Friday, 30 March 2018

Skiing with Hawkie

We have spent the first part of the Easter holiday downhill skiing at Trysil. It was positively divine conditions with deep blue skies, no wind, overnight temperatures falling below -10C but with the sun making it feel warm. There was also loads of good snow, so skiing was a delight especially after having got the ski prepped and the edges sharpened.

There were not many birds to be encountered but the most numerous were 4 Siberian Jays and 3 Hawk Owls so I was a very happy skier. We got very close to the birds but with only a lousy iphone camera the shots do not do justice to the experience. I had taken my superzoom away with me but chose not to have it with me whilst skiing in case I fell. I was less worried for the camera than my ribs which came off the worse from a previous fall on the ice. Given that I didn’t fall (bar one embarrassing dismount from a chair lift) and the fact the owls were very stationary I do regret not having gone back to the hotel and collected the camera because the light was great, the trees not too tall and one owl in particular was very confiding.

me filming Hawkie

a Siberian Jay (lavskrike) honestly!

there were tracks from Hares all over the place but here we also saw where one had been gnawing on a tree either to eat the bark or maybe just to wear its teeth down

Wednesday, 28 March 2018


An unexpected sighting last week was a Beaver at very close range in the middle of the day. I have seen a few signs recently that Beavers are out and about despite the snow and ice (which must make it difficult for them to come in and out of their lodges). Seeing the animal today the reason would seem to be that they are clearly starving. With this winter going on longer than expected they have probably used up the food they stored for the winter so are forced out to look for new supplies. They also have to use their teeth which are continually growing such that they wear them down.

The sight of the beaver and of moose close to the city is a reminder of how many animals are suffering this winter. Many birds are also suffering with early returning migrants finding no food and signs that many owls are having a really hard time. There are many reports of dead Tawny Owls or Tawnies feeding in daylight in gardens which is a sure sign they are having huge problems finding food. Great Grey Owls are also turning up along the coast with very few records of singing birds suggesting that they are also struggling to find food and have had to flee the deep snow in the forests in their quest to survive (so breeding and all the use of energy that requires is not on the cards).

Friday, 23 March 2018

Less Beans

Yesterday saw lovely blue skies, no wind, dry air and temperatures just below zero whilst today was cloudy, misty, rainy and temperatures were hovering just above zero. Neither day did much to encourage migration but yesterday’s un and todays rain has caused the thaw to start although temperatures are forecast to fall below -10C next week so we will still have to be patient in our wait for spring.
Yesterday I returned to the Glomma River. Only 55 Taiga Beans were now present, and I would not be surprised if the other 23 from yesterday have returned to Denmark. There were now lots of droppings on the ice which were absent yesterday and help confirm that the birds did arrive yesterday morning. The geese were frequently up on the ice picking at something – whatever it was too small for me to see and I wonder if they were eating insects. Whatever it is they will surely lose weight until they can start feeding on the fields which may be in over a week?

I visited other sites on the river and found Slavonian Grebes, Long-tailed Duck and Scaup along with my first two migrating Wigeon of the year but there was no viz mig to witness.

In the evening Per Christian and I went owling. It was perfect conditions in that it was windless and with temperatures “only” dropping to -4C it was actually quite comfortable to be out. We had a very good start with 5 singing Tengmalm’s Owls in the first 2-3 kilometres but then after this we had nothing. I had hoped to be able to get some good photos of a Tengmalm’s but despite our best efforts we only observed one in flight in the light of our torches and never managed to see it perched.

Today I visited Bygdøy and Fornebu where Greylag numbers are slowly building up and a flock of 22 was on a snow-covered field feeding under a large tree where the snow had melted. Small flocks of Starlings at both sites were the only real sign of passerine migration and a couple of birds were singing and mimicking other birds including Redwing which did suddenly transport me into the spring until they flew off and I abruptly returned to winter.

the sun was shining on the ice. The Taiga Beans can be seen on the ice 

there were only 3 ringed birds. One had a neck collar : 7U who I first saw here in March 2014. One had a green leg ring having lost it GPS collar and can be identified as 10 who I also first saw here in March 2014. The third bird only has a metal leg ring having lost its neck collar and unfortunately cannot be identified.

what are they picking at?

"7U" can just about be seen in this picture

here is the single Pink-footed Goose (kortnebbgås) that is together with the Beans and which acted as those it maybe paired with one of the Beans

Whooper Swas (sangsvane)
three Slavonian Grebes (horndykker)

Greylag Geese that have found the only snow free ground at Bygdøy

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Beans r back!

Today offered a number of surprises. I was in a bit of despair as to where to go. A sighting of a Stonechat in Østfold yesterday had me hoping that there might be a chance of something turning up, but I had no intention of driving all that way and conditions on the coast in Østfold must be much more spring like than around Oslo. In the end I thought that a trip along the Glomma river in Akershus would give me the best chance of finding something and it would also let me check out the conditions on the Taiga Bean Goose fields so I could get an idea on when they might be suitable for the geese.

My first stop was at Bingen Lenser and here the mighty Glomma river was frozen over except for a couple of open patches which held a few Mute and Whooper Swans plus single Canada Goose and Goldeneye so not exactly promising conditions. The steep slopes down to the river which normally become snow free early in the year were also covered in snow so there were no passerines to find here which I had hoped for.

Moving up to the Taiga Bean fields they were covered in so much snow that people were skiing on them and there was no stubble sticking out of the deep snow. A Starling eating snow was a surprise though.

Moving to the church at Udenes I had a vague hope of maybe finding a Smew on the river but with ice on the edges and snow of the fields I had no expectation of finding geese. When I got out of the car at 0945 I heard Whooper Swans which was expected as small numbers winter along the river but the sound of geese was most unexpected. I set up the scope and unbelievably there were 11 Beans on the ice edge. After a couple of minutes, I suddenly counted 13 and thought that I must just have missed two but considering subsequent events they may well have arrived there and then. At 0958 the geese took flight and to be honest I expected them to head south and back to Denmark (as a tagged bird did a few years ago) but the reason was actually that a young White-tailed Eagle was hunting them! The eagle left empty talloned but split the birds into groups of 8 and 5. When the birds returned after a few minutes there were now 15 birds with another two having somehow materialised. Then at 1009 a single bird flew in calling and now I was sure that I was witnessing birds arriving. At about 1020 I did something silly and drove a few miles to check another bit of the river. When I returned a half hour later there were now 76 Beans plus a Pink-footed on the river – so I had managed to miss the big arrival… Then at 1135 three geese flew in calling from the south and were a pair of Beans (one ringed) and a Greylag.

I stayed until 1250 but no new birds arrived. Judging by a lack of droppings on the ice I believe that all birds probably arrived today and it is interesting how they arrived in different size groups. There were only 5 birds with neck collars. The only ones I read with certainty were the pair 3Y and 7V. I had not seen these birds here last autumn so I was surprised to see them with 4 young. There were hardly any young amongst the birds that passed through here in the autumn so maybe more families chose another migration route?

The three other collared birds were all paired with uncollared birds and without young but I was unable to read their collars with certainty as the 1km range was just a bit too far for my scope.

I have been following the weather forecast at the Danish staging grounds and it has been so cold there that I was quite sure the birds would not have moved on. In the last two days temperature have risen above zero both day and night but the winds were not southerly so I was still expecting them not to move on – but I was obviously wrong. I’m sure they are regretting their decision though and would not be surprised if they move away to the south. It will be a least a week before the snow melts on the fields and there seemed very little vegetation for them to access by upending in the river so they will not be able to put on weight very quickly (may even lose it).

In addition the 78 Bean Geese and single Pink-foot there was also a mixed pair of Canada x Greylag Goose and the single Greylag which arrived with the last two Beans.

The White-tailed Eagle was the only raptor and single overflying Skylark and Parrot Crossbill were pretty much the only passerines in the air but I could hear drumming Black and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and yaffling Green Woodpecker though which was a very promising development.

The Glomma river was frozen at Bingen Lenser. The constructions in the river are from when they used to float timber down the river

a skier on the snow covered fields that the geese favour

same fields from a different angle
view from Udenes Church
here there was at least open water but the edges are still icy

some of the geese

the young White-tailed Eagle chasing 5 of the geese

a Starling in the snow

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


The temperature reached a barmy +6C today (although is still below zero at night) and at Bygdøy on south facing slopes there was actually snow free ground at the base of trees – so there is hope! No new birds have discovered this though as the cold northerly winds will put off any thoughts of migration for a while yet.

The sun is still shining though so photo opportunities are good when they arise. Today I had a young Sparrowhawk at close range which resulted in a few photos worthy of sharing.

the brown plumage shows this bird to be a 2cy (born last year) and from size and structue I would say it was a male

Monday, 19 March 2018

Moose, Parrot and Glauc

We are experiencing some amazing weather at the moment. Blue skies and little wind mean that the heat of the sun warms during the day but nightime temperatures down to -10C mean that the thaw still isn’t happening and won’t happen for a good while.

At the weekend a family cross country ski trip resulted in close views of three moose feeding on hay that is put out for them in an attempt to stop them moving into the city in search of food.

Today I thought I would make the most of the sun and go back to Linnesstranda where the Glaucous Gull is back after having eluded me whilst guiding on Wednesday. I invested in some frozen cod on the way down in the hope of being able to lure close to me but despite me turning on the heating to full in the car it was still a frozen block when I got out of the car. The gull was present, but my frozen fish did not appeal to it (despite the fact that it is only there as it feeds on titbits thrown out by the ice fishermen). I think the problem was that the frozen chunks emitted no smell and really didn’t resemble anything edible. I did get a couple of close flybys though which resulted in some acceptable shots.

Back in Oslo there were three Parrot Crossbills in Maridalen which gave no indication of being in breeding modus (often crossbills start breeding in Feb/March) and earlier on I heard my first singing Yellowhammers of the day which was a very welcome sound.

2cy Glaucous Gull (polarmåke) 

Parrot Crossbills (furukorsnebb). From this angle it is not sp easy to judge the bill shape

but here the massive bill is easy to see

Jr and moose

Friday, 16 March 2018

It had to happen

One of the birds I tried (and tried hard) to show Ben on Wednesday was Pygmy Owl. After driving repeatedly around Maridalen for a couple of hours without seeing one it was time to drop Ben off at his hotel. I joked that I would be bound to find one the next day, and sure enough… yesterday I found a/the Pygmy Owl in the expected area and one which we had passed at least 5 times the previous day. But that is what birding and especially guiding is like.

Photos are a bit distant as a metre of snow prevented me from getting any closer!

I had no new spring migrants today but did see all four species that I have so far seen: Oystercatcher, Wood Pigeon, Greylag Goose and Stock Dove. I reckon the next species I will see will be Skylark but with Common Buzzard, Snow Bunting and Mistle Thrush other possibilities.

Pygmy Owl (spurveugle) in Maridalen

and a Stock Dove (skogdue) at Bygdøy.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Guiding White-back

Yesterday was a marvellous day! It was so sunny that it felt warm, birds sang, I was taken out for (a birding) lunch and guided in the afternoon.

The lunch gave me views of a hunting Peregrine in town, on the way to guiding I enjoyed a few minutes in the sun at Huk where a flock of newly arrived Oystercatcher were calling and one pair even mating, a fine Purple Sandpiper fed amongst them and my first Stock Dove of the year flew over.
I was guiding Ben from Kent via Brussels and our initial target was the Glaucous Gull near Drammen. Unfortunately, this was not to be found despite there being gulls attracted to the ice fishermen but whilst searching I heard a “kik kik” call that sounded a bit off for a Great Spot Pecker and after a bit of searching I was able to confirm my suspicion that it was the White-backed Pecker. We were able to watch it really well as it was extremely focused on finding a grub in the bottom of a small trunk. It would frequently stop and put the side of its head against the tree as though to listen before hacking away, changing position a bit, listening again and then hacking away again. It kept this going for 10 minutes whilst we were there and was still going when we left. The rest of the short guiding session unfortunately did not reveal many more species which is a bit of the problem just now with all the snow and migration not having started – but that will soon change..

male White-backed Woodpecker (hvitryggspett) feeding just over the snow

look at those claws! 
pausing to have a listen - "where is that bug?"

Oystercatcher (tjeld) - a true sight and sound of spring 

and a Purple Sand (fjæreplytt) was amongst them

2cy Peregrine (vandrefalk) downtown Oslo

one of the two male Wigeon (brunnakke) that has wintered in Oslo and this one has paired up with a female Mallard which could have some interesting consequences

the Wigeon in habitat along Akerselva

on Wednesday, Jules Bell and I checked out the conditions at Årnestangen. Snow, snow, more snow and ice just about sums it up

lookin over Snekkervika