Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Richard's Pipit on the list

A very interesting report came in of 2 possible White-backed Woodpeckers in woodland on Bygdøy in Oslo yesterday and this morning another observor reported a definite individual there at dawn so I made a trip there at lunch. White-backed Woodpecker has one of its european strongholds in Norway but the birds are to be found mostly on the west coast and they are very rare in the east with the local breeding population having become extinct over 20 years ago.

When I got to the site there were immediately calling woodpeckers to be heard. In fact I have never encountered quite so many in such a small area. I had at least 12 individuals including on one occasion 5 birds calling within a 100m radius. Unfortunately all were Great Spotted though. One interesting bird was a juvenile still with the red head (a feature of White-backed). This appeared to be ill and was mucky on the underside giving the appearance of barring. It will be interesting to see if there are any more confirmed reports of the White-backed. Otherwise a Hawfinch and a couple of Bullfinches including this bird against a backdrop of autumn leaves.

I had time for a 15 minute thrash of Fornebu and this time I got lucky with the RICHARD'S PIPIT which was a norwegian tick to boot. I first flushed a Skylark from an area of rough grass and then another bird which did not call but was clearly a pipit. When it joined the Skylark in flight its large size became apparent and it then began to call - a distinctive sparrow like cherping. That was pretty much all I had to go on but was enough to make the call. I did manage this photo though although I don't think it can count as even a record shot ;)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The right place at the wrong time

On Sunday an unidentified "large pipit" was seen at Fornebu so I thought i would take a trip there on Monday to find it and put a name to it. I wasn't able to go early enough though because a message came though on the Bird Messaging System that a Richard's Pipit was at Fornebu. I went down anyway at lunchtime but in 3 hours of searching couldn't find it. Otherwise just ever dwindling numbers of the commoner migrants. The only real excitement came when I was scanning the fjord for interesting seabirds when i picked up a large, dark bird flying powerfully over the waves. Skua was my immediate reaction but it turned out to be a juvenile Peregrine that proceeded to attack, unsucessfully, a Swallow. Peregrines normally go for larger prey than this so i think it was probably just honing its hunting skills.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

All quiet on the birding front

No real birding for me and thankfully nothing else of any interest in the Oslo area so doesn't look I've missed to much.

Whilst in the garden today I heard what sounded like a Marsh Tit calling but could not see the bird in question. This would have been a garden tick. Whilst trying to locate the bird my eldest asked me what I was doing to which I replied "trying to find a bird". Her reply of "there it is" and pointing skywards revealed a large raptor going high over the house being mobbed by a crow. Couldn't ID the raptor without bins although may have been a Honey Buzzard.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Pink-feets heading south

Warm, sunny weather was conducive to some pleasant birding and i chose to check out Maridalen. With the high water levels there was vety little to see on the lake although i did pick out 2 Black-throated Divers and 6 Goosanders. A flock of 120 Greylag Geese were feeding on unharvested wheat and were very skittish - frequently flying out on to the lake and when returning to the field they flew a couple of circuits before alighting. This behaviour is very unlike the local breeders so perhaps these birds are from northern Norway?
A flock of 50 Pink- footed Geese flew going south towards their wintering grounds in Denmark. It is only 4 months since birds were flying north on their way to breed in Svalbard!
With the warm, sunny weather i felt certain there would be a raptor or two to see and made a decision to not leave until I saw one. Almost immediately i picked up a distant bird heading purposely south but then lost it as i tried to watch it in the scope. I found it again after a minute and it was clearly a harrier and the white rump showed it to be a ringtail. It was distant but there was nothing to suggest it was nothing other than a Hen Harrier although there have been a number of Pallid Harriers seen in Norway this autumn. Unfortunately the only other raptor i found was a Sparrowhawk.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Out and about

I was able to drop into Fornebu for an hour at lunch and have a look around the Nansenpark area. Little to be seen unfortunately although the Kestrel is still around and a handful of Wheatears, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. At the weekend there was a ringing session at Fornebu which turned up Barred Warbler, Garden Warbler alongside many Blackcaps and other common migrants. Hardly any of these birds were seen in the field so it just goes to show what can go unoticed.
I drive around Maridalen revealed a Black-throated Diver still on the lake and a Great Grey Shrike being mobbed by a pair of Goldfinches. This is my first of the autumn here and will hopefully hang around as it is always a nice bird to see.
Back in the garden a Hawfinch in our willow tree was my first record actually in the garden although they regularly fly over. Also 2 Blackcaps still eating elder berries and a female Sparrowhawk over.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


This weekend we stayed again at the cabin in Hulvik about 45 minutes drive south of Oslo. Unfortunately the weather was far too good for there to be anything happening on the sea although a Kittiwake and a Common Tern were not too bad. Far more exciting though were a seal and a porpoise.

Around the cabin there were quite a few passerines with Crested, Willow, Marsh, Coal, Great and Blue Tits and both Great and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker along with Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Chiffchaff. A Grass Snake was in exactly the same place as the Smooth Snake we saw in July meaning I have seen all three species of Norwegian snake this year.

A Buzzard this afternoon flew north and then crossed the fjord which is exactly the opposite of what I would expect it to be doing at this time of the year - they should be heading south east for the winter.

I had hoped to spend some time on the island of Værøy around now and it is a shame I wasn't able to. A group of birders has just arrived there and have already found Citrine Wagtail, Olive-backed Pipit and 10 Yellow-browed Warblers.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Fornebu again...

A probable female Black-eared Wheatear was seen at Fornebu yesterday evening so that was a good enough reason for me to get down there today. Unfortunately all the Wheatears I saw were bog standard Northern/Common but a pleasant time was had. Blue skies and almost no wind were not the best weather for finding something interesting and a female Redstart was the highlight on the passerine front. It took a while before I saw the tail on this bird as it skulked low down in a bush and I was thinking far rarer alternatives for a while. Alongside the Redstart was a Crested Tit in completely atypical habitat - sallow bushes in the middle of wasteland.
The nice weather did at least encourage the local raptors to show off with singles of Kestrel, Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Goshawk. The Kestrel was particularly showy and was mobbed by both the Merlin and Sparrowhawk in addition to local Crows and Jackdaws.
Lingering summer visitors were Yellow Wagtail, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Swallow plus Dunnock.
I decided to pay attention to the Cormorants today as both subspecies (Carbo and Sinensis) have been reported and sure enough I found both to be present. The following photo has a Carbo (the northern cliff nesting subspecies) on the left and 2 Sinensis (the southern tree nesting subspecies) on the right.

How do you tell them apart? Well the differences are rather subtle. If you click on the picture you will see a large higher resolution version which will help. On the bird on the left notice how the angle of the gape (the innermost area of the yellow around the bill) is rather actute whereas on the righthand bird it is squared off. Additionally notice that the right hand bird has far more yellow around the bill (this is called the gular area) and less white surrounding the yellow than the left hand bird.
Definitely subtle differences but there are enough behaviourally differences for them to be classified as subspecies although here they seem to be quite happy hanging out together.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011



I was able to fit in a trip to Fornebu after lunch today in lovely autumn weather with clear blue skies and a light SW wind. The first birds on getting out of the car were a Kestrel being mobbed by a crow and I later had good views of the Kestrel hunting over waster ground.
After all the bad weather we have had I had hoped that there would be a lot of activity from whatever birds were present and also some raptor migration. Most of all though I hoped for a Yellow-browed Warbler as very large numbers are currently being seen in northern norway (for example 14 on one island with hardly any supporting cast of commoner species) and they will presumeably filter south. Well no YB Warbler and very few passerines but I did have a Hobby and an Osprey which went over very high in a northerly direction (not quite sure what it was up to). 3 species of warbler was a fair show for mid september around Oslo with a single Willow Warbler, 6 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps. 5 Wheatears, 3 Skylarks and a handful of White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits were hanging around the grassy areas and a sign of the times was my first Great Grey Shrike of the autumn which flew over with either a worm or large caterpillar in its beak.
3 Nutcrackers were unusual out here and one had me searching for a woodpecker for a couple of minutes as it hacked away at a hazel nut and sounded very much like a woodpecker pecking at a tree.
A check of the fjord revealed a few Guillemots but nothing else of interest.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Eilat trip report uploaded

I've uploaded an old trip report and a few pictures from a holiday to Eilat in January 2009.

Garden tick

An unexpected garden tick was a group of 3 GUILLEMOTS flying over at a height of only about 30 metres. There are quite high numbers in the Oslo fjord at the moment and disorientated birds have been turning up in the town on roundabouts and wet roads but to see a group of 3 in flight was definitely a surprise.
A trip to Maridalsvannet also revealed one on the water there but little else except for perhaps 500 Chaffinch in a number of flocks in the stubble fields.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Nordre Øyeren

This weekend I had planned to spend birding on the island of Værøy (north of the arctic circle in Lofoten) searching for vagrants but circumstances conspired against me (which was unfortunate as neighbouring island Røst scored yesterday with Olive-backed Pipit and Yellow-browed Warbler). Instead I was able to fit in a mornings birding on Saturday with Per Christian around Nordre Øyeren. As water levels are very high we dropped Årnestangen and concentrated on the eastern side. It was a crisp autumn morning with clear skies and little wind as we drove first to Tuentangen. In stubble fields by the road we saw around 400 geese split around 50% Barnacle, 40% Greylag and 10% Canada along with 6 Ruff. A Redstart nearly became a road casualty but just avoid the car as it flew over the road.
At Tuentangen there was, as hoped, flooding in the turf fields but no waders present apart from a single Lapwing. A few Teal and a handful of Goldeneye were on the water but there was a complete lack of passerines. A distant adult male Marsh Harrier was a fine sight though as it quartered a field of golden corn. We walked the area and soon found that there were actually a lot of birds. There was a continuous movement of geese in the air and the flock that we had seen earlier from the car regularly could be heard and seen as it took to the air. A flooded river held more Teal, 11 Wigeon and 4 Pintail flew over. We also had a female Marsh Harrier and saw the male on another couple of occasions and a pair of Buzzards added to the mix. A Spotted Redshank flew over calling and a flock of 22 Ruff suddenly appeared on the flooded field.
A Red-backed Shrike was located due to the attention it was receiving from a small flock of Siskins which were mobbing it. A Hawfinch flew over and a pair of Marsh Tits showed well but most importantly gave there distinctive call to separate them from Willow Tit.
An "old" turf field (i.e the turf had been "harvested") held around 40 White Wagtails, 10 Meadow Pipits, 2 Tree Pipits, 6 Skylarks and a couple of Snipe.
In the bushes a handful of Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaff, a Dunnock and a Wren were of note.

Next stop was Svindal which gives great view over the eastern side of Nordre Øyeren. This was the first time I have visited this site but definitely won't be the last. With the sun behind us the views were stunning if distant.
In the flooded bays were good numbers of Teal and a hunting juvenile Marsh Harrier putup a lot of them and revealed ca. 600 birds. Also a few Wigeon and a couple of Shoveler seen in flight with the blue forewings standing out. 4 Great Crested Grebes were on the water and we also located in total 41 Pochard (although possibly more) which is a very good count for this scarce norwegian duck. A juvenile Peregrine was first seen pearched in a birch tree before flying around and half heartedly going for some Teal although its heart didn't really seem in it. We didn't have as much time as we would have liked here due to family commitments back in Oslo but a flyby by a pair of Cranes was a fitting finale.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Raptor day

A full days birding was on the cards today. It was mostly overcast and in the afternoon there was very heavy rain but despite this I had easily my highest day raptor count for Norway. 20 birds of 5 species: 6 Marsh Harriers, 4 Hobbies, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrels and 6 Buzzards.
The day was spent in the south east of Oslo and Akershus with a visit into Østfold,
At Tuen by Nordre Øyeren a summer plumaged Grey Plover on a turf field looked a bit out of place amongst 100 White Wagtails and a smattering of Yellow Wagtails, Skylarks, Wheatears and Meadow Pipits. Over the fields a few Swallows and Sand Martins feeding.
Driving into Aurskog-Høland a Kestrel and Buzzard by the raod were the first raptors of the day. Around Bjørkelangen there was flooding in the fields and there were 20 Cranes, 2 more Buzzards a Sparrowhawk and small numbers of Brambling, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit and Skylark in the stubble fields.
Continuing further south fields at Brautmet held a pair of Whooper Swans, a Kestrel, Whinchat and a Golden Plover. Hellesjøvannet had an adult male and 2 juv Marsh Harriers with the male dropping food to one of the youngsters. Also here a showy Buzzard, 5 Pochard, 6 Whoopers Swans, Teal, Tufted Duck and Pochard and a few Great Crested Grebes including 2 still stripy youngsters.
Driving past Hemnesjøvannet there was another juv Marsh Harrier, adult Hobby, Redstart, Wheatear and Tree Pipit at Kragtorpvika.

Crossing into Østfold a juv Hobby circled over the car, and at Kallaksjøen 2 Hobby, 2 Marsh Harriers, Buzzard and 9 Whooper Swans.

It was now mid afternoon and the wind was picking up from the south so I though a seawatch from Krokstrand would be in order. Dricing there I noted single Buzzard and Kestrel but the seawatching was disappointing. The wind was not that strong in the fjord and in an hour I only notched up 3 commic terns, 1 Artic Tern, 4 Guillemots, a Common Scoter, 2 Eider and 3 Cormorant alongside a handful of Herring Gulls.

Time to head home but I chose the scenic route. There have been a number of waders reported from flooded farmland in the last few weeks so I checked out some likely places. No waders except for Snipe but perhaps the highlight of the trip came in the form of a leucistic Swallow amongst 100 normally plumaged birds. I fired off over 100 pictures in rainy, overcasr conditions but managed a few "record shots"

Leucistic Barn Swallow

Marsh Harrier


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Duck with identity crisis

In rainy and overcast conditions on Saturday I cycled around Maridalen. Over 200 Greylag Geese were on the water along with 4 adult Black-throated Divers, a Cormorant and a Great Crested Grebe which is only my third record here. A couple of distant birds were Guillemots or Razorbills but they were too distant to identify with bins. Quite a few Swallows were sitting on wires and a Swift was a fairly late bird but otherwise they were few passerines to be seen although in the garden there had been 4 Blackcaps and a Nutcracker.

Riding back along Akerselva I saw a Goosander sitting with a group of Mallards. Back home in Sussex seeing a Goosander was a highlight usually occuring in the middle of winter and normally at long distance on a reservoir. Here in Oslo they are often to be seen on Akerselva and some birds like this one associate so closely with Mallards that it makes you think that they make have followed the wrong mother when they were a duckling and have an identity crisis.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Unexpected Bluethroat

Walking along Akerselva in Oslo today I was very surprised to see a Bluethroat running around in a flower bed in the river. I have seen migrating birds before at Årnestangen in the autumn and once a singing bird in Maridalen on spring migration but never in the city before.