Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Tengmalm's Owl

Yesterday evening/night I was out with Per Christian to listen for owls in the deep forests east in Akershus county. It was a perfect night: no clouds (although the moon didn’t appear low over the horizon until 21:30), absolutely no wind such that sounds travelled far and at only -8C it wasn’t too cold.

There are clearly lots of rodents (and therefore owls) in some areas but an absence in others. Over a stretch of only 7km we heard around 10 singing males plus heard sounds from three other birds which were probably females. It was difficult to be sure exactly how many birds we were hearing as the songs were carrying far (definitely over 1km and according to BWP they can carry up to 2km) but at one stage we could hear three singing birds at the same time.

Outside of this 7km stretch though we didn’t hear any other birds! Over another stretch of 12km which has held multiple birds in previous years we did not hear a single bird. Why rodents should be abundant in some areas and presuamably near absent in other nearby areas is one of those big mysteries.

We were out from 18:55 to 23:00 with the sun having set at 17:05 and it getting properly dark around 18:00. There was already a lot of activity from 19:00 and although birds were still singing at 23:00 there was less activity. Birds also seemed to be moving about and when we tried to call them up they responded by stopping to sing but seemingly coming into to investigate us as we glimpsed two in torch light as they flew over the road. We were able to pin down one bird which was very interested in who was making owl sounds and watched us at close range for a number of minutes but remained silent throughout except when what we took to be a female called nearby when he then flew off towards here and gave a couple of calls (but not song).

It is still very early in the season and my belief is that owls are still moving around trying to find the best areas for food and have yet to establish (and defend) territories or form pairs.

I feel a bit uneasy when using spotlights and camera flash to observe these nocturnal creatures with their large eyes and the use of flash (just the inbuilt flash on the camera) did result in red eye on the owl but we were there for no more than 10 minutes so I think it is ethically OK especially as these birds are not the subject of this at any other time.

I took pictures with both the bazooka and superzoom and of course in the dark it is a bit of a challenge but by setting the superzoom to Auto and letting the flash fire gave surprisingly good results although it was completely necessary to have the bird lit up by the flashlight to find it in the viewfinder and focus. I also managed some nice video.

Despite there being so many Tengmalm’s Owls were didn’t hear any other owl species so the Ural Owl nestbox and Great Grey Owl platform that we put up a couple of years ago will probably remain unused again…. We did hear foxes including one which was really making a din and may well have heard wolves although can’t quite rule out the possibility it was dogs from a house in the forest.

Tengmalm's Owl (perleugle) 

Taken with the superzoom on Auto with flash
this was trying to use the flash on the bazooka but it doesn't work anywhere as well
an uncropped picture from the superzoom with serious red eye!

it took a while to find the optimal camera settings.... 

Earlier in the day I paid a visit to the Opera to look at the gulls. After nothing interesting having been seen (despite people searching) over the weekend, the Glaucous was then seen on Monday and yesterday I found the Iceland. The chances of finding both together (a unique Oslo sighting should it happen) must be high! There was also a very striking Herring Gull with bright yellow legs and a particularly white head and colourful bill and eye ring. The wing pattern rules out it being a real Yellow-legged Gull and this particular individual has probably been around for a few years and was displaying with another adult and may well be a local breeder. It is a wonder that it is still without bling!

A very striking yellow-legged Herring Gull. Quite likely to be the same bird that I photographed in the same place on 21.01.15
Almost certailnly the same bird. The eye ring on the left eye is more orange than on the right eye which is much redder. A slightly blurred picture of the open wing makes it look much more exciting than it was
Another "interesting" Herring Gull - one of the light birds
Herring Gull (gråmåke), Iceland Gull (grønlandsmåke), Great Black-backed Gull (svartbak) and Hooded Crow (kråke)
The Iceland Gull which is the same 2nd winter bird as before looked particularly white in the bright sunlight

in flight in front of Oslo's distinctive "bar code" buildings 
Female Teal (krikknad)

male Goldeneye (kvinand) 
same bird. Note how the metallic sheen on the head can change colour depending on light and angle

1 comment:

  1. Rixy,
    Cracking night by the sound of things! And fantastic pictures.
    I've done a fair bit of night bird photography - albeit it offshore and have tried DSLR and compact superzoom in such situations. Might be worth checking out for this. If one is close enough the inbuilt flash in the camera can work well - especially if aided by some other form of lighting in order to get the focusing going. See you soon....