Thursday, 25 June 2015

Great Snipe lek guiding

Last night I had what must count as my craziest guiding assignment so far. Nick Letherby, an Englishman now domiciled in the States was landing at Oslo Airport Gardemoen at 1730 on Wednesday, had a meeting in Oslo at 0800 on Thursday and wondered if we could squeeze in lekking Great Snipes. 7 hours driving and no sleep were not an issue and I was game so we went for it.

We arrived in the area of my lek at 2130 and with the lek not normally starting until after 2300 we had time to go up on to Valdresflya. There was SO much snow - in places 2 metres along the road and hardly a bare patch to be seen - quite exceptional. Four separate Temminck's Stints were feeding along the edge of the road and looked as though they would have trouble breeding this year although we did hear one displaying. We also heard but didn't see a Dotterel and had 2 pairs of Ringed Plovers along the road and heard another displaying. Amazingly we also had Meadow Pipit and Wheatear. Lower down where there was more snow free ground which held a few displaying Golden Plovers.

In need of warming up and with the Great Snipe beckoning we headed to the lek. When we arrived at the just before 2300 it was still good light and silent! After 5 minutes though we heard the first bird but as is usual they do not show themselves early on. As the evening progressed though we had lots of activity and just before midnight birds were showing openly, fighting, making lots of noise and often less than 10 metres from us. I didn't make much of an effort with photography but will be there again in a few days when I’ll hopefully get some good footage. At 5 to midnight we had a mini dawn chorus with Ring Ouzel and Cuckoo singing.

By 0030 the cold had got the better of us but we had been enriched by one of the bird world’s greatest experiences and headed for the car and drove again up to Valdresflya for a couple of hours sleep. At 0300 we awoke and listened for displaying waders and heard both Dotterel and Purple Sandpiper although we didn't pick them out as they flew over.

It was soon time for the long drive back and I delivered Nick to his meeting on time although was feeling a bit of a wreck by this time. Foolishly instead of heading for a bed I went for another go at the Red-breasted Flys as I was close by.

It took me an hour to confirm that it was a Robin’s nest in the old woodpecker hole. Whilst waiting to see a bird go in I was hearing Robins calling but none were near the nest. The male flycatcher was however collecting food and frequently perching very close to the hole. Then the female flycatcher turned up also with a beak full of food and perched in the next door tree. Now I really begin to think it was the flycatchers nest but no birds were going in. Eventually though a Robin flew in which was a bit of an anti-climax.

So I didn't find the flycatcher nest but with both parents collecting food that is proof that there are young in the nest and it must have been close by. If I hadn't been so fixated on the old woodpecker hole then I would probably have been able to track the flycatchers to their nest but will hopefully have another chance before the young fledge.
Temmincks Stint by the roadside at Valdresflya 10pm on 24 June - look at all that snow!

flying along the road
2 metre high snow walls
3am at nearly 1400mm midsummer!

handheld pictures of Great Snipe at midnight - shutter speed 1/4 second

this hare ran through the lek without disturbing the snipe

The female Red-breasted Flycatcher with food in mouth. It appears that the nest was just metres from here but I failed to find it

 After the guiding I rejoined the family in Hulvik where a family party of Wrens made themselves very well known to us

juvenile Wren (gjerdesmett) in a bush
on a roof

in a car

on the floor

on a windowsill!


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