Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Not enough to see

The Siberian Tit was seen by many on Sunday and was reported again early on Monday morning but had vanished by the time I and others arrived a bit later in the morning and has not been since (I gave it a good shot today) so has maybe moved off although perhaps, and hopefully, just a short distance. Yesterday we had a really good dump of snow that left everything white until mid-afternoon when rain and rising temperatures melted it. I had hoped that this cold weather system coming from the north would cause an arrival of interesting species but if they have come then I have missed them although today on the fjord 3 Long-tailed Ducks and 11 Velvet Scoters were probably newly in.
At least one tristis Chiffchaff is hanging on in the same bushes at Fornebu and a greener bird with a more normal call is also in the area. I also had a Jack Snipe today which would have given a good photo if I had my camera out as it flew up from my feet and flew slowly in a large arc around me before going down in the reedbed.

In Maridalen 2 Guillemots are still on the lake and a late Common Snipe is also still there despite the cold snap. Highlight today was at least one Arctic Redpoll in a flighty flock of redpolls which probably contained a lot more Arctics as I saw a lot of pale rumps in flight but never got to see them properly to be sure how many.

2 adult male and an adult female Long-tailed Duck (havelle) off Fornebu. It is rare that we get to see adult males here

Tuesday's snow in Maridalen

This Nutcraker (nøttekråke) in Maridalen was I think the first I have ever seen on a feeder
Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff (gransanger) at Fornebu today. A classis looking bird that also had the right call

same bird from below

here we see that the only yellow o the bird is on the underwing coverts which is as it should be

pesumably the same bird from Monday

Sunday, 28 October 2018


Saturday morning was a very relaxed affair chez family OB. Just before noon myself and Jr Jr were sat half-dressed on the sofa doing sudoku, Jr had just got out of bed and Mrs. OB had returned to bed (we were at a 50th birthday party on Friday night and the effects were being felt). A message on my phone rather shook things up though. Anders BS had found what appeared to be a Siberian Tit at Fornebu (although with the head appearing black he was cautious due to the possibility of it having some Willow Tit genes in it). This was sensational! There is a tiny population of Sibe Tits that breeds in central Scandinavia and which I have tried and failed many times to see but the species is incredibly rare outside of its breeding areas and has never been recorded close to Oslo before.
I was dressed, opticked up and in the car quicker than you can say poecile cinctus and as I drove to Fornebu I rang Anders who could report that after 5 minutes in the same tree it had just flown down into the reedbed with a Blue Tit. I arrived on scene 10 minutes after that and was the first there but was too late! Despite more and more birders arriving we never found the bird again. So, I was a good twitcher in the fact I reacted and arrived so quickly but was my usual bad twitcher in that I didn’t see the bird. Maybe I should have done the others a favour and not gone for it… I stayed for two hours and searched widely and did find a number of Blue and Great Tits but heard nothing else with them except for a single tristis Chiffchaff. Andreas Gullberg had been at Fornebu earlier in the morning and had noted that tits including Willow and Long-tailed were on the move so maybe the Siberian was also just passing through but with luck it will join up with some tits in the area and be refound.

Whilst searching for the bird it snowed and it felt very fitting that a bird of the Siberian taiga forests arrived on the day that Oslo had its first snow of the autumn.

This is undoubtedly the bird of the year for Oslo and Akershus and highlights how anything is possible in birding.

I write the above at around 14:45 after I got home (having decided to leave Fornebu to get back to the family) and found the family had given up on me and gone out. I was going to title the post something along the lines of “Close but no cigar” or “Another failed twitch” but at 15:00 a message came through that the tit had been refound (it obviously helped that I had left). 14 minutes later and I was watching it! It was feeding low down in birch trees and was on its own apart from a handful of admirers from the species homo sapien. It was clearly not bothered by our presence as is often the case with northern species and although we kept a respectful distance I was incredibly lucky when it landed in a tree just 3 or 4 metres from me. I had to zoom out and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to focus but reckon I got some acceptable photos 😉

The colour of the crown seemed to change based on the light and could at times look quite brown and then seem almost black. My photos also often make it look darker than it looked through the bins so it is no wonder Anders was a bit cautious when he found it. The bird called surprisingly little (for a tit) but when it did call it was very similar to Willow Tit (just as I remember from Finnmark) and I’m not sure I would have reacted if I had just heard the call. I wonder if the bird will spend the winter like the Firecrest did last year and be just as difficult to locate.

It is fascinating to thnk where this bird has come from and why such a sedentary species has flown so far, and why to the warm south when it is a bird that has evolved to live in cold inhospitable forests? And why when it first does migrate why chose an old airport rather than the thousands of square kilometres of coniferous forest surrounding Oslo (or are there more out there?)

Siberian Tit (lappmeis)!!!

here the contrsting brown colouts can be seen very well

the cap looks quite darker here

here the cap looks light brown in colour. In addition to the photos giving differing inmpressions of the colour it also changed in the field depending on angle and light

one Siberian / tristis Chiffchaff (gransanger) seen today

the days started with a flock on Waxwings (sidensvans) in the garden before sunrise

they were attracted by apples still haging on the trees (after a record bumper crop this year)

Friday, 26 October 2018

Excitement on the islands

I had fun on the islands today despite it being cold and relatively birdless. On Gressholmen I walked over a grassy knoll and heard a call from the rocky shoreline beneath me. I couldn't place it and thought maybe a Rock Pipit. I then heard the call again and thought Kingfisher before seeing the maker in flight and it was a Common Sandpiper. But the call wasn't quite right! I listened to a recording of Spotted Sand and then started getting very excited. The bird had landed a few hundred metres away and I needed to get closer. This meant running and working up a sweat.

The bird kept ahead of me but eventually I was able to watch it from about 100m. The distance was too great for an ID, but I fired off some photos and then played the call of Spotted Sand. It clearly heard it but didn't react by calling or coming closer. I then played the call of Common Sand and rather disappointingly got an immediate response. It started calling like a Common Sand and then flew over to me allowing good photos. This is the latest ever record in Oslo and Akershus by 13 days and therefore a significant record but still a let down from the expectations I had built up over the preceding 5 minutes.

But the excitement was far from over. I then heard a "spiz" call. It wasn't that close and I wondered if I really heard it. I then heard some other shorter calls coming closer and felt very unsure what I was hearing before having another spiz right overhead and then a final one further away towards Nakkholmen. I never saw the bird and it was clearly flying over but the bits fell into place - it was an OBP!! Now, I didn't see the bird or record the call (and the call is extremely similar to Tree Pipit), so it will never be accepted as an OBP and I will therefore report it as a Tree/Olive-backed Pipit. OBP has never been recorded in Oslo and Akershus before and nobody has reported unidentified Tree/OBP either but there are a surprising number of October records of Tree Pipit in Artsobs. Looking at these records a number are probably misidentified Meadow Pipits (based on location) and others may well have been better reported as unidentified Tree/OBP. 26th October is the (joint) latest date for Tree Pipit so again a significant record either way.

I searched both Lindøya and Nakkholmen for the pipit but with no joy and there were very few passerines to see. The Red-necked Grebe showed really well and traces of juvenile plumage could just be made out in the otherwise now winter plumage.

A phone call with Mrs OB who is celebrating her birthday today was rudely interrupted when a(the) 2nd winter Med Gull flew by and I was able to fire off a few shots before it disappeared towards the city.

So, the day ended rather satisfactorily! :-)

2nd winter Med Gull (svartehavsmåke) - probably the same bird as seen elsewhere

winter plumaged Red-necked Grebe (gråstrupedykker) with just a faint stripe left on the cheek showing it to be a 1cy bird

the striping is more pronounced on this side

Common Sandpiper (strandsnipe) - the latest ever record for Oslo & Akershus

these Oystercatchers (tjeld) are also late but will probably spend the winter

there were a few auks left on the fjord split evenly between Razorbills (pictured) and Guillemots

A French (?) submarine was in port

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Tristis chiffchaffs

Siberian / tristis Chiffchaff used to be a national rarity in Norway with few accepted records. The lack of official records was due to there being a lack of agreement as to how to identify the (sub)species rather than any real rarity and the national rarities committee (NSKF) decided to remove it as a description species a few years ago. Genetic work in other countries in NW Europe has shown the species to be a regular migrant in late autumn and a regular over wintering bird in the UK. I am firmly in the camp that a brown chiffchaff that gives the classic piip call is a tristis and don’t think it needs to be anymore complicated than this. At the end of October and in November it is my experience that tristis are the commonest type of Chiffchaff around Oslo (not that any type is common at this time of year).

There are still those in Norway though who view tristis as a very complicated subject with the spectre of eastern abientinus clouding the waters and this has led to many people not subspecifically reporting birds as they can’t be bothered with having to explain their identification. From what I can make out from all recent research though if it looks like a tristis and most importantly sounds like one then it is one.

The reason for discussing this is that today there was not just one, but a flock of three tristis at Fornebu! All the birds looked like tristis and the only sound that came from them was the classic piip sound but whether all three called is another thing. I played the song and calls of tristis to them and they responded to this with one bird wing shivering. I also played the song of normal Chiffchaff (which is very similar to tristis) and they definitely showed an interest but there was no wing shivering. I managed quite a few pictures although the birds were always quite high up and I am not certain how many different birds I have taken pictures of. The pictures show the classic brown ear coverts and lack of any green or yellow in the plumage with the exception of a yellowy tinge at the base of the wing which is allowed.

Siberian / tristis Chiffchaff (gransanger). It was difficult to get pictures showing the upperparts of these birds. Here though the brown plumage can be seen and the suggestion of a wing bar which one often sees with Tristis

the rusty/tobacco brown ear coverts and lack of yellow in the superciliu can be seen

That these birds have turned up now may be because we have had our first heavy frosts of the winter over the last two nights; heavy enough that there was ice on the edges of Maridalsvannet. The frost has also caused some movement of ducks with 7 species on Maridalsvannet yesterday with a single flock comprising 6 Goldeneye, 1 Common Scoter, 1 Tufted Duck and 1 Teal. The other species present were Mallard, Goosander and the long staying Long-tailed Duck. 3 Guillemots were also still present along with 3 Whooper Swans and 2 Mute Swans represented a real wildfowl bonanza by local standards!

A Cormorant today. This is of the subspecies sinensis which is expanding in southern Norwway and has now become fra more numerous than carbo which breeds along the coats in northern Norway 
this Smew (lappfiskand) has been around a few days near Sandvika

Two Snipe (enkeltbekkasin) yesterday on the icy edge of Maridalsvannet