Wednesday, 20 October 2021

First Snow

a snowy Maridalen

rowan trees full of berries

The first snow came yesterday and with it the first Waxwings! I also read in a Swedish Facebook group that Pine Grosbeaks have just started moving south there so maybe we will have a fantastic late winter autumn and early winter with rowan trees full of berries, Waxwings and Grozzas!

Despite the trees nearly collapsing under the weight of the berries there were hardly any thrushes left in Maridalen and 8 Waxwings and 30 Bramblings outnumbered them. A single Mistle Thrush was unusual though and I wonder whether it will attempt to spend the winter.

A trip to Østensjøvannet revealed around a 1000 Fieldfare feeding on playing fields and would perhaps explain why I only saw one in Maridalen. Do Fieldfares prefer worms to berries if they can choose?

The lake was also full of birds with Greylag Geese, Wigeon, Whooper Swans and Coots the most numerous. Scarcity was provided by a Scaup feeding at just a few metres range and a couple of Smew at a far greater distance. The Scaup was a 1st winter and of the sort where you have to work a bit to convince yourself that it isn’t a female Tufted. There was also a female Tufted with a very white area around the bill that I worked hard with to convince myself it wasn’t a Lesser Scaup…

Waxwings (sidensvans) are a very welcome autumn guest

Bramblings (bjørkefink) were also eating the berries

Mistle Thrush (duetrost) together with Waxwings

a very cooperative Scaup (bergand)

I aged the bird as a 1cy female as it differed so much from the young males I saw in the mountains a couple of weeks ago (see next picture) and I noted no grey feathers in the field. But my pictures show there is one greyish feather on the the back so maybe this is also a male but much later in its moulting? Adult females are also greyish on flanks and back so the grey feather I see could also be OK for a female but I am not sure. The dark eye though would seem to be a definite sign if it being a young female.

a bird that looks like a Scaup but isn't. I considered Lesser Scaup but the bill isn't right. It is either a Tufted Duck (toppand) with a lot of white around the bill or maybe a hybrid

2 Smew (lappfiskand)

Monday, 18 October 2021

Tristis time

I see that I have returned to infrequent blogging and that is a sign of the seasons although hopefully the discovery of good local birds will change things soon. There are far fewer birds now with most of the thrushes seemingly gone and leaving behind enormous quantities of uneaten rowan berries which will be welcomed by Waxwings and Grosbeaks if they ever get this far south.

Ducks continue to move through and although the Scaup on Maridalsvannet last week moved on I had good views of another Scaup together with three Pochard on the river at Lillestrøm last Friday.

The weekend was spent doing that most Norwegian of things working at a flee market where the proceeds go to the local school band (of which Jr Jr is a member). As a sign of the enormous wealth in this country (and especially the area of Oslo where I live) we raised 100,000 euros selling the unwanted household items of people in the neighbourhood. And we do this twice a year.

Today I walked the beast a t Fornebu in glorious sunny, windless conditions following a heavy overnight frost that had left puddles and the ground frozen. I hoped to find Bearded Tits which have just started their usual autumn wanderings but found none. Next on my list was to find a rare warbler with Dusky the favoured outcome. As usual though for this time of the year the only warbler to be found was a couple of tristis Chiffchaffs. Fornebu has a nearly unique ability to attract these otherwise scarce birds whilst not attracting anything else….

Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff #1. Nice brown ear coverts and no yellow tones

the only yellow tones are restricted to the underwing coverts

bit more arty shot

tristis #2

again the only yellow tones are on the underwing coverts

Pochards (taffeland)

this male is the adult

the two male Pochards. The right hand bird is a young male with brown patches in amongst the grey feathers and a less red head

all three Pochard and the Scaup (bergand)

ad male Pochard, Mallard and Scaup

Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgjess) at Årnestangen

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

First frost of the autumn

Since coming back from the mountains on Saturday life has rather returned to normal. On Sunday morning I did have a specific birding outing to Maridalen with Jack where I hoped that in addition to enjoying his company that I could help him find the 2 species he needs to take him to the milestone of 150 species in Oslo for the year. We failed on that score and it hasn’t helped matters that in the three days since then that I have seen five species that Jack needs with four of these being in the Dale..

The four Dale species are Great Grey Shrike, Scaup, Rough-legged Buzzard and Peregrine and the fifth was a Rock Pipit at Huk, Bygdøy.

It has suddenly become very late autumnal and last night saw the first frost of the autumn. There has been a big clear out of birds with the Greylags and Whooper Swans gone from Maridalen, far fewer finches and Meadow Pipits but still quite few thrushes. A small arrival of ducks today included 3 Tufted and Scaup and the next few weeks may see more ducks as mountain wetlands freeze over and birds leave for the coast. There have been up to 8 Guillemots on the lake and many more on the fjord where a number of dead birds have been found. Quite what causes these near annual arrivals and dead birds is uncertain but there are clearly food shortages somewhere. Almost all dead birds are 1cy birds and any ringed birds found come from the UK.

Østensjøvannet is still full of birds with 200 Wigeon a joint highest Oslo count and 82 Mute Swans the second highest.

Scaup (bergand) - it is noticeably larger than the 3 Tufted Ducks (toppand) and 2 Goldeneye (kvinand) it is with

Great Grey Shrike (varsler)

female Gadwall (snadderand) and Wigeon (brunnakke) at Østensjøvannet

Shoveler (skjeand)

Wigeon (brunnakke)

a Long-tailed Tit (stjertmeis) in Maridalen - this species has been scarce so far this autumn

a frosty morning in the Dale

a lonely Mute Swan (knoppsvane) in Maridalen. After the breeding pair failed this spring they moved to the fjord where the male was found dead. This is possibly the female from that pair

Saturday, 9 October 2021

The mountains in autumn

This week is autumn half term school holiday in Norway and a week when any self respecting birder finds himself on an island (usually Utsira) looking for the wing bars and eye stripes that are the hallmarks of rare vagrant birds. I must be lacking in self respect as I have never found myself on an island during this week (blame it on kids who don’t like birds) and this week we were in the mountains at Beitostølen. This was our first autumn trip here so I was interested to see what the birdlife would be like.

The drive up revealed rowan trees weighed down with berries the whole way and the reason was that flocks of thrushes were still gorging themselves on the tree line and have not begun moving south yet.

The cabin we were staying at was lower down than usual at 700m and bordering onto forest. I hoped for Sibe Jay, owls and woodpeckers. I did have Tengmalm’s Owl and Grey-headed Woodpecker but the only sibe I had was a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER!! Wings bars and eye stripes had come to me and suddenly I couldn’t care less about islands or lack of them! This species is very scarce in Norway this autumn - Kjell is on Værøy now and hasn’t seen one - so for one to turn up here was very unexpected. It did not call once so I was very lucky to focus on it as a roving mixed flock went past me.

Trips on to Valdresflye revealed snow over 2000m but even lower down at 1400m there were far fewer birds than I had expected. A single Meadow Pipit was the only passerine (I had wondered wherher there would be Snow Buntings and Shore Larks) and a small flock of Dunlin flying over the only waders. The lakes held six species of duck though with Scaup and Long-tailed Ducks the highlights and an indication of successful breeding for what are now rare breeding birds in the south of the country. Interestingly puddles were full of crane fly larvae so there was an food source if more waders had been around.

I am writing this on the mobile and the photos have come out in the wrong order so you will have to scroll past landscape and Beast pictures to get to the birds 😂

This Meadow Pipit (heipiplerke) was the only passine I encounted on Valdresflye

I was hoping for Siberian Jay but got a real Sibe instead! Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger)

The crown stripe was surprisingly obvious on this bird

This Merlin (dvergfalk) was the only raptor on Valdresflye and a surprise given the lack of passerines

Two 1cy male Scaup (bergand) together with a male Tufted Duck (toppand)

These larvae of a species of crane fly (stankelbein) were in every puddle

This Chiffchaff (gransanger) was in the same area as the Yb Warbler and was also completely silent


After I wrote this blog post we went on a final walk which gave me 4 Siberian Jays in the same area as my summer sightings as well as a Green Woodpecker in spruce forest at 800m which must be an extreme sighting for this species.

Siberian Jay (lavskrike)

Green Woospecker (grønnspett)