Friday, 31 May 2013

Rix and Zak day 1

A quick update from my trip with Rune (a fuller report with pictures and video will come later). We left Oslo at 5pm yesterday and less than a full day into the trip highlights are as follows:
A very lively Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin)  lek with birds as close as 5 metres, Long-tailed Skua (fjelljo), multiple Dotterel (boltit), Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) and Short-eared Owls (jordugle), Temmincks Stint, both Ptarmign (ryppe) species, Shore Lark (fjellerke), Lapland Bunting (lappspurv), Bluethroat (blåstrupe), Long-tailed Duck (havelle) and Crane (trane).
We haven't been able to follow the intended route over the mountains as the mountain road is still closed for the winter!
Compared to last year there is an awful lot less snow and on Valdresflya there was considerably more bare ground now than a month later last year which meant birds were widespread but more difficult to pin down.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Greenish Warbler - the sequel

This evening I am off with Rune for a long weekend in Oppland and Hedmark where we will try to find a number of the specialities which I hope to be able to offer as a guided tour in the future.

This morning though I had a chance to get better acquainted with the Greenish Warbler (østsanger). As I parked the car there was a school class getting ready to go for a hike in the same direction as me. I hurried past them and walked the five minutes up to the scree slope as quickly as I could. The bird was singing immediately I arrived and this time not above the scree slope from the top of the tree, no it was in the understory and right by the path. I saw it immediately and managed a couple of dark grainy pictures which I was pretty happy about. The bird continued singing intensely and moved to the bottom edge of the scree slope. It was in a serious dispute with a singing (therefore I assume male) Willow Warbler (løvsanger) exactly as witnessed by Kjetil J on Tuesday. I was able to sit down and watch these two birds closely as they just cared about fighting and singing to each other. They even paid no attention as the school class walked noisily past.
I managed some pictures which I can be pretty pleased with but it was overcast so the light was not great. After 15 minutes at 10am I thought I would try to get some close video but then both birds shut up. I waited 15 minutes but there was no more sound (or sight) so I left fearing that the same would happen as on Tuesday that the bird took a late afternoon nap. Later in the day a second hand report that two birds had been heard singing came in so it begs the question as to why the Greenish Warbler is so interested in fighting a Willow Warbler when he has some real competition in the hood. 

Greenish Warbler (østsanger) - no encouragement was needed in the taking of this picture

after squabbling with the Willow Warbler it even flew down onto the scree slope

singing from the top of a tree it isn't so obvious to look at

This was the first picture I got and I would have left happy if it was all I managed

A quick stop at Fornebu failed to reveal the singing River Warbler (elvesanger) but nightime is undoubtedly best for this species. I did hear Marsh (myr-), Reed (rør-) and Icterine Warblers (gulsanger). A fly over Peregrine carrying food was presumably taking it to a nest site but must have been looking at a minimum of 7km flight to any suitable cliffs. From the single picture I took it looks like it might be carrying a Magpie (skjære) which must be heavy!
Peregrine with prey, The long tail, long bill and long legs make me think the prey is a Magpie but I'm not sure if a Magpie should look large relatvie to the Peregrine

Another quick stop in Maridalen revealed no sign of the two male Red-backed Shrikes I saw yesterday but I relocated the pair at the same site as on Sunday and the male was courtship feeding the female so it does indeed look like they will breed here. Also another Marsh Warbler (and Per had two singing here) close to the pair and single female I have heard makes four singing Marsh Warblers within 400 metres of each other – new Maridalen record!
The Red-backed Shrike pair shortly after the male had presented a grub to the female

female Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Oslo bird guiding

 Today I had the pleasant company of Hildy Morgan from Colorado who I was guiding around Oslo. We spent the day in Maridalen and at Østwnsjøvannet and despite a bit of rain at the end of the day were blessed with nice weather although the wind at times made hearing birds a touch difficult.

Maridalen showed off its best side with all the specialities I could hope to see being present. The Thrush Nightingale (nattergal) sang although only briefly, Marsh Warblers (myrsanger) sang their hearts out, a Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) said "pleased to see you", two male Red-backed Shrikes (tornskate) sat side by side in a roadside bush but frustratingly flew off before pictures could be taken and Hildy found a Wryneck at a new site. Best of all we had excellent views of Dipper. Hildy had told me she really wanted to see this species but when I checked last week I found none at any of my usual sites and therefore enlisted the help of the local bird club mailing list to find alternate sites. I had a great response and had a plan A, plan B and plan C but didn't need any of them as a bird showed at Hammeren. He was clearly feeding young in a nest just upstream from the bridge and flew back and forth with a bill full of food.

Dipper (fossekal) in Maridalen

Østensjøvannet had the usual waterbirds and the Black-headed Gull (hettemåke) colony seems to be large this year. 14 Common Terns (Makrellterne) didn’t seem to be nesting but it would be great if they did make an attempt. Also two Marsh Warblers singing here. Three pairs of Mute Swans (knoppsvane) were nesting at the southern end and seemingly getting on amicably without any squabbles whilst we were there. One male though constantly swam around with his wings arched in a display of dominance.

male Mute Swan (knoppsvane) leaving you in no doubt that he is the boss

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Greenish Warbler

The Greenish Warbler (østsanger) that was found on Saturday in Asker was on the cards today and Per B picked me up at 9am. Greenish Warbler is a surprisingly rare bird in Norway especially when you consider that it breeds in Finland and Sweden but could very well be overlooked. However in the last week there has been a record “invasion” with this bird, another found singing even closer to Oslo this afternoon, one singing in Vestfold last week, a non singing bird seen close to Oslo plus a bird heard singing by Per in Maridalen but not seen and therefore not claimed. The site of today’s bird is not exactly frequented by birders and is similar to much of Nordmarka so there could be many more out there. I’ll have to find my own one in Maridalen!

On the 10 minute walk up to the site we passed a wet and unhappy KAJ who had stood there in the rain and not heard it but others had heard it earlier in the morning. As we continued up and just a precious few minutes later we heard the bird!

I knew the song from having listened to recordings but for me it is the sort of song you could easily hear but not pay any real attention to. It isn't too my ears particularly warbler like and has a bit of Coal Tit and Treecreeper about it. There was something familiar about the song and I do have a feeling that I have heard it before but perhaps not realised what it was.....

It was singing from the top of spruce trees above a steep area of scree and there was also a good mix of decidous trees. Views however were limited to seeing a small bird fly out of a tree but I did manage to capture the song on video. On the video you can hear Pied Flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper), Chiffchaff (gransanger), rain and water in a stream but if you filter all this out then the song of the Greenish Warbler is quite easy to hear (it can be heard 4 times).

It sang well for 30 minutes or so but some rain caused it and all birds to stop singing and it remained silent from 10:15 until we left at noon. Also in the area Wood Warbler (bøksanger), Chiffchaff (gransanger), Willow Warbler (løvsanger), Grey Wagtail (vintererle), Blackcap (munk), Pied Flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper) and a large flock of Crossbills (grankorsnebb) that flew over. Crossbills have been exceptionally scarce this year so this is perhaps a sign of a new invasion starting?

At 1245 as we were searching for a reported Black-necked Grebe on Tyrifjorden came the message that it was singing again and showing in the tree tops. I would have loved to see the bird and studied it properly but I now have an excuse for another visit or with the other records more like an incentive to find my own?
Here is a link to a picture that Kjetil Johannassen took later in the day. I am not jealous at all.....

Our search for the rare Grebe didn't turn up trumps but we did see a few common waterbirds including breeding Great Crested Grebes (toppdykker) and Coot (sothøne).

Monday, 27 May 2013


Again I chose to get up early rather than stay up late and was at Hellesjøvannet at 05:15 this morning. My aim was to see as well as hear the Bittern that turned up here a couple of days ago. Hellesjøvannet has a bird observation tower that is ridiculously placed with no marked path to get you there and streams to jump. If you do make the effort to get there you also do not really see any more than you could see from the road on the other side. However it does have one advantage that it is close to the largest area of reeds and this is where the Bittern has been heard. My hope was that from the tower I would have a chance of looking down into the reedbed (which isn’t very large) and actually seeing it. Unfortunately however trees have grown so dense on either side of the tower that there is no view over the reedbed. I did however get to hear the Bittern exceptionally well and later walked closer to where it was calling such that I could not have been more than 50 metres away. It is a really impressive sound it makes and loud! I managed to record it on my camera but when I played it on the PC I couldn’t hear a thing. I attached a small loudspeaker though and there was the sound and the loudspeaker even vibrated in my hand. A lot of bass I think! Here is the video – see if you can hear the BOOM.

I never saw if the warbler singing during the recording was a Garden Warbler (hagesanger) or Blackcap (munk) a species pair I have always had serious problems separating on song. Listening now I reckon it is a Blackcap – anyone agree?

Whilst I was on site from 0515 to 0800 I heard it call 22 times with the majority of calls consisting of three booms although later on it went down to two booms in each series. It was particularly vocal between 06:56 and 07:32 when there were 9 series in the space of 36 minutes. In the same area as the Bittern were a nesting pair of Marsh Harriers (sivhauk). When the male flew by I heard the female calling from the reedbed and she later flew off seemingly to hunt. Another male was also present and appears to be tending a nest at the other end of the lake.

one of two male Marsh Harriers (sivhauk) breeding at Hellesjøvannet. This species has increased greatly in Norway the last few years
There was no noise from any of the three Spotted Crakes (myrrikse) I had heard last Thursday. Maybe all the rain and an increase in water levels has made the lake unsuitable, or maybe they just didn’t want to sing?
By 8am I was already feeling tired and thinking of going home. A stop at Kjelle showed that the water levels have risen flooding the muddy pools and therefore making it less attractive to waders. A male Garganey (knekkand) was ample compensation though and finally I had found my own one this year.
male Garganey (knekkand) with Teal (krikkand)

overflying Crane (trane)
A stop at Snekkerivka in Nordre Øyeren revealed extremely high water levels. Årnestangen was under water and I have never seen it like this before. There has been a lot on the news about flooding in much of eastern Norway but it was quite impressive to see it. A pair of Garganey were here which I first picked up by their rasping call. No Little Gulls (dvergmåke) for me though unfortunately – a pair had been seen here the last few days.

a flooded Årnestangen. One can normally walk to the trees in the water to the right of the picture and all the fields are under water

pair of Garganey
A Greenish Warbler (østsanger) that was seen yesterday in Asker is still singing today although I might have to wait until tomorrow before I have a chance to look for it – hopefully it will stay around as it is a species I need..

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The sweet sound of Maridalen

Yesterday we visited Tusenfryd, the local amusement park. It has a number of quite extreme roller coasters but due to the children I had to content myself with less dangerous rides although to be honest they were extreme enough for me, although the 4 year old found them all exciting but very tame. This was all far too much adrenalin and excitement for me so I chose sleep instead of a night singer tour and planned for a pre-breakfast trip around Maridalen. Before I went to bed I had to read reports of Bittern (rørdrum) and River Warbler (elvesanger) in Akershus but when you don’t find them yourself who cares.....?

I awoke just after 4am to see that Per had sent me a message at 1am to say there was a singing Thrush Nightingale (nattergal) in Maridalen. An Oslo and, of course, Maridalen tick was waiting for me. I donned clothes and was out of the house in 5 minutes

The nightingale was pretty much the first bird I heard when I stopped at my first usual place and you would need to be deaf not to have heard the racket the bird was making even though it was a good 100 metres away. I came very close but it was singing two thirds up a birch tree and I only glimpsed it once as it just wouldn't sit in the open. No problem in making a recording of its song though.
At the same site two singing Marsh Warblers (myrsanger), two Icterine Warblers (gulsanger) and Garden (hagesanger) and Willow Warblers (løvsanger). Pure warbler heaven! The Marsh Warblers were singing only 25 metres from each other and a third bird in the area which was being chased was I assume a female. I managed slightly better views of these birds and also recorded the song.
singing Marsh Warbler (myrsanger) in the early morning sun. Shame it sat on the wrong side of the stem

Continuing into Maridalen I finally found the bird that officially makes it a Maridalen summer. A male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) and after a while I noted also a secretive female. They were a definite pair and I believe are already in breeding modus. It will be a pleasure to follow their progress over the coming weeks.
undoubtedly one of my favourite birds is finally back in Maridalen- Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

Maridalen wasn’t finished with these great birds though. The Wryneck (vendehals) sang and showed well, three brown Rosefinches (rosenfink) turned out to be two 2c.y males and a female with an obvious pair and an additional male. I finally saw (as opposed to just hearing) Long-tailed Tit (stjertmeis) this year, had more Iccy Warblers, a singing Wood Warbler (bokfink) and a bried but good view of a Honey Buzzard. The bird flew low over me as I was walking with trees on either side. I managed some pictures and then ran 300metres to try to relocate it without any trees obstructing my view but it was gone. On top of all this there were still some late migrants with four Pink-footed Geese (kortbebbgås) and three Cormorants (storskarv) heading north two months after the first of their kin began the northward migration.
female Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk). Sexed due to the borwn heads and more dark barring on the white flight feathers than a male would have

finally I saw a Long-tailed Tit in 2013 and got probably my best ever picture of the species

this is a pair of Common Rosefinch (rosenfink). The two birds were quite different in plumage with the foremost bird having a distinct white throat. It also had a veryt funny gait and my initial thought on seeing it was actually Bluethroat! The bird in the back sang so is a 2 cy male due to it still being brown rather than the fine red plumage an adult male has
This was MARIDALEN AT ITS BEST! No real rarities but a number of scarce summer visitors and smart birds all on the outskirts of Oslo.
This video captures the scene today. The soundtrack that accompanies the still photos was recorded on my telephone so the sound is a bit low unless you use loudspeakers.

I was then home by 9am and able to eat breakfast in the garden for the first time this year. What a great way to start the day. As we ate I could hear singing Pied Flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper) and Blackcap (munk) and watch the Great Tits (kjøttmeis) taking food to their hatched and noisy young. I also noticed that the willow tree in the garden where the female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) had been drumming on March 26 had three fresh small woodpecker holes in it. Undoubtedly the work of the same birds none of the holes were complete so were presumably just attempts before a decision was made that this tree was not suitable. What amazes me though is that they have been able to work away at these holes without me being aware – what sort of birder am I?!

In the afternoon we were at Fornebu participating in Biomangfold Dagen (biodiversity day). A very good day was had and there were some birds with singing Rosefinch and Marsh Warbler here aswell.

Today I also managed some good flight shots of Lapwing (vipe) for the first time.

Lapwing (vipe)

it's difficult not to like a Swallow (låvesvale)

Friday, 24 May 2013

Brentetangen delivers

Seawatching at Brentetangen it was then. I was in place at 0515 but wasn't the first there having been narrowly beaten by Magne Pettersen. His company and later that of Rune Bottnemyr helped the time go by as the birds passed in fits and spurt. It was also really cold until the sun finally reached us after 10am although my inner core only started warming up at noon.

I was all ready to leave at 1045 but a message of a migrating Long-tailed Skua (fjelljo) further (a lot further..) down the coast made me stay longer and just as well really.

The bread and butter was provided by Red-throated Divers with 134 going north and a few south.
Quality came in the form of a light phase Pomarine Skua (polarjo) at 7am but best of all and lucky for me that I didn't leave earlier a male Red-footed Falcon (aftenfalk) at 1120. Unfortunately it was never close as it flew east (towards our side) over the fjord and crossed land over 1km north of us but we were able to see enough. Full marks to Rune for picking up the bird at more than 2km range, Magne for his 300th Østfold species (and the first to reach that milestone) and maybe to me for being the first to say out loud what species we all thought it was.

Also-rans in the seawatching stakes were an Arctic Skua (tyvjo), male Long-tailed Duck (havelle) and six Scaup (bergand). Three raptors heading west over the fjord were only picked whilst heading away so went down as unidentified buzzards but were all probably Honey (vepsevåk). I waited two hours to see if the Long-tailed Skua would flyby but in the end the lack of any other action made it an easy decision to move on. I searched half heartedly for the falcon in fields around Kurefjorden but the best action was in the flooded fields by Ovenbukta where a close hunting Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) tested the limits of my autofocus and as usual I failed to get the picture I could have. Also here three Temminck's Stints.

male Marsh Harrier (sivhauk)

The last decent bird of the day was a male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) sat on the motorway fence on the opposite carriage way by Rygge airport exactly where I saw one at the weekend. I considered doubling back at the next junction and stopping on the hard shoulder to take a picture but didn't have the nerve.
These two female Eiders (ærfugl) were at Brentetangen minding their creche of youngsters