Thursday, 30 June 2022

Summer holiday - cabin life

Summer in the arctic is no cold affair! Temperatures are in the twenties and may reach 30 degrees tomorrow! I hoped this would result in loads of butterflies but instead I have seen hardly any but it may still be early in the season (we are usually here later in July).

I have spent far too many hours searching for the pratincole close to the cabin but got very excited when my phone plinged yesterday afternoon to say it had been found at Klungsett (my favourite birding place up here and where I previously found the Asian White-winged Scoter). I was there an hour later but was yet again too late on the scene and the bird had vanished. The flocks of diving duck were also far too distant so I couldn’t salvage the day with a rare duck either.

The in vain searching for the prat has turned up quite astonishing numbers of breeding waders though. I have always known the area is good but this year seems exceptional (although being here earlier than normal may also play a role). 6 pairs of Lapwings have young and along with a flock of 18 non/failed breeders this is perhaps the best site in Nordland county for the species. I have also seen 2 broods of Curlew and angry adults in at least 6 other areas plus loads of alarm calling Redshank. Unfortunately the farmers have just started to cut the hay fields where many of these birds are and after witnessing how a young Curlew just lat flat on the ground in response to its parent alarm calling my presence I fear that many young Curlew and Redshank will meet a nasty end. Ringed Plover, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Woodcock also breed in the area, Whimbrel not too far away and a female Ruff was also intriguing although was I suspect a failed breeder from somewhere else.

Moose have also been seen in exceptional numbers and I had 13 one morning with most being males including a group of 6 plus a female with a small calf.

Pied Flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper) are nesting in a box at the cabib

Pair of Shelduck (gravand)


Lapwings (vipe)

Curlew (storspove)

Female Ruff (brushane)

Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe), Greenshank (gluttsnipe) and Redshank (rødstilk)

A fly orchid (flueblom)

Baby Lapwing - this one could fly whereas others were much smaller


Curlew (storspove)

Baby Shelduck (gravand)

Monday, 27 June 2022

Summer holiday episode 2

 Summer holiday 2022 has relocated to our cabin north of  the arctic circle near Bodø. Normally I spend a few days on the 1300km drive north and get quite a bit of birding in on the way. This year though I had the company of Jr Jr and the Beast (Mrs OB and Jr had flown up ahead of us) and had agreed that we would drive up as quickly as possible with just one overnight stop half way in Steinkjer.

I agreed to drop the birding stops but didn’t say anything about butterflies or flowers 😉. I had planned to look for Apollo butterfly and Thor’s Fritillary on Sunday as both occured roadside. At the Apollo sight it was warm but cloudy with some drizzle in the air and I maxed out with half an hours looking without scoring and hardly any other butterflies on the wing. It was pouring down at the Thor’s site so I didn’t even bother looking. We arrived at our hotel after 10 hours driving and I was shattered.

Today (Monday) I sneeked in some drive by birding in Mo i Rana hoping to add Jackdaw to my Nordland county list (they are very rare this far north) but failed but did succeed in my flower stop (and Beast walking excuse) when I saw Lady’s Slipper Orchid for only the second time and the first time in flower😊 Quite amazing. 

Lady’s Slipper Orchid (marisko)

Driving was only 9 hours today and I was full of energy wanting to check out the local spots after getting to the cabin. A Black-winged Pratincole had been found only a kilometre from the cabin on 5 June and despite very few other sightings (and many people dipping) was seen again yesterday. I gave it three hours and did not see it but did see more breeding Lapwing and Curlew there than I have ever seen before. I also met Arkadiusz who found the pratincole and has a cabin nearby and therefore means I am no longer the only birder in the village 🤣

I will be looking for the pratincole again over the days but now time for a midnight beer 🍺

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Great Grey Owls - May 2021

nesting Great Grey Owl (lappugle) 19 May 2021

I have long promised a blog post on the breeding Great Grey Owls that I was lucky enough to see in May 2021 and I am now able to publish it after Stig Helge Basnes who showed them to me finally had his own very good article on them published in the Norwegian magazine Vår Fuglefauna.

I have seen Great Grey Owls at the nest many times before but what was different this time is that both nests were in the top of cut off trees about 4m above the ground. This type of natural nest is apparently very rare in Norway where modern forestry does not leave many large tree stumps which can rot at the top and then produce the bowl where the eggs can be laid.

Previous nests I have seen have either been in old Buzzards nests or on platforms put out for them and it was very different to see this large bird perched atop a tree stump. The stumps were not very large though and looked too small for just the female let alone young and a visiting male (which unfortunately I did not witness at either of the nests on my visit)

Another very surprising aspect was where the stumps were. One was barely 30m from a cabin and the other less than 10m from a forest road. There is generally very little activity in the area though as barriers block the roads and they were not cleared of snow during the winter so there may have been no human disturbance in the critical period when they chose their nest sites.

When I visited on 19 May one nest had 3 small young whilst the other clearly was still in the egg stage. I was unable to visit again but only 2 young left the nest and the other nest failed with the eggs seemingly not hatching.

The nest with 3 young:

3 baby beaks

The female from the nest checking me out:

The nest that failed: