Sunday, 4 June 2017

31 May Guiding

I have had a couple of very intensive and enjoyable guiding assignments to Hedmark and Oppland over the last few days but I am now finally home and ready to report on what we saw (this the first of two instalments).
On Wednesday I was guiding to some of Southern Norway's specialities. The birding day which had begun with a 4am alarm started well when we heard what is quite possibly the only Rustic Bunting to have returned to the Norwegian breeding grounds this year. Unusually for me and this species it was an easy find as he was singing frequently and strongly (I have used hours and hours to find them on other years) but this is bad news as it means he was unpaired. I feel this will be my last encounter with this globally rapidly declining species on its Norwegian taiga breeding grounds.

After this we had a nice encounter with breeding Little Gulls but our attempt to get a variety of breeding waders including Broad-billed Sand was thwarted by a mountain toll road suddenly and without notice being blocked just a few kilometres after we had paid to open the barrier.
With the Rustic having been so cooperative we still had plenty of time available to us though so we headed for my own special Red-necked Phalarope site. When we got there and it was cold and windy with all vegetation still brown and no mossies on the water I really felt we were not going to be lucky (the species has only just started returning to Norway with the first record only 10 days ago). We walked around a small lake though which has always been good for the species and suddenly a male appeared on the water in front of us. He swam away from us and at one stage hopped up and dived down as though he was catching a small fish. We admired it and then walked on a couple of paces only for a bright female to fly up from just a couple of metres away and land on the water. Things then happened very quickly. It didn't occur to me that they might already be breeding and given that it is the male that incubated and he was on the water I initially thought that when the female quickly returned to land that she was just looking for food as land was perhaps the only place to find any insects. The way she ran around like a rodent made me reconsider and then when she stopped and made some strange movements I noticed she was standing over an egg I realised we must have interrupted egg laying. I tried to find the nest which was no more than 4 metres from me but only found a single egg laying on damp mossy ground. I initially thought this to be another egg but looking at my pictures and video I now think it is the same egg – but there was no nest there it was just lying on the ground!! [If it was another egg as I thought at the time then what the hell were two random eggs doing there] Immediately after I considered that this couldn’t possibly be a nest and my assumption is that we interrupted egg laying at just the wrong moment and the female just dropped an egg where she. However, reading BWP it says “On ground in the open, sometimes partly concealed in short vegetation, and may become more hidden during incubation as vegetation grows; often in top of tussock; of 70 nests, Finland, 55 on dry ground, 15 on moist” so it could well be that this is the nest and that as more eggs are layed a proper scrape is made?

We immediately moved away and then saw the birds together on the lake. They seemed to mate and then flew back to land. The female landed exactly where she had first flown up from which was 4 metres from where the egg was and the male plopped down right nearby and then both birds disappeared in the grass. I would love to have been able to return and follow them over the next couple of days to see if they lay more eggs in the same place. At least both birds immediately returned (after having mated) once we moved off so I believe no harm is done and hopefully we were just amazingly lucky enough to witness normal egg laying – right time at the right place-

So now I am left remembering an amazing close encounter with a wonderful species which happened so fast that I am glad I also videoed some of it and we actually witness egg laying!

After this we had mixed success. Two owl species that I was hoping to find didn't reveal themselves but we did have an adult and two young Hawkies - and a day is always good after a dose of Hawkie :-)

Generally though the day was very short of birds. Hirundines and swifts seemed very common but warblers, waders, flycatchers and chats were almost non-existent. We also had only a single Cuckoo and raptors consisted of one Rough-legged Buzzard and three Kestrels.

singing male Rustic Bunting (vierspurv) - quite possibly Norway's last and probably singing in vain

Red-necked Phalarope (svømmesnipe) - the drab(er) plumage shows it to be a male

the more colourful female

just layed an egg. Note the webbed feet
adult Hawk Owl (haukugle) 
youngster #1

youngster #2

breeding Little Gulls (dvergmåke) - note the right hand bird has nesting material

singing Wood Warbler (bøksanger)

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