Thursday, 17 January 2019

Pipits in Østfold

I haven’t had too much to blog about this week but today I took a now rare trip to Østfold. I used to visit Østfold and especially the Kurefjorden regularly but can’t be bothered with the long drive so much these days. Today I was enticed by a Water Pipit that has been present for 10 days close to the Swedish border on Hvaler. I find Water and Rock Pipits a difficult and interesting ID problem (as I think the majority of Norwegian birders do) and I have not had enough experience with Water Pipit to feel on top of the issue. The bird in Østfold has looked to me from the photos to be one of the more difficult birds (although the ID is not in doubt) whilst a bird currently across the fjord at Mølen is a very striking bird that even dudes can identify 😉

I left early so that I was on site just after sunrise. It was cold with the temperature dropping to -13C on the drive down and the ground was frozen. This makes life difficult for insect eating birds but a large deposit of seaweed seems to be providing enough food for a number of pipits. I found a number of pipits at the expected place and counted 3 Meadow Pipits and 14 Rock Pipits but couldn’t find the Water Pipit. After quite a while when the birds had flown around a bit I suddenly found a very pale pipit which I got in the scope and felt sure was the/a Water Pipit and then immediately fired off a handful of pictures. At this point a Blackbird started screaming in some bushes behind me (I suspect a Sparrowhawk had taken it) and the pipits all took off and split into 3 groups. I waited 2 more hours and the pipits returned in drips and drabs but I did not find the pale bird or any other Water Pipit candidate again.

I looked at my pictures and did not find them to be as convincing as my scope views had been: the back had no brown tones and the streaking on the flanks was too strong although the bird was very white on the underparts. I compared with pictures of the Water Pipit that had been here and it was clearly not the same bird (which had much finer streaking on the breast) but I was still unsure as to what it was. I therefore asked a couple of friends (thx Andreas and Kjell) and the consensus seems to be that it was indeed a very tricky bird but is a Rock Pipit although perhaps the most Water Pipit like Rock Pipit that they have seen 😊

The seaweed also attracted two Robins, 2 Wrens, 5 Blackbirds and a Redwing and would be an area worth regular attention if it wasn’t an hour and a half from home.

Offshore I had a Shag, 5 Kittiwakes, 6 Teal and a Red-throated Diver although no scoters or Long-tailed Ducks.

After 3 hours it was time to leave and the drive was eventful with first a Woodcock flying alongside and then right in front of me and then 2 Smew right by the road. Both Smew were in female plumage but looked very different just like the birds that had been at Østensjøvannet in December and it wouldn’t surprise me if they are the same.

A stop in the Kurefjorden area was not as productive as I hoped but a Pink-footed Goose was with 4 Canada Geese (again I wonder if this is the bird that had been at Østensjøvannet in December) and I had a few Velvet Scoters and Great Crested Grebes. I had 11 new birds for the year which just goes to show how much more can be found in the winter when one visits good coastal locations which we just don’t have in Oslo and Akershus.

Rock Pipit (skjærpiplerke) but one that resembles a Water Pipit (vannpiplerke)

This picture was taken later and I wonder if it could be the same bird looking a bit more like a Rock Pipit although this bird also stood out amongst the other darker birds. Here the partly frozen seaweed can be seen that was attracting all the birds

the same Rock Pipit with a Robin (rødstrupe) and a Meadow Pipit (heipiplerke)
Redwing (rødvingetrost) is very rare in winter in south east Norway

Two Smew (lappfiskand). The bird on the left has a much smaller white cheek exactly as with the birds at Østensjøvannet

Kittiwake (krykkje)
and a Shag (toppskarv) on the right with Cormorants (storskarv)

 A Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås) with 4 Canada Geese was having trouble finding food in the snow

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