Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Today's pre-breakfast trip was a pre, during and post trip. There was only one place to visit today which was Svellet. The water level is rising incredibly quickly fuelled by melt water from 100kms away plus far too little water being allowed out at the southern end. This means that an internationally important site for feeding waders on spring migration loses its importance overnight. By tomorrow there will be no mud banks left and the waders will have lost a vital final smorgasbord before they reach their breeding grounds. The main wader passage has yet to begin but a sign of what we won't be seeing in the next three weeks was the 270 Greenshank (gluttsnipe) feeding there today. There were also 6 Ruff (brushane) including 5 resplendent males and 10 wood Sandpipers (grønnstilk) which is just a single percent of the numbers that could have been seen here in the course of the next fortnight. Just a couple of hundred Teal (krikkand) were left with three Garganey (knekkand) although on the nearby Merkja pond which still has low water there were 4 Garganey, 11 Wood Sandpipers and 3 Little Ringed Plovers (dverglo).

Svellet is clearly the food rich area in spring whilst out at Årnestangen where there was still mud there wasn't a wader to see. In the autumn though when water levels fall again it is Årnestangen that has the food and attracts the birds. At Årnestsangen there were a few hundred distant Wigeon (brunnakke) and in amongst them seven Pintail (stjertand), two Gadwall (snadderand) and a Shoveler (skjeand). The walk out had a few nice passerines with Wryneck (vendehals), Redstart (rødstjert), Whinchat (buskskvett) and Yellow Wagtail (gulerle).

Raptors put on a bit of a show today with two Peregrines (vandrefalk), 2 Buzzards (musvåk), 4 Ospreys (fiskeørn) and single female Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) and Hen Harrier (myrhauk). The Hen Harrier was very distant and being mobbed by a crow as it thermalled but there was nothing to suggest one of its far rarer cousins unfortunately.
Garganey pair and Wood Sandpiper

Three Garganey

Peregrine - as usual bad exposure

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Watching the sea

It is now seawatching time in the Oslofjord. A good southerly wind is normally a requirement for success but with just northerly winds forecast for at least the coming week I thought I'd give it a go today. There was in fact no wind and the see was flat making for good viewing conditions. Given that birds have to head north I thought that I would at least witness some passage. Well I was wrong. Of the few birds I saw there were more just milling around or heading south than heading north. There was more excitement in the trees behind me with my first Redstart (rødstjert) and Lesser Whitethroats (møller) of the year. On the sea a single Black Guillemot (teist) was the only highlight.

I gave it an hour and a half before heading to Kurefjorden where mist meant I had to wait half an hour to see anything! Here there wasn’t as much as I had hoped to see based on reports from yesterday. Best bird was a Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) which flew round a couple of times calling before heading north and is the first record this year in Østfold. There were also a few Whimbrel (småspove) showing they are now arriving.
I checked nearby fields for harriers and Dotterel (boltit) but perhaps unsurprisingly didn’t succeed. Some excitement came with a small dove flying over fields. I hoped it would be a Turtle Dove (turteldue) which woud be a great find but had to settle for a Collared Dove (tyrkerdue).

On the way home I stopped in at Østensjøvannet. There is a lot of life in the Black-headed Gull (hettemåke) colony and a couple of pairs of Great Crested Grebes (toppdykker) have nests only metres from the path and are very popular with photographers. Another popular bird is the plastic Ruddy Shelduck (rutstand). Whilst undoubtedly pretty and a good photo subject due to its tameness it remains completely unexplainable to me how this bird is being ticked as a wild bird. The large blue ring and lack of a metal ring (wild birds which are colour ringed always have a normal metal ring on the other leg) combined with tameness, wrong location and wrong time of year do not seem to have raised too many any red flags. This bird escaped from a farm in Østfold last year and was seen at a couple of sites in the autumn where the blue ring was also ignored until some good detective work (not by me) traced its origin. What is interesting though is where the bird has been in the meantime. What was most likely the same bird was seen a week ago to the south in Telemark county but where did it spend the winter? Probably in Denmark or Holland where many other feral species find a winter home. It is fascinating though that it has survived in the wild and developed a migration strategy – a bit like the feral Bar-headed Geese from Holland which now migrate north to Norway in the summer and have been found breeding high in the mountains exactly as they would do in the Himalayas.

In a fresh northerly wind Maridalen was quite quiet with the exception of a singing Wryneck (vendehals). It was singing at the old breeding site but was unmated and soon moved on no doubt looking for a mate. I walked the marsh where I had the snipe on Saturday and found lots of tracks of them but no birds – I suspect that I had been beaten to looking for them today. In addition to dropping and footprints one could also see where they had been probing with their bills in the mud!
Great Crested Grebe Østensjøvannet

male Redstart Brentetangen

plastic duck

White Wagtail (linerle) - this bird had a broken leg and will presumably struggle to survive

evidence of snipe: dropping, footprints and holes from a probing beak

Monday, 28 April 2014


No points for guessing how my day began. Maridalen was quiet and the mittle marsh which had held the Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) on Saturday was now empty so I felt a bit of a fool after having tiptoed around it staring 2 metres in front of me.

The one good observation was finding a Black Woodpecker (svartspett) nest. I was driving along when I suddenly noticed a large hole in a tree that i have never seen before. I we t up to it thinking it was an old nest and having a hope that I could scratch on the tree and see an owls head stick out. When I got to the tree though I saw chippings on the ground showing it to be a new hole. Scratching on the trunk caused a Black Woodpecker to stick its head out! This species had been difficult to find in Maridalen this year and I have not suspected their presence at this location before now which just shows how difficult woodpeckers can be. The three-toeds didn't show for me and may well be busy excavating their nest hole.

After breakfast I headed for Svellet. The water level has risen noticeably here which is annoying. There is clearly still. Lot of melt water flowing down which is also evident at Maridalsvannet which is very high at the moment. Teal (krikkand) numbers have fallen to 500 with 10 Wigeon (brunnakke), 6 Shoveler (skjeand), 1 male Garganey (knekkand) and new in a pair of Gadwall (snadderand). Finally some action on the wader front with 21 Greenshank (gluttsnipe), 10 Oystercatcher (tjeld), 6 Curlew (storspove), a Whimbrel (småspove), a Redshank (rødstilk) and a Little Ringed Plover (dverglo). There had been some male Ruff (brushane) here at the weekend but they have now moved on. Overflying Yellow Wagtail (gulerle) and Tree Pipit (trepiplerke) were new for the year.

Lunch was spent sitting at Hellesjøvannet where only some of the regular goodies were showing. No Green-winged Teal (amerikakrikkand) today but a pair of Garganey and a Wood Sandpiper (gronnstilk) showed briefly, a pair of Common Terns (Makrellterne) spent most of their time swimming in the middle of the lake and two male Marsh Harriers (sivhauk) were in the area displaying over the reedbeds.

Driving home I stopped at Kjelle where there is still some water which held 5 Wood Sandpipiers and further up the valley a corner of a set aside fields held 5 male Wheatears (steinskvett)and 2 male Whinchats (buskskvett).

The sound of singing Willow Warblers (løvsanger) is now a regular part of the bird orchestra and I had Swallows (låvesvale) and House Martins (taksvale) at a few sites.

I'm still waiting for a big day though.
Black Woodpecker


my first Whimbrel of the year

male Whinchat - are they normally this bright?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The dentist

The day started quietly, painfully quietly. Even before 7am I was thinking of which similie I could best use to sum up the feeling and settled on pulling teeth.

Just then though I saw a bird that made the whole experience worthwhile: a Maridalen tick in the form of a pair of Pintail (stjertand). This is what makes birding so much fun as there is always the chance of something unexpected.

But after that excitement the teeth pulling did continue...

I had started by heading into the centre of Oslo at 6am hoping to find the first Black Redstart (svartrødstjert) of the year. I failed on that score but the street cleaners and down and outs whose company I shared, if only fleetingly, did have 2 Common Crossbills (grankorsnebb) and a Meadow Pipit (heipiplerke) flying over plus White Wagtail (linberle), House Sparrow (gråspurv), Fieldfare (gråtrost) and Great Tit (kjøttmeis).

Maridalen apart from the afore mentioned tick was as quiet as it gets. Hopefully this is a case of the lull before the storm but next week’s rain has now disappeared from the forecast so I fear it may remain like this for a while. There are of course birds though and the dawn chorus is loud now but consists only of thrushes, Robin (rødstrupe), Dunnock (jernspurv), Wren (gjerdesmett) and Chaffinch (bokfink) with the just odd Chiffchaff (gransanger) and Willow Warbler (løvsanger) so far.

I wrote the above on my phone whilst in the field – gives another idea of how quiet it was. As the thought of breakfast became overpowering I drove out of Maridalen and stopped at the lake one last time and now found three Teal (krikkand), a Tufted Duck (toppand) and 4 Canada Geese had arrived so maybe there has been some movement of wildfowl today. There may also have been a movement of waders as I put up two Common (enkeltbekkasin) and two Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) from a tiny marsh which at best has held a single Common Snipe before. Their tell tale droppings were easy to see and I kick myself for having left the camera in the car as the Jack Snipe flew around me in great light..... maybe they'll hang around though and give me another chance.

News from yesterday and today is of a Black-necked Grebe (svarthalsdykker) which is a real rarity in Norway found at exactly the spot where Rune and I searched for White-billed Diver on Thursday in Hedmark. We did have 5 Slavonian Grebes (horndykker) but I wonder if we missed something?
male Pintail

pintail pair

female Yellowhammer (gulspurv)

Friday, 25 April 2014

Waiting for waders

I had intended to wake up at 2am to go listening for an interesting owl Rune had heard in the deep, dark forests of Aurskog-Høland a couple of weeks ago. My close encounter of the Great Grey kind yesterday had however sated my owl needs so I awoke at 5am instead. I had a message from Per B who had been up all night and checked out the said deep, dark forest and hadn't found anything other than Tengmalm's Owl (perleugle) so I took the "lie in" with a good conscience.

With the continuing sunny settled weather it was perhaps no surprise that Maridalen had nothing new to offer except for the first Willow Warblers (løvsanger) and Common Sandpiper (strandsnipe) although the Three-toed Woodpeckers (tretåspett) were both drumming with the female again the most active. I have found a tree with two newly excavated holes. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew from the tree so is presumably responsible for at least one the holes but I will pay attention to this tree and also a nearby one with old holes that one of the Three-toed was drumming on – I will find their nest if it causes the ruin of me!

I next headed to Svellet to take advantage of the favourable early morning light. Here there slightly fewer Teal (ca.1200) but the three Garganey (knekkand) were still amongst them and Shoveler (skjeand) now numbered eight and Wigeon (brunnakke) 14. There were only seven Curlew (storspove) and five Oystercatchers (tjeld) until a flock of 60 Curlew flew in at some height from the south and landed. I am getting a bit impatient now for the wader passage to start properly but I'm sure that one day there will suddenly just be 100's of 'shanks and sandpipers.

Hellesjøvannet turned up the Green-winged Teal (amerikakrikkand) again so no wonder I couldn't uncover one at Svellet. It is with only 20 or so Teal here who are in pairs or small groups along the edge of the reeds unlike the large flock at Svellet which feeds in the middle of the delta. Otherwise Hellesjøvannet offered up the usual suspects with a Marsh Harrier (sivhauk), female Smew (lappfiskand), White-fronted Goose (tundragås), male Common Scoter (svartand) and one new bird: my first House Martin (taksvale) of the year.
I saw a male Marsh Harrier twice and took pictures on both occasions. These show that there were two different birds as the wing patterns are different with one bird being older than the other.
about 10 pairs of Great Crested Grebes (toppdykker) breed at Hellesjøvannet

my pictures of the Green-winged Teal get worse each time!

even at 800metres range and a 500mm lens the vertical white stripe of the american version contrasts with the horizontal stripe on the european versio

An older(er) male Marsh Harrier on the left with a near absence of a black trailing edge to the wing. The bird on the right has a broad black trailing edge and also moreblack bleeding into the grey areas on the primaries. The bird on the left is the same as the one I photographed on Tuesday

Part of the Teal flock at Svellet which were scared up by an unseen raptor. Going through the picture I discovered one of the male Garganey was the bird furthest to the right in the flock