Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The day of days

What day! Three great birds (well actually five birds of three species) and I didn’t find a single one of them! My daily ablutions were interrupted by a text message telling me about two Shore Larks in Maridalen (and that just after I had ruminated over what bird I had a chance of fining today and concluded with just that species). I later saw these birds really well, and then watched some bird porno when I followed up on the Kingfisher report and had them mating at close range. And then for lunch I had the male Steller’s Eider also at close range.

The Shore Larks were only Maridalen’s (and Oslo’s?) second record and to be honest if I didn’t know they were there I’m not sure I would have found them as they feeding very anonymously in furrows on the edge of the field – so a big thanks to Halvard H for his second big find in Maridalen this year.

I got to see the birds VERY well and would have been happy for the birding day to end there. Maridalen had little else to offer anyway. There was no sign today of the Med Gull. There was a report of it yesterday later afternoon. If this report is correct (many other observers were there during the day and didn’t see it) then it raises the question as to whether the bird in Hamar is the same bird. I think it could well be the same bird that has taken a day trip to Hamar, didn’t like what it saw and returned to Maridalen. I often see flocks of gulls gaining great height over Maridalen and heading north but I have also frequently seen flocks arriving from the north (also in the spring at the same time other flocks are heading north) and it could well be that these gulls make long distance feeding/reconnaissance trips during the course of a day.

 I took the trip down to look for the Kingfishers not quite sure what I would find. I arrived at the footbridge where the instructions were to watch from (and not from anywhere else to avoid disturbance) and expected to see flocks of photographers but was all alone. I did see the bird flying along the river almost immediately though. Another couple of birders/photographers arrived and we had to wait over 40 minutes but then a bird flew noisily in. Incredibly it landed very close to us on the bridge rather than further upstream which is where the nest was supposed to be. It then did fly upstream with a fish in its bill before turning and landing again only 20 metres from us and there were two birds!! This was clearly the nest sight on a small vertical bit of the river bank under a fallen tree. I couldn’t see the actual nest but the male disappeared a couple of times under the overturned tree roots and my pictures show he had a muddy bill when he returned so was clearly excavating the nest. The two birds then sat on branches by the nesting bank and showed incredibly well. I was torn between taking pictures and video and this is when I really c*cked up. I had just finished a video sequence by panning out to show the surroundings and was changing back to still pictures when one of my co-observers shouted that they were mating. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to capture it though. Hanging around another hour a lot of people walked past us on the bridge and wondered what we were watching and showed a lot of interest. One interesting thing was that few knew what “isfugl” was but many knew what a “Kingfisher” was.

After this the pair sat together for a long time, the male disappeared into the nest and the female called quite excitedly so I expected we would see more mating but it didn’t happen and then the male flew off. The female remained for a long time before herself flying up river. When the male returned calling with a fish in his beak he was clearly confused that his mate was not there and flew around calling for about 5 minutes before she flew in. I was ready to film them getting it on but it didn’t happen. They sat together, he gave her the fish, they called a lot but unless they mated during a short period when they moved and I lost sight of them then I don’t think he got his regard that time. News spread whilst I was there with people phoning others and I expect that in the days to come these birds will become a media sensation.

Leaving with many memories recorded digitally I went looking for the Steller’s Eider. With the initial interest having died down he is not reported very regularly but seems to have settled down in a small bay/marina with a pair of Common Eiders. He was there when I arrived and I was able to watch the three birds closely. There might be a male and a female Common Eider but the dynamics of the three birds suggest that the male Steller’s is the one who has pulled the female Common. I saw him trying to chase away the male Common Eider and it was him who swam closest to the female. She however showed no particular interest in either of them.

 I took loads of video and photos today but that will just show off a few shots now and will have to come back with more later.
Shore Larks (fjelllerke)

male Stellers Eider (stellerand) with male Common Eider (ærfgul)

pair of Kingfishers (isfugl). Female on left with red on her lower mandible


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