Friday, 31 May 2019

Twitching Great Skua

I finished yesterday’s guiding with a look over the fjord as with strong southerly winds I had a hope that some seabirds may have been blown. In the rain we saw nothing interesting but later in the afternoon after the rain had stopped a message came in that a Great Skua was off Fornebu.

I made my way down and quite soon found the skua working it’s way along the coast of Bygdøy with a hoard of Black-headed Gulls chasing it. I soon lost sight of it but picked up again later flying right past Huk and then out past the island of Nakkholmen where it landed on the sea. I lost track of it after a while but again picked it up later when it was much closer to me and had clearly just caught something (probably a gull) to eat. It was being mobbed by other gulls and I really regret not having kept tracks on it because I probably missed a good arial battle. It then proceeded to tear into its prey and drifted with the sea for over an hour, ignoring passing boats and kite surfers and the harassment of assorted gulls. It eventually ended up close to the shore at Huk but I didn’t have time to go there and try fr some proper photos.

The skua wasn’t the only good bird and three Knots were together with a flock of 27 Oystercatchers that were trying to migrate and kept flying around at great height. These late migrating flocks of Oystercatchers are apparently on their way to Arctic Russia. A flock of 14 Red-throated Divers was also trying to migrate but got put off my rain clouds to the north and two Arctic Terns went through in addition to local fishing Common Terns. Later in the day an adult Long-tailed Skua must have been an enormous rush for the lucky observer.

Today I was guiding again and we had a good day at Østensjøvannet, Fornebu and Sørkedalen. At Østensjøvannet we saw the first young Great Crested Grebes, Black-headed Gulls and Mute Swans of the year plus an impressive

breeding population. Yesterday’s cold and weather must have made food difficult for them to find although they were only a few Swallows and Martins with them.

The Great Skua (storjo) passing the Nesodden ferry

flapping its wings whilst on top of its prey

these people were clearly unaware of the skua but came very close without the skua even taking off

and here documented in Oslo flying past the tip of Nakkholmen

Knot (polarsnipe) with Oystercatchers (tjeld)

Red-throated Divers (smålom) trying to migrate but eventually turned back

Three Great Crested Grebe (toppdykker) young being protected by mum(?)

and then they vanished

before one pops its head up again

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Non-stop Guiding

It is full on guiding at the moment and I was out yesterday and today and will be guiding again tomorrow. If only every week was this busy!

Yesterday afternoon I guided Robin and Geoff from California and we spent the whole time in Maridalen. Despite being sunny it was quite windy and noticeably chilly but bird activity was high. This morning I guided Stephen from Maryland around Fornebu. It rained the whole time but bird activity was surprisingly high and both sessions were undoubted successes.

Maridalen delivered my closest ever views of Icterine Warbler, plus Rosefinch, Black Woodpecker, Osprey, Goshawk, Hobby, Hawfinch, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Bullfinch, Sand Martin and much more. Fornebu tried hard to be just as good and amongst around 50 species we had amazing views of singing Thrush Nightingale, plus singing Cuckoo (very unusual here), Pheasant, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, Eider Ducks, Redshank and various warblers.

I have never before seen an Icterine Warbler (gulsanger) this well. Normally they are high up in a tree with leaves of the same colour and leave you with a sore neck and some poor views.

I would normally have been very happy with this picture

and delighted with this one :-)
it has whiskers and a nostril!
when it was singing it really puffed itself up revealing the dark bases to the feathersand even skin. Notice also the noticeable divide on the chest which I assume is a sign it has large muscles either side of the ribs
back lit photos are apparantly artistic :-)

this Osprey (fiskeørn) flew over and the white underwing coverts show it to be a male. Presumably from a pair breeding further in the forest where the female is on the nest

back lit Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) doesn't work so well
but fully lit works just fine

this Sand Martin (sandsvale) in Maridalen was where they have attempted to breed between the rocks supporting a bridge. Hopefully there will be successful breeding this year

Swallows breed under the same bridge and this bird was perched under us

A handheld video of the Thrush Nightingale taken with the bazooka but with image stabilisation in the editing on the PC isn't too shaky and the sound is to be enjoyed!

Thrush Nightingale singing in the rain

lighting heavily adjusted
Thrush Nightingales have become establised at Fornebu in the last three years with upto three singing males. They arrived very late this year with the first record on 21 May compared to 6 May in 2018. Such a difference in arrival dates is quite surprising but the late (main) arrival was mirrored at other sites.

this male Pheasant (fasan) at Fornebu is part of a tiny population (just 1 pair?) in the area that has persisted for decades but it is unknown whether birds are still being released

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Staking out Maridalen

It helps a lot for my guiding to have a few special species that, with a high level of confidence, I can show people close to Oslo and ideally in Maridalen. Last year at the top of the list were Red-breasted Flycatcher and Three-toed Woodpecker. This year the Red-breasted Flys have not returned (seems to be a very poor year for the species in Norway) but I have located the Three-toed Peckers and yesterday I found the nest after a lot of searching. So that species is now easy (as are Black Woodpeckers for a short period until the young leave the nest). Hazel Grouse is also reliable with enough time (and without having to walk for hours) and today I finally managed those good pictures that have normally eluded me with this species.

Elsewhere in Maridalen I located a pair of Common Rosefinches plus Icterine and Wood Warblers. Spotted Flycatchers seem to be very common this year, Pied Flycatchers are in average numbers and Garden Warblers are also numerous. The only species yet to arrive are the “night singers” although that requires me going out at night to find them and the scarcer species Honey Buzzard and Red-backed Shrike which often prove difficult to find until August when suddenly they are easy to find.

The Whooper Swan pair have given up their nesting attempt for unknown reasons and are just feeding in an area a couple of hundred metres from the nest. The other pair has also left the valley and maybe it was all the rivalry that caused both pairs to fail to establish themselves properly?

Hazel Grouse (jerpe). It was gloomy in the forest and I had to hand hold the bazooka at 1/250 sec to get an ISO of 4000 but I think the result is very acceptable - you can even see the colour of the iris

this male has very little visible red skin around the eye - a small amount is visible here but otherwise it does not show in my pictures. Maybe a 2cy bird?
I managed to take this handheld and used the antishake feature in the video editing software to make it a bit less shaky although some quality has been lost:

male Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett)

and the female

and here at the nest

male Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) 

and a female Rosefinch - would be easy to string this as a House Sparrow (gråspurv) if I wanted a Maridalen tick...

Wood Warbler (bøksanger)

Icterine Warbler (gulsanger)

and a Black-throated Diver (storlom) during a surprise thunder storm
not often I take pictures of Redwing (rødvingetrost)

and a very short video of the singing Greenish Warbler

Monday, 27 May 2019

Celebrations and Guiding

The last few days have been very busy. On Saturday we celebrated Oslo Birder Jr’s “confirmation”, a traditional non-religious coming of age celebration I Norway and on Sunday afternoon after having finished cleaning up after the previous days festivities I guided Martin from Norwich who was on his way to Svalbard and today I guided Ramona and Cilli from Germany who are enjoying a Norwegian holiday.

Yesterday, the goals were Hazel Grouse and Slavonian Grebe and we succeeded big time. Today’s guiding was equally successful and we succeeded with Greenish Warbler, Slavonian Grebe and Three-toed Woodpecker which had alluded me yesterday. On top of this there were of course lots of commoner species including Crane, Black Woodpecker, flycatchers and various warblers. I don’t have the energy to write any more (a cold and pollen allergy are laying me very low) but will let the pictures do the talking.

I stuggled yet again with getting a good photo of the Hazel Grouse (jerpe) although Martin got some better pics

this could have been good if I focused on the bird instead of the tree

Slavonian Grebe (horndykker)

the Greenish Warbler (østsanger) was singly strongly but would not come close. This is the only bird recoreded in Norway so far this spring as far as I know and was a great find by Ole Vignes

Three-toed Woodpecker showed briefly today