Wednesday, 28 June 2017


The Greenish Warbler of course topped things for me this spring and I don’t really think I gave it enough prominence in my blog posts but there was always so much else happening and lots of guiding. It has proven to be a popular bird though and lots of travelling birders have seen it although at times it has proven elusive and some have had to make a couple of trips before connecting. It was last reported on 21 June but is probably still there and taking in the harsh reality that its genes won’t get passed on this year.

The Greenish wasn’t the only exciting singing passerine in Oslo’s forests this spring. Red-breasted Flycatchers look they might be finally establishing themselves with multiple singing males recorded as well as breeding. The stories around the flycatchers are fascinating and will be the subject of a long blog post later in the year as well hopefully articles/academic notes! Exciting indeed.

But rarer than the flycatchers and the real subject of this post was a singing male Firecrest present from 17-20 May. I was lucky enough to be told about the bird as I had the time to follow up on and check its progress but news was not spread more widely so as to protect both this potential (first time Norway) breeder (it is expanding greatly in Sweden) and a wealth of other breeding birds in the area from undue pressure This may prove to be unpopular but Firecrest itself is likely to be on the verge of colonising Norway so with a little caution in the early years we could well find this species is widespread and more easily seen in not too long. In the UK it would be a no brainer (and you would be legally obliged) not to share news of such rare breeding birds but in Norway there is little tradition for such caution and legally definitely no requirement. Hopefully both these species will become regular breeders in the years to come and therefore easier to share news about and Greenish Warbler may well also establish itself despite still being a national rarity (just as Blyth’s Reed seems to be doing) and therefore also require protecting….

Photography in a dark, damp woodland was challenging but a Firecrest does rather light things up!

Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge). The orange and not red crest suggests a 2cy male 

Friday, 23 June 2017

Birds and butterflies

I wasn’t guiding yesterday and was hoping to enjoy and get better pictures of some of yesterday’s exciting birds.

There was only a single Hobby present today and whilst I was present it spent most of its time perched and I did not have the opportunity to take the flight photos of it hunting dragonflies that I had hoped for.

Quite surprisingly and rather embarrassingly I saw that the Whooper Swan pair has 8 young and not the 7 that I have previously reported. I checked all the previous pictures I have taken and see only 7 but I did take a short video previously and here I saw there are 8! Well 7 is the largest clutch size mentioned in BWP so these birds are rewriting the history books!  I also need to apologise to Dan who yesterday was quite sure there were 8 young but didn’t push it when I said there could only be 7..

Butterflies were in abundance in Maridalen with two new species for me in the form of Heath Fritillary (marimfjellerutevinge) and Large Wall Brown (klipperingvinge). There were also lots of white butterflies flying around and I really need to start identifying these rather than just thinking “white”.

Hobby (lerkefalk) I suspect that this bird may be a 2cy due to very pale red trousers

Whooper Swans (sangsvane) with 8 young (not, repeat, not 7)

female Teal (krikkand) also with 8 young

this Jay (nøtteskrike) was finding some very large green bugs to eat

with the bug

A small pearl bordered fritillary (brunflekket perlemorvinge)
a Heath Fritillary (marimjellrutevinge)
both the above species together which at first confused me as I thought they were maybe male and female of the same species

this Ringlet (gullringvinge) is completely lacking in spots on the upperwing and had me really confused at first

this was a bit tricky as there are two similar species: Northern Wall Brown (nergringvinge) and Large Wall Brown (klipperingvinge). I have concluded that it is the later due to an absence of 3 bars on the forewing
I thought this was going to be a type of skipper butterfly but it is a lattice heath moth (rutemåler)

a Northern Damselfly (vannlig blåvannymfe)

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Cruise Guiding

Yesterday I was guiding John, Dan, Debbie, Mike and Nancy from the USA who were in Oslo for a couple of days on a cruise.

We had a truly great days birding with Oslo birds showing off their best sides. Østensjøvannet had a lots of young birds and activity despite it being a warm day. Mute swans, Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and Black-headed Gulls all had young and we saw 9 species of warbler including two Marsh Warblers and an Icterine Warbler. A Pink-footed Goose was also an unexpected summer sighting.

The afternoon offered a truly memorable experience and was one of afternoons that leaves you in no doubt as to why birding is so cool. We were searching for Whooper Swans and found a pair with their 7 cygnets (correction - they have 8 young which Dan quite rightly noted). Whilst watching these we then had a Hobby – nice enough but then it mobbed a Buzzard and then there was another Hobby and then another. All three Hobbies then put on an amazing aerial display right over heads catching dragonflies. At one point we were able to follow a dragonfly and then see a Hobby stoop and take it. If that was not enough we could also hear a Black Woodpecker and then whilst watching a perched Hobby we saw the woodpecker going up the same tree and eventually had the side by side!

I’m stuggling to find the time to edit photos and videos at the moment but here are the highlights from today.

Hobby (lerkefalk) and Black Woodpecker (svartspett)

Two Hobbies

Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås)

Swallowtail (svalestjert) butterfly

female Tufted Duck (toppand) with 4 young

Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family

Great Crested Grebe 

life at Østensjøvannet

Monday, 19 June 2017

Hedmark - home away from home

I was up there again! The chance of seeing Great Grey Owls seems too hard to resist and today I had a lot of fun with a Swiss/Indian couple who were on a short stopover in Oslo on their way to Svalbard (it's about time that I also visited Svalbard!). Today we had a fabulous experience with three youngsters who had all left the nest plus a shy adult keeping a watchful eye on them and us. Great Grey Owls are definitely a bird that it is difficult to get too much of although as with Hawk Owl I think the next goal is to be able to follow a hunting bird and study its technique. Two of the owlets had moved over 100 metres from the nest and were 10 metres up in a tree whereas the third and smaller youngster was only about 20 metres from the nest and still on the ground. Looking back to last Thursday when I was there and only saw with certainty one youngster in the nest it is likely that the other two had already left whereas the third and smallest youngster has probably only hopped out within the last 24 hours.

With the distances involved and time constraints there was precious little time for other birding but we did see Rough-legged Buzzard, Redstart, Bullfinch, Crane and a pair of Slavonian Grebes with three small youngsters. Interestingly one of the adults was paying close attention to the largest of the young but another small youngster was repeatedly chased away and even attacked by the adult which grabbed it by the neck. The third youngster wisely was keeping to itself on the edge of some reeds. Luckily the other adult was actively feeding all three youngsters whilst its mate only seemed to care about the single youngster.

Great Grey Owl (lappugle) - the smallest youngster 
Great Grey Owl - watchful adult

I've got mates who look like this after a heavy night ;-)

this youngster and presumably the other two is lucky enough to have been man handled in the name of science

adult Slavonian Grebe (horndykker) with the preferred youngster

the smaller youngster on the left was repeatedly pushed away

this enormous steaming turd is I believe the closest I have ever come to wild bear

Friday, 16 June 2017

I should move to Hedmark ;-)

On 13 May I guided Bob and Sharon at the start of a Norwegian road trip which took them up as far north as Gamvik. Yesterday they were back in Oslo at the end of their journey and we had a great days guiding. The initial plan had been to go after some of the late arriving migrants around Oslo but the pull of Hedmark and its special birds became too much. The day started a little rushed when I discovered that I had set my alarm for the pick up time….but I set a new record by getting out of the door in less than 5 minutes and we were soon on track again.

Ortolan Bunting fell easily but 4 males singing at the same place (where I have previously only heard 2) is probably a sign of unpaired males moving arond which is not good for the long term prospects of this species in Norway where it is right at the north west edge of its global range. Four males is probably over 15% of the total Norwegian population!

Next up was Great Grey Owl. We visited a different site to that which I have previously visited as the young there had become so large that I feared they would have moved far from the nest and be difficult to find in the day (although on an evening visit their calls would make them easy to find). The new site was a nest on an artificial platform in a very exposed site that was easy to view from a distance but it was very sunny and hot and the young did not seem to be having a good time in the nest.

After the Great Grey Owl showed so well it was a disappointment not to be able to find a Pygmy Owl but Grey-headed Woodpecker showed well although I was about to give up on them before Sharon saw them and we then saw both male and female visiting the nest hole.

The day ended with an orange-throated flycatcher robin. We did of course see lots of other birds but the lifers were the highlights!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Young birds

There really is too much happening at the moment. Today I was guiding a Canadian family who made me very jealous with the list of destinations they have previously visited plus the fact they are tomorrow off to Svalbard (high up on my to do list). We had a very enjoyable trip around Maridalen and saw lots of nesting and young birds.

Hawfinches, Song Thurshes and Redwings have young out of the nest, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits, White Wagtails and Great Spotted Woodpeckers have young in the nest, Siskin young are already fending for themselves whilst we saw Greenfinches mating. We found a Coal Tit nest in a natural hole among the roots of a tree down at ground level which seems to be a very risky place.
Tomorrow I am off guiding in Hedmark so hope that the special species are cooperative.

Here is a video of yesterdays juvenile Hawfinches – today we only found a single youngster perched head height in a bush (and very difficult to find despite being noisy) which we saw being fed by an adult.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Catching up

Since my last post I have had a days guiding around Oslo with Paul and Maureen from Connecticut. Incredibly Paul and I found out we both went to the same Cambridge College – what are the chances of that?! The weather was against us at times but we managed Greenish Warbler which was one of 10 warbler species including Marsh, Reed, Sedge and Icterine, all three flycatchers, Wryneck, Dipper, young Oystercatchers and Whooper Swan.

I have also been spending time studying the breeding behaviour of a very rare breeding bird (to be the subject of a later post) and in Maridalen have found young Lapwings (finally) and flightless Hawfinch young on the ground (it is not just owls that have young that leave the nest before they can fly – finches and buntings do the same). I had good views of an adult Black-throated Diver today and can hope that they have renested after the first nest must have gone under when water levels rose in May.

National news and only an hour from home is of a singing Sora Rail. It has apparently been around for a couple of weeks and heard by many mature, experienced birders who filed it away under unknown strange sound but luckily two young brothers (part of Norway’s Young Birders group) were wise enough to record the bird and put it out on Facebook where they asked for help. Us Norwegian birders were unfortunately clueless but by posting it on a Swedish group the answer soon became clear – a Sora Rail!! It had been heard singing during the day today and I have heard very good recordings – I really don’t think it will be any better to drive down there and hear it above the sound of carloads of chatting twitchers?

I've heard of Punk Birders but this is the closest I've come to a Punk Bird - a juvenile Hawfinch (kjernebiter)

Adult Black-throated Diver (storlom) although purple throated may be more correct

Sedge Warber (sivsanger) 
Comma Butterfly (hvit C)

female Green-veined White (rapssommerfugl)

two different male Green-veined Whites

two young Lapwings (vipe) in Maridalen

with mum of dad

Speckled Wood (skogringvinge)