With only three days since the last update I might be approaching some sort of regularity again with the blog. On Tuesday, I was guiding Neil and Thomas from the States. It was a strange morning with frustratingly few birds (i.e. not a single Fieldfare in 4 hours!!) but we did have good views of Red-backed Shrikes and Yellow Wagtails among others.
I have been moaning the lack of raptors and especially Honey Buzzards but over the last three days I have managed 9 species including great views of Honey Buzzard so maybe things are loosening up.
Yesterday in Maridalen I had 5 Common Buzzards including a group of 4 thermalling together, plus single southward migrating Hobby, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. I had a brief glimpse of a probable Honey Buzzard but not enough to be certain. What is certain though is that the Honey Buzzards (2 pairs?) that have bred close to Maridalen in the last two years have not bred (or at least not successfully) this year because I have now put in enough hours that I should have seen them carrying food by now. On Tuesday I also had an Osprey in Maridalen following one on Monday that flew low over the house.
Today I visited Hellesjøvannet where I finally got to enjoy Honey Buzzard in 2017 including a perched bird which gave my best ever views although the scope was necessary. When I arrived a juvenile Marsh Harrier was flying around calling (a locally bred bird) and whilst watching this I became aware of another raptor which had just flown over my head as the harrier flew up to it. I expected it to be an adult Marsh Harrier coming with food but no it was an adult Honey Buzzard! The two then interacted quite low over the reedbed before the Honey landed openly in a tree. It stayed here preening before disappearing into the trees. Intrigued as to whether there was a nest or if it was feeding I made my way around to the woodland (not an easy task). Here I didn’t find the Honey in the woodland but heard the juv Marsh Harrier calling and became aware of an adult male Marsh Harrier that had probably just delivered some food. This bird then started thermalling and just after it had disappeared from my view I heard another raptor calling. I wasn’t initially sure which species it was but then picked up first one and then two Honies which flew over me calling. They continued calling but I couldn’t see them because of the trees before they then reappeared in the company of a Common Buzzard! For the next 15 minutes or so there were Honies in constant view (probably 4 different birds but it could just have been the original two covering a lot of ground). In addition to calling there was also wing clapping. It was all very exciting but then it clouded over a bit and that was it – I didn’t see any more of them over the next two hours. Other raptors showed though with at least 16 Common Buzzards in total including 9 in one scan, a single Peregrine, single Hobby, two Merlins and a Sparrowhawk.
The lake hosted 9 Pochard, a pair of Whooper Swans with a single youngster, 800 Greylags, 19 flyover Ruff that looked like they wanted to land on the water amongst the geese and two Water Rails called from the reedbed.
So, I now feel that I have had a good dose of raptors but still want a Honey in the Dale. The reason that the end of August is so good for raptors is that the local breeding Common Buzzards have youngsters that need flying practice, Honey Buzzards have large youngsters in the nest that need lots of food so the parents become more visible as they fly around looking for wasps’ nests, and all the smaller raptors and harriers are starting to migrate and turn up all over the place. So all you need to do is wait for a sunny day (good for thermalling), find an area with a good mixture of habitats and ideally a wetland and find a good vantage point that allows you to see a lot of sky and just start scanning the whole sky with your bins. With a bit of patience the results are worth the sore neck, arms and back (smart people would take a chair…)
A quick stop in Maridalen on the way home today revealed a juvenile Cuckoo which was a species I had given up on seeing in Oslo this year. I was able to watch it at close range as it hunted caterpillars and it seemed clear that it was using hearing to locate them! It would frequently cock its head and once I saw it suddenly turn its head and then body (still with cocked head) before launching itself into some grass a couple of metres away and catching a large juicy caterpillar.
Watching the cuckoo I was reminded of how raptor like they are (often being confused with Sparrowhawk) and reckon that my raptor count for the last three days can be raised to 9 and a half species ;-)
|adult Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk) and juvenile Marsh Harrier (sivhauk)|
|same Honey Buzzard as above. The jet black wing tips and grey head show this to be a male|
|perched - it looked a lot better in the scope!|
|presumed same bird seen a bit later - note it is calling|
|another adult male Honey Buzzard which was flying and calling together with the other bird. In the field I assumed they were a pair but the pictures show them both to be males. It looks like these two males are the same two individuals I saw in the same place on 5 Aug 2016|
|same bird - also calling|
|the lighter Honey Buzzard with a Common Buzzard (musvåk)|
|both the Honey Buzzards and the Common Buzzard|
|another Common Buzzard. This one an adult as seen by the dark tail band|
|a juvenile Common Buzzard from Maridalen yesterday - aged by its lack of a tail band|
|Hobby (lerkefalk) from Maridalen|
|adult male Marsh Harrier (sivhauk)|
|juvenile Marsh Harrier|
|the other juvenile Marsh Harrier|
|doing its best raptor impression|
|and to finish on a low note here are some grotty young gulls but the two 1st summer Lesser Black-backed Gulls are a rare age class in Norway|