Sunday, 30 September 2012

From one island to another

Oslo Birder has temporarily decamped to Mallorca. Birding is by no means the purpose of this family holiday but out villa in Porto Pollenca is well placed for incidental birding. The (seen from) garden list already includes BlackVulture, Booted Eagle, Red Kite, Peregrine Falcon, Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Stonechat and Stone Curlew which is enough to make any birder sleep well.
A trip out to the headland at Formentor today in strong winds produced a constant stream of Scopoli's (Cory's) Shearwaters flying close to land although watched from great height all of which appeared to be in moult and had noticeably pale inner primaries. There were near constant sightings of Eleanoras Falcons which breed here although they always seemed to to do the close fly-by in the place where I had been standing just a couple of minutes earlier. A flock of 12 Purple Herons came in from the north, circled a few times and then headed south and we had a fly over Crossbill (I think they are of a distinct subspecies here).

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Røst delivers, what is being missed on Værøy...

Just think what is being missed on Værøy! Yesterday the birders on Røst visited the remote (and I think almost unvegetated island) of Skomvær, the westernmost island in the Røst group. Here they had four warblers: 1 Willow (løv-), 1 Wood (bøk-), 1 SYKES (Rama-) and 1 SAVI’S (sumpsanger)!!

The Savi’s was first identified as a River Warbler but due to the good pictures that were put out on the net of it in the hand I was able to help re-identintify it as a Savi’s which in Norway is a much rarer bird. It would also appear to be of the easteren sub species fuscus which makes it even rarer.

See the pictures yourself here and here, and the Sykes Warbler here.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Late Honey Buzzard

A couple of reports of over 100 Dunlin (myrsnipe) plus some other waders at Årnestangen persuaded Rune and I out there today. With little wind, clear skies and overnight temperatures close to zero there was widespread fog and it wasn’t until around noon that it cleared, suddenly revealing a wealth of birds.
Wader numbers were much reduced but we did have 12 Dunlin, 4 Ringed Plovers (sandlot), 2 Little Stints (dvergsnipe), 1 Knot (polarsnipe), 1 Lapwing (vipe) and 6 Snipe (enkeltbekkasin). We had two seperate resting flocks of 60 Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås)  one of which contained a Bean Goose (sædgås)(due to its large size most likely fabalis), and 2 flocks (90 and 110) heading south. These were my first Pink-feets of the year and it is always nice to hear the cackling of these geese as they fly over in their V-formations.
migrating Pink-footed Geese, my first of the autumn

Rune photographing waders at the end of Årnestangen

3 Brent Geese (ringgås)(which would be a year tick for me) were seen yesterday but we couldn’t find them although had a bit of fun with a flyover goose that turned out to be a poorly marked Barnacle Goose (hvitkinngås) in the end. The light was favourable for us to see and count the flock of Pochard (taffeland) which totalled a whopping 160. Other interesting ducks were a single Shoveler (skjeand) which had the largest bill I can remember seeing and 2 Pintail (stjertand).
On the passerine front 11 Long-tailed Tits were a great sight (I normally have only a handful of sightings each year) and they looked like they were on the move as we saw them fly into a small group of trees right at the tip of Årnestangen.
Raptors were represented by single Peregrine (vandrefalk), Merlin (dvergfalk) , Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) and a Honey Buzzard. When I first saw this last bird without bins I shouted out Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) as it had a long tail and relatively long wings. On looking at it through binoculars though it was clearly a Common (musvåk) or Honey Buzzard. My immediate impression on seeing the plumage was Common Buzzard which would also be the expected bird given the late date but it didn’t feel right. I got three bad pictures but and checking these out has shown that it was indeed a Honey Buzzard, a dark morph juvenile. The yellow bill shows it to be a juvenile, a plumage that I not too familiar with and also a plumage that is closer to Common Buzzard. The features pointing towards it being Honey are, the shape with the long tail and wings and the small, cuckoo like, protruding head. Plumage wise the pictures are unfortunately rather dark (although I have lightened them up as much as I could) but you can see the clearly barred tail, the broad black primary tips, the dark secondaries and the broad barring on the inner primaries all of which are features of Honey Buzzard not shown by Common. It is also uniformly dark on the body lacking the paler chest band normally shown by Common Buzzards.
dark juvenile Honey Buzzard. Ther long, banded tail, long wings and protruding cuckoo head can be seen here

dark juvenile Honey Buzzard. Yellow bill shows it to be a juvenile. Broad black tips to primaries with broad bars on innner primaries is feature of Honey vs Common Buzzard

Dark primaries are also a feature of juvenile Honey Buzzard

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Returning to normality

After the excitement of 6 days on Værøy it will be a while before birding around Oslo feels exciting again……
However a message from Kjetil J regarding a pipit he had heard at Fornebu that wasn’t quite right for Tree Pipit (trepiplerke) got the pulse up but unfortunately neither he or I could relocate the bird. Fornebu did have quite a few birds though (far more than my marathon sessions on Værøy gave me) but nothing from the east (or the west come to that). Still Chiffchaffs (gransanger) and Blackcaps (munk) in the bushes and a single Reed Warbler (rørsanger) in one of the reedbeds is getting to be late. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was probably the best bird I had.
A drive round Maridalen was intended to produce my first Great Grey Shrike (varsler) of the autumn but looks like I’ll have to wait on that score. Still two Black-throated Divers (storlom) and a single Guillemot (lomvi) on the lake is a sign of good numbers of small fish.
This Nutcracker (nøttekråke) provided the only picture of note today.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Værøy postscript

Whilst Værøy has only had coverage from 15 – 25 September, the neighbouring island of Røst which is the very final island group in the Lofoten chain has had multiple observer coverage from around 7 September (in addition to having year round coverage from resident birder, Steve Baines) and there are still a number of birders on the island as I write.

Røst which is only about 25km away from Værøy offers less vegetation than Værøy (which may attract fewer birds but does make it easier to find them) but has far better wader habitat and is also better positioned for seawatching. For those who are interested, I wrote an article about Røst in Birding World 18:pp 125-126 “Røst, rarities in Arctic Norway”.

The following picture shows Røst in the background with Sørland on Værøy in the foreground.
Rarity islands of Røst (background) and Værøy (foreground)

The tall islands of Røst are where the famous seabird colonies are whilst the passerines and waders are found on the flat islands just visible to the right. The more varied habitat on Røst plus far greater coverage (including ringing) meant that Røst has produced more than Værøy this year but hopefully Værøy will get some more coverage next year, perhaps from not just Norwegians?

Værøy produced Pechora Pipit (tundrapiplerke) (unfortunately before I arrived), at least 5 Olive-backed Pipits (sibirpiplerke), Blyth’s Reed Warbler (busksanger), Siberian Stonechat (asiasvartstrupe), 30++ Yellow Browed Warblers (gulbrynsanger), Hornemanni Arctic Redpolls, Red-flanked Bluetail (blåstjert), 3 Red-breasted Flycatchers (dvergfluesnapper) plus Richard’s Pipits (tartarpiplerke) and Barred Warblers (hauksanger).

Røst, on the otherhand produced Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler (starsanger), Pechora Pipit, 3+ Olive-backed Pipits, Ring-necked Duck (ringand), American Golden Plover (kanadalo), Pacific Golden Plover (sibirlo), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (rustsnipe), Pectoral Sandpiper (alaskasnipe), Arctic Warbler (lappsanger), Little Bunting (dverspurv), Citrine Wagtail (sitronerle), many hornemanni as well as Yellow-browed Warbler (far fewer than Værøy), Richard’s Pipit, Barred Warbler and Grey Phalarope (polarsvømmesnipe).

The following photos taken from the Værøy to Bodø helicopter. The first shows the old airport on Værøy which not surprisingly is now closed as it was deemed too dangerous but only after a fatal plane crash.
The old airstrip on Værøy with Nordland in the background. The 2 freshwater pools on the right have proved disappointing for ducks and waders

The small settlement of Nordland with it’s garden and small stands of trees. The line of small spruce trees on the right of the picture was surprisingly productive with on the last 2 days, Yellow-browed Warbler, Chiffchaff, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcap, Goldcrests and Wrens.

The helicopter from Bodø. It carries 15 passengers plus baggage and the days post but pray that there are no stature challenged people on your flight as the seats are designed for children!

The plantation – from the outside it looks dense but from the inside is actually quite open and there is no ground vegetation meaning most birds are above head height.

The "plantation" on Værøy which held Bluetail, R-b Fly, Y-b Warbler and Hawk Owl

The best bird of the trip, sibe by name, sibe by nature

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Værøy day 6

My last day and easterly winds were going to bring more vagrants than I could cope with. Or at least that was the plan.
 It was eerily quiet as I walked through Sørland early in the morning. A single Goldcrest (fuglekonge) and that was it. No warblers, no overflying pipits or finches and no wind. This was not right!
Walking up through Marka there was no improvement and it was only as I got to what I call the “sub-plantation” – the area of short trees 400m east from the Plantation – that there was some sign of birds.
A calling Goldcrest and Dunnock (jernspurv) got my attention so I started pishing. What sounded like a funny Wren (gjerdesmett)responded and when I got to see the bird it was a Red-breasted Flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper) - finally something new! A Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger) also came to investigate as well as a Chiffchaff and there were 7 other Goldcrests in the area. There had been some sort of arrival at least. The flycatcher showed well at times but would then disappear into some sallow bushes.

Red-breasted Flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper)

in flight

In exactly the same spot as yesterday I again had hornemanni Arctic Redpolls (polarsisik). The reason for their presence was a small birch tree full of catkins. The birds were incredibly tame and I came so close that I couldn’t focus the camera (2 metres!).  There were at least 3 birds but maybe as many as 10 as a group flew out as I arrived which on call I would say were the same specues. The three that remained allowed close scrutiny and I saw and photographed the feathered tarsus and managed a “fluffy snowball” picture. There was a lot of variation amongst them in terms of flank streaking with one bird having none at all but the others surprisingly bold streaking (like the bird I photographed yesterday). Also of note was their calls which differed significantly from Common Redpolls (gråsisik) in particular a sparrow like churp which they uttered frequently.
the fluffy snowball - Arctic Redpoll (polarsisik)o f the race hornemanni from Greenland

note the extensive white rump and pure white undertail coverts

here you can see the feathered tarsi - trousers

this bird has an indistinct red "poll" and streaked flanks

......whilst this bird has a more obvious red "poll" and virtually unstreaked flanks

Continuing to the Plantation there were many Redwings (rødvingetrost) and Brambling (bjørkefink) as well as a single Song Thrush (måltrost) which meant there was always a lot of noise. Goldcrests were new in here as well with at least 6 birds, alongside 3 Chiffchaff, a single Yellow-browed Warbler, Robin (rødstrupe), Dunnock, Wren and best of all another Red-breasted Flycatcher. This was quite a vocal bird and uttered the Wren like call plus another whistle like call but soon vanished. The most frustrating moment was when what was most certainly an Olive-backed Pipit (sibirpiplerke) called from the tree top above me repeatedly but I failed to see it and I then heard it fly off.
With it now approaching midday and my helicopter at 5pm I decided to give Nordland a try so I phoned for my “taxi”. The easterly wind was stronger here without the shelter of the mountains so I hope that there would be more birds here. One is allowed to hope...
I gave the areas three hours and really covered all suitable habitat. Result was two Lesser Whitethroats (møller) and a Blackcap (munk), 1 Y-b Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler (løvsanger), 12 Common Redpolls, 5 Goldcrest, 10 Meadow Pipits (heipiplerke) and offshore 2 Red-necked Grebes (gråstrupedykker). Some birds then but where was the rare
Some mammals today with an obliging Otter, 3 porpoises(nise), a Grey Seal (havert) bobbing in the sea and a Common Seal (steinkobbe) hauled out on a rock.
So the day never quite lived upto expectations but I should be happy with the flycatchers and outstanding views of the hornemanni and I shouldn’t get to blasé about Yellow-browed Warblers. It was just that I hoped for even more...

I nice treat was the helicopter ride home (with thankfully only 4 passenges this time) which included a sightseeing trip around the island giving me a Crowned Warbler eyes view which really showed how attractive Nordland must looking to an incoming bird.
the second Red-breasted Flycatcher - warmer on the underparts

obligatory shot of some wing bars

Rock Pipit (skjærpiplerke)

Lesser Whitethroat