Monday, 31 August 2015

Little again

After Fornebu having given the impression of an improvement in affairs at the end of last week it was disappointing this morning to find a distinct decline in the number of birds. Despite it being warm and there being a number of insects there were very few insect eaters and Willow Warblers failed to make it into double figures. Four Redstarts though was a good count and I cannot remember ever having seen so many and so regularly here.

An hour and a half around noon in Maridalen revealed quite a few raptors. A Merlin and a Kestrel flew very purposefully south and at least 7 Sparrowhawks were thermalling or hunting around the valley and were probably local birds which was confirmed for one at least as a photo I took showed it to have been ringed in the nest in the Oslo area this summer. Of larger raptors I had 2 Honey Buzzards, a single Buzzard and an Osprey that flew north into the forest with a fish which may mean that it still has young in the nest.
1cy Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) with colour ring. Another bird ringed in the nest this summer in Oslo has already made it to the west coast of Norway
the days Merlin (dvergfalk)
a resting Grey Heron. All the blacks spots in the picture are midges and not my mucky lens

juvenile male Redstart (rødstjert)

Spotted Flycatcher (gråfluesnapper)

juvenile Starling (stær) coming into adult winter plumage

13 Lapwings at Fornebu included many youngsters. One can hope they came from Maridalen

Friday, 28 August 2015

A distinct improvement

I braved Fornebu again today this time in sunny conditions and was rewarded by a nice selection of scarce birds. I don’t think any new birds had arrived and indeed most of the Yellow Wagtails had moved on but the warm weather and increased insect activity just made the birds more visible as they fed out in the open.

Pretty much the first bird I saw was a Wryneck which was sunning itself in the dead bush normally favoured by a Red-backed Shrike and later in the morning the Wryneck had been substituted and a shrike was in the same place. Tw of my all-time favourite birds in the same bush means the birding day has been a success. In the same small area were 3 Redstarts, 4 Spotted Flycatchers and 4 species of warblers so it felt very good and spurred me to check the rest of Fornebu with high hopes only to find out that the small area held nearly all the birds there were to find!

On the water in Storøykilen I saw the Little Grebe that has been present for a week or so and in the reeds I heard the Water Rails calling so tried to see them. I settled down in a good place and waited. I had two birds (possibly three) calling very close by but only managed to see one bird. It was actually quite close but the encounter was so brief that I just managed a blurred photo.

A short stop in Maridalen gave me just a single raptor but it was a new one for the autumn namely a Kestrel.
Wryneck (vendehals) with a curious Willow Warbler (løvsanger)


Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

same shrike

Reed Warbler (rørsanger). note long primary projection and weak supercilium compared to the Blyth's Reed from Maridalen

my first migrant Chiffchaff (gransanger) of the autumn. Note the short primary projection compared with the Willow Warblers I have photo'ed recently. This bird also pumped its tail a lot which is a good Chiffchaff character and first drew my attention to it

a blurred Water Rail (vannrikse)

Wheatear (steinskvett)

very distant Little Grebe (dvergdykker)

Three Greenshanks (gluttsnipe)

yet another caterpillar of Bedstraw Hawk Moth (hyles gallii) (mauresvermer). Note the ant hitching a lift

My first Kestrel of the autumn in Maridalen with three Swallows mobbing it

a load of bull in Storøykilen


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Fornebu again

The rain continues and today it really bucketed down at times. I gave Fornebu a brief visit in a dry period in the morning and could with some pleasure note an increase in Willow Warblers – not huge numbers but over 20 at least. Otherwise birds were pretty much the same as yesterday although I counted 100 Yellow Wagtails today.

Scarcest bird was three Water Rails calling from the reedbed at Storøykilen. There have been no records here in June or July so I don’t think they bred this year and that these are most likely fresh in autumn migrants.
one of three Spotted Flycatcher (gråfluesnapper).The pale feathers show this to be a bird moulting out of juvenile and into 1st winter plumage
same bird
some of the Yellow Wagtails (gulerle) with a blurred White Wagtail (linerle)

1cy Yellow Wagtail

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


It was Fornebu’s turn today and, ever the optimist, I hoped that there would be an increase in migrants. One species was to be found in very good numbers: a flock of 60 Yellow Wagtails is the highest number I have encountered here. Willow Warblers were still in dismally low numbers although I did just break into double figures. A finally found a Bluethroat here although failed to get a photo. The Red-backed Shrikes have now moved on and are probably a long way south in Europe already and Whinchats were also in lower numbers. 2 Redstarts and single of Pied and Spotted Flycatcher added some interest and a couple of Ospreys flew south together. I flushed a pipit that called once and it was most likely a Red-throated but I needed to hear it again to confirm that it wasn't just a strange Tree Pipit but unfortunately it remained silent as it flew off.

Maridalen was equally quiet although I did have my first Wheatear of the autumn.
a LesserWhitethroat (møller)

Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) at Fornebu
the same Sparrowhawk having a go at a Crow
1cy Wheatear (steinskvett)

same bird. It was more interested in something (which I couldn't see) in the sky than it was in me

Whinchat (buskskvett) and Willow Warbler (løvsanger)

Willow Warbler (løvsanger)

This Willow Warbler had a bit of the Raddes about it

some of the many Yellow Wagtails (gulerle) - there are 8 in this shot
Tree Pipit (trepiplerke)

female Redstart (rødstjert)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Årnestangen has just enough

The rain continued today so it felt like that a trip out to Årnestangen would be worth the 3km walk and the ever present possibility that there would be next to nothing to see out there other than a well fed Peregrine.
The walk out was uneventful except for one important bird: my first migrant Bluethroat of the year. When I arrived out at the viewing platform I found I was not alone and Årnestangen lover and Rustic Bunting surveyor Kjetil Hansen was already there and could report that what few waders there were had flown out of view (the vegetation has grown quite high and the birds have a habit of feeding on the mud close up to the vegetation).

Over the next hour and a half though the waders did show thanks to a couple of Peregrines that flushed them. There was little to see though in terms of numbers of variety: just 20 each of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, 4 Ruff, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Temminck’s Stint, a couple of Snipe and a flyover Green Sandpiper. Ducks were more numerous with a couple of Shoveler amongst 200 Teal and Kjetil picked out a Garganey that I failed to see. I also had 3 Velvet Scoters in flight which due to their pale bellies were (early?) 1cy birds. A distant Slavonian Grebe and 41 Pochards were also notable.

In addition to the Peregrines we also had a couple of Hobbies. We picked them up on call chasing each other high in the sky and I initially took them to be Peregrines but when they came closer their true identity became apparent and even more so when an adult Peregrine flew at them and the difference in size and shape was very obvious. If I had not been so intent on enjoying the spectacle there could have been some good photos there! We also had a perched Hen Harrier which looked to be the same adult female I saw here a couple of weeks ago.

Bird of the day though was a Red-throated Pipit. Picked up on call it flew around us calling repeatedly (and in the company of another non calling pipit) before briefly landing in a bush and then flying down into the vegetation at the water’s edge. All the R-t Pipits I have had in Oslo and Akershus have been birds identified on call and I still yet to see one properly on the ground and today was no exception.
In the original picture the bird is underexposed and just looks black. However even though I take picture in jpg and not Raw format it was possible to lighten up and show this was an adult Hobby (lerkefalk)

Monday, 24 August 2015

Lime Hawk-moth caterpillar

The hot sunny weather came to an abrupt halt at 1600 today – bad news for raptor watching maybe but hopefully will bring down some migrant and wader passerines.

This morning whilst it was still hot I was in Maridalen and walked up to the hillside which I have often seen Honey Buzzards flying over. I was in place at 0930 and only had to wait before I saw my first raptor but the views were not good enough to ascertain what type of buzzard it was. I then heard a calling raptor and felt pretty sure it was a Honey but it took a while to find where the noise was coming from. I did find another buzzard sp flying high and purposefully towards the east but this wasn’t’ making the noise and it was a few minutes before I saw two raptors below me starting to gain height over the valley. It was two Honey Buzzards, an adult missing an inner primary on the left wing and presumably the bird I have seen often and another bird that was clearly a juvenile. The two flew very close together, frequently calling and eventually made their way to the other side of the dale where they gained great height and drifted out of view after having been visible for 10 minutes. I suspect I was witnessing the first leg of the autumn migration for these two birds and possibly the youngsters longest ever flight.

I stayed watching until 1100 but had no other raptors although did hear a singing Hazel Grouse in the woodland close by which is my first record of this species in Oslo this year. A flock of 6 Grey Herons flying south at some altitude was noteworthy.

Over the weekend we have been at Hulvik and had a lot of butterflies so hopefully this year will end up being good. I managed to identify 12 species of (daytime) butterfly incuding Silver-washed Fritillary and Camberwell Beauty but find of the day was a caterpillar of Lime Hawk-moth which Emily suddenly found crawling on the picnic rug. There were also lots of grasshoppers but identifying them seems to be a challenge.

Best news of all though is that I have booked my annual trip to VÆRØY. The group I usually go with has evaporated and at the moment I look to be the only birder making the trip this September. It will be less fun than with a group but there will be no chance of someone else finding the big rare. I am currently booked in from 16-20 September which is earlier than I have previously been there. Whenever I have arrived in previous years it always feels that most birds were already on the island and that there are few new arrivals so hopefully an earlier visit this year will result in more birds but weather will of course be the deciding factor.
caterpillar of Lime Hawk-moth (lindesvermer). Although apparently not that rare in Southern Norway there are only a handful of observations each year in ArtsObs

I reckon these are both Common Green Grasshopper (grønn markgresshoppe) Omocestus viridulus but I am far from sure. Maybe they are different species and what about Common Field Grasshopper (gråbrun markgresshoppe) Chorthippus brunneus ?

Today adult and juv Honey Buzzard at some range

Friday, 21 August 2015

Some honies i the Dale

I’m visiting Maridalen so regularly now looking for raptors that it could even qualify as an ornithological survey. I arrived earlier than I have been and was on site from 0850. The sun was hidden behind some hazy clouds at the beginning and there was more passerine activity than I have been witnessing later in the day although the birds were pretty much the same. Whinchats, Tree Pipits and Yellow Wagtails were on the fields around Kirkeby and a Red-backed Shrike was favouring exactly the same bush as yesterday. I didn’t note as many raptors as I did earlier in the week and the first one didn’t show until 1010. This was the Honey Buzzard missing inner primaries (although the new ones are already in place and just shorter) on both wings and it appeared over the hills in the north west of Maridalen exactly as it did on both Tuesday and Wednesday. It cruised over the wooded hillside for quite a while seemingly looking for food before I lost it from view. I then wandered a bit and had my second raptor of the day when at 1030 a Buzzard flew straight over me – its weak tail bar showing it to be a bird of the year.

Around a weedy field corner there were lots of birds including Nutcrackers, 5 Hawfinches, an Icterine Warbler and a young Common Rosefinch although no Bluethroats hopped out and Willow Warblers were nearly non-existent.
I decided to go to the north end of Maridalen at Skar which is where over the last few days a number of the raptors seemed to have flown over and at 1130 I had the same Honey Buzzard again and this time within some sort of photo range. I only observed the bird through bins and the camera and did not notice until looking at the photos on the pc that it was carrying something green, brown and yellow in it claws. I think that it may be carrying a frog/toad plus some vegetation including a yellow flower that it grabbed at the same time as the amphibian but the pictures are not good enough to be sure. I believe that this bird is a male and if the bird missing one inner primary is also a male (as I believe) then I have taken photos of three males in Maridalen over the last 17 days and behaviour suggests all of them are breeding birds rather than migrants (the male on 4 August was carrying a honey comb) and the two birds with missing/growing inner primaries have been observed on multiple days. At around 1150 I observed from distance a Honey Buzzard missing one primary over pretty much the same area and then at around 1200 I had a bird over this area performing its sky dance display although I couldn’t ascertain the state of the primaries. It’s all really quite exciting but also a mystery as to why I noted no Honey Buzzards in June when there seem to be so many here now.

I also saw two young Red-backed Shrikes at the site where there were 3 on Tuesday. These two birds kept very close together and were not actively feeding – they gave the impression that they were not coping too well on their own. Also here a brief view of a young (and migrant) Cuckoo which is a scarce bird close to Oslo.

The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is continuing to wake me up when it calls in the garden and made itself known at 0637 today – not the worst way to be woken up!
the days closest raptor - a young Common Buzzard (musvåk)

same bird as above
Honey Buzzars (vepsevåk) - the white secondaries with a clear dark band plus primaries "dipped in ink" make this bird and a male but a different one to the two others I have photographed in August. This one has symmetrically lost moulted inner primaries on both wings

the head looks all grey confirming it  as a male

a headless Honey Buzzard

a close up of whatever it is carrying showing something yellow - a flower?

a fuzzy photo but showing the colours best

not easy to judge but on this and other photos I believe one can see the long legs of frog/toad dangling

Red-backed Shrike (tornskate)

an uncropped photo of the same bird

Tree Pipit (trepiplerke)

Yellow (gulerle) and White Wagtail (linerle)
this Icterine Warbler wasn't straightforward but the strong bill, blue/grey leg and wing panel can be seen here