Monday, 1 June 2015

Brent Geese

The last week has produced some movements of skuas from Brentetangen and elsewhere in Østfold with all four species being seen and on Saturday there was a small passage of Brent Geese (ringgås). As I did the school run today I could feel the wind was strong and a check on the forecast showed that near gale force winds were blowing up the Oslo fjord. I therefore changed my plans and headed for Hulvik in the south of Akershus and hoped that there would be some skuas hanging around at the head of the main fjord unsure what to do next. Although I arrived late (0930) skuas can move throughout the day.

I was unable to find a sheltered watch point and as I settled in I found discovered four things:
1.      The rubber eye cap on a Swarovski telescope is a serious design flaw as my chi was battered black and blue it as it flapped in the wind.
2.      Never underpack on the clothe front when seawatching – it might be June but it still gets cold – I was shivering when I gave up after 2 hours.
3.      Buy a new tripod – the head on my current one no longer locks and is not stable enough
4.      Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke) really can look like Black-browed Albatrosses when the wind picks up
Three Fulmars (havhest) arching across the fjord and a Little Gull (dvergmåke) were a sure sign that the wind was strong and I felt very sure that I would get multiple skuas. I was however to be disappointed on this score. I did at one stage feel sure I had one as a large dark bird flew quickly north fairly low over the sea but it turned out to be a Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk) crossing the fjord at an unusually low height! I did have a real highlight though with a flock of Brent Geese. This is only I think my fourth sighting of this species in Norway and unlike the birds I regularly used to watch migrating from Sussex in the spring these were Pale-bellied Brent Geese. The plae-bellied birds (hrota) belong to the Svalbard breeding population which winter in Denamark and Northumberland and migrate very late. They wait until the last week of May before migrating and have a much faster migration than the Pink-footed Geese that also breed on Svalbard but which migrate already at the end of March with various long stops along the way. The Brent Geese normally up the west coast of Norway after leaving Denmark (the birds that hae overwintered in Northumberland travel to Denmark first) but small numbers turn right instead of left when they hit the bottom of Norway and head up the Oslo fjord [some fascinating reading on the movements of satellite tagged birds in 2011 here including birds that migrated up the Oslofjord and then flew west like todays flock]. Many seem to turn round or head over land before coming so far up the Oslofjord and there are few historic records this far north. My flock clearly didn’t know what it was doing and I picked them very distantly as they flew south out of the Drammen Fjord. They then flew with the wind towards me and started to fly up the Oslo fjord before again changing their mind and heading back towards the Drammen Fjord where I lost sight of them heading in a North West direction over land.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese (ringgås). They were never close! Here heading north up the Oslofjord

here they have turned and are heading south again

After giving the sea 2 hours I went to Nesodden to search for a reported Great Grey Owl (lappugle). As expected Nesodden was a haystack and the owl a needle so I failed miserably although could note that the whole of Nesodden looks good for these owls so there could be flocks of them out there! I did see a Grass Snake and female Roe Deer that only hesitantly ran away from me alerted me to a youngster trying to hide by sitting motionless.
baby Roe Deer


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