Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Too cold now

Another day of very cold temperatures (-14C at breakfast) and with a biting wind making it feel even colder. The cold got the better of me a couple of times and I had to retreat to the car to warm up. I started the day hoping to see the White-backed Woodpecker again but despite some good old hard work I failed to see it although a Great Spotted Woodpecker first picked up tapping away got me going briefly.

I took the rather scary Oslo Fjord Tunnel (although a major road it is frequently closed due to accidents and a favourite type is the brakes of HGVs over heating due to the 3km long, steep ascent and catching fire….) and then checked out the Drøbak area. A Little Grebe showed really well and caught and devoured a fish that I would imagine would count as breakfast, lunch and dinner. A small flock of Velvet Scoters fed unusually close to shore (usually this species is always a long way out) and had clearly found some sea urchins or crabs as they kept diving in unison over the same spot. I grilled them but had to accept that all of them were “just”. 11 were adult males (or at least 3cy+) and 3 were in female like plumage. Closer inspection showed that at least one of these was a young (2cy) male and the other 2 may also have been. I have noticed many times before how winter flocks of Velvet Scoter contain a real overweight of adult males which contrasts with the smaller numbers of overwintering Common Scoters which seem to always be young birds (sex undetermined). A group of around 50 Common Eiders were cooing away in the sunshine but also failed to reveal any rarer cousins in their midst.

I had a drive by Great Grey Shrike on the way home and a drive through Maridalen did not reveal a single bird (or at least that I can remember) …

Little Grebe (dvergdykker) - the sunshine now makes photography easier

although it was in the shade when it took the (relatively) large fish

clockwise from top left in the act of positioning and then swallowing the fish

can't ever remember seeing the foot of a Little Grebe before

always nice with a Waxwing (sidensvans)

I only had a Great Spotted Woodpecker (today) and with Sunday's White-backed for comparison

14 Velvet Scoters (sjøorre) and 4 Eiders (ærfugl)

The Velvets. Note there are 11 adult (or 3cy+) males and 3 in female/immature plumage (one with head down)

here the bill colouration of the immatuure/female bird shows its to be a 2cy male


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Wind chill

Today was only -9C but with a north easterly wind gusting at over 10m/s it felt a lit colder than yesterday. This weather is a real killer for birds with food hard to find and extra energy needed to keep warm. I toured Oslo’s hotspots today and found far fewer birds than I would have expected to see a couple of weeks ago. Some birds could of course have successfully moved away to warmer climes (wherever that might be at the moment) but the two young Moorhens that have been in Frognerparken were absent today and have I fear met their maker. It is interesting that if the winter had been mild and these birds had successfully over wintered then they would presumably do so again next year and their offspring the same thus evolving a mini population with a new migration strategy, but their demise just goes to show that moving south to warmer climes is, and has always been, the best strategy. The Teal population at Frognerparken was also diminished to three birds but I have also noticed in previous winters that the birds disappear when it is really cold and icy but soon return so they presumably have an alternative location somewhere nearby although I can’t think where that would be.

Despite the weather I saw Oslo’s first migrant Oystercatcher of the year. Two birds have wintered at Bygdøy (this is very unusual) but today there were three birds although none of them looked particularly happy. A Little Grebe was also here, and a light coloured young Peregrine flew through. The bird was ringed although my photos are too poor to make out even the colour of the ring.

At Østensjøvannet 350 or so Mallards are keeping a tiny area of water ice free and thankfully the City Council seem to have accepted their error in trying to outlaw feeding and have instead changed the signs to outlawing the dumping of food waste. When someone came with some bread the birds went pretty wild showing how necessary continued feeding is (once it has started). Amongst the Mallards the usual suspects of the adult female Pintail, a young male Wigeon and single Barnacle and Canada Goose were still present and accounted for although the Coot population has fallen by one bird to seven. Quite a few birds had clumps of ice on their beaks and feathers which didn’t look to healthy.

Maridalen appeared birdless and the wind was blowing the snow across the roads creating polar conditions.

This male Mallard (stokkand) had a serious amount of ice on its bill

as did the young male Wigeon (brunnakke)

the only open water at Østensjøvannt

the icy conditions at Huk, Bygdøy and the three Oystercatchers (tjeld)

Little Grebe (dvergdykker)

this Magpie in Maridalen had been sitting on top of one of the famous statues in Frognerparken and was being photographed by a tourist with her iphone but by the time I got my camera out it had dropped down and the moment has passed..

young Peregrine (vandrefalk)

the bird is ringed but none of my photos allow any detail to be seen

arctic conditions in Maridalen

Monday, 26 February 2018

Very, very cold

Today heralded the start of the cold period that is forecast to dominate northern Europe for the next couple of weeks. The thermometer at home showed – 17C at breakfast and during my travels today it dipped down to -22C which I reckon equals the lowest temperature I have experienced. It was a fantastic day though with blue skies, sun and little wind so amazingly enough it never felt cold.

I thought I would use the sun to try to get some good photos of Kingfisher. What I failed to factor in though was that the temperature had resulted in ice everywhere. I visited three sites that have recently held Kingfisher but all were iced over. This doesn’t bode well for the birds which I assume are now looking for food along open areas of the fjord but I don’t think there will be much for them to find and it is just these cold spells that are the reason that Kingfishers are only a rare and occasional breeding species in Norway.

I ended up covering a lot of kilometres today for next to no reward except for the end of my day when I again had an up close and personal meeting with a Pygmy Owl in Maridalen. This bird was most likely the same female (based on calls) that I had nearby three weeks ago.

'T'was cold today 
Pygmy Owl (spurveugle) showed well again in Maridalen today

when you can't find a Kingfisher in the sun then you have to make do with a female Mallard..

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Finally in the (Norwegian) bag - White-backed Pecker

 Before today White-backed Woodpecker was one of three species of regular breeder on the Norwegian mainland that I had not seen in Norway with the other 2 being Stonechat and Leaches Petrel.

Norway has a very important population of White-backed Pecker but these birds are all in the west of Norway and have eluded me the couple of times I have searched for them in prime habitat. I have however seen the species before in the Pyrenees where it is supposed to be very hard to find.

Until the 1970s there was a small population in south east Norway, but these died our possibly as a result of being out-competed by Great Spotted Wood. In Sweden there are handful of birds left which being augmented by captive bred birds but I don't think this population has much chance.

Every now and again irruptions of birds from much further east cross the Baltic and I wonder whether this is the origin of the bird I saw today as Norwegian birds do not seem prone to wandering.

The bird I saw was just 40km from Oslo and was first seen on 6 Nov, there were then a sighting on 3 Dec but nothing again until a week ago after which it seems to have settled down into a small area. Despite my dislike for, and incompetence at, twitching I decided on an early morning visit today and was so successful that I might have to try it more often. Less than 5 minutes after parking the car and wandering into the wood I heard tapping and quickly got onto the bird.

I was then able to watch it for 20 minutes as it hacked noisily at trees at varying heights. Compared to GS Wood its hacking was louder and it also seemed to attack the trees more violently with splinters flying. 

male White-backed Woodpecker (hvitryggspett) - the snow shows how close to the ground the bird was

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


Today was a good day to visit the Botanical Garden in Oslo. My reasoning (which differs to that of the majority of people) being that it was cloudy and sleeting and there would therefore be nobody else there and I could enjoy the birds on my own…

There was a nice flock of Redpolls at one of the feeders and amongst them was a nice 1st winter / 2cy male of the northern clinal form, aka Arctic Redpoll. This bird stood out as a much colder, whiter bird and the large white rump and undertail coverts confirm the ID but in my pictures it looks a lot greyer although I put this down to the light and the poor quality of the photos. As usual there was a wide variety of plumages and sizes amongst the redpolls and there was at least one other bird that was probably of the arctic type but I only ever saw this bird above me in a tree and never noticed it on the ground so it might well be that it gave a different and less convincing impression when seen on the ground (all the birds were frequently coming down to feed on sunflower seeds). None of the birds conformed to the southern clinal form aka Lesser Redpoll.

There was the usual variety of other finches (9 species in total) but a single Blackbird was the only thrush I saw suggesting that all berries have now been eaten

On the Plaza hotel there are now two Peregrines: an adult and a 1st winter/2cy. It is normally only an adult that winters in town with young birds migrating south to Europe and I think it is unusual for two birds to hang out together unless they are a pair. I would imagine therefore that these birds are a parent and young and for some reason the parent still has a bond to its offspring.

here the bird on the left is the same one in the other pictures. The bird on the right also looks to have a very large unmarked white rump but I never noticed this individual on the ground and believe that the rump has been make to look much larger and whiter due to the feathers being fluffed up. But it could well also be an arctic

the Arctic from different angles and looking decidedly different in each one
here the pointed outer tail feathers show it to be a 1st winter / 2cy bird

A redpoll that is difficult to place and may well be an arctic - note the small bill, fairly large white rump but the streaking on the undertail coverts may be too much and the ground colour on the back may not be light enough

despite a lot of white on the rump this is a Common Redpoll - large bill and streaking on the rump and too dark on the back

this bird was very striking. The bill was small and it was generally grey rather than brown but was very straked on the rump and flanks and undertail coverts. A Common Redpoll but from where?

a well marked male Common Redpoll

Despite the white rump this must be a Common Redpoll due to it being a male (red on breast) and a male arctic would have less flank streaking and greyer back

This bird was in the garden a couple of days ago on its own. Agian it has a small bill and a white rump (athough only a narrow area unstreaked). It could well be an arctic (and the first garden record) but not for sure

a small 2cy male Sparrowhawk was unpopular

Four species of finch (Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch and Redpoll) are in this picture plus a possible arctic Redpoll. I also had Hawfinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch and Siskin so quite a good finch day

Collared Dove

the two Peregrines on the top of the Plaza Hotel plus the reflection of one of the birds which has fooled more than one birder into thinking there were even more birds. The closer bird is a 2cy and and the further bird an adult. The noticeably larger size of the youngster suggests it is a female and the adult a male (daughter and father?)