Monday, 30 May 2011

Update from Finnmark

I am writing this whilst waiting out a rain shower in Pasvik. Pasvik is a locality I have dreamt about visiting since a child along with localities like Vadsø and Vardø on the Varangerfjord. Well my dream has come true and the birds have not disappointed. I'll write a full report with photos once back in Oslo later in the week but here are the highlights so far:
Lesser White-fronted Geese, Gyr Falcon, King and Steller's Eiders, Pine Grosbeak,Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Great Grey and Hawk Owls,4 Species of Skua and 5 species of Auk.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

2 year ticks

A phone call last night whilst watching my daughter play in a football match (they lost 9-1) allowed me to take a detour on the way home and hear a Corncrake singing at Østensjøvannet. It was only around 25m away from me but as is usual I failed to see it but will be worth another (and longer) visit.
This morning my trip around Maridalen revealed pretty much the same species as the last couple of days with the Heron and LRP still present. New though was a Common Rosefinch which I only heard singing briefly but there is no mistaking the "Nice to meet you" song.
Off to Finnmark tomorrow. It seems there is still lots of snow about and many summer visitors have still to arrive which hopefully will mean that we will be inundated by arriving migrants searching for the few areas of clear ground and water. The Lesser White-fronted Geese were still present at their staging site yesterday and the (very) small number of observers up there recently have notched up a few rarities including White Winged Lark so the omens bode well!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

2 days until Finmark

The weekend was spent in England near Oxford for a most enjoyable 40th birthday party where Red Kites over the garden were the birding highlight.
Back in Oslo it is pretty poor weather with very strong SW winds blowing and cool temperatures. I should really be putting in the hours seawatching at Brentetangen but don't the compulsion - I am saving myself for the long awaited Finmark trip on 2 days.
A trip to Maridalen yesterday revealed 3 Little Ringed Plovers, an Osprey and a singing Icterine Warbler. Over the weekend that had been a mini influx of waders with Temminck's Stint again seen plus 4 Velvet Scoter and Red-throated Diver but of course they had all moved on. A trip to Maridalen today revealed that the 3 Little Ringed Plovers had now turned into 2 Ringed Plovers and 1 Little Ringed - my identification was sure on both days honest guv! There obviously had been a bit of an arrival today though as there were also 3 Common Scoter and 4 each of Green and Wood Sandpiper.
With it being so windy I paid a visit to the fjord by Fornebu. The waves were high but there were no obvious storm blown birds although a single Guillemot was unusual. Just as I was about to leave though a Fulmat literally flew over the car. It then hung around a bit and was frequently mobbed by anything that came close. A Cuckoo flying over here was new for the year.
Female Eider


Adult male and first summer male Red-breasted Merganser

Mystery bird(s) at Maridalen (do you know what they are?)

Otherwise the Great Tits appear to be feeding young in the nest box although so far no sign that the Blue Tits are doing likewise.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Strong SW winds were forecast so it had to be another early start and seawatching from Brentetangen. I sat there from 0530 until 1000 in what one would imagine to be good conditions (the one other observer also believed we would be in for a good session) but as seems to be the case things were very slow. We did have single Arctic and Pomarine Skuas but but both were at long range and hardly breathtaking views. Supporting cast was made up of a flock of 7 Kittiwakes going north, a Fulmar and 11 Gannets. Red-throated Diver numbers were 23 north and 15 south which presumably were the same birds. A few Common Scoters were flying around and 65 Velvet Scoters went north. The odd auk sp. also shot throught but the range was too great to make a certain ID to species.
I decided to give Kurefjorden a half hearted try and didn't have to leave the car to get 2 Dotterels in a ploughed field. I even managed this video (you can hear how windy it was today)

A swallow species that flew past me was very strange, it seemed large, had a dark rump, white throat and underparts and appeared to have a bluish hue to the black upperparts. It went by very quickly and I have no idea what it was - perhaps a hybrid between House Martin and Swallow or just some sort of abberant Swallow?

Stopping at Maridalsvannet on the way home revealed the first Redshank of the year but apart from a couple of Common Sandpipers and Yellow Wagtails nothing else of interest.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

More summer visitors returning

Yesterday i heard my first Pied Flycatcher close to the house and today had my first Swift screaming over the house which means that the full suite of summer migrants has now returned to the neighbourhood.
At Maridalen today a Little Ringed Plover and Ringed Plover on the mud with the LRP engaging in some display. The Ringed Plover was my first record here and brings my count of wader species to 18 with Dunlin still missing from the list. 5 Wood Sandpipers still present alongside Common and Green Sandpiper. My first Garden Warblers for Maridalen this year were also singing and a Wood Warbelr was singing from a new site and the male Goshawk caused pandimonium as he flew through.
There are only a few summer visitors that have yet to return to Maridalen: Icterine Warbler and Common Rosefinch which should be here in the coming week, Marsh Warbler and Red Backed Shrike in the beginning of June which is also when Corncrake will turn up if we are lucky enough to have them this year.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Black Redstart

Little trip up to Maridalen revealed nothing new on the water but a singing Spotted Flycatcher was new for the year and 20 Yellow Wagtails is the highest count I have ever had. Back at home a Lesser Whitethroat singing in the garden was the first of the year here and a Blackcap has also been singing in the area for a few days.
Whilst running an errand in the city centre I heard although did not see a singing Black Redstart.
Tomorrow is 17 May, Norway's national day so there will be little birding to be had with instead parades, dressing up and flag waving!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Great Snipe

Bjørn Olav Tveit and I took an early morning trip to Borrevannet today. Over night rain anddeasterly winds had us expecting some good birding. Oh well, it is OK to dream.
We stopped first us on the coast at Møringa. A few waders were to be seen including 2 summer plumaged (red) Knot, a winter plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Ringed Plover and Redshank. Off shore there was no indication of any migration. Overhead I had my first Swifts of the year.
On to Borrevannet where we realised it was perhaps a bit too cold and overcast to be a really good day. As we walked down to the lake we noted a couple of Yellow Wagtails flying over, a couple of Rooks, Wheatear and Whinchat. As we walked close to the area where we had possibly heard Great Snipe on Thursday evening a snipe flew up in front of us and sure enough it was a Great Snipe was the following photo just about illustrates (note you can see the extensive white in the tail).We tried to see it on the ground but only suceeded in seeing it in flight twice more. As we tried to locate it on the ground one more time we suddenly heard it singing/displaying. It makes a remarkable bubbling/clicking noise which is only audible at fairly close range. Unfortunately we were unable to see the bird giving its display. I have still to have a satisfactory view of a Great Snipe on the deck but was pretty happy to finally hear the display.
A number of Swallows, House Martins and Swifts hunting insects over the lake alongside a couple of Common Terns. A Thrush Nightingale singing very loudly from the same place as on Thursday and a Sedge Warbler singing alongside more numerous Reed Warblers.
We tried for an hour to find some migrating raptors but managed just a single Buzzard which was probably a local bird and a Sparrowhawk that was definitely migrating.
On the way home stopped at Sandebukta which is a tidal bay that I have never previously visited. A number of gulls here but the only real interest was an Osprey and 16 Common Sandpipers.

Back home for lunch and an afternoon of heavy rain and hail. At 8pm the rain had stopped and I squeezed in a visit to Maridalsvannet with a hope of large numbers of waders and terns forced down by the rain. Wrong again. Just the usual birds from the last week: 4 Wood Sandpipers, 3 Green Sandpipers, 7 Common Sandpipers, Lapwing,Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, a roding Woodcock, the immature Whooper Swan, 4 Black-throated Divers with one singing and new in a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers and 20 Sand Martins. A Mistle Thrush was also the first I have seen for a while and perhaps a sign they are breeding here.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Getting better...

I allowed myself to sleep until 5am and woke feeling suprisingly churpy. Off to what is becoming my new "local" patch of Brentetangen. Arrived at 0625 and the first bird I saw was a Fulmar which fooled me into thinking this would be a day of intense passage. The winds were again from the SW and stronger than yesterday so it should have been good. A local soon joined me and he too expected good things. I stayed until 10am and had some good birds but they were few and far between and there was nothing else moving to keep the interest up. It does appear though that this is how it is here. Undoubted highlight was an light phase Pomarine Skua which went through at some hight at 0918 and had me thinking back to seawatching off Seaford in Sussex in the early 90's. Also single Puffin, Black Guillemot and 2 Gannets were quality birds.
A check of the national bird sightings on my phone showed there was a singing Serin back in Oslo. This was at the same location that a pair bred at last summer although for some reason I never made the 15 minute journey to see them last year. This time I felt it would be worth the "effort" and set off back to Oslo. The location was a large graveyard and after walking around for 10 minutes I heard the bird and soon saw it. A fine, very yellow male Serin singing his heart out. I was able to get very good views and good photos and video and then show Per Christian the bird who had also arrived. After getting our fill we then headed for the car park only to hear a Serin singing 200 metres from the bird we had just left. Given that this is a national rarity and that birds do fly it would be natural to expect this to be the same bird but no it was a new bird. This one was a lot less yellow and had distinct barring on the breast. So 2 males present. Could they be the male from last year and one of the young?
Here are picture of the 2 different birds plus a video of the more colourful bird
Serin 1 - the colourful male
Serin 2 - the less colourful (young?) male

Singing Serin


Yesterday was a long and good day. It started with me oversleeping and missing my 4am alarm call. I awoke at 6am which was probably just aswell as I needed some sleep otherwise I would become a menace on the road.
I arrived at Brentetangen at 0730 to be met with the message you should have been here 20 minutes ago. A pair of sandwich Terns had gone past and would have been a Norwegian tick for me. Frustration. The ensuing seawatch until 1000 in supposedly perfect SW winds was very disappointing with hardly a bird moving. The only birds worth of note were 3 Kittiwakes and a Long Tailed Duck. Saner people would have given up after half an hour but you need to persevere in this game.
I decided to view Kurefjorden from the bird tower/hide this time (and for the first time) and found that although the views were perhaps a bit more distant that the extra height was a distinct advantage. Still not much to see. A flock of 5 Temmincks Stints flew by and a handful of Whimbrel and a single Knot were the only waders of note with the 4 Gadwall and 5 Wigeon from yesterday still present. Highlight though and a sign that Lady Luck was shining on me came in the form of a HOOPOE which I picked up in the scope flying along the waters edge. Why it was I don't know but there is no mistaking a Hoopoe. It was obviously an unusual guest in these parts as it was mobbed by both Lapwing and Carrion Crow and also flushed the Knot. Hoopoe was a Norwegian tick for me and definitely left me with a hop to my stride.
Feeling content I headed back to Oslo and stopped off at Maridalen. The warning light telling me I was low on petrol had come on 40km before so I only dared make one stop which was in the bay at Kirkeby. And a good stop it turned out to be. The ever expanding mudflats hosted 2 Temminck's Stints. This was a patch tick and they allowed very close views. Also present a Little Ringed Plover, 2 Greenshank, 3 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper and 3 Lapwings. It doesn't get much closer to wader heaven than this around Oslo! 5 fine Yellow Wagtails and a Whinchat were also present.
Temminck's Stint
Wood Sandpiper

The day wasn't finished though. In the evening Per Christian Moan and I made a trip to Borrevannet. The purpose was to hear the Spotted Crakes and Quail that had been reported recently plus hopefully discover some other nocturnal birds. It wasn't our day though and 2 singing Thrush Nightingales were the only birds of note, including this close bird (don't worry the video is supposed to be black as it was 11pm)

What a fantastic singer! Otherwise a handful of Reed Warblers singing and an owl glimpsed in the dusk that was most likely a Long Eared Owl. We also thought we heard a displaying Great Snipe but it was too distant and brief to be sure. Home after midnight and time for a quick shut eye before a new day.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Up at 4am again for a seawatch at Brentetangen. Yesterday a migrating Great Northern Diver and 5 Arctic Skuas had been recorded there so I thought it worth a try. When I arrived at 0530 there was no wind and a flat sea which is not normally too conducive to passage and indeed it wasn't. I held out for 2 hours with a handful of Common and Velvet Scoters, one each of Black-throated and Red-throated Diver to show for my efforts. The Red-throated Diver actually turned round and headed back south - so impressed it was with the conditions.
Onto Kurefjorden where things were not much better. Hardly any waders to see although a Spotted Redshank was new for the year as were 4 Gadwall and a singing Garden Warbler. Lesser and Common Whitethroat are now back in good numbers and Reed Warblers are also now singing from the reeds. A five minute period of sky watching proved very productive with a female Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Hobby going over.
Back in Oslo I popped in at Maridalen again to see even lower water levels but the same waders as yesterday. New in were 5 Yellow (Grey-headed) Wagtails.

Water levels

Yesterday I took a morning bike trip around Maridalen. The water level had fallen noticeably since Monday but despite there being more mud exposed there were fewer waders than yesterday although there were 5 Wood Sandpipers and a flock of 7 Teal were clearly migrants in addition to the single male that has been around for a while. On the way back along Akerselva a Wood Warbler was singing from the usual spot above Nydalen and a Common Sandpiper was also on the river - it will be interesting to see if they stay to breed after teh chlorine polution earlier this spring which has killed off nearly all insect life in the river.

It was around this date last year that Svellet in Nordre Øyeren held many hundreds of Greenshank and Wood Sandpipers. I thought it will be worth a visit although I feared that the water levels would still be high. And indeed they were so high that there was no mud exposed. It is a scandal that the water levels are not lowered each spring as this site is so important for migrating waterfowl. The only bird of note was a summer plumaged Slavonian Grebe that was holding to the grassy edges - thinking of breeding?

Monday, 9 May 2011


I was not able to get out to Maridalen yesterday so I was very frustrated this morning to see a report of a Garganey from there yesterday. I had planned to cycle around Maridalen this morning so I cycled with a little more purpose as I set off. On the way up I saw a Long-tailed Tit and heard my first Wood Warbler of the year as well as also hearing singing Pied Flycatcher.
From the dam at Maridalsvannet I saw a distant pair of Black-throated Divers and was also excited so see that the water level has fallen considerably. At the bay by the church ruins there was no sign of the Garganey from yesterday but on the mud there was 4 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers a few Common Sandpipers and the immature Whooper Swan. I could also hear a Wryneck singing in the distance which was nice to get on the local patch this year. I checked out another bay and here there were 3 Greenshank plus the 3 sandpiper species. Also a male Teal and overhead 3 migrating Cranes and a Sparrowhawk and a pair of Great Crested Grebes which are a very unusual species here and only my second record.

After lunch I paid a quick trip to Bogstadvannet. Over the weekend a number of waders were reported from here including Temmincks Stint. When I arrived I could see there was a lot of exposed mud but the lake was also covered in school kids in kayaks and I notched up only a single Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, 5 Common Sandpipers and a singing Snipe.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Honey Buzzard

Woke up to a Willow Warbler singing in the garden this morning which is a nice sign of spring. No serious birding on the cards for today but a family trip to Fornebu in lovely sunny conditions which looked good for raptor migration was rewarded with my first (and an early) Honey Buzzard for the year heading north in the middle of the afternoon.

Friday, 6 May 2011

A Birdwatcher's Guide to Norway

For the past few months I have been helping with the above book which is the English language version of Norways first "where to watch" guide. The author, Bjørn Olav Tveit, has produced a truly outstanding and comprehensive guide to where to find all of Norways birds and it was a pleasure to play a little part in the production of this edition.
If you would like to buy the book then follow this link.

Destination Østfold

I'm fully fledged now and leaving my home territory with increasing frequency. Today was another 4am alarm call and an hours drive to Østfold. I was in situ at seawatching location Brentetangen at 0520 and ready for a bird bonanza. The lack of other birders was probably a sign that the weather conditions were not ideal but never mind - I am putting in the effort so eventually I will be rewarded.
I persisted for 3 hours and although there was no big rarity or large numbers there was enough variation to keep me interested. Totals (all heading north) were Red-throated Diver 20, Black-throated Diver 5, Whimbrel 61, Oystercather 70 Long-tailed Duck 4, Scaup 14, Tufted Duck 18, Velvet Scoter 13, Common Scoter 2, Goldeneye 7, Kittiwake 1, Arctic Tern 2, Common Tern 16, Osprey 1 and Shelduck 7. There was also a near constant passage of Tree Pipits overhead. Strangest sighting of the day was a pair of Bar-headed Geese that first flew south and then 10 minutes later came back north in the company of 13 Cormorants. I intend to have a few more trips here and hopefully I will be there in optimal conditions which are apparantly south westerly winds in the north sea which push birds up into the Oslo fjord.

Next stop was Kurefjorden where there were more waders to see than my last visit although still no large numbers: Whimbrel 5, Curlew 2, Golden Plover 9, Lapwing 14, Redshank 4, Greenshank 4, Ringed Plover 5 and a single male Ruff which was in full summer pumage. A female Marsh Harrier buzzed the tower putting all the waders up and I heard a Wryneck singing and a (Lesser) Redpoll flew over singing. There were 3 broods of Greylag Geese already on the water which seems amazingly early given that the Lesser White-fronted Geese have not even arrived in Norway. I checked out the many fields in the area for Dotterel but to no avail.

Last stop was Øra on the outskirts of Fredrikstad. This was my first visit here and I was surprised to find it is located on the edge of the local rubbish tip. This probably explains why it has had a good run of gulls in the past but was quite challenging on the nose. The area is surrounded by shallow tidal waters and large reedbeds. From the reeds I heard at least 2 Bearded Tits calling and over them were 2 Marsh Harriers. There were a few waders: 13 Whimbrel, 7 Greenshank, 1 Wood Sandpiper and a Dunlin.
So I put in lots of effort but was perhaps lacking in luck as when I got home I founds out that a Subalpine Warbler had been found only 20km from where I had been.
Eiders at Brentetangen

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Wood Larks

Yesterday I visited the area immediately to the north of Gardermoen Airport. This was my first visit to an area that is a traditional site for Wood Larks. As soon I arrived I had a good feeling as the area was very like the heathlands in Southern England with heather, pine trees and birch scrub on a sandy soil and as soon as I opened the car door I heard a singing Wood Lark and over the course of the next 5 minutes located 3 singing birds and an additional bird that was presmuably a female. A great start to the day. A male Redstart was also in the car park although soon disappeared and a Wryneck was singing amongst the birch scrub. I soon located the bird and had good views as it sang. Tree Pipits and Willow Warblers were common and the area looks perfect for Nightjars and probably Honey Buzzard - I will visit again in early June.
On the way home a quick stop at Årnestangen showed the water levels to be way too high and it is difficult to imagine them falling quickly enough during May for there to be any hope of a good wader passage here.

Today I had a quick trip to Fornebu where there was yet again little so see and indeed no new migrants from Sunday except for an increase in the number of Common Terns to around 20. A quick trip to Maridalen was equally unproductive although a Snipe feeding out in the open in the water may have be a migrant as could have been a Buzzard that flew over. The undoubted highlight was at least 2 Waxwings that I heard flying over on migration (this is a late date). The 2 Whoopers Swans are still present, a male Teal was giving an alarm call so maybe they are breeding, a single Black-throated Diver was back again and 4 Tufted Ducks were migrants.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Road Trip Vestfold

I had high hopes for today with rain forecast - I hoped this would bring down some migrants rather than allowing them to fly over as they have been doing for the last few weeks.
Up at 4am and in the car heading for Vestfold to the south west of Oslo. First stop at 0530 was Borrevannet where at least 2 Spotted Crakes have been singing for the past week or so. Maybe they have gone, maybe it was too late in the day (they usually sing at night) or most likely it was too cold (with a northerly wind blowing it was only about 4C first thing). Anyway no sign of them and little else. Highlights were 2 singing Redstarts, a singing Pied Flycatcher and a male Marsh Harrier. A couple of Rooks seen in the nearby town of Horten were new for the year and come from the colony in the town which I believe is the only colony in southern Norway.
Next stop was 0730 was Møringa where I hoped to witness a strong passage up the Oslo fjord. Not a single bird seen migrating! A Whimbrel going south was a year tick.
It was clear that there was not much happening today but I still had the rest of the day ahead of me (it wasn't 8am yet) so decided to visit other sites which I have never graced with my presence before.
I continued south towards Larvik and first went to the shallow bay of Klåstadkilen which is supposedly attractive for waders and had hosted a Black-tailed Godwit yesterday (would have been a norwegian tick for me). Well, the godwit had gone but I did have a few Greenshank, 4 Little Ringed Plovers, a Stock Dove, 2 Osprey and a pair of Shovelers.
Mølen was next port of call. This is a renowned migration hot spot but of course only in the right weather conditions. Today was not one of those days although I could easily see why the site is so good - it reminded me a bit of Dungeness. A few Lesser Whitethroats and a single Common Whitethroat were singing from the bushes and on the sea around 80 Velvet Scoter and a couple of Common Scoters.
Time to start driving back towards Oslo but I had time to stop at Gjennestadsvannet where I had seen a pair of Cranes from the motorway on the way south. They had moved on now and there was little else to see. Checking the net in the evening I found out there was a trip of 3 Dotterel only a couple of km from the lake which would have been a nice find.
Final stop of the day was Ilene by Tønsberg. A male Ruff was the highlight here and a year tick to add.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

A bit of this and a bit of that

Managed three birding trips of various lengths today. The day started at 0630 at Fornebu with Per Christian where I had 4 hours of birding. Mid afternoon a sleeping daughter in the back seat of the car "necessitated" a drive around Maridalen and after the kids were in bed I managed a trip to Østensjøvannet and Maridalen (there is enough light for birding until 2130 now).

Fornebu was not particularly productive but we put in enough effort to be rewarded with some early migrants such as Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Whitethroat. Visible migration was scant but we did have a flock of 10 Greenshank, 6 Wigeon, 8 Tufted Duck and 9 Cormorants which all were actively migrating. Otherwise displaying Little Ringed Plover, drumming Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Redshank and a male Kestrel hanging around the nest box. On the fjord from Rolfstangen were over 70 Red Breasted Mergansers and a Common Tern and a female Redstart flitted amongst the bushes.

The first trip around Maridalen revealed 2 Whooper Swans - an adult and juvenile. If these are two of three that have been present for the last week or so then what has happened to the other adult - could she(?) be sitting on a nest? 25 Goldeneye included a flock of 10 in the middle of the lake that looked newly arrived and also a flock of 9 Tufted Duck that were new in and 3 Teal. Highlight was a Ring Ouzel though on the ploughed fields at Nes.

My evening trip to Østensjøvannet was to see the reported White-fronted Goose and Pochard. I found the Pochard which was a nice male but could not locate the goose although a hybrid goose (uncertain parentage) and one of the 2 Pink-footed Geese present showed white on the face that could lead to confusion! Moorhen was new for the year. The second trip to Maridalen was as the sun set and now the Tufted flock had risen to 15, there were 2 more Teal and a Whinchat flew alongside the car. 3 beavers were visible near their house (I can't come up with the proper name as I write this) including one that was clearly a youngster, a Tawny Owl called very clearly from an area where I have not heard them before but where there is a suitable nesting box and a Woodcock patrolled the area.

There is some rain forecast on Tuesday this week which I hope will cause some more waders to appear.