Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Rain sets in

The area yesterday in the sun
The weather turned for the worse today and a morning walk had to be cut short as the protestations from the kids could no longer be ignored. Highlight was a male Scaup and 3 Cranes.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


We are holidaying in the Jotunheimen mountains of central norway. Currently we are staying at Haugseter, a small mountain hotel 1050 metres up by the lake of Vinstra. We have been lucky with the weather with temperatures around 17C and a good deal of sun. Birds around the hotel and lake are typical mountain birds. On lake I have had Black Throated Diver, Goosander and Red Breasted Merganser and a flock of 8 Common Scoters. There is an unusually diverse range of gulls and terns for an inland lake at such altitude with 5 Arctic Terns, numerous Common Gulls, 2 Black Headed Gulls and a Herring Gull. 3 Cranes in flight over the lake were probably non breeders although they do breed in the area. Waders are in shorter supply with a few Snipe, Redshank and Golden Plover in the marshes bordering the lake and Common Sandpiper on the margins of the lake itself. Also in the marshes bordering the lake are Tufted Duck and Teal. On looking out of the window this morning the first bird I saw was an adult Golden Eagle over the ridge behind the hotel. The only other raptors we have seen so far have been 2 male Hen Harriers which are a rare breeder in Norway (I would much prefer to see the relatively far commoner Gyr Falcon!). Passerines are represented by Bluethroat, Willow Warbler, Yellow and White Wagtail, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Fieldfare.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


I tempted the girls out to Maridalen this evening with the hope of seeing baby Tawny Owls out of the nest. Unfortunately we could not find them but judging by the noise being made by a couple of Blackbirds they were there but unfortuantely in area we would not get to. We did get to see a couple of broods of Pieds Flys in nestboxes and heard a Cuckoo which was a patch tick for me.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Summer lull

After a week of so so weather the sun has returned and temperatures will rise over 20C this week. A bike ride around Maridalen this morning revealed that summer is here and birds are busy raising families with nothing in the way of migration to note. Warblers were well represented with Willow, Garden, Icterine, Blackap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff heard along with a few Spotted Flycatchers and a Hawfinch. No further sign of the Hobby but if they are breeding then they will become more obvious later in the summer when they have young to feed.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Joy and sadness

The Blue Tits are very active and vocal in the nest box and a quick look today showed 5 large young which will surely fledge in the next couple of days (2 weeks later than in my parents garden in UK). The Great Tits on the other hand suddenly stopped visiting the box and both adults were causing great consternation for the Blue Tits by investigating their nest box. After being sure that the Great Tits were no longer visiting their own nest I took down the box to find 5 unhatched eggs which the female has been brooding for over 6 weeks nos. Presumeably after sitting on the eggs for over a month the female had accepted that they were not going to hatch. I wonder whether the bird feels anything or if there is just a natural response after a certain period of time. After I had taken the box down both Great Tits returned to where it had been and looked very confused. I put it back up (with eggs and nest removed) and will see what they do. In previous years they have failed at the nestling stage and then gone on to try again either in the same box after I have cleaned it out or in the other box if it was empty. I feel that this year it is too late for them to try again but we will see.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Some real birding

A full mornings birding was the order of the day. Started at 5am at Årnestangen. With a brisk northerly breeze it was quite chilly despite the sun. By the car park were 2 singing Marsh Warblers who were interacting quite a lot and a third bird present was presumeably a female. I walked all the way to the end and was not really rewarded for my efforts. A ploughed field held a Little Ringed Plover and Curlew and on the water a flock of 14 Wigeon and 4 Teal (all males) was a sign that autumn is just around the corner. Snipe were still displaying over the wet fields though and 2 pairs of Yellow Wagtails were collecting food. 150 Starling the majority of which were young birds also gave a distinct summer feeling. 2 singing Reed Warblers and a distant singing Sedge Warbler gave me 3 species of acro. Driving away from the site I stopped in at a small Sand Martin colony which had 10 birds buzzing over it and at least 20 holes although it is difficult to know how many are in use.

Next stop was Hellesjøvannet. As I pulled up in the car a male Marsh Harrier was quarting the reeds and I saw three birds in total. 2 were the pair I had seen previously with the female returning to the same area of reeds where I had seen them carrying nesting material. In addition there was another male which may just have been moving through as he soon disappeared but not before being mobbed by a nice Hobby. Also here was a male Pochard which is a good bird and was a year tick for me and an Osprey was circling over the lake.

Heading back to Oslo I stopped at an area called Storfelten (I had meant to go to an area called Midtfjellmåsan but had not paid enough attention to the map and chose to explore the wrong side of the road!). Here I had breeding Wood Sandpipers with the adults very vocal and giving a distraction display, a singing Cuckoo and 2 family parties of Crossbills. If I had chosen the correct side of the road I would have seen a lot more judging by recent reports!!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Falco Subbuteo

Continuing the football theme a family walk in Maridalen this afternoon revealed a Hobby perched very close to the path.
This was a long awaited patch tick and I wouldn't be surprised if they are breeding up here.
There is a great story around this birds name which is also the football connection. The inventor of the english schoolboys favourite(or at least favourite before the invention of computers) football game was searching for a name for the new "hobby" he had created. Being a birder he chose the scientific name of the bird with the name Hobby which is Subbuteo. Makes sense right!

The Silence of Shame

Even the (norwegian) birds seemed shamed by Englands performance against the US last night. After watching the match at a friends house I used the drive home to check out any nocturnal avian activity. Nothing, nix, nadda. Just one Woodcock was the result of an hours effort.
If teh football and birding stay this poor for the rest of June I'll have to find some other interests. Luckily Wimbledon and then Tour de France are not too far away!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Bad weather and other commitments have meant no birding in the last couple of days. In the garden at home the adult Blue and Great Tits are being kept busy feeding their hungry young in the nest boxes - this is the first year that both species have succesfully hatched young. We have a few days of very heavy rain forecast ahead of us. In previous years this has been enough to cause the nests to fail so I hope that doesn't happen again this year.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Birding Mentor

I have agreed to be a "mentor" to a new beginner birder who has just completed a course in birding and today we had our first field trip together at Fornebu. He was armed with a smart DSLR camera and 300mm lens and was quickly snapping away everything we saw plus he had a digital recorder for taking up songs. I am obviously getting a bit long in the tooth only armed with scope, bins and compact digital camera although I do now have a rather natty loud speaker for my ipod. This came in useful when I wanted to get better views of a Reed Warbler. The day was quite succesful with many singing Garden and Reed Warblers, Whitethroats, Wheatears, breeding Kestrels and Sand Martins plus more usual fare.
In Sweden there has recently been Blue Cheeked Beeater and Bridled Tern so who knows maybe I will still manage to find a mega!

Nocturnal wanderings

The weather turned out to be a bit better than expected this evening so I decided to try for some night singers. First stop was 25 minutes drives from Oslo at a lake called Østensjovann (different to the one in Oslo). As soon as I got there at 10pm I could hear Grasshopper Warbler which was a norwegian tick for me aswell as 2 Thrush Nightingales and then a Reed Warbler and finally a Marsh Warbler. Not bad at all. The following video clip allows you to hear the nightingale and Marsh Warbler and you might also make out the Gropper over the sound of traffic.
No Corncrake or Quail to be heard here although with some drizzle and falling temperatures it wasn't ideal conditions. Time to head for Maridalen where the habitat is far worse but it is the local patch so has to be given a go. The Tawny Owls were very vocal with 2 birds calling in the wood and begging young calling from the nesting box giving final confirmation of succesful breeding. In this video you can hear what I assume to be an adult and also a quieter sound which was from the young bird in the nesting box.
Also at this site a couple of Woodcock flying over and at another site in Maridalen a singing Marsh Warbler which you can hear here. No Corncrakes to be heard (3 males last year) but there is still time. Warmer weather tomorrow will increase the chances of them singing. The damp conditions tonight had attracted dozens of toads onto the roads in Maridalen making driving quite hazardous as I swerved to miss them.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Nocturnal excitment

Back home in Oslo and I see that the "nattsangere" or night singers are upon us. By this I mean Corncrakes, Thrush Nightingales, Nightjars, Quail and Grasshopper Warblers plus anything rarer (Blyths Reed and River Warbler are almost annual but have not been seen or heard yet this year). I won't be able to take a trip out until Wednesday night but I am really looking forward to it.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The motherland

Back in good old blightly for the weekend - and boy it is hot. Paid a trip to my old secondary school and was surpised to see a Spotted Flycatcher there. This was a bird I never saw when I was a pupil there and indeed in the whole of Mid Sussex I only ever had a handful of sightings over a period of 10 years or so. Spot Flys are luckily still doing well in Norway however and a walk in woodland around Oslo will always reveal birds especially if you recognise the call. Buzzards are another bird that I hardly ever saw when I was a snotty nosed teenager but now seem to be everywhere with a pair circling over my old primary school.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

3rd time NOT lucky

Another attempt for the Slavonian Grebes with my 5 year old - she wanted to practice riding her bike and I got to choose the location. Yet again no luck. When birds like this go missing it makes you wonder what else is hiding out there.
A male Gadwall was scant compensation.
Summer has now arrived: temperatures are now over 20C and the nights are warm. Soon there should be Corncrakes and Marsh Warblers turning up and with luck also in Maridalen.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dipping again

I went looking for Slavonian Grebes at Østenjovannet in Oslo again today after having failed to see them on Saturday during a family walk. And I failed again. It was therefore a but galling to find out later that they were seen whilst I was there. Apparantly though they were frequently hiding in the reeds (getting ready to breed?).
I did see White-fronted and Pink-footed Goose which appear to be oversummering but failed to see the Bar Headed Goose (did see it on Saturday). Given this bird is quite large and distinctive my powers of observation were obviously not at their peak today. A Brent Goose was seen here yesterday so along with the resident Greylag, Canada and Barnacle that makes 7 species of geese at the same site in summer. Can't be many places that can match that.-


Left the house at 0440 and home at 2310. Eighteen and a half hours and 750km on the road!! The day started well and ended well but the two main targets of the trip eluded me.
Today's trip was planned as a tour of Hedmark county and the targets were Rustic Bunting and Siberian Tit (both lifers) and Ortolan Bunting. Both the Buntings are in serious decline in Norway and Rustic could well be extinct in the next couple of years with Ortolan not lasting much longer.
At 0630 I was watching 2 singing Ortolans not far from Elverum.
I did not spend enough time enjoying these fine birds as I was too keen to search for the Rustic Bunting. The sight for these is along the Kynna river. This year a handful of birds have been recorded but it is a very large area. I spent 4 hours searching along the river in suitable habitat but without joy. I did see Redstart, Cuckoo, Pied Fly, Black Grouse, Whinchat, Icterine Warbler, Mistle Thrush, Yellow Wagtail and this Parrot Crossbill.
Animals were represented by a female Elk with a baby and a Roe Deer plus countless Beavers dams along the river. Birding is hard going in this area and birds are quite few and far between but it is a fascinating habitat.
It was already 1230 and I decided that I would cut my losses with the Rustic Bunting and head north for Siberian Tit. The drive was a bit longer than I expected - 3 hours - through wide river valleys and pine forests with occasional lakes and marshes. Along the way were a couple of Cranes, Black Throated Diver, Wigeon, Tufted Ducks, Greenshank and Redshank.
At the Siberian Tit site (which I have visited twice before without luck) I walked around for a couple of hours and saw Willow Tits in 3 sites, a pair of Great Tits, Pied Fly and Redstart but no sign of Siberian Tit or Siberian Jay which I have seen here before. I had a bird calling away in the firest which I did not recognise. I had stuplidly left my ipod in the car so could not check what it was but on returning to car discovered it was a singing Hawk Owl! I decided not to go back to locate it as time was getting on and I had at least four hours drive home. Lesson learned: do not forget ipod in future!!
So the good end to the day? The return trip took me over Ringebufjellet which rises to over 1000m. There was still ice on the lakes and lots of snow and it appeared that birds were only just arriving back with Golden Plovers still in flocks on the lower slopes. On the open water were 4 Velvet Scoters, Wigeon & Tufted Ducks and the highlight: 6 Red-necked Phalaropes:

They gave fantastic views feeding around the edge of a small lake. Also in the area Whimbrel, Redhank, Bluethroat and Lapland Bunting.
Despite missing out on the 2 lifers the day was a fantastic birding trip.