Monday, 13 March 2017

Lots going on

This weekend I was in Trondheim for a seminar in regi of Birdlife Norway (NOF) looking at how the local and national rarity committees should use the national reporting system, ArtsObservasjoner. It was a useful, enjoyable and fun meeting and a good chance to meet many people from this long and spread out country. We had one early morning birding trip without seeing anything too exciting but there were a number of different ducks on the river which showed very well in lovely spring sunshine. Wigeon, Pintail, Goosander and a Smew were wintering and all of them except the Smew were associating with the bread eating Mallards. Refreshingly the local ringers seem to have less itchy fingers than those in Oslo and the ducks were virgin/sans bling/untouched/lucky ;-)

Closer to home the big news was that on Saturday the first tagged Taiga Bean Geese arrived back. It migrated through the night and was already feeding by 6am. The bird and its flock were first seen on Sunday first at around 11am when there were 52 and I then saw the birds at 6pm after Per Christian had picked me up from the airport and they had increased to 66. I was there at 0930 today and there were 72 and then by 14:55 another observer counted 111 including another GPS tagged so they are clearly arriving as we speak from Denmark. The GPS data is a bit delayed at the moment but it will be interesting what it shows for today. Amongst the 72 birds I managed to read 8 tags.

Per Christian didn’t come to pick me up from the airport for geese though. There has been a very well-kept secret for the last month that Great Grey Owls have been heard singing in Akershus. This isn’t the first such record but none the less very exciting. After consultation the sighting was not made public as this is the most sensitive time for the species and disturbance before young have fledged may cause them to move on. It was therefore nothing but disappointing that one of those in on the secret took a local bird club outing to hear the owl and then subsequently openly published the record with the logic that because so many people now knew about it (meaning those he had taken) that there was no point in keeping it secret. Lost for words!!!

I have long had a desire to hear the deep song of Great Grey Owl but despite many sight records the song has avoided me (the same goes for Ural Owl) so I really wanted to hear the bird. We were half expecting to see many other birders when we arrived at nightfall but thankfully were alone. A Pygmy Owl was singing as we got out of the car and the omens were good. We walked along the road waiting for it to get dark and trying to find a good listening position. Just after 7pm we heard it!!! It was distant (although the song is only supposed to carry about 500m) and not the WOW experience I had hoped of getting blown over by the deep base tones of a bird singing just metres from me! It sang on and off for the next 40 minutes but never came closer. Interestingly a Tengmalm’s started singing at 1930 from the same direction. The song of Tengmalm’s is much louder and carries up to 2km so it is difficult to know but it sounded like they were very close to each other (as they both hunt the same prey it is surprising the larger Great Grey tolerates his smaller cousin). We also had a calling Tengmalm’s very close to us making the strange call I have previously described. Some say this is a females call but it is also apparently a common autumn call (and then from all birds?). This bird also gave some other very strange calls which if we hadn’t heard the other call would have had us wondering what it was (and indeed did!). So that was yet another ornithological experience in the bag – maybe I need to create a bucket list now that I’m approaching middle age….

Today, as I’ve mentioned I went back to the look at the Beans and read collars. Other birds seen were good numbers of Whooper Swans (but no Bewick’s), I had five rossicus Beans near Kjelle, 22 Lapwings, 3 Golden Plover (early) and a Snow Bunting at Haugrim and my first Crane of the year at Haneborg!!

Dropping in at Maridalen on the way home it was striking how much more snow there is there with no snow free ground at all. But despite this there were 16 Whooper Swans on the one small piece of open water (only three 2cy birds so presumably not including the breeding birds which had a record 7 young) and quite amazingly 2 Lapwings first seen on an icy field and then stood on the ice.

So Golden Plover and Crane were new spring migrants. I bet that Mistle Thrush will be my next and will appear in the next couple of days.

Taiga Bean Geese 
note the distinctive head and bill shape
the 72 Beans were feeding with 130 Whoopers, 1 Canada and 1 Pink-foot in front of the trees in the middle of the pic
slightly closer view of the mixed flock
my first Crane (trane) of the year

and my first Golden Plovers (heilo) in very different plumages 

the narrow stubble field in held a lot of swans and geese

a lot closer 
5 Tundra (rossicus) Bean Geese were also here......but you'll have to take my word for it

The first Lapwing (vipe) of the year in Maridalen
Both birds in hardly ideal conditions

later they were stood on the frozen lake 

And some ducks from Trondheim:

female Goosander (laksand)

male Goosander

male Goosander with Mallards

female Smew (lappfiskand) 
male Wigeon (brunakke)

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