Thursday, 30 April 2015

Expectations not met

In hindsight it is difficult to believe how high my expectations for today were. With southerly winds and rain from about 5am I was expecting a fall of biblical proportions in the Oslo area. I was able to start fairly early at Fornebu and quite quickly realised the folly of my thoughts. Despite the weather seeming perfect (although perhaps too cold) there were clearly few if any newly arrived birds. I did have a female Lapland Bunting (lappspurv) which I discovered at close range but she flew off as I tried to improve on my hopeless photo attempt from Maridalen earlier this year. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers (dverglo) were the first recorded here this year and were already in breeding modus and were angrily chasing off a Common Gull (fiskemåke). I reckon that LRPs will continue to be able to breed at Fornebu even as the development continues but reckon the Ringed Plover pair that is attempting to breed will increasingly have problems. So far this year it looks like things are going OK and one of the adults was engaging in its distraction display as I went past suggesting the other adult was sitting on eggs nearby.

A Water Rail sang from the reedbed but despite being close by remained invisible and a White-fronted Goose (tundrågås) that has been around for a week showed well with Greylags although was clearly more wary than them. The small amount of white around the bill and black belly bars suggest this is the same bird as at Bygdøy and probably a 3rd cy.

Despite my disappointment at Fornebu I continued into Maridalen still with high hopes – I was thinking Golden Plovers and various other waders and ducks. Pairs of Common Scoter (svartand) and Tufted Duck (toppand) on the lake plus a flyover Merlin were all that I could must up though.
one of the LRPs

Redshank (rødstilk) and Greenshank (gluttsnipe) at Fornebu

White-fronted Goose (tundragås)

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Exciting times

You know that the season I hotting up when non birders take pictures of rarities either in or over their gardens. Yesterday began with pictures of a young Pallid Harrier (steppehauk) flying right over someone’s house in Drammen and then in the afternoon mobile photo pictures of a Hoopoe (hærfugl) feeding on a patio in one of Oslo’s suburbs appeared on the net. Clearly my lack of self-found rarities this year is due to me being in the field far too much and I should just be sitting in the garden!

I did go out in the field today though as we are now coming into the most exciting time of the year and both Maridalen and Svellet need regular checking. Going to Svellet first I stopped at nearby Merkja and immediately saw a Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) and Little Ringed Plover (dverglo). These were alongside 3 Greenshank (gluttsnipe) and all 3 sandpipers so I had very high expectations for Svellet. Clearly though it is still a little too early for Svellet though with some warmer weather needed before the birds appear and there is enough food for the waders. Today there were only 8 Greenshank, 15 Oystercatcher (tjeld) and now just 2 Curlew (storspove). Teal (krikkand) numbers have fallen dramatically to “only” 400. 3 Common Terns (makrellterne) were my first of the year but no raptors here and little sign of active migration although Swallows (låvsevale) and House Martins (taksvale) were to be seen.

In Maridalen there were still no new summer migrants making their presence felt although two different Ospreys (fiskeørn) did, for once, allow themselves to be photographed relatively well. In Maridalen Lapwings (vipe) are only breeding on one field this year. There are 10 birds there so likely 10 pairs although I only saw 3 birds sitting on nests. 5-6 years ago they bred on at least 4 different fields all over the valley so this contraction is very marked and makes them very vunerable to disturbance. Near Nordre Øyeren today I had a group of 12 Lapwing feeding on a newly sown field and they gave the impression of being failed breeders with quite possibly the ploughing and sewing of this and nearby fields having ruined their breeding attempt although it is presumably not too late for them to try again.
A montage of Osprey 1 in Maridalen

Osprey 2 came bit closer

3 Little Ringed Plovers (dverglo) were my first of the year
as was Common Tern (makrellterne) which I saw at 3 locations suggesting a large arrival

Greenshank (gluttsnipe)

this pair were chasing each other around a lot calling and the male clearly had plans

record shot of the Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe)

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Flying barn door

I had expectations of a new wave of summer migrants in Maridalen today with Blackcap (munk), Pied Flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper) and Wryneck (vendehals) my hoped for species. Looks like I’ll have to wait a bit longer for these species but the day did turn up one big surprise. There had been an overnight frost and despite it being blue skies and sunshine it was chilly in the shade and the frost persisted until after 11am in some places.

Willow Warblers were slightly more numerous than yesterday and could be seen flycatching in the lakeside bushes but there were only a couple with the energy to sing. The big surprise of the day was a flying barn door. I had been alerted to look up by some alarm calls and located a large female Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) which I initially took to be the local male Goshawk (hønsehauk) and I then kept scanning and saw a thermalling large raptor way in the distance. Expecting a Buzzard  (musvåk) I put the scope on it and was very surprised to see a White-tailed Eagle (havørn)! It soon started to glide towards me and came over my head although at some height before continuing towards the city (and thereby qualifying itself for the “Birds that could have seen my garden” list). This is my third record in Maridalen after birds in the last 2 years and only the fourth record here ever. This is a species that is becoming a lot more numerous and will surely become a regular site in a few years.

Ring Ouzels a(ringtrost) re still around and I had five birds and after hearing some rustling in the grass I saw a Lizard which posed well and amazed me with the length of its tail.

I visited the lake where it looked as though the Whooper Swans (sangsvane) were going to breed but they were not there and I fear have suffered disturbance of some sort. I saw a wary pair on Maridalsvannet on 23 April which I assume was the same pair that had left their breeding lake and were now looking for a new nesting site.

With a desire to see some new summer migrants I visited Fornebu at noon. Here I did hear and then see a singing Wryneck but otherwise there was little new. 
Lizard (firfisler)

flying barn door -White-tailed Eagle and a 2cy/juvenile if I am not mistaken (which I am often am)

female Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) and not Goshawk (hønsehauk) as I initially thought. The size says female and the brown upperparts mean it is not adult but I'm not sure whether it is a 2cy or 3cy
the eye of a Goshawk
2 Ring Ouzels

Ring Ouzel

my first Wryneck (vendehals) of the year
feathers from a Woodcock (rugde) that I found suggesting it had recently died at the hands of an unknown predator. The white tipped feather is from the tail and the other is I assume a primary feather

Comma butterfly (hvit C) at Fornebu

Lesser Redpoll (brunsisik) at Fornebu

Monday, 27 April 2015

Cracks appearing

The flood gates look to be opening and today I had four new species for the year list: Sand Martin (sandsvale), Greenshank (gluttsnipe), Common Sandpiper (strandsnipe) and a couple of early Wood Sandpipers (grønnstilk). In addition I heard Willow Warblers (løvsanger) at three locations so the daw chorus has had an important addition.

The water level in Svellet is now increasing and conditions are prefect for Teal (krikkand) with a huge 1600 present. Waders are still in low numbers but I expect that to change radically by this time next week: todays 9 Greenshank could easily have risen to 400! The big question though is how quickly the water level will rise – if it rises too quickly over the next 2 weeks then conditions could quickly become unsuitable for waders.
Svellet 27 April 2015. The water is sill low but is now rising

I didn't take too many pictures today but did get some shots of what can be tricky species pairs

Chiffchaff (gransanger) - note the dark legs and short primary projection

Willow Warbler (løvsanger) - note the flesh coloured legs and longer primary projection than the Chiffchaff

Green Sandpiper (skogsnipe)

Common Sandpiper (strandsnipe)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Østenjovannet ducks and Friday Maridalen videos

I didn't expect to be do any birding today but a report of Garganey (knekkand), Gadwall (snadderand) and Shoveler (skjeand) at Østensjøvannet tempted me into a flying visit there mid-afternoon. I failed to find the birds and was despondently making my way back to the car when I fortuitously bumped into Anders Simonsen who had also struggled to find them but from the right viewpoint they all were just visible and all remarkably in the same frame of view. Also here I heard my first Willow Warbler (løvsanger) of the year, had a Peregrine (vandrefalk) dash past and a Ring Ouzel (ringtrost) fly over. Amongst the gulls I noticed a 2nd summer Lesser Black-backed Gull (sildemåke) which is an unusual age class to see here. I fired off a couple of shots but only on looking at them at home did I realise how pale the mantle was and were it not for the yellow legs it could almost have been a Herring Gull (gråmåke) with Yellow-legged Gull (gulbeinmåke) being ruled out based on small size). This paleness indicates that it is of the British subspecies graellsii.
male Shoveler, female Shoveler, male Garganey, male Gadwall and female Gadwall. An exciting trio of ducks in Oslo

This 2nd summer (3 cy) Lesser Black-backed Gull has such a pale mantle that is should be of the British sub species graellsii

yellow les and grey mantle

A couple of videos from Friday in Maridalen. The first shows Black and Red-Throated Divers (storlom and smålom). After 40 seconds there is a sequence with two pairs of Red-throated Divers displaying.

The second video is of a male Parrot Crossbill extracting seeds from small pine cones.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Right weather but where were all the birds?

There was no doubt about it: today was going to be a BIG day. I picked up Per Christian at 6am and we headed in to Maridalen with the weather forecast for once being mirrored by reality: low clouds heading in a northerly direction due to the southerly wind and dampness from overnight showers. Everything was therefore going to plan except for……………the birds hadn’t been informed of MY ideas.

10 Common Scoter (svartand) and 2 Wigeon on the lake were obviously new but my hopes of migrating waders and more waterfowl were not to be fulfilled. There were a few passerines moving but nothing exciting and no new summer migrants could be seen or heard. On the green fields there was a noticeable increase in the numbers of Fieldfares (gråtrost) and at Kirkeby we had separate sightings of 4,1 and 6 Ring Ouzels (ringtrost) that could well have been different groups and the group of 6 definitely appeared to have just dropped out of the sky (reports from other places suggest a very large arrival today).

It will rain through the afternoon so maybe something will turn up later or tomorrow…..I live in hope.
We had Parrot Crossbills again with four birds in the same trees as yesterday. This makes me believe that the two males I photographed yesterday were indeed different individuals.

6 male and 4 female Common Scoters (svartand)
Osprey (fiskeørn) - 1 of 2 that appeared at the same time both from the north
three different Ring Ouzels
female Parrot Crossbill (furukorsnebb) - one of a group of four in the same group of 3 small pine trees as yesterdays birds

Friday, 24 April 2015

Change in change in birds

Neither the weather nor the birds lived up to expectations today. I had interpreted the weather forecast to be thick cloud and southerly winds today which was such a change from the previous weeks weather that I was sure that there would be new birds even if there was no rain. Well the cloud was not thick and the sun often shone through and the wind took a long time to veer to the south. Consequently there was virtually no visible migration or new birds. That doesn’t mean that a morning in Maridalen wasn’t thoroughly enjoyable but the expectations I had when I awoke at 0445 were definitely not met.

Both Black-throated (storlom) and Red-throated Divers (smålom) were displaying on the lake and this always makes for an atmospheric sunrise especially when there is no wind and the lake was like a mirror. Highlight of the day was getting my best views so far of Maridalens own sub species of Parrot Crossbill (furukorsnebb). There were a couple of small pine trees behind where I was sitting and after I had kept thinking I could hear some distant crossbills calling I realised that they were actually a couple of birds just behind me. They were feeding intensively on small cones which kept falling to the floor. I spent a lot of time trying to get good photos and despite the light not being so bad I found it incredibly frustrating and difficult. I either had the birds perched with a white sky behind them or feeding inside the tree with pine cones in the way but after firing off many hundred shots there are at least some that can be used for ID purposes…. These birds gave a larger-billed impression than I have noticed before and were classic Parrots IMO. They fed on the pine cones by clipping them off with their bill and then holding them in their feet and picking out the seeds. They also flew into spruce and birch trees and looked to be eating lichen.
A few raptors showed during the day with finally some evidence of Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) passage.
Black-throated Diver (storlom)

with back lighting

Chiffchaff (gransanger)

Curlew (storspove) - two that flew in from the south landed. Seeing Curlews on the deck in Maridalen is a rare site although Whimbrels (småspove)often stop to feed in May

male Goosander (laksand). Today a single female was repeatedly chased around by 3 males
montage of a hunting Osprey (fisekørn)

male Parrot Crossbill (furukorsnebb) with a pine cone

now to extract some seeds which is why evolution has given me this ridiculous bill
I need to use my tongue as well
and my feet to hold the cone

another cone please

grainy picture of the female but showing her to be equally large billed

here the male is looking huge billed. This picture was taken 45 minutes later than the other pictures but is I believe the same male although it does look large billed and more orange coloured

both birds flew to some birch trees where they seemed to pick off lichen

slightly blurred but parrot billed