Friday, 28 May 2010

Birds to the north...birds to the south

Yesterday evening there was some movement of birds in the outer Oslo fjord (skuas, Black Tern and Brent Geese) so with suitable weather conditions (light southerly winds) forecast for today I decided for an early start. Up at 4am and with destination Hulvik which is in the south of Oslo & Akerhus county and a good place for seawatching. Now seawatching in the Oslo fjord rarely produces large numbers of birds but patience can (apparantly) be rewarded. I was patient for 2 hours and 20 minutes and did I get rewarded? Not really.
I did have 11 Red Throated Divers and 4 Guillemots flying north and about 30 each of Common and Velvet Scoter sitting on the sea but this does not set the pulse racing. The divers will be heading for inland Norway to breed but quite where the Guillemots were heading I am not sure. On land I heard 6 species of Warbler singing including Wood Warbler aswell as both Flycatchers.
I continued south into Østfold county to check out Kurefjorden - a supposed wader hotspot. 6 Ringed Plover and 3 Redshank were not very hot though (especially as on the other side of Oslofjord there are currently 3 Broad Billed Sandpipers). Next stop was Brentetangen near Moss which is where the seawatching was good yesterday. The presence of 6 other birders told me that something was happening and when I asked what was about I was told there had been 2 male Surf Scoters but htey had now flkown off south! I had considered making this my original destination but chose Hulvik instead. Oh well. I stayed there an hour and a half but was only rewarded by a handful of migrating divers.
On arriving home and checking the internet I saw that someone else had been seawatching about 10km north of Hulvik and had seen Sandwich Tern (a norwegian tick and rarity) and Arctic Skua this morning.
So choosing a point in the middle could have given me the best of both worlds but instead gave me the worst of both worlds...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A twitch ensued?

Chose to visit Østensjøvannet today, a shallow, reed fringed lake within the Oslo city limits.
When I got there at 10am the paths around the lake were already heaving with kids from the nearby school having running practice. The birds here though are quite used to this. I had Garden Warblers and Pied Flycatchers singing from scrubby areas and a Long tailed Tit getting very agitated with a pair of Magpies that were presumeably close to its nest. Overhead there were around 300 Swifts which have now arrived in force with a few House Martins and Swallows mixed in.
On the lake there were the usual Great Crested Grebes, Canada & Greylag Geese, Tufted Ducks, Coots and Moorhens aswell as many Black Headed Gulls which breed here. As I scanned the lake I heard a call which I couldn't place as a gull or a tern. And then I saw only 20 metres away a fine summer plumaged Little Gull. It was a very confiding bird and would have allowed me to take a great photo if only I had my camera with me. A mobile phone through the bins though is always a good alternative as this fine potrait proves.

I texted the bird's presence to a friend who then put it out on the national alert system and after half an hour got a call from a birder who had come to look for it. He soon joined me and we had great views. Does one other birder qualify as a twitch?
The bird had a very small amount of black in the primary tips making it a 2nd summer but it also had a hint of pink on the body feathers. A fine fine bird.
Continuing around the lake I heard 3 (and saw 1) Reed Warblers and found a Pink-footed Goose and White-fronted Goose (which has been around for a coupe of months) amongst the Greylag Geese.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Great habitat...but no birds

Today I walked 12km through the forest north of Maridalen including an area of old spruce forest which holds Capercaille and Three Toed Woodpecker. What did I see? Droppings of the first and marks on trees from the second but did I see the birds? Of course not.
In fact I saw nothing out of the normal in the forest at all. The best birds were in Maridalen itself where I had in total 3 singing Roesfinches. The only one I actually saw was a brown bird so still no fine red male. Also good numbers of Spotted Flycatchers which looked to be newly arrived and a very distant singing Wood Warbler. Whilst sitting down to listen to the Wood Warbler, a Willow Warbler with a beak full of nesting material landed only a few metres away from me. After a couple of minutes it dropped down to the ground and after it had left I was able (after a bit of searching) to discover its tiny nest on the ground hidden under some long grass.
Also in Maridalen were 3 very small Lapwing chicks with a parent which was very satisying to see as they seem to get less common each year.
In this picutre from the high point of my walk (Mellomkollen) you can see Maridalsvannet (lake) on the left with Oslo city and Oslofjord rear right.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Today was a national holiday (Pentecost) and a family trip to Fornebu was again in order. Whilst we walked around I saw my first Hobby of the year. My attention was drawn to it by a small colony of Sand Martins I was watching which suddenly flocked together and flew away. I didn't manage a picture of the Hobby but did get this short video of the Sand Martins.

Otherwise there was a Wood Sandpiper feeding on a very small pond in which we also saw some Great Crested Newts.

Garden nature

When birds are scarce then butterflies often offer some interest. In the garden today we found this female Green Hairstreak which was very tired and presumeably on its last legs after having survived the winter and laying its eggs.

This is a very small butterfly. The picture was taken at a distance of 1cm and the picture has been cropped.
Otherwise in the garden we have nesting Blue and Great Tits, singing Lesser Whitethroat, a Pied Flycatcher singing from 3 houses away.

Sunday, 23 May 2010


A cycle ride around Maridalen this afternoon turned up the desired species: a singing Rosefinch. At first I was unable to see the bird but after I walked under the tree it was singing from I was a little disappointed to see it was a young male and therefore completely lacked any red in its plumage. Nevermind, more will surely turn up and if they are as confiding as this bird then I should managed some decent photos.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Quite possible the best birder in.....his own mind

I rescued an email from my SPAM folder today that confirmed (?) what I have long suspected… I am the best birder in Norway :-). The email didn’t actually use those words but it announced that I was the winner of the latest NOF (Norwegian equivalent of RSPB) mystery bird competition. Here is a link to the 2 photo’s I had to identify.
Joking aside, it was nice to win a competition for once but the prize could have been different – it was the (great) Norwegian where to watch book that I have recently purchased!
Birding today was limited to a short trip to Maridalen where I again saw the Wryneck as well as an Osprey and 2 singing Icterine Warblers, which were the first there this year.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Good things come to those who put in the effort..

Today was another up at 0430 day. I was in the field from 0515 until 1430 and then had another hour out in the evening. Highlight was one of my very favourite birds which I was beginning to fear I would not see this year - a Wryneck and to make it even better it was in Maridalen. I permit myself to show a picture and 2 videos, the second of which has a better recording of the call which to my ears is very like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Not much else at Maridalen although i did hear Black Woodpecker. Scarlet Rosefinches are starting to turn up now and although I didn't find one in Maridalen today I expect to soon. The Wryneck was seen on my evening outing.
The morning destination was Årnestangen. I was very lucky here to have just walked the couple of kilometres to the hide before it began to rain (very heavily) for 2 hours. I had a hope that this rain would ground many waders and Black Terns and Little Gulls - well dream on.
For my 9 hours of effort I was rewards by a Temminck's Stint
a few Dunlin, a very distant immature Peregrine, a Merlin, a flock of 120 Goosander, 4 Ospreys, a Garden Warbler and some Yellow Wagtails. The 2 males that I saw well appeared to be a cross between the race Thunbergi (Grey Headed Wagtail) which is the commonest race in Norway and race Flava (Blue Headed Wagtail) which does breed in southern norway. The 2 pictures below are of different birds but both show the white supercilium of flava but the head colour is the grey of thunbergi rather than the blue of flava

Additionally a singing Reed Warbler and singing icterine Warbler were year ticks taking me to 162 so far in 2010.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Can 4 days really make such a difference?

4 days ago the Svellet area of Nordre Øyeren held around 2000 waders, primarily Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. I have not been able to get out birding the last 4 days so I was very excited when I arrived at Svellet this morning. And what did I see? Well in total I had 14 waders!!! The water level has risen a lot but there was still very large areas of mudflats. Perhaps these were not so rich in food as they have been exposed for so long but just as likely is that the spring migration is very concentrated and the birds simply cannot wait to move north to their breeding grounds. This picture shows what was present:

Greenshank, Redshank and Wood Sandpiper.

I checked a few other sites trying to find the Caspian Tern that had been moving around the area of the last few days but failed to find it. The best I managed were a pair of Marsh Harriers at a presumed breeding site and a couple of Honey Buzzards which looked to be migrating.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Mr & Mrs Toad

Another late evening visit to Maridalen produced large numbers of toads in the margins of the lake and these two hopping along the road.

We also saw the Owl again and found its preferred roost site which was remarkably low down in a spruce tree. There were 3 pellets and they appeared mostly to have bird remains including feather shafts and a beak.

Early this morning a Red Rumped Swallow was seen at Fornebu and I was able to get down there an hour and a half later with the girls. Unfortunately we didn't refind it (as did nobody else) but there were good numbers of Swifts which were new for the year.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Promise made....promise kept

On the way home from kindergarten I asked my 5 year old if she wanted me to show her Tawny Owl and Beaver in Maridalen after her little sister had gone to bed. She did and then the I realised that I would be lucky to find them both.


The Tawny Owl showed as it has the previous 2 evenings although and this time we had the scope and had breathtaking views although the following picture does not do full justice

Then we approached the beaver dam and straightaway spotted a beaver swimming towards us which submerged when only 15m away and then swam under us as we stood on the bridge.

I really don't know who was happier the 5 year old or the 37 year old!

Bleary eyed

I rose at 0430 this morning determined to have a good mornings birding before breakfast and I most certainly did. Inspired by huge numbers of waders seen at Nordre Øyeren yesterday (over 1200 Greenshank) I made this my destination. I was on site at Svellet at 5am. This huge area of shallow water and mudflats is only viewable from a distance with a telescope so the views are not great but it is worth squiting your eyes and scanning. There had obviously been a lot of interchange of birds over night because I had "only" 300Greenshank but these were accompanied by 400Wood Sandpipers and smaller numbers of Ruff, Redshank and Curlew.
Amongst 160 Teal was a pair of Shoveler and sitting rather majestically on a small post in the water was an adult White Tailed Eagle whilst over the water an Osprey hunted.

Next stop was the large bay of Snekkervika. Here there were smaller numbers of waders but there were additional species: Whimbrel, Little Ringed Plover, Snipe and Ringed Plover. I again glimpsed a Redstart for my customary second but did have better views of a Spotted Flycatcher which appears to be the first for the year around Oslo. Also new for the year here were Whitethroat and Sand Martin. My Norwegian year list now stands at 154 putting me in 12th position among the people recording their lists on

I was home before 9am for breakfast with the family - not a bad way to start the day.

Yesterday I was up in Maridalen in the late evening and again saw the Tawny Owl who presence was betrayed by scolding Blackbirds - if only the rarer owls were this easy!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Blast From the Past

Reflecting on quite how poor the Tawny Owl video was I thought it might be a good idea to upload a slightly better video of a much much more impressive owl:

Great Grey Owl 30 November 2009.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Stir crazy

After 3 days in the house looking after a poorly 1 year old I was itching to get out and I managed three hours around Maridalen this evening. I was hoping to see Wryneck which has been reported a couple of times in the past week but no luck. There were however enough other signs of spring to make for an enjoyable evening even if the northerly wind made it a but chilly. The water level is very high and there is no mud but even so there were a few waders (elsewhere there have been very high numbers sighted today so there is obviously some movement). 2 Wood Sandpipers and 2 Greenshank are always nice to see and on the water were 17 Tufted Duck and a pair of Red Breasted Merganser. Land birds were represented by 2 Wheatear, 2 Whinchat and a male Redstart which showed for 1 second before disappearing and not to be seen again.

Highlight though was a Tawny Owl which gave me my best views ever of this species. Before I have only seen birds in flight that I have disturbed but finally I saw a bird in daylight. I was on my way to check out a nesting box to see if there were any signs of Tawny Owls when I heard a Blackbird giving a very agitated alarm call. I located the Blackbird and then saw a Tawny Owl fly away. The Blackbird with company of a Song Thrush kept track of the Owl though and I was soon able to see it halway up a spruce tree. This video allows you to just about see the bird and hear the scolding Blackbird.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


We decided to be brave and attempt our first family camping trip with our 21 month old. We chose a spot by a lake only 2kms from the car park with good enough tracks that we could take the pram. Camping wise everything went well, we had a fantastic fire burning, good food, and a campsite right by the lake. Only problem was the littlest getting ill and throwing up all over herself whilst asleep in the tent at 11pm. Luckily I had chosen to sleep under the stars (was also required as the tent is not big enough) and had hoped this would allow me to hear some owls. Unfortunately I wasn't succesful with this although it was fantastic to see the sunset and stars although this is already getting difficuly as the sky does not get fully dark until around 2330 and is already light again around 0400.
I was very surpised to hear a pair of Cranes calling to each other on the Saturday evening and then again early on Sunday morning before they flew low over my head at 7am (the video is taken from my sleeping bag!).

Otherwise birding was very slow going. At dawn I could hear Black Grouse calling distantly aswell as a Black Throated Diver but the dawn chorus consisted only of Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Tree Pipit, Robin and Willow Warbler. On the lake a male Red Breasted Merganser, a pair of Teal and a noisy pair of Canade Geese joined a pair of Common Sandpipiers.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Twitching Norway style

Out of the house at 0710 on my way to Borrevannet near Horten, 1 hour south of Oslo. A male Montagu's Harrier and Great White Egret had been seen there yesterday and this seemed like a pretty good reason to visit a renowned locality that has never previously been graced by my presence.

When I arrived just after 8am there were three other birds present who could report that both birds had been seen earlier but not by them. Well fear not Oslo Birder is here! After about 20 minutes I saw the Egret in flight distantly and it then landed allowing telescope views. As it warmed up a couple of male Marsh Harriers started to fly around the reedbed and not long after at around 9am I picked up the Monties coming in from the other end of the lake. It did a fly by of the tower and then headed out to some fields which is quartered for a bit before returning towards us and then gaining great height before drifting west out of view.

Borrevannet is a great site being a shallow lake with large reedbeds set in low lying farmland close to the coast. In addition to the two rarities there were in total at least 3 Marsh Harriers, an Osprey, 3+ singing Thrush Nightingales, Yellow Wagtail, Marsh Tit and Wood Sandpiper. Later in the spring there are dozens of Thrush Nightingales here plus many Reed and Marsh Warblers.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Is summer over daddy?

That was the question my 5 year old asked at breakfast as we watched the snow falling which it continued to do until the middle of the afternoon. What is going on? This picture shows spring flowers with a dusting of snow. Birding was a bit difficult today but an afternoon drive did see me notching up my first Rough Legged Buzzard of the year along with an Osprey. I also had my first Blackcap of the year outside a friends house and yesterday in much more spring like weather saw my first Pied Flycatcher singing in Maridalen along side 4 migrant Wheatears. On Sunday a family walk in the forest north of Maridalen had this very tame pair of Goldeneye competing with Mallards for bread:

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Yesterday saw me on my bike riding 43km in the forest north of Maridalen. Sporting a new pair of cycling shorts it was a lit less painful than my previous excursions on my bike this spring but I was still fairly sore when I got home (I was also exhausted!). Higher up the lakes were still completely frozen
and I could not complete my intended route as snow and ice covered the forest tracks which had not been used by cars. Birds were pretty scarce with a Buzzard, a pair of Black Throated Divers, 3 Crossbills and a few singing Tree Pipits the highlights. On returning to Maridalen a couple of Swallows were a pleasant sign of spring but otherwise there was very little to see.

This morning saw me up at 0430 in attempt to see Black Grouse at the presumed lek site I have found in the forest in Maridalen (the same one I visited on Thursday). There was mist and a lot of dampness in the air as I walked 2km through the forest. Little to hear on the way up (too dark and too misty to see much) with a very brief outburst from an Owl the only excitement. It was all too brief to identify to species but it could possibly have been a Tengmalms Owl which is at the top of my still to see list. As I approached the lek site I again heard the bubbling display call of a Black Grouse as you can (just about) hear on the following video.

I approached the lek site cautiously thinking I was hearing the birds from a 100 metres range but suddenly a calling male errupted from the ground only 20 metres away followed shortly by a female. Not very satisfactory at all. I could here another bird calling from the lek site but as I approached I realised again it was not at the lek but calling from trees close by. I sat within sight of the lek from around 0530 - 0600 but no birds came in to display and I could only hear very distant calls from other birds. A Green Sandpiper was flying around calling aswell as Crossbills and Tree Pipits. I decided to give up but on my way back I again heard calling Grouse from the area of the lek so returned very cautiously. This time there was I believe only one male displaying from tree tops. I heard it from 3 locations and managed the following photo as proof of its existence.

I'm not quite sure why I did not get to see the birds at what I have always presumed is the lek site but maybe the weather was less than favourable for full display?