Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Spring is officially here, for a day or so at least

If one subscribes to the idea of four seasons each three months in length, then today, March 1st, is the official start of spring and I can confirm that bird wise that is correct.

The rain and then plus temperatures we have had the last few days have caused a widespread thaw (although new snow fell last night on the hillsides around Oslo) and with sun and temperatures of +5C today a trip to Bygdøy was on the cards. The fields and beaches of Bygdøy are always good places in the beginning of spring to find the first spring migrants in Oslo. Today I was hoping for species of the like of Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Starling, Skylark, Lapwing, Snow Bunting, Stock Dove and Greylag Goose. I only scored with two of the species – so have six to look forward to J - but they definitely signalled spring was here.

Apart from a Wood Pigeon I had in Maridalen on Sunday (although this may well have been one of the birds that wintered in Oslo moving a few kilometres) I have not seen any species that I have suspected of being spring migrants until today. On arriving on Bygdøy the first birds I saw were two Greylag Geese. Apart from the bread eating birds that spend the winter at Østensjøvannet, Greylag Goose is a true migrant with us and also one of the very first to return. The fields at the Kings Farm on Bygdøy always hold a good sized flock in the early spring and they frequently attract other species so this is a place worth checking. The two today were only the start though as I later had flocks of six and two noisily heading north and I am sure that in less than a week there will be over a hundred birds here.

The other migrant I had was Stock Dove. There have already been a couple of records around Oslo but I was not expecting to find my first of the year sticking its head out of a nestbox and then to discover there was actually a pair in there. Some species do not hang around at all, seemingly starting the breeding process the moment they return, barely having time to feed up after their migration. Stock Doves are arriving earlier and earlier around Oslo. The breeding population is very small and concentrated at Fornebu and Bygdøy where they nest mostly in nest boxes. I believe that the early return is the result of two factors:

1. Global climate change is clearly making it possible to return early and find food and survive
2. But perhaps more importantly the growing population is competing over a limited number of nest holes so the earlier you return the more likely you are to find a vacant nest hole and therefore breed successfully and pass your genes on.

I feel my excitement levels building now knowing that soon large flocks of geese, swans and cranes will appear although I may have to contain my excitement for a week or so as we are forecast to have a return to freezing temperatures.

a very well constructed nest box I must say (nothing to do with me)
Stock Doves (skogdue) are very smart birds

my first two migrant Greylags of the spring. Conditions are still not ideal

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