Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Ultimate Oslo birding

Back in the winter of 2012/13 when there was an invasion of both Hawkie and Piney to the Oslo area I had a birders wet dream that involved seeing a Hawk Owl eating a Grosbeak. This rather gruesome bringing together of my two favourite birds was always very unlikely to happen given that Hawk Owl very rarely eats birds but I did have one occasion when I saw (and filmed) bothspecies from the same spot at the same time and it was to be honest a ratherorgasmic experience.

I wanted to come as close as possible to recreating that feeling today although the only realistic plan was only to see both species in Oslo on the same day. I started with the Grosbeaks first and when I parked the car saw that Zak clearly had the same intention as me. He was already a long way into the forest and had not had sight nor sound of Piney. I was not to be deterred though. It was once again very quiet in the forest and a single female Capercaille flying out of a pine tree above me was the highlight for the first hour and a half.

My last two walks in the forest have surprisingly not revealed a single crossbill although I have had the occasional bird flying over in Maridalen recently. There are still lots of cones on both spruce and pine trees but they are clearly not at the right stage in their development for crossbills. Both Parrot and Common Crossbill are nomadic in their search for cones at just the right stage of development for them to breed in the late winter. Last winter spruce cones were right in southern Norway and we had huge numbers of Common Crossbills that bred but these birds started to vanish during the summer and there are now just stragglers left (where the others have gone I do not know). The previous winter we had no spruce cones and no Common Crossbills but there was a good crop of pine cones and suddenly there were small numbers of Parrot Crossbills which otherwise are very uncommon around Oslo. When I heard a crossbill today I was keen to get an eye on it and it was a male Common Crossbill flying over. As I stood there wondering where all its kin had disappeared to I heard a short whistling call close by. I looked up and saw a Blue Tit but thought that the call surely was from something far more interesting….. and then suddenly three Pine Grosbeaks flew into a tree 40m away and started calling. They had the sun behind them and when I finally pulled the camera out of the bag I didn’t check the settings but after three poor photos they just vanished. I played the call but this had no effect today (because they were already in a flock). Over the course of the next 15 minutes I heard them call twice again somewhere nearby but never manged to see them again. Guess I’ll have to search for them another day because they are incredible birds and deserve to be enjoyed and studied when one has the chance.

So one target down (if only just) I then went to see if nearby Maridalen had a Hawkie for me but had to be content with one of the Great Grey Shrikes.

A visit to Sørkedalen was therefore necessary for Hawkie. As I passed Bogstadvannet I saw there were a few ducks waiting for bread and amongst them was the Pintail which has not been seen for a week or so. Frustratingly when I went down with the camera it walked away from me and clearly didn’t want to be photographed – I’ll have to remember bread next time.

I drove further into the valley but had only driven a minute and reached the northern end of the lake when I saw a bird perched half way up a birch tree (it was a good 300m away). I stopped the car and was expecting to find a Sparrowhawk in the bins but was more than happy to see a Hawk Owl. It soon flew up onto the top of a relatively low spruce tree and I was then able to walk out to it and really enjoy it although the light wasn’t so good. I was keen to find out if it was a new bird so ran back to the car and continued driving. Quite soon the sun broke though and I regretted not staying with the bird in the hand. 4km away there was no sign of birds in the bush although there were forlorn photographers who had been searching for a while. I headed back as quickly as I could and the light was fantastic but the only problem was that the bird had moved to the very highest spruce he could find…..although a couple of photographers were no longer forlorn.

But who cares Hawk Owl and Pine Grosbeak in the same day and within sight of Oslo city – it’s what birding is all about J
Hawkie looking in every direction but at me

as can be seen here there are still lots of cones on the spruce trees - and a Hawk Owl

here when I first had Hawkie relatively low down but poor light

and here fantastic light but too high up

au revoir min cherie

just about recognisable - Pine Grosbeak (konglebit)
Great Grey Shrike (varsler) in Maridalen - the southern bird

1st winter male Pintail (stjertand) Bogstadvannet - what no bling?

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