This year has been a good rodent year in Northern Norway. In Finnmark Snowy Owls have been easy to find (apparently) and Short-eared Owls and Rough-legged Buzzards have been very numerous. This is in stark contrast to Southern Norway where Rough-legged Buzzards seems to be completely absent. Many raptors and owls are far more nomadic as breeding birds than you would gather from reading most literature.
I only found a single owl around Bodø which was a distant Short-eared Owl although Hawk Owls had bred quite close to our cabin. Rough-legged Buzzards though were far commoner than I have ever noticed before and I had them in 5 different locations with birds in three locations chasing off White-tailed Eagles or Ravens strongly suggesting they were breeding. They were also breeding down to sea level and hunting over lightly wooded areas which I think is unusual for a bird more normally associated with the tree line. These buzzards were the commonest raptor we had with only two Kestrels being a surprise as this is also a rodent specialist. I also had Sparrowhawk, a few White-tailed Eagles and best of all a breeding Merlin. I heard a screeching falcon from amongst some cabins and went towards the sound. There were people in one of the cabins and they proudly told me that there was Merlins breeding right behind their cabin and they had seen food passes as well as them chasing off eagles. I came very close to the female and although I didn’t see the nest (as I didn’t want to annoy her too much) it was clearly very close.
In addition to the Knobbly Scoter I also found a Garganey which is a good bird at these latitudes and even rarer a Mute Swan which is only the second ever record around Bodø and caused a mini-twitch.
Around the cabin we had breeding Pied Flycatchers whose warning calls frequently alerted us to the presence of a young fox which often came to within just a few yards of us and liked to eat the food leftovers that we discarded.
Waders were very scarce this year with the late summer either meaning birds were still breeding up on the mountains or equally likely that birds had already left Scandinavia. For example I didn’t see any Ruff or Dunlin which in previous years have been quite easy. I saw Puffins at a few locations suggesting that they were failed breeders as I am not aware of any close breeding sites but I did see some birds flying with small fish in their beak which would suggest that there is a local breeding site (unknown to me) and hopefully there would be some young that would fledge (this species has had a long run of failed breeding seasons at many colonies).
On the drive home I again had a long stop at Saltfjellet and was treated to some great views of Long-tailed Skuas for the second time. Although I had nine adult birds they were not aggressive towards me this time and I saw no sign that any were actually breeding and with no sightings of Lemmings I assume that the lemming population has crashed during the late spring and consequently caused the skuas to give up on breeding. A male Red-necked Phalarope showed well and clearly had young nearby although I didn’t see them. Two big surprises were a Grey Heron on the tundra and a juvenile Spotted Redshank. I thought this was such an early record and at an unusual migration location that I wondered if it could have been produced locally although this is outside the known breeding range.
I also stopped at Dovrefjell and had my first ever views of Musk Ox although at 5km range they were no more than dark shapes moving along the mountainside. I also made yet another attempt for Siberian Tits in Southern Norway. I tried at a site in the general area that I have tried before but this site had a breeding record from 2013 so was a far more recent location than those I have previously tried. I was a great habitat of pine trees and yellow lichen on the ground and I did find lots of tits but all were Willow and I now think I really need to call it quits with this species.
I have a lot of pictures so will split them over two or three posts.
|Grey Herons breeding on Kjerringøy|
|two nests visible with snowy mountains in the background|
|a Rough-legged Buzzard seeing off a Raven|
|there is quite a good population of Slavonian Grebes around Bodø. This bird was still at a breeding site but there was already many adults on the sea suggesting yet another species experiencing a bad breeding season|
|another picture of Stein|
|and another where the bill colour shows better|
|Whinchats: a brightly coloured adult female, juvenile, adult male|
|there were lots of Redpolls this year. When I see birds like this I wonder whether Iceland birds could be regular in Norway|
|White-ailed Eagle and Rough-legged Buzzard showing great size difference|
|the same eagle with a Raven. This was a particularly large bird and therefore a female. I also take the white blotches to be a sign of it being an old bird|
|This adult Willow Warbler was finding a lot of food in roadside vegetation for some hungry youngsters|
|one of the juvenile Willow Warblers|
|the adult again|