Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Hedmark 2016 Installment VII

I've just been back in Hedmark again for another TovE bird survey route. On the way up I stopped to look for Ural Owls and sure enough found one or should I say it found me. There I was walking along minding my own business when I sensed something behind me, turned and instinctively ducked and a huge Ural Owl skimmed my head before pulling up and landing in a tree. She then proceeded to stare at me and call (bark). I was now very nervous. I had no idea where the other adult was and didn't dare take my eyes off this bird as they can cause serious injury and even concussion if they strike you. I moved away from the bird, started to feel more relaxed and took some video of her. Whilst filming she barked and, as you will see on the video (to come in s later post), I nearly had a heart attack as I thought she was calling her mate in for the kill. That was enough for me and I beat a hasty retreat.....

I also had a chance to check out a marsh where Per Christian had a displaying Broad-billed Sandpiper a few years ago. This marsh is not within the known range of this species in Southern Norway and is also at a much lower altitude than the known nesting sites but is I believe very much like sites used within the core range in Sweden and Finland and is perhaps a sign that the species is overlooked in Norway. I didn't find one, but mid-afternoon was never going to be a good time to look.
In the evening I paid another visit to the Rustic Bunting site hoping to ascertain the exact breeding status and that I most certainly did! As I walked into the area I heard the contact call straightaway which is the first time this has ever happened. I had trouble locating where the bird was but then an agitated male popped up and I assumed I was close to the nest. I backed up and sat down hoping to observe the behaviour of the species. The male flew down into some grass presumably to feed and then the contact call started again from close by but without me seeing the bird. Eventually I decided to go closer and suddenly there was movement and calling at my feet. A juvenile, but not fledged, Rustic Bunting!!! Time to retreat again....From a distance I could hear the juv (and possibly one other) calling and both the male and then after 20 minutes the female came in. I couldn't see if they were carrying food and was surprised how seemingly little attention the youngster was getting but not wanting my presence to be a negative factor I decided to leave. I was amazed that there was already young out of the nest. According to the literature incubation is 12 days and young leave the nest after 7-12 days well before they can fly. This means egg laying will have started in Mid May. I thought they only arrived Mid May but I found they actually arrive already in the first week of May although normally don't start egg laying so early but the warm spring and early snow melting this tear has clearly sped them along. With such early nesting there must be a high chance of a second brood. As the nest is on the ground I assume the young leave before they can fly as a tactic to increase survival chances in case of predators.

So in the course of one afternoon I had witnessed Norway's rarest breeding owl and rarest breeding passerine both of which had young and therefore a good chance that they will have done their bit to ensure another generation will also breed in Norway. From what I have heard there are only 5 known breeding pairs of Ural Owl and 5 known territories of Rustic Bunting - rare birds indeed.

After far too little sleep I was up at 0330 but was unable to complete my survey route as I turned my ankle and couldn't complete the 500 metres of steep and uneven uphill that the survey route started out with.
After some R&R I considered my options for car based birding and decided to head to check out the Bean Geese again but this time tagged bird 30 which was has been recorded at a site seemingly visible from the car. I found a flock of 34 birds without even having to get out of the car but frustratingly they flew up at over 300m before I had even turned the engine off. Clearly non-breeders but have they tried and then failed or are they like the Greylags in Southern Norway where only a minority breed each year?

It was a looooong day in the car with little walking but I took the scenic route back to Oslo and filled my boots with three Red-necked Phalaropes at a few metres range. This was at the same site where I had 7 birds displaying on 12 June last year. This year despite it being 5 days earlier it looked like display was finished and I just had 3 females with the males probably already nesting (2015 was an exceptionally late spring in the mountains).

I now have even more photos and video to go through so there will be whole load more Hedmark Instalments over the coming days, and possibly weeks ;-)

Here are three straight from the camera (bazooka) shots to give this post some eye candy :-)
Ural Owl (slagugle)
Red-necked Phalarope (svømmesnipe)
Rustic Bunting (vierspurv)


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