Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Cruising the fjord

This morning I was lucky enough to go out with Andreas G on his boat to check the sea and islands in the inner Oslo fjord. We had an early start at 6.30am and had to contend with poor light to start with and then once the sun had risen fog descended. The fog was a problem all morning and must be a result of the unseasonal warm temperatures and no wind.

We saw the Shag on Galteskjær on the way out and managed to get much better pictures than when I found it from the public boat to the islands. There were no terns left on Lindøya and a single Knot was the only wader.
But it was the two Skjælhomene islands which I was looking forward to. These small islands are only accessible by private boat, having no cabins and minimal disturbance and are where Andreas has had his most exciting finds. Two Peregrines and a Buzzard flew off the smaller northern island which was a pretty good start but as we rounded the southern island there was little so see with 3 Dunlin the only waders and a flyby Common Tern the only tern we had all day. Go ashore the island gives a really good feeling (what would be called a “bomb” island in Norwegian). The island is small with a pool, a few areas of bushes, some short grass and lots of weedy vegetation. A flock of 30 Linnet gave the impression of there being lots of birds but a Garden Warbler was the only warbler we saw and a Wheatear the only other long distance migrant. A Short-eared Owl that flushed at close range and then flew above us in the mist was a great find though and made the whole trip worthwhile. Walking around the island we also added Common Sand, Ruff and Teal to the list.

The boat trip back also gave us Red-throated Diver and Guillemot.

We also had some mammals with 2 Common Seals and 1 Grey Seal. Grey Seal is very rare in South Eastern Norway but this summer there have been a male and female regularly seen around the Skjælholmene islands and they have given the impression of establishing themselves with future breeding being a possibility. We saw only the smaller female today and her behaviour was noticeably different to the two Common Seals with her not appearing afraid of us and indeed approached the boat and loudly splashed the water before diving as if demonstrating that this was her territory. It was good to be able to see Common and Grey Seal so close to each other as I have often struggled to ID seal and the female Grey is a far less obvious beast than large males.

 After the boat trip I headed to Årnestangen where the fog was really thick. I had hoped for some good views of raptors, particularly Hen Harrier but the fog hampered that ambition. I did have 3-4 Marsh Harrier, 2 Sparrowhawks, 2 Buzzard, Kestrel, Osprey, Merlin and Hen Harrier though so there were some raptors! Wader numbers have really fallen with only ca. 30 birds of 5 species. After 1230 the fog lifted and Svellet revealed itself to be full of birds. When I arrived there were few geese but I counted 1150 Teal! Suddenly the air was full of noise and then birds and the geese flew in from a nearby field. Barnacle Geese were the most numerous species today with 1100 birds and “only” 500 Greylags.
Værøy Countdown: 4 days to go

Shag (toppskarv) with Cormorants (storskarv)

juv Shag

Norway's first ever Booby?

Short-eared Owl (jordugle) just after being flushed

lightening the load

Knot (polarnipe). This is an uncropped picture (500mm) and shows how close one can come to birds in a boat
adult Red-throated Diver (smålom) still in summer plumage

Garden Warbler (hagesanger) - the only warbler seen today
my first Guillemot (lomvi) of the autumn
female Grey Seal (havert)


The two Common Seals (steinkobbe) we saw were much warier than their Grey Cousin

Common Seal

Different head and nostril shapes separate the two seal species

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