Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Rough-legged Buzzards

It is starting to get cold and the forecast is for as low as -16C at the weekend. I had a trip to Kurefjorden today but despite there being little wind viewing condtions were difficult with a heat haze(!) over the water.
Highlight was undoubtedly 8 Rough-legged Buzzards on the islands at the mouth of the fjord. What they are feeding on I am not sure but there is clearly enough food for them. One island which is 1km long and about 500m wide had 5 Rough-leggeds, an adult female Goshawk and 2 Ravens on it. The birds spent most of their time sitting with little sign of active hunting. One bird flew close over me but of course I blew what could have been a fantastic photo opportunity. Here is the best shot I managed aswell as a picture of 2 together.
Add caption

Otherwise little to see with no divers and just 2 Great Grey Shrikes although both were at new sites for me. 11 Common Seals showed well with 10 hauled out on a rock close to land and a single in the water. There were a couple of creamy coloured youngsters.

Common Seals hauled out

Monday, 30 January 2012

The century

The Med Gull yesterday was my 99th species for the year so I felt I needed to put the effort in today to take me to 100 species in January which is no mean feat in this neck of the woods. A Grey-headed Woodpecker has been regularly reported coming to a feeding post in Akershus but I ignorantly believed it to be a long drive from Oslo. On checking closer though I found out it was only 20 minutes from the house and that it was easily accessible. So the plan for today was made.
When I arrived at the site I soon found the feeding station which was just a couple of fat balls hung up on a tree in a field on the edge of a wood. Easy enough to view but there were few birds to see. Soon I heard a woodpecker tapping but this turned out to be a Great Spotted (one of four in the area) but not long after there was the call of a Green/Grey-headed close by. It took a while to locate the bird but then there it was sitting high up in leafless tree – a fine male Grey-headed Woodpecker.  This is only the third one I have seen so it deserved some scrutiny. I also heard the call enough to hopefully be able to distinguish from Green in the future.
Grey-headed Woodpecker

As I was not too far from Drøbak I chose to look at the gulls again. Only the long staying light 1st winter Iceland Gull to be found amongst the Herring Gulls but I was able to get some OK flight pictures this time.
I picked up the Pytt, Vestby Great Grey Shrike on the way home to round off a very efficient mornings birding!

1st winter Iceland Gull

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Finally...Med Gull

Thanks to the diligent work of Sindre Molværsmyr yesterday I was finally able to get to grips with the Med Gull. Sindre found out where the gull hangs out during the day, namely the area around Marienlyst in Majorstua. I have myself checked out this area three times as there were quite a few Common Gulls here but plainly not well enough. I glimpsed the gull flying around the roof tops in the area but as soon as I started throwing bread in the park the entire local population of gulls descended and there amongst 60 or so Common Gulls was the Med Gull. The birds were wary at first but soon settled down and even allowed Per Christian to drive down and see it. I fired off a couple of hundred pictures only to realise that I had the settings all wrong but still managed some half decent pics. It was also interesting noting the variation amongst the Common Gulls – some of them are surely from a long way to the east in Russia. No Ring-billed Gull though unfortunately.
Spot the odd one out

Proudly(?) sporting 2 rings

The undamaged primaries on the right wing prove this bird to be different to the one I found in October at Fornebu

In classic gull habitat

1st winter (2k) Mediterranean Gull

A young Goshawk kept buzzing the area putting gulls and doves in a panic. The local Collared Dove flock numbered 38 which is I believe a record local count for this declining Norwegian species.
Although difficult to see in this picture there was a distinct pink wash to the breast of this adult Common Gull

A particularly dark-headed Common Gull

Friday, 27 January 2012


Østfold with Rune Z today. It was a relatively warm 0 (zero) degrees today but a fresh wind from the east ensured that it felt bitterly cold all day. I had hoped to add a good handful of year ticks to take me over 100 in January for the first time but ended up with just 2 which takes me to 98 with 4 days to go. Today’s Great Grey Shrike count was five which equals (as far as I remember) my day record – I also “won” today’s Shrike count a rather impressive 5-0.
The first bird of any note was the regular Great Grey Shrike along the road from Råde to Fredrikstad followed by the long staying Carrion Crow by the road in Fredrikstad which allowed itself to (badly) photographed. We then headed for the dump that is Øra (it is literally a dump – an enormous rubbish tip) but one that is a favoured and exciting birding location for many but has never quite got me going. Here there were many gulls to go through but surprisingly nothing interesting. We did pick out 2 Scaup amongst 40 odd Tufted Ducks and a couple of Chaffinches here were of note but no White-Tailed Eagles showed for us.
We then tried a few sites south-east of Fredrikstad and picked up a Little Grebe, another Great Grey Shrike and a roadside flock of 70 Whooper Swans that were very vocal.
Whooper Swans
 Driving towards Kurefjorden a roadside Starling was the first of the day’s year ticks and then as we drove from Råde to Kurefjorden we had the third Great Grey Shrike of the day. Kurefjorden was ice free and also very low with vast (bird free) mudflats visible. 300 Goldeneye and 400 Mallard were the dominant birds but also 3 Slavonian Grebes, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 15 Velvet Scoters and 2 Common Scoters. Moving to Larkollen at the mouth of Kurefjorden we picked out 2 of the wintering Rough-legged Buzzards on the Sletter islands and after a lot of searching I picked up 2 distant divers. These turned out to be Red-throated but as I got Rune on to them he noticed a much closer diver – a Great Northern Diver, a fine bird, a year tick and a long overdue bird for me at this location. A few more Great Crested Grebes and Velvet Scoters here.
The drive back along the E18 added 2 more Great Grey Shrikes at the usual places near Moss and Vestby.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day with some good birds to boot!
A black bird or is it a Carrion Crow?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tick tock

Yet another part of my life wasted waiting for the Med Gull to appear!
An hour and half of of shivering split over two sessions failed to turn up the goods even though I was there during the perfect mid afternoon window. 10 Black-headed Gulls gave some hope but they failed to attract their rarer cousin. A single Goshawk and 2 Sparrowhawks overhead where the only birds of note.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

One less bogey to pick (off)

I headed for the Tønsberg/Horten area in Vestfold today hoping to add to my year list. The first stop was Rosanes where the main target was the male Black Duck that is now into its 11th year here. Despite normally being an easy bird I could not find it although a lot of ice had reduced the number of Mallards in the area considerably. I did see at least 3 proofs of its (past) existence though in the form of hybrids presumably with Mallard. A few Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye had a female Smew in their midst and amongst the 100 or so Mallard were 5 Teal and a male Pintail.
Then I scanned the bay and picked off my bogey. RED-NECKED GREBE was finally added to my Norwegian list. It was easy to ID (they really are quite different from Great Crested) and gave reasonable if slightly distant views. I even managed a couple of record shots:
Red-necked Grebe

In Presterødkilen 2 male Pochard were hanging with 40 Tufted Ducks and were a good winter record.

I then drove to Horten checking the sea where ever possible. My hope was to find some white-winged Gulls but I failed on this score. Near Horten at Steinbrygga the bay held a flock of 26 Great Crested Grebes and a single Red-throated Diver and at Møringa 8 Oystercathers were a good winter record.
The Med Gull seems to have settled into some rhythm with 3 sightings since Sunday in the mid afternoon at Frognerparken. Maybe time to give it one last go?

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Are you sure you want to delete this picture?

1st winter Iceland Gull
Yesterday I decided to "clean up" the picture gallery that the blog's pictures are stored in. Very very bad idea!! I found out this morning that nearly every single picture in the blog was no longer visible and needed to be relinked. Next time I will pay more attention to the warning message that appears when you delete a photo. It will take hours to relink all the pictures.

A brief visit to look at the Iceland Gull(s) at Drøbak again today revealed just the light coloured 1st winter. On the way back I saw my third Pygmy Owl of the year which is quite amazing that in 2011 I had to wait until  December 23rd for my one and only record.

I photographed an interesting adult gull amongst the Herring Gulls. I could discern no differences from Herring Gull in size or structure and general colouration seemed the same but there was very little black in the wings especially the underwing. Here are a few pictures, comments would be welcome

Very pale underwing

Middle bird - little black visible on (nearly) closed wings

Upper and under wing patterns. Appears to be some missing/damaged feathers on the right wing

Closed wing

Practiacally no black visible on upperwing but note slightly blurred wingtips
I believe this to be same bird although photographed it later and didn't see it in flight. Structure and general impression does not look different to Herring Gull

Monday, 23 January 2012

Red Squirrel

Very little birding to report over the last few days. A pair of Nutcrackers at Frognerseteren on Saturday was the highlight of yet another birdless ski trip in the forest. Yesterday Kjetil J. refound the Med Gull at Frognerparken on his 10th attempt and this motivated me to make another visit there this morning. I have also made at least 10 attempts and will clearly have to make some more if I am to see this elusive bird. A photogenic Red Squirrel was the highlight:
Red Squirrel

I found the tail patterning to be particularly colourful in this picture.


Friday, 20 January 2012

Look Nick: an owl

Just before New Year I was contacted by Doncaster birder Nick Whitehouse who had seen my pictures of the Great Grey Owl and wanted to know how easy it would be to see it if he came over for a weekend with some mates. We kept in contact although no definite plans were made until I posted my pictures from Wednesday which prompted an email asking if I would be around today and could I pick him up from Rygge airport and take him to the bird. Well of course Nick and after all I’ve seen it three times out of three which makes it a definite, doesn’t it?
0945 I picked Nick up and on the hour long drive to Barm, Vesterøy we noted two drive-by Great Grey Shrikes. Arriving at Barm we were very alert but failed to see the bird as we drove the length of the small valley. Parking the car we saw another birder who had been present since dawn without luck. A bad omen perhaps.
The temperature was around -5C with clear blue skies and hardly a sniff of wind – surely ideal conditions for a hungry owl. Well we walked up and down that road countless times and the conditions looked more ideal (to us) for every kilometre we put under our belts but the bird didn’t seem to share our point of view. We did see a pair of Black Woodpeckers calling and checking out nesting sites, Waxwings and Crested Tits so we were kept entertained.
We then spotted the other birder off the path with his camera pointed up a tree. Could this be it?? We cautiously edged closer and then I saw the bird: an owl, Nick an owl! It wasn’t quite as photogenic as the owl on Wednesday but I still managed a reasonable picture:

Well I guess you can’t have luck with you all the time although it was still a good bird and a bird that has never been seen in the UK (unless they suppressed one at Spurn).
We kept going for another 2 and half hours until dusk turned into night but with no sign of the Pygmy Owl’s considerably larger cousin. This was a day when effort was definitely not rewarded: 6 hours solidly in the field deserved more especially for Nick who had got up at 2am to catch the Ryan Air flight from Manchester. The flight home isn’t until Sunday so Nick will probably make his way to the site by train and bus tomorrow to have another shot: good luck Nick!
View of the Great Grey Owl's favourite hunting area

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Pygmy Owl

Today was devoted to some (much needed) physical exercise and a 12km ski in Sørkedalen. I foolishly chose not to take bins and therefore had to be content with naked eye views of a Pygmy Owl that sat at the top of a spruce tree right by the track. A calling Black Woodpecker here was also my first of the year. Otherwise practically birdless in the forest.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Great Grey Owl again

Today was time to see if the Great Grey Owl was still present and to give Rune his second tick in the space of two days after he had got to grips with one of the Iceland Gulls yesterday.
On the drive down we had the possibility of four drive-by Great Grey Shrikes but only managed a single this time. Coming to Hvaler I spotted a hunting falcon and stopping the car as safely as we could we got the scopes out and found a raptor swimming in the water at quite some distance on top of prey and making its way slowly to an island. The bird must have swum (flapping frenetically) over 10 metres with its prey before hauling up on land. The raptor turned out to be a young female Peregrine (was hoping for a Gyr) and the prey item appeared to be a gull which judging from size was most likely to have been a Little Gull (in itself a pretty good record!). It was quite a feat for the young bird to swim such a distance with a prey item half its size in its talons!
Arriving at the owl site we noticed what looked like recent tree felling along the route of some telegraph wires and feared that this could have disturbed the owl. We searched the relatively small area very diligently for an hour and a quarter without any success and assumed that it had moved on (it has not been reported for 10 days although it only appears that a couple of people have searched for it in the meantime). Deciding to move onto pastures new we got in the car and had driven 200metres past where we had been searching and what was that sitting less than 20metres from the road?
The view that greeted us after we had given up and were driving away!
We had driven past on the way in without seeing the bird so either we were not observant enough or maybe we had unknowingly disturbed it during our search and it had flown to this position. Anyway it showed amazingly well seemingly unaffected by or presence and continuing to search the ground for prey. I took many photos and permit myself to show some of the best here:
Great Grey Owl

I don't need to move my body to look behind me - can you do that?
coming into land

Happy Oslo Birder

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

City Birding

I held myself around Oslo today and made another attempt for the Med Gull at Frognerpark. After an hour and a quarter I had to throw in the towel again with only a handful of Blach-headed Gulls, a few colour ringed Herring Gulls and the overwintering female Teal for my troubles.
To add some excitement to the day I went to look for the Glaucous Gull again and this time it was sitting on the river bank on the same side of the river I was looking from giving frame filling views. I'm quite happy with the pictures I took:
Glaucous Gull

The bird doesn't seem to be too bothered after it was targeted by the gull ringers and is remaining faithful to this grotty part of town.
I tried to find my own rare gull on the frozen fjord by the opera but amongst 400 loafing Herring Gulls I could only turn up 3 Common Gulls. Why is it that only a few kilometres away there are 3 Iceland Gulls amongst 100 Herring Gulls and rare gulls turn up on grotty river banks and in parks but there are none amongst the largest local concentration of Herring Gulls? I picked up the female Kestrel which is wintering in the docks -  a rare local winter record and then dropped in at Fornebu where the only bird of note was yet another Great Grey Shrike.
Male Bullfinch Frognerparken

Rear end of a male Teal, Sandvika

Monday, 16 January 2012

Iceland Gulls galore

Today has to be the best birding day of the year so far (and it has been a long year!). No ticks and not even a year tick and only a single Great Grey Shrike but fantastic views of 3 Iceland Gulls were more than enough. There has been a 1st winter Iceland Gull on the fjord near Drøbak since 26th December with 2 1st winters (1 light and 1 dark) seen on 28th December and then yesterday the light 1st winter was reported alongside a 3rd winter and possibly another light 1st winter (although all three birds were not seen together). I saw the original bird on 3rd January but had also dipped twice.
I made my way down there this morning knowing that with light winds the viewing conditions would be good. When I arrived there were a few gulls loafing around close to shore but most gulls were in the middle of the fjord behind a fishing boat at around 800m range. Scanning through them I saw one white winged gull and then another and was that another? It took a few minutes to ascertain that there were 3 birds and based on size and structure they all seemed to be Iceland Gulls (a Glaucous Gull was also reported yesterday) but the range was too far to age them. I threw some bread out but the gulls didn't seem interested. Then a local fisherman turned up. I could swear the birds recognised him because before he even threw anything into the sea the gulls started flying towards him. He said they thought he was throwing fish but instead he threw out 3 whole loaves of bread. This lead to a feeding frenzy with all the large gulls within sight flocking in. Over 100 Herring Gulls, 4 Great Black-backs and all 3 of the Iceland Gulls were feeding just 20metres or so offshore. The Iceland Gulls were 2 1st winters (one light and one dark) and a very neat 3rd winter that looked very near adult except for cream colouring on the neck and some faint cream marking on the wing and tail (I wonder if it could even have been 4th winter). The darker of the 1st winters had me wondering whether it could be of the race Kumlieni but I believe it just to be an extreme nominate race bird.

The 2 1st winters

Dark 1st winter

The light 1st winter

3rd winter Iceland Gull

The 3rd winter really standing out

1st winters taking off

The dark 1st winter

The 2 1st winters

3rd winter in flight

The light 1st winter in flight

3rd winter Iceland Gull

After sating myself on the Gulls I went to Kurefjord where I hoped to catch up with the Great Northern Diver. No luck on that count but I did see the 3 overwintering Rough-legged Buzzards again and 2 Red-throated Divers alongside the usual suspects. Driving home there was a Great Grey Shrike by the E18 at a new site for me.