Sunday, 31 May 2015

Hedmark highlights installment 1

My short trip to Hedmark last week ended up giving me a lot of highlights and a tremendous number of pictures and video to go through. May has been cold in Southern Norway and there was still a lot of snow high up meaning roads were still closed but also that a lot of birds could not yet access their breeding grounds and Golden Plovers for example were clearly waiting lower down in the valleys. Alongside some Golden Plovers I also found 6 Dotterel (boltit).

the peaks of Sølen, the higest peak is hidden in the clouds but is 1755m. The picture is taken at about 700m

Three Dotterel (boltit) with Cranes. There were 3 other Dotterel and some Golden Plovers in the same field

This year has not been a rodent year and owls have evaporated as they seem to do in such years so I was lucky to find a single Hawk Owl. As you will see from the pictures and video in this post this bird was hunting close to the road (and also close to a nesting box which had feathers around the hole although I never saw the bird at the box). It flew down from the tree it was hunting from and looked like it had caught something but flew off with nothing in its talons and instead flew to a wire right above me before then flying to a nearby tree where it collected a mouse that was wedged between a branch and the trunk. It then took this mouse to another tree where I thought it was eating the mouse but no it as just fiddling with it before it then flew to another tree and again stashed the mouse. Quite what this behaviour means I’m not sure. Presumably it means there is actually a good population of rodents in just this area – otherwise it wouldn’t be stashing prey but why it took the mouse to a new larder I’m not sure. I can find no reference to this behaviour in BWP or in the two old classic Norwegian reference books (thanks Jarl) Haftorn and Hagen.
Hawk Owl (haukugle) hunting
here it dropped down on some prey and the way it was using its wings made me believe that it had succeeded but if lew off empty taloned

and landed on the wires above me

it then flew to a tree where it retrieved this stashed rodent

before again flying off

Kestrels seemed to be fairly numerous with sightings various places and I had a couple of flyover Golden Eagles and Ospreys but the raptor highlight was a Gyr Falcon. This is the first time I have found one in the mountains of Southern Norway and this bird looked to be an adult and was perched in an area that looked perfect for a nest site although I could not locate one. I saw the bird at 1.3 km range so the pictures don’t do the experience justice. I have many times seen a lump atop a rock and thought I had found a Gyr only to find out it was a stone so it was great to eventually turn that stone into a Gyr!
my first Gyr Falcon (jaktfalk) in Southern Norway

A female Capercaille that was feeding long the edge of a road in the middle of the day was I assume eating sand/gravel which is I believe necessary during egg laying. This was my best ever views of this species. 
female Capercaille (storfugl / røy)

Norway's own turkey

seems to need to pluck a stray hair
  I also heard displaying Black Grouse (orrugl) a couple of places and saw this single male

male Black Grouse (orrfugl)


Tawny Owl video

Here is a short video of the Tawny Owls in Maridalen from Friday. Note that it is of the usual wobbly standard. I did however take lots of rather acceptable tripod mounted footage of the Dippers which I need to edit.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Oslo birding really rocks!

After yesterday’s great experiences in the rain I took a trip to Maridalen either side of lunch in sunshine today hoping to digitally capture some of the ornithological highlights this valley has to offer.
First stop was the Tawny Owls (kattugle) where I found three youngsters out of the nest, one still in the nest and an anxious parent above me in a tree. Magical!

Common Rosefinches (rosenfink) seemed to be everywhere with four singing males plus another two birds that one of the males chased (difficult to know whether it was romance or war he had on his mind).
A Siskin (grønnsisik) feeding on roadside dandelions had maybe been hit by a car as it was very tame and unsure when I flew. The lapwing families are very difficult to follow but the female with 4 youngsters has chosen an open area and all 4 young were still going strong today.

On the way home I suddenly remembered the Dippers (fossekall) and had amazing views of two young being fed just metres away from me. The parents would feed them intensely for spells of about 10 minutes with food caught nearby before flying off and being gone for around 10 minutes when they were presumably feeding themselves before returning again for another feeding frenzy. I went back in the evening with the family who were also treated to a stellar performance from Norway's national bird. We also had a third youngster that was still by the waterfall and this would explain why I had seen adults going behind the waterfall earlier in the day - I had thought they were finding food there but were clearly feeding a youngster that had not been as brave as his siblings and made the jump.

And I forgot to visit the Black Woodpeckers, doh!

There were a lot of pictures and a lot of video today (500 in total) – far too much to go through and edit on a Friday night. Here are what seemed to be the best pictures but don’t be surprised if these birds feature in further posts and there may well be some video – with use of tripod included at no extra charge!

adult Dipper (fossekall)

the two youngsters

feeding time

flying across the waterall - there could be some amazing photo opportunities here

one of at least 6 Common Rosefinches (rosenfink) in a small area of Maridalen
the redder of the parents was watching from a close-by tree

youngster 1

youngster 2

youngster 3

the talons of youngster 3 and a man made object showing this bird has been fondled

Male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink)

male Pied Flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper)

Siskin eating dandelion seeds

female Yellowhammer (gulspurv)

male Blackcap (munk)

I'm guiding in the rain

I normally complain when the weather is too nice and wish for a bit if rain but that is mostly during migration. Now at the end of May when I am guiding it would be nice with some warmer and drier weather so that birds are active and singing and it is nice to be out. Yesterday was not such a day. We had showers in the morning that turned into constant rain in the afternoon and with the thermometer only showing 10C it was pretty cold. BUT Eva and Letty from Californian were still treated to a really good bird day as almost all the birds showed as they were asked to do.

Fornebu gave the only disappointment with the Red-backed Shrikes (tornskate) not to be found and a lack of other observations since I had the pair suggests that they may have moved on to breed. We did have a near complete sweep of warblers here though including Marsh (myrsanger) and a few waders included both Ringed (sandlo) and Little Ringed Plover (dverglo). A new sighting for me was watching a pair of Swifts (tårnseiler) mating on the wing which looked to require a level of precision that the US military would be proud of.

At Østensjøvannet the Corncrake (åkerrikse) was the first bird we heard even though we arrived just before noon but it failed to show itself. In the rain the lake had lots of swallows feeding low over the water and they were joined by two Common Terns (makrellterne) but unfortunately nothing rarer. The lake now holds a huge population of Mute Swans (knoppsvane) with the various breeding pairs plus many young non-breeding birds that kept being chased from one breeding pair territory to the other. At least two pairs had cygnets in tow. I remember when the lake only held one pair and cannot understand what has caused this population explosion. Coots (sothøne) and Great Crested Grebes (toppdykker) also had young and Tufted Ducks (toppand) were paired up and looked like they were searching for nesting sites. Signs that the late spring in the mountains has delayed migration were a Redshank (rødstilk) and a Yellow Wagtail (gulerle) feeding out on the lake on the carpets of pond weed.

Maridalen was of course the icing on the cake for a guided tour around Oslo in May/June. Here we had the Tawny Owls (kattugle), Goshawk (hønsehauk), Whooper Swans (sangsvane), Black Woodpeckers (svartspett) plus singing Common Rosefinches (rosenfink), Parrot Crossbills (furukorsnebb) and close encounters with Goldcrests (fuglekonge) and Nuthatches (spettmeis). Some of the Tawny Owl youngsters have already left the nest. There was possibly only one left in the box but we found only one in the trees nearby although this had managed to move around 20m which is quite a feat for a fluffy creature that cannot yet fly!

At the Black Woodpecker nest a youngster was screeching for food whilst we arrived. Whilst we waited for an adult to come a female Goldeneye (kvinand) flew over a couple of times and then amazingly landed at the entrance to the hole. I’m not sure who got the biggest shock: the Goldeneye or the young woodpecker but the duck immediately flew off although we did see it flying around again. It raises the question as to what the duck was doing. I would have thought she should have laid eggs a long time ago but she clearly hasn’t. Is she a late breeder, failed on the first attempt and looking for a new site or perhaps a young bird that is prospecting for nest sites for next year? No matter what, it highlighted to me what a job these birds have finding nest sites. If they use a nest box erected on a tree at the waters edge then presumably they have little problem finding a nest site. However in the absence of nest boxes they need to use their natural nest site which is old Black Woodpecker holes. But how do you find these in vast forests? Presumably they can fly around the forest when Black Woodpeckers are breeding and locate the nests in the same way as birders by listening for the young. Then all they need to do is to wait for the woodpeckers to fledge or alternatively remember the location for next year when hopefully the nest is no longer being used by woodpeckers (although this particular nest was also used last year by the woodpeckers). We had to wait nearly half an hour in the rain before the adult came but had a great show and could see two hungry heads hanging out of the nest.

Last bird of the day was a breeding Dipper (fossekall) which has its nest behind a waterfall and gave some truly magic moments as it flew across the face of the waterfall – definitely something to try to capture on film.

As usual whilst guiding I didn’t prioritise my own photos and with the rain the best place for the camera was in the bag but I did of course manage a few shots.

The Black Woodpecker nest hole with the adult on the tree to the left

the adult (in this case female) could easily lose an eye with those bills stabbing at her

here we can see food in the adults bill which she had just regurgitated
Redshank (rødstilk) at Østensjøvannet which is I think my first record at this site

female Yellow Wagtail (gulerle) with a House Martin (taksvale) sneaking into the picture
young and still helpless Tawny Owl (kattugle)

this female Tufted Duck (toppand) came extremely close to us with her maete. They were being chased by a Coot (sothøne) and seemed to think they wold get loss hassle if they were by us

every single nature photographer in Oslo has taken fantastic pictures of Great Crested Grebes at Østensjøvannet over the last few weeks and posted them on Facebook. My best effort won't be posted anywhere other than here ;-)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Heady Hedmarking

Hedmark day 2 needed to deliver the goods to make up for the disappointment of Nekmyrene being innacessible. Well it most certainly did! Male Smew (lappfiskand), Common Rosefinch (rosenfink), Little Gulls (dvergmåke), Velvet Scoter (sjøorre), Capercaille (storfugl), Gyr Falcon (jaktfalk), Hawk Owl (haukugle) and a self found Rustic Bunting (vierspurv) at a new location cannot be complained at and all before mid afternoon.

Pictures will come later but now I have a 3 hour drive home and need a proper nights sleep before a days guiding tomorrow (5 fitfull hours in a car isn't the best for an 8 hour a night man).

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


I am up in Hedmark to do some TOVE survey work and of course am using the opportunity to catch up with some of the special breeding species in this county. Firdt bird up was a Broad-billed Sandpiper (fjellmyrløper) at Åkersvika, Hamar. This bird was a migrant but its breeding grounds may well be in the same county. Water levels were very low here and there were plenty of other waders including 15 Temminck's Stints (temmincksnipe). This just underlines the criminality of the artificial raising of the water levels at Nordre Øyeren as there are clearly  many waders still migrating that could made use of Øyerens rich feeding grounds. After this I confirmed what I have understoof that it isn't an owl year by failing to find Great Grey Owls (lappugle) on the nest.
I then went looking for Ortolan Buntings (hortulan) which are one of Norway's rarest birds. There was light rain in the air and very little song activity but I finally located at least 5 birds all of which seemed to be males and who seemed more interested in feeding than being territorial. It was at this time that I discovered that my loudspesker battery was dead and that there was no card in the camera. Talk about a monunental balls up. I did luckily have a spare card with me but strangely the camera had allowed me to take lots of "photos" earlier whereas before it has not allowed me to. This meant I didn't take the photos I thought I had of close up Slavonian Grebes (horndykker), Teal (krikkand) and Lapwings (vipe) that I thought had. I also had to restart on the Ortolans but got some half decent shots in the end.
I also found out it helps to know all the calls of Ortolan because the chaffinch (bokfink) I thought was calling above my head and which I was trying to ignore was in fact the bird I was after.

Another of Hedmarks special birds is Rustic Bunting and survey work this year has revealed only 5 territories of a species that will surely be extinct as a breeding bird within a couple of years. It was therefore no surprise that I failed to see any.

In my travels I did have a couple of flyover Golden Eagles (kongeørn) and at Lomnessjøen 16 Little Gulls (dverggmåke) but not the White-winged Black Tern seen there at the weekend. A large recently ploughed field held 21 Crane, 18 Golden Plover and best of all 6 Dotterel (boltit) waiting for the snow to melt on the mountains.

I had hoped to get up to the fabled Nekmyrene and see lekking Ruff (brushane) but after paying the toll I found that the road to the marshes was closed with 10km to go. This is presumably because of snow further up but it would have been nice with a notice at the (self service) toll station.

Monday, 25 May 2015


I awoke at 6am and thought I was wide awake and ready for a pre-breakfast Maridalen trip although by 7am I realised that was not really the case. As I lightened my load before going out I saw that Rune Zak had been out in the wee hours and heard a Corncrake (Åkerriske) at Østensjøvannet. Well it’s only 10 minutes there from the house and it would be nice to get reacquainted with this regular bur rare summer visitor. The bird couldn’t have been easier! It was singing in a field close to houses and right by where I parked the car. And even better for only the third time I actually saw this most secrective species. Only its head mind you but it sang from the same place for a good 5 minutes. It even allowed me to return to the car and get the tripod which resulted in a slightly better than usual video. The video is stil cr*p mind you due to light and distance blah, blah, blah….

A cool experience none-the-less.

After this Maridalen didn't quite deliver as I had hoped with no Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) for me but Wryneck (vendehals) and Icterine Warbler (gulsanger) revealed their presence. Both Lapwing (vipe) broods were still present which is a tribute to their parents given the hazards faced from cats, foxes and crows. Cats especially pop up all over the place in Maridalen often far from houses and must take an inexcusable toll on the bird population.
An unexpected and reassuring find was the Whooper Swans (sangsvane) on a nest. They have chosen to nest on the smallest of ponds on the edge of a cultivated field and I will be very surprised if they manage to raise a family here. I believe they must have chosen this site in only the last couple of weeks but have quickly built a large nest.

In the afternoon a family trip to Gressholmen gave us lots of Eiders (ærfugl) including young but single Whimbrel (småspove) and Greenshank (gluttsnipe) were the best waders and there were certainly no Dunlin or even Broad-billed Sandpipers to entertain us. The Ringed Plover (sandlo) pair were still present but off the nest. They seemed a bit anxious but I saw no sign of any young.
Corncrake (åkerrikse). Bad photo but the only one I took showing more than just part of the head

sharpest picture but little visible
the other side of the head


Eider (ærfugl) family at Gressholmen

male Eider

The nesting Whooper Swans (sangsvane) in Maridalen

Wryneck (vendehals) in Maridalen
flight photos have never been anything I mastered but I practised today with a Common Gull (fiskemåke) and believe it or not found that a faster shutter speed helps......