hours back to Oslo with high expectations for what next week will bring.

I will just post a few pictures now but will come back with more plus video which I shot a lot of. I also have a ton of pictures from Eilat which I need to get round to posting now that I am more or less finished editing them - maybe something for the quieter periods later in the year.
young (and ringed) Great Grey Owl

mum in the hand

same young Great Grey

mum after release with that same droopy wing pose

young Ural Owl. Like the Tawny Owls in Maridalen this had alreadt moved over 100m from the nest box although still downy and only half the size of its parents

mum! Although they were clearly aware of my presence the adults didn't make any attempt to attack as they are infamous for

male Ortolan

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


I had a Rosefinch experience in Maridalen today with at least two birds singing simultaneously including my first red male of the year. The other singing bird that i saw was a brown young bird which was together with another brown bird that didn't sing. These two birds are presumably the same as I saw yesterday when neither sang. Whether they are a pair or perhaps a couple of young bachelors I don't know but the red male seemed unpaired so it would be strange if the brown male had succeeded in beating him to attract a mate.

I also visited one of Oslo and Akershus's few Peregrine nesting sites. In a short visit I did not actually see the species but did here it calling unseen from the cliff face.
red (adult) male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink)

brown (young) male Common Rosefinch

Monday, 26 May 2014

better pictures

Today I tried to get better views and better photos of the birds I briefly saw over the weekend. In Maridalen I couldn’t find any shrikes but did find two Rosefinches (rosenfink) although both were boring brown birds even if they did show well as they fed with Siskins (grønnsisik) on dandelion seeds on the roadside. I also saw the Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås) for the first time in a few weeks and it doesn’t look particularly healthy. Another Lapwing (vipe) looked like she was sitting on eggs which makes at least one hatched brood and three incubating birds.
In Sørkedalen I was listening to my first Marsh Warbler (myrsanger) of the year when a message came on my phone that Eirik “Big Year” Grønningsæter was listening to the Red-breasted Flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper) and the next bird on my schedule just up the road. I joined him and we mostly listened to the bird which proved very difficult to photograph in the dark woodland. After this we also heard a Thrush Nightingale (nattergal) – only my second ever in Oslo before I went to Fornebu and had brief views of the male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) and Wryneck (vendehals). I think I am a bit low on patience at the moment although the very hot and humid weather doesn’t help and I don’t manage to get the pictures I am hoping for of these great birds.

Mosquitos were very much in evidence today which doesn’t bode well for the next three weeks when I will be carrying out a lot of survey work in Hedmark county but hopefully good birds will make up for any discomfort.

In the nesting box the two remaining Great Tit (kjøttmeis) babies (down from only three that hatched) look like they will fledge in the next day or so only 17 days after hatching.

A short handheld, i.e shaky video of the singing flycatcher

about the best picture I could manage in the poor light. Male Red-breasted Flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper)

male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

with Starling (stær)

male Wryneck (vendehals)

female or possibly 2cy male Common Rosefinch

feeding on dandelions

Marsh Warbler (myrsanger)

the oversummering Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås) in Maridalen

displaying Snipe (enkeltbekkasin) in an unusual place

the two baby Great Tits looking ready to fledge

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Red-backed Shrike

There are various pleasurable ways one can be woken up. For a birder (who is sleeping alone) then I guess the sound of a scarce bird outside the bedroom window must rank quite high up there and is certainly better than the vibrating of a phone with a message that someone else has seen a rare bird. I have been woken by the sound of singing Pied Flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper) in the garden and last March a drumming pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers (dvergspett).

Today it was again a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and this time a male drumming on a lamppost. He seemed to be alone and to be drumming so late in the spring suggests an unmated male who is searching for a mate. I pulled some clothes and went out armed with my 500mm (better than being seen naked in the garden with only your 500mm to cover your pride) but only managed a couple of bad pictures before it flew into a tree and vanished for me.

After this I had a quick Tour de Maridalen where I finally scored with Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) although in heavy rain it was just brief encounter. My bird was a lone female at the 2012 breeding site. Most records reported so far have been of singing males and I realised I have never heard this species singing before - all the birds I have found breeding in Maridalen have already been paired and it would seem that the male has no need to sing after this. Hopefully though a male will find this female soon and there will be song in the first few days. An unseen singing Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) and a displaying Snipe (enkeltbekkasin) also made themselves known in the rain but there were no obvious grounded migrants.

In the afternoon a swimming trip with the girls allowed me a 5 minute stop at Fornebu which gave me a pair of Red-backed Shrikes looking like they are already settling down to breed and singing Wryneck (vendehals), Whitethroat (tornsanger), Garden Warbler (hagesanger) and Spotted Flycatcher (gråfluesnapper) – one of my better 5 minutes (although according to the girls it was 9...)

Today’s photos do down in the why does he bother category...
this might fall into the category "doc photo" or maybe not. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

I've been going on about this species for a while so had to show a photo. When you don't have a camera with you a telephone camera through binoculars sometimes works and sometimes not. Red-backed Shrike male

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Oslo ticking

The last two days have seen by birding rather curtailed by having uncooperative kids in tow and my plans to see three Oslo ticks were rather hampered and resulted in just one being nailed. Yesterday I went looking for a Caspian Tern (rovterne) that had been seen the previous afternoon in the inner Oslo fjord by taking the boat out to the island of Gressholmen. This didn’t turn up trumps but I did get to see the only breeding Ringed Plovers (sandlo) in Oslo.

Today after lots of bribery and much stress I managed to get the kids along for first a failed attempt at White-fronted Goose (tundragås) (a young bird has been hanging around a park lake with Greylag Geese but not today) and then for a successful attempt at an all together much nicer bird. Kjetil Johannessen had found a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper) in Sørkedalen early this morning and mid-afternoon I was pleased to find it still singing strongly although not showing so well. One of my all time favourite birds - Red-backed Shrikes (tornskate) seem to be back in numbers now although still avoid me but hopefully tomorrow I can turn one up in Maridalen.

Three Red-breasted Geese were seen migrating in southern Norway today and photos show two had blue foot rings and a bird seen migrating with (wild) Barnacle Geese on their way to Svalbard a week ago in northern Norway bore a yellow foot ring. It really is worrying how clearly escaped wildfowl adopt migratory routes (this is also happening with feral Bar-headed Geese from the continent that are igrating to and breeding in northern Norway) that could be used as evidence to support a wild origin. A Snow Goose that has jst turned up on Svalbard which would seem a great candidate will be very difficult to assess as are two different Ruddy Shelducks just seen in southern Norway. Ducks and geese are a nightmare!

in attempt to ease the persuasal of the kids into going for this bird I had only taken a small camera so this was the best shot I managed. Red-breasted Flycatcher and my 201st species in Oslo.
Oslo's only breeding Ringed Plover(s)