Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Corncrake - crex crex

When I awoke to rain and low cloud this morning the only thing I thought about was how silly I had been to hang washing out to dry overnight. I have clearly moved on from migration modus and into breeding bird modus. If I had still my migration antenna up I may have chosen to go out to Årnestangen (which has been kind to me this spring) and then I may have found the Little Tern that instead fittingly fell to Årnestangen stalwart Erling Hobøl.

When the message on the tern ticked in just before noon I actually got twitchy, did a u-turn and considered driving out for it but my senses got the better of me and an empty stomach was rewarded with lunch.

So what birding did I do today? Well as I was in breeding bird modus I was checking out Sørkedalen and close by areas. A few nights ago a Corncrake with a strange song was reported singing. The consensus seems to be that this is the song of a female (which has only recently been properly understood). A couple of days later her far from dulcet tones had attracted three! males to vy for her affections. Early returning birds can often be easier to locate and see because they sing intensely and the grass has not yet grown high. I also thought that the gloomy conditions today would actually mean there was more likelihood of birds singing during the day so set off after the girls were despatched to school with moderately high hopes.

The area where the birds had been reported turned out to be surprisingly small and urban with a main road, large car park, kindergarten and a couple of farms surrounding it. The fields all had crops only a few centimetres high but an area of waste ground right by the kindergarten had a lot of lush grass, nettles and sedges and it was clearly here I would find the bird(s). One was singing when I got out of the car and I positioned myself in a good place and waited and hoped that there would be some activity. It is my experience that singing birds often are visible or at least their head is and it is just a matter of being able to locate them -which I did J !!!!

My best ever views of Corncrake ensued although I had to call it a day as the worsening rain threatened the future of my cameras.

After this I went into Sørkedalen where among other exciting species I had Red-backed Shrike and Common Rosefinch. The highlight though was 4 quite large young Lapwings and four adults. Breeding had failed on this field last year (making Maridalen the only place in Oslo with successful breeding) and although some small young had been seen here earlier this spring there have been no other reports and the farmer has since sown the field so another failure was assumed – but no four young of this size is very promising! In Maridalen however things do not look so promising (after a good breeding season last year). I believe there were 3-4 pairs attempting to nest this year at Skjerven but today I could only see 2 adults in the long grass and no indication of any young. Five birds were feeding at Kirkeby which is not a good sign as if they had young then I would have expected them to be with them.

Tomorrow I am guiding in Hedmark for some very specific and exciting birds – hopefully I have been kind to the bird gods recently ;-)

Corncrake (åkerrikse)

the small area where it was singing from with a kindergarten top left

song sequence taken with the superzoom

the area from another angle. here you can see that the fields which may be used by the birds later in the season have only very short vegetation now

just as a rare a sight around Oslo as Corncrake are fledgling Lapwings (vipe) - here 4 in Sørkedalen

Monday, 29 May 2017

Some videos

Today’s birding involved trying to get to grips with the breeding situation for some of Maridalen’s scarce breeders. I finally, after suspecting it for a while, confirmed that a 2cy female Goshawk is breeding. It is apparently very rare for them to breed at this age and breeding is expected to not be successful. Behaviour today suggested that she is no longer sitting on eggs but whether they have hatched or failed I am unsure but time will tell.

The Greenish Warbler was seen by other but my midday visit did not reveal it nor hardly any other singing birds. There was a good selection of butterflies thought including my first Green Hairstreak and Comma of the year as well as a few Camberwell Beauties.

I also include three videos from last weeks Hedmark jolly.

2cy female Goshawk (hønsehauk) breeding

Green Hairstreak (grønnstjertvinge)
Treecreeper nest

Camberwell Beauty (sørgekåpe)

Sunday, 28 May 2017

When Mrs OB wanted to go for a walk the chance to enjoy the forests north of Maridalen and perhaps reencounter the Greenish Warbler seemed to be a win win situation. The bird was singing in exactly the same spot as I found it yesterday and could be heard singing from a good distance as one approached (reports of the bird from other spots seem surprising (unless the two bird theory applies) and I well remember being fooled previously by the song of some Coal Tits and Treecreeper which can have a very musical song sometimes).

I again struggled to get good pictures with a constantly moving bird and surprisingly poor light (when looking through the camera) but the results and especially video were a marked improvement over yesterday’s efforts.

Last night I had my first nocturnal trip of the year and went up into Maridalen. At my first stop at 11pm (and whilst still quite light) I had a flock of 400 geese going over which from their call and date and the fact that a major passage occured that day had to be hrota Brent Geese. These birds which are migrating from Denmark(?) to their breeding grounds on Svalbard always migrate in late May/early June but usually go up the west coast of Norway. In recent years however more an more birds have been going up the Oslo Fjord although many seem to get confused as to their next step once the sea runs out as were these birds who were heading NE. Apart from Tawny Owls at three sites the only nocturnal birds I had were my first Marsh Warbler and Woodcock of the year.

Greenish Warbler (østsanger)

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Guiding Gold again – Greenish Warbler!

Guiding is proving to be good at turning up rare birds for me. This morning I was showing Pete from England the highlights of Maridalen. Hazel Grouse was top of the wish list so we headed straight for the site where I had them whilst guiding recently (without trying all the other seemingly empty territories). It is a good hike up to the site so when we didn’t find them to begin with I began to worry but there was nothing to worry about as after few minutes as a male flew in (on unusually silent wings) and perched nearly above Pete’s head. My view was obscured but when I did get a chance for a photo the camera wouldn’t focus which was to prove to be a problem later in the day.

Later in the day was when we were walking back to the car and a loud song close to us had us scratching our heads. My first suggestion was a Tree Pipit not quite in the swing of things but just before I glimpsed the bird I remembered the song – GREENISH WARBLER!! What had I predicted only a few days ago??

It showed really well but taking photos proved a real challenge with the camera either not focusing or when it did focus then it wouldn’t take a shot. In the end though there were a couple of record shots and I recorded the song.

Greenish Warbler is a national rarity and this was the first record in the country this year.
We didn’t spend a long time with the bird as we had more ground to cover but the bird was well watched by others later and it is possible there is more than one singing male in the area.

The rest of Maridalen did of course also deliver and we had Goshawk including close views of an adult male, ridiculously good views of a male Black Woodpecker, Common Rosefinch plus the usual selection of flycatchers and warblers.

singing Greenish Warbler (østsanger) 

male Black Woodpecker (svartspett)
male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink)

Friday, 26 May 2017

Guiding delivers the goods

I was guiding Dan from the US of A yesterday for an early morning outing. We had a great morning with sun, no wind, great landscapes and plenty of birds. All the local specialities were on show including Black Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Rosefinch, beaver, various flycatchers and warblers, Goshawk and Wryneck. I have no pictures to show from today but here is a highlights video from the Oslo area from this week.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cheeky Hedmark trip

A long(ish) staying Black Tern was enough to tip the scales and prompt me to make a cheeky trip to Hedmark today ahead of some trips in the next few weeks for guiding and survey work.

Of course the fact that I was attempting to twitch it was all the incentive the tern needed to move on. Black Tern is very scarce in Norway and a hole on my list. This one had chosen to hang around on a tiny pool in an arable field that held a small (ca.25 pairs) colony of Black-headed Gulls. This colony also attracted Coot, Moorhen, Slavonian Grebe, Tufted Duck and a Little Gull (have been two) which is quite extraordinary considering how small it is (see the picture).

Well the tern was only one of the attractions Hedmark had and the other two didn’t disappoint. First I had an adult and young Great Grey Owl in a nest I had also seen used in 2014 (the last year of mass breeding in Hedmark) and then I had three singing Ortolan Buntings. Two of Norway’s rarest and coolest breeders enjoyed on a nice warm spring day – cheers!

After this I drive the scenic route home hoping for raptors as the weather seemed perfect to get them up in the air. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to really find them if they were there and only had two Kestrels plus a couple of second glimpse of my first Honey Buzzard of the year.

A big surprise though came when I stopped at a site where Hawk Owl bred in 2014. I didn’t find any this year but did see a Grey-headed Woodpecker in flight that then landed on and disappeared into a tree. I had found my first ever breeding Grey-headed Woodpeckers – a species that I don’t even see annually. I got to see the male really well and will maybe be able to follow this site more later.

Lots of pictures and video taken today. Here are the first batch of photos:

I can see you 
Great Grey Owl (lappugle)

singing male Ortolan (hortulan). Note it is ringed and from what I can make out not a Norwegian ring (more work needed here)

male Grey-headed Woodpecker (gråspett)

the small pool that had housed a Black Tern until yesterday

2cy Little Gull (dvergmåke) and Slavonian Grebes (horndykker)

Very good guiding

What a day’s guiding I had yesterday! I’m sure I’ve said it before but the Oslo area doesn’t fail to deliver the goods at the end of May and beginning of June.

Today I was able to show Alex from Kent the likes of Common Rosefinch, Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Thrush Nightingale, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Icterine Warbler, Black Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Goshawk, Long-tailed Tit, Scaup and Brent Goose to name but a few. It was a hot sunny day but bird activity remained high even in the early afternoon and a combination of Maridalen, Sørkedalen and Fornebu gave a great variety and quality of birds.

I also was a bit more active on the photo front myself than I normally am and with good light there are some better than average photos to show although I’ve only got time to publish a couple now and will hopefully find time to put more out later.

male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) with bumblebee

Icterine Warbler (gulsanger)
Two large, noisy and curios young Black Woodpeckers (svartspett)
Thrush Nightingale (nattergal)

Monday, 22 May 2017

Red-backed Shrikes are back

A new week and the last summer migrants are arriving. I have a bit of guiding coming up so wanted to make sure that I have control over the goodies. I located my first Red-backed Shrikes of the year with 2 males in Sørkedalen (although not in Maridalen yet), a Rosefinch in Sørkedalen (and others had in Maridalen) and 3 Wryneck territories in Maridalen. The Scaup was still on Maridalsvannet (what is it thinking of?) and some of the scarce/rare breeders were also still going strong.

At the Tawny Owl nest an adult was giving alarm calls audible from a long distance and when I got there was a mob of crows around the nest box. I only saw two youngsters in the nest and found some Tawny Owl feathers on the ground (from the adult I think) so wonder if one of the youngsters had jumped out and been discovered and taken by the crows with the adult having tried to defend it?

I also discovered a Common Sandpiper nest for the first ever time when two adults flew up calling from a woodland edge 20 metres from the water. The nest was just a depression in the grass with a single egg.

male Red-backed Shrike (tornskate) - I think it is easy to see where the English name comes from

Tawny Owl (kattugle)

half closed eye lids
Wryneck (vendehals) 

Two large Black Woodpecker (svartspett) young. This nest has come a lot further than in Maridalen where they are stil excavating

Common Sandpiper (strandsnipe) nest 
Icterine Warbler (gulsanger)

Pied Flycatchers (svarthvitfluesnapper) are now back in good numbers