Friday, 29 March 2013

Bean Geese back

A check of the WWT Bean Goose satellite tracking website shows that the first marked bird made the journey from Denmark to Akershus yesterday seemingly flying in a direct straight line and arriving in the evening.
Hopefully some birders can get out to the staging sight at Horgen and Udenes Kirke to count the birds and see if they can read any neck rings.

I am still in the UK and had the pleasure of the rooftop breeding pair of Peregrines in Brighton yesterday - it would be great if the Oslo wintering birds stayed on to breed like this pair.

In Haywards Heath, my childhood home, I have also just seen a pair of Peregrines hunting over the houses - something that would not have been imagineable in my childhood.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


Currently back in Sussex, England. Spring hasn't arrived here yet with overnight frosts and daytime temperatures under 5C but there is still a lot more life here than at home. Dunnocks and Starlings singing in the garden have yet to make it Oslo, likewise Buzzard which were circling over the house. A couple of Long-tailed Tits also reminded me how much more of a garden bird they are in the UK compared to Norway.

Back around Oslo a couple of the long staying Hawk Owls have turned up again after weeks of absence (or could it just be birds passsing through that have recognised the attractiveness of the areas?). Either way the chances of birds summering and breeding close to Oslo must be high. There are still very few signs of migration with only a handful of migrants being recorded but a few records of Red Kites is a good sign - it would be great to have one in Maridalen again.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

It is not often I post so early in the day unless I have been owling but I was woken in a very special way this morning (and today isn’t my birthday!).

Yesterday whilst skiing in Maridalen I had heard a couple of drumming woodpeckers and suspected they weren’t Great Spotted – one was drumming close to an area with a lot of evidence of feeding woodpeckers with bark stripped off trees, suggesting Three-toed, and where I have also seen Black Woodpecker earlier in the winter. My ears though are not so good at differentiating between the drumming of woodpeckers (or is it my brain that is no good?) especially early in the season before I’ve got some practice. One of the last things I did last night was to listen to recordings of different woodpeckers to start tuning myself in.

When, at 7.30am this morning, I could hear two drumming woodpeckers I assumed I was dreaming. It slowly dawned on me though that this was no dream. There were TWO drumming woodpeckers and the pitch and length of the drumming meant they were surely Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) – but two and in our garden? I have heard Lesser Spot giving its territorial call in the garden once before (although not seen it) and similarly have heard but not seen a Wryneck once and have seen Great Spot on a handful of occasions but never drumming.

I looked out of the back door and could confirm that there was a bird drumming from the large willow tree although I couldn’t see the bird even though it was only 20m away and also another bird drumming on a telegraph pole on the other side of the house – but were they Lesser Spots?? Lesser Spot is a bird I rarely encounter, normally only a handful of times each year so I am always very excited to see one. To try to get a better view, I put on my dressing gown and went out the front door. I immediately saw the woodpecker on the telegraph pole and despite the sun being right behind it the small size confirmed the ID. Still half asleep I went back to fetch the camera, and then a minute later went back inside to fetch the memory card....
Finally up and running although feeling a little cold with only my dressing gown on (but refreshingly airy), the telegraph pole drummer had disappeared but the willow tree drummer was still there and showing well. A female Lesser Spot! I must admit to not realising females drummed but here she was drumming away on a chosen part of the tree. I kept watching and taking pictures and video and then she suddenly ran up the tree and put her wings out like a butterfly before flying off and revealing the male was there. He then preceded to inspect the same area of tree where she had been drumming. I assume this has something to do with the pair choosing a nesting site so maybe they will nest in the garden? Fingers crossed!

After a while the male moved back to the telegraph pole and drummed on the metal top. As I write this one of the birds has also been calling in the garden – the Kestrel (and Wryneck) type call.

Lesser Spots clearly move around a bit in the spring to locate a suitable breeding site and territory and there has been an upsurge in recent reports around Oslo the last couple of weeks. I fear that our garden is a little too disturbed but we will see if they hang around. As you will hear from the video they are quite close to the road! I promise that if I get another chance to film them I will use a tripod such that I get rid of the annoying camera shake that is my hallmark. I will also use a little more time with my camera settings as I see that I wasted a good opportunity due to a far too high shutter speed and therefore much too high ISO.

male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett)

the female stretching her wing



the red on the forehead of the male is iridescent when caught in the sun


Sunday, 24 March 2013


Last night was going to be the big owl night in Hedmark with Bjørn Olav. The evening started with Eagle Owl (hubro). We heard it singing first whilst it was still fairly light at around 1840 but thought the sound was coming from many hundreds of metres away. I walked closer to it and realised the bird was closer than we thought and it was just the lay of the land that made it sound so far away. However I it was deep in the forest and it then stopped singing. I walked back to the others who were ready to leave and we got in the car. We stopped where I thought we would be closest to the bird and as we got out of the car it flew out of an isolated tree only 100m away from us. The light was poor now but if only we had known it was there.... It did not fly far though and then started singing only 200 metres from us although not visible. It was also joined in song by the female and I saw it briefly one more time in flight. A great experience with the bird both seen (although poorly) and heard. The song was surprisingly weak and carried a lot less far than the Tengmalm’s Owls (perleugle) I have heard recently although according to the literature the song can carry upto 4km.

We then headed north close to the Swedish border. This was my third visit to this area where Ural Owls definitely occur but yet again we drew a blank. Listening conditions were perfect with hardly a breath of wind. It was bright with a cloudless night, a near full moon and temperatures down to -17C. The later may not have helped but Tengmalm’s Owls were in good voice although not as numerous as they were in 2011. We had 7 different birds singing over a stretch of 15 km. we also had a single Pygmy Owl (spurveugle) which was singing strongly at both 2230 and midnight which is unusual for this species which usually sings at dusk.
Due to the cold the night didn’t at all times feel like a success especially as the Ural Owls didn’t reveal themselves but 1 Eagle Owl, 7 Tengmalm’s and a single Pygmy Owl must go down as a good nights owling!! We also saw the northern lights although they were weak. I have a picture of them plus some video of some tree tops where you with a good bass on your loud speakers you can hear the low pitched call of an Eagle Owl. In addition to good speakers you will also need some good will to hear the owl above all the other background noise.

northern lights over the forest of Hedmark

young Moose

Friday, 22 March 2013


Today the plan was to get better photos of the Water Rail (vannrikse) - if that would be possible I hear you say :-) Well there was sun today so the light would hopefully be better. When I arrived there was a bird showing but it went into the reeds. I crouched down with the camera on the tripod (I was also hoping to take some video) and waited and waited. After 45 minutes I had to admit that my body is not capable of long term crouching. When I stood up I was dizzy, really stiff in my knees and had pins and needles in my feet. Time to do something else....
Driving up to Horten and checking suitable places along the way gave me my first Starlings (stær) of the year - a flock of 20 but precious little else.
In Horten the mistletoe was still sustaining the overwintering Mistle Thrush (duetrost) and also a flock of 42 
Waxwings. These birds came down to drink from puddles formed by melting snow giving a good but brief photo opportunity.
Waxwing (sidensvans) having a drink
such colourful birds
synchronised drinking
Mistletoe berries seem to be equally whole on the way out as on the way in

At Fornebu, no birds to see but the year’s first Coltsfoot (hestehov) in flower. This is later than most years but given the amount of snow and freezing temperatures I was quite amazed to see this lovely yellow flower.
coltsfoot (hestehov) - the first flower to bloom in Norway

And finally, today’s gull. These two Herring Gulls (gråmåke) at Jarlsø, Tønsberg have very Glaucous Gull (polarmåke) like two-toned bills and had me thinking of possible hybrid influence. I thought at first these were 1st winter birds in which case the bill would be more significant but see that they are most likely 2nd winter birds where such a bill is less unusual. Striking birds anyway.
2nd winter Herring Gulls with very striking Glaucous Gull like bills

And some other birds
the Eiders (ærfugl) were displaying earnestly
Mistle Thrush

Thursday, 21 March 2013


The blue skies and warm sun gave a false impression today: temperatures in the shade did not rise above zero and the north easterly wind was still bitterly cold. Still it is much better here than in Vardø where the participants of Gullfest 2013 have northerly winds of 15m/s and snow – for those who brave the elements though there could be a Ivory or Ross’s Gull blown in.

I gave Østfold a go today hoping that I might be able to find some signs of spring here. Well there weren’t any! I did have four different Rough-legged Buzzards (fjellvåk) but these were all overwintering birds. In the woodland at Alby, Jeløy I couldn’t locate any woodpeckers, just lots of squaking and creaking trees. This Treecreeper (trekryper) did give me the best photo opportunity I have had with the species but despite being ridiculously close to it I was unable to get an angle that didn’t have some vegetation in the way.

Treecreeper (trekryper). this bird was finidng lots to eat amongst the bark of this pine tree

I took the scenic route back home via four Hawk Owl sites but found none (none have been reported for weeks so that wasn’t surprising but an addict doesn’t always listen to his head).

Around the house there are still some Waxwings but the apples they have been feeding on are nearly gone. Spring must be a very tough time for these birds as there is very little in the way of fruit left and it is still months before there are insects for them to eat. 

These three high flying planes over Maridalen turned out to be military jets - has the invasion started?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Twite at last

I finally located the Twite (bergirisk) at Fornebu today although I managed no good pictures as I had hoped. They suddenly arrived in flight whilst I was there, landed and ate for a couple of minutes and then were gone again leaving me with a few distant flight shots and one shot of a perched bird where it is looking away from me.
part of the flock - I counted 33 in total

At Furst Brygge there are now 27 Oystercatcher (tjeld) and on a small patch of snow free grass by offices on Fornebu 12 Greylag Geese (grågås) were trying to find some sustenance.

Earlier I had visited Kadettangen in Sandvika again hoping to have another encounter with the Smew but she was not there today. I had to amuse myself with some pictures of feeding Mallards and Mute Swans.
The Mallards were very hungry and old crusts were fought over

The Mute Swans were equally hungry but were a little more restained (classy). Note the orange bill of an adult bill and the paler, pinker bills of younger birds (3 cy)

close of the Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås)