Wednesday, 26 December 2018

2018 The Year That Was part I

2018 must go down as a good year. I had a lot of guiding in the spring and early summer and with Great Grey and Hawk Owls in Hedmark, Great Snipe and Dotterel in Oppland and Red-breasted Flycatchers closer to home there were always some special species to show.

I also managed to find some good birds with Norway’s 6th Greater Spotted Eagle, 8th Pied-billed Grebe and  and refinding (for the 4th succesive year) Norway’s 3rd (Asian) White-winged Scoter topping the bill. This year’s Værøy trip was not blessed with the best weather but a Red-flanked Bluetail ensured that I was a happy camper and a couple days with Kjell in Jæren in November gave real quality birding.

My year list of 253 was a very respectable total and included a surprising 8 Norwegian ticks: White-backed Woodpecker, Black-throated Thrush, Stonechat, Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Shrike, Buff-bellied Pipit, Greater Spotted Eagle and Desert Wheatear. With the long overdue pecker and chat, I have now seen all of Norway’s breeding species with the exception of Leaches Petrel which will require some luck to see. My Akershus year list of 217 was a new record and was a result of it being a good year rather than a lot of twitching. 180 species in Oslo was also very respectable and of these the 138 were in the mighty Maridalen. When I first started to record an Oslo list in 2012, 150 species was considered a real milestone so it just goes to show what a little focus on a local patch can achieve.

Two species that were alarmingly scarce this year were Wryneck and Wood Warbler. Wryneck had been relatively numerous in 2017 but Wood Warbler was also very scarce in 2016 but had been relatively numerous in 2015. It will be interesting to see their numbers in 2019.

January started with the Firecrest and Bearded Tits surviving the cold and very snowy winter at Fornebu and an Arctic Redpoll in Oslo’s Botanical Garden. Kingfishers and Hawk Owl were also to be found and some warm southerly winds on 18 January brought two very unseasonal Lapwings.

Arctic Redpoll (polarsisik) with a Lesser or Common Redpoll at Oslo Botanical Garden

The Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge) survived until February at Fornebu

Kingfisher (isfugl)

Hawk Owl (haukugle)

a Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) made a kill in the garden and showed ridiculously well

In February I guided a group of Spaniards in Hedmark looking for taiga specialities and we scored big time with Pine Grosbeak, Hawk Owl and Siberian Jay. Highlight of the month for me though was finally seeing a White-backed Woodpecker in Norway.

Pygmy Owl (spurveugle) in Maridalen in February

Pine Grosbeaks (konglebit) in Hedmark

Hawk Owl (haukugle) in Hedmark

Siberian Jay (lavskrike) in Hedmark

Finally, a White-backed Woodpecker (hvitryggspett)

March started with an NSKF (rarities committee meeting) at Jæren and here I was able to tick Black-throated Thrush plus see a male Steller’s Eider and best of all close views of Woodcocks feeding on Kjell’s lawn. A Glaucous Gull near Drammen gave exceptional views as it hung around ice fishermen waiting for cast offs.

Black-throated Thrush (svartstrupetrost)

Steller's Eider (stellerand)

Woodcock (rugde)

Glaucous Gull  (polarmåke)

April started very wintery which caused the Scottish Bean Geese lots of problems and they staged for most of the time at a new site further south in Østfold and a few trips here proved very birdy at the start of the month and I was able to show Magnus and Denise from Scotland “their” birds on the spring staging grounds. Flocks of Snow Buntings graced Maridalen and the wintery conditions elsewhere made a relatively ice free Fornebu very productive for a short period with Black Redstarts, Shore Larks and the absolute highlight for me being finding a male Stonechat! Purple Sandpipers were yet again a spring feature at Bygdøy and were ridiculously tame at times. My search for a self found male Pallid Harrier continued with a second hybrid male at Årnestangen..

Snow Buntings (snøspurv) in Maridalen

Purple Sandpiper (fjæreplytt) at Bygdøy

Stonechat (svartstrupe) at Fornebu

Hybrid Pallid x Hen Harrier (stepp x myrhauk) at Årnestangen

and a pure Hen Harrier same place

May (and June) saw a number of guiding trips to Hedmark with Great Grey and Hawk Owls, Ortolan Buntings and Slavonian Grebes on the menu. A family trip to Oslo’s islands resulted in a male Steller’s Eider which as truly unexpected find and a first for Oslo. Red-breasted Flycatchers returned to Maridalen and Thrush Nightingales seem to have established themselves at Fornebu. A singing River Warbler in Maridalen is a species that threatens to establish itself but never quite manages to.

Thrush Nightingale (nattergal) at Fornebu

Red-breasted Flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper) in Maridalen

River Warbler (elvesanger) in Maridalen

an unusually good view of a Garganey (knekkand) at Årnestangen

Great Grey Owl (lappugle)
Migration is more or less over by June but there are a few species that migrate late and Broad-billed Sandpiper is one of these and two birds showed well at Årnestangen at the beginning of the month. I had many more exciting guiding trips to Hedmark and also to Oppland where Great Snipe, Dotterel and Long-tailed Skua topped the bill.
In Maridalen a breeding pair of Three-toed Woodpeckers gave me a rare opportunity to see this species on demand.

Broad-billed Sandpipers (fjellmyrløper)

Great Grey Owl

Hawk Owl (haukugle)

Slavonian Grebe (horndykker)

Long-tailed Skua (fjelljo)

Great Snipe (dobbeltbekasin)

Siberian Jay
Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett)

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