Monday, 28 November 2016

Piney Baby!

Veteran readers of this blog will know that there if there is one thing that matches my love for Hawkie then it is my love for Piney (Grosbeak). I’m sure British birders will understand this love as both species have a rather mythical status in the UK.

Pine Grosbeak is very irregularly recorded in south eastern Norway although there is undoubtedly a high degree of under recording due to it being very unobtrusive and preferring vast tracts of mature spruce forest. Every now and again though (less than once a decade) it does arrive in large numbers as the species leaves the taiga forests of Russia when there has been a failure in it favoured food (which is NOT cones but rather buds on spruce trees). There was a such invasion in winter 2012/13 and quite remarkably Maridalen briefly became the best place in the whole of Norway to see this species with flocks of upto 45 being seen. Since then though there have only been a handful of records in south east Norway and I have not seen one since in the Oslo area.

This year has had a few records of birds in the south east and although definitely not an invasion it would appear there are more birds than normal. When Stig Johan Kalvatn saw and nicely photographed five birds on Saturday at Revlikollen then my plans for today were already made. Revlikollen is part of Lillomarka which is the forest area to the east of Maridalen. I have never explored this area of forest properly as I have always thought it to be too close to the city but have recently started to understand that it does contain some very interesting forest. Revlikollen is one such area and is protected as a nature reserve due to it containing large areas of untouched old, primarily spruce, forest. It was a good half hour walk before I got to the edge of the nature reserve and there was precious little in the way of bird life on the way. Crossing into the nature reserve didn’t change that but the forest looked very impressive with large spruces, lots of fallen and rotting wood and the odd pine tree. I heard a Black Woodpecker calling but NOTHING else. Then I saw a movement in front of me and suddenly I had a Three-toed Woodpecker! This species has not been kind to me in 2016 so it was nice to see one although it kept high up in the trees such that I never saw its crown but in the photos it appears to be white without any yellow and therefore a female. My enjoyment of this bird though was rudely interrupted by a plaintive whistling call – PINEY!! It was close but I couldn’t tell if it was in flight or not. I whipped my phone out, found the call, played it and got a response! The bird then started calling continually which is in my experience very unusual. When in flocks they are normally silent until they start having a little natter before deciding it is time to move to the next tree and I have never heard such continuous calling before. When I finally (and with relief) saw the bird I quickly discovered it was a single bird which may well explain why there was so much calling. He (for it was a fine adult male) was definitely looking for company because he progressively came closer and closer to me (and my phone). Unfortunately, it was dark in the forest and I had to screw up the ISO to 6400 but what a bird!! AND he was ringed. The last report in ArtsObs of a bird being ringed in Norway is from 2012 and although there are many ringers who unfortunately have better things to do than report in Artsobs I strongly suspect that this bird received its bling in another country. Unfortunately, (but not surprisingly) my photos do not allow any detail of the ring to be discerned. The bird then proceeded to feed in the trees above me, nipping off spruce buds.

After about 20 minutes the bird vanished but left me feeling very privileged. I continued into the nature reserve and had three Capercaille (two females and a male) which I think doubled my all-time records of this species in Oslo – I will definitely visit this area again and it looks to have very good potential for breeding Tengmalm’s Owl.
Grosbeak, Three-toe and Caper were all Oslo year ticks for me and to get three in a day with only a month to go is quite extreme and tomorrow I have a chance for another one with a Hawkie having been seen the last couple of days in Sørkedalen (the two released/rehabilitated Hawk Owls I’ve seen in Maridalen are not “tickable”). It is in an area that I have checked each time I have been in Sørkedalen over the last month but clearly I wasn’t meant to be the one that found that specific bird but it would be great to see it tomorrow J

a ringed adult male Pine Grosbeak (konglebit)

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feeding on buds

about to nip off a bud/shoot

Revlikollen - habitat of Pine Grosbeak and Three-toed Woodpecker

Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett) my initial camera settings were hopelessly wrong but it was still possible to lighten up the picture

settings adjusted but shutter speed too low

high up in the tree there was better light. It looks like there is only white and not yellow in the crown making it a female

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