Thursday 11 April 2024

Some medium sized raptors at last

The last two days have started with low cloud and then ended up being gloriously sunny and the birdlife really changes with the weather. I have visited Østensjøvannet both days following the ducky bonanza on Tuesday but the variety of ducks has declined inversely with the amount of ice cover. On Tuesday there was 75% ice, yesterday 50% and today none. Yesterday I found a new, female, Pochard who was choosing to keep the company of displaying Tufted Ducks instead of the male who was only 100m away. Today I had really high expectations as last night had seen clear skies and southerly winds until 2am when it started raining and I felt certain there would be big arrival of waterfowl. Well, all this weather had done was to cause a big clear out and there was nothing of interest and very few birds generally on the lake.

Yesterday I spent a long period staring skyward in Maridalen and finally saw those larger raptors I was longing for with first Rough-legged Buzzard, Oslo #129, and then Osprey, Oslo #130. Today in a short visit in the morning #131 came in the form of Black-throated Diver and I am now a bit unsure as to whether I will see any new species for a few days.

Today I gave up on Maridalen quickly as it was too foggy and decided to head for Nordre Øyeren. Here there was no fog but disappointingly few birds. Water levels are unusually high for the time of year but there was still a good amount exposed at Svellet. 24 Oystercatchers and 2 Curlew were the only waders though. Snekkervika also had mud and shallow water but only moderate amounts of dabbling duck.

I then decided to head south east and do Aurskog-Høland again with the hope that raptors would finally show. They did show but there wasn’t the variety I hoped for. 16 Marsh Harriers was undoubtedly a record count for me with seven showing simultaneously as one spot but where were the Hen or Pallid Harriers or Red Kites?

A single adult Bewick’s Swan was not one of the birds I had seen previously and I thought I had found a new bird but I now see that it has been seen on and off at the same time as the pair were being seen regularly.

There is still lots of flood water at Kjelle but maybe too much as it was almost birdless. Hopefully though there will be very good conditions there later in the month.

adult male Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk). These dark birds can be tricky to tell apart from Common Buzzards

male Marsh Harrier (sivhauk)

adult Peregrine (vandrefalk) stooping

male Kestrel (tårnfalk) hovering

female Pochard (taffeland) at Østensjøvannet

the male

the female again who seemed to like the male Tufteds (toppand)

yesterday in Maridalen there were three species of corvids together when 2 Rooks (kornkråke) dropped in and briefly perched with Hooded Crow (kråke) and Jackdaw (kaie)

this Rook was at Østensjøvannet today in what must already be a record year for the species in Oslo

adult Bewick's Swan (dvergsvane)

these Curlew (storspove) flying over Østensjøvannet this morning had me thinking there would be lots to find at Nordre Øyeren, but there wasn't.

an unusually photogenic male Teal (krikkand)


my first frog and spawn of 2024

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Doth three Swallows a summer make?

Even in early April it is perhaps a bit optimistic to expect new species every day but with the weather as it is at the moment I am definitely feeling optimistic and yesterday I was thinking Maridalen would give me my first Rough-legged Buzzard or Black-throated Diver of the year. They did not materialise but three Swallows did Oslo #128) !! This is six days earlier than my previous earliest in Norway and eight days earlier than my previous in Oslo.

Otherwise it was a good day for migrating Sparrowhawks with 27 logged but where are the larger raptors? If they don’t come tomorrow then I will become a pessimist, possibly..

Dunnocks were very obvious and there sound filled the air as I took the Beast for his early morning walk and it was generally a birdy day with a steady stream of Meadow Pipits ad White Wagtails after the sun broke through at 11am,plus thrushes and finches always in the air. The Swallows first appeared after 1pm with one bird for a while suddenly multiplying to three.

My eBird checklist is here.

Swallow (låvesvale) - very early!

male Kestrel (tårnfalk)

another Wheatear (steinskvett)

Whooper Swan (sangsvane)

when I saw this Greylag lying in the water I suspected there must be a nest nearby

which there was. Again a very early occurence

there were a lot of Cranes (trane) moving today with this being the largest group

Tuesday 9 April 2024

A great April day

 Yesterday was one of those April days you hope for but only rarely happen. It was an extremely birdy day adn one that kept on giving although once again my hope for migrating raptors was not fulfilled but this must just mean they are building up somewhere to the south and will soon rush through (ever hopeful).

The day started with low cloud although there was a wall of fog north of Maridalen that proved to be very fortuitous for me at least. The cloud started breaking up from 11am and in the afternoon it was sunny and all this time there was a southerly wind blowing.

Geese were going through from the get go with there being flocks of both Pink-feet and Greylags.  The Greylags generally flew in smaller flocks and at a lower altitude. The wall of fog caused many flocks to turn around at times the sky was full of birds with flocks going in al directions and after a while many flocks began to land on the ice of the lake. I estimated 3500 Pink feet in total during the day and 750 Greylags. 19 Barnacles were the only interesting geese I picked out which was a bit of a let down.

Even though there was no raptor passage there were some raptors to see with a 3cy White-tailed Eagle giving a very close fly by. This is my fifth sighting of the species in the Dale in less that 3 weeks and appears to be the fourth different bird which is proof of the rapidly expanding population in southern Norway. A male Merlin, Oslo #122, showed three times as it hunted passerines, a Kestrel, Oslo #123, flew south as did 3 Golden Plovers, Oslo #124. There were also large numbers of thrushes and finches and Meadow Pipits were on the fields or in the air all the time.

A report of a pair of Pintail caused me to go to Østensjøvannet at midday when there seemed to be a lull in Maridalen and I duly saw these, Oslo #125, before finding a male Pochard, Oslo #126, and then a pair of Shoveler, Oslo #127. There were new birds wherever I looked! There were a lot of Black-headed and Common Gulls on the ice here but I was unable to turn up anything rarer although a Med Gull will surely appear soon.

I was back in Maridalen for the early afternoon hoping that this was when the raptors would stream through but had a make do with a Pied Wagtail feeding with a few White Wags on the edge of the ice.

My eBird checklists from Maridalen and from Østensjøvannet.

White-tailed Eagle (havørn) - a 3cy bird

flocks of geese going in all directions

Barnacle (hvitkinn), Greylag (grågås) and Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) feeding in Maridalen

Golden Plover (heilo) is not a guaranteed species in Oslo and this is very early

geese coming into land on the ice

male Merlin (dvergfalk)

Pied Wagtail (svartryggerle) with White Wagtail (linerle)

male Pochard (taffeland) and pair of Pintail (stjertand) at Øsensjøvannet

the Pochard with Common Gulls (fiskemåke)

one of four Ring Ouzels (ringtrost) in Maridalen

there are a pair of House Sparrows (gråspurv) in Maridalen and visiting a nest hole

Monday 8 April 2024

Birds in the mist

Yesterday started very foggy and I was loathe to go out but eventually got off the sofa (I had fallen asleep watching the Japanese F1 GP) and headed out for what was only going to be a short trip. Maridalen was covered in fog and the fields still covered in snow although temperatures were +5C so it was melting quite quickly. I heard my first Green Sandpiper of the year, Oslo #118 and just about made out a Ring Ouzel plus some Woodcock tracks in the snow but quickly decided to head for Fornebu where I hoped I would be below the fog. I was but only just and there would be no chance of seeing viz mig (if there was any).

Friday’s Wheatear was still present so had survived the snow and at Storøykilen I picked out some Common Snipe with the thermal, had a couple of Green Sands fly over and noted there were quite a few thrushes flying around. At around 1130 the fog lifted a bit and as if by magic flocks of Pink-footed Geese appeared one after the other and then I could also see migrating Wood Pigeons, gulls and thrushes. I always feel torn in these circumstances and after half an hour I had to go up to Maridalen. This turned out to be the right move. The fog was just lifting and flocks of geese soon appeared but with there still being fog further north they ended up flying in all directions and many landed. My eBird checklist can be seen here but in summary I had a whopping 69 species with an adult White-tailed Eagle the highlight but also Curlew, Oslo #119, Grey Heron, Oslo #120 and a very early Wheatear, Oslo #122.

There were lots of thrushes and finches flying over and as the afternoon wore on and the sun came out and a fresh southerly wind started blowing there were suddenly Meadow Pipits and White Wagtails flying over. Skylarks were also back after a few days absence and in record numbers.

a flock of Pink-fooed Geese (kortnebbgås) coming into land at Maridalsvannet

Oslo's first Wheatear (steinskvett) of the year, a male in Maridalen

and Akershus's, a female which survived the snow

snipe thermalling season is upon us but so far only Common (enkeltbekkasin) to be found

an adult Peregine (vandrefalk) over Maridalen

and a distant adult White-tailed Eagle (havørn)

this Chiffchaff (gransanger) was feeding on the ground in a sign of how little food there is just now for them

Cormorants (storskarv) ssp carbo heading north over land, a sight that seems to be scarcer and scarcer every year whereas the sinensis are getting more and more numerous

Saturday 6 April 2024

Winter returns and Wheatear arrives

Snow and freezing temperatures have left Oslo quite birdless. In Maridalen there has hardly been a migrant passerine to see and surprisingly the same was also the case at Bygdøy. Thrushes, Starlings, Skylarks, Wood Pigeons and Chaffinches which had all arrived in good numbers have just disappeared and have presumably headed south to areas without snow which may have meant a very long journey. From tomorrow we are forecast to have southerly winds and much warmer temperatures so we might see the birds return quickly and hopefully with a spectacular fall.

With so few birds to see it was a huge surprise to stumble across my first Wheatear of the year at Fornebu. It was actively looking for food but only once did it seem to find something and its days may have been numbered but that is the risk the earliest returning birds always take.

At Østensjøvannet a Tundra Bean Goose has taken up residence. I assumed it would be the same bird as seen earlier at Bygdøy but judging by the state of its feathers it is a new individual (and this is a species that is not annual in Oslo). There is still only a small area of open water there but a number of Great Crested Grebes have returned and are displaying. A couple of flyover Snipe were Oslo #117.

my, and the regions first Wheatear (steinskvett) of 2024

surprisingly it was a female - normally it is males that return first

in the snow

here it had found something edible

Tundra Bean Goose (tundra sædgås) coming into land at Østenjøvannet

the orange legs allowed it to be picked out from the Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) it was with

from above though it was noticeably darker

the small size (same as Pink-foot) helps in IDing it as a Tundra and not a Taiga. 

it often had its eye closed and was not fully healthy

Pink-feets coming into land

spot the Tundra

here it can be seen that the Tundra has some feather damage

Great Crested Grebe (toppdykker) and White Wagtail (linerle)

15cm of snow pushed Maridalens Lapwings onto the ice. In addition to this group of 6 (I am unsure of the male/female split) there was a single male another place

Two Water Rails (vannrikse) were calling at Fornebu and one allowed itself to be glimpsed

three Waxwings (sidensvans) at Fornebu were feeding on rosehips

I've never noticed before how the "hair" looks like from behind

in Maridalen today there was a lot of noise as a pair of Mute Swans (knoppsvane) tried to land in the small area of open water where the breeding pair of Whoopers (sangsvane) were already present. As in previous years the Whoopers would not allow them to land

both Mutes were ringed. P578 (left) is a male born in 2019 and K933 a female born in 2017. This pair do not seem to have bred yet but were at Maridalsvannet in later April and early May last year before being chased off. It will be interesting to see how it goes this year. The population of Mute Swans has become so large around Oslo that a lack of suitable breeding sites has become a real problem

one of the Whoopers giving chase