Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Had to make do with a very small grey owl

I went searching for the GGO again yesterday and gave it another 4 hours but this time ensured I was there until it became dark at 4pm. Result no GGO but at least 2 Pygmy Owls felt like a good enough reward for the effort put in. We even heard some autumn song which is quite different to the normal spring song and something I can only remember having heard once before.

Pygmy Owl (spurveugle)

Today I gave Fornebu a go as recent records in Sweden show that the autumn is far from over. I failed to find anything rare but there were three Chiffchaffs still present. The first one was heard only but only gave a “normal” call that I would associate with birds breeding in southern Norway. I then saw 2 birds which both looked like tristis and responded marvellously when I played tristis song with both wing shivering. The only problem was that one called repeatedly and gave only an “eastern abientius” call. Tristis apparently also make this call but should also make the classic “piip” call. I did later hear one of them repeatedly giving the “piip” call with no other calls mixed in but I didn’t manage to ascertain which bird made which calls. So I am happy to record one as a certain tristis and the other as a possible “intergrade” (if they exist).

here is one of the tristis Chiffhchaffs wong-shivering in response to me playing the song of tristis. This bird looks classic tristis with brown ear coverts and the only yellow visible under the eing

this is the other bird which also looked like a classic a tristis should look but one of them gave some calls that weren't completely classis

On Friday and Saturday I am off Stavanger and Jæren for two days of what Kjell Mjølsnes promises will be off the charts birding in terms of quality! I cannot wait.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Golden Eagle!

Yesterday I planned to find a Great Grey Owl. Upon getting out of my car and whilst dealing with an urgent matter that frequently occurs after coffee drinking with men of my age I looked up and saw a raptor. A late Buzzard I thought until what I thought was a Sparrowhawk flew up to it and I realised it was a Golden Eagle. It then flew pretty low and close and I managed to finish my task in hand and get my camera and fire off some shots which weren't as good as the sighting deserved but they could have been worse!
The pictures do show though that the hawk was actually a Goshawk (must be a 1cy male) which even further emphasises the huge size of the eagle. This is the only Golden Eagle I have seen so far in 2018 so made my day.

I found a good vantage point where I hoped I would be able to see the owl should it turn up.
With so much recent rain I hoped that the dry, sunny conditions that developed late morning would cause the owl to actively hunt. Well if that was the case it was unseen by me and come 1515 I had to start heading home. After getting to the car and driving a bit I stopped where I was able to get a very distant view over the area where I had previously been and what did I see flying between the trees? Something to search for again me thinks :-)

My waiting time was relatively unproductive, but I did have a female Capercaillie flying over at a good height which is something I have witnessed only once before with a male in Maridalen which was being chased by a Goshawk. Another interesting incident was when I heard a woodpecker calling. I thought it might be a Three-toed (it wasn’t) and played the call of Three-toed in the hope of it responding. What happened though was that a young Goshawk (probably the same one that had mobbed the eagle) appeared and flew at me. I can only assume that they hunt by listening for the calls of birds.

1cy male Goshawk (hønsehaul) carefully watching a young Golden Eagle (kongeørn)

the eagle looks to be a 1cy bird although has quite a lot of damage to its primaries so may be a 2cy although I can't see that it has moulted any feathers and the tail looks fresh

female Capercaillie (storfugl). The bird was clearly large and bulky with a large bill but the banding on the underwing is also I believe a character to separate from Black Grouse in flight

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Med Gull brightens up a very gloomy day

It is all very grey at gloomy at the moment and with rain forecast the coming days we will be entering the absolute worst time of the year before hopefully snow comes and brightens things up.
In Maridalen tits are starting to congregate at the feeders and there were still flocks of Fieldfares, Yellowhammers, Greenfinches and Tree Sparrows on the fields with a single, late, Redwing amongst them. On the lake two Guillemots are still finding enough food and will probably be here until the lake freezes over.

I visited Østensjøvannet again and this time saw a Long-tailed Duck in addition to the Smew and Little Grebe. The duck is presumably the one I failed to see on Monday (or yesterday) and just goes to show it was bad fieldcraft from me that was the reason for not seeing it. It was a particularly dark individual which I think is due to it still being in juvenile rather than 1st winter plumage. At one stage a male Goldeneye started displaying to it which really scared her causing her to run over the water. It looked like she couldn’t fly but I did see her taking a short flight later and she looked healthy enough.

When I drove out to Østensjøvannet I saw that there was a flock of gulls feeding in the park where the Med Gull had been seen occasionally earlier in October and I stopped here on the way back and did indeed find the 2cy Med Gull together with 9 Common and 2 Herring Gulls. This is the first observation since 26 October when I saw it on the fjord so it clearly has another site that it frequents but it does appear that it will now spend the winter and is then most likely to end up with the vast majority of the city’s Common Gulls which end up eating bread in a small park in the city (providing the locals old ladies are still going strong and feeding them).

The 2nd winter Med Gull (svartehavsmåke) is looking a bit smarter now I think

the juvenile Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås) at Østensjøvannet seems to be finding enough food and is unfazed by people
Long-tailed Duck (havelle) with a male Goldeneye (kvinand)

This Tufted Duck (toppand) at Østensjøvannet has unsurprisingly been misidentified as a Scaup (bergand) on a few occasions and with a round head and quite a bit of white around the bill does superficially resemble Scaup but these types of birds are frequent enough that they shouldn't cause confusion with good enough views. The bill pattern with a large black nail with a pale band behind are classic for Tufted Duck and the best feature but the bird was also small and had the jizz of a Tufted plus it lacks the pale patch on cheek of a Scaup and a Scaup would have a paler head.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Hazel Grouse

Late autumn is a good time for finding Hazel Grouse as they are singing and also up in the trees eating catkins on alder trees. A walk in the forest provided me with a nice singing male only 15 minutes from the car which in Hazel Grouse terms is a real result! I wasn’t able to get close to it which is probably why it sat so nicely and for so long in the open rather than the usual 2 second obscured view they offer.

Otherwise the forest was dead quiet.

A short trip to Østensjøvannet gave unprecedented close views of two Little Grebes fishing for small perch. The closeness of the birds was probably because they felt protected by vegetation and overhanging trees in the area which meant that getting good photos was a challenge (as was the appalling light on an overcast November day) but I am pretty happy with what I got.

The Hazel Grouse (jerpe) was not close but gave (for the species) prolonged views

Little Grebe (dvergdykker)

here it is doing its best Red-necked Grebe  (gråstrupedykker) impression

the same bird as above looking very different

Tuesday, 6 November 2018


With a weather system bringing winds from the south east there might be a chance for something exciting to turn up before winter arrives. I, and others, therefore gave Fornebu a really good going over today. We failed to turn up anything rare but with Chiffchaffs of various forms, Little Grebes, White-tailed Eagle, Jack Snipe, Waxwing and late Blackcaps and Reed Bunting there was enough to keep us going. Volume of birds was generally very low with no flocks of finches or thrushes but is often like this at this time of the year and then the one bird you find can be a real goody.

With Hume’s Warblers turning up in other places it feels a bit unfare when we only have Chiffchaffs but with one classic tristis that called and also sang (first time I have heard the song which is noticeably more varied than normal Chiffchaff), another bird that looked tristis like but didn’t call and another bird with an “easterly” but not tristis call that didn’t show very well then we had a bit to work with.

Raptors have been very scarce recently but we had three species today with a large and pale juvenile Goshawk, 2 Sparrowhawks and best of all a White-tailed Eagle. I picked it up in the scope at 5.5km range before it then flew towards us and eventually passed at probably a bit over 500m range. It was a 2nd or perhaps more likely 3rd CY bird with obvious moult in the primaries.

White-tailed Eagle (havørn) over Nesodden as seen from Fornebu

and crossing Fornebu

the definite (calling and singing) Siberian/tristis Chiffchaff 
and the quiet bird that was probably also a tristis

Common Scoters (svartand) have been scarce so far this autumn

Jack Snipe (kvartbekkassin)

Little Grebes (dvergdykker)

Monday, 5 November 2018

A lull

November can often be a disappointing time for birding and the start of November 2018 feels like it will be one of those times. A trip out to the islands on Thursday last week was very quiet although very close views of the long staying Red-necked Grebe did make it feel worthwhile. At this time of the year it is Fornebu and Østensjøvannet that are often the most productive places. Fornebu got some good coverage (by others) at the weekend but the Sibe Tit was not refound although a late Wheatear caused some heartbeats to be raised for a while.. Østensjøvannet also had some local good birds with Smew, Little Grebe, what looks to be a very late Willow Warbler (from the hard to judge pictures) and a late Pink-footed Goose. I headed there this morning and saw the Smew which is a good Oslo bird. A Long-tailed Duck did get reported and I felt very inadequate for not managing to see it since I had looked over the area before it was reported and then again only 1 minute after it was reportedly there, so I guess it just landed very briefly before moving on.

Hopefully there will be some excitement soon as Great Grey Owls seem to be on the move and are turning up in unexpected places and I know exactly where I will find one in Maridalen 😊

Red-necked Grebe (gråstrupedykker) - its moult has come so far now that the stripes of the juvenile plumage have gone now 

this Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) was on Nakkholmen. Raptors seem to be ever so scarce at the moment

female Eider (ærfugl)

the late and lonely Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås) at Østensjøvannet. The white edges to the feathers show it to be a juvenile 
the Smew (lappfiskand) was at distance which is normal with this species. I think I can see some white feathers appearing in the crown which would make it a juvenile male

female Teal (krikkand)

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Not enough to see

The Siberian Tit was seen by many on Sunday and was reported again early on Monday morning but had vanished by the time I and others arrived a bit later in the morning and has not been since (I gave it a good shot today) so has maybe moved off although perhaps, and hopefully, just a short distance. Yesterday we had a really good dump of snow that left everything white until mid-afternoon when rain and rising temperatures melted it. I had hoped that this cold weather system coming from the north would cause an arrival of interesting species but if they have come then I have missed them although today on the fjord 3 Long-tailed Ducks and 11 Velvet Scoters were probably newly in.
At least one tristis Chiffchaff is hanging on in the same bushes at Fornebu and a greener bird with a more normal call is also in the area. I also had a Jack Snipe today which would have given a good photo if I had my camera out as it flew up from my feet and flew slowly in a large arc around me before going down in the reedbed.

In Maridalen 2 Guillemots are still on the lake and a late Common Snipe is also still there despite the cold snap. Highlight today was at least one Arctic Redpoll in a flighty flock of redpolls which probably contained a lot more Arctics as I saw a lot of pale rumps in flight but never got to see them properly to be sure how many.

2 adult male and an adult female Long-tailed Duck (havelle) off Fornebu. It is rare that we get to see adult males here

Tuesday's snow in Maridalen

This Nutcraker (nøttekråke) in Maridalen was I think the first I have ever seen on a feeder
Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff (gransanger) at Fornebu today. A classis looking bird that also had the right call

same bird from below

here we see that the only yellow o the bird is on the underwing coverts which is as it should be

pesumably the same bird from Monday

Sunday, 28 October 2018


Saturday morning was a very relaxed affair chez family OB. Just before noon myself and Jr Jr were sat half-dressed on the sofa doing sudoku, Jr had just got out of bed and Mrs. OB had returned to bed (we were at a 50th birthday party on Friday night and the effects were being felt). A message on my phone rather shook things up though. Anders BS had found what appeared to be a Siberian Tit at Fornebu (although with the head appearing black he was cautious due to the possibility of it having some Willow Tit genes in it). This was sensational! There is a tiny population of Sibe Tits that breeds in central Scandinavia and which I have tried and failed many times to see but the species is incredibly rare outside of its breeding areas and has never been recorded close to Oslo before.
I was dressed, opticked up and in the car quicker than you can say poecile cinctus and as I drove to Fornebu I rang Anders who could report that after 5 minutes in the same tree it had just flown down into the reedbed with a Blue Tit. I arrived on scene 10 minutes after that and was the first there but was too late! Despite more and more birders arriving we never found the bird again. So, I was a good twitcher in the fact I reacted and arrived so quickly but was my usual bad twitcher in that I didn’t see the bird. Maybe I should have done the others a favour and not gone for it… I stayed for two hours and searched widely and did find a number of Blue and Great Tits but heard nothing else with them except for a single tristis Chiffchaff. Andreas Gullberg had been at Fornebu earlier in the morning and had noted that tits including Willow and Long-tailed were on the move so maybe the Siberian was also just passing through but with luck it will join up with some tits in the area and be refound.

Whilst searching for the bird it snowed and it felt very fitting that a bird of the Siberian taiga forests arrived on the day that Oslo had its first snow of the autumn.

This is undoubtedly the bird of the year for Oslo and Akershus and highlights how anything is possible in birding.

I write the above at around 14:45 after I got home (having decided to leave Fornebu to get back to the family) and found the family had given up on me and gone out. I was going to title the post something along the lines of “Close but no cigar” or “Another failed twitch” but at 15:00 a message came through that the tit had been refound (it obviously helped that I had left). 14 minutes later and I was watching it! It was feeding low down in birch trees and was on its own apart from a handful of admirers from the species homo sapien. It was clearly not bothered by our presence as is often the case with northern species and although we kept a respectful distance I was incredibly lucky when it landed in a tree just 3 or 4 metres from me. I had to zoom out and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to focus but reckon I got some acceptable photos 😉

The colour of the crown seemed to change based on the light and could at times look quite brown and then seem almost black. My photos also often make it look darker than it looked through the bins so it is no wonder Anders was a bit cautious when he found it. The bird called surprisingly little (for a tit) but when it did call it was very similar to Willow Tit (just as I remember from Finnmark) and I’m not sure I would have reacted if I had just heard the call. I wonder if the bird will spend the winter like the Firecrest did last year and be just as difficult to locate.

It is fascinating to thnk where this bird has come from and why such a sedentary species has flown so far, and why to the warm south when it is a bird that has evolved to live in cold inhospitable forests? And why when it first does migrate why chose an old airport rather than the thousands of square kilometres of coniferous forest surrounding Oslo (or are there more out there?)

Siberian Tit (lappmeis)!!!

here the contrsting brown colouts can be seen very well

the cap looks quite darker here

here the cap looks light brown in colour. In addition to the photos giving differing inmpressions of the colour it also changed in the field depending on angle and light

one Siberian / tristis Chiffchaff (gransanger) seen today

the days started with a flock on Waxwings (sidensvans) in the garden before sunrise

they were attracted by apples still haging on the trees (after a record bumper crop this year)