Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tying myself in a knot

My 2012 year list contains some pretty glaring omissions. Willow and Rock Ptarmign (ly- og fjellrype) are probably lost causes now unless I have another visit to the mountains but the commoner waders that I am missing: Knot (polarsnipe), Sanderling (sandløper) and Turnstone (steinvender) will hopefully give themselves up this autumn.
Mini Oslo Birder celebrated her 4th birthday today which left me more than busy so I didn’t check bird sightings until 9pm. I then saw that 14 Knot had been seen at Fornebu and judged that it would still be light enough if I set off. Sure enough it was light enough to enjoy 14 summer plumaged adult Knot feeding (or at least attempting to) on a rocky island offshore of Rolfstangen. I had left the camera at home but managed some phone-scoping shots. One more year tick!
(Red) Knot feeding amongst Eiders (ærfugl) and Oystercatchers (tjeld)

Also here some Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke) that in the fading light had me thinking fuscus. Recently sightings of birds ringed as fuscus nestlings in Nordland from near Oslo suggests that fuscus could in fact regularly pass through the area. Clearly there is more to understand about the different races of LBBG in Norway and their migration routes.

Monday, 30 July 2012

The long drive home

 The long drive (1250km) from Oslo to Bodø offers many birding opportunities but unfortunately I did not give myself time to explore as many areas as I had hoped and consequently didn't have time to search for the Siberian Tits (lappmeis) again or search for waders around Stjørdal and Ørin in Trøndelag. Never-the-less I managed some good birding in Nordland and finally found my first Red-necked Phalarope (svømmesnipe) of the year. This was on Saltfjellet exactly where I looked unsuccessfully 3 weeks ago and where I have seen them previously. The bird was an adult male and flew around agitatedly calling so had young nearby I assume. 

Spot the swimming Red-necked Phalarope. Behind a car on the E6 road and the railway track can be seen between the car and the pool.
Phone digi scope picture of the phalarope
Also here a female Teal (krikkand) with three ducklings and 3 Golden Plovers (heilo) but very little else. About 10 years ago I had lekking Ruff (brushane) here amongst many other birds but these are becoming alarmingly scarce as a breeding bird in Norway and may well have disappeared as a breeding bird here.
The tidal fjord at Klungsett outside of Fauske was very productive for me. Here there were thousands of seaduck although most were frustratingly too far out to allow identification. There were at least hundreds of Velvet Scoter (sjøorre) and Goldeneyes (kvinand) with much smaller numbers of Red-breasted Merganser (siland), Common Scoter (svartand), Tufted Duck (toppand), Eider (ærfugl) and a single Long-tailed Duck (havelle).
Highlights though were 43 Slavonian Grebes (horndykker), 13 Red-necked Grebes (gråstrupedykker) in summer plumage, a few Red (smålom) and Black-throated Divers (storlom), an immature Great Northern Diver (islom) and an eclipse male King Eider (praktærfugl).
The eclispe King Eider. Note the "sails" and orange bill are diagnostic even in this tatty plumage

Also here 3 Shelduck (gravand) and small numbers of Wigeon (brunnakke), Teal and Mallard (stokkand).
The mudflats also had good numbers of returning adult waders with 70 odd Ringed Plover, 7 Dunlin (myrsnipe), a single Temminck's Stint and a few Redshank (rødstilk), Greenshank (gluttsnipe), Whimbrel (småspove) and Curlew (storspove).
I had a few other birds as I drove south with the highlights being Cranes (trane) and breeding Slavonian Grebes with young.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The cabin

The last week has been spent at our cabin close to Bodø. We have electricity but no water and live a life close to nature here. The cabin is at Vågsbotn, a bay on the much larger Skjerstadfjorden. The bay has quite a high tidal range exposing a lot of mud but I have never seen many waders here. On this visit i had to make do with 35 Oystercatchers tjeld), a couple of Common Sandpipers (strandsnipe) and a flyover Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) although not too far away I also had Golden (heilo) and Ringed Plover (sandlo) and Common Redshank (rødstilk). One of the highlights of the fjord is the frequent feeding sorties made by Red-throated Divers (smålom) who are often very vocal. A female Red-breasted Merganser (siland) had 5 youngsters in tow and gulls were represented by single fuscus and intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke) and numerous Common (fiskemåke) and Herring Gulls (gråmåke). White-tailed Eagles (havørn) are normally a common sight here but this time we had just two sightings although a Golden Eagle (kongeørn) was my first record. In the mostly birch woodland there were Pied Flycathchers (svarthvit fluesnapper), Chiffchaff (gransanger) and Willow Tit (gran eis). Nearby farmland had Yellow Wagtail (gulerle) and Whinchat (buskskvett) amongst others and a nearby quarry has breeding Sand Martins (sandsvale). Porpoises were often to be seen cruising the bay with upto four individuals. The area definitely has lots of potential but my visits habe never been long or frequent enough. We have previously had both Long-tailed (fjelljo) and Arctic Skuas (tyvjo), Ruff (brushane) and a july sighting of Waxwing (sidensvans).

Monday, 23 July 2012

Photos from Nordland

Here are a selection of photos from around Bodø and Værøy.
11:55pm looking north from Værøy- the sun shines strongly

midnight. The sun sets (real midnight sun is restricted to a few days at the end of June at this latitude)

First some of the different Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke). First off, the fuscus from Valnes, notice the dark wings without any real border to the black wing tips.

presumed fuscus Lesser Black-backed Gull

presumed fuscus Lesser Black-backed Gull - notice how the light can change the appearance of the upperparts

Some from Værøy:
A fairly easy graellsii

An obvious graellsii in the middle with a Herring Gull (gråmåke) on the right and a darker LBBG on the left which I take to be an intermedius.

A difficult bird which could be dark graellsii or pale intermedius.

Another difficult bird which was quite small and cute so probably a female. The flight shot shows significant contract between the wing and wing tips so this is a graellsii I reckon. Also the photo was taken at 10pm so the grey back probably looked darker than it would have looked in the middle of the day.

I’ve read that the intermedius types in northern Norway might be the result of hybridisation between fuscus and graellsii. I don’t know about this but I can say that LBBG’s come in the whole range of colours up here. I also saw one dark graellsii type seemingly paired with a Herring Gull which could result in some even more difficult looking offspring.
EDIT: of course I had not considered the possibility of HEUGLINI when I wrote the original entry. I don't believe there are proven records of this sub-species in Norway but it is probably just as likely at this latitude and longitude as Graellssi

Some other pictures:
Killer Whale (spekkhogger)
3 Killer Whales including a youngster

Common Seal

Also some scenic botanical shots from Værøy

A pale Whimbrel (småspove) – Slender-billed Curlew look alike

A group of five young Pintails (stjertand)
1k Pintails - the green on the wing of the right-hand bird shows it to be a males

The lack of green shows this bird to be a female

Gannet (havsule)

Gannet and Fulmar (havhest)

Juvenile Herring Gull

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Killer Whales

Værøy didn't have many new birds to offer today although a hunting dark phase Arctic Skua (tyvjo) put on a good show as it harrassed a Common Tern (makrellterne). We also had three Wrens (gjerdesmett) singing from north facing scree slopes where grass was the only vegetation. Mammals though gave a really good showing. On a walk along the north coast we had a Grey Seal (havert) that kept surfacing in the same spot and having a good look around. Returning past the same spot the seal was still there and then I noticed something in the corner of my eye. Putting my bins up I saw there was something moving fast just under the surface of the water alongside some rocks a couple of hundred metres oØut. Then a fin surfaced. My first words were dolphin but I had 't taken a breath before I changed to KILLER WHALE!! (spekkhoger). There wad a pod of three animals including an obvious youngster and by their behaviour they werMe clearly hunting seals. They headed towards land and started to swim only 50 metres from the beach before they were lost to our sight behind around the corner of the cliff. We made our way the 50 metres to give us a better view as fast as we could on the treachorous path but never saw them again. Another Grey Seal further along that kept bobing up and looking nervously around was probably a sign that they had made their presence known. Driving back to the south of the island where the road cuts over the innermost part of the harbour we had an Otter swimming in the water and then surfacing only metres from the car before diving again and disappearing. Quite an unforgettable day.

Friday, 20 July 2012


We are on the island of Værøy now at the end of the chain of Lofoten Islands. The ferry journey from Bodø gave me Storm Petrel (havsvale), Great Skua (storjo), Artic Skua (tyvjo), Gannet (havsule) and Fulmar (havhest).  On the island there have been no big surprises yet but 5 young Pintail (stjertand) indicate local breeding and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke) are of the race graellsii with one intermedius. Graellsii is the race breeding in the British Isles and Intermedius the race breeding in southern Norway. So with the fuscus i saw a few days ago I have seen all three of the European races. Passerines are scarce here but Ring Ouzels (ringtrost) breed and are always a nice sight. Razzorbills (alke), Puffins (lunde) and Black Guillemots are common around the island and breed but have I yet to see Guillemot ( lomvi) which is becoming a very scarce breeding bird. Three White-tailed Eagles (havørn) and a Kestrel (tårnfalk) are the only raptors we have seen.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Curlew Sandpiper

We went looking for one of my favourite birds, Red-necked Phalarope (svømmesnipe), at Seinesodden, south of Bodø today. No luck on this front although this is a very exciting looking location. A fledged Redshank (rødstilk) with a short dark bill and yellowy orange legs had my heart racing with thoughts of Lesser Yellowlegs until it flew and revealed its distinctive white patterning. Also Lapwing (vipe), Ringed Plover (sandlo) and Teal (krikkand) breeding here and best of all a summer plumaged Curlee Sandpiper (tundrasnipe). Also seen today a close White-tailed Eagle (havørn), Twite (bergirisk) and Red-throated Diver (smålom). Also some mammals with two young Common Seals and three Grey Seals.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Tricky gulls

I see very few Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke) when I am in Northern Norway and there is a lot of uncertainty as to the sub-specific identity of many of the birds that occur here. One place where I do see birds is around Valnes to the south of Bodø. A few pairs appear to breed here amongst a loose colony of Herring (gråmåke) and Great Black-backed Gulls (svartbak). I have previously reported these as being fuscus (also called Baltic Gull) although I believe it is unclear as to whether fuscus still breed in Norway. I spent some time looking at the birds today and managed some half decent photos which i will upload later. For me these birds are fuscus. Plumage wise they are darker on the back than Great Black-backs, there is no discernible contrast between the black wing tips and rest of the wing, there is just one small white mirror on P10 and they have no discernible white tips to the outer primaries. Structure wise they are clearly smaller than Herring Gulls and appear long winged. The biggest clue for me though that they are fuscus is their behaviour. When feeding they fly like a small gull and swoop down and pick food off the water surface just like I have seen fuscus doing around Stockholm and in the Baltic. Both in size and behaviour they are also very unlike the intermedius that breed around Oslo. Also here Redstart (rødstjert) and Common Tern (makrellterne) but still no White-tailed Eagles (havørn) and the locals also say they have noticed far fewer eagles this year.

Friday, 13 July 2012


We are enjoying the north of norway at the moment around Bodø. I have little to report on the birding front with only one distant sighting of White-tailed Eagle after the three days when I would normally have expected to have seen way into double figures - i hope this is just down to bad luck rather than some sudden population crash. I had a stop on Saltfjellet on the drive up where i have previously seen Red-necked Phalarope (svømmesnipe), Ptarmign (fjellrype), lekking Ruff (brushane), Short-eared Owl ( jordugle), Temminck's Stint, Long-tailed Duck (havelle) and Lapland Bunting (lappspurv) - this time one Common Gull (fiskemåke) and a Meadow Pipit (heipilerke) and that was it! Hopefully the birding gods will be kind to me in the coming days.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Siberian Jay 5 - Siberian Tit 0

The last day of the VENT trip saw us looking unsuccesfully for White-backed Woodpeckers (hvitryggspett) near Eidfjord. We did have a few commoner woodpand birds though including Marsh Tits (løvmeis).
Yesterday saw me searching for Siberian Tits (lappmeis) near Alvdal. This is the fourth time i have searched for birds in this isolated southerly population and for the fourth time I failed. They occur at very low densisty with Willow Tits (granmeis) being more widespread and Willow Tits were the only tits I found. The preferred habitat is a very special being highland pine forest over a lichen covered floor. Siberian Jays (lavskrike) were more obliging and I had a family party of 5 birds although due to the rain they did not show too well even though they came close.
bedragled Siberian Jay

Friday, 6 July 2012

Awesome Hardangervidda

The penultimate day of the VENT Southern Norway your was spent on the majestic Hardangervidda visiting the lake at Tinnhølen, a place I first visited 30 years ago when I was not yet a fully fledged birder. This is a magical place in the heart of the vidda and if it is kind to you can reveal some marvellous mountain species and if it is not so kind-hearted can be a frustrating place for a birder.
Today was unfortunately one of those days. It was a bit too windy for the birds and we struggled. Dotterel (boltit) was confined to a close calling bird that we just could not locate. Shore Larks (fjellerke) showed well though with 2 pairs collecting food and one had this fledged youngster sitting still just yards from the path.
recently fledged Shore Lark
adult Shore Lark with a beak full of food

Lapland Bunting (lappspurv), Bluethroat (blåstrupe) and Golden Plover (heilo) were represented by just a single specimen of each when I would normally expect to see many. On the raptor front not a single Rough-legged Buzzard but a single Peregrine (vandrefalk) was a good record although I would have preferred the more likely Gyr Falcon (jaktfalk). Of waders, a total of 6 Temminck’s Stints was good although only one allowed itself to be examined and there were a couple of Ringed Plovers (sandlo) and half a dozen Redshank (rødstilk). On the water we had a pair of Scaup (bergand) and a male Common Scoter (svartand) amongst a few Tufted Duck (toppand).

spot the Temminck's Stint
Some great scenery was to be admired today
The Hardanger Glacier

perfect reflections on Ustevannet near Geilo

Vøringfossen waterfall

The gorge below the waterfall

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Arriving in the mountains

searching for forest birds
Today we made our way from Drammen up to Geilo along the scenic Rv.40 with stops at suitable looking places along the way. Best birds were Crane (trane), Black-throated Diver (storlom), 4 Merlin (dvergfalk) including a pair breeding in an old crow’s nest, Bluethroat (blåstrupe), Arctic Tern (rødnebbterne), Crested Tit (toppmeis), Wryneck (vendehals), Green Woodpecker (grønnspett) and Mistle Thrush (duetrost).
Unfortunately hoped for birds such as Siberian Jay (lavskrike), Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett) and Red-necked Phalarope (svømmensipe) did not show today.
Today’s comedy moment was when the 50 seater bus proved, as long feared, to be unsuitable for this trip when the chosen road became first a gravel track and then too narrow and then too steep. As we drove past a farmhouse we realised that they were not waving at us but signalising STOP which we very soon had to. A guy then came out taking pictures of us to post on Facebook – they have had crazy tourists driving up here before but never a coach! With his help our accomplished driver was able to turn the bus but we had to admit that we could not get to Budalen. As luck would have it though our Facebook friend was the driver of a minibus and he drove us (for a very moderate price) up to the lake and proved to be a very entertaining tour guide!
female Grey-headed (Yellow Wagtail race thunbergi) in Burdalen
recently fledged Willow Tit

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

On the road

Why have Google stopped supporting Firefox and Windows Explorer for their blogs?! They want you to start using Chrome but they are just being ridiculous. I am forced to do everything in HTML and have far less options available to me. Rant over... Yesterday and today we have been in Vestfold staying in Horten and Stavern. Sites visited have been Borrevannet, Møringa, Presterødkilen, Mølen, Gjennestadvannet and Linnesstranda (we are now staying in Drammen). Some good birding has been had with brilliant views of 2 Honey Buzzards today at Gjennestadvannet. I, of course, had left my camera in the coach but the clients took some brilliant pictures. Also Cranes, Slavonian Grebe, Whooper Swans, Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Thrush Nightingale, Marsh Warbler amongst others.

Here are some of the pictures I didn't take
Honey Buzzard, Brian Gibbons

Thrush Nightingale, Ronan O'Malley

Honey Buzzard, Ronan O'Malley

Monday, 2 July 2012


This week my professional birding career is kicking off in style. I am the local guide for a VENT tours 6 day trip around Southern Norway. We are 7 customers, 2 guides and a driver in a 50 seater luxury coach!! The birding destinations we will visit will never have experienced anything like us before!
Today we were in the Oslo area and visited Nordre Øyeren and of course Maridalen. Blyth's Reed Warbler (busksanger), Hobby (lerkefalk), Marsh Harrier (sivhauk), Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) and Wryneck (vendehals) were highlights of a good day.
This Hobby was hawking insects over our heads at Årnestangen

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The visual impressions from the mountains

I finally have internet access for the pc again, rather than relying on the telephone, so can upload pictures and video. I will start with two videos of the Great Snipe lek and then a few (OK many..) pictures of some of the great birds I have seen in Beitostølen and on Valdresflya.

The first video (taken on my second visit to the lek) is by far the best but as I used so much time putting together the second video (from my first visit) I have uploaded both. The second video has a bird calling which I believe may be a female although I coulddn't find any reference to this type of call in BWP.

DOTTEREL (boltit)

Female Dotterel Valdresflya

Male Dotterel Valdresflya
Female Dotterel from behind - I imagine that the white V marking must be used in display
Male Dotterel left and female right. In this species the female is more brightly coloured, does the chasing. has multiple mates and leaves the male to brood the eggs and raise the young .

Temminck's Stint (temmincksnipe)

Temminck's Stint. I nearly trod on this tiny bird but unfortunately the light was behind it.
Temminck's Stint
A pair of Temminck's Stints was very faithful to one small area of snow-free ground right by the road

Temminck's Stint in display flight

Purple Sandpiper (fjæreplytt)

A couple of Purple Sandpipers were also to be seen on once occasion


This small, roadside snow-free area held Dotterel, Purple Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint, Ringed Plover and Shore Lark!

Ringed Plover (sandlo)
Shore Lark (fjellerke)
Redshank (rødstilk)

Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin)

The lek site - held at least 10 displaying males

This view would have qualified as my best ever of Great Snipe before I had the pleasure of watching them displaying

Great Snipe - taken with flash and then brightened up in photoshop

A print screen from the video - much better quality!

also screen printed from video

In display the white tail feathers are fanned out at the end and presumably have a significant role in the display