Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Guiding BoPs

Today I was guiding Lars Petter. The guiding was a birthday present from his good lady and I had a solid wish list to work with which I did pretty well in depleting. I decided to head out east and cover Nordre Øyeren, Aurskog Høland and a bit of Østfold. It was quite an intense day with an early start and I was knackered when I got home so the kids got frozen pizza  for dinner -I did warm it up...;-) 

We are still having overnight frosts and with a lack of rain it was noticeable how brown the fields are and there is no flood water in the valleys. This means that there are few concentrations of birds and that a number of species have not yet arrived in any large numbers. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t see lots of good birds.

Birds of Prey were well represented with 2 Marsh Harriers, 2 Peregrines (including a youngster which nearly flew into us while chasing a Fieldfare), 4 Ospreys, many buzzards, Merlin, Goshawk and Sparrowhawk. Surprisingly I have yet to see a Kestrel this spring and it looks like they are still to arrive in Norway in any numbers.

There were few dabbling ducks but Merkja held an impressive 600 Teal although try as hard as I could I found no American cousin or Garganey. Hellesjøvannet held three Smew including a fine male and a rare spring Scaup.

Waders were numerous with 439 Curlews in Svellet plus Lapwing, Golden Plover, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Little Ringed Plover during the day.

There were no concentrations of passerines in the fields but Bramblings and Redwings were singing nearly everywhere. In total we had 73 species which ain’t bad considering the only Africa migrant was Chiffchaff. Other decent birds were Black Grouse, Red-throated and Black-throated Diver and Crane.

As usual when guiding I took few pictures but the ones I did suggest that something may be up with the camera.

this Merline (dvergfalk) proved difficult to focus on but it was no problem to focus on the Blue Tit (blåmeis) that was mobbing it! 
a bit better focus

adult Peregrine (vandrefalk). This bird was a clear migrant and presumably a bird that breeds in the mountains hence its late arrival

female Scaup (bergand) at Hellesjøvannet 
and three Smew (lappfiskand)

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

So quiet

Some spring days just feel birdless and today was one of those. After getting a feeling over Easter that things were warming up I expected quite a bit from today but was to be very disappointed. An overnight frost and cloudless, windless skies in the morning seemed just to have encouraged birds to move on without depositing any new ones. Maridalen was extremely quiet with just three Black-throated Divers and only a handful of Goldeneyes on the lake although a repeat visit in the afternoon did give me the valleys first Osprey of the year.  I quickly decided to move onto Nordre Øyeren where at least there were birds to see. Highlights were a close hunting Osprey and my first Little Ringed Plover of the year. Svellet hosted a massive 437 Curlews but not a single other wader species. One noticeably things today was how empty the skies were with hardly an overflying bird to see or hear.

fishing Osprey (fiskeørn) 

Teals (krikkand) at Merkja. A pair of the Wigeon were the only other ducks of note

Monday, 17 April 2017

Easter birding II

Easter birding has been limited to short pre breakfast outings plus trips with the family to places that other family members have suggested but which have proven to be good choices!

It snowed on Sunday night turning Maridalen white but this did not result in hordes of hungry birds on the fields. Birds are arriving though. Eight Curlews on Saturday morning had risen to fourteen on Sunday morning and it looks like this species sprig passage is at its peak – I had 283 at Svellet yesterday and this morning Stig Helge had a staggering 476 which looks to be a record count of what is a declining and red listed species. With the Curlews yesterday were five Bar-tailed Godwits none of which was in red plumage so either all were females or perhaps still in winter plumage.

Svellet is just mud with the river running in a deep channel and if there is no rain or rise in the water levels risks drying to sand and losing a lot of its appeal – it is currently too dry for ducks with no Teal present.

In Maridalen three Red-throated Divers were displaying and six Black-throated Divers were keeping quiet and just feeding.

On Saturday a family outing to Fornebu resulted in a Black Redstart and today’s visit to the Resistance Museum at the Akershus Fort in Oslo gave a female type Pied Wagtail!

Maridalen before breakfast Monday morning
Black Redstart (svartrødstjert) at Fornebu on Sunday. I'm a bit unsure as to whether this is a female or young male although believe a young male should have black tones especially on the head

Bar-tailed Godwits (lappspove) with Curlews (storspove) at Svellet 
Curlews and Black-headed Gulls (hettemåke) at Svellet
a view over the extencie mudbanks south of Årnestangen where two White-tailed Eagles (havørn) were again to be seen - yet another year without breeding

On Sunday morning two distant displaying Black Grouse (orrfugl) were visible and audible in Maridalen 

Black-throated Diver (storlom) on Maridalsvannet 
fox in Maridalen
my first frog spawn of the year in a frozen puddle
14 Curlew in Maridalen. They flew around calling and even singing a few times before returning to an island in the lake
male Eider off the Opera in Oslo today
two Green Sandpipers (skogsnipe) resting on the last ice on Maridalsvannet
Three Red-throated Divers (smålom) displaying on Maridalsvannet - the first record here this year

one of two Ring Ouzels (ringtrost) in Maridalen this morning

ducks numbers are slowly increasing on Maridalsvannet. In addition to these 8 Tufted Ducks (toppand) were Mallard, Teal, Goldeneye, Goosander and a single male Common Scoter 
female Pied Wagtail (svartryggerle) in Oslo centre today.iWhen not in adult male plumage it is perhaps diffcult to eliminate a hybrid or intergrade with White Wagtail but the flanks are very dark and the upperparts were noticeably darker than a nearby White Wag
in this exposure it looks a bit less dark but still much darker back and flanks than a White
this video grab shows the rump to be pretty black

Saturday, 15 April 2017


I’ve just returned from 5 days skiing in Trysil with the family. There were remarkably few birds to be seen or heard in the forests through which the pistes ran but I did hear a single Pine Grosbeak. The view from the top of the mountain was fantastic and revealed the true extent of the forests in the area which support Rustic Buntings, Great Grey and Ural Owls, wolves and bears and it is not hard to believe that the populations of the birds are much higher than ornithologists know of given the vastness and inaccessibility of the area.
On the drive up I had a roadside Hawk Owl and on the drive back a roadside Pygmy Owl but no raptors.
On our last night there was a fall of around 30cm of snow which must have proven a challenge for the earliest migrants. A stop at a petrol station revealed two Robins searching for food around the cars which was a real sign of how desperate they were.
On the drive home I persuaded the girls that a stop at Starene would be worthwhile and whilst they played on ipads I viewed this great area. There were hundreds of Pink-footed Geese and amongst them 6 geese with orange legs. Two were White-fronted Geese, 3 were Tundra/rossicus Bean Geese and the last a Taiga/fabalis Bean Goose.  I didn’t have my scope with me and only the superzoom but at one stage had a Taiga and Tundra in the same field of view. The Tundra’s were pretty straightforward to ID but as is usual with a lone bird the Taiga took a bit of time before I felt happy but its large size, long thin neck, relatively small head and long thin bill eventually made me happy with the(sub)specific ID.
There were lots of Teal feeding amongst flooded areas of long grass but they never showed well and I didn’t see the Green-winged Teal that had been seen amongst them a few days previously.
My first Hen Harrier of the year also showed briefly from the car.

Hawk Owl at 80km/h (I was in the passenger seat...)

Pygmy Owl (spurveugle) at 50km/h (also from the passenger seat)

Petrol station Robins (rødstrupe) 

Pink-footed (kortnebgås) and a Barnacle Goose (hvitkinngås) at Starene 
Pink-foot EC3. Ringed 30.4.16 in Trøndelag in the middle of Norway. Spent the winter in Denmark and seen at Starene since 03.04
BA8. Ringed 30.4.16 in Trøndelag. Also spent the winter in DK and seen at Starene since 03.04

Pink-footed Geese 

The Taiga/fabalis Bean Goose (sædgås) 
Tundra/ rossicus Bean Goose #1



a very poor photo. But top right is the Taiga and in the middle is Tundra #3 
Two sleeping White-fronted Geese

This morning I was up early and in Maridalen before breakfast. In the course of six days the ice on the lake has frozen and the farmer has started ploughing the stubble fields. Clear skies and an overnight frost meant there were not too many birds though. Eight Curlew were the (expected) highlight. Passage of this species is very concentrated to the middle of April and it is always a thrill to see and hear this species. Five Green Sands were also a welcome sight and with Snipe and Lapwing I had four species of wader.

Five Black-throated Divers were on the lake and two flew north. There were few thrushes or finches and only a single Mipit but Robins and Dunnocks were very noticeable. I heard a singing Black Grouse and amazingly found it sitting on the top of a spruce on a hillside over 2km away!

singing Black Grouse (orrfugl) at at least 2km range

5 Black-throated Divers (storlom) were on the lake and two headed north 
These two Curlew (storspove) were resting on frost covered fields first thing

and then flew up to join six that came in from the south. After making a few circuits they landed on an island in the lake

Jay (nøtteskrike) 
male Tufted Duck (toppand) with forsty vegetation

Twite (bergirisk) one of a flock of six