Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Perfect weather for......painting

Quite surprisingly and rather annoyingly the weather forecasters have got it right and it's been perfect weather for painting!
So I've been up a ladder but this has also led to me looking right up at times and in good weather in autumn this can reveal raptors. Not many but a low Osprey was most unexpected although Sparrowhawk and Goshawk were to be expected. Also a low Tree Pipit calling which looked like it may have been down on the ground nearby. Swifts are a still to be seen although the vast majority have moved off.
This morning I nipped off to Maridalen early on whilst the overnight dew had a chance to dry off the walls and had hoped to have a few raptors but was really too early in the day and had to make do with a single Sparrowhawk. There were few passerines and the Red-backed-Shrikes seem to have moved off with also fewer Whinchats, although Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches are getting more numerous and there were a few early Bramblings.

The Whooper Swan family showed better than previously and the young were flapping there wings and spending a lot of time preening to get rid of old juvenile downy feather but I would think there are still a number of weeks before they will take their first flight. The family is very wary this year and were out on the small pool which they bred on last year (has become even more overgrown this year) when I arrived but as soon as they spotted me they moved quickly off into the flooded forest where they quickly vanish.
on the small pool with a bit of wing flapping. This is the only open water here and is not large enough for flying practice. I didn't work out what happened ast year - whether they flew off the adjacent field or made the long, perilous and difficult walk to Maridalsvannet.
lots of preening
moving off after I had been spotted
formation swimming.
BWP gives 7 as the maximum clutch size recorded so this is clearly a large family and good work from the parents to have brought so many youngsters this close to fledging

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Frustrating Beans

Still more rain yesterday so yet another good reason not to paint but the weather forecast for the rest of the week looks like I'll run out of excuses ūüėČ.

Over the weekend some really exciting plots had come in from the Bean Geese showing different roost sites they have used over the last week and how different birds were able to join up despite having been feeding over 70km apart. Yesterday the birds were feeding on a favoured autumn field. I had driven past this field on Friday and it had been half harvested with rain having caused a stop. As in previous years this is one of the very first fields to be harvested which in turn leads to it being suitable for the geese earlier than other fields. I visited this field this morning and located the geese. They were feeding, as they often do, in a depression and only a few heads were available. Surprisingly there were 14 Canada Geese with them which is the first time I have seen these two species together here. I tried to get a better angle so I could see the geese to try to read neck collars and age the birds (at the request of WWT). At 500 m range though the Canada Geese flew up calling and after that it was just a matter of time before the Beans followed. In the autumn the geese are far warier than when they are here in the spring and I wonder how I will manage to get close enough views to attempt ageing. Before the birds flew I was able to read ring S6 and the paired GPS collars 27 & 29. When they flew off in a northerly direction I counted 106 birds but took photos to cross check. Back home I counted exactly 90 birds on the PC screen. I used to always undercount in the field but appear to have over compensated....

I drove up to the peat bog x km away which is where the geese looked to be heading. Here I saw no geese on the deck but a flock flew up from over 600m away which I hope was not due to me as if it was then these geese will struggle to settle down and feed up. I estimated around 100 birds and assumed them to be the same as before but again took photos. This time the computer screen revealed only 66 birds... I've got some clear counting problems. It is possible therefore that these 66 birds were different to the previous birds although there could have been more geese that remained on the deck (I turned round after they flew up as I didn't want to cause any unnecessary disturbance). The 66 flew off to the south but I was unable to relocate them any fields.
At the peat bog Friday's Woodlark was still present and after a game of cat and mouse I got a picture although drizzle and dark clouds meant it was poor light for what otherwise could have been a good photo.
The on march of autumn was clear to see with lots of passerines in the fields and in the air today.

I had intended to also go out to √Örnestangen to see what new waders the rain had brought down. I ran out of time for this but a small patch of mud along the Nitelva river had 3 Knot, a Turnstone and 4 Ruff so I may well have missed out a wader-fest (I will find out later as others were going out...).

Also an interesting duck that I reckon must be a hybrid of some sort although may just be a Mallard with a large dose of strange domestic duck genes.
The Canada's and a few Beans flying up at 500metres range. Just to demonstrate how a long lens (500mm) can make distances difficult to judge: the car in the background is 1.3km away and the house is 2km away! This field is a favoured field in the autumn because it is one of the first to be harvested and therefore suitable for the Beans. Here it is possible to see that only half the field has been harvested so far.
these two tagged birds are GPS tagged birds 27&29
I only noticed this bird in photos. It really resembles a White-fronted Goose but must just be a rather extreme plumaged Bean
90 Beans flying north from the fields

66 Beans heading south from the peat bog an hour later
Woodlark (trelerke)


There have been lots of Turnstones (steinvender) this autumn around Nordre √ėyeren. This one was on a very small area of mud along the Nitelva river
Knots (polarsnipe) have also been numerous. Here with 2 Ruff (brushane)

this duck really stood out. It had a very green head which is strange since no other male Mallards had anywhere so green heads (still coming out of eclipse plumage)

it also had a white area near the bill and a mostly grey bill

it was  large duck with a distinct head shape. I cannot think of hybrid combination that would produce such a large bird and suspect that it is the result of a pairing between a Mallard and a domestic duck. Note also the Shoveler (skjeand)

Friday, 26 August 2016

Beans r back

Rain might stop me painting the house but gives good wader conditions. √Örnestangen this morning was cooking with over 200 Dunlin but I failed to find anything too rare although a supporting cast of Sanderling, Knot, Turnstone, Little Stint and Curlew Sand amongst others gave me lots to work through. A family of Peregrines made a lot of noise and kept putting the waders up. There were three youngsters with their dad. The dad is a tiny bird in comparison to his offspring (who are probably all females) and must be the same bird I saw on Saturday. No harriers of any sort today although I hope to turn up a Pallid this autumn. Little Gull, White-tailed Eagle, Pochard and Pintail were also good birds.

Two of the tagged Bean Geese have been, according to their signals, back in Akershus since the very early date of 14 August. The plots show they checked out the traditional fields before flying to the NW and settling down in a large area of forest which probably resembles their breeding grounds with small vegetation rich pools. The reason for going there is quite simply that in mid-August the fields have not yet been harvested so are unsuitable. A third tagged bird turned round and headed back towards Sweden whilst the fourth (and final) tagged bird stayed in Sweden much longer before heading for Norway this week. After a day in the same area of forest he moved to the traditional area a couple of days ago. I went up there today without any live plots to know exactly where to look but as it was the middle of the day checked out the peat bog which is traditionally used in the middle of the day. The birds saw me before I saw them and started calling. I saw some heads sticking up at least 200 m away and stopped to put up the scope. The birds were very wary though and flew up though and took with them another group (I have noticed before that these birds are far more wary in the autumn than the spring for reasons that I’m not sure about although I have wondered whether they are subject to (illegal) hunting in August. There were exactly 50 birds and they flew around calling looking very unsure as to where to go (suggesting very newly arrived). I took lots of long range pictures which show three neck collars plus a bird with only a metal leg ring. Of the three neck collars one was a GPS collar and this bird had a green leg ring showing him to be the same tagged bird (10) that had recently moved to the area. The flock should build up over the next week or so and the harvest has just begun in the area so stubble fields will soon be available.
A real surprise was a Woodlark which flew up in front of and perched really well but vanished into thin air whilst I took my camera out of the bag.

The final good bird of the day was a roadside adult Hobby that was chasing Crows. I'm not sure if this was for the fun of it or whether there were young Hobbies nearby but he eventually drifted off.

The taiga Bean Geese (sædgås) at long range (uncropped with 500mm) just before they flew up. Note the bird with a completely orange bill. I have noted this or a similar bird in the flock before and it has on at least one occasion been mistakenly reported as a Greylag

the two groups joined up and flew around calling loudly and seemingly unsure as to what there next move should be. I make it exactly 50 birds

more experienced eyes than mine might be able to age the birds from this shot showing upperwings?

the three neck collared birds. The right hand bird has a GPS collar and a green leg ring showing him to be 10. The two other birds have enscribed neck collars but my pictures do not allow them to be read. I believe the birds to be a pair

here it is just possible to see "10" on the collar of the upper bird plus the green leg ring. The other bird has a metal leg ring but has lost its neck collar

adult Hobby (lerkefalk)

montage of it chasing a Crow

and another montage

briefly landing
the waders at √Örnestangen were frequently in the air because of...

..a family of Peregrines including this youngster which still had a lot to learn

Dunlin (myrsnipe), Little Stint (dvergsnipe) and Sanderling (sandl√łper)

At least 500 Cormorants are clearly finding lots of fish at √Örnestangen

and keep heading off in squadrons when they feel the need for food

Thursday, 25 August 2016

OSLO waders

I couldn't resist following up on yesterday's good waders on Gressholmen so took the boat out this morning. I visited Gressholmen and Nakkholmen and also had views over Lind√łya and Galteskj√¶r so had control over the most likely sites.

Waders don't often hang around on the islands but with it being overcast last night and low cloud and drizzle this morning I had high hopes. In addition to yesterday's Little Stints and Knot I entertained the idea of Turnstone and Sanderling also turning up. It was quite exciting getting to the bay at Gressholmen but the excitement soon turned to disappointment with just 4 Greenshank, 1 Redshank, 3 Common Sands, 5 Ringed Plover and 2 Dunlin present. Three herons and an Osprey perched in trees were a little exotic. Gressholmen does have more wader habitat than just the large bay and an offshore rock held another 4 Dunlin and 3 Knot. YES, happy boy - my 215th Oslo species!

Passerines were for some reason very scarce with no chats or the like.

Taking the boat to Nakkholmen I saw there were some waders roosting on a rock just offshore and soon found myself looking at another 7 Knot and 2 Dunlin. Just as I was getting some good pics a canoeist appeared and went right up to them and spooked them Рthe smile he had from a close encounter of the natural kind quickly vanished when he noticed me and my camera and he paddled off embarrassed. They flew over to nearby Galteskjær where there were also 3 Ringed Plover.

A rock off Lind√łya held another 7 Ringed Plover and 3 Dunlin and nearly two hours later (after having missed the boat) another 2 Knot were on the rock which had earlier held 7 whilst the 7 were still on Galteskj√¶r but had now increased to 9!! So an absolute minimum of 11 (seen together) but the 3 on Gressholmen may have been additional and the 7 and 9 were not necessarily the same. But even the minimum number of 11 meant that I had seen nearly as many individual Knots as had EVER previously been recorded in Oslo!!!

Nakkholmen held a few more passerines including 4 species of warbler but nothing too dramatic.

The two Knot (polarsnipe) that I saw on Nakkholmen. All the Knot I saw today were juveniles

7 Knot and 2 Dunlin (myrsnipe) on the same rock on Nakkholmen nearly 2 hours earlier

still lots of flowers

the birds suddenly took flight and I thought it was this fisherman but it turned out to be a canoeist who paddled between me and the birds

My very first Oslo Knot at Gressholmen here with a couple of Dunlin

the last Knot of the day - 9 birds on Galteskjær
Galteskjær as seen from Nakkholmen with Oslo and a large cruise ship in the background. This rock also held 3 Ringed Plover, a Dunlin and is a breeding site fr Lesser Blac-backed Gulls. The Cormorant you see do not yet breed in the Oslo area but it is probably just a matter of time

an obliging Greenshank (gluttsnipe)

Greenshank and Redshank (r√łdstilk)

4 adult and a juv Ringed Plover (sandlo) and 2 juv Dunlin

a juv Shelduck (gravand) with 3 Eider
not often I try to take pictures of Hooded Crow (kr√•ke) but this one sat obligingly

I think he was trying to tell me something