Thursday, 30 June 2011

Another crake...

Mrs Oslo Birder joined me for bike ride from Maridalen via Kikut to Sørkedalen in lovely sunshine and temperatures in the mid 20's. Much less bird song now and the only bird of interest in the forest was a Common Sandpiper giving its alarm call right by the track as a warning to its young which must have been hiding nearby.
In Sørkedalen we stopped at a field where a Corncrake has been calling and after a 10 minute wait it called loudly from the field edge at 1330. Also here a singing Common Rosefinch that was "pleased to see" us and a couple of nearly fledged Lapwings with their parents. A little further on an elk, by the look of things a young female, stood quite fearlessly at the edge of a field only 15metres from the road.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Last night I made a trip up to Maridalen at midnight and managed to hear River Warbler, Marsh Warbler and Corncrake at the same spot. Also a Black Throated Diver calling from the lake added to the atmosphere. The Corncrake has only been present a couple of days and an article I have just read suggests there is a lot of movement among Norwegian birds with this bird very likely having come from western norway where its chosen field has probably recently been harvested. The article also painted a gloomy picture with nearly no proven breeding records over the last few years.

Today I paid a visit to Årnestangen in Nordre Øyeren. Water levels are still very high, so high in fact that there was flooding in the fields. A few waders were present with 3 Ruff, 2 Wood Sandpipers, 4 Curlew and 4 Oystercather alongside more numerous Lapwings. Ducks were in very short supply with a handful of Wigeon and Tufted Duck. Passerines were also not too numerous with a Reed Warbler singing from an area of bushes perhaps because the nearby area of reeds which normally holds a pair was flooded, only a single Yellow Wagtail and 3 Marsh Tits heard. A group of 3 Ospreys that flew around included one bird that was persistently calling and I took the group to be a pair of adults and a newly fledged youngster which has to be very early.
Highlight was a Spotted Crake which I heard calling from a flooded area with sedge grass. I painstakingly walked closer to it and at one stage was convinced it was calling only metres from me before I realised it was actually about 15m away on the other side of a ditch. Spotted Crakes and Corncrakes are both able to project their calls in a way that makes it very difficult to pinpoint where they are and the volume varies depending on which way they are looking.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


I saw my first Nutcrackers of the autumn today flying over the garden. They are always one of the very first signs of autumn as they descend on Oslo's gardens in search of hazelnuts. They are a bit early this year but I don't yet know if that is a sign of a good or bad breeding season.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Quiet times

We are now approaching the quietest time of the year (other than midwinter). Most birds are busy feeding young and migration has pretty much ceased. Wader migration will however start soon so we need to hope for some sustained sunny weather as water levels are currently very high (there have been record floods in mid norway recently).

A ride this morning revealed the River Warbler was still singing and I also noted Black Woodpecker and Mistle Thrrush. I have seen far more Mistle Thrushes this summer than ever before and wonder if they are increasing or it is just I am visiting new areas. Also Wrens heard in 2 places is hopefully a sign that they are recovering. Apparantly the last 2 cold winters have not just been hard on songsters but has also had an effect the next step up the food chain - Sparrowhawks are almost entirely absent from the Oslo area this summer. This will presumably allow the songsters to recover while also allowing Sparrowhawks to build up again in a few years.

Monday, 20 June 2011

3rd River Warbler of the year

I resisted making a trip up into Maridalen last night as I couldn't bring myself to "twitch" a bird on my own patch. However, a bike ride today naturally took me though Maridalen. On the way out just after 9am there was no sound of the River Warbler but on the way back at around noon it was singing strongly as was a Marsh Warbler - who says you need to go out at night?
Not too much else to see on the trip except for Black Throated Divers on a couple of lakes. Water levels are now quite high and hopefully will stay this way such that they are able to breed succesfully although I would imagine that any nests would have been washed out over the last couple of weeks. I hope they will make second attempts.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The hazzards of travelling

It was bound to happen. A family weekend away at a cabin by the Oslo fjord and a rarity is found in Maridalen. On Friday evening Bjørn Olav sent me a text to say he had found a singing River Warbler in Maridalen. Worst of all was that he was just there to kill time and secondly that it was in area where i had stopped twice in the early hours of Thursday morning. I've heard 2 River Warblers this spring so it is not that i need the bird but it really is not the done thing for someone else to find a national rarity on MY patch.

At the cabin Spotted Flycatchers were breeding and nearby a pair of Red-backed Shrikes showed well. A night trip on Saturday night was supposed to result in me finding my own rarity or at least a Nightjar. Instead i worked very hard for little reward. 4 Quails singing within 1km of each other at Pytt in Vestby was the absolute highlight. In the same area some Lapwings calling in alarm drew my attention to a fox they were mobbing. The fox was jumping around in high crops in an attempt to find their young. Otherwise a couple of Woodcock including one giving a particularly rich "song" which i have never heard before. Returning to the cabin a young Tawny Owl was calling.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Honey Buzzard in Nordmarka

Time for another bike ride. 55km through Nordmarka. Due to a ageing body that complained in many areas I took things a bit easy and was able to enjoy some of the bird life. The 4 commonest species were Chaffinch, Siskin, Tree Pipit and Willow Warbler all of which could be seen or heard throughout the ride. Spotted Flycatchers were also numerous especially in the open areas of forest. Other interesting species noted were Pied Flycatcher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Sandpiper, Garden Warbler and Blackcap, Wren (still very scarce this year) and Mistle Thrush.
Highlight though came when I stopped at a lake to see if there was anything to see (there wasn't) when I heard a bird calling. It sounded a bit gull like and on looking up I saw a large bird of prey approaching at a couple of hundred metres height. I initially assumed Osprey but then realised that it was in fact a Honey Buzzard. It then preceeded to thermal above me and became smaller and smaller before finally disappearing as a small dot by which time it was presumably over a kilometre up in the sky.
Pleased with my second HB of the year I continued to Maridalen where a singing Icterine Warbler had me confused for a while as it sounded very Marsh Warbler like and a singing Common Rosefinch again remained invisible (I have heard them 3 or 4 times this year in Maridalen without catching sight of the bird).

Locustella magic

Decided against an early night and headed out at 11pm. Target was to hear River and Grasshopper Warbler that have been singing with 50m of each other. The River Warbler was first discovered 9 days ago then on Sunday a Grasshopper Warbler was found at the same site presumably attracted by its singing cousin. There was nothing special about the site as far as my human eyes could make out but obviously Locustella like it.

When I arrived there was already a couple there enjoying the bird and a lunar eclipse that I had been oblivious to (although I had registered that the moon was getting larger during my drive!). The Grasshopper Warbler was immediately audible and sang almost constantly for the next 30 minutes but the River Warbler sang only 3 times and for only about 10 seconds each time. Would have been easy to miss. Perhaps the River Warbler now has a mate and is nesting so has less need to sing?

Driving away from this site which was at the southern end of Nittedal I heard a Quail singing but a Thrush Nightingale that I found 2 weeks ago seems to have moved on.

I finished the night in Maridalen hoping that something exotic would have arrived but all I could find were 3 Marsh Warblers again. One was still near Brekke and there were now 2 singing within 250m of each other in Nesbukta.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Spotted Crake

Spotted Crake

After dropping the kids off I was straight off to Østensjøvannet to try for the Spotted Crake. I knew that it had been singing at night in a very small marsh and had been heard at very close range so I was hopeful that it would show in daylight.
When I got there I walked onto the boardwalk over the marsh and a small bird flew up from under the boardwalk and into the sedge grass - surely the crake. A family of Magpies was in willows growing in the marsh and were probably threatening for the crake but soon after they had moved on I saw some movement in the sedge and with a bit of encouragement it began to sing and show very well at just a few metres range.
It proved however very hard to photograph as it rarely sat still in the open long enough and the autofocus really struggled with all the leaf stems. However I did manage a couple of decent photos and also some video. In the video you can see and hear it singing during which it bobs its body up and down. It was really a privilege to see such a skulking bird engaging in its display which surely few people have been lucky enough to see. The marsh is right by a road and a path and in the video you can see the marsh and boardwalk and hear the cars going by - quite incredible that such a bird has chosen to hang around in such a place!

A young House Sparrow gave me some company and I snapped off these 2 pictures:

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

What i didn't see

I've been in London for a couple of days and have returned to find out that a Spotted Crake has been singing in Oslo down to 1 metres range!! I can't get out tonight but hopefully it will hang around until tomorrow at least.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Some success

Despite the heavy rain I permitted myself a quick visit to Maridalen in the hope that the rain may have bought down some waders or terns. In the last couple of days record numbers of Spotted Redshank have been seen on migration although it was not stated as to whether they were flying north or south and I hoped there might be one at Maridalen. In fact there was a flock of 10! All in fine summer plumage they were resting on a rock island before 10 minutes later flying around for a bit calling before gaining height and heading off to the south. I had expected them to be going north as we had seen so few in Finnmark that I assumed the spring migration to have not been over. However it would seem that these are failed breeders or males that have done their business and are now heading south again.
Also the Whooper Swan pair were now on Maridalsvannet with their 4 small young, a Lapwing pair had one very small young in tow and a female Goldenye had 7 small babies. An Osprey was hunting over the lake for a long time in heavy rain without succesfully catching a fish which also suggests local breeding.
Small numbers of local breeding House Martins, Swallows and Swifts were trying to find insects low over the water and a Spotted Flycatcher had the same idea.

Some breeding success in the garden after all?

Just noticed a baby Great Tit in the garden. Maybe they did fledge some, or at least one, young and the 6 eggs in the nest were just infertile eggs?

It is raining buckets and dogs (I know that is not quite right!) today, as it did yesterday so there will be little chance of any birding.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Another nocturnal excursion

The missus was having friends around on Wednesday evening so that seemed to be a good excuse for another nocturnal excursion. I teamed up with Bjørn Olva Tveit and we were out from 7pm until 4am driving. I am always amazed that the police are not called after us as we drive slowly along farm tracks frequently stopping the car. This time we were politely questioned by one local as to what we were doing but the only other people we bumped into were another couple of birders who coincidentally were following pretty much the same route as us.

The evening started at Hellesjøvannet south in Akershus county where a Bittern had been heard at the weekend. Despite 3 hours of wait we did not hear it. Highlights here were 2 Pochard, 2 male Marsh Harriers, a couple of unusual inland Oystercatchers and 2 Corncrakes singing close to each other in fields north of the lake.

We moved on just after 11pm and next stop was a River Warbler which had also been found at the weekend. This sang very well in some trees along a small river. It really has a most amazing song, often described as sounding like a sewing machine.

From close by here we also heard a NIGHTJAR which was a Norwegian tick for me although this was at least a km away. We drove closer later and did hear it again but were still not that close to it. Also nearby we heard a family of Long-eared Owls with the young making their distinctive begging calls. This is the first time I have heard them doing this and also my first record in the Oslo area yet during the course of the evening we located another 2 families and saw an adult hunting.

After this we took the scenic route back to Oslo with frequent stops in likely looking habitats. Near Løken we had a singing Cornrake and Quail by the road as well as 2 Badgers and another family of Long-eared Owls and a hunting adult.

Near Haneborg we had 2 singing Quails, a Corncrake and yet another family of Long-eared Owls.

At Tuentangen the time was already 0315 and the dawn chorus had begun in earnest but we picked out 2 Thrush Nightingales, 3 Marsh Warblers and an Icterine Warbler. This was again a marked increase to my visit at the weekend showing that the summer visitors are still arriving.

Last visit was to hear the Blyth's Reed Warbler at Stilla again. He was singing continuously and seems to have more mimicry than before including a good White Wagtail impression which maybe he has picked up since being here.

Home around 4a.m with another sucessful night behind me.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Summer visitors still arriving

An hour around Maridalen yesterday from 22.45 to 23.45 revealed 3 singing Marsh Warblers and a Tawny Owl. I cannot believe that I missed all of these birds on Saturday night so they are presumably still arriving. They will only be here a couple of months before returning south again.
A trip up during the day had revealed 3 adult Whooper Swans which I guess were migrants. A pair has bred succesfully on a smaller lake in Maridalen for the second year running but they have not yet moved to the much larger Maridalsvannet. Also the Little Ringed Plover is still present although I suspect that he is without a mate.

A 67km bike ride today left me exhausted and resulted in few birds. As I zoomed through Maridalen I heard one of the Marsh Warblers singing and in Sørkedalen (a valley to the north west of Oslo) I heard 3 singing Common Rosefinches and saw one which was a fine Red male. Large numbers of Siskins in the forests feeding on dandelion seeds and also fair numbers of Spotted Flycatchers heard singing.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Red Backed Shrike

Rain is forecast for the next couple of days so I thought I woudl get out this morning whilst the sun was still shining. A visit to Stilla at 0945 gave me the Blyth's Reed Warbler singing his heart out in daylight and actually showing quite well occasionally although every time I raised the camera he dissapeared into the middle of the tree he was singing from. Apart from the song I must say there is not much to tell it apart from Reed or Marsh Warbler on the views I got - good luck to those who identify non singing migrants!
Happy to have actually seen the bird I headed for Snekkervika, Nordre Øyeren. Here my target bird gave itself up after 10 minutes, a female Red Backed Shrike although it was another half an hour before I located the male. Always great birds to see, they appear to be getting rarer although a pair was reported from Maridalen a few days ago. A pair of Hobbys put on a good show flying over a small wood which is presumably where they are nesting. A Marsh Warbler was singing in the distance, 6 Cranes flew over, at least 4 Ospreys were in the area and Whinchats and Whitethroats were singing. A couple of Cuckoos included a singing male and a presumed female that was paying a specific bush a lot of attention and was repeatedly chased away by a Whinchat - no prize for guessing what was going on there.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Blyth's Reed Warbler

At 11pm last night I had a choice between going to bed or going birding. Birding won. Inspired by a the sightings (or more precisely hearings) of a group who were out last night and found Blyth's Reed Warbler, Bittern, River Warbler, Spotted Crake, Corncrake and Quail) I thought I would find my own "night singers".
First stop was Maridalen where I drew a complete blank although did have 4 Woodcock. Next stop was Nittedal which is the next valley to the east and here again I drew a blank. It was now approaching 1am and I felt I had to salvage the night so headed for the Blyth's Reed site. On the way I made frequent stops to listen but I didn't need to stop to hear a Thrush Nightingale singing his heart out right by the road. After enjoying this master singer I continued to Lillestrøm for the BRW. As soon as I opened the car door it was singing in some bushes just 20 yards away. I got to within only a few feet of the bird in the near darkness (at this time of the year it doesn't get completely dark) and glimpsed the bird including its white throat as it sang. This video at least allows you to hear the song.

With renewed vigour I thought I would continue along the east side of Nordre Øyeren as far as Fetsund to see if there were anymore birds to hear. Leaving Lillestrøm another Thrush Nightingale was singing by the road and at Tuentangen there was yet another Thrush Nightingale plus a singing Marsh Warbler which allowed me to compare how different the song of BRW is.
Final bird of the night was a singing Quail by Fetsund which was a Norwegian tick to add to the BRW which was also a lifer. The time was now 2am and already at 2.30am the dawn chorus was starting with thrushes and Yellowhammers most vocal. This makes hearing the nocturnal singers difficult so it was time to head home.

I had only three hours sleep before being woken by the girls and then heading out for a 55km bike ride during which I heard Wood and Icterine Warblers.

I am now ready for a good nights sleep!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Finnmark trip report

I have now added a separate page with a trip report and plenty of photos.

Next job is to edit a highlights video....

Friday, 3 June 2011

Back to normality in Oslo

In Oslo today temperatures were 26C and it really felt that summer has come. A trip to Maridalen for a picnic with the kids revealed Whinchat and a distant singing Common Rosefinch but not the hoped for Red-backed Shrike. A family walk from Skar to Øyungen yesterday revealed a couple of singing Wood Warblers and a brief song from what was probably a Wryneck (couldn't exclude Lesser Spotted Woodpecker).
In the garden the Great Tits have abandoned their nest which contained six eggs. I was quite sure the eggs had hatched as I believed I had seen the adults flying out with faecial sacks but I guess I was mistaken. Checking the Blue Tit box it was empty for eggs or young although there was a fine nest. The Blue Tits have not been seen around the box recently and now the Great Tits are checking out the box. This is a repeat of previous years when the Great Tits fail for some reason and then relay (succesfully) in the other box whilst the Blue Tits just move on.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Finnmark highlights

I intend to write a full trip report about Finnmark but in the mean time here are 3 of my favourite pictures so far (I have 600 stills and videos to go through).

Coming back to Oslo has been a bit of a shock after 6 days of midnight sun, trees that were still not in leaf, temperatures ranging from 1C to 19C and driving miles without seeing anything but sea, mountains, reindeer and snow. Not to mention the birds..

Siberian Tit

Hawk Owl

Pine Grosbeak

I have also gone to the top of the Feltornitologene 2011 year listing although there are many birders who have not recorded their totals on this forum. Still, nice to be on the top though.