Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011, the year that (nearly) was

2011 is drawing to a close so I thought it would be good to review my birding year. I focused this year on my Norwegian year list and also mopping up some of the ”easy” species I had yet to see. I finished with a year list of 244 species compared to 201 last year so there was no doubt a vast improvement. I had 14 Norwegian ticks taking me to 264 species of which 7 were also Lifers taking my Western Palearctic List to 552:
Three-toed Woodpecker (Tretåspett) 21.11.2011 Sørkedalen  Lifer
Mediterranean Gull( Svartehavsmåke) 05.10.2011 Fornebu
 Richard’s Pipit (Tartarpiplerke) 28.09.2011 Fornebu
Black-tailed Godwit (Svarthalespove) 23.08.2011 Presterødkilen, Vestfold
Ruddy Shelduck (Rustand) 08.08.2011 Ilene, Vestfold
Surf Scoter (Brilleand) 08.08.2011 Presterødkilen, Vestfold
Nightjar (Nattravn) 09.06.2011 Østre Nes, Akershus
Blyth’s Reed Warbler (Busksanger) 05.06.2011 Stilla, Akershus Lifer
Siberian Tit (Lappmeis) 30.05.2011 Pasvik Lifer
Pine Grosbeak (Konglebit) 30.05.2011 Pasvik  Lifer
Steller’s Eider (Stellerand) 28.05.2011 Vadsø Lifer
Gyr Falcon (Jaktfalk) 27.05.2011 Finnmark  Lifer
Lesser White-fronted Goose (Dverggås) 26.05.2011 Valdak Lifer
Hoopoe (Hærfugl) 12.05.2011 Kurefjorden

The trip to Finnmark in May with Per Christian was the undoubted highlight of the year and also one of my best birding trips ever. The abundance of seabirds in the autumn over a period of a couple of months also meant that the normally quiet late autumn/early winter period was very exciting. I found a single national rarity in the form of a Mediterranean Gull and quite a few local rarities so was happy with my own efforts.
I did miss some pretty easy species though: no Sanderling, Iceland Gull, White-billed Diver, Brent Goose or Yellow-browed Warbler to name just a few.
My photography skills improved during the year and I permit myself to repeat some of my favourite pictures from 2011:
Hawk Owl

Pine Grosbeak

Siberian Tit

Spotted Crake

Mediterranean Gull

Great Grey Owl

Pomarine Skua

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

15 minutes too late

Time to take the parents back to Rygge airport and a safe flight home and also an opportunity for another go at seawatching this time from Brentetangen. I had pulled out of the airport car park for the 15minute drive there when the Bird Alert went... Ivory Gull Brentetangen!! The foot went a little closer to the floor and then the Alert went again.. Pom Skua Brentetangen. Obviously my choice of birding venue for the day was a good one but would the birds still be there when I arrived? Well, by the time I got there which was around 10am (so only an hour after dawn) the gull and skua were long gone on their way south. There were 3 other birders present and I gave it a go with them for a little over an hour but obviously the action was best very early on. Best bird whilst I was there was an adult Great Skua heading south plus a steady stream of Kittiwakes and the odd Fulmar. On the way back to Oslo I stopped to look for an Iceland Gull that was found yesterday near Drøbak but without luck so was a bit gutted to find out it had been seen half an hour after I left.
Oh I di have one other good bird today..a Great Grey Shrike in Vestby. Probably a bird I have already seen a couple of times earlier in the autumn it was good to see that it is still hanging on.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Over xmas the Med Gull has been refound in Oslo and would appear to be a different bird to that in October which had a damaged primary feather not shown by the current bird. I haven't been to look for it yet but will definitely go for it in the new year. Also today another showy Great Grey Owl was discovered to the south west of Oslo and will also merit a new years visit if still present. Last night saw severe storms hitting northern and western parts of Norway and we also had strong winds in Oslo. I therefore decided on a dawn (9am) visit to Fornebu with the hope of some seabirds. Unfortunately the winds had died down and there was little to see although 5 Kittiwakes were clearly storm blown. Down the Swedish coast a Ross's Gull had been found which gives continued hope of something special around Oslo. Temperatures have been as high as 10C with of course no snow which is a huge contrast to last year when it was around -15C and around a metre of snow. I wonder whether we will have a proper winter.

Friday, 23 December 2011

some small compensation

Well the day may not have given me Norway's largest owl but it did produce the smallest and a long awaited year tick.
Whilst out delivering xmas cards I got lost and lo and behold found myself driving around Maridalen. Well every cloud has a silver lining and for me it came in the form of a Pygmy Owl sitting on top of a spruce right by the road. As I wasn't supposed to be birding I didn't have the camera with me but managed to take these pictures with the iphone to record my 244th species of the year.
The dot in the middle is a Pygmy Owl honestly

Iphone at full zoom

Very few birds at the feeders probably because the warm(ish) weather is allowing them to find food in the forests but a smattering of tits, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Jay and GS Woodpecker.

I can't believe you haven't seen an Eagle Owl

After bagging Three-toed Woodpecker a few weeks ago my “I can’t believe you live in Norway and haven’t seen it” List is now headed by Eagle Owl.
Yesterday evening one was seen and photographed just after 5pm right in the middle of Oslo. I then got a text at 11.30pm telling me it was apparently still sitting in the same tree! Well I had already brushed my teeth and had indulged in some Christmas cheer so was not willing or able to jump in the car for the 10 minute drive. I was therefore a little jealous to find out this morning that the sender of the text had been done just that and had been able to admire the bird just after midnight and apparently see it quite well despite the darkness.
I had to give it a go this morning so was down there at 0930 when it was still quite murky but unfortunately I could not find the bird despite searching the area for an hour. An Eagle Owl was reported downtown about a month ago so it is pretty likely that a bird that has taken up residence and presumably is finding enough rats, crows and pigeons to eat. Hopefully it will give itself up again soon...
A flock of 20 Waxwings flying around Karl Johans Gate (Oslo main shopping street) was a slight reward for my troubles.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


As the good son I offered to pick my parents up from the airport. That they were flying into Rygge which is close to Kurefjorden of course had nothing to do with it! But if the chance arises.... Leaving nice and early in case there was bad traffic I suddenly found i had a couple of hours to fill with... birding. A quick stop at Brentetangen revealed a fairly calm sea and no movement of birds. Never-the-less 8 Kittiwakes were feeding offshore and a handful of Guillemots, Razorbills, Common Scoters amd Red-breasted Mergansers sat on the sea. Moving on to Kurefjorden it was already grtting dark at 1430. There were few birds to see and ice had formed around the edges of the inner fjord. There were still 3 Slavonian Grebes and 14 Great Crested Grebes managing to find food and 9 Velvet Scoter, 3 Common Scoter, 2 Guillemots, 20 R-b Mergansers and 100 or so Goldeneyes. Unfortunately no raptors or shrikes to see today.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


I managed to persuade Mrs.Oslo Birder that a walk around Frogner Park would make a good break from xmas shopping. Well 30 minutes of standing in the cold was enough for both of us and gave no sign of rare gulls. A single adult Black-headed Gull gave some hope but otherwise just 2 Common Gulls amongst 40 or so Herring Gulls. Four Tufted Ducks today (a 100% increase on yesterday) shows there is some movement though.
Looking at the gulls I found 2 colour ringed birds which I was able to find out history on from this website
Herring Gull
Here is adult Herring Gull J2808 who was ringed at the same site as a 1K on 14.10.06 and has been seen reported regularly but always at the same location.

Next up was a ringed adult Common Gull JYAO who was ringed also at Frogner Park as an adult on 040210 and been reported a few times since but always at the same site.

Common Gull
I also spent some time looking at the Herring Gulls which is not normally one of my favoured aspects of birding but an assumed hybrid 1k Herring x Glaucous Gull was reported here yesterday so I forced myself! Here are a 1K and a 2K:
2K Herring Gull - note the grey mantle feathers

1K Herring Gull

There was also this adult Herring Gull which (for me at least) showed an usual patterning of dark feathers on the head.

Finally I turned the camera at the Tufted Ducks and managed this OK shot
male Tufted Duck

Monday, 19 December 2011

Gull dip

Yesterday afternoon a Mediterranean Gull turned up in Frogner Park which is Oslo's main park and was docu. photoed by one lucky observer. Assuming it is the same bird from October (given their scarcity this must be more likely than it being a new bird) then I wonder what it has been doing for the last 2 months? Possibly it has been hanging around parks all the time avoiding birders?
Just after 9am this morning I was at Frognerpark with the company of 3 others. It was cold (about -5C) and the two ponds were about 90% frozen. Very few gulls to see though with just a few overflying Herring and a couple of Common Gulls. I have a theory that there are more gulls here at weekends when the fish quay on the fjord is not active and there were certainly far fewer gulls today than were reported yesterday afternoon. I could only stay 45 minutes and the gull didn't turn up in that time and was not seen later in the day either. I'm sure it will turn up though over xmas.
There were a few other birds to see though confirming that Frogner Park is a prime (all is relative) Oslo winter birding localilty. Amongst the 60 or so Mallards was a female Teal, 2 Tufted Ducks and 2 Goldeneye. Overhead a  Sparrowhawk, Nutcracker and in the trees 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 40 Siskin and 8 Bullfinches.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Weekend lull

As is usual for me at the weekend there hasn't been time for birding due to family commitments but today i squeezed in 4 minutes at Fornebu (i know the precise time because my daughter counted the seconds!). The sea was very calm and it was clear that pretty much all of the storm blown birds have left. Just a single young Kittiwake was to be seen alongside a handfull of Razorbills. A single Pom Skua was seen by others but not by me - i guess this may hang around if it can find enough food although with the Kittiwakes having left i suspect it will struggle. Highlight from the kitchen window was a pair of Greenfinches on the feeders.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Whooper Swans in Maridalen

An inch or so of snow this morning gave a reminder that it is December and also a hope that we will have a white christmas. The winds have now switched to northerlies so not particularly conducive to good birding. I managed a lightening tour of Maridalen today (my first in a long while) with a vague hope of a lingering storm blown Kittiwake to add to my site list but I really should have been looking a couple of days ago. On the water a small group of Herring Gulls, 5 Goldeneye and best of all a pair of Whooper Swans. Few passerines were evident but a single Yellowhammer flew over and a flock of 20 Greenfinches were managing to find food.
I guess that garden birding will feature more over the next couple of months and it will be interesting to see if the current Robin hangs around. Very little else in the garden though, just the usual House and Tree Sparrows, Blue and Great Tits and a single Blackbird today.
The Great Grey Owl is still present down on Hvaler - with luck it will hang around into January and will merit itself another visit.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

There’s always time for another…

..seawatch! Today myself and Rune Z decided on a tour of Vestfold.  Due to a rather shortened day the tour became more of a single destination with a couple of stops on the way. Driving down the E18 we had an obligatory Great Grey Shrike (my 20th sighting this autumn) by the road just north of the turning to Horten. We made a detour to Horten as  I persuaded Rune that a little seawatch from Møringa would be a good idea. Even though there was practically no wind there would surely still be birds left over from the last few days (and who knows maybe I would still have a chance for Leach’s..).
Arriving at Møringa we immediately saw some Oystercatchers (6 in total) which must be the first I’ve seen for a couple of months and looking out to sea began to see Kittiwakes in all directions with at least 100 being counted. Most were just feeding but a few were also heading south back to open sea. A handful of Fulmars with most going south but one also feeding close inshore. Then it started to get interesting. I picked up a skua sitting on the water at some distance feeding on a dead Kittiwake with a Great Black-backed Gull in close attendance. My first thoughts turned to Pomarine but I was hesitant because it looked pretty large and fairly uniform in colour. I needed to wait for it to flap its wings which it did when the gull came too close and there were big white flashes on the upper and under wings – an immature Great Skua! Rune then decided to get in on the act and found another imm. Great Skua feeding on a (presumed) Kittiwake with its size and wing flashes very evident even though it was at quite a range. We then noticed another, smaller, skua on the water nearby which took off and chased the Kittiwakes – an immature Pomarine Skua (a fairly light bird) with its double white underwing flash and pale rump being very visible. Quite a skuafest!

Aware of the time we had to leave after only 45 minutes although I felt sure that a whole day’s seawatching would have paid dividends.
Our destination for the day was Moutmarka at the end of Tjøme. We were hoping that there might be some storm driven birds here (Grey Phalarope or maybe a large diver) and a hope of finding Water Pipit. The wind was really blowing when we got out of the car (see picture below) which made viewing a bit difficult but we put some effort in.
Unfortunately there was nothing particularly interesting to see. We went through the Rock Pipit flock but found only 16 Rock and 3 Meadow Pipits although for this time of year this was a reasonable sighting. It was very difficult to make anything out on the sea but there were 20 or so Kittiwakes and a couple of Little Auks of note.
With time now against us we headed back towards Oslo with a quick stop at Rosanes. This is home to a long staying Black Duck. On our first scan of the area (a marina!) we saw it sitting with 15 Mallards on a jetty. On the assumption that they were waiting for some bread I headed briskly towards them with camera in hand (ignoring Rune’s requests to not be “so offensive”). Well, I should have been less offensive because they all jumped into the water and headed away. I managed a couple of very poor shots of the Black Duck but rued my haste.
Male Black Duck (right) with Mallard
Male Black Duck in flight
I have some nagging doubts about the purity of this bird as I can detect green on the head and on a previous trip thought I saw a hint of a white neck collar â la Mallard but it has been officially accepted as a pure Black Duck (with I believe the blessing of American experts)
Otherwise here a fine female Smew, a pair of Goosander, 14 Teal and a couple of Kittiwakes.

On the way home the anticipated message came through... Stormsvale (Leach’s Petrel) seen going south on the other side of the fjord from Møringa. Can’t win them all!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


The winds were just right today and there was little rain forecast and temperatures were around 5C. In other words prefect for yet another seawatch (and probably the last of the year). I wasn't able to get out to Rolftstangen, Fornebu until 11am by which time I had received a message of a Pomarine Skua there. Fortunately it was still visible when I arrived and remained so until 3pm when I left. It had killed a Common Gull which it regularly returned to feed on just 20m away from where we were standing and gave outstanding views - very exciting stuff. The bird was definitely immature although I am not sure whether it was juvenile (1K) as it had noticeably longer central tail feathers which may be a sign of it being a year older. We also had another Pom Skua at some distance which brought down a gull (possibly a Herring Gull) which it sat on and appeared to succesfully kill and then feed on.
Otherwise there were very good numbers of Kittiwakes with at least 50 and many coming very close and also at least 10 Fulmars which also frequently gave excellent views. I have still to take a decent picture of a Fulmar and today was no exception. I got frame filling views but could not get the exposure right - something to keep practicing. One Fulmar was also noticeably dark but would probably be classified as an intermediate morph rather than a dark morph.
Few auks to see although we did have Razorbill, Guillemot and Little Auk. No Black-headed Gulls and very few Common Gulls remaining but a single immature Little Gull was a nice find.
Rarest bird of the day (although not highlight which definitely belongs to the Pom Skua) was a Grey Phalarope which I saw but unfortunately so briefly that my 2 fellow observers did not get on to it. The bird was in flight on the Bygdøy side of the fjord at Huk and landed which was when I lost it. The identification as a phalarope was easy enough but the specific identification as Grey was based on time of the year (Red-necked's being unheard of so late).
Later in the day a probable Leach's Petrel was also called by another observer but was lost from view. This is the only seabird that I have missed in the Oslo fjord this autumn and it now feels like I have run out of opportunities but I can be happy with everything else I've seen.
Pomarine Skua

Pomarine Skua with Common Gull - lunch!

A very short video of the skua tucking into lunch. You can see it having to flap its wings to deal with the wind.
Fulmar without the colours

Fulmar not quite in focus

Adult Kittiwake

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


This evening was the christmas members meeting for NOFOA (local bird club). After I gave a well received presentation on the birding highlights for 2011 (do need to learn the norwegian name for Serin though!) it was time for the mystery bird competition. With a score of 20/22 I was joint winner but feel there was room for some improvement. I need to practice on the identification features of half submerged diving ducks ;-)

I'll never know...

It really blew today and there were loads of birds to see... or at least I believe so. I was housebound with an out of sorts daughter and it seems like no one else braved the elements or had the opportunity to seawatch today.
Tomorrow though we will find something. Feas/Zinos Petrel has been seen off the Swedish coast and that is only a few hundred kilometres as the Pterodrama flies.....

Monday, 12 December 2011

More to see

Seawatching from Krokstrand with Fulmar fly-by
Time for some birding again today although I was lucky to get there and back in one piece. The thermometer was a couple of degrees on the red side of freezing and rain was falling on snow covered roads resulting in atrocious conditions on smaller country roads. Oslo airport was also closed for 4 hours due to the runway being too icy which given how prepared they are for "weather" means it was pretty extreme today.

Anyway I survived and the destination was yet again Krokstrand for a spell of seawatching. Strong winds have been blowing from the south resulting in good numbers of seabirds further down on the Swedish west coast so chances were high for something good (it also does help to be optimistic). I started watching at 1015 and immediately picked up both Kittiwake and Fulmar which are the indicator birds for a good seawatch so I felt positive for a good day. Completing my second sweep of the sea I picked up a large diver heading south at moderate range. Looking goose sized with big feet dangling behind and a large blue grey dagger for a bill it was clearly a Great Northern Diver and my second for the year. I sent out a message on the bird alert system and got a message from Per G that he was on his way down aswell so I would have some company.
The Kittiwakes and Fulmars continued to show and peering into the gloom further south there was clearly good numbers Kittiwakes flying around the fjord. There was little else though with very few auks or duck to liven things up. The days possible highlight though didn't let itself be identified. I picked up another large diver, this time heading north but unfortunately on the other side of the fjord. Its enormous size was clear as was its very pale (almost brown) plumage but it crash landed into the sea before I could study the bill and I never picked it up on the water. The pale colour though pointed very much towards it being a 1K White-billed Diver.
Another unidentified bird was a small passerine that flew south about 300m from the shore only 1 metre from the waves. My thoughts strayed towards Rock Pipit but it was impossible to be sure.
Per arrived around noon and we had 45 minutes together before I had to leave. During this time Kittiwakes started heading north into the fjord and went past at great speed. Of about 70 birds I had in total only 4 were 1K's of which one had me calling probable Sabine's Gull before Per calmed me down! 2 Red-throated Divers heading south was a late record.

Just as things were starting to warm up though I had to leave Per to it on his own. As I drove home the inevitable message came in but luckly it was only of a Pomarine Skua of which Per had 2 plus another 100 Kittiwakes (a very good count in these parts). The winds are forecast to blow up again tomorrow along with a lot of rain but I think I'll have to give it another go.

Friday, 9 December 2011

No owl today

I haven't had a chance to look for the reported owl but it has been looked for by others without success. From the description that has come through to me it doesn't sound right for a Snowy Owl as it was flushed from a tree but on the assumption that it was a large owl sp I wonder if it could have been a Great Grey or Ural. Hopefully it will show again.
The weather now is terrible and with rain on top of snow but an inland Ivory Gull in Sweden a couple of hours over the border raises hopes!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

And then the Snow(y) came

A good 15cm of snow fell last night and winter is now truly with us with minus temperatures throughout the day (although Friday is forecast to have temperatures of +2C and loads of rain which will most likely leave the whole of Oslo resembling an ice rink).
No birds to report from my part but a very interesting second hand report of a Snowy Owl seen by a "layman" out walking his dog will need checking out tomorrow as it is only 20 minutes drive from the house.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Great Grey Owl

I awoke with excitement today as I had agreed last night to make the trip for the Great Grey Owl in the company of Kjetil Johannessen. We punctuated the 2 hour drive to Hvaler with one stop and some decent drive-by birding. The drive-by birding consisted of 2 Great Grey Shrikes plus a third on the return journey and a Carrion (as opposed to Hooded) Crow which we saw fly over the road at a regular site for this rare Norwegian bird. The stop was at the lake of Skinnerflo where we had a good selection of geese with 5 Tundra Bean, 26 Taiga Bean, 3 Pink-footed, 3 Greylag, 80 odd Canada and a Canada x Greylag Hybrid plus 90 odd Teal and a similar number of Mallard. Strangely not a single diving cuck and the only swans were 3 Mute. At one time I had the 2 Bean sub-species plus Pink-footed in the same 'scope view. The structural differences of Tundra Bean were very apparent when seen in direct comparison with the larger, longer necked Taiga.
Enough digresion though, today was about one bird and one bird only: Great Grey Owl. I have seen one bird very well previously in 2009 plus a bird we glimpsed on our Finnmark trip this May which was flying on the Russian side of the border. It is a majestic bird and well worth travelling to see. We arrived on site at 1030 to the news that the bird had been seen well just after 9 but not since. Well time to start looking. There were 10 of us there but the majority seemed happy to stand and chat on the assumption that the bird would return to hunt over its favoured meadow. I decided to put in a bit more effort but eventually returned to where the others were standing. After a few minutes at 11.50 I saw a movement in the trees on the other side of the meadow and there it was perched looking at us! After a couple of pats on the back we were all enjoying great views and were slowly able to approach the bird to within about 30 metres (on Sunday it had sat 7m from the road and was oblivious to the big lens being pointed at it).
In poor light these were the best photos I managed (heavily cropped) but the video has come out a bit better.

A stop at Kurefjorden on the way back revealed that the Scaup flock had increased to 30 with now 2 adult males amongst them.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Foreign climes

Oslobird became Amsterdam (non)Birder this weekend so little for me to report. In Amsterdam the crows were black rather than the hooded variant I am used to in norway and Ring-necked Parakeets screeched above the streets. Otherwise the birdlife was pretty much the same as Oslo.

Whilst I was away it seems that most of the local birders got to grips with Leach's Petrel with a couple of birds being seen and yesterday news came through of a Great Grey Owl that has been present for a week a couple of hours drive from Oslo and is showing very well....I think I know what I will be doing tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

No birding today....

Today was a day when I didn't really have any time for birding as I had a number of meetings during the day but when I arranged the meetings earlier in the week that was fine as today was not supposed to have any strong winds and therefore be of no particular birding value.
Well that turned out to be a poor decision as the strongest winds of the week blew today. A quick recheck of my schedule showed that I could fit in 20 minutes seawatching from Fornebu in the morning. From the warmth of the car with very strong winds blowing outside and rain falling I picked up 3 Fulmars arching majestically over the fjord and 2 Kittiwakes passing close in. There were also 16 Little Auks past in the short time I watched plus a few Guillemots and Razorbills. It all looked very promising and the winds were still getting stronger but time was pressing and I had to get on.
At 14.29 the message I had been fearing came through: Leach's Petrel close in off Fornebu seen by, of course, Per G. Within 15 minutes I had wrapped up the meeting and was hot footing it down to Fornebu. Got there at 1510 but of course the petrel was gone and not to be seen again. However I stayed until dark at 1600 and was rewarded by very good views of a young Pomarine Skua that flew past very close to land, an adult Gannet (my first record in the county I think) that flew off over land after a circuit of the fjord, only one Fulmar and 2 Little Gulls including one 1K that flew over the beach in front of us in the twilight. So for a day when I didn't have any time for birding it turned out OK but I would have loved to see the Leach's.