Thursday, 31 March 2016

Good stuff

Yesterday was cloudy and warm(ish) but clear skies overnight with a resulting heavy frost were going to cause a big change in bird activity this morning. The fields and marsh areas in Maridalen were covered in ice and there was hardly a thrush to see. With the clear skies any viz mig was so high that it was only mig. During the course of a morning and afternoon visit though I did chalk up a fair few species. I heard my first Dunnock of the year, a flock of 12 Twite flew over, 3 Meadow Pipits were feeding on the stubble fields at Kirkeby and rarest of all two Rock Pipits flew low over calling whilst heading north.

It clouded over during the afternoon and there even was a flurry of snow but this didn’t stop Pink-footed Geese migrating with 6 flocks totalling 880 during the course of half an hour. I also had three Buzzards up in the air and a 2cy Goshawk hunting Wood Pigeons (this was different to yesterday’s bird as it was not missing a primary).

I also revisited Østensjøvannet and connected with the male Pochard this time – probably helped that the frost had caused a significant reduction in the areas of open water.
One of 8 Lapwings (vipe) in Maridalen today. This one is a male. In the morning four territorial birds were on the fields at Skjerven and another four were on the ice nearby. In the afternoon seven of the birds were feeding on the fields at Kirkeby

and a female

here three males together
one of today's 6 flocks of Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås)
the male Pochard (taffeland) at Østensjøvannet with 2 male Teal (krikkand)
Tree Sparrow (pilfink) in Maridalen

can you see the Wood Pigeon taken through the snow flurry? Taken with 500mm
the same view using the camera on my phone - the snow is barely noticeable
the fields at Kirkeby in the rain. There are yet to be any large numbers of birds here
male Common Crossbill (grankorsnebb)
a female down on the road - looking for grit?

the stain on the breast of the shrike suggests he had just had a bloody breakfast

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

It's happening

It was very exciting getting out on the patch this morning. The last 6 days have brought real changes with almost all of the snow gone and the ground getting wet and muddy although the lake itself is still over 99% frozen. There was some viz mig to see with finches (most likely Chaffinch) going north at height and amongst a small group of Wood Pigeons I had a single Stock Dove. It was thrushes though that were the most noticeable migrant especially Mistle Thrushes and one group of 30 birds is the largest flock I have seen in Norway. After Mistle Thrush, Fieldfares were the next most abundant with Blackbirds, then Redwings and a handful of Song Thrushes – so we are just missing Ring Ouzels. I had my first White Wagtail of the year and three species of raptor with Goshawk, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard. 10 Teal were on the lake and the Whooper Swan pair were back on their nesting pond. There were 9 Lapwings of which 4 seemed to be resting migrants rather than the local breeders. The Great Grey Shrike is still present and now in nearly adult plumage with a dark bill and black lores.

Pink-footed Geese were also moving today with 180 over Maridalen and 220 over the house.

I paid a visit to Østensjøvannet where Smew and Pochard have been seen recently. Despite there still being over 50% ice it was surprisingly hard work finding things and I was the only one of 4 observers who have reported on ArtsObs to see the Smew today whereas one other observer managed to see the Pochard. Two Chiffchaffs in waterside sallows were my first of the year.

I managed a quick stop at Fornebu. There was no sign of the Bearded Tits although I didn’t give it long enough to be sure they aren’t there but Chiffchaffs were also here and the biggest surprise was a flyover Rock Pipit. This species is a scarce spring migrant in inland areas but has been almost abundant this spring.
female Smew (lappfiskand) Østensjøvannet

Mistle Thursh (duetrost) Maridalen

Mistle Thrush and  first Redwings (rødvingetrost) of the year

first  Song Thrush (måltrost) of the year

migrating Stock Dove (skogdue) with Wood Pigeons (ringdue)

first White Wagtail (linerle) of the year

the picture doesn't quite capture the intense pink flush on this Black-headed Gull (hettemåke)

and my first Chiffchaff (gransanger)

three male Goosanders (laksand)

a 2cy Goshawk (hønsehauk)

when I first saw this bird I initially thought it was a male Goshawk but soon saw it was a large female Sparrowhawk
the 2cy male (it sings) Great Grey Shrike (varsler) is now attaining adult plumage

it went down on the floor a couple of times and may have captured small insects

Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) over Maridalen

and over the house

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Easter was spent in Amsterdam. Signs of spring were surprisingly few. A single singing Chiffchaff was the only obvious summer visitor but in the zoo there were (wild) heron nests with already half-grown young. The zoo has a huge Grey Heron colony with nearly every large tree holding a nest. There were also free flying Cormorants nesting low down close to paths and we saw a male engaging in a bobbing, wing shivering display for which he got no payback.
We also had Storks nesting on a church tower in the suburbs and a couple of Peregrines down town.

this Great Crested Grebe (toppdykker) on a canal surprised us with the size of the fish is successfully swallowed

Ring-necked Parakeets were very common in Amsterdam and frequently took food from feeders on balconies

Here is a video of nesting and displaying Cormorants just metres away from us in the Artis Zoo

Friday, 25 March 2016


A family visit to Østensjøvannet yesterday afternoon revealed only a slightly increased area of open water but many birds. Hundreds of Black-headed Gulls were sitting on the ice waiting for conditions to be suitable for nesting and my first Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Moorhen of 2016 were also "ticked off". A single Great Crested Grebe was surprising given the small area of open water but we saw it catch a decent sized perch so food is clearly not a problem.

my first Oslo Great Great Crested Grebe (toppdykker) of the year with a fair sized Perch (abbor)

the Black-headed Gulls harassed it a bit and in the end it dived with the fish in its beak and eventually came up without it. Can it swallow the fish underwater?

slightly unusual place to see a Black-headed Gull (hettemåke) although saying that I have seen them nesting in trees at Songsvann

not often I take a picture of a Jackdaw (kaie)

my first Lesser Black-backed Gull (sildemåke) of the year

and my first Moorhen (sivhøne)

the area of open water (continues around to the right). Despite the great viewing conditions from the path here the birds that want to will come close to you, there was a photographer who decided to go out onto an island. Notice how there are no birds close to him i.e he has disturbed them. Even worse is that this type of behaviour just encourages others to do the same as there is a distinct flock instinct amongst this breed

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Spring ain't exactly springing quickly

Overnight frosts mean that spring is progressing very slowly. I have visited Maridalen for a pre-breakfast trip the last two mornings and whilst there are things afoot there are no obvious movements of passerines or waterbirds.

The dawn chorus is now getting quite varied with Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Yellowhammers, Skylarks, Starlings and today Lapwings. There were 5 Lapwings on the field and one was most likely a female as the males were suddenly displaying and chasing each other.

A pair of Cranes was the undoubted highlight. They were initially circling low over the valley and may well have roosted here before they gained some height and headed north. Very few Cranes have so far arrived in Norway this spring so it was surprising to see them in Maridalen so early.

Until last year I believed that woodpeckers excavated a new nest each year. Seeing a pair of Black Woodpeckers nesting in the same hole two years running taught me that this was not the case and today I found another Black Woodpecker entering another hole that was used last year so it would appear that Black Woodpeckers at least regularly use the same hole two years running. I initially heard today’s bird singing (not drumming) close to where I knew they had nested last year. I went to the hole and a male flew in and immediately started investigating the hole. He then went in and I could hear him hacking away inside the hole presumably doing some renovation before showing it to his mate.

Last night I heard a hooting Long-eared Owl at Årnestangen. As far as I can remember this is only the second time I have heard this species hooting but it was a very distant bird and not particularly satisfying. The moon was full and very large making it an atmospheric night.
male Black Woodpecker (svartspett)

pair of Cranes (trane) over Maridalen with the communications tower at Tryvann in the background (ca. 6km away)

the Great Grey Shrike (varsler) is still present
and Starlings (stær) are increasing

yesterday's full moon
Jupiter is also visible towards the top, right of centre