Friday, 20 April 2018

Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers

Yesterday evening/night and this morning I was guiding Rob Tizard who I had previously guided in June 2014 when we had a great Oppland and Hedmark trip seeing Dotterel, Great Snipe, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Siberian Jay and Great Grey Owl amongst others.

This time round Rob had some specific world lifer goals with Tengmalm’s (Boreal) Owl top of the list. We went to where I had a number of singing birds earlier in the spring and where I felt very confident we would both hear and most importantly see the owl. Not to be though. We did not hear a single owl let alone see one which would suggest that the rodent population has crashed and the owls have moved on. Very frustrating! A big surprise was a drumming Snipe in the dark over a clear fell area – it is only in the last week that migrant birds are turning up at wetland sites so for one to be in the forest displaying was not what I had expected although the Woodcock that we also heard was not a surprise.

Today we were going to look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Parrot Crossbill and Capercaillie. In the end we used up most of the day in a fruitless search for the pecker. We went to Årnestangen where yesterday I had great views (pictures below) of two territorial females. Today in the course of 6 hours we only heard a bird calling from the other side of the river! It was very foggy until 14:30 today and conditions were not good for birding even though they were atmospheric. We only had a single raptor which was a male Hen Harrier that showed at close range and highlighted how different yesterday’s hybrid was. Willow Warbler and Sand Martin were new for the year. A Woodlark close to the airport at the end of the day was a good end note.

female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett)

both the females. The bird on the left was calling on the other side of the river and flew for a bit of a bust up. I assume that both brds were unpaired and are searching for a mate

pulling a grub out of the tree

this male Hen Harrier differs noticeably from yesterday'shybrid- With ,uch more black in the wing, black outer primaries, a broader and darker trailing edge and a more blue grey colour to the upperparts

Woodlark (trelerke)

big chunks of ice were floating down the river at Årnestangen!

Another hybrid Harrier!

It is difficult finding time to blog and edit photos at the moment which is a sure sign that it is spring migration and observing the birds (and spending time with the family) is taking up all my time.
On Wednesday I kept it local again with visits to Bygdøy and Maridalen. The flood at Bygdøy is looking really good and 43 Teal and 3 Wigeon are very good counts for Oslo as were 22 Curlews that flew low over and their calls gave a magical feeling. In Maridalen I was hoping to observe raptors as the winds had turned south and it was nice and sunny. Six species must go down as a good showing. Local Buzzards and Goshawks were frequently up in the air, a Kestrel, a Peregrine and 4 Sparrowhawks went north and three different Ospreys were presumably newly arrived birds checking out breeding sites before returning to the open waters of the fjord for some fishing.

Yesterday, Thursday, was a GOOD day. I gave Bygdøy a quick once without finding anything new, before heading for Årnestangen. Once again I had hopes of finding raptors and I succeeded. I had two and half species of harrier, Osprey, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk and the Harriers were the real joy. First, I had prolonged views of a male Hen Harrier hunting in the scope. He was then joined by another male which flew through going north and I lost both these birds. I then had a female Hen Harrier going north, a female Marsh Harrier going north and then a female Marsh Harrier hunting. After a couple of hours I sat down to eat my lunch and scanned with the scope. I picked up a male Harrier hunting in the same area as the male Hen from a couple of hours earlier, but this bird was different. It was long range but the black in the primaries was not that large, the dark trailing edge to the wing was indistinct and the bird was a pale grey rather than blue grey. All this pointed towards Pallid Harrier yet the jizz of the bird was more Hen and the pattern of the black in the wing tip wasn’t right for Pallid. But it needed closer views. I hastened to cover the 1km between me and the bird and sat down on the edge of some trees where I had last seen it. 5 minutes later and it appeared and didn’t seem to notice me at first such that I got some OK pictures (although that 7D mkII would have done the trick…). The bird was clearly not a Pallid but there was still lots that didn’t fit with Hen. Looking at the pictures at home and consulting with friends seems to confirm that the bird is yet again a hybrid Pallid x Hen and the second time I have found one (and both at the same site and therefore possibly the same bird). When will I find a pure male Pallid??
Other birds of note were a hybrid (yes another hybrid) Pintail x Mallard, a brief glimpse of a Long-eared Owl, a very early Tree Pipit and two territorial female Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers of which I took loads of photos that I will have to edit and publish later as there are too many to go through.
An obligatory stop in Maridalen on the way home revealed much less snow, the first Wheatear of the spring, lots og Meadow Pipits and a Swallow so things are looking good!

presumed hybrid Pallid x Hen Harrier. It has 5 "fingers" which excludes a pure Pallid but the limited black in the primaries and especially the grey outer two primaries is not right for Hen as is the thin grey as opposed to broad black trailing edge to the wing

the 2 blurry pictures botom right could easily have been used to document a pure Pallid and just show how careful one must be with photos.
a Long-eared Owl that I accidentally disturbed

male Pintail x Mallard hybrid

and an early Tree Pipit (trepiplerke)

Curlews (storspove) from Bygdøy

and Pink-footed Geese (kortnebgjess) over Maridalen 

the first Wheatear (steinskvett) of the year on the church ruins in Maridalen

and a piece of plastic that will udoubtedly become the most photographed bird of the year

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Finally more Beans

I had a good outing with Conor again today. No wind and overcast conditions coupled with fog in the morning made it a quieter day than I had hoped and a single Osprey was the only raptor we noted. We did have other good birds. We started at Akershus’s only known breeding site for Woodlark and had good views of a singing male. After this we visited the traditional Taiga Bean Goose staging site as both the transmitting birds were now here (one returning on the 14th and other on the 15th). Conditions were very improved from when I was here with Angus and Denise on the 9th but there was still some snow on the fields.

When we first went to the fields the fog was too thick to see anything so we went down to the river. Here the fog was patchier and eventually lifted. Two Beans were on the river when we arrived and a group of 7 and then a group of 6 plus a Pink-foot flew in whilst we watched. None of these had collars and we waited patiently for the whole flock to fly in (as they would usually due but nothing is usual this spring). When no more birds flew after over half an hour of waiting in we returned to the fields and 10 minutes later could see that the fog had lifted. The birds were spread out over two adjoining fields with lots of undulating ground. I made four counts and had 80,94,112 & 102 birds showing just how difficult they are to count (much easier when the whole flock is in the air or on the river). I am pretty certain that these were in addition to the 15 on the river so have a minimum count of 127 birds which is up from previously this autumn but still lower than expected. I spotted all the collared birds that I have previously seen this spring but two new birds: the pair 6X and 6Z.

After this we visited the river at Lillestrøm where 8 Little Ringed Plovers were displaying and a high count of 28 Green Sandpipers feeding. An Osprey was also here and exactly as on Sunday caught a fish so large that it could not fly off with it.

A quick foray into Maridalen revealed little life but a Swallow was a most welcome surprise although heaven knows what it will find to eat as winter has not yet loosened its grip on the Dale.

we saw a few Cranes (trane) today but I think the main passage is already over 
Osprey (fiskeørn) with large fish

Ring Ouzels (ringtrost)

Two Taigas in the fog

the river banks are now ice fre and a few of the Beans can be seen here

there are 40 odd Beans spread out over this field

and here are some of them a bit closer
Woodlark (trelerke)

Little Ringed Plovers (dverglo)

Monday, 16 April 2018

Flooding brings birds to Oslo

I kept it local and didn’t leave the city today. The fields at Hengsenga, Bygdøy are looking so good at the moment with lots of flooding. We now just need to hope that the water lasts another week and coincides with a good arrival of waterfowl. Ten Teal alongside the male Gadwall that has been present for a couple of days is a good start and with luck Shoveler or Garganey may turn up. Greylag, Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese are also present alongside three Greylag x Canada hybrids. Amazingly enough despite the number of people and dogs that use the area the birds all seem quite settled.

Waders are also present and I notched up a very impressive 6 species on Bygdøy today. The flooded fields held a whopping 34 Common Snipe which is the highest number ever recorded in Oslo!! plus a single Jack Snipe. There were also single Green Sandpiper and Lapwing and at Huk Oystercatcher and 7 Purple Sandpipers. The Purp Sands are now clearly very used to people would I am sure walked between my legs if I had positioned myself correctly!

In Maridalen there is still lots of snow – it is knee high in places and the diversity of birds is still low but Skylarks were up singing and small groups of thrushes were along the road where the snow has melted.

Not a single raptor today though which was a real surprise but low cloud would explain that.

male Gadwall (snadderand) - a rare Oslo guest

three Greylag x Canada hybrids were also present amongst Greylags (although no Canadas were present)

Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin)

Mistle Thrush (duetrost) on the snow in Maridalen

Purple Sandpiper (fjæreplytt)

Long-tailed Tit

not often I take a picture of a Hooded Crow (kråke)

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Sunday Guiding

I was guiding David from Ithaca, NY today and we had a productive and fun day south east of Oslo. Temperatures peaked at 16C but despite this all lakes are still frozen and many fields still covered in snow. The melt is happening though and there were flood waters
at various places which are now just waiting for the birds to arrive. Ducks are still not moving through though with only a handful of Teal seen but flocks of many hundred will soon arrive and with them the fun of looking for a Garganey or Green-winged Teal.

Raptors were a feature of the day with a close White-tailed Eagle, Marsh and Hen Harrier, 2 Ospreys, 5 Rough-legged Buzzards, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin and Sparrowhawk.
Waders are also starting to appear with Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Oystercatcher and my first Little Ringed Plovers of the year. Another first for the year was Swallow which is perhaps the truest sign of spring and confirmation that the flood gates are (slowly) opening.

unusually close views of a White-tailed Eagle (havørn). A juvenile/2cy I believe 

Two Ospreys (fiskeørn) hunting together

one caught a fish

the other bird plunged three times in alsmost exactly the same spot as the first bird before catching a fish

nothing this time...

and the fish it eventually caught seemed too heavy for it to fly away with

two Rough-legged Buzzards (fjellvåk)

and three

these two Taiga Bean Geese were unexpected and perhaps some of the missing Scottish birds