Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Værøy plovers

Fourth installment of pictures from the last day (and there's more to come). Some Ringed Plovers (sandlo) on the beach with the Sanderlings were equally as photogenic and close to the Jack Snipe I had three Golden Plovers (heilo).

an adult Golden Plover with some summer plummage remaining - note the black marks on the underside

a young Golden Plover

a different youngster
young Golden Plover

it was a bit windy

Monday, 29 September 2014

Værøy Sanderlings

Third installment of pictures from the last day on Værøy with some very photogenic Sanderlings (sandløper).

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Værøy gulls

The harbour in Værøy attracts thousands of gulls when there is fishing activity. The Russian import ban had caused a temporary stop in activity but alternative markets have been found and there was fishing activity when we were there. Despite being north of the Arctic Circle the only white wing gull was the Glaucous Gull (polarmåke) seen on just one occasion. On Wednesday Kjell and I had a huge congregation of gulls around a fishing boat but try as we could we found nothing other than Herring (gråmåke) and Great Black-backed Gulls (svartbak). Also despite the considerable time spent ringing gulls in southern Norway we could find only a single bird with a ring.

the only ringed gull we saw was this 2cy Herring Gull (gråmåke) ringed on 13.11.2013 in Stavanger, reported on 05.04.2014 close to Stavanger before this sighting on Værøy, a distance of 1025km

the Herring Gulls in the north of Norway are of the same subspecies as those in Southern Norway, argentatus, but the northern birds are real brutes compared to their wimpy southern cousins

many of the adults have very little black in their primaries

a real scrum around the fishing boat

resting Herring Gulls (2 adult GBBG on the left and a young GBBG on the right)

further along teh harbour wall it was mostly Great Black-backed Gulls (svartbak)

these two are both 1cy Herring Gulls - look quite different don't they?!
another picture of the Glaucous Gull

Friday, 26 September 2014

Back home

Birding around Oslo right after the excitement of Værøy always feels like a bit of an anticlimax but today wasn’t too bad. I chose just a quick trip to Fornebu where there were quite a few thrushes feeding on berries and flying around and still some waders although warblers were represented by just a single Blackcap (munk). Three Slavonian Grebes (horndykker) in the bay at Koksa were quite a good local record and three Water Rails (vannrikse) squealing in the reedbed at Storøykilen were probably part of the family I saw in the summer.

At around 11am the wind suddenly picked up (as forecast) and as it was from the south I headed for Rolfstangen. Although the wind hadn’t been blowing long enough to have any real hope of anything having been blown into the inner Oslofjord it is this time of the year that big days have occurred in previous years (with Sabines Gulls, shearwaters and many skuas). As I walked out there were white tops to the waves, a wind surfer flew past and it felt good. However there was no movement to be seen and it was just the local Herring (gråmåke) and Black-headed Gulls (hettemåke) to be seen. After half an hour I picked up a Long-tailed Duck (havelle) in flight that flew around a couple of times before landing on the sea outside of Bygdøy on the other side of the fjord. Then after 40 minutes I picked up a dark gull off Bygdøy that quickly transformed itself into a juvenile skua. It is always exciting to pick up a skua especially here where a skua of any species is rare. It is not always easy to tell which species of skua you are watching but his one seemed a fairly straightforward Arctic Skua (tyvjo). It looked like it was trying to fly south into the wind but ended up landing on the sea and staying there until I left. It was at some distance meaning no real photo opportunity but it was easily in the Oslo part of the fjord (as opposed to Akershus where I was watching from) and therefore became an Oslo tick for me.

Further south there have been reports of shearwaters and Pomarine Skuas (polarjo) so if the wind continues into the night then it might be worth a trip to Rolfstangen again at dawn tomorrow.

at 2.5km range you have to take my word for it that this is an Arctic Skua

three Slavonian Grebes (horndykker) plus three other large grey fish eating birds

the three Slav Grebes

3 (of 15) Lapwings (vipe), a Dunlin (myrsnipe) and a Ringed Plover (sandlo). There was also a Greenshank present today

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Værøy Jack Snipe

Here is the first instalment of pictures from yesterday. I took so many pictures of the Jack Snipe that it has taken ages to go through them. It wasn’t easy to choose the best ones so I’m posting quite a few plus a video.

Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) at 2 metres range and 500 mm lens. Note the fly on its head

Taken with a 36mm lens! You can see my reflection in its eye.
Here is the video I took- It should of course read less than 30 cm range:

good camo!
just visible

when I first found the bird it had pressed its head down into the coarse grass and had it poking in it eye - looks incredibly uncomfortable!!

with the grass sticking in its eye

I received an MMS today with this picture of the bird I didn’t twitch yesterday – thanks Erling Lind!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Værøy 2014 day 6

Day 6 and my last day on Værøy was not the day I had hoped it would be. The weather felt perfect with easterly winds and clouds but a check of the weather maps shows the easterly wind to be just a local phenomenon and not part of a weather system originating much further east. There were definitely no new birds today although there ended up being some photo opportunities which I will post tomorrow.

Two messages on the Bird Alarm did get pulses up. First a  Cattle Egret (kuhegre) just north of Bodø by Skaug (an area I know well from annual summer visits to friends) had me briefly considering whether I could see it during my stopover in Bodø on the way home but I quickly dismissed that thought as that would be far too much like twitching ;-) The second message was of a Siberian Thrush (sibirtrost) ringed on Træna. Træna is one of three islands in Nordland county that attract birders in September (in addition to Værøy and Røst) and being quite a bit further south it seems to attract a more varied selection of birds than we manage to find on Værøy. This was an exceptional find though.

My birding started with the Rb Shrike (tornskate) and a Barred Warbler (hauksanger) still in the north and a short seawatch gave 4 Pomarine (polarjo) and three Arctic Skuas (tyvjo). In the south I searched quite diligently but a Lesser Whitethroat (møller) was the scarcest passerine with believe it or not NO Yellow-browed Warblers (gulbrynsanger) today. Searching for waders I scared up two Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) from under my feet before getting in the zone and starting to walk slowly and scan just a few metres ahead. This gave results as I suddenly saw a third Jack Snipe just 2 metres from me. It sat completely still and even allowed five other birders to come and see it (we were 10 on the island today). I switched to my 18-55mm lens and the mobile phone camera and was able to hold the camera less than 20cm from the bird. I could even see tiny flies walking over the bird!! Quite simply mind blowing.
Plan A for this species relies completely on its camouflage and it truly believes that it cannot be seen if it just crouches down and doesn't move. In the end I decided to test out quite how trusting it was and only at less than 10cm range did it tense its body and get ready to execute plan B - fly baby fly and at 5cm it flew off in a whir.

The others who have 4 more days have an uncertain time ahead with a change in the weather forecast which must be good considering how quiet it currently is but very strong SSW winds and rain are not necessarily much better......

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Værøy 2014 day 5

The expectations for today were so much that I was up before my alarm went off (thus also and refreshingly ensuring number one spot in the number two queue) and in the field at first light. The anticipated deluge of birds had clearly not happened though and two hours in Nordland revealed there was nothing new in except for a constantly calling Goldcrest (fuglekonge) and a Dunnock (jernspurv) flying high over and calling. Just as we were about to leave for the south of the island though Kjell found a Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) and suddenly if felt like game on. Aren't we fools?!

Eight hours of slogging it around the island gave me only a sore back although I did bag five new species for the trip: Shelduck (gravand), Bullfinch (dompap), Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin), Greenfinch (grønnfink) and Wood Pigeon (ringdue) plus a new subspecies with a very vocal although poorly seen presumed tristis (Siberian) Chiffchaff. The later helped keep the motivation levels up but the day really didn't deliver as hoped and I now only have tomorrow until 4pm to find something really good.

This being Værøy though meant there were still good birds hanging around and I did have Citrine Wag (sitronerle), Rosefinch (rosenfink), Barred Warbler (hauksanger), Y-b Warbler (gulbrynsanger), Golden Eagle (kongeørn), White-tailed Eagle (havørn), Peregrine (vandrefalk) and 100+ Ring Ouzels (ringtrost).

A Starling (stær) I came across was an amazing mimic. He was part of a group of 30 birds and was one of only two that were singing. He mimicked Whimbrel (småspove), Oystercatcher (tjeld), Herring Gull (gråmåke), Wren (gjerdesmett) and Redwing (rødvingetrost). His mimicking of Whimbrel has me seriously doubting the bird I have recorded the last couple of days on call only!
A tailess Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) was today's highlight
tristis Siberian Chiffchaff - it wasn't easy to photograph. Note it is ringed - probably here on Værøy 2 days ago

Ring Ouzel

young Golden Eagle with a squadron of Ravens

Barred Warbler

Citrine Wagtail

Video of Starlings. You can here it mimicking Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Redwing and Wren and probably some others.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Værøy Day 4 2014

Being number three in the queue for number twos this morning got the day off to pungent start and early morning rain and few birds had me thinking that the tone for the day had been set. However the sun came out and suddenly there was life. Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger) and Barred Warbler (hauksanger) both allowed themselves to be photographed better than before and the smell of roses began to scent the air!

Heading in the van towards the south of the island there was a bit of banter about where we would all start searching as we all need to have our own area so that we all have a chance of finding our own birds. I chose to start out by the helicopter pad and make my way north thus also ensuring a good work out. Birds were few and far between although the knowledge that others had found Red-breasted Fly (dvergfluesnapper) and OBP (sibirpiplerke) kept me alert.

I walked over some fields to check out the muddy edges of the tidal lagoon and stumbled upon a single wader. Initially seeing it from behind I thought perhaps breeding plumaged Purple Sand (fjæreplytt) before quickly realising Pec Sand (alaskasnipe) and another selfie Norwegian tick. The bird promptly flew off high calling but remarkably was found not too long after a kilometre to the north and everyone got to enjoy it and burn off a few hundred gigabytes.

The Citrine Wag (sitronerle) was still in its favoured garden by the shop and life felt good. I glimpsed the R-b Fly but as is my fate failed to see either of the two OBPs that were found today. A 5 second view of a Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) was some compensation.

With winds now veering to the east we have very high expectations for tomorrow.

The Pectoral Sandpiper (alaskasnipe) when I found it
when refound
Twitching Værøy style. The bird is below the rust barrel just above the grass
a happy Oslobirder

creeping along doing its Long-toed Stint impression

neck extended trying to look like a Ruff

Barred Warbler (hauksanger)

Citrine Wagtail for its third day

it's not often I take a picture of a Carrion Crow

can you spot the Red-breasted Flycatcher?

it's not often that I find a photogenic Rock Pipit (skjærpiplerke) but this one was exceptionally trusting


Two Sanderlings (sandløper) from yesterday evening

there are many Twite (bergirisk) on the island. These were part of a flock of 150+

the view looking north from Værøy. The mountains on Lofoten got an overnight dusting of snow that disappeared during the day

Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger)