Thursday, 28 August 2014

Oslo guiding

I guided Tom and Sharon from Maryland, USA today. We had a half day and I chose Fornebu and Østensjøvannet. Unfortunately it was hot and sunny today (by Norwegian standards at least) and this put such a damper on bird activity that it took over 2 hours before I could find a Willow Warbler(løvsanger)! With diligent searching though we did find birds though. We had two Water Rails (vannrikse) feeding out in the open giving what for this species have to count as good views. A Bluethroat (blåstrupe) and Marsh (myrsanger) and Reed Warblers (rørsanger) showed but were typically skulking but Wheatears (steinskvett), Meadow Pipits (heipiplerke), Linnets (tornirisk), Goldfinches (stillits) and Blackcaps (munk) showed well. Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) and Kestrel (tårnfalk) flew over and we had a few ducks and shorebirds.

Østensjøvannet in the middle of the day was quite good with a juvenile Ruff (brushane) feeding amongst the geese a real surprise. This bird which walked with a limp but otherwise appeared healthy was amazingly trusting and allowed some close pictures although I don’t like to linger whilst guiding. We also had the escaped but still smart Ruddy Shelduck (rustand) plus the other usual waterbirds. We had some nice views of young gulls and one group of three should have attracted more time from me although I have other priorities. I did take some pictures which now have me scratching my head. The dark gull which I took to be a Lesser Black-backed at first looks much too large and especially strong billed. It must just be a particularly dark Herring Gull but was a good reminder for me of the variety amongst young gulls and also the importance of seeing all the features – I never saw the wing open on this bird which would have given a lot more clues to its identity.

juvenile Ruff

it was actively feeding and probing its beak deep into the soil

plastic fantastic

just a dark juvenile Herring Gull?

the gull in question to the left with a (presumed) Lesser Black-back at the back and a Herring on the right

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


I teamed up with Jules Bell today who was in town and we headed for Årnestangen. As usual there is always a lot of excitement and as you walk the 40 minutes out to the end of the peninsula with the uncertainty of whether you will actually see anything of note. Today we were not to be disappointed though. On the way out the sound of calling Cranes (trane) and a high flying migrating Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) helped keep the excitement levels high as did a Red-throated Pipit (lappiplerke) that flew up calling in front of us although when we got to the end and scanned the mud banks I was initially disappointed as there seemed to be hardly any waders. However as is usual here if you give it some time then waders just seem to pop up. In the end we had 6 Temminck Stints, 4 Little Stints (dvergsnipe), 40 Dunlin (myrsnipe) and a few others. One Little Stint gave us something to work with as we initially found it long range and it seemed too large for a stint and quite long necked. We started working through the possibilities before it eventually flew closer and showed it was “just” a Little Stint but a particularly large individual.

Raptors were the real highlight of the day with a total of 6 different Marsh Harriers seen including an adult female with a hanging broken leg that has been around for about 3 weeks. We also had numbers of Buzzards (musvåk), Ospreys (fiskeørn) and Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk) plus singles of Peregrine (vandrefalk) and Merlin (dvergfalk), with the later hunting Meadow Pipits (heipiplerke) around us.

A very strange spectacle was 4 Willow Tits (granmeis) that flew out at the end of the peninsula in a migration attempt but stopped and tried to land on the observation platform with one actually brushing against Jule’s face.

By Svellet there are thousands of geese congregating now mostly Barnacle (hvitkinngås) and Greylag (grågås). Quite where there geese come from is unknown to me as they do not seem to be part of the local breeding populations and the Barnacles at least could at least come from the southern Swedish population.

Today’s pictures are of that old favourite, Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) but are this time rather good I think.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Oslo birding

I kept things local this morning with a trip to Fornebu and Maridalen with quick stops at Bygdøy and the Opera.

Fornebu was for the first time this summer/autumn a shrike free zone although Bluethroats (blåstrupe) are still around with three revealing their presence. Still not large numbers of warblers or pipits and wagtails but they are starting to come through and alongside a few Meadow (heipip) and Tree Pipits (trepip) and I had a flyover Red-throated (lappiplerke) which gave itself away by its call. Waders were also in good numbers and variety with 4 Ruff (brushane), 2 Dunlin (myrsnipe), 2 Greenshank (gluttsnipe), a Wood Sandpiper (grønnstilk), 10 Lapwing (vipe), a Common Sandpiper (strandsnipe) and 4 Snipe (enkeltbekkasin).

A stop at Bygdøy revealed a single Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) and a stop at the Opera revealed many gulls but nothing rare (more on that later) and for the first time in 5 days no other birders either.

In Maridalen the sun came out after frequent showers earlier in the day and with it a few soaring raptors: a single Buzzard (musvåk), three Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk), a Goshawk (hønsehauk) plus 3 Ravens (ravn). There is still a single shrike in the usual place and nearby were two Spotted Flycatchers (gråfluesnapper), 3 Whinchat (buskskvett) and 2 Wheatears (steinskvett). So all in all an OK days birding plus I also heard a flyover Red-throated Pipit in Maridalen so it looks like they are starting to come through now.

male Bluethroat (blåstrupe) at Fornebu

Whinchat (buskskvett) and Wheatear (steinskvett) in Maridalen

juvenile Goldfinch (stillits) Fornebu

juvenile Greenfinch (grønnfink) Bygdøy

these two Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk) in Maridalen flew around together and were interacting including with talons. As both were the same size this wasn't a pair but most likely two youngsters playing

Willow Warbler (løvsanger) Fornebu

same bird

The Birder's Echo

And in other news a foreign tourist to Oslo, a Mr.Pallas, was mugged on Saturday and his current whereabouts are unknown. This follows similar attacks on two of his compatriots, the Caspian brothers, earlier in the week. For the locals the risk of mugging is well known but it appears that Oslo’s mugger(s) are targeting tourists this summer. 

Indeed following Mr. Pallas’s arrival on Wednesday there was a marked decrease in the reported incidents of mugging but initial investigations reveal that this was because the assailant(s) had their eyes set on Mr. Pallas and ignored other potential victims as they carefully planned their attack on the unsuspecting foreigner. The attack happened in broad daylight and was witnessed by a number of people. Although some were believed to be in league with the attackers and had possibly abetted the crime by luring the victim with the offer of a free lunch it is thought that the majority of the other witnesses were shocked by what they saw. We do not know the reasonwhy none of these witnesses to hear stopped this crime but it is believed that many of the witnesses were themselves tourists and were unsure of local customs.

The muggings in Oslo are quite strange as the assailants are not out to rob their victim but more to give the victims leg a hard yank, bear hug them and then adorn them with a couple of items of bling such that other gangs of muggers can see their mark – a bit like a graffiti tagging. Although witnesses to the attack have been silent a number of other people have come forward and announced that they are cancelling their planned trip into Oslo to meet Mr. Pallas as a result of this attack. They feel that by boycotting Oslo they will communicate their dislike of the crime wave sweeping the city and do not wish to be seen to condone the crime by admiring the poor victim. A number of others though, perhaps unaware of the previous days event, did come to visit Mr. Pallas on Sunday and were rather disappointed that he was no longer to be seen.

Although he had seemed to be enjoying his stay he now appears to have left town although whether this is just to continue his sight-seeing or him fleeing to a safer place to lick his wounds is not known. The relevant authorities are aware of this incident and similar incidents but are far too busy ignoring crimes to pay any attention to this one.

Friday, 22 August 2014


Time to try finding something myself rather than feeding at someone else’s table today. Not a gull but hopefully a wader or raptor. I chose Kurefjorden in Østfold which is at its best at this time of the year. Just before the fjord there is an area of turf fields which in the spring hold Dotterel (boltit) and in the autumn can hold a surprising selection of waders especially if turf has recently been removed leaving exposed mud. Today there were 22 Golden Plover (heilo), 19 Ruff (brushane), 24 Ringed Plover (sandlot), 6 Dunlin (myrsnipe), 4 Lapwing (vipe), a Snipe (enkeltbekkasin) and most surprising a single Little Stint (dvergsnipe). Looked like there may be a few waders around today!

At Kurefjorden the tide was on its way out and the exposed mudflats clearly had waders. In fact there was just shy of 200 Dunlin which is a good count here but annoyingly little else or at least to start with. Then a few different species started to show themselves. Six Knot (polarsnipe) were easy to pick out as were 2 Turnstones (steinvender). Amongst 20 or so Redshank (rødstilk) there were 3 each of Greenshank (gluttsnipe) and Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe). I regularly heard a call I couldn’t quite place but couldn’t locate the bird making it but eventually heard the call and located a flying wader. It landed and revealed a super smart Broad-billed Sandpiper (fjellmyrløper) – my third of the year and all in different counties! As the tide was out the distances were too large for any meaningful photos but I tried...

In a field behind the mudflats a late Quail (vaktel) was singing regularly until the heavens opened. The rain kept raptors grounded except for a single Osprey (fiskeørn). Out over the water there were at least 40 Common Terns (Makrellterne) feeding the majority of which were very vocal youngsters suggesting that here at least there has been a good although late breeding season for a bird which is declining alarmingly fast.
can you see what it is?

...juvenile Broad-billed Sandpiper

some of the Dunlin flock

here a couple of Knot with the Dunlin, an adult (right) and a juvenile

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Liking gulls?

Yesterday was an exciting day and today was never going to live up to that but never-the-less it’s not been too bad a day. I started in the Zoological Museum in Oslo taking photos of the first Subalpine Warbler for Norway which is held in the collection there. This species is about to be split into three separate species which are far from easy to tell apart from each other but hopefully with this specimen we will be able to assign it species and we also have the chance to run a DNA sequence.

After that I headed downtown to look for gulls. There were a few birders around including some hardcore twitchers who had either driven overnight or flown from Stavanger on the west coast. The bird took a few hours to show – some had been waiting since the early hours – but just after noon it suddenly appeared. It showed exceptionally well as it fought for scraps of bread and eventually secured itself a large bit before then moving away (although still in sight) to sleep off its meal meaning that people who arrived later had to be content with poor views.

My hope today was to get to see one of the Caspian Gulls well but although some people had enjoyed good views early in the morning whilst waiting for the real action to start I was not lucky enough to see one. Always another day though and the gull autumn is still very young so many more good birds could still turn up for those with the right disposition (it feels wrong to say this but I might be getting interested myself...).