Thursday, 31 January 2013

Getting the bug

I am still suffering from some sort of bug so have taken it easy the last couple of days. I t hasn’t stopped me searching for Hawk Owls though although I have done so in a very sedate manner. The owl at Kroer has been present both times I have passed by. I waited with it for an hour today hoping to catch it hunting but the one time it did attempt to catch something it flew 100metres from where it was perched before plunging down into the snow – too far away from me and also a seemingly unsuccessful hunt.
very alert - presumably having heard a rustle or squeak

care needed - these talons may be sharp

I also spent time with the Frogn school bird but this made no hunting attempts. Instead it was mobbed by both Yellowhammer and Waxwing which I caught on film (although at distance).
this yellowhammer didn't really concern the school yard owl

neither did this Waxwing (just think it could have been a grosbeak....)

I could not find the bird at Nordre Furu although a distant singing Black Woodpecker had me initially thinking I was listening to a singing Hawk Owl. This is the second time I have nearly made this mistake and I don’t think I’m the only one to have fallen into this trap.
A couple of Great Grey Shrikes also gave themselves up and perhaps rarest of all (this winter at least) a Common Buzzard. This particular bird has been misreported as a female Hen Harrier but no doubting its true identity.
Common Buzzard

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Sofa birding

The extremeness (!) of the downhill skiing has yours truly and my youngest a bit under the weather so birding has been of the sofa variety. I have managed to fire off a couple of satisfying pictures though.
Fieldfare (gråtrost) that feeds on apples I put out in the garden

female (due to lack of red on back of head) Great Spotted Woodpecker (flaggspett) in Maridalen

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Synthetic substitute

This weekend saw the family skiiing at Hafjell near Lillehammer (it should only be 2.5 hours drive from Oslo but due to living in the world's richest country and all the inconveniences that come with that it takes 4 long painful hours to drive home.....). Anyway the skiiing was great - it was my first time on downhill skis in 17 years and I can't quite remember why I've waited so long.
Birding on the other hand was a disaster. I had hoped that I might be lucky enough to see something interesting such as a Siberian Jay (lavskrike) but low cloud and falling snow meant that the bird count over the weekend was 4 birds of 3 species: single Magpie (skjære), Crow (kråke) and a pair of these which uncharacteristically were seeking cover inside (as an addict though I don't complain how artificial my hit is!)

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Becoming a bit of a bore

I was ready to go cold turkey today but I had a date with Rune and he was anxious to get his weekly dose.
Our stated intention was to bird Jeløya near Moss but to get there you drive perilously close to countless ruthless dealers all too willing to sell you their wares. I thought Rune had his cravings under control as we drove along the E6 but just when I thought we had driven past the turning to Drøbak a violent turn of the steering wheel had us careering off towards Drøbak and the school playground dealer. We scored.
Jeløya had unfortunately little to offer. A couple of Nutrackers (nøttekråke) were my first for the year. One was feeding on cones on some kind of ornamental spruce. Here you see it feeding, note how it has stripped the cone. 
Nutcracker (nøttekråke)
 The sea off Jeløy was flat and there were a few seaducks but nothing too interesting. We tried Alby forest for woodpeckers but only encountered two birds in a 2km walk: single Great Spotted Woodpecker (flaggspett) and single Nuthatch (spettmeis) – obviously not a particularly productive day!

We drove back on the minor roads searching for more Hawkie. At Våler Næringspark we were able to get very well acquainted with the dealer here. I actually saw it discard a pellet which I was later able to find on the ground. It was small and still wet – in fact it could have been mistaken for a hairy moose dropping. There were hardly any bones and they were tiny and it consisted mostly of hair - foolishly I didn't take a photo.
We noted some blood on the underside of this individual. I can't make out whether this is from an injury or whether it had recently eaten and the blood was from its prey - when they eat they hold the prey about here with their talons. If it had just eaten then it was not full (perhaps not surprising given the tiny bones in the pellet) as it was moving from tree top to tree top searching for a new hunting spot. This at least gave me new chances to practice my flight photography and I will be bold enough to say that I think I'm getting better.

Continuing home we had brief views of a Pine Grosbeak (konglebit) perched on a tree top but it disappeared all too quickly and at Kroer both the Hawk Owl and Great Grey Shrike (varsler) were on show. So another good day in good company and good weather but there are no signs of me getting my habit under control.
Hawk Owl (haukugle) - my best flight shot to date
the blood is visible here
blood also visible here
a quite satisfying picture
here it was on its way up to land on the top of a tree
this tree to be precise. This is where it also discarded a pellet
owl in nature

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Am I dreaming?

I abused myself severely today by plying my body with inhuman amounts of Hawkie. No birder can handle this sort of overdose; I was a goner, I’d flatlined but then a noise, a calling if you like, acted like a shot of adrenalin straight into my heart. I could have been dreaming, maybe this is what heaven is like, but no my DREAM HAD COME TRUE: Hawkie and Piney at the same place, at the same time and I captured it on film!
FIVE DIFFERENT HAWK OWLS and a single PINE GROSBEAK all within spitting distance of Oslo. I’m not sure if this is avian drugs or avian porn or most likely a mixture of the two – Rock n Roll baby!!!
I’ll let the pictures do the talking today – I need to lie down now.

This video contains scenes of a graphic nature and those of a weak disposition are recommended to refrain from watching. It carries a 15 Certificate and children must watch in the company of an adult. Parents are recommended to talk to their children both before and after watching the video to ensure that no psychological damage is inflicted.

Hawk Owl 1: Kroer, Ås, Akershus. Great light and the bird sat low down in a birch. Refused to look at me.
Hawk Owl (haukugle). Have to be happy with that picture
on the bright side I managed a flight shot in focus, on the down side I chopped off half the bird

Hawk Owl 2: Våler Næringspark, Våler, Østfold. Sat on top of a tall spruce

Hawk Owl 3: Vannemkrysset, Moss, Østfold. Sat on a low spruce, looked at me but bit too distant
in focus and the whole bird in shot, just need a faster shutter speed next time

Hawk Owl 4: Nordre Furu, Frogn, Akershus. Sat atop a distant tall spruce

Hawk Owl 5: Frogn School, Frogn, Akershus. The scene of my death and resurrection
the habitat - here the bird is sitting on a tree within the school grounds

you need to be careful when scratching with those claws

the one that put me over the edge
and my saviour which started calling whilst I was getting high on Hawkie.
The Pine Grosbeak was the most vocal one I have encountered probably because it was on its own and searching for its kin. I'm not sure if the call you hear on the video is a sub song or whether it is an advertising call.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Today was one of those fantastic winter days: very cold (below -15C) with clear blue skies and white frost on the trees. I paid a visit to Fornebu hoping there would be some birds on the sea as the inner fjord is fast freezing over. I stopped first at Storøya where I picked out the over wintering Kestrel (tårnfalk) perched atop a tree â la Hawkie. There is obviously a good supply of rodents here as wintering Kestrels are a rare sight in these parts – would be nice if a Hawk Owl joined him.
I also had a flock of small finches feeding in alders which turned out to be Common Redpolls (gråsisik). In the warm early morning light they looked very brown initially and I assumed they were a flock of Lesser Redpolls (brunsisik) which breed here in small numbers. Seeing them better and in more neutral light though showed all the birds I saw well to be Common. Lesser Redpolls have also been reported here recently but I couldn’t ID any conclusively today. Norway stands (nearly) alone in treating these as two separate species rather than subspecies something which must soon be changed.
Common Redpoll (gråsisik)

cool haircut!

snow bath

The sea at Furst Brygge was nearly ice free although further in at Halden Brygge there was a lot of ice. Velvet Scoter (sjøorre) were the commonest duck with a grand total of 29 counted but the rarest was a female/immature Smew (lappfiskand). This bird has been around for over a week but only reported once in the meantime. It was at quite some range frequenting the sound between the two Vassholm islands but showed every now and again. 14 Mute Swans here were a high number and a sign that other areas have frozen forcing them to move on. Another observer had (and took good pictures) of Little Grebes and Common Scoter here later in the day which were absent when I was there thus showing that there is some (local?) movement going on.
Mute Swans (knoppsvane)