Monday, 30 December 2019

2019 The Year That Was part I

A decade is drawing to an end and I reckon 2019 has offered me my best birding ever, or at least in Norway. This was despite my year list was the lowest since I started entering my records on Artsobs in 2012 and I only having one new species for my Norwegian list. Neither did I travel very much BUT I did do more local birding than ever before and had record years in Maridalen and Oslo.
Maridalen was just fantastic with Ring-necked Duck, Ortolan, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Pine Grosbeak and Great Grey Owl. It wasn’t just about the rarities though and there were some days of awesome migration.

My annual September Værøy trip did not result in any big rarities but was highly rewarding with good company and incredible close experiences with Rustic Bunting and Olive-backed Pipits.

Guiding was OK but the lack of breeding owls in Southern Scandinavia in 2019 lost me quite a lot of custom so I hope 2020 sees an upturn in rodent and therefore owl populations. The Grosbeaks at the back end of the year resulted in some in some unexpected and welcome business though.

January 2019 did not have a lot to offer with the Glaucous Gull and obliging Water Rail and Purple Sandpipers in Oslo being the best of the scarce birds. Trips into the forests of Hedmark revealed Hawk Owl and Sibe Jay and walks with the Beast in the local neighbourhood were rewarded with Arctic Redpoll and Blackcap.

Purple Sandpipers (fjæreplytt) have become a regular winter bird in Oslo in the last decade

Water Rail (vannriske) may also be a more regular species that previously thought

February doesn’t often have much to offer in the way of news birds but Grey-headed Woodpecker, an urban Hawkie and my first Great Grey Owl of the year stand out.

two species for the price of one - a Mallard x Pintail hybrid that I found in Oslo and which was later seen following the Glomma River north

a Siberian Jay (lavskrike)

Great Grey Owl (lappugle) - one of 4 different birds I saw during the year

March  sees the start of migration and it is always a joy to see the first flocks of geese and Cranes, the first Lapwings and passerines such as Snow Buntings and Woodlark. This year a Stonechat at Fornebu (only my second Norway record) was a real highlight and this bird seems to be of the race hibernans whereas last years bird in April was a rubicola

the Purple Sands remained in Oslo

a rare Stonechat (svartstrupe) at Fornebu

Smew (lappfiskand) at Østensjøvannet

an early adder in the snow in Maridalen

the Scottish Taiga Bean Geese are always a focus of my early spring birding

Kingfishers (isfugl) bred for at least the third year running close to Oslo

Migrations really kicks off in April and already on the first day there was a quality bird in Maridalen with only the second Black Redstart and on the 6th I found Maridalens first Mandarin Duck. A pair of Cranes established themselves in Maridalen and could be often seen at close range. Easter gave good birding with Slav Grebe, Lapland Bunting and the first returning Black-throated Divers in Maridalen. Wader passage started early this year with good numbers of Ruff and a Black-tailed Godwit in the last week at Årnestangen. An early Grasshopper Warbler showed that Fornebu still has potential despite the continuing “development”.

this pair of Cranes (trane) were a near constant fixture in Oslo from April to August

a late migrating Snow Bunting (snøspurv) in Maridalen

Mandarin - a new species for Maridalen 

Only the second ever Black Redstart for in Maridalen

I had many close encoutners with photogenic Black-throated Divers this year
and this Grasshopper Warbler also showed well

May 2019 is be a month I probably will never forget and all the main action happened on the patch: in Maridalen 😊

4 new species in the course of 5 days of which I found the first 3 (Bar-tailed Godwit, Ring-necked Duck and Ortolan) was only tainted by me not seeing the last of these: a Black Kite. But the rare species were only the half of it. 10 May will go down as the best day in the Dale ever. On top of the Ring-necked Duck which I had found the day before and the Ortolan which I discovered that day we had an amazing migration of waders: 125+ Golden Plovers, 40 Greenshank, 50 Wood Sandpipers, 4 Great Snipe plus Whimbrel, Common Snipe, Redshank, Lapwing and Common Sandpiper.
We ended up with both a male and a female Ortolan and briefly wondered whether breeding could be on the cards but they soon disappeared.
19 May was also a great day and this time at Årnestangen with Black Tern and Rt Pipit amongst others. On 24 May an unprecedented passage of hrota Brent Goose took place over Oslo with the birds ending up circling around and around and unsure where to go next.

more Black-throated Divers :-)

Maridalen's first Bar-tailed Godwit arrived with some Whimbrels (småspove)

my only Norwegian tick of the year was of course a new species for Maridalen and Oslo - a Ring-necked Duck (ringand)
first this male Ortolan turned up in Maridalen

and then this female.

Black Tern at Årnestangen - the first record for Norway in 2019 and only record in Akershus

was nice to see a Red-throated Pipit (lappiplerke) and not jsut hear one flying over

a rare red morph female Cuckoo (gjøk)

it is difficult to tire of Slavonian Grebes (hornydykker)

this Hazel Grouse (jerpe) in Maridalen was good for guiding

as were Three-toed Woodpeckers

June is always quieter than May but still offers much good birding. Close to Oslo a singing River Warbler was a rare but now expected guest and after arriving late Red-backed Shrikes were locally common. A trip to the mountains gave me my annual and much needed dose of. Dotterel and Great Snipe. I also finally saw Nightjar in Norway and although there was no breeding by Red-breasted Flycatchers in Maridalen this year a 2cy male male sang for a single day in the middle of the month.

singing River Warbler 
an old female Red-backed Shrike

Dotterel (boltit)

not often I see Snow Buntings in this plumage

lekking Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin)

Nightjar (nattravn)

a singing 2cy Red-breasted Flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper) was just a one day guest in Maridalen this year

Maridalen's Whooper Swans (sangsvane) failed with their breeding in 2019
this Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) probably also failed in its breeding after a hedge row was destroyed in the middle of June

Thrush Nightingales (nattergal) bred successfully at Fornebu and seem to be thriving there

Friday, 27 December 2019

Treat YOURSELF to Great Grey Owl and Pine Grosbeak in Oslo

I think every birder should treat themselves to a Christmas present and come to Oslo and see Great Grey Owl and Pine Grosbeak with me! 😊

That is exactly what Maurice and Kirsten from Holland did today and we had a great time birding. There can’t be many guides who can show these two species at the moment. The Great Grey Owl has either grown tired of all the attention it was getting (unfortunately not everyone knew how to restrain themselves although it has to be said the vast majority of birders/photographers DID know) or else it has eaten up all the voles but either way has moved on from the area where it was being seen last week. However, my local knowledge has proved its worth and I have relocated it elsewhere in the Dale and this time it is reserved for paying customers only 😊

So today we had great and uninterrupted views of the owl and later on a flock of Grosbeaks feeding at point blank range alongside equally unafraid Waxwings and in fantastic warm sunlight. It doesn't get much better than that.

Pine Grosbeak (konglebit)

Waxwing (sidensvans) and Grosbeak

look at the special tongue of the Waxwing which helps it control the berry

Fieldfare (gråtrost) also eat berries

Great Grey Owl (lappugle)