Saturday, 31 August 2013


Yesterday I visited Årnestangen for the first time in a couple of weeks because I could see that water levels were on the way down again. There were a few waders to be seen but nothing like as good as it was earlier in August. A single Curlew Sandpiper (tundrasnipe) and Temminck’s Stint were the highlights alongside a few tens of Dunlin (myrsnipe) and Ringed Plover (sandlo). Ruff (brushane) numbered only four and there were no tringa waders which is a real sign of how far we have come in the autumn.

Surprisingly there were also hardly any pipits or wagtails which surprised me given how many there have been at Fornebu. Raptors were not that numerous but the three different birds I saw were of three different species and were perched very close to each other during a rain shower: Peregrine (vandrefalk), Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) and Osprey (fiskeørn).

Friday, 30 August 2013

Fornebu - but where are the rarities?

young Greenfinch (grønnfink) at Fornebu
Yesterday morning I had an hour at Fornebu. There are now a lot of pipits and wagtails feeding here – far more than at Øra yesterday but I was not able to pull anything unusual out of the bag. Also an early Smew (lappfiskand), first found by Rune a couple of days ago, which is presumably the same bird as last year. I aged last year’s bird as a 1cy due to it having brown as opposed to black lores but this bird also has looked to have brown lores in the field (not so obvious in the pictures). If it is the same bird then that is obviously an unreliable character for aging. Finches are also to be seen in good numbers at the moment and both Greenfinch (grønnfink) and Goldfinch (stillits) provided some good photo opportunities.

young Goldfinch (stillits)

female Smew (lappfiskand) - but is it possible to age it?

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Østfold birding

Yesterday saw me teaming up with Jules again and we headed for Østfold. We arrived at Kurefjorden at 0840 and had acceptable light although it soon deteriorated as the sun shone strongly. There was a good selection of waders which even included a genuine Black-tailed Godwit (svarthalespove). Present for a few days now this bird was feeding on its own when we arrived but later joined a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits (lappspove). Little Stint (dvergsnipe), Curlew Sandpiper (tundrasnipe), Turnstone (steinvender) and Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) contributed to a good selection of waders with Ruff (brushane) being the most numerous with around 70 individuals.

Black-tailed Godwit at distance

Black-tailed Godwit (right) with two Bar-tailed Godwits
We spent some time scanning the edge of some reeds and this turned up trumps with a Water Rail (vannrikse), 3 Bluethroats (blåstrupe) and a few Reed Warblers (rørsanger) and White Wagtails (linerle) appearing from out of the reeds. The Water Rail was very aggressive towards the Bluethroats although it was unclear as to whether it may have been trying to catch them. We also had single Marsh Warbler (myrsanger) and Red-backed Shrike (tornskate).

Raptors were not so obvious but we did have a Hobby (lerkefalk) which was plucking a swallow and eating in flight.

After scanning for raptors from Burum which gave a few Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk) and Buzzards (musvåk) with the Sparrowhawks at least looking to be migrating I made a decision that surprises me but for which I am glad – to visit Øra (Jules hadn’t seen the Trumpeterfinch). When we arrived and opened the doors to a rather strong smell of cr*p I immediately regretted my decision but I breathed in, put a clothes peg on my nose and stepped out. Our initial target was the Trumpeter Finch (trompeterfink) which luckily fell within the space of 15 minutes. Another birder had just found it and it was feeding right by the side of a path on its own. The other birder had found it right under his feet and when we walked up to him it was less than 5 metres away. It was half hidden in some rocks though which made it a slight challenge to photograph.

male Trumpeter Finch (trompeterfink)
Satisfied with our views we then set about finding some of the Red-throated Pipits (lappiplerke) that have been reported here the last couple of days. After seeing and hearing only Meadow Pipits (heipiplerke) we began to be a little doubtful but then suddenly a Red-throated Pipit flew over calling. Frustratingly it landed a long way off. We then scared another up but this one also landed in an area we couldn’t access. Things then began to go our way as the birds returned calling and eventually landed so they could be viewed. We had three birds together and they were holding themselves separately from the Meadow Pipits. These birds gave me my best views of autumn Red-throated Pipits (although the views were only brief and not too close) and I have to say that without the call they are by no means an easy bird to ID. The white “braces” on the back were not very noticeable and I did not get to see the streaked rump. I was reminded of the sentence in the Macmillan Field Guide to Bird Identification where they write “Records of non-calling individuals are likely to be very critically scrutinised by the BBRC”. Luckily though they did call frequently in flight.

Red-throated Pipit (lappiplerke) from the front. There is not too much to separate from Meadow Pipit on ths view although the chest streaking is bolder

Three birds here. The bird on the left is showing the white tram lines on the back but they are not that obvious
Øra also delivered a number of other good birds in the form of Bearded Tit (skjeggmeis), Peregrine (vandrefalk) and Marsh Harrier (sivhauk).

Øra did through up some unidentified birds aswell .Whilst watching the pipits we also heard (and saw as a silhouette) a bird that sounded good for Citrine Wagtail (sitronerle) but it never landed or allowed any plumage characters to be seen.

Some adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls (sildemåke) looked very black on the wings, long-winged and slender and immediately had me thinking of the fuscus race. There was also a juvenile bird with them that was very white and black and far more matched what a fuscus should look like rather than the local intermedius. Too far away for any good pictures they will have to go just go down as interesting birds.

juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull (sildemåke) that had me thinking of the baltic race fuscus
Final interesting unidentified bird was a female duck that had the form and behaviour of a Wigeon (brunnakke) but the plumage of a Teal (krikkand). It associated with Mallards (stokkand) and Shoveler (skjeand) rather than the 400 Teal that were on sight and size wise seemed too large for Teal (it was noticeably smaller than Mallard but we never saw it next to another Teal for a direct comparison). We will never know what it was but I could easily imagine that it was a hybrid possibly Teal x Wigeon.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Fornebu vs Falsterbo

Back amongst mortals and the grim reality of "Oslo Bird Observatory" I spent this morning at Fornebu with Julian Bell. There were actually a lot of birds around with Willow Warblers (løvsanger), Yellow (gulerle) and White Wagtails (linerle) and Meadow (heipiplerke) and Tree Pipits (trepiplerke) predominating. Scarcer birds were scarce( funnily enough) and the Red-backed Shrikes (tornskate) appear to have moved on to the next leg of their migration so highlights were Water Rail (vannrikse), Bar-tailed Godwit (lappspove) and Bluethroat (blåstrupe) all of which have been regular here recently.

Some excitement came in the form of a probable Red-throated Pipit (lappiplerke) heard calling but then disappearing before a certain ID could be made and also in the form of a gull. Only seen in flight as it gained height it was a juvenile gull with the largest and brightest pure white upper tail I have ever seen which even extended up the back which set off a solid black tail band. The head was fairly pale and the upperwings dark with a slightly paler window on the inner primaries. Caspian or perhaps Yellow-legged Gull would seem to have been the best candidates but this will have to go down as the one that got away.

A short stop in Maridalen revealed eight Whinchats (buskskvett)(there had been only one at Fornebu) plus a few pipits.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Falsterbo exceeds all expectations

I arrived home late yesterday from a fantastically satisfying and inspirational weekend in Falsterbo for a joint meeting of the Nordic Rarities Committees. This was the first meeting of its type and was to share experiences, look for common ways of working and to hear new ID criteria developed by some of the individual committee members. The real highlight though was that the one and only Mr. Lars Svensson held three presentations on new and challenging species groups. To hear him present and then grab the seat next to him at dinner (everyone else was too hesitant) was for a birder a truly orgasmic experience :-). We were also treated to some very thorough work on difficult species by some of the Swedes and were also visited by another leading ID expert, the Italian Andrea Corso. I will be writing an article on the meeting for the Norwegian Ornithological Societies (NOF) magazine so will not reveal everything here.
and God decreed that his birders should go out and find the birds formally known as Subalpine Warbler

We were inside from 0900 until 1700 each day but from dawn we were able to enjoy the migration spectacle that Falsterbo is famous for. Even though we were there on REALLY quiet days the birding still superseded what I am used to in Norway. Now, my Norwegian list is rather on the low side which is a product of living in Oslo and not really twitching but even so it was a surprise that in Southern Sweden I saw 7 species that I have never seen in Norway (although have seen elsewhere) of which four would be national rarities at home.
Spot the Buff-breasted Sandpiper with the bridge between Denmark and Sweden in the background
would be nice to see all these stripes in Norway

Black and Red Kite. They were only 20 or so metres from each other but I failed to get them both in the same (unmanipulated) shot

Rarest bird was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper (rustsnipe), followed by a fly over Tawny Pipit (markpiplerke)), Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge) and Black Kite (svartglente). I also had a Serin (gulirisk) which is also a national rarity in Norway but one I have seen. I will let you guess the three other species that I saw but have yet to see in Norway (it’s too embarrassing for me to write myself).
Even though things were quiet there was a constant stream of Yellow Wagtails (gulerle), Tree Pipits (trepiplerke), Swallows (låvesvale) and Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk) heading over to Denmark and as always visible migration was a joy to behold.

We also saw the way the bird Observatory at Falsterbo works and got to hear about the approach to ringing in Sweden. I have to say that the Swedes are really impressive and their methods, approach and reasons for ringing really does put Norway to shame. But then again I guess Sweden has always been a leading nation when it comes to ornithology. As a Brit it can be easy to think that the Brits lead the way but per capita the Swedes have surely had more influential ornithologists and top notch artists/illustrators.
It was also good to see many youngsters birding and ringing at Falsterbo and some clearly were already very knowledgeable. On the theme of young Swedes I can replay the weekends most embarrassing moment: I was speaking to one of the Swedish members, Hans Larsson, who had presented (very impressively) his work on separating Common (tårnseiler) and Pallid Swifts (gråseiler) which had uncovered that many previously used characters were downright wrong. Knowing that he was an artist I asked him if it was just paintings or whether he also illustrated in guides. He said he had illustrated a couple of small books of gulls, terns and skuas. “Oh really” I replied, “what gull book”? “Oh you know" he replied “Gulls”. My brain goes into overdrive....does he mean the major authoritative book of that name that first came out over 10 years ago, the one by Malling Olsen and Larsson ?...but surely he can’t be old enough to have been the artist for that book. “How old were you when you painted the illustrations?” I asked. “17” was the reply. Cue blushing, clearing of the throat and a sudden desire to change the subject. How much of an idiot did I feel?
Here are a few pictures from the weekend.
The participants. Desåite the males of the species displaying a fine array of breeding plumages it looks like this species is doomed to die out due to an inability to find a mate

Hans Larsson, a Sparrowhawk and Björn Malmhagen who leads the Falsterbo Bird Observatory and was the organisor of the conference

Falsterbo lighthouse which is where the ringing is done. In the background we see Nabben which is the tip of the perninsular where the migration counting is done. All good birding locations have to have a lighthouse