Friday, 14 June 2019

The Dale continues to deliver

This week has not only been about reminiscing about the weekend and I have been out in the Dale although with lots of rain my visits have been short. There has still been lots to see though. The Three-toed Woodpeckers seem to have failed with their breeding as a 70 minute vigil at the nest hole on Wednesday failed to reveal any birds however a female (must have been the unpaired one toe) was drumming on Friday at the initial site. Also yesterday I watched a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at their nest hole feeding noisy young with the adults coming as often as every 10 minutes. Icterine, Wood & Marsh Warblers and Common Rosefinches are still singing and after seeing a lone female earlier in the week I had the rare honour of hearing a male Red-backed Shrike singing today. I have previously noted that I have only heard Red-backed Shrike sing once before and it was very interesting to hear it today. It sang a lot but the song was very quiet and was almost drowned out by other species which were much further away. I also noticed a lot of mimicry with it copying Willow Warbler, Redwing and Wren.

On Tuesday I had Honey Buzzard which I picked up on call and reckon I have an idea where they might be breeding which will warrant a proper search at some time.

a pair of Black-throated Divers (storlom) showed well on Maridalsvannet and have presumably been flooded out due to changing water levels

this bird was preening its underparts and was rowing along with the upper leg

adult male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink)

female Goldeneye (kvinand)

and here with three of her young

female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) with a mouth full of food

one of the youngsters

the male

the singing male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

and a lone female at another site

female Three-toed Woodpecker. Although I never saw the right foot I am sure this is one toe

even though the Whooper Swans (sangsvane) have failed with their breeding attempt this year they are still present and will presumably stay in the valley whilst they moult

this male Pintail (stjertand) was a surprise on Akerselva, the river which runs out of Maridalsvannet
I picked this Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk) up on call although it took me a couple of minutes to see it

Green Hairstreak (grønnstjertvinge) 

Pearl  Bordered Fritillary (rødflekketperlemorvinge)
by far the most common butterfly in Norway so far this year is the migrant Painted Lady (tistelsommerfugl) which has arrived in the millions. They are all over the place and I even had the at 1400m in the mountains
and some dodgy hand held bazooka vidoes

and the barely audible (and drowned out) singing Red-backed Shrike who makes an amazing variety of noises including lots of mimicking

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Great Snipes lek 2019

And the final post from the long weekend in the mountains and always a major highlight of my birding year – lekking Great Snipe. I discovered the lek that I visit back in 2012 and it has had varying numbers of birds visiting it. In 2012 I reckoned there were as many as 10 males displaying, 9 in 2013 , 12 in 2014, 6 in 2015, 5-7 in 2016, 3-5 in 2017, 4 in 2018 and this year 4-5 males. So it looks definitely like the numbers are falling although in the early years I visited the lek later in the season than I have done since 2017. I have always thought that activity would be higher early in the season but it is possible that males move around and that this particular lek attracts more birds at the end of June than the beginning?

The sound from the lek only carries at most a couple of hundred metres (to the human ear) so it is a wonder that birds find there way to the leks. Obviously older birds can remember where the lek is but how do young birds find it? They were born in the area but would never actually have visited the lek and the nest site is potentially kilometres away from the lek.

There is always some activity to be heard when I walk up to the lek site around 2230 when the light is still good but this often stops when I sit down (presumably my presence is noticed). If display does continue then the birds are usually hidden in the dwarf birches and it is not until around 2315 (or often later) than the real activity starts with multiple birds displaying and standing out openly on tussocks of grass. There are often birds flying and running around and occasional fighting but it is very rare that I have seen what I believe to be a female visiting the lek. Once it gets dark (or as dark as it gets at this time of the year) then the birds seem unbothered by my presence and display within 10 metres of me. When I have visited the lek site during the day there appear to be no birds present.

I visited on two nights this year and on both there were definitely 4 males displaying and probably 5. I left at midnight on both occasions and more birds could potentially have arrived afterwards.

I took a lot of video and pictures using the bazooka on a tripod. I forgot my torch which I have previously used to (briefly) illuminate birds so tried using the built in flash with varying success but I was also impressed with how well the camera coped at high ISO.

I have made 2 videos. The first is very short and shows two display sequences whereas the second is a much longer Director's Cut with far more behavioural sequences including fighting males (after 4 minutes or so).

Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin) taken at 22:46. 1/80sec ISO5000.

not often one gets to see the over and underwing in any detail

an attempt at an action shot as it ran over the lek 1/80 sec ISO12800

a montage of display 23:22 1/60 sec ISO6400

Look at those legs! Taken with flash at 2337 1/80 sec ISO1600

the white tail feathers which are spread out at the end of the display are SO obvious in the dark

this is the original JPG (I don't bother with taking in RAW) with flash
and this is the result after lightening up the picture.

taken at 23:56 1/80sec ISO25600 - perfectly OK as a record shot

taken at 22:27 1/80sec ISO1250

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Beitostølen II - the other birds

Before I come with the Great Snipe pictures and videos (my best ever I think) here is a post with the other highlights from the long weekend in the mountains. It is not just about scarce birds. Watching a male Wheatear who repeatedly hovered in the air was fascinating. Why he did it I am not sure but he had a feather stuck to his bill plus had the strangest song I have ever heard from the species so was perhaps not quite himself. House Martins collecting mud for nests that were under eaves only 2 metres above the ground was also fascinating. A male Snow Bunting in full summer plumage was a very unusual sight for me and Long-tailed Skua, Ptarmigan, Shore Lark and Temminck’s Stint are species one always hopes to see when one visits the area.

House Martins (taksvale) collecting mud

this Kestrel (tårnfalk) was still hunting whilst we were watching the Great Snipe. This attempt at art is taken with a shutter speed of 1/40 second

Long-tailed Skua (fjelljo) in the mist. A few seconds later and it vanished 
Mogop / spring pasque flower / arctic violet / lady of the snows / Pulsatilla vernalis is a common flower in the area

my only Ptarmigan of the trip 
Ringed Plovers breed by the sea in Oslo and also at over 1400m 

scarce ducks waiting for their breeding lakes to be ice free - 3 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Scaup and a commoner Tufted Duck

the Shore Larks (fjellerke) were NOT photogenic

surprise of the trip a singing Skylark (sanglerke) at 1400m on the tundra

male Snow Bunting (snøspurv)

Temminck's Stint which always seems to only occur right by the road

fresh snow fell on these mountains which are over 2000m high 

Woodcock (rugde) roded over the Great Snipe lek
male Wheatear (steinskvett)

he persistently hovered although why I am not sure of