Saturday, 29 February 2020

Into the Taiga

Two days of guiding with Darrel, Tony and Stewart was great fun, tiring and nearly 100% successful.

The targets were of course the Oslo Taiga Trio but with two days at our disposition we also had a day planned to look for Sibe Jay a couple of hours north of Oslo in real taiga forest.

Hawk Owl fell easily on day 1 with 2 birds seen at their usual spot including one which showed low down. Pine Grosbeaks did not show in Oslo (as expected as the birds I found last Friday are the the last records in the big smoke) but we did connect on day 2 in proper Taiga forest. GGO would just not play ball despite many hours and many kilometers which was made even more galling when I received a mobile phone photo (taken by a non-birder) of said GGO on a wire by the roadside taken whilst we were searching less than a kilometer away...

Day 2 birding was a thorough success though. We entered a taiga winter wonderland with the snow at the side of the road over a meter deep, blue skies and no wind. The target of Siberian Jay took a while coming but we eventually had amazing views of a group of three birds. Pine Grosbeak also showed really well in its proper Taiga habitat rather than on a street in Oslo. We had all 3 Crossbills with at least 10 Two-barreds, Golden Eagle, Willow Tits, Mealy Redpolls, Nutcracker and 3 of us glimpsed a Pygmy Owl although unfortunately it was Stu who missed it (due to where he was sat in the car) who was the only one who needed it as a lifer...

the boys admiring Hawkie

and here Sibey

this is what winter should look like

female Pine Grosbeak

male Two-barred Crossbill

another slightly less red male 
and another even more orange (rather than red) male
Willow Tit
I didn't say that we had good views of the Golden Eagle...

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Unlucky 13

On Monday I had one of my best ever experiences with the GG. On Tuesday whilst guiding, we failed to see one… After a run of 12 succesful guidings for this species it was perhaps not a surprise that it was on the 13th attempt that the inevitable miss happened. We really did try hard yesterday with over 10km walked and more than 5 hours dedicated to finding GG but sometimes the Bird Gods are just not pleased with us. Hawk Owl did show well but in windy conditions I had to work hard to find it as it was not sitting high and exposed as usual. Today, in an afternoon walk with the Beast it was perhaps also not a surprise that I bumped into a GG without really trying. I am guiding again tomorrow so I hope that we all make a sacrifice on the alter of the Bird Gods tonight ūüėä

Today, I followed up on a message from Angus that a tagged Bean Goose was back in Norway (extremely early) and went off in the morning to the Glomma River. The water levels are higher than I have ever seen in the spring perhaps as a result of recent warm weather and rain and the sand bank favoured by the geese for roosting on was under water. There were hardly any birds to see with no Whooper Swans and it really did not feel spring like at all despite the lack of snow and ice. Six Taiga Bean Geese (including one with a collar) had clearly thought it was spring like in Denmark though and had made the move north but it will be interesting to see whether they stay here for long with temperatures forecast to fall to -10C tomorrow.

I have had other signs of spring this week though with my first Skylarks and today the first Whooper Swan of the spring in Maridalen. There is also lots of actvitiy from Common Crossbills who are in full swing with breeding now.

female Common Crossbill (grankorsnebb). They visit an old ruin in Maridalen to lock salt from the mortar
here the tongue can be seen

male Crossbill

Tree Sparrows (pilfink) breed in holes in the ruins

male Great Spotted Woodpecker (flaggspett)

Two Mute Swans (knoppsvane) and 6 Taiga Bean Geese (taigasædggås)
digiscoped Hawk Owl from yesterday's guiding

GG from Monday

having a preen - just look at how thick the feathers are

it's tiring being so popular

a rare in-focus flight shot
this picture seems to show at least one secondary of a newer generation which can be used in ageing the bird (if that is your thing)

a successful hunt

from today. After looking closely at my pictures I am sure that this is not the same bird as I saw on Monday this despite being in same area. Not sure what the red on the bill is but I can only think it is blood from a recent kill

the alert posture is in response to the dog. The wink can only be because I am a handsome young man :-)

Friday, 21 February 2020

The Trio still available on the streets of Oslo

This last week has been half term holiday in both Norway and Britain which meant Ryan Air increased their prices so guiding also took a bit of a holiday although will bounce back next week. I haven’t had a full weeks holiday though as today I was out with Thomas and Manon from France who were rounding off a holiday in Norway with a day with me in Oslo, or as they put it at the end of the day, experiencing a “grand finale” ūüėä.

As they are both owls fans it was no surprise what the targets were. First up was Great Grey which was in the bag only thirty minutes after pick up – with a bird snoozing in the sunshine and showing really rather well. Next up was obviously Hawkie with two birds sitting high and proud only 300 m from each other. We completed the Trio with Piney which I had not thought we would succeed with as there have not been any other reports this week but two males (an adult and 2cy) were hanging out on their usual street and even engaged in some sub song. And all this before lunch!

The Bird Gods are clearly still satisfied with me and long may it continue.

adult male Pine Grosbeak (konglebit)

2cy male. Some red feathers coming through and also heard in sub-song

Great Grey Owl (lappugle)

Hawk Owl #1

Hawk Owl #2

Hawfinch (kjernebiter)

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Best shots yet?

I thought Tuesday’s post would be my last long post on GG for a while but how wrong could I be? That same morning I got a message that a bird was showing well and I was able to get up into the Dale quickly enough to see the bird briefly and then in the afternoon I returned and had an amazing 2 hours with the bird. It was active in great light, at close range and even flew right towards me at one stage (that head-on flight shot I have been hoping for..). If my pictures are not up to expectations then I can only blame the camera operator although the flight shots were definitely ones where better equipment could have given better results (one still needs to know how to use the equipment..).

The bird was clearly hunting in the afternoon but stayed on the same perch for over an hour which really has me thinking that food is hard to find and that it has worked out that it is best to stay put once you have heard the rustle of a vole rather than move on to a new spot and start the whole process again.

The first picture is the picture which I had wanted to take when the owl launched itself towards us. Instead this is picture was taken by Eyvind Rugland who was standing beside me. Eyvind has a better camera and faster lens than me but also knows how to use his equipment.

whereas my pictures looks like this... 

and this...

and this.... which is nearly presentable

could have been good. My problem was that my shutter speed of 1/640 was too low 

here the bird passed at just a few metres range and the zoom was at 252mm. Just think if the head had been in the middle of the shot and in focus....
the bird then landed on a sunny post which allowed me to play around with exposure compensation and get some nice dark backgrounds

take off after 1 hour on the same perch

the branch looks to be an extension of its body

I guess I can be happy with this shot