Thursday, 31 October 2013

The wild side

Today's sea gazing at Krokstrand gave next to nothing despite reasonable southerly winds. Two Gannet (havsule) and a Kittiwake (krykkje) and that's it!

I spent yesterday with wildlife cameraman James Ewen who is filming a documentary on the wild side of Oslo. Our aim was to find out how to film the Peregrine (vandrefalk) that winters in Oslo and we had a successful day. We found the bird, an adult, sunning itself on top of Oslo’s tallest building, the Radisson Plaza, and were able to see where it will be best to film in the coming weeks.
We also walked around Oslo looking for other good subjects.

The Peregrine (vandrefalk) can be seen to the right of the picture with it enlarged in the inset
The river by the hotel at Vaterland had a good selection of urban wildlife, rats, feral pigeons, Herring Gulls and drug addicts and pushers – it will make a good subject for the documentary if the cameraman is able to work safely.

At the grain silos the Long-tailed Duck (havelle) was still present and today was the only duck there!

1st winter male Long-tailed Duck (havelle). it will be interesting it it stays through the winter to watch it coming into adult (and much smarter) plumage

Cycling home I stopped at every stand of Larch trees in the parks as this is the favourite food source for Two-barred Crossbills (båndkorsnebb). I had no luck until I got to St.Hanhaugen where I finally heard calling Crossbills. It took a long time to locate the birds but they, disappointingly, turned out to be Common Crossbills (grankorsnebb). One bird which had been calling flew off leaving a feeding male which was totally quiet in the 10 minutes I watched. It is very easy to miss feeding Crossbills, just like the Pine Grosbeaks (konglebit) of last winter they feed very unobtrusively and only call just before they fly off to the next tree.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Self found American Purple Gallinule.....

.......but not self SEEN. POSSIBLY

A bird reported as an American Purple Gallinule (amerikapurpurhøne) recently in Norway has caused me to look into this species. There is far from agreement as to what the Norwegian bird is and the pictures will perhaps never allow a certain ID to be made. Moorhen (sivhøne) with a deformed bill has been suggested and I decided to Google exactly that: "Moorhen deformed bill" to see if they were any pictures out ther.
This search turns up next to nothing of any interest except for a post on Surfbirds from May 2011 which then leads to a blog with picture from Lanzarote labelled Moorhen (you need to scroll down a bit).

Surely THIS bird from Lanzarote IS an American Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica). The picture is not ideal but hopefully there are more pictures (I have sent an email to the photographer).

1. For a start there is the bill which is large and also the colouring which better suits American PG coming into summer plumage than Moorhen. A Moorhen in March should have a red bill with narrow yellow tip.
2. Then there is the LARGE red eye. When looking at pictures of APG I have been struck by how they have a large beedy eye (not shown by Moorhen) and the bright red colour looks odd for Moorhen.
3. The general colouration suits APG but not Moorhen. The brown colour on the back is the retained juvenile plumage which matches APG but not Moorhen and the darker adult colouration that is coming through is to my eyes blue tinged. A Moorhen in March would look far more adult like.
4. The large yellow legs look too long and too yellow for Moorhen which has a green tinge.
5. The bird looks to be long and the shape not right for Moorhen
6. The bird lacks (at least in the photo) a white stripe on the flanks which Moorhen shows (the wing is drooping down so this feature would be invisible anyway).
7. Although not really possible to see, I see a suggestion of an "empty" frontal shield extending up from the bill between the eyes which is something I have noticed on pictures of immature APG.

Here is a picture of an immature APG which shows a lot of the features I mention.

An interesting thing is that both the birds from Norway and Lanzarote are swimming. Try googling American Purple Gallinule and see how many pictures show one swimming. A single picture maybe? The species undoubtedly swims but isn't it odd (disconcerting?) that these two putative european birds are photographed swimming whilst the online pictures from the states don't (surely not just a case of  people only posting pictures of standing birds for aesthetic reasons?).

Now of course, I fully expect another picture of the Lanzarote bird to turn up in my inbox which shows that it is a Moorhen as reported, but wouldn't it be just a little cool if while researching the Norwegian bird (whatever it is) that I did uncover a previously unreported APG?!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

See sea

I chose to gaze at the waters off Hulvik today. Although the winds were not strong I hoped there might be a few birds that had chosen to flee from the storms further south in Sweden. Well, there were a few birds but no real movement. Gannets (havsule) are always nice to see though and there were at least 12 flying around including a tight group of seven. A couple of Kittiwakes (krykkje) were also results of the winds. Hardly any auks though which are normally a feature at this time of the year.

A Gannet (havsule) seen looking south west from Hulvik
38 Long-tailed Tits (stjertmeis) flying south in groups of 13 and 25 were unusual and largest bird of the day goes to a White-tailed Eagle seen on the other side of the fjord at many kilometres distance.

The forecast suggests Thursday may give another chance of more than just sea to see.

Monday, 28 October 2013

short billed Woodcock

Woodcock (rugde) with short bill. It wasn't obvious that the bill had broken off rather than being some form of deformation

With continued windy conditions it was time for a touch of sea gazing. Per B had sent me a text before I awoke (and before it was light) to say he was already sat at Huk on Bygdøy - get that man some help!

When I had got the kids sorted and was able to leave I chose instead Rolfstangen at Fornebu. This gives views of the same area as from Huk but this has always been the preferred seawatching place and I assumed for good reason. After my experiences today though it is clear to me that Huk gives far better viewing conditions - better light and a wider field of view - at least on a sunny morning. I'm not sure why Rolfstangen has been so preferred by "everyone" but I will be watching from Huk more in the future (as I indeed should if this blog is going to continue to be called OSLObirder).

Not that there were many seabirds to see though. In fact a single Fulmar (havhest) was the only thing of note. This bird ended up sitting on the water and prompted me to go over to Huk as it would me my 200th Oslo species (Huk is in Oslo whilst Fornebu is in Akershus). It was whilst watching from Huk that I realised how much better it is here.

Rolfstangen did give me a very unique experience though. I noticed a brown bird fly out low over the water with a Crow chasing it. I thought Sparrowhawk but then the brown bird splashed down into the sea and I realised that unusual behaviour for a Sparrowhawk. When I viewed it in the bins I saw it was a Woodcock (rugde) but this was not normal behaviour for that species either. The bird sat on the water for a few minutes and then managed to take off and flew low and weakly towards land. It disappeared into a small bay not far from me and a couple of Crows started calling and had clearly seen it. I walked round and initially saw nothing. Then the two Crows flew up from the water’s edge ahead of me. I couldn’t see anything else as it was a bit rocky but then noticed a couple of brown feathers in the water. I clambered down and was amazed to see the Woodcock cowering at the water’s edge and still alive. This bird was clearly not in good shape and hada bill that was only half the length it should be. Whether the bill had broken or was deformed I'm not sure but presumably a Woodcock with a bill half the length nature intended is going to have problems finding food which would leave it weakened. As I went to try to pick it up it attempted to swim but clearly was not liking it. It came into land, adopted a strange posture with tail raised and then eventually allowed me to pick it up. It was extremely light and thin and not in a good shape at all. I put it under a thorn bush where it would at least be safe from the Crows. It was still there 30 minutes later but not showing much sign of life.

Here are a number of pictures:
Woodock (rugde) swimming! Note the raised tail which seemed to be associated with it feeling threatened.

taking off

Add caption
when I refound it, it was crouching at the water's edge having been attacked by Crows

When feeling threatend it had its tail constantly raised - a bit like a Turkey

In addition to the raised tail it also frequently bobbed its head down. This behaviour was obviously because it felt threatened but could also have been an attempt at camouflaging itself

When I managed to pick it up it was incredibly light and thin - I don't expect it to survive the night

note the short bill which should be twice the length of the head. There is no obvious sign of a recent breakage and the colouration of the bill with a pink basal half and dark end mirrors that of a full length bill so it may just be a deformation

after release, looking a bit more natural

Sunday, 27 October 2013

In the dock

Today was very gloomy and I just had the opportunity for a quick check of the Oslo harbour hoping for something interesting. The best I could turn up was this 1st winter Long-tailed Duck (havelle) at Vippetangen (first reported yesterday).

Long-tailed Duck (havelle)
At Vippetangen there are some grain silos which attract good numbers of duck in the winter but today the Long-tail only had company of Mallards (unusual bedfellows!). Elsewhere in the harbour the Goldeneye (kvinand) flock has built up to 160 (but will be around 1000 mid winter) and there were two Velvet Scoter (sjøorre). 

The oncoming stormy weather delivered a Sooty Shearwater (grålire) to a lucky Per Buertange at Krokstrand and hopefully there will be a few more tit-bits over the next couple of days if southerly strong winds blow up the Oslofjord (it currently looks like they might stop a bit too far south though).

Friday, 25 October 2013

Oslo the green way

With the car at the garage I chose to do Oslo by foot and public transport. As I waited to catch the tube a couple of Two-barred Crossbills (båndkorsnebb) flew low over with the wing bars visible to the naked eye and also the call quite distinct – a crossbill call with a twist of redpoll.

Encouraged by this I went to Vestre Gravland (cemetery) where there are many different types of spruce and pine which have attracted various crossbills in previous years. This time I only had two Common Crossbills (grankorsnebb) and a single Nutcracker (nøttekråke). Nearby Frognerpark had a surprising singing Chiffchaff (gransanger) and a flyover Goshawk (hønsehauk) but it is still too early in the winter for the lake to attract any interesting gulls.

Continuing down to Bygdøy the fjord was very calm and allowed me to pick out two Razorbills (alke) but most surprising was a male Long-tailed Duck (havelle) which flew inland and continued over the city. There were a few Crossbills flying over but it took me a good while before I heard the soft calls of feeding birds in the pine and spruce trees. It took me a good while longer to locate a bird and what helped was a couple of cones falling to the floor. I picked up three birds and the only one which I could see well was a male Common Crossbill.
male Common Crossbill (grankorsnebb). This bird revealed its presence when the large cones fell on the floor

I then heard the a very distinct trumpet call and was sure it was a Two-barred Crossbill (I had previously heard a Bullfinch giving its version of the trumpet call but this was very different). I had to walk a bit through the forest but soon located the tree where the bird was calling but couldn’t see the bird!! I did locate a crossbill but this was a male Common Crossbill. I couldn’t see this bird actually calling but neither could I detect another bird in the tree. The calling then stopped and I took a couple of pictures before the Common Crossbill flew off giving a normal call. I waited around but there was no evidence of there being another bird in the tree and I didn’t notice/hear another bird flying off. I am therefore left with either The 2 Bird Theory, a Two-barred Crossbill lacking wing bars or a Common Crossbill with a trumpet like call. I think I would have heard if there were two birds as crossbills are quite vocal when they fly off. A 2BC without wing bars – yeh right. So I’m left with a trumpeting Common Crossbill.

I managed to record the calls with my phone which are just about audible above my rustling and the sound of the camera as I took photos of the Common Crossbill. In the field I felt that the trumpet call was spot on for 2BC but what I can hear on the recording doesn’t sound quite right.

I have found a recording of Common Crossbill from Italy that sounds close to what I recorded:

Here is a "good" 2BC:

Maybe it is just me and the "trumpet like" call is actually a regular call of Common Crossbill but it certainly had me going.

Also in the forest Crested Tits (toppmeis) and the smallest Goshawk I have even seen, It was a juvenile making its identification easy but if it had been an adult I would have struggled to separate from a female Sparrowhawk based on size alone.

juvenile male Goshawk (hønsehauk)

the vertical stripes of juvenile Goshawk separate it from Sparrowhawk

I also had Waxwings (sidensvans) at various places today so they are arriving in force now.

Yesterday a trip to Fornebu gave a brief view of a silent Chiffchaff that looked like a tristis plus a Blackcap – so there are obviously still some warblers around.
hazy picture of a probable Siberian (tristis Chiffchaff)