Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Forest gems

Searching for birds in the forests around Oslo in the winter months is a very hit and miss affair but this morning was crisp, wind free and sunny which in my experience greatly increases the chances of finding birds primarily because it is much easier to hear them. I had a hope of finding three of Oslo’s more special resident birds: Pygmy Owl, Three-toed Woodpecker and Hazel Grouse, and there is also the very slim possibility of rarer birds such as Pine Grosbeak at this time of the year. From my own experience finding just one of these species is a good so finding two today was a real result. The forest was quite alive with birds primarily due to the high numbers of Common Crossbills that are around including a number of singing birds which is a sign that they will soon start breeding (crossbills breed when food is most available rather than at specific times of the year). I also had quite a few tits including a flock of 10 Long-tails and heard a Black Woodpecker. The two star birds though were first a female Three-toed Woodpecker that was suddenly feeding silently low down on a tree trunk in front of me but which rather infuriatingly and also atypically for the species proved to be shy and flew off far too quickly. The second result was a Hazel Grouse. This species has been extremely difficult to find this year so I was very happy when I located a single bird. I played a game of cat and mouse with it and did at one time come quite close as it perched high in a tree but it refused to look at me so the pictures are more suitable for a mystery photo competition.

The Great Grey Shrike was also still present in Maridalen and I saw it plunging down into long grass presumably after a mouse although it flew up empty beaked and then half a minute later it chased after a Blue Tit without me seeing the result of this chase. Although resembling a miniature raptor they catch their prey using their bill rather than their claws.

A trip to Fornebu was of course also on the cards with the weather being so good and the chance of good photo light. My success with the Kingfisher yesterday had resulted in an increase in CO2 emissions today with probably double figures of birders / photographers having taken the trip to Storøykilen at lunchtime today. Unfortunately though it looks like no one connected today. The Bearded Tits though were to be found although they took a lot of patience. As seems to be typical with the species their calls whilst feeding low down in the reeds are generally only audible at 10 metre range and it is only when the flock moves to another area that they call more loudly and allow themselves to be located. I was lucky enough to hear the birds calling on one of those occasions when they were moving and succeeded in locating four birds which eventually showed very well and allowed themselves to be gloated over by another couple of lucky birders. We had the birds down to 5 metres range although there was a wire fence between us and the birds and the sun was behind the birds but slightly fuzzy back lit photos do have a certain charm….

Whilst enjoying these special birds I became aware of a tapping behind me and when I realised the sound was coming from high up in a thin branched tree I hoped it would be a Lesser Spot and indeed it was. A fine male, he had clearly located a grub and was hacking away at a branch. A little later whilst trying to locate the tits which were calling we saw a Great Grey Shrike fly out of the reeds where the tits were – it had clearly been on a Bearded Tit hunt! It wasn’t successful but it reminded me of thispicture of a Pygmy Owl with a Bearded Tit in its talons.

The lighting in the forest today was not so good so the pictures from there are not even so so but the Fornebu pictures have come out very well as has a short video.
male Bearded Tit (skjeggmeis) and autumnal colours

back lit female

the first picture un
 In this video note that you can see the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker extracting and eating the bug it was searching for. Also in the very last second of the woodpecker sequence you can hear a ping from a Bearded Tit. Remember to open in YouTube and choose HD quality.

the Fornebu Great Grey Shrike (varsler) that tried its luck with the tits
uncropped Hazel Grouse (jerpe)

the only shot where any of the head shows - looks like it was a female

male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) in action

really probing in the branch

with a splinter in its beak

Long-tailed Tit (stjertmeis)

a far from photogenic Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett). The black head showing it to be a female

Maridalsvannet at 0847 with the iPhone from the car

Maridalsvannet from a different angle at 1052

Storøykilen, Fornebu. This picture is taken at 1351 but there is still some ice on the (salt) water. Temperatures overnight were only just below zero but with no wind it was enough for ice to form


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