Thursday, 8 May 2014

Svellet shines and dodgy wheatear

According to the website have water levels in Nordre Øyeren fallen over the last few days so this gave me hope that there would be more waders at Svellet although a report from there yesterday recorded no waders and just hundreds of hirundines. It was therefore with great delight that I got out of the car and immediately could hear the machine gun call of Whimbrels (småspove) plus many Greenshanks (gluttsnipe). The distance is so great that you see nothing with the naked eye but as soon as the ‘scope was up I could see there were hundreds of waders. It is not easy going through them and I, at times, had trouble separating female Ruff (brushane) from Redshank (rødstilk) but I came up with totals of 550 Greenshank, 53 Bar-tailed Godwits (lappspove), 48 Redshank, 40 Wood Sandpipers (grønnstilk), 12 Whimbrel, 7 Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe), 7 Ruff, 4 Common Sandpipers (strandsnipe), 3 Dunlin (myrsnipe), 2 Oystercatcher (tjeld) and 1 Curlew (storspove)!! Large counts of Greenshank are to be expected here but the count of Bar-tailed Godwit is extremely high for inland Norway.

There is very little mud exposed but if water levels continue falling over the next two weeks there could be a real wader bonanza here and hopefully some real rarities will be unearthed although with the long distances here they will have to be large obvious rarities!

I had a chat with an opinionated local who couldn’t understand why birdwatchers were campaigning for water levels to be kept lower. He argued that the area was a wetland nature reserve and not a mud reserve – it was definitely one of the strangest conversations I’ve had and he refused to accept my “claims” that lower water levels were good for birds despite there being hundreds of waders out in the bay.

After some interesting reports from Nittedal yesterday I headed there. Nittedal is the valley to the east of Maridalen but is much larger with a proper river, Nittelva, which drains into Nordre Øyeren. It is therefore on the migration route of many birds and waders were hanging around in the damp corners of fields. Andreas Gullberg and Rune Z had also the same idea and we all turned up by the same damp field. Not too much to see on this particular field (although a puddle behind a petrol station held 8 Greenshank and 4 Wood Sandpipers!) except for a very pale wheatear. At first glance the sandy tones shouted Isabelline Wheatear (isabellasteinskvett)  but closer study showed it to in fact be a female Northern Wheatear (steinskvett) with a form for leucism. All the feathers were fringed with beige/brown including the tail which at rest looked brown although when spread in flight did look darker. This bird could definitely cause problems if not seen well!
Maridalen held 5 Whimbrel pre breakfast and 6 Greenshank post lunch but was otherwise not too exciting.

The distance to the waders in Svellet was too great for any meaningful pictures but a short video gives some sort of idea of how it is.
some of the 700+ waders in Svellet. The inset shows Bar-tailed Godwits

Here is the pale Wheatear - a really interesting bird
really sandy colour was very arresting

this is scarily like Isabelline including quite a broad dark terminal tail bar

it has mud on its beak but here you see how everything is just a sandy/beige colour

the dark underwing coverts exclude Issy

out of focus but you see how the whole bird is pale and the tail band is not black but has brown tones


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