Friday, 31 October 2014

Østensjøvannet & Pintails

I thought I’d try out Østensjøvannet today as it still seems to have good numbers of waterfowl and the reedbeds here are also a potential spot for Bearded Tits. Waterfowl were there without doubt still lots of and if the lake remains ice free then they could stay here for a number of more weeks. A total of 42 Mute Swans (knoppsvane) was a notable increase over the breeding population so there has obviously been an influx from other localities and the birds seemed to be getting on well although a couple of the local males were swimming around with their wings raised trying to look menacing. Also three adult Whooper Swans (sangsvane) were clear immigrants.

Goose numbers are well down with Canada Goose now the most numerous which was not the case 3 weeks ago.

47 Wigeon (brunnakke) was an impressive count for Oslo and it was interesting that none of the males is yet in full breeding plumage. A single female Shoveler (skjeand) showed briefly but I couldn’t find any Little Grebes (dvergdykker) although there were 10 Great Crested Grebes (toppdykker), two of which were displaying. There were two Pintails (stjertand) present. One was a male in nearly full plumage. Interestingly this bird lacks the long tail that one normally sees in males exactly as the bird that overwintered last year. I had assumed that last years bird was a 1cy but assuming this is the same individual it may be that this bird is slightly abnormal which would also explain why it would choose to overwinter here and eat bread whilst its kin are flying as far as North Africa for the winter. The other Pintail was with the hand fed Mallards (stokkand) under the bridge exactly where I had another bird three weeks ago. This bird was in female plumage and the single coloured bill also showed it to be a female. I remembered that the bird from three weeks ago was also in female plumage but that due to a two toned bill I had concluded it was a young male. Now I began to doubt myself. However on checking my pictures it is clear that the two bird theory is correct and that first a male and now a female Pintail are hanging out in exactly the same place.

Male Pintail (left) from 3 weeks ago and Female Pintail (right) from today. Despite both birds being in similar female plumage not the male has a distint two toned bill and grey scapular feathers
Quite a bit of work has been done over the last few years at Østensjøvannet to remove bushes and restore areas that were originally marshy which has included having cattle here in the summer to graze down the vegetation. The area where the cattle have been has been name Snipe Marsh (Bekkasinmyra) although I have always doubted its attraction for the said species. Today however with the cattle gone and the electric fence taken down I walked through this wet field and guess what two Common (enkeltbekkasin) and more excitingly one Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) flew up with in usual fashion the Jack flying up just a metre in front of me!

Surprise, surprise no Bearded Tits though.

short-tailed male Pintail

the female Pintail

all in a flap

Great Crested Grebe

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Yesterday just saw me doing some incidental birding around chores in Oslo. At Frognerpark there were no rare gulls but a dark eyed Herring Gull (gråmåke) had me interested for a bit but it was just that and not a Caspian Gull (kaspimåke).

Today there were blue skies, an overnight frost and no wind so I thought it would be a good chance to see if any Bearded Tits (skjeggmeis) have attived back at Fornebu for the winter. Unfortunately they seem not to despite there being records from other placesd showing that the autumn dispersal from the breeding sites has started. There was little to see generally although I did scare up a Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) which for the first time that I can remember made a noise as it flew up – it was a very quiet call similar to a Common Snipe and only audible due to it being just a couple of metres from me.

I hoped that with the fjord being calm that I would be able to pick out some lingering rare seabirds but apart from Guillemots (lomvi) everything has left. There were quite a few ducks though including a flock of 64 Goldeneye (kvinand) that appeared whilst I was there so the overnight frost may have been the motivation needed for birds to move off from inland lakes.
Treecreeper (trekryper) today at Fornebu - the first one I have seen there this year, although it is probably more a reflection on me than the scarcity of the bird
the bird had walked the whole length of the branch clinging on to the underneath - its claws must be incredibly strong

Goldfinches (stillits) were probably the most numerous bird at Fornebu - this one is a youngster acquiing its adult plumage
a Goldfinch in adult plumage although a couple of white feathers on the cheek may indicate it is a bird of the year

prizing out the seeds from within the thistle head

I had this Dipper (fossekal) on Akerselva yesterday

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Manxie in Oslo!

It was still blowing hard today ut I didn't have the motivation for a trip to Krokstrand and with some presentations and articles waiting to be written I thought I would just take a quick trip to Bygdøy to see if there were any seabirds hanging around in the inner Oslofjord - I was hoping most for a Grey Phal feeding on the shoreline. When I walked out I started getting excited as the wind was much stronger than the forecast 10m/s. I wasn't sure where to sit to get both protection from the wind and a wide enough angle of view but tried by the restaurant wall. The first bird I saw as I swept with my bins was dark and had an arching flight. I assumed a skua but as I finally got the scope up I saw it was a Manx Shearwater (havlire)!!!! It was coming towards me very fast and i quickly realised that my angle of view was bad and I had to run around the corner to see the bird vanishing close to land in towards Oslo. I found myself a better but more exposed viewing position and waited as it would surely have to come out again.

As the minutes dragged on I had three Fulmars (havhest) but little else in the way of supporting cast for such an distinguished guest as a Shearwater. Then after 40 minutes I saw it flash through the bottom of my field of view quiite close to land. I raised the camera to document it and then was able to watch it in the scope flying in typical shearwater style and flashing black and then white as it flipped over. After about 15 minutes it landed on the sea close to land by Fornebu but unfortunately that was the last I was to see of the bird despite driving round to Fornebu.
In three hours at Fornebu and now with some company we had three Pomarines Skuas (polarjo), 2 Fulmars, quite a few Kittiwakes (krykkje) which we could see arriving from the south, a Little Auk (alkekonge) and my first Waxwings of the autumn. I called Sabines Gull at one stage but lost it and then found a poorly marked Kittiwake so will let that one go.

Two of the Poms headed off high north east over Skøyen in Oslo and were lost heading towards Maridalen!

The Fulmars also sat on the water for long periods of time so it wouldn't surprise me if the Manxie is still out there. Maybe it will be seen early tomorrow morning as the winds should keep blowing until after midnight.

Manx Shearwater (havlire) from Huk looking towards Fornebu

they are phenomenal flyers are rise up high arches before going down to just centimetres over the waves where they often disappear from view

it's a Penguin!

Monday, 27 October 2014


After Friday’s excitement on the seawatching front it was with excitement that I saw others recording good birds through the weekend and that the weather forecast showed that winds would get even stronger on Sunday night. I could really hear the wind outside the house during the night so it was with great excitement that I met Per B at Krokstrand at dawn this morning. With som good sized waves we chose to watch from the higher look point as this would make it easier to find Grey Phalaropes of which 4 were seen yesterday although you do run the risk of more easily missing birds that go by too close or too high which nearly happened to us.

First bird of the day was a young Pomarine Skua (polarjo) heading purposefully south which if it was lighter and the camera had been taken out of the bay would have made a nice photo subject. After this though things failed to really take off. There were a few Kittiwakes (kryykje) in the area and three Little Gulls were feeding and slowly moving south. Auks were scarce though with only about 30 Guillemot (lomvi) in contrast to the 1000 reported from Brentetangen at the weekend. We also worked hard with the Kittiwakes but failed to turn any into Sabines Gulls although did have a few adrenilin scares – from behind it can be easy to confuse these species if you try too hard.

Pomarine Skuas showed twice more both at range. The first one was off to the south and spent a long time chasing a young Common Gull (fiskemåke) seemingly to take the gull rather than any food it had. Eventually an adult Great Black-backed Gull (svartbak) started chasing the skua and all three birds were wheeling around performing arial acrobatics before the skua gave.

The bird that nearly evaded us due to our viewing position was a Great Northern Diver (islom) which was relatively close and nearly went unseen as both Per and I were looking at birds further out. If we had picked it up earlier then it would have been close enough for decent shots.

I gave up after 4 hours and checked out a couple of bays on the way back towards Oslo with the (invane) hope of finding a feeding phalarope before realising it wouldn’t be much of a detour to look for the Kingfisher (isfugl) again. I got out of the car and walked down to the water line and immediately heard a singleKingfisher call. I wasn’t sure where it came from and then heard a similar sound from the brakes of a lorry on the road and started doubting myself before again hearing what was definitely a Kingfisher call. I scanned the bushes on the other side of the bay and amongst the orange autumn leaves was a richer orange colour. I couldn’t be sure through the binoculars whether it was a Kingfisher but a couple of pictures and a look at the back of the camera revealed it was! I walked around to the otherside of the bay but along the way heard the bird call a couple of times as it presumably flew off to a new fishing post and that was the end of my encounter with the beautiful bird.

In Maridalen no windblown seabirds but the 2 Common Scoter (svartand) are still present.

Kingfisher (isfugl) at long range but the light was good enough such that the enlarged picture leaves no doubt as to species

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Seawatching snaps

Here are some pictures from yesterday. The bad light and rain are very evident.....

Grey Phalarope (polarsvømmesnipe) - at least I got a picture of sorts

possibly a bit better?

Black-headed Gull (hettemåke) and Little Gull (dvergmåke) - the smaller size, white upperwing and black underwing of the Litte Gull are obvious here

a 1cy Pomarine Skua (polarjo) - this bird shot past with another individual and stopped to chase a Herring Gull

8 Poms from a group of 10

goup of 7 Poms - this group had hung around for over an hour before shooting off north

Velvet Scoter (sjøorre)

Proper seawatching

Through the gloom of the weather this week there has been an ever growing light at the end of the tunnel with strong southerlies forecast from Thursday evening and through the weekend which as you will have guessed means seabirds or at least the promise of.

I persuaded Per B to join me at Krokstrand and he was already braving the elements when I arrived at 0830. The wind was as predicted but rain and mist made viewing conditions difficult at times. Until 11am we had very little just a few auks and a couple of Red-throated Divers (smålom). A wall of rain coming our way prompted Per to depart and also me to move position to where I could use the car as cover.

Poor Per!! The wall of rain seemed to bring the birds and also my new position gave a much better viewing angle. First I noticed a couple of Kittiwakes (krykkje), then a Puffin (lunde) on the water with a couple of Guillemots (lomvi) before it all kicked off at 1130. First three Pomarine Skuas (polarjo) shot through heading north, then 3 adult Little Gulls (dvergmåke) appeared. Whilst watching these 2 more Poms flew north stopping up briefly to harrie some Herring Gulls. A small grey bird that popped above the waves was a Grey Phalarope (polarsvømmesnipe) but as I grabbed my camera I lost sight of it but was happy when half an hour later it or another flew south allowing good scope views and some dodgy photos. At times it looked like it couldn't cope with the wind and landed on the sea where it promptly disappeared but it was probably actively feeding because it soon headed purposely and quickly south into the wind.
Pomarine Skuas again made their presence known. A group of 7 hang around to the south of me for over an hour and when I picked up a group of 10 flying high and fast to the north I assumed they contained these 7 but no it was a new group and the group of 7 continued to fly around before an increase in the wind also three them north. So 22 Poms in total!  There have been huge numbers passing southern Sweden recently and these are undoubtedly birds from there pushed north.

Other seabirds were a couple of Gannets (havsule) and Fulmars (havhest), an Arctic Tern (rødnebbterne) and a few more Little Gulls and Kittiwakes.

I called it a day at 1530 after 7 hours and a sore back. Heading back to Oslo I thought I would give the fjord off bygdøy a try as those skuas had to be somewhere. Just as it was getting dark one flew by - an Oslo tick and a great way to end the birding day!

Pictures will come tomorrow!