Wednesday, 27 February 2019

First Bean of the year

After the joys of the GG I had a quiet day in Olso yesterday hoping to find more evidence of spring. Two Oystercatchers seen from Huk meant at least one was a new arrival, but bird of the day was a Dipper that flew low over the sea and then headed for a passing ferry which it almost looked like it would land on before it continued purposefully towards the east. This obviously migrating bird is the first ever record for Bygdøy! Whilst Beast walking close to home in the afternoon Hawfinches, Greenfinches, Bullfinches and Goldfinches were singing in the sun and it felt like more like May than February. A male Goldeneye on the first patch of open water in Maridalen was the first  of the year and today that same patch of water held a family of Whooper Swans. There were three young and it must be likely that this is the breeding family from last year. At one stage one of the adults got angry with one of the youngsters and it won't be long before the young are pushed away.

Today I moved a bit further afield and made my first trip out to Årnestangen in 2019. A couple of fields are free of snow and geese and Whooper Swans were gathered here. Among the Canadas and Greylags was a single Taiga (fabalis) Bean Goose which was a reminder that the Scottish birds need to be looked for soon (there are no GPS senders still working so it will be a bit more work to locate them this year). Four Lapwings (my first of the year), 5 Teal, 4 Wigeon, 3 Starling and singing Skylarks gave a very welcome feeling of spring and Great Grey Shrike, White-tailed Eagle and Peregrine added a bit of spice.

migrating Dipper (fossekal) with an unusual background! 

singing Hawfinch (kjernebiter)

2 moose in Maridalen on Sunday

male Tufted Duck (toppand) at Østensjøvannet

there were 2 male Tufted back at Østensjøvannet where a female has spent the winter. The female though acts like she thinks of herself as Mallard

Great Grey Shrike (varsler)

Lapwings (vipe)

this 2cy Peregrine (vandrefalk) has made an arial in Oslo its preferred lookout

Starling (stær)

Taiga Bean Goose - note the swan like neck and bill in this photo

in flight with a Greylag (grågås)

in this photo the bill looks quite thick and the neck short and thick which are characters of Tundra Bean Goose but the birds large size is clear. This also shows how difficult it can be racially identifying lone Bean Geese from just a single photo 
my first migrating Teal (krikkand) of the year

the lone White-tailed Eagle (havørn) at Årnestangen who lost his mate a couple of years ago without them ever knowingly have bred

Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family back in Maridalen

one of the youngsters getting grief from dad

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Guiding Great Grey Owl

I had a great day yesterday guiding Claire from Aberdeen, via Stavanger, to the Great Grey Owl. The bird has begun attracting a steady stream of admirers and when we arrived at 10am it was already pinned down. It was initially moving around a bit but eventually seemed to have detected a rodent and spent a long time in the same area. It never went down to the ground whilst we watched although on a couple of occasions looked as though it was about to. It did change lookout post a couple of times though which gave the chance for flight photos. It was flight photos that I was hoping for and I had the camera set up on the tripod and my finger poised on the shutter button for ages waiting for the bird to make its move. I did manage to press at the right time and the photos are sharp BUT the every time the bird flew in the wrong direction and the background was messy so despite a marked improvement over previous efforts there is still room for a lot for additional improvement.

Whilst watching the owl we could hear Black and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.
Afterwards we went looking for Bearded Tits. Despite having birds calling at probably no more than 5 meters range from with the reeds and hearing them moving about we were not able to actually see one! My first Skylarks, Reed Buntings and Curlew of the year were some compensation though.

looking wrong way

flying wrong way

not too shabby

too close

out of focus

it's easier when it is sitting still!

the whole head is like a radar dish to allow it localise the sound of rodents

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Pintail x Mallard hybrid

Last week I found a hybrid Pintail x Mallard but only had poor long range views and correspondingly awful photos. The bird was luckily subsequently relocated close to the Opera building on the waterfront in Oslo and I was able to see it and take better photos yesterday. This is only the second time I have seen this hybrid after having found a different (based on plumage) male last spring although have seen what was likely a female of this hybrid combo and I find it very interesting to study such hybrids.

The bird was associating with urban Mallards which suggests to me that its mother (rather than father) was a Mallard as duckling are raised by their mother and would therefore learn from their mother. Østensjøvannet has had a female Pintail in winter residence for a number of years but by my logic she would not be the mother but there was a male that wintered in Oslo 2016/17 and this could well be the father as I assume he would have at least tried his luck with one of the female Mallards he was associating with.

the bill markings alone are a pretty good indication of the parentage
here the broad white neck collar going up at the back and the long tail are also signs of Pintail but the bird does mostly resemble a Mallard

here it can be compared with 2 Mallards where the difference in bill colour, leg colour, bill shape, head colour and breast colour can be seen

the long tertial feathers are also a sign of Pintail

Thursday, 21 February 2019

A new Great Grey

In the last month there has been a record number of observations of Great Grey Owls along the coast in Southern Norway and the reported birds must just be the tip of the iceberg – one even found its way into a mist net at a bird observatory. I am guiding for owls next week so it is good to know where I might be able to lay my hands on a Great Grey or two.

This week is half term holiday so I have other priorities but with the days getting lighter earlier it is now possible to get up early and get some birding in before the other family members are ready to go skiing. So, at 8 am I was walking around in 10cm deep new snow near Moss (south of Oslo) in search of an owl that had been present for a few days. My initial check of the area revealed nothing but a couple of Blue Tits alarm calling was interesting enough that I followed the sound. It was a bit boggy and I was paying more attention to where I was walking than what was above me but I suddenly felt I was being watched and looked up to see a Great Grey Owl at less than 10 metres range! I actually felt a bit spooked and had to take a couple of deep breathes before I could enjoy the situation.

I tried for another owl photographed even closer to home yesterday but was unable to find it although feel that that bird was on the move as the habitat does not seem particularly suitable.

The pictures and video are taken in poor light and sleet but I am particularly happy with the video and the spin drying sequence :-)

Great Grey Owl (lappugle)

Monday, 18 February 2019

An early spring on the cards

The unseasonal warm weather continues with temperatures not dropping below zero and the snow melting quickly. Over the weekend very early Skylark and Stock Dove were seen in Oslo and today a Crane was reported north of the city. I much prefer a late spring as this brings with it mass arrivals of but it looks like this year will be an early spring with birds just seeping gradually in.

For my part I had a cheeky session at the docks yesterday and was rewarded with a female Smew, Little Grebe, 400 Goldeneyes and rarest of all a hybrid Pintail x Mallard although this didn’t allow close study.

Goldeneyes (kvinand)

Little Grebe (dvergdykker)

Mallards (stokkand) and the grebe

a hybrid male Pintail x Mallard - note teh long tail, grey bill and broad white collar which went up at the back

very distant Smew (lappfiskand)

Purple Sandpipers (fjæreplytt) still at Huk