Thursday, 6 May 2021

Flying ducks

 It snowed yesterday! Normally snow in May leads to really great birding with loads of grounded migrants but with the late spring and very strong NE winds there were no migrating birds to be grounded.

The fields in Maridalen had no new birds although yesterday’s Whinchat was still present and permitted a photo. On the lake there were far fewer divers but a male Common Scoter was new in and showed well.

I visited Østensjøvannet hoping for some ducks and hirundines and I did see some although nothing rare. 20 each of House Martin and Swallow could well be the entire population in Oslo at the moment and a couple of male Gadwall have been there a few days.

male Common Scoter (svartand) - not often I see one this well

male Gadwall (snadderand)

Teal (krikkand)

Common Scoter

with the 4 Teal

the bill of a male Common Scoter is very impressive

male Gadwall with Mallard

and with a female Goldeneye (kvinand) in the background and also the male Wigeon x Mallard hybrid

the four Teal. The righ hand female has an interestiny face pattern with a white spot behind the bill which is reminiscent of rarer species

male Whinchat (buskskvett)

Common Sandpiper (strandsnipe)

Green Sandpiper (skogsnipe)

Osprey (fiskeørn) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (sildemåke) at Østensjøvannet

Ring Ouzel (ringtrost) and Mistle Thrush (duetrost) together in Maridalen

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Rain and some birds

Yesterday had looked like it was going to be a very good day with probably numbers of waders and ducks going to be pushed down by rain. In the end the rain came too late in the day and there was too little. Today, it is blowing nearly a gale from the north east and there is sleet in the air so I doubt there will be much new to find today either. This spring is really delayed and therefore quite disappointing so far but it does also mean that there could be a mega day in the making when everything finally rushes north.

Going back to yesterday, Halvard had been out early and seen next to nothing. I rocked up just before 9 a.m and initially als saw nothing to suggest new arrivals. There were for example fewer Meadow Pipits than the day before and no ducks to be seen resting on the lake. As I walked around though the odd new bird showed up. First an early male Whinchat (buskskvett), then a Whimbrel, then I heard a Greenshank (one of 6 wader species), 2 Sand Martins flew over and around 11am there were suddenly raptors in the air. I had probably 6 Ospreys in total with 3 together, 4 Buzzards, 2 Sparrowhawk and 2 Goshawk.

Highlight of the day though was divers. On the lake there were 16 Black-throated Divers of which 14 came together in a flock at one stage. These are probably birds waiting for the ice to melt on lakes not much further north although two pairs usually stay and breed on Maridalsvannet. There were 4 Red-throated Divers on the lake which were at times very noisy and a flock of 13 flew over. This flock also had a single Black-throated with them and low cloud to the north caused them to fly a couple of circuits of Maridalen before pressing on. I have noted migrating flocks before but it is always cool to see them like this.

My eBird checklist can be seen here.

13 Black-throated Diver (storlom) together. Another was jsut out of shot and a pair elsewhere on the lake

11 migrating Red-throated Divers (smålom) part of a flock of 13 plus a single Blak-throat

one of the 4 Red-throated I saw on the lake. These were probably birds that breed nearby and were noisily displaying at times. They are usually in the middle of the lake whereas the Black-throated can often be seen close to shore

this Whimbrel (småspove) suddenly appeared

and landed briefly

a 2cy Whooper Swan (sangsvane), hybrid Canada x Greylag Goose and a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke). I didn't pay them attention in the field but the right hand bird has very pale wings and could be a graellsii candidate

the hybrid with a Canada

and with both parental species

this Dipper (fossekall) pair were displaying on the edge of the lake but should have been on a river

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Rain but no birds

Yesterday saw my best ever encounter with Hazel Grouse. I have probably written that a number of times now and even though I never think it can get better it does! I had the male singing at head height less than 5 metres from me 😊 and at times he was clearly only 2 metres away as I could not focus the camera! I have an enormous number of photos and videos to go through so will have to come back to them later, but not too much later.

Otherwise, the day was rather disappointing. With southerly winds and rain in the afternoon I had a hope that a number of birds would arrive but that wasn’t the case. Tomorrow though could be very good. 8 Wigeon on the lake were the first of the year and there had clearly been an arrival of Willow Warblers but raptors were completely absent and there were no new waders (in addition to Lapwing I just had a couple each of Green and Common Sandpiper).

Unfortunately the farmer at Skjerven has ploughed the Lapwing field without seeming to have found and protected the Lapwings nests. This is the first time I can remember him not doing so and a few years of this could be the end for the species in the Dale. The ploughed field did provide an abundance of worms though which the Lapwings and many gulls were feasting on.

Black-throated Divers (storlom)

Brambling (bjørkefink)

there is still a hige flock of Chaffinches (bokfink) in Maridalen - in total close to 1000 birds

male Chaffinch

frog (buttsnutefrosk)

Green Sandpiper (skogsnipe)

Lapwing (vipe) with worm

Lapwing portrait

Osprey (fiskeørn) with a european whitefish (sik)

Monday, 3 May 2021

Swan Lake

Maridalen has held breeding Whooper Swans since 2010 and Mute Swans bred, although unsuccessfully, for the first time last year.  There are also often non breeding birds on the lake and this year another pair of Whooper Swans has been in the valley and another pair of Mute Swans also popped in.

Before the Mute Swans started breeding the breeding pair of Whoopers spent a lot of their time chasing off any other Whoopers that dared to hang out in the valley. Then last year they used a lot of time fighting with the Mute Swans. The Whoopers seem to have the upper hand and have given the Mutes a real beating on a number of occasions. The Whoopers spend a lot of time afterwards celebrating their victory by calling and almost dancing together. This fighting may well have been a contributory factor to the failed breeding by the Mutes although they also young birds and it was their first attempt (both are colour ringed so we know their history).

The male has been noted to be a bit of a bully towards other Mute Swans when they gather together on the fjord in the winter and this spring he seems to have had a bit more courage when the Whoopers come calling although he struggles to hold his own. When a visiting pair of Mute Swans appeared on the week last week he seemed to have a lot of aggression to get out of his system and chased them away very quickly.

On Saturday morning the Mutes were on the water near their nest and a pair of Whoopers were a couple of hundred of metres away (I am unsure as to whether they were the breeding pair or the additional pair) when the Whoopers started calling and swimming towards the Mutes. The male Mute responded by swimming a bit towards them and then swimming back and forth perpendicular to them as though he was drawing a line in the water. One of the Whoopers (must have been the male) kept on swimming towards the Mutes and eventually came too close. This caused the male Mute to aggressively flap over the water before drawing a new imaginary line in the water which he patrolled with wings raised. This was too much for the Whooper who then charged the Mute. It was difficult to see what was going on with so much water being splashed about but the Mute was in a defensive position although he did not give ground and the Whooper soon retired from the fight acting as though he was the winner. The Mute then swam alongside the Whooper with wings raised whilst the Whooper just snubbed him and had a wash. The Mute then went on the attack but again the Whooper seemed to have everything under control.

I took still photos of all of this and have put some of them together to make a video of the confrontation. I am also very happy with how the back lit photos came out.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Three-toes and Hazel Grouse - Guiding goals under control

After the excitement of Thursday things were a bit quieter on the migration front on Friday and even worse yesterday. 1 May is normally a really good day in Maridalen but an overnight frost and blue skies really don’t bring the birds even if the wind is no longer northerly. I awoke at 04:30 which was a bit earlier than I had intended but the hearty song of Blackbird and Robin outside the bedroom window was all I needed out get out of bed with a spring to my stride.

After picking up a coffee from the petrol station I was in Maridalen before 5am and realised that with the frost this was really too early for checking the fields so I decided to head into the forest and go to the closest Black Grouse lek I know of. I have never actually seen birds lekking here but they are often to be heard displaying from tree tops in the area although it is normally just a single male. It is a 25 minute uphill walk and I was soon not feeling the cold despite just having a thin fleece on. When I got close to the lek area I was surprised (and pleased) to hear a Three-toed Pecker and then a male Hazel Grouse. I spent time with the Hazel Grouse until I heard a Black Grouse displaying a few hundred metres away. I was able to get quite close and heard him really well but never saw him and believe he was in a tree top I couldn’t see. He soon went quiet which is normally the case here and I really don’t know if there are enough birds in this area of forest for a proper lek here anymore.

The Hazel Grouse continued to show well on my way back although I couldn’t locate the pecker. Back in Maridalen though I did locate a pair in one of their usual areas and had fantastic views of them feeding together. I don’t believe they have started nesting yet but they should start excavating he hole in the next week or so. It was good to find these birds as I have had trouble pinning them down recently and have been asked to guide to both them and Hazel Grouse.

I had already pinned down Hazel Grouse on Friday (so today’s bird is a bonus back up) when I relocated the pair that showed exceptionally well a couple of weeks ago. They were walking around feeding on the forest floor with the male following and guarding the female and allowed very close approach. Their behaviour suggested that they had found the area where she was going to nest and this will happen very soon (may have already begun as I assume she lays an egg per day). Even though the pair stayed close together the female was invariably walking away from me or obscured and was very difficult to photograph (and nearly all my photos are blurry and from behind) whereas the male would often stop and look at me as though he was protecting her.

Despite my bemoaning the lack of migration I have noted my first Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Common Sandpiper in the last couple of days and also had the first Tree Pipits singing in the forest yesterday.

I have taken rather too many pictures so this post has been a long time in the production stage and I have even sacrificed a pre breakfast Sunday trip into the Dale for it. And there are still loads of perfectly good pictures that I have not included :-) and video that I have not even looked at yet

male Hazel Grouse (jerpe) from Saturday

and a video with the sounds of drumming Three-toed Pecker (tretåspett), display Black Grouse (orrfugl) and singing Hazel Grouse (jerpe)

A selection of photos of the Hazel Grouse pair I relocated on Thursday and which are already for guiding

Hazel Grouse (jerpe) - the pair walking away from me with the male guarding the female

and the male keeping an eye on me whilst the female moves off

the pair together again although typically the female is blurry

another typical blurry shot of the female as she ran past

whilst the male stands stills
slightly better of the female

female in focus but running away

getting better

this shot of the female is actually not bad but there is some out of focus vegetation between me and her

male Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett) hammering away

the pair together

female hammering away

it is unusual to see them without their tail planet again the tree for support

Three toes often feed at eh base of trees. This female had all her toes intact so was not the famous 1 toe 3 toe

a bark ring in the creation

a flight shot that works! Black-throated Diver (storlom)

Yellowhammer (gulspurv)