Monday, 30 May 2016

White Wagtail courtship

I have no new birding to report on but here is a video from 7 May of a male White Wagtail (linerle) earnestly and unsuccessfully courting a female. The male tries very hard and really dances for his prospective mate but she seems not to be impressed (although I misinterpreted her behaviour and thought that she was about to submit before she goes on the attack)

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Black Redstart

I went looking for the Black Redstart again today but this time cycled meaning I did not need to worry about the ridiculously expensive parking in the city centre and also gave the body a much needed work out. The bird was not singing straight away but after about 15 minutes of walking around it started singing in the same place as yesterday and then showed well (although far too high up) as it sang from an aerial. It moved a bit around the area including singing from the roof of Mrs. OB’s office and also dropped down into some narrow backyards which are squeezed in between high buildings. As I suspected yesterday it is a young 2cy male. The area where it is has many government buildings and I had a couple of coppers eyeing me up at one stage. Birding in cities is always a fairly uncomfortable experience especially if one is carrying around a bazooka but with my little super zoom I felt far less conspicuous.

In Maridalen I had 4 Common Rosefinches. Two were singing 2cy (brown) males who were both singing where I had had red males on Friday. I have often thought that the younger males can be dominant over the older ones and it looks like that might be so. I did have a red male at another site who wasn’t singing and also a brown bird that flew away calling from one of the singing males. I assume this brown bird was a female who may be touring the valley deciding which male will win her fancy. A Wryneck was singing vigorously and is presumably unpaired and at the Goshawk nest I looked as though the female was sitting on top of recently hatched young.

With sunny, warm weather and less wind than of late I had hoped for some raptors (Honey Buzzard and Hobby for example) but had to be content with just a single Common Buzzard which is the first I have seen for weeks although is probably a bird breeding in the valley.

It looks like one pair of Lapwings has fledged young (although I couldn’t see them in long grass) whereas another pair is still sitting on eggs which they have been doing since 4 May. Incubation time is apparently around 28 days so eggs will be hatching next week.
In this video of the Black Redstart you can hear him singing despite the ditance and all the other noise but the scratchy element of the song does not come through although atone point you see his beak open and hear nothing which is when the scratchy bit comes.

not easy getting pictures of the Black Redstart (svartrødstjert)


this is the male Lapwing (vipe) from the pair that is still incubating. He got very aggitated with me when I was on the path 50metres from the nest. In addition to calling he also did a playing injured act on me.
And a video from Maridalen with the male Lapwing, a singing 2cy Rosefinch and the Goshawk


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Oslo quality

This morning Mrs OB needed to be driven to a course which was close to Sørkedalen and when I saw the length of the queues to drive back towards town it was a no brainer to have a bit of a session in Sørkedalen and allow the queues to disappear. The Red-breasted Flycatcher has now found a mate! Apart from one quiet and short burst of song (I wondered if it was actually from another more distant bird but never found one although wouldn’t be surprised if there are more out there) it has now stopped singing which is a sure sign that the pair bond has been formed. The female showed regularly and I do not believe they have actually laid eggs yet although expect that to happen soon. I did not see them visiting a nest hole but the area has plenty of natural holes and nest boxes so they have plenty of choice. I suspect that in future visits the female will not be seen as she will on the eggs and the male will become difficult to find but that once the young are large and need feeding that they will be easier to find again. I hope that I can find the nest such that I can follow their progress.

After one rare Oslo bird, it was time for a few others. A Black Redstart was found singing in the city centre yesterday (in the traditional area around Youngstorget where I have searched a few times without success already this year) and despite me visiting at 11am with all the expected noise of the city it was easy to hear it singing (a sure sign that he does not have a mate). I glimpsed it a couple of times in flight and once perched but never saw it properly (and no pictures) although it looked to be a brown bird and therefore a 2cy. Whilst trying to see it (and with the company of Stig Johan Kalvatn) a passing journalist took an interest in once and filmed and interviewed us with his phone so there maybe an amusing video story about the event soon.

After this I then went to Østensjøvannet for my third visit on consecutive days with the hope today of seeing a White-fronted Goose that was found on Monday, and also seen yesterday (but not by me despite me searching for it). Zak had seen it early this morning but when I arrived a few others birders had not seen it despite searching and had also not seen Little Gull. A couple of comments were made along the lines that Simon is here so it will turn up now…. Well I couldn’t find the large and obvious goose but I did find not one but two Little Gulls! The first was the 2cy bird that has been seen regularly since Saturday but the other was a much smarter 3cy bird that had been seen on Saturday and on a park lake in Oslo on Friday but not since. This bird was hanging around on the edge of a B-h Gull colony and feeding on the edge of rushes and was not an easy bird to get to grips with and it is not difficult to believe that it has been here all the time since Saturday.
At home in the afternoon whilst working in the garden I had a garden tick in the form of a fly-over Yellow Wagtail.

I got a big rush when I saw this female R-b Fly (dvergsnapper) - she might be dull in comparison to her mate this is an extremley scarce breeding bird in Norway (less than annual) although looks like there will be breeding in Oslo for the second year in a row!

the happy male

look at those whiskers which I assume with catching food

the female at times also showed well

3cy (2nd summer) Little Gull (dvergmåke) - a very smart bird although an adult with pure white primaries would have been even smarter. In flight this bird did not have as dark an underwing as an adult would have. Note how much smaller it is than the B-h Gull

some workers got too close to part of the B-h Gull colony at Østensjøvannet and a cloud of angry birds rose into the air

this Black-headed Gull (hettemåke) has been around a couple of days and looks to have been sprayed with paint (a prank in bad taste rather than for scientific reasons). It kept to itself probably because it is suffering from the paint but it may well also be chased away by its kins

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Mountain Marsh Runner

After yesterday checking out Oslo’s premier wader locaility it was time today to check out Akershus’s premier locality: Nordre Øyeren. As regular readers will know this site is of international importance but just as spring wader migration is warming up it all gets ruined because of a Royal Decree (I kid you not) that says that water levels are to be raised such that conditions are suitable for boat people (and by this I don’t mean the boat people who are fleeing war or famine but the Gin & Tonic drinking variety). This means that around 14 May the water level rises by around a metre in the course of a couple of days and thousands of waders are left looking for new feeding grounds where they can fatten up before they move to their breeding grounds.

After the water levels are raised and the Svellet area is left birdless there is still some muddy areas at the end of Årnestangen. These seem to have very little food in the spring (although by the autumn are very attractive to waders) and have next to know birds in the spring unless there is rain and birds are forced down in which case down and this is a natural place for them to stop. No real rain was forecast today but a look the skies was enough to see that the forecast was as usual wrong and I got soaking wet on the walk out to Årnestangen. But this was good! The walk out was uneventful except for discovering a Yellow Wagtail nest well hidden in a tussock of grass. Many hirundines were also feeding in the shelter of trees.
There was just one small mud bank and a sweep of this showed a few waders: 3 Dunlin and 4 Ringed Plovers. The back of the mud bank though was not visible to me and as I scanned the edges a wader flew into view that looked like it had to be a Mountain Marsh Runner but before I could be sure (rain and distance made viewing conditions difficult) a group of Cranes scared all the waders into the air which suddenly showed there was also a flock of 10 Temminck’s Stints. The Cranes were also getting grief from Common Terns that are trying to breed on the mudbank (surely they will soon be flooded out). The waders all vanished and it was a good 15 minutes before I discovered them again (minus the stints) and at closer range. Now I got to to see the Runner properly and felt vindicated for my prediction abilities! At about this time the rain stopped and a Marsh Harrier and Short-eared Owl came out to hunt. The harrier did a close fly by and I spent some time watching it. Turing back to the waders they had moved back onto the mudbank but now there were more birds including probably another 2 Runners but before I had a chance to wack up the zoom they all flew up and off never to return. I stayed around for another half an hour but all that turned up were another 3 Temminck’s Stints and a Ringed Plover. Clearly a full day here could give a lot of birds with birds dropping in for short periods of time.

The day had started with a forced revisit to Østensjøvannet where I had lost the rainguard for my bins yesterday. Luckily I found it and also had much better views of the Little Gull which was resting on a field (yesterday it was feeding in flight for the whole 30 minutes I watched it). I walked round to the otherside of the lake and had a Little Gull feeding on a football pitch so thought there may have been two different birds but looking at my pictures I can’t see anything to separate the two birds so it must just have beaten me there.

Dunlin (myrsnipe), Ringed Plover (sandlo) and Mountain Marsh Runner (fjellmyrløper) which some also call Broad-billed Sandpiper ;-)

in flight BB Sand is noticeably narrow winged which makes the bird look strangely long

the only remaining mud bank at Årnestangen. The pictures were taken when the birds were feeding in some shallow water by the log on the right of the picture

1st summer Little Gull (dvergmåke) at Østensjøvannet

with some food

2cy Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) at Årnestangen

Short-eared Owl (jordugle) at Årnestangen.

Yellow Wagtail (gulerle) nest in a tuft of grass. I discovered it when the bird flew out as I walked past


I don't visit Gressholmen often enough to deserve to find anything too special there but with it bucketing down and Broad-billed Sandpipers turning up all over the place I thought a visit yesterday would give me a good chance of an interesting wader - to be honest a Dunlin would have made my day. Well there were some waders with there being a flock of 8 Ringed Plovers in addition to the breeding pair and 4 each of Redshank and Greenshank. I also had 2 Ringed Plovers on a small island from the boat where Turnstone would have been more appropriate so it was a bit gutting later to see that one had been seen on another island (would have been an Oslo tick).

My ability to predict good birds but just get the date wrong came with 2 Little Gulls being seen at Østensjøvannet on Saturday (after I had visited on Friday). One was still present today but was a scruffy 2cy instead of the very smart 3cy that had also been seen. Surprisingly with all the rain there were no hirundines at Østensjøvannet - there was presumably too much rain.

Up in Maridalen I had a male and female Kestrel who clearly thought there was too much rain and were seeking shelter under the eaves of a house and on the church ruins. This is a late date for Kestrels in Maridalen and will be interesting to see if they hang around and are thinking of breeding. All the rain had caused large pools to form on some fields which attracted all three sandpipers but nothing else. A late evening visit in the rain but with no wind produced the now rarely heard song of a Cuckoo plus Woodcocks but no other nocturnal birds although Marsh Warblers should turn up soon and hopefully also Corncrakes.
a male Kestrel (tårnfalk) sheltering from the rain in Maridalen

close up - this bird was soaked through

and a female

the male also chose to rest on the sheltered side of the church ruins

2cy Little Gull (dvergmåke) at Østensjøvannet

6 of the 8 migrating Ringed Plovers (sandlo) at Gressholmen

the view from the boat stop at Gressholmen

Ringed Plover nest right by the path. I suspect this is a second brood after a failed first attempt as they have been here for a couple of months now. The location of the current nest is very close to the main path on the island and the birds started giving distraction display when I was 20 metres from the nest and until I was 20 metres away from the nest. With so many people who use the island at the weekends (although rain this weekend may have meant few people) it is a wonder they chose this spot and it will also be a miracle if they breed successfully

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Camera comparison

Friday the 13th gave me a good chance to test the bazooka (Canon 55D with Sigma 150-500mm) against the new superzoon (Canon Poweshot SX60HS).

The pictures here are uncropped


And these pictures have been slightly cropped


And some pictures in terrible light of distant Ruff and a Dunlin. Both pictures are uncropped but as you see I have magnified a selection of each picture.

So there is not much in it although the bazooka definitely under good conditions gives better quality pictures (see my recent pictures of the R-b Fly taken with the different cameras on different days) but with birds at some distance the superzoom often offers possibilities for a record shot that the bazooka may not have given.

The difference in size of the two cameras though makes the superzoom a much more birder friendly camera

Friday, 20 May 2016


The weather felt good today with continued southerly winds, overcast skies and rain in the air. I just had the chance for some morning bird around Oslo but it was nice to see that others had five Broad-billed Sandpipers at Kurefjorden (where I had expected them yesterday but had found none, zero, sweet F.A) so my prediction was just a day out.
I had a hope that Østensjøvannet would be heaving with hirundines, Black Terns and Little Gulls but the rain had not been heavy enough so I had to be content with Swallows, Swifts and a single Sand Martin. Passerines were well represented though and in a small area I had a singing Red-backed Shrike, Wheatear, Whinchat, Yellow Wag, Reed Warbler Garden Warbler and Whitethroat. Two newly fledged Grey Wagtails being fed by their parents were unexpectedly early.
In Maridalen I was hoping for Common Rosefinch. I heard the song straightaway but this came from a mimicking Whinchat. I soon heard the song again from another area and this time without any interludes of more typical Whinchat song and eventually got my eyes on a fine red Rosefinch! I had two red males in total and also 3 males and a female Whinchat.

singing male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) in Maridalen - the second bird
the first bird eating a seed

note the 2 ticks (flått) under the bill

male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) Østensjøvannet
Whinchats (buskskvett) from Maridalen - a female on the left

Common Whitethroat (tornsanger)
Garden Warbler (hagesanger)