Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Knock knock

I have become used to receiving messages from Per Buertange telling me what birds he is seeing in Oslo whilst I am eating breakfast and getting the kids ready for school. Today though he had to resort to banging on the front door at 8.15am. He had forgotten his mobile, had found a really rare bird and was very out of breath!! He showed me on his camera and there was a Purple Heron (purpurhegre). The pictures were at very long range in fight but allowed the ID to be confirmed. Congratulations Per!

We looked for it at Fornebu, in which direction it had flown, but could see no sign of it in the reedbeds at either Storøykilen or Koksa. Hopefully it will be found again but is most likely long gone. We did have singing Lesser Whitethroat (møller) and Redstart (rødstjert) plus the usual Fornebu species whilst we looked for it.

early Lesser Whitethroat (møller) trying to find some insects amongst the catkins

When Per had seen the heron he had been seawatching from Huk, Bygdøy and had seen a number of Kittikwakes and scoter. We therefore had a look over the sea from Rolfstangen but by this time the winds had died down and there was no sign of these birds. A pair of Slavonian Grebes (horndykker) in breeding plumage was a nice compensation and a Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) headed purposefully north overhead.

We had thought that the weather could be good for raptors today so with the buzzard still in our sites headed for Maridalen in which direction it was headed. It was not a big raptor day in Maridalen but over nearly 4 hours there were 7 different raptors of 5 different species: 2 Goshawks (hønsehauk), 2 Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk), a Merlin (dvergfalk), a Rough-legged Buzzard which was hunting and best of all and unfortunately after Per had left, a female Hen Harrier (myrhauk) which was circling at some height and heading north. With all the recent reports of Pallid Harriers (steppehauk) recently I studied the bird as best as I could in the scope. Although it was distant and I was unable to count the primary fingers it was a large broad winged bird and there was nothing to suggest it wasn’t “just” a Hen Harrier.

Ring Ouzels are still hanging around with a minimum of seven and there were also 26 Teal still and an increase to five Black-throated Divers. House Martins have now returned on cue with a flock feeding at Nes which grew from 4 to 12 birds over the course of a couple of hours.

Teal (krikkand) and Black-throated Diver (storlom) on Maridalsvannet
The Wryneck is also still present but took a long time to first hear and eventually see.
nothing wrong with another picture of the Wryneck (vendehals) when it is such a smart bird.
This pair of Nuthatches (spettmeis) were displaying and the male was almost dancing for the female - swaying its body and dropping its wings. We didn't see if he got his reward.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Waders descend on Maridalen

Last night it nearly blew a gale from the south and there was heavy rain the whole night. The wind was less strong this morning but the rain continued. Rain in the early morning can often cause a fall of migrants but given that the rain had started yesterday evening I assumed that no birds would try to migrate and therefore there would be no fall. I was wrong!

Maridalen this morning had loads of birds. Even though the lake is still frozen except for at the outlets of the three streams there were good numbers of waders and ducks. The counts of waders are, for me at least, record counts at the site. Greenshanks (gluttsnipe) numbered at least 16 although there could have been more as there was movement between two sites and Redshanks (rødstilk) nine. There were also two Curlew (storspove), at least 10 Green Sandpipers (gluttsnipe), 2 Common Sandpipers (strandsnipe) and a few Lapwings (vipe). The area around Kirkeby was the best with many of the waders resting on the ice here and also some feeding on the nearby fields. These fields in addition held a couple of hundred Meadow Pipits (heipiplerke), a Wheatear (steinskvett) and three Ring Ouzels (ringtrost). That the waders had been forced down by the rain was made clear by the fact that after the rain stopped in mid morning that they moved on looking for more suitable places to feed.

Redshanks (rødstilk) and Greenshank (gluttsnipe) standing on the ice and braving the rain in Maridalen this morning
Green Sandpiper (skogsnipe)

Ducks were represented by over 50 Teal (krikkand) but nothing rarer (it is probably asking too much for me to find yet another cousin from across the lake). There were also in total six Whooper Swans (sangsvane) on the lake today.

The Wryneck (vendehals) showed again and sang briefly but looked very miserable in the rain. It was also very cold today and some cars driving down from inner Maridalen were covered in snow!
Wryneck (vendehals)

Given the fall of waders in Maridalen I paid a visit to Svellet. There was still a lot of mud but unbelievably fewer waders than in Maridalen. Ten Curlews and six Greenshanks was all there was on offer but a House Martin (taksvale) was a nice year tick.

An evening trip with the girls to Maridalen revealed three Black-throated Divers and an Osprey, the Teal still present but no sign of any Whooper Swans.

The weather forecast for the rest of the week doesn’t suggest any large falls of migrants but there will certainly be a trickle of new migrants. I look forward to seeing my first Redstarts (rødstjert) and Pied Flycatchers (svarthvitfluesnapper) of the year.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sunday installments

Per Christian and I had a pre breakfast trip to Fornebu today. No wind made viewing conditions good but it was just one of those days when nothing was happening. Between 06:00 and 08:30 the only obvious migrants we had were 2 Curlews (storspove) flying over and our first Blackcap (munk) of the year. There were a few Wheatears (steinskvett), Chiffchaffs (gransanger) and Willow Warblers (løvsanger) around plus a single Ring Ouzel (ringtrost) but this is no more than over the last few days. The Little Ringed Plovers (dverglo) were displaying and seven Stock Doves (skogdue) in total was a good count.

A Skylark (sanglerke) in bathing itself in the day's first rays of sun

Yellowhammer (gulspurv) among willow catkins
PC dropped me home just after 9am but seeing as the curtains were still drawn I thought I would be permitted a lightening trip around Maridalen. Just as well I did. Ring Ouzels were showing well with seven different birds on the fields. The single Whooper Swan (sangsvane) now has a companion although I couldn’t tell if they were a pair but this bodes well for an expanding population with the established pair still on site waiting for the ice to melt on their breeding lake. Maridalsvannet is still frozen but the ice frees areas where the three stream enter are expanding and I had 10 Teal (krikkender) today and 6 Green Sandpipers (skogsnipe) but it is still too early for Common (strandsnipe) or Wood Sandpipers (grønnstilk) to turn up.

The highlight today though was the return of the Wryneck (vendehals). As I was driving towards where they bred last year I heard either a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) or Wryneck singing through the open window as I drove. I decided to drive another 100 metres to where I could park the car and there was a Wryneck sticking his head out of last year’s breeding hole!! I’m not entirely sure if this could have been the bird I heard but as I watched it I did not detect either another Wryneck or a Lesser Spot in the area. The rotten tree where they nested last year has suffered some damage over the winter and I wondered whether the hole would still be suitable for breeding but the bird (presumably the male although both sexes sing) had been in the hole and was then calling from the neighbouring tree so it looks like it is approved for use. The bird is back 10 days earlier than last year so despite many birds being delayed it seems some have not had problems.

I just missed a picture when the tongue was fully out as it is much longer than this!

Wryneck (vendehals) in Maridalen. Both the English and Norwegian names refer to its ability to turn its head 180 degrees

Driving home I had a large flock of Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) heading north and counted ca.380 from a picture I took – maybe there is some migration happening today afterall.

Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås). I estimate 380 from the picture and reckond 400 in the field

male Ring Ouzel (ringtrost) feeding on a field of burnt stubble

Willow Warbler (løvsanger)
The day isn’t yet over so expect postscripts as happened last Sunday.

A family trip to Fornebu failed to add any new species but three small flocks of Pink-footed Geese headed north. The big news of the day took a long time to filter out but a male Pallid Harrier did a fly-by over Oslo City today. Frustratingly I was close by at the time had I only known to have my eyes peeled skywards..... This is the second report of a male Pallid Harrier in or close to Oslo within the space of a week but both have been fly-bys identified and reported hours after the occurence. What we need now is a bird to hang around and show itself well enough for a positive ID to be made and the word to get out.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Migration, what migration?

Today I had the company of a journalist and photographer who were writing an article about migratory birds that will appear before the World Migratory Bird Day (an event I was not aware of but more can be seen about it on this website). We chose to go to Årnestangen where I hoped we would get to see migration in action but unfortunately todays northerly winds put a bit of a stop to migration. At Årnestangen the ice has now melted and there are some nice areas of mud exposed but it is still too early for waders so we had to be content with distant views of a few hundred Teal (krikkand) and Wigeon (brunnakke), a couple of Cranes (trane) and a couple of Ospreys (fiskeørn). The photographer managed so few pictures of birds that he has threatened they will have to rely on using pictures of me peering through my binoculars.

The first Black-throated Divers to settle in Maridalen this year - a whole 15 days later than last year
When I got home I went up to Maridalen and discovered a bird rich Eldorado! Well not quite but the first Black-throated Diver (storlom) pair was back on the ice free area at Hammeren, a couple of Merlins (dvergfalk) were knocking about and I finally found that the male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) that pops into Nes farm every now and then actually has a mate and they look like they are breeding a few hundred metres away.

Merlin (dvergfalk). I'm not entirely sure of the age or sex of this bird but reckon it is a 2cy male due to what I see as bluey grey upperparts but lacking the full colouration of an adult male

male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett)

having a good preen
A handful of singing Willow Warblers (løvsanger) today were the only sign of migration. 

The Green-winged Teal (amerikakrikkand) I found yesterday was successfully twitched by 4 others in the evening but has yet to be found today although by yesterday evening there were 600+ Teal so it is no easy task!
Reed Bunting (sivspurv) in Maridalen - actually a very smart bird

I had my first frog (I assume this is buttsnutefrosk) of the year today in Maridalen

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Same old, same old but mighty fine!

I had a very pleasant phone call yesterday from Stig Helge Basnes from Kjelle VGS. He wanted to tell me about the work he and his pupils are doing to improve the birding in the seasonal wetland which is right by their school and I which I have visited quite a few times. They have just finished a new viewing platform which looks over the best area which has traditionally been a bit difficult to see. He could also tell me that there were lots of birds in the area so my destination for today was set.
the northern end of the flooded fields at Kjelle
this ariel view shows where the new viewing platform has been put. The fields to the left are flooded now and teeming with waterfowl

I met Stig at the new viewing platform amongst some trees overlooking a flooded field full of birds. The light was fantastic and it was a joy to watch and listen to so many birds and chat with Stig who has a great job teaching conservation and having the chance to actually put teaching into practice.

Teal (krikkand) dominated and were calling and displaying but I soon spotted a pair of Pintail (stjertand) and surprisingly a pair of Bean Geese (sædgås) amongst some Greylags (grågås). Although perhaps not of the most classic variety these were pretty easy to identify as taiga (fabalis) Bean Geese due to the long bills with much orange although one did have a rather large base to the bill.
2 taiga (fabalis) Bean Geese (sædgjess)

pair of Pintail (stjertand)
I have still to find my own Garganey (knekkand) this year so set about going through the ducks one by one. There was some coming and going of the Teal from another area that I couldn’t see and I went through the ducks many times always with the feeling I was seeing something new. After an hour I decided to count the Teal. When I got to 198 I had to stop. Hadn't I seen this species a couple of times already this month? My third self found GREEN-WINGED TEAL (amerikakrikkand) of the year (of only eight seen in the whole of Norway so far)! A quick check revealed no sign of it being a hybrid and I could send out the news. I secured some photos and video and completely forgot to count the Teal but there were at least 400.

male Green-winged Teal (amerikakirkkand)

this picture shows a hint of a horizontal pale stripe. In the field this was not visible nor is it visible in any of my other photos. This is clearly a photo effect due to the bright light - the same effect as on the bird at Kurefjorden

After this excitement a stop at Hellesjøvannet was also high quality. The Marsh Harriers were displaying and I eventually saw at least three different males and three females. One male was seemingly paired with two females, there was a monogamous pair and an additional male who must have been wondering what his problem was.
Two female Marsh Harriers (sivhauk) interacting with the male flying away beneath.

pair displaying. Unfortunately I saw no talon grabbling and tumbling through the air

male Marsh Harrier (sivhauk)

female Marsh Harrier (sivhauk)
The lake was nearly ice free now and 13 Red-throated Divers were calling and 15 Great Crested Grebes were also back. It was a great atmosphere here with the calling divers and harriers plus a cacophony from the many gulls present.
Nearby Hemnessjøvannet was still frozen (at least at the northern end) which probably explains the high number of divers on Hellesjøvannet.
Coming home I stopped at Svellet and the ice has now broken up although there is a lot floating at the edges. There is quite a bit of mud exposed though and in a few days times there will, I am sure, be lots of waders here. Today though there were only 7 Curlew and 5 Oystercatchers.

Today was a really fantastic day with loads of birds and just so much noise from calling birds. I of course fired off loads of pictures and managed some record shots of the Teal and some OK pictures of the harriers although as usual I stuggle to get good flight pictures.

What will next week bring??