Friday, 19 January 2018


There are now two wintering Kingfishers being reported in Akershus although there must be more out there given how few birders we are to discover them. They live a perilous life this far north (which explains why they are so scarce) and if we have a severe cold spell then many will certainly die and the species will disappear for a few years before again expanding north from warmer climes.

I visited the new bird today and it is frequenting a small meandering river that runs through a flat valley with bulrushes that reminds me very much of the English countryside. Quite why this river hasn’t frozen when faster flowing streams have frozen over is unknown to me but let’s up hope it remains that way through the whole winter.

A road runs along the river and this allowed the bird to be searched for and viewed from the warmth of the car plus the fact that cars work as well as hides and mean with luck one gets closer to the bird which indeed happened. At the first likely looking place I stopped the car, lowered the window and had a scan of riverside trees. I saw nothing but heard a Kingfisher! It took a bit more scanning but then I found it. After this I followed the bird for over an hour as it moved along the river. It would try out suitable fishing spots for up to 5 minutes before moving to the next one and I was able to get ahead of the bird and wait for it to hopefully land close to me which did happen a couple of times. I saw it catch three fish during an hour of watching which must be a pretty good catch rate and bodes well. The bird had a mostly black bill with just a small area of red on the lower mandible so should be a male but I feel a bit uncertain about sexing Kingfishers after last year’s bird where different photos gave a very different impression of the bill.

Kingfisher (isfugl) 

I have not noticed this previously but as can be seen in this and the next picture the bill doesn't close properly

with it's third fish during the hour I was watching

it certainly brightens up the otherwise monochrome winter colours

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Lapwings in January!

I had a plan to go searching for owls in the deep forests of Aurskog Høland and Nes but once I was on the road there was far too much snow in the air for that to be a good idea. So I thought I would check out what over wintering waterfowl I could find on the Glomma and Vorma rivers.

The most numerous species were Cormorant and Tufted Duck with over 120 birds of each and I recorded also Whooper and Mute Swans, Goosander, Goldeneye and Mallard but in no large concentrations and no rarer species of the type Smew or Scaup which I had hoped for. The last couple of days has seen small arrivals of geese and Lapwings along the southern coast of Norway and I had a vague hope of some geese on the river although with there being so much snow on the fields I thought the chance was very little. And indeed I found no geese but I did find 2 Lapwings which I had never expected because conditions here inland are completely unsuitable for this species and they will surely die unless they manage to fly a few hundred kilometres to the south very quickly. There are only two previous January records of Lapwing in Akershus both from 2006. One of these related to a dead bird and the other was at one of the locations where I had one today so two birds today was indeed exceptional.

I also had a magnificent adult White-tailed Eagle that twice put Cormorants and Goldeneyes into the air but never tried to catch anything whilst I watched. I had good views of Dippers which were also singing and a couple of Little Grebes on an ice-free river were an unusual inland record.

I had no owls or shrikes on my travels until I got back to Oslo when the Great Grey Shrike revealed itself in Maridalen and would therefore seem to be finding enough food despite over 50cm of new snow.

Lapwing (vipe). The chances of this bird are surviving must be close to zero. Note how its belly feathers are hanging down and were frozen

same bird looking for food

and the second Lapwing which had chosen an even worse place to look for food

the white island in the middle of the river is where the Lapwing was

a flock of Tufted Duck (toppand)

Dipper (fossekall)

Little Grebe (dvergdykker)

adult White-tailed Eagle (havørn). The bird is ringed but I cannot even work out what colour the ring is

Great Grey Shrike (varsler) in a wintery Maridalen

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Checking in

Infrequent blog posts are a sign of few birds, lots of snow and little activity by yours truly. Yesterday we had over 30cm of snow and I had a hope that this would lead to an increase of birds at feeding stations but if anything there were fewer birds to see.

Today I had another visit to the Drøbak area which offers the most exciting birding close to Oslo at this time of the year. I had hoped to enjoy some quality time with the Kingfisher but it was not of the same mind. Three distant Purple Sandpipers and a couple of flyover Twite ended up being the only birds of any note.

Back in Oslo I paid a visit to the dump but only turned up Herring Gulls (over 300) and a few Great Black-backs which has been the case with every visit I have had recently. I am sure that more frequent and prolonged visits would turn up a white winger or a Caspian but I don’t have that dedication.

 Maridalen had a flock of 7 Parrot Crossbills and when I got home 5 Common Crossbills flew low over the house so just need a Two-barred now.

Three Parrots Crosbills (furukorsnebb)

These Blue and Great Tits responded to playback of Pygmy Owl song

at least 30 Blue and 10 Great Tits materialised and their response was a clear sign that there is still a Pygmy Owl in the area although it failed to respond

a snowy Maridalen

Friday, 12 January 2018

Studying Beardies

Yesterday’s snow has left everything very nice and white. I had little belief in there being anything new to see but went to Fornebu determined to refind the Firecrest and see how it was coping with more snow than it has ever seen before. Three hours of searching though failed to find it and although it is good at disappearing it wouldn’t surprise me if conditions have become too harsh for it. I found the two Goldcrests and heard one of them for a long time before I saw them. At this stage I thought I had found the firey one so it was a bit disappointing when after 10 minutes of searching first one and then two Goldcrests revealed themselves.

Water Rails also seem to have found the conditions a bit too harsh. I have previously heard up to four birds but today all I had was fresh tracks in the snow from a single bird.

The Bearded Tits, or at least some of them, are still here but had chosen a new reedbed and there were only two males which were keeping each other close company. Normally when you see them they are in (mixed) pairs so it was surprising to see two males together. I got to see them very well as they fed mostly on the ground and also drank from a pool. They would disappear under the reeds and snow and at one stage they stood next to each on the ground under some reeds for about five minutes and preened each other and themselves (apparently called allopreening). When searching for food they were sometimes up eating reed seeds but also seemingly searching (and finding) insects. In this video you can see them preening each other and also one of the birds finding what looks like an insect inside a reed stem.

the 2 male Bearded Tits (skjeggmeis) just after having had a drink

their wings are amazingly short

it was difficult to see what food they were finding on the snow but I reckon it was both reed seeds and insects

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Kingfisher & landscapes

The sunshine we had today was the last I am going to see for at least if I am to believe the weather forecast. There really was quite amazing light this morning and due to moisture in the air and freezing temperatures there was a thick layer of frost over all trees in addition to the snow that is now lying on the ground. I regret not having stopped to take more landscape pictures as some of the landscapes were very powerful with a real contrast between the snow and a dark sky.

My travels took me out to the Drøbak area for the third time this year and finally the birdlife was cooperative. I was finally rewarded with a Kingfisher after a number of attempts. The bird has only been reported a couple of times earlier in the winter and is clearly moving around a bit but may become a bit easier during the forthcoming cold spell as long as it finds enough food.

A single roadside Great Grey Shrike revealed itself and at Drøbak the two Little Grebes showed and even called, I finally saw a (very distant) White-tailed Eagle over the breeding island of Håøya (they are amazingly hard to see here despite breeding) and my gazing at the offshore rocks finally gave me the four Purple Sandpipers that are wintering here.

Tomorrow will see falling snow all day so a day doing emails and admin beckons…

Kingfisher (isfugl)

Little Grebes (dvergdykker)
and now for some really poor photos. I will let you decide whether these qualify as record shots or not

Great Grey Shrike (varsler)

White-tailed Eagle (havørn)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Great Grey Shrike in Maridalen

The Firecrest was Bærum Kommune’s most visited tourist attraction and perhaps the best pictures to date were the result although I of course was not in the vicinity as I prefer to visit when the light is bad and the crowds non-existent.

Yesterday I paid another visit to the Drøbak area but again without finding anything too exciting although Rock Pipit and Twite were good winter records. Both these species were feeding on an offshore island 1km from where I was viewing. The Rock Pipit was just about identifiable but the six Twite were another story. I managed to conclude they were small finches and the choice therefore lay between Redpoll and Twite. Their behaviour pointed in the direction of the later but I was only able to nail them when they luckily flew off the island and eventually over my head calling.

Today the weather was suitably dreary that a visit to Fornebu was appealing. At least three Bearded Tits were calling and two showed in the reedbed and the Firecrest gave itself up relatively easily by calling just often enough that I first found it and could then follow it. It moved over 500m in the hour I was watching it with I assume continuous movement necessary to keep warm (temperatures are down to about -7C). It was mostly low down but for about 10 minutes was feeding up in the top of small low pine trees where it then became quite vocal. I have previously assumed the bird to be a 1st winter male due to the orange but not deep red colour to the crown. The only way to really age them though it the shape of the tail feathers and good pictures have shown them to be pointed which confirms the age as 1st winter and the crown colour confirms it to be a male. Otherwise there was really very little at Fornebu and the two Goldcrests seem to have moved away.

A trip to Maridalen surprisingly revealed a Great Grey Shrike. It was in exactly the same tree as the last bird I saw in the Dale on 20 October but this bird has more white in the wing than that bird and is presumably a bird pushed out of a territory further north which is no long suitable due to too much snow.
Great Grey Shrike (varsler) in Maridalen - the first record for 3 months


the sharply pointed tail feathers that mean it is a 1st winter

it spent most of its time in the snow as usual

Friday, 5 January 2018

Firecrest still surviving

Jules Bell was in town and in need of some birding and I persuaded him that we could do no better than a trip to Fornebu and yet another search for the Firecrest which was last seen 9 days ago. With fresh snow covering sheer ice on the ground and a cold wind in the air it was not very promising conditions though.

There were VERY few birds and next to nothing in the air. Water Rails and Bearded Tits were still going strong but no Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits or Treecreepers showed and Wrens were the only insect eaters we noted. We are not ones to give up though and thoroughly checked out all suitable areas. After two hours Jules phoned to tell me he had heard and briefly seen a crest but without nailing the species. When I got to him the bird had vanished and we then split up again to look for it. A full half hour later I heard and then briefly saw a crest around 50 metres away but the bird then vanished without me seeing what it was. I tried calling Jules but I couldn’t hear him and then the battery died in the cold. I had to stick the phone down my pants and after 5 minutes of clammy warmth it vibrated and was back in life again. I still hadn’t seen the bird again but then suddenly there it was high in a tree and I saw the stripes! But then it was gone again. Finally after Jules had arrived I got control of it feeding on the ground and we were then treated to very close views as it fed on the snow at the base of bushes and clumps of grass. It remained silent during this period though confirming that a touch of luck is needed in addition to dedication to the task.

When I came home a flock of 20 Redpolls flew up from the feeders but unfortunately didn’t come back. As this was more individuals than I saw yesterday at the Botanical Gardens I am sure that the flock contained a least 3 different types! There is also a single female Blackbird and a Fieldfare eating the apples I put out in the garden. Until today the Blackbird was dominant but just before dusk I saw an intense fight between the two and the Fieldfare has now come out on top.

Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge) on the snow. I imagine that this bird is currently the most northerly observation of the species in the whole wide world!

it seemed to be able to find microscopic food items just above the ground

here it seems to be snapping at something

creeping through the grass nearly at our feet

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Slogging it for an Arctic roly polly

Yesterday I paid a visit to the Drøbak area and notched up a couple of Great Grey Shrikes, Little Grebe and Rock Pipit for my troubles. Today I did my traditional Oslo New Year birding by public transport and foot outing. I visited the Botanical Gardens, the harbour seafront, Bygdøy and Frognerpark and walked 14km so have hopefully burnt off a few of those extra xmas calories.
The Botanical Gardens were good for finches with 3 species/forms of Redpoll with a white male Arctic the highlight, plus Hawfinch, Crossbill, Brambling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch. A young male Goshawk also showed well, and I could make out a Peregrine sitting distantly on the top of Oslo’s tallest building.
The harbour was very quiet with hardly any gulls and Bygdøy and Frognerpark offered up the expected species but nothing too exciting.

Redpolls are as is well known a complete mess and the latest taxonomical status is that they should all be lumped together which suites me just fine. This year is a good redpoll year in Norway and a bird trapped recently in Denmark with a Chinese ring gives an indication that some of these birds have travelled great distances. We could realistically have birds from Greenland/Iceland, Southern and Northern Scandinavia and from the whole of Siberia all mingling at the moment. Certainly today there was a good variety in the Botanical Gardens and that was only in a flock of about 15 birds. The Arctic Redpoll was a fairly simple bird but there was also another bird that could have been an Arctic of the less obvious variety. There was a small warm coloured bird that fitted the bill for a Lesser(southern) and then amongst the rest there were small birds, large birds, cold grey birds and warmer browner birds. Treating them as a single clinal species does seem the most pragmatic thing to do!

one of those snowbal birds - an Arctic Redpoll 
look at the contrast! The bird on the right is probably a Lesser

the single black feather on the undertail coverts is rather obvious but OK
this bird never showed any better than this but was possibly also an Arctic

a Lesser Redpoll (brunsisik)

three Mealy/Common Redpolls

a few other birds in the Botanical Gardens

a 2cy male Goshawk (hønsehauk)

same bird in flight looking like a thrush