Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Bodø cabin

We are lucky enough to have a cabin by a fjord close to Bodø in the north of Norway. Built by my wife's grandfather and extended by her father it is an idyllic place that I love more and more after every visit. This year we had planned to spend two weeks there but (really) bad weather caused us to postpone twice and in the end we have had to make do with a long weekend, but a glorious one at that.
The sun shone fiercely, I suddenly discovered there were fish to catch, porpoises swam by, the water was just warm enough to swim in and there were even a few birds!

Of course every time I did see something good I didn't have my camera with me and I especially regretted a boat trip with friends where we came close to a White-tailed Eagles (havørn) nest on a cliff which still had a youngster in situ, had a close otter, Arctic Terns (rødnebbterne), Black Guillemots (teist) and a close and prolonged chase by an Arctic Skua (tyvjo) of a Common Tern (makrellterne). The latter happened in the marina as we were coming back and the tern used the mast of a yacht to give her cover from the attacking skua.

At or close to the cabin we had Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe), Arctic Skuas (tyvjo), breeding genuine wild Greylag Geese (grågås), Cranes (trane), Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke) that are probably fuscus and a flock of 40 Ruff (brushane). This is the second time I have had a flock of Ruff here and indicates this to be a regular site in the autumn. 40 would appear to be the second highest count of this species in Norway this year for a species that is in alarming decline.

Here are the best pictures I took with the eagles being taken with the iphone through my binoculars.

White-tailed Eagle nest

mother and young porpoise (nise) just offshore

to show how close they were

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The result of a fishing  20m offshore - cod are still numerous in northern Norway

Friday, 26 July 2013

Waders waders waders

In scorching heat I guided Jim and Linda from California yesterday taking in Årnestangen and Maridalen. For the time of the year and given the temperatures I was quite happy with 60 plus species.
Highlights were Red-backed Shrike (tornskate), Little Gull (dvergmåke), Crane (trane), Curlew Sandpiper (tundrasnipe), Knot (polarsnipe), Little Stint (dvergsnipe), Temminck's Stint, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) and at least 9 Ospreys (fiskeørn).
I added to the 17 species of wader that we had at Årnestangen on Tuesday with an adult Little Stint, 3 summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers and a few Snipe (enkeltbekkasin) to make it 20 species at this locality in the course of 3 days - not bad at all. There were also a few Ruff (brushane) although not the hoped for summer plumged male, a couple of Dunlin (myrsnipe), four Knot and a single Temminck's Stint. It is quite a walk out to the end of Årnestangen but it is well worth it at this time of the year and there were no mosquitos!! 
Three juvenile Little Gulls were probably not locally bred but can't have come too far.
Ospreys were the only raptor but were very obvious with at least nine birds including six visible together at one point. There was much calling and it looked like there were three different family groups in the air. Passerines were quite hard to come by but we did see Icterine Warbler (gulsanger), Garden Warbler (hagesanger) and Marsh Tit (løvmeis).

Maridalen didn't disappoint in the heat of the afternoon. A juvenile Red-backed Shrike showed well and hopefully is a sign of succesful breeding close by (I haven't seen any sign of the aduts since the end of June). Two shreeking raptors turned out to be recently fledged Goshawks that seemed to be testing their flying skills. In the bay at Nes there were also five species of waders which is VERY encouraging for the weeks ahead: Greenshank, Snipe, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers.

Now are we in Bodø as the weather forecast (and actual weather) changed to sun and warmth, so we will enjoy a few days in the arctic (well it is north of the circle that name). It will actually be nice to get away from the warmth of Oslo.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Autumn arrives

Knots (polarsnipe) still in their fine red summer plumage at Årnestangen

It now feels like autumn has arrived. Not because of the weather which continues to be scorching summer weather but due to the face that autumn wader migration is now getting going. Rune and I took an early morning trip to Årnestangen today and were rewarded with 17 wader species. I’ll list them all to give a feel of what it was like:

11 adult summer plumaged Knot (polarsnipe)
4 adult summer plumaged Dunlin (myrsnipe)
2 adult Temminck’s Stints (temmincksnipe)
1 adult summer plumaged Sanderling (sandløper)
5 Ruff (brushane) - 2 adult females, 2 juvenile males and a juvenile female
1 Redshank (rødstilk)
8 Greenshank (gluttsnipe)
2 Curlew (storspove)
1 Whimbrel (småspove)
1 Bar-tailed Godwit (lappspove)
8 Lapwings (vipe)
12 adult and 1 juvenile Golden Plover (heilo)
1 Green Sandpiper (skogsnipe)
6 Common Sandpipers (strandsnipe)
20 Wood Sandpipers (grønnstilk)
2 adult and 4 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers (dverglo)
4 adult Ringed Plovers (sandlo)

Not exceptional numbers but a great variety and with so many summer plumaged birds lots of colour too. Interesting that the first juveniles are also on the move perhaps suggesting a good breeding season. We had a bit of fun with the Golden Plovers and spent some time on one slightly smaller and slimmer bird but in the end had to accept it was just a small Golden Plover although some plumage features also got us excited.

Very few ducks yet and raptors were only represented by a single Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) and at least four Ospreys (fiskeørn).

We continued into deepest Østfold and visited the great rubbish tip (sh*t hole?) that is Øra. There were vast mud flats exposed and distant waders but hardly anything close enough to be identified in the heat haze and certainly no sign of the Ruddy Shelduck (rustand) that has been there for the last week or so (and which was seen in the evening). We beat a hasty retreat from the heat, flies, smell and toxic dust.

Kurefjorden had a greater selection of waders than during my trips last week with a Knot, 3 Ruff and 5 Dunlin the highlights.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Ruff retreats

It doesn't get much hotter in Norway than the 28C we are enjoying at the moment. This type of weather is not exactly conducive to productive birding but interesting birds can always turn up.
I wasn't lucky enough to find or even see the Little Tern (dvergterne) that turned up today at Illene, only an hour away from Oslo but whilst enjoying the day with the family at Fornebu a Ruff (brushane) dropped in. We were sitting by the ornamental pond in the middle of Nansenparken when the Ruff flew in and circled over our heads a few times before eventually landing. It allowed close approach as this iphone photo shows.

terrible picture but it shows how close the Ruff was
Its clean plumage showed it to be a juvenile and largish size probably a male. This is early for a juvenile and looking at incubation and fledging times the egg would have been middle/end of May - maybe it is the son of one of the birds Rune and I saw at Nekmyrene?

At the same time as this juvenile was already migrating south a female Red-breasted Merganser (siland) had four youngsters in tow that could only have been a couple of days old. At times the mother swam too fast for her offspring and they had to run over the water to catch up.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Hulvik hytte - the sequel

summer pickings

Continued bad weather in northern Norway caused us to postpone (cancel?) our summer holiday in Bodø for a second time and we instead enjoyed temperatures in the high twenties at the cabin in Hulvik last week.
We added to our reptile list with an adder this time meaning that I have now seen all three Norwegian snake species here (Grass, Smooth and Adder) plus Slow Worm so I just need Common Lizzard to have seen all the Norwegian reptiles here.
I was a little more active on the birding front this time with a couple of trips to Kurefjorden. There was no significant wader passage as I had hoped and certainly nothing rare but raptors showed well with seven different species on show including a young Peregrine (vandrefalk) that was honing its hunting skills on Lapwings (vipe). Chances for decent pictures have been very few and far between but Osprey (fiskeørn ) and a Goshawk gave some closish fly-bys.
A quick trip to Maridalen today produced two fishing Ospreys and some muddy edges which still look promising for waders even though a Common Sandpiper was the only wader on show.

the glow worm from last week

Goshawk (hønsehauk)

Osprey (fiskeørn) with fish at Kurefjorden

and another from Maridalen

last weeks Slow Worm (stålorm)

Friday, 12 July 2013

Hulvik hytte

Summer has really arrived in Southern Norway whilst the north which had amazing weather is now sodden. This meant a last minute change to the family's planned holiday at our cabin near Bodø (north of the Arctic Circle) and instead we have had a few days by the sea at Hulvik.
Birding is really taking a back seat at the moment and the big lens hasn't been on the camera but some good birds have none the less crossed my path. I went for one nocturnal outing but it was very quiet with just a single Corncrake (åkerrikse) crexing and a couple of encounters with Long-eared Owls (hornugle) to liven things up.
Whilst lying on the beach at Krokstrand (which I normally visit during late autumn storms hoping for seabirds) I had a flock of 12 crossbills flying over. But they weren't of the Common variety but of the wing barred variety: Two-barred Crossbill (båndkorsnebb).  An invasion of this species from the east seems to be shaping up and hopefully some flocks will settle down and make good photo subjects.
Raptors have been scarce this summer but one trip to the nearby town of Son to stock up on provisions gave me very close views of a Hobby (lerkefalk) and two Buzzards (musvåk) one of which had a snake dangling from its talons. This area seems to be good for reptiles and on this trip we had smooth worm (stålorm) and grass snake (buorm) and in previous years we have had smooth snake (slettsnok). I also had two glow worms which proved difficult to photograph. Small numbers of butterflies also seem to be finally on the wing in what has for me been an abysmal year for them.
A couple of trips to Kurefjorden revealed that autumn passage has already started with ten species of wader and Slavonian Grebes (horndykker).