Friday, 11 January 2019

Hazel Grouse

female Hazel Grouse (jerpe)

The weather was perfect for forest birding again today so I set off to a new area that I have not visited before and which required a lot less walking. 
Temperatures were down to -9C but the air is dry so it doesn't feel too cold.
This time it was Hazel Grouse that revealed themselves. I had a pair in a small area of birch trees and this was clearly their winter territory. Both birds were singing and this was the first time I have been able to distinguish between male and female song (I had not realised that females sang before today). They were initially very difficult to see and only offered brief glimpses in flight or through lots of branches when they landed. I was patient though and eventually the female started feeding in the top of a birch and then allowed me to walk up to the tree and have prolonged views at relatively close range which is a first for me. The male though kept himself hidden although did sing occasionally. At one stage as I approached the female it felt like the male sang as a warning to her. The female was clearly hungry though and spent her time eating catkins from the tree.
I had a few more birds than yesterday with a couple of Nutcrackers, Jay, Crested Tit, Willow Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker making their presence known.

I would normally have been happy with this shot..
and very happy with this shot..

pretty darn pleased with this one..

but it just atarted getting better and better :-)

here feeding

and also here
In this poor video (hand holding the bazooka Mk.II) you can hear the song of both male and female

a Nutcracker (nøttekråke)

aren't the tail feathers of Great Spotted Woodpecker (flaggspett) just fantastic?

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Meagre pickings in the forest

It was time to move the body after the Christmas excesses and with no wind, blue skies and temperatures at a relatively warm -5C it was a good day for a walk in the forest. As regular readers of this blog will know walks in the forest can occasionally give some good birds but it is best not to get your hopes up too high. I chose to walk up to Mellomkollen which at 537m is one of the highest points close to Oslo. I started at 180m so had a good walk although I did turn around just below the top. At the beginning I was walking in tracks made by skiers and a few dog walkers in snow that had fallen on Monday night but after not too long I was walking where no human had been since the snow fell although it would be wrong to describe it as virgin snow because there were tracks in it. It was clear that a number of animals used the path and I identified roe deer, hare and saw some tracks from rodents and there were also 2 sets of tracks (and urine marking) from medium sized predators which I think was both fox and pine marten. With the area clearly not having had visits from human or dogs for at least 3 days I did allow my hopes of finding grouse to be raised but ultimately (and despite using every trick at my disposal) I failed to find any grouse. The day was saved though with a female Three-toed Woodpecker which showed at close range (which is usual with this species once you have managed to find one) and she even drummed a bit. The commonest bird in the forest was Goldcrest and two Wrens deep in the forest were a surprise and a sign that the winter has not been too cold yet. I only had a single tit which was a Coal Tit and the only finches were a fly over Redpoll and calling Bullfinch so not much to report after 3 hours walking. The species list was completed with a calling Black Woodpecker, a Treecreeper and a Dipper on a small stream that has yet to freeze over.

female Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett)

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

European Green Capital 2019

Oslo has been awarded the title of European Green Capital 2019 (although it may be more correct to say that the City Council paid for the privilege). For someone who is interested in biodiversity it is a bit odd as Oslo City Council like the rest of the official Norway is absolutely pants at protecting and promoting biodiversity although does deserve recognition for its exceptional skills at killing off biodiversity. Oslo City and the rest of Norway is however very good at reducing carbon emissions and has effective recycling schemes although it is rather ironic that this is due to enormous financial subsidies being used and the ultimate source of all this money is all the fossil fuels that Norway sells to other countries to burn and pollute with.

Anyway, during 2019 there are a number of activities to celebrate and promote this greenness and (unbeknownst to me) the City has allowed private organisations to apply for funds to promote greenness. Related to this, David Lindo, aka The Urban Birder has just visited Oslo and led a field trip and held a presentation for the local bird club which was very enjoyable for yours truly, The (semi-urban) Oslo Birder 😊
And today I visited Marcia Kyle who is the passion behind an urban permaculture project called Parkens Grøde. Marcia has managed to get funds from the council to improve the area for urban birds and has asked me to lead a birding outing in the area later in the year. It is very impressive what Marcia and the others in the group have achieved and I am looking forward to following the birdlife in the area.

I combined my visit to Parkens Grøde with some green urban birding and walked along Akerselva and visited Marienlyst Park and Forgnerparken. I was rewarded with Peregrine, Goshawk and Sparrowhawk, Dipper, Grey Heron and Teal amongst others. Less concrete jungle urban birding yesterday, but still within the city, revealed excellent views of four Purple Sandpipers at Huk, Bygdøy.

Purple Sandpiper (fjæreplytt)

it was fascinating watching them searching for food and here it was banging something

which I think looks like seaweed

but which was swallowed

I hoped to find an urban bread eating Med Gull today but had to make do with Black-headed Gull (hettemåke)

and Common Gulls (fiskemåke)

1st winter (2cy) Common Gull

Monday, 7 January 2019

An unwanted and unmerited armchair tick

Even when birding is slow and you don’t even leave the house and just enjoy the comfort of your armchair it is still possible to add a bird to your list. A so called armchair tick (sofakryss in Norwegian) is when a committee has made a decision that suddenly adds a species to your list that you hadn’t expected at the time you saw the bird (although birders do also engage in “insurance ticking” of birds that they can’t add to their list there and then but know that in the future a decision might be taken that will give them an armchair tick). Armchair ticks usually come from “splitting” where an existing species is split into two or more new species, but it can also come about through a change in the category of a bird. Some records are categorised as meaning the bird is considered an escape from captivity and therefore not truly wild and therefore not “tickable”. If an old record is recategorised though this can mean one can gain (or lose) a tick. Are you following me?

I had been out this morning and had heard a Bearded Tit for my endevaours and then came home, plomped into the metaphorical armchair, checked Facebook and saw that I had a new tick! The only problem is that it is a tick I don’t want and a record that I do not believe should grace the official annals of Norwegian avifauna.

As a result of a category review of all Norwegian Red-breasted Geese a bird previously deemed not to be wild has now been recategorized to be as good as they get. Back in 2012 there was a Red-breasted Goose at Fornebu for the whole summer. Here are a couple of pictures of it that have made their way into the family album:

It kept company with the local feral Barnacle Geese, gazed the grass in parks, allowed approach to within a metre or so and is likely to be the same bird that had been seen on one day at Fornebu in June 2010 (an unlikely repeat occurrence for a wild bird). Apart from the fact that this bird was unringed there was absolutely nothing to suggest a wild origin and an origin either from captivity or from one of the feral/escaped populations in northern Europe is by far the most likely (a tremendous number of feral Bar-headed Geese migrate to Norway every summer from Germany/Holland but nobody has attempted to argue that these are wild). It can be argued that other wild geese have joined the local feral birds and adopted their ways but we have no local records of either White-fronted or Bean Geese that approach this bird in terms of having over summered and been so tame.

The original decision had been to put the bird in Category D (not saying it was a definite escape but mostly likely to be) but as a result of the review of the category of all Norwegian records of Red-breasted Goose it has now ended up in Category A and deemed to be as wild as they come. I know that a consistent methodology has been applied in the review, that the NSKF has put a lot of thought into the review and that each decision has a reasoning behind it. But at the end of the day it seems it is only the presence of a plastic ring or if the goose was alone (rather than having been clever enough to join up with the other local feral geese) will result in a bird being classified as an escape (Category E) and this is just too simplistic.  It has the undoubted advantage of being an easy and hoppolicy to apply (and is consistent with Ruddy Shelduck although at odds with Snow Geese which are all considered dodgy) but is not in my opinion a smart policy. If this policy is applied to Lesser White-fronted Goose then Norway may soon have to accept Swedish reintroduced birds as being wild and welcome them rather than the current policy of shooting them when they cross the border – maybe a Trump style Wall is needed here 😉. I know from my time in the committee that discussions on categories are difficult and do not engage people and I would not have been looking forward to such a discussion myself – it is much more fun discussing ID features – but I don't think decisions like this do anyone any favours. Then again I only have myself to blame as if I hadn't stood down from the committee then I could have affected the decision making.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

2019 ticking along

I’ve had a few small birding outings (often with the excuse of walking or socialising the dog) since New Years Day and am slowly adding new species to the 2019 year list although it is a rather quiet year so far and after 5 days I have seen a grand total of only 66 species.
A small flock of Waxwings graced the garden at sunset on the 3rd and gave the chance for some atmospheric pictures. A trip to Bygdøy yesterday revealed a couple of Purple Sandpipers which turned up right at the end of 2017 and will probably stay until spring now. Today I again tried for better photos of the Water Rail but again failed although the bird (there are two here) has become noticeably more tolerant of its human admirers and seems to appreciate the porridge oats that are put out for it.

Waxwings (sidensvans)

Purple Sandpipers (fjæreplytt)

Red-throated Diver (smålom) is not a common winter sight in these parts 
the Glaucous Gull (polarmåke) is always to be found defending the same area of the rubbish mound

the female Pintail (stjertand) at Østensjøvannet which evaded us on New Years Day

Water Rail (vannrikse). I am using such low shutter speeds that when it does run into the open that I am unable to get a sharp photo

Wren (gjerdesmett)

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Kicking off 2019

The majority of Birders are rather interested in lists and a New Year means a chance to starts lots of new lists. 1 Jan therefore sees lots of birding activity and is the day when the most Magpies or Feral Pigeons are reported during the course of the year as people want to get them on their year list and then forget about them…. I am not normally available for New Years Day birding in Norway either because we are in England or have visitors from England. This year though was different, and I arranged with Andreas Gullberg that we would have a days birding with the aim to record as many species as possible in Oslo and Akershus. I had expected we would record around 60 species but in the end we only saw 45 with too much wind and bad planning on our part being the excuses but despite this we still had the highest total amongst the small number of other birders who were out on the same errand. Due to poor timing and the short day we didn’t manage to visit Maridalen (an unbelievable travesty I know) and in under an hour there today I added 7 species to those we saw yesterday.

Highlights yesterday were The Glaucous Gull and a couple of Water Rails running around on top of the snow flattened reedbed at Pollevannet.

The (now) 3cy Glaucous Gull (polarmåke) in Oslo

Oystercatcher (tjeld) at sunset at Bygdøy. This was our only wader of the day

Water Rail (vannrikse) running past the nature reserve sign at Pollevannet. This sign is in the middle of the reedbed and is only visible when snow has flattened the reeds. I have not noticed signs on the edge of the reedbed where people might actually notice them. This is unfrotunately typical of nature (mis)management in Norway

Surprise of the day was this female Wigeon (brunnakke) 
Beast socialising at Fornebu today revealed a very unseasonal Starling (stær)

Monday, 31 December 2018

Last birding of 2018

After posting about the highlights of 2018 I did find time for a final quick birding session. Attempts to get better pictures of the Water Rail were very frustrating as there was always something between me and the bird but it was also very special as the bird came unusually close to me. The Glaucous Gull was a relatively enjoyable experience as the area was deserted.

2nd winter Glaucous Gull (polarmåke) with Herring Gulls

here giving some abuse
and here receiving some

I know where it is..

Water Rail (vannrikse)

when it once was completely in the open It was always facing away from me..

winter in Maridalen

although having only been frozen for 5 days there was apparently 12cm of ice on the lake

the beast likes Maridalen too