Friday, 29 May 2015

I'm guiding in the rain

I normally complain when the weather is too nice and wish for a bit if rain but that is mostly during migration. Now at the end of May when I am guiding it would be nice with some warmer and drier weather so that birds are active and singing and it is nice to be out. Yesterday was not such a day. We had showers in the morning that turned into constant rain in the afternoon and with the thermometer only showing 10C it was pretty cold. BUT Eva and Letty from Californian were still treated to a really good bird day as almost all the birds showed as they were asked to do.

Fornebu gave the only disappointment with the Red-backed Shrikes (tornskate) not to be found and a lack of other observations since I had the pair suggests that they may have moved on to breed. We did have a near complete sweep of warblers here though including Marsh (myrsanger) and a few waders included both Ringed (sandlo) and Little Ringed Plover (dverglo). A new sighting for me was watching a pair of Swifts (tårnseiler) mating on the wing which looked to require a level of precision that the US military would be proud of.

At Østensjøvannet the Corncrake (åkerrikse) was the first bird we heard even though we arrived just before noon but it failed to show itself. In the rain the lake had lots of swallows feeding low over the water and they were joined by two Common Terns (makrellterne) but unfortunately nothing rarer. The lake now holds a huge population of Mute Swans (knoppsvane) with the various breeding pairs plus many young non-breeding birds that kept being chased from one breeding pair territory to the other. At least two pairs had cygnets in tow. I remember when the lake only held one pair and cannot understand what has caused this population explosion. Coots (sothøne) and Great Crested Grebes (toppdykker) also had young and Tufted Ducks (toppand) were paired up and looked like they were searching for nesting sites. Signs that the late spring in the mountains has delayed migration were a Redshank (rødstilk) and a Yellow Wagtail (gulerle) feeding out on the lake on the carpets of pond weed.

Maridalen was of course the icing on the cake for a guided tour around Oslo in May/June. Here we had the Tawny Owls (kattugle), Goshawk (hønsehauk), Whooper Swans (sangsvane), Black Woodpeckers (svartspett) plus singing Common Rosefinches (rosenfink), Parrot Crossbills (furukorsnebb) and close encounters with Goldcrests (fuglekonge) and Nuthatches (spettmeis). Some of the Tawny Owl youngsters have already left the nest. There was possibly only one left in the box but we found only one in the trees nearby although this had managed to move around 20m which is quite a feat for a fluffy creature that cannot yet fly!

At the Black Woodpecker nest a youngster was screeching for food whilst we arrived. Whilst we waited for an adult to come a female Goldeneye (kvinand) flew over a couple of times and then amazingly landed at the entrance to the hole. I’m not sure who got the biggest shock: the Goldeneye or the young woodpecker but the duck immediately flew off although we did see it flying around again. It raises the question as to what the duck was doing. I would have thought she should have laid eggs a long time ago but she clearly hasn’t. Is she a late breeder, failed on the first attempt and looking for a new site or perhaps a young bird that is prospecting for nest sites for next year? No matter what, it highlighted to me what a job these birds have finding nest sites. If they use a nest box erected on a tree at the waters edge then presumably they have little problem finding a nest site. However in the absence of nest boxes they need to use their natural nest site which is old Black Woodpecker holes. But how do you find these in vast forests? Presumably they can fly around the forest when Black Woodpeckers are breeding and locate the nests in the same way as birders by listening for the young. Then all they need to do is to wait for the woodpeckers to fledge or alternatively remember the location for next year when hopefully the nest is no longer being used by woodpeckers (although this particular nest was also used last year by the woodpeckers). We had to wait nearly half an hour in the rain before the adult came but had a great show and could see two hungry heads hanging out of the nest.

Last bird of the day was a breeding Dipper (fossekall) which has its nest behind a waterfall and gave some truly magic moments as it flew across the face of the waterfall – definitely something to try to capture on film.

As usual whilst guiding I didn’t prioritise my own photos and with the rain the best place for the camera was in the bag but I did of course manage a few shots.

The Black Woodpecker nest hole with the adult on the tree to the left

the adult (in this case female) could easily lose an eye with those bills stabbing at her

here we can see food in the adults bill which she had just regurgitated
Redshank (rødstilk) at Østensjøvannet which is I think my first record at this site

female Yellow Wagtail (gulerle) with a House Martin (taksvale) sneaking into the picture
young and still helpless Tawny Owl (kattugle)

this female Tufted Duck (toppand) came extremely close to us with her maete. They were being chased by a Coot (sothøne) and seemed to think they wold get loss hassle if they were by us

every single nature photographer in Oslo has taken fantastic pictures of Great Crested Grebes at Østensjøvannet over the last few weeks and posted them on Facebook. My best effort won't be posted anywhere other than here ;-)

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