On Friday I had plans for today to get up early and drive down to Hvaler in Østfold for another Russian Dunnock hunt. Eight have now been trapped in Norway with three sites having two each and apart from Utsira it is difficult to describe these places as particularly special so it just confirms how many must be out there and how crap/lazy we birders currently are. We need to get our act together and if not for our own self-respect then for the sake of the birds so that they don’t have to be held in a bag for hours on end so car loads of twitchers to have time to get there and get a tick. I put these plans on hold during the course of the weekend though as a pain in my rump and leg that has been creeping up on me got so worse that I couldn’t bear the thought of driving for 4 hours and instead started planning a day that involved a lot of walking which seems to help.
My plan was to start at Fornebu and then go up into Sørkedalen with species such as Bearded Tit, Pine Grosbeak, Hawk Owl and Pygmy Owl on my to get list. This plan was cemented when news seeped out yesterday of an Isabelline Shrike at Fornebu. Only seen by a select few it was one of those birds that makes you wonder why you bother spreading news about birds you yourself find and why you bother creating many different communication channels when it often seems to be a one-way communication (not that I had the chance to go for it yesterday but I get easily wound up). Anyway there were lots of people hoping to see this bird this morning. Some had already given up before 8am but I arrived just before 9am and could see from the way people were standing that the bird hadn’t been seen. It also seemed in classic twitching style that all efforts had been concentrated on the exact area where the bird was seen yesterday. I therefore walked I the opposite directions to extend my search to the whole of Fornebu and spent two hours trudging around and failing to see anything exciting (not even an obvious bird like a Brent Goose) with only unusually many Blackbirds and Blue Tits to note. This sort of experience is exactly why I don’t like twitching so at 11am I headed towards Sørkedalen. Here I didn’t find anything interesting either but did get a message that someone had seen the bird (indeed the presence of the bird was reported on 4 different communication channels – marvellous that!!). I was a bit of a way from the car and still had a plan to find a Hawk Owl and continued on that quest for a bit longer but failed here and then ran (downhill) back to the car. I arrived at Fornebu just before 13:00 to find 4 birders watching where the bird had just been before disappearing. This was an area which I had checked earlier which makes this twitching thing even worse (although it must have been far worse to have walked past this area yesterday just before someone else found the bird….). After a few minutes though the bird popped up and showed quite well as it searched very actively for food before again going missing. It was refound 20 minutes later 200 metres away in some bushes by a path and then stayed here, although often difficult to see, allowing the crowds to appear which was my cue.
The bird itself was pretty neat and looks to be of the (sub)species isabellinus whereas a bird seen here in October 2009 was phoenicuroides although the differences between these two sub(species) are not great. Quite incredibly both the birds (of a still very rare species in Norway) were found by the same observer which must be pretty unique.
|Isabelline Shrike Fornebu ssp isabellinus|
|colours looked a lot different when in a shady bush|
Here are my pictures of the bird from 2009 (when I didn't have a decent camera) plus a link to some much better shots
|Isabelline Shrike ssp phoenicuroides Fornebu October 2009|