Monday, 30 September 2019

The Great Grey Owl

I posted a couple of teaser pictures of a Great Grey Owl before heading off to Værøy.
The bird became known to me when a picture was posted of it on our local Facebook birding group. It was hanging around in the rough on a golf course not far from Oslo and I later found out had been present for three weeks and was well known to the golfers! When I visited it showed really well and was hunting from statues, large rocks and trees. I didn't see it catch anything but there is clearly enough food to keep it going and it may well hang around for a while longer.
I had my tripod with me and managed some OK photos but missed a great opportunity when it flew past at head height after the battery had run out........

when I first spotted it

Friday, 27 September 2019

Værøy day 7 photos

Here are the photos from the last day on Værøy. It took a long time to go through them as I had taken over 600 plus some video. As always it is a joy just going through the pictures and remembering the creatures depicted. Hope they will be just as enjoyable for the readers of this blog although I suspect I will publish far too many…

My third sighting of Olive-backed Pipit (sibirpiplerke) and finally a self-found bird without ring and which allowed good photo 

with the island of Mosken and the Lofotens in the background

together with a Meadow Pipit (heipiplerke)

which then annoyed the OBP

Gyr Falcon (jaktfalk) - despite the range and poor photo this is my best views of this species

Rock Pipit (skjærpiplerke) in a tree 
Twites (bergirisk) were very numerous this year

Killer Whalte (spekkhogger)

a mother and youngster

the dorsal fin on the bull was so large that it was floppy

one of the younger animals was playful

here the whale is at around 2km range and the snow capped mountains are in the Bodø area and are around 75km away!!

clear tracks from an Otter with the tail having left its mark

among the Otter tracks were also these smaller tracks which must be from Brown Rat that I guess had follwed after the Otter in the hope of find a fish carcass and some food

this Small Copper (ildgullvinge) is the latest record in Nordland county by a few weeks

Small Tortoiseshell (neslesommerfugl) and Painted Ladies (tistelsommerfugl)

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Spotted Crake with photos!

The photos from my last day on Værøy will have to wait as I went birding today….. I took the Beast for a walk around Fornebu with a hope of finding a Yellow-browed Warbler which whilst having been relatively scarce on Værøy this year has turned up in relatively large numbers in the south of Norway (3 records around Oslo whilst I was away). Chiffchaffs were calling in many places but otherwise there was little sign of migration and it was pretty quiet.

One thing I always do when at Fornebu is check the bases of the reedbeds in the tidal bays with the hope of seeing something exciting. Birds that I have seen include Water Rail, Common Snipe and Bluethroat but I have always wanted to find Jack Snipe or best of all Spotted Crake. Spotted Crake is regularly seen in similar habitat further south at Presterødkilen and also in the last few years at Linnestranda so should definitely be possible at Fornebu (there is one previous autumn record from August 1988). There are however just a handful of autumn records ever in Oslo and Akershus even though the species is heard singing annually in the spring and early summer and must also breed successfully in some years.

The lack of autumn and sight records generally has a lot to do with Spotted Crake (along with all crakes and rails) being a very secretive species and as far as I can see has not been photographed in Akershus before. My photo of a singing bird at Østensjøvannet is also the only photo I can find from Oslo so I clearly have some luck with this species 😊

Spotted Crake (myrrikse). It was quite gloomy today under an overcast sky and the distance was long which the pictures shows but who cares with such a scarce and secretive species?!

I have aged the bird as a 1cy due to it having a paler throat

from the back

and my picture of an adult at ØStensjøvanney from 15 June 2011 which I am still very proud of

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Værøy 2019, day 7 and over and out

I’m sitting waiting for the helicopter to take me back to the mainland and day 7, my final day, of Værøy 2019 has come to an end. As usual I travel home before most of the others and I expect them to grip me off in the coming days but I am very happy with my trip.

Today started with me finding another Olive-backed Pipit and this time without a ring. It showed initially very well but by the time the others came had become very skulky and would only fly up from high vegetation when you were just a couple of metres from it. It would then land 15 metres away and only occasionally call quietly.
Another OBP was ringed today but only 1 Yellow-browed Warbler was seen which is an absurd ratio. Værøy has previously been the clear best site for Y-b Warbler in Europe and can now probably also claim the crown for best OBP site (7 ringed and at least 2 additional field obs this year)

A pod of at least 4 Killer Whales far out on a dead calm sea was fantastic to watch and whilst following them I found a Gyr Falcon perched on an offshore island. This species has never played ball with me and my views today are probably the best I’ve ever had despite being very distant.
We spotted the Killers because I had spotted a Goosander from the car and screeched to a halt because amazingly enough this was an Værøy tick for most people 😊

I’ll post some (probably lots...) of pictures tomorrow once I’ve had time to sit down and go through them.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Værøy 2019 Day 6

I know I am lucky and privileged to out birding on Værøy at the moment so I will try not to moan. It has been gorgeous weather today, sunny and little wind and just being able to be outside in amazing scenery is enough in itself. We also had an improvement on the bird front with a Turtle Dove, a new Olive-backed Pipit, 5 Yellow-browed Warblers and 3 Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaffs. I was not lucky enough to see all of these though and had to make do with 2 Y-b W and hearing a single tristis.

Tomorrow is my last day and the weather forecast suggests there will be a slight improvement on the bird front. If I find a Red-flanked Bluetail then it will have all been worth it 😊

Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger)

The Lofoten island chain

Monday, 23 September 2019

Værøy 2019 Day 5 - a bird in the bush

I have received some rather direct feedback that I over did it on the Bar-tailed Godwit picture front yesterday 😉 The feedback is fair enough but yesterday’s post was also a reflection of how dire things were.

Today was equally dire but was saved in the afternoon by a bird in the bush which definitely beat 10 in the hand. Proof of how dire things have become is the shocking news that we did not have a single Yellow-browed Warbler which (without checking my records) must be a first.

The bird in the bush was an Olive-backed Pipit. It was ringed so was probably the bird I saw in the hand on Friday. After such a resultless day though it was a kick to pick it up on call in thick vegetation and then manage to see it very well. OBP is a classic Værøy species but is one that I have never really had satisfying views of until this year.

The sea provided some good birds with Long-tailed, Pomarine and Arctic Skua and a Red-necked Grebe but this is not why we come to Værøy. The skuas are attracted to many hundred Kittiwakes that are feeding every day but we have only seen a couple of juvenile birds amongst them showing what a bad breeding season this species must have had.

Olive-backed Pipit (sibirpiplerke) in a bush! 

Arctic Redpoll (polarsisik) - perhaps not the most classic individual but the rump was huge and white

female Parrot Crossbill (furukorsnebb)

the Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) is still going strong

White-tailed Eagles (havørn) are a common sight on Værøy

a younger bird, most likely a 2cy