Friday, 12 May 2017

A Big Day

Today was one of those days. One of those days when you forget to eat and drink. One of those days when there are so many birds that you get stressed and start wanting to move on so that you can check out more localities when perhaps it would be best to stay put and let the birds come to you.
I decided that a trip out to Årnestangen would be a good bet. With the weather clearing up a bit today (no rain or snow but still overcast) and the rising water levels in Nordre Øyeren I reckoned that finally the mud flats would be so reduced that birds would be identifiable at Årnestangen. I had two species in mind for today: Pallid Harrier (sorry if I sound like a scratched record but I really want to find and get amazing pictures of a Pallid in Norway) and Ortolan which are just returning now and would be a gripping Akershus species.

As always on days like this it is difficult to leave Maridalen but despite how much love I have for the Dale it will never have the rarity potential of Årnestangen.

When I got out of the car at 0850 the first bird I heard, and then saw, was a Lapland Bunting heading low north. This was promising! There were also lots of waders in the air both heading directly north and also clearly moving from one area to the other as rising water levels were changing feeding conditions all the time. There were Greenshank, Redshank, Wood Sandpiper and Golden Plover in the air and as I walked out I heard and then saw a Bar-tailed Godwit and was quite sure I heard a Dotterel amongst an overflying flock of Goldies but couldn’t see anything other than Goldies in the flock.

As I got out to the top (in the company of another birder) I scanned over to Rossholmen and there was a ringtail harrier hunting. It perched (at loooong range) and I then noticed it was next to two adult White-tailed Eagles (the second year this pair has been here without breeding successfully). I used quite a bit of time on the harrier and it flew off again but could only conclude it was a 2cy Hen Harrier. I also had 4 Kestrels heading north so it felt like it could be a raptor day.

At the tip of Årnestangen a Hobby was hunting so confirming those raptor vibes and an Osprey flew over. There were loads of birds and loads of sounds and it was quite stressful trying to know what to look at. Three Garganey included a pair of which the male was frequently calling (very unduck like call), a Black-tailed Godwit was feeding, a male Gadwall, a male Shoveler, 10 Pintail, hundreds of Teal and Wigeon plus a good selection of waders. Passerines included Redstart, another Lapland Bunting heard, Pied Fly, Whinchat and Yellow Wagtail. I also heard what was most likely Red-throated Pipit but haven't quite got my ear in yet (need to hear a few more Tree Pipits first).

And then the excitement started. I heard a wader call that I struggled to place and thought it might be a stint but then picked up two birds coming low towards us and it clicked – Dotterel!! Then they flew low over the mudflat and amazingly three others flew up to join them. After a bit of flying around they then landed. Five Dotterel completely out of habitat. They didn’t look like they were feeding but did display a bit. Half an hour later I heard their calls again and couldn’t locate the birds so they had presumably flown off.

After an hour I decided it was time for the 45 minute walk back so that I could try out other sites including Svellet. I hoped for more raptors on the walk but was disappointed. Back close to the car I scanned with the scope and what would you know – the Hen Harrier was hunting around the platform where I had been stood earlier. I got to see it better now but still at too long range and again was happy more or less that it was a 2cy Hen rather than an adult female Pallid. A 2cy Marsh Harrier also turned up and got a lot of grief from a pair of Curlew that were presumably protecting fledged young.
I pulled myself away and started driving away but after just two minutes stopped to look at Pallid Harrier photos. After a minute or so Erling Høbol who had been driving out to look for the Dotterel knocked on my window. We started chatting and then I noticed a bird just 15metres way flying very fast. It was small and I first thought Kestrel but then immediately realised no Pallid Harrier. It was a 2cy with orangey (almost pale pink) underparts and with a white collar. But it all happened really quickly. I swung up the camera but of course the autofocus didn’t catch it and then it disappeared over a brow. About 30 seconds later it reappeared and we were able to follow it for 10 seconds from behind before it went over another brow and that was it!  The small size strongly suggested the bird was a male and one of blurry pictures shows some grey feathers. Luckily the bird was glimpsed again later and better pictures weretaken. This is my third Pallid and second self-found one in Norway so it is perhaps surprising that I have such a desire to find (another) one. The reason is that I have never seen one well and my pictures are always crap.

Svellet still had some good looking areas of mud and will perhaps last for a couple more days and there were over 600 waders there. Best birds were 4 Spotted Redshank and 2 Barwits but there were no calidris waders at all. Also no interesting gulls or terns.

I finished in Maridalen where a brief look gave me Osprey, Buzzard, Redshank and Yellow Wagtail.

What a day but the pictures suck…..!

the first two Dotterel (boltit) flying in 
and then there were five!

difficult to see on the deck

Pallid Harrier (steppehauk) and you can actually see it is a 2cy male - honestly!!

the orangey undeparts can be made out possibly.....
Black-tailed Godeit (svarthalespove) and a pair of Garganey (knekkand) 
the godwit showing off its black tail
looking bac out towards Årnestangen where all the action is happening about 2km away!
a male Gadwall (snadderand)

all three Garganey

Hobby (lerkefalk)
the White-tailed Eagles (havørn)

a view over Svellet showing a large mudbank still available to the waders and there were 600 birds here!

and some photos from Maridalen

Common Buzzard (musvåk) 
not often I manage a photo of a Swift (tårnseiler)....

Geylag family and Tufted Ducks 

Yellow Wagtail (gulerle) - not sure what to make of that black head and weak supercilium

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