Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Drumming Three-toed Woodpecker

Once again I found myself visiting Lillomarka to look for Pine Grosbeaks found by Stig Mr.Konglebit Kalvatn and yesterday I found myself literally walking in his footsteps in the deep snow. The Grosbeaks didn’t show for me this time but a Three-toed Woodpecker was a very satisfying compensation because to be honest by that point of the day I felt I deserved some reward.
I had already skied over 5km and “survived” a threat to be beaten up by a dog owning pensioner who had responded to my dislike of his dog running loose and causing me to fall by hitting me with his ski pole and asking me if I wanted to get beaten up before then telling me to go “home” which I read to be a reference to country rather than house. The incident did have a lot of comedy value but was a bit worrying that such angry old men are allowed out into the countryside…. I had to walk up the final kilometre to the area where Stig had the grosbeaks and this was where I saw the Three-toed but luckily someone had been there before me on one of those ridiculous large wheeled mountain bikes and had made a path wide and hard enough for me to walk on. Apart from the Three-toed which in typical fashion showed ridiculously well there was hardly a bird to be seen or heard on the entire trip with three Great Spotted Woodpeckers and two Goldcrests (amazingly enough given the snow) the only other birds I remember.

After this a trip to Maridalen had also few birds but some quality in the form of a Pygmy Owl and the Great Grey Shrike popping up again. I also had a flock of 30 Redpolls which had a couple of pale birds that may well have been of the northern variety but I failed to get good enough views – something to work on another day.

The weather today was fantastic. There was fog over the town in the morning but I ended up being above it in the forest where there was no wind, a blue sky and snow covered trees. The fog cleared up in the afternoon when Maridalen was also postcard picturesque.

female (due to white and not yellow crown) Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett)

here it was hanging upside down on a branch right above me

Pygmy Owl (spurveugle)

Great Grey Shrike (varlser) in a winter wonderland

and the bird itself

Maridalen in the snow

no Pine Grosbeaks here today

Sunday, 28 January 2018


We were out in the garden enjoying an overnight fall of wet w that was perfect for making snow holes in and building snowmen when I heard alarm calls suggesting the presence of a Sparrowhawk. It took a few seconds before I saw it but it landed in a bush in the garden with a bird in its talons. It then moved to an apple tree by the house where it started ripping feathers off its lunch. This allowed me to run into the house, collect both cameras and go carefully out the back door where I was only a few metres from the bird. As is often the  case when they have a kill they are not too concerned by anything else and this allowed me to take both film and stills.

a 2cy female Sparrowhawk eating a female House Sparrow 

Friday, 26 January 2018

The first dose of Hawkie for 2018!

Today saw a very enjoyable trip with Rune Z to the dark forests of Aurskog Høland and Nes. We had an endless list of exciting forest species that we hoped to see but as is often the case were left a bit disappointed. On the way we stopped at the fields at Haneborg which had surprisingly little snow with stubble and dark earth visible. We speculated on there being Snow Buntings and opened the car doors to immediately hear Snow Bunting! We located just a single bird that flew over before landing in a distant field but it felt like a good start.

Once in the forests we started to struggle. From the car and at the occasional stop we found pretty much nothing. A Hawk Owl showed very well but we were expecting to see that particular bird (it was reported yesterday) although I will never complain if I get a dose of Hawkie no matter how it is administered. There have been a few records of Hawk Owls this winter which I hope relate to birds that may well stay to breed as the records are from forest areas rather than agricultural areas. I am really looking forward to owling trips later in February where the chance of hearing Hawk Owls along with Tengmalm’s, Pygmy, Great Grey and who knows maybe Ural is already getting my pulse up.

A Black Woodpecker flew over the road and Willow and Crested Tits were frequently heard. After forests we headed south to look for the Kingfisher which Rune had yet to see this year. We had a Great Grey Shrike along the way but little else and didn’t have a single raptor the whole day. The Kingfisher took a bit of work but finally gave itself up and eventually flew up and down the river calling.

Hawk Owl

Kingfisher (isfugl)

Great Grey Shrike (varsler) 
Cormorant of the subspecies sinensis was looking at home alongside the Kingfisher

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The doldrums

It’s all kind of quiet at the moment. Lots and lots of snow means that skis are necessary to explore away from the roads but a couple of family skiing trips at the weekend in Maridalen did not suggest that any longer birding skiing excursions would be particularly rewarding. As I write this the temperature has just gone over zero and we are forecast to have a couple of days with temperatures up to +5C and rain before temperatures again fall below zero. This will probably turn all the snow very slushy before it freezes over but with luck will leave a hard layer on the top which one can walk on rather than sinking to your knees as currently.

Birding is probably at its low point for the year and without there being any exciting invasion species there is not too much to see when out. Today I hoped to spend some more quality time with last week’s Kingfisher but its behaviour today was completely different. It kept to the most distant and inaccessible part of the river without moving about at all and as a result an hour on site was not particularly productive with a Whooper Swan hoping for some bread the only photogenic avian subject. A flock of 40 Redpolls showed well but didn’t contain any northern birds.

In Vestfold county a male Pine Bunting with some Yellowhammer in its ancestory (has yellow edges to its primaries) may tempt me into a longer trip as it seems to be showing very well at a garden feeder and it will be interesting to see such a bird. It seems that no one notices the yellow edges in the field (have been a few similar birds over the years) or when they edit their own photos but these yellow edges suddenly become visible when the photos are uploaded to the web and others look at them….
the Kingfisher (isfugl) really wasn't as easy to view today!

spot the birdy
this Whooper Swan (sangsvane) was a bit more cooperative and acted like it expected me to throw some bread in its direction

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)