Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Corncrake (åkerrikse) - never seen one like this before!
Birding in mid-June is primarily about breeding birds with spring migration over and autumn migration yet to start. However, on a day like today with overcast skies and rain then there is always the chance of some waders turning up so I headed out to Årnestangen. I also knew that the water levels have receded since the spring floods and with the overcast skies viewing conditions would be OK in the middle of the day. I also had a hope of a rare tern (Black, Caspian or something even rarer). A Corncrake has also been reported singing the last couple of days and I hoped that it might utter a noise or two when I was out there. So there was definitely the chance of something to make the trip worthwhile J

After the 45 minute walk out to the viewing platform I was happy to see there were some waders but before I could start grilling them I heard a strange grunting call from the long grass and realised it must be a Corncrake. It was coming from close by and I tiptoed to the edge of the platform and peered over the edge. I then nearly jumped out of my skin as a Corncrake started singing from directly beneath me!!!! I was able to hear the quiet noise it makes before starting to sing. INSANE! I hadn’t even got my camera(s) out of the backpack so had to tiptoe again to where I had put my backpack, get the cameras out and then I had to work out where to stand to catch a glimpse of the bird when it came out from under the platform. I decided to set the superzoom to video as I reckoned this would give the best chance of capturing something including it singing. I then noticed some movement right under me and the bird was peering out! I held my breath and hoped the sound of the cameras wouldn’t scare it and managed to take both video and stills with both cameras before it vanished in the grass. This was amazing! I have seen Corncrake five times before (heard them many more) – three were in flight, one was a head sticking out of vegetation and another was quite good views of a singing bird in Maridalen but it was night time so no good photos. This though was in the middle of the day and the bird was less than 5 metres from me! I will never ever see a Corncrake so close again I’m sure. It was all very brief but quite magical. I didn’t actually see it singing which would have been cool and due to overcast skies the ISO on the camera is quite high so the digital record is not as good as the mental record. After this the bird moved unseen out into the vegetation and sang every now and again over the course of the next hour.
After calming down a bit I scanned the water and mudbanks in the rain (and ended up getting quite cold). There were 6 Greenshank, 2 female Ruff, 3 Dunlin, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 1 Curlew, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper and 1 Wood Sandpiper. Quite a good selection for mid-June and interesting to speculate if they were spring or autumn migrants. My guess is that the Dunlin, Ruff and Ringed Plovers were late spring migrants whereas the Greenshank and Green and Wood Sandpipers were early autumn migrants. The Curlew and LRPs were probably local (failed?) breeding birds.
Post breeding ducks were also starting to congregate with 64 Teal comprising 61 males and 3 females and 5 male Wigeon. There were no rare terns and the Common Terns look as they will have a miserable breeding season. On my last visit on 24 May there were a number of nesting birds but these would all have been flooded out over the next couple of days. Today there were at least 20 Common Terns in the area but only one bird was sitting on a nest. It is possible that others are nesting elsewhere or that they will try again later but I fear not.
Starlings though seem to have had a good breeding season and a flock of 250 birds was mostly youngsters. Raptors were scarce with a couple of Ospreys that were collecting nesting material from the mud and then flying towards the forests on the east side of the delta – presumably young birds preparing for next year. Two separate Marsh Harriers were a 2cy male and a 2cy female. Finally, on the walk back to the car I heard the squeaky door begging call of a young Long-eared Owl. It came from an area where I have seen lots of droppings and pellets and there is an old crows nest high in a tree which one cannot see into but this would seem to the nest site and will be worth a visit next week (an adult bird has been seen frequently hunting in the evenings). 

I have not had much luck with “night singers” this year and the Corncrake was the first one I have had in 2016. I therefore thought I may as well try my luck with a Spotted Crake that has been heard singing on the other side of Nordre Øyeren in the last few days. It has only been reported in the middle of the night but I thought what the heck. By the time I got there though it had started raining quite hard so predictably there was no dripping water sound of a Spotted Crake to hear. Two Marsh Warblers were singing though. This species is now quite widespread around Oslo and is definitely on the increase and has now become commoner and more widespread than Reed Warbler.

this is an uncropped version of the above picture. The bird was so close that the 150-500mm zoom was just set to 213mm.

taken with the superzoom when I was directly above the bird.

a montage as the bird decided it was time to disappear
this stick really was too large both for the bird and I assume for the nest and I saw the bird flying over 2km with it during which time it kept flying lower and lower

there is a nice area of mud showing at the tip of Årnestangen now
and here is something interesting I noted on the satellite map of Årnestangen. The pictures were taken during extreme flooding when all the of grass areas in the above picture were under water

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