Wednesday, 29 April 2020


So, I had set my mind on raptors today with a brief return to southerly winds and sun making this feel like a good option although with the temperature not getting into double figures it was never going to be a great day. As I fell asleep last night I debated in my mind where to go. I discounted Maridalen as it isn’t the best place for Maridalen, considered Østensjøvannet in Ås where I spent some time the last couple of years but settled on going to Nordre Øyeren and setting up store in Snekkervika. As things unfolded this morning though I ended up driving all the way to Hellesjøvannet…

I awoke early when the dog decided to bark before 6am and decided to just get up and out after having heard a Red-throated Diver calling as it flew over the house and a Willow Warbler singing which had me thinking things were afoot.. I quick trip into Maridalen revealed nothing though with not even a R-b Diver on the lake so I decided to head straight for Nørdre Øyeren. First stop was Svellet where the recent rain has now left it looking VERY good with lots of wet areas but still lots of mudflats so it will remain perfect for quite a few days even if they decided to quickly increase water levels. It is still early days but 27 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 Redshank, 2 Oystercatcher and 6 Curlew were a good start and in one weeks time these numbers might by higher by a factor of 50! if the Birds Gods are happy with us. A Peregrine also flew over and was noted as the first raptor of the day. It was now that I decided to continue dow the east side of Øyeren and go to Hellesjøvannet rather than driving round to the west side and Snekkervika and remembered some of the good raptors days I have had there including the Red-footed Falcon thatZak and I had on 4 May 2012 – the Force was clearly with us that day.

As I drove I kept hoping for a Red Kite or harrier but had nothing until I got to the north end of Hemnesjøen where there were male and female Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Kestrel and all this before 9am – I was getting excited 😊

A short drive to Hellesjøvannet revealed first a lot of hirdundines feeding over the lake with all three species present. There were few ducks or GC Grebes on the lake but it was the sky I was here to watch. Over the course of the next 3 hours I had at least 4 Marsh Harriers, 9 Common Buzzard, 3 Ospreys, Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Kestrel, White-tailed Eagle and best of all Golden Eagle. It was a fairly good haul but it lacked a real star and as usual for me nothing showed particulary well but I was still a happy man.

On the drive home I added Golden Plover and Little Ringed Plover and ended up with 5 new species for the year (in addition to the two Redshank sp and Sand Martin).

this pair of Marsh Harriers was displaying and the female was quite noisy

the female is distinctive and I have seen a similar bird at Hellesjøvannet before

immature White-tailed Eagle (havørn) with a Buzzard for size comparison. With so much moult going on I believe this to be a 3cy

the Golden Eagle (kongeørn) was even more distant but also had a Buzzard mobbing it for good size comparison. I believe this to be a 2cy but it probably isn't possible to distinguish it from an older bird
first Golden Plover (heilo) of the year

and first Little Ringed Plover (dverglo)

and first Redshank (rødstilk) together with a Lapwing (vipe)

and first Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) together with a Greenshank (gluttsnipe) on Svellet which is starting to look VERY good

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Getting there slowly

Well, hell didn’t quite break loose today but a good day it was never the less. It was only 2C when I headed into Maridalen and snow was falling (and settling) on the hillsides so hardly the weather for hordes of insect eating summer visitors to be descending on us. But it warmed up to a barmy 5C in the afternoon and there were even brief glimpses of blue sky and a hint of sunshine. I managed three new birds for the year with a male Whinchat and three Pied Flyctchers showing in Maridalen and a male Redstart enlivening a dog walk close to the house. There were a lot of Meadow Pipits and Fieldfares on the fields but a total of 10 Ring Ouzels were the only birds of interest amongst them.

The farmer at Skjerven has ploughed the field where the Lapwings nest and he appears to have marked and saved four nests (it is only due to his care that the species remains in Maridalen) and today three birds flew up to chase off Crows which I assume were males as the females would sit tight on the nests.

A brief stop at Fornebu after a quick guiding mission for Tengmalm’s Owl gave a whopping 12 Common Terns in the fjord and Red-throated Diver and Wigeon migrating north into a head wind so we are maybe getting to the point where birds can’t wait no matter what the weather. Driving to Fornebu I had a Peregrine low over the road and when I got to Fornebu I saw a large number of gulls and crows in the air clearly angry with something on the ground. I went up to where they were and then a Peregrine flew right at me with something (possibly a Starling) in its claws. I have never been so close to a Peregrine before but it was over in a flash.

A Rough-legged Buzzard in Maridalen was hopefully a precursor to the enormous raptor migration I predict for tomorrow when there will be sun and southerly winds…

male Redstarts (rødstjert) are one of the best birds EVER!

Whinchat (buskskvett)

male Pied Flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper)

and a surprisingly early female

these 3 Curlews (storspove) spent the whole afternoon feeding on a field in Maridalen - normally they just fly over or stop only briefly

snow on the hilltops

Peregrine with an unidentified prey item

spot the Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk)?

the Tengmalm's Owl (perleugle) still seems to be brooding eggs

female Three-toed Woodpecker - not one toe

I believe I saw two different females (both with 6 toes) but am not entirely sure and don't know if these pictures prove it either way 

Monday, 27 April 2020

Rain at last

The long awaited and anticipated change in the weather came this morning but the hoped for enormous arrival of new birds did not materialise. Perhaps temperatures that did not rise above 5C were to blame or maybe it was the wrong type of rain but the rain must be positive for the coming days. There was one noticeable arrival of birds though with Meadow Pipits finally being numerous and there were over 100 on the fields at Kirkeby, Maridalen but I coud find nothing more interesting amongst them.

I made my first trip of the spring to Nordre Øyeren but even here there was no sign of any new birds. Svellet is mostly bone dry but even the few wet areas held no birds. The only waders I could find were in Snekkervika where at long range I noted 22 Curlew, 12 Oystercatcher, 9 Greenshank and best of all a male Ruff. Merkja looked good but a couple of hundred Teal and 2 Green Sandpipers were it. Along the river in Lillestrøm I had my first Common Tern but there were no hirundines.

Ever the optimist, I am sure that it is tomorrow that all hell will break loose…..

These pictures of an Osprey are from Maridalen on Saturday

Osprey (fiskeørn)

the clean white underwing coverts show this not to be the bird I photographed 12 April. Such white coverts should make this bird a male but the breast band is rather well marked so I am not sure about this individual

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Back in the saddle

Today I was back in the guiding saddle and it felt good. With Corona restrictions being lifted and Norway really not having suffered (yet) it felt OK to be out again yesterday morning. I was guiding David and Jaye, an American couple who are living in Oslo at the moment and who are keen users of eBird which I have also recently become.

Our first target was Black Grouse which meant we had as early a start as possible (05:30) so that we could hopefully catch them lekking. We headed for the most accessible lek that I know of and as we approached after a good uphill walk we heard at least one male displaying. I flushed a female from the ground and we then approached the male. It was both bubbling and croaking but flew out of a tree top (where we had not previously seen it) at long range and showed briefly in flight. That was then it. We found no other birds despite waiting in the area and did not even hear any distant birds. We had succeeded in finding the species but I had hoped for much better views even though it was very cool to hear the bird. Maybe  the early and hot spring means that peak activity has passed.
There is starting to be a bit of variety to the dawn chorus in the forest. Song Thrushes and Chaffinches dominated but we also had Willow Warblers and surprisingly also Tree Pipits with at least 5 birds heard singing which were my first for the year.

Surprisingly, our long walk in the forest did not reveal a single woodpecker but relocating to Woodpecker Wood gave us a pair of Three-toed, nest building Great Spots and a flyover Black. In addition we saw Green later. There were disappointingly few birds on the fields but we did see Ring Ouzel and Mistle Thrush plus my first Oslo Wheatear of the year. In the deciduous woodland Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers and the first Blackcaps were singing.

female Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett)

this is not "one-toe"


the male

my first Tree Pipit (trepiplerke) of the year. They were surprisingly widespread today with at least 5 singing birds but none heard migrating over

first Blackcap (munk) in Maridalen

still a few Ring Ouzels (ringtrost) on the fields despite them being very dry

Thursday, 23 April 2020

A Beastly Rhythm

 The Beast and I are now getting into a rhythm on our morning walks and I am able to sit down with the scope and also take pictures without him whining or pulling too much. The only thing that has been missing has been birds to study but today there was a lot more to see and three hours went by very quickly. A massive flock of 5 Slavonian Grebes were very close to land and it could almost seem that they were curious about the dog (as ducks often are). A pair of Black-throated Divers also showed us a lot interest and we had a very close encounter with a female Adder but here I had to tie Usko to a tree as he seemed hell bent on going up to the viper.

Swallows and Willow Warblers made their presence known and I heard, but did not see, flyover Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper which were both new for the year. It is (very) early for Wood Sand and the vast majority of early records (before 25 April) are undocumented and most likely relate to Green Sandpipers. I have now added another undocumented record to the data mass but at least the call is one of the best ways to separate the two species – it is the out of photo range sight records that are the problem..

Dog and Jr Jr walking yesterday evening revealed all the ducks from the  morning were still present on Maridalsvannet and had been joined by a male Red-breasted Merganser (unusual on the lake) and a noticeable increase in the number of Goldeneyes. I also had a singing Meadow Pipit which also remineded me of another difficult species pair as they do sound quite similar to Tree Pipit and you need to get your ear in each year.

this picture had a lot of promise but for the branches between me and the birds
I initially found two pairs of the Slavonian Grebes (horndykker) together

the bird on the right is not in full summer plumage yet. It is also a female I believe and the bird on the left a male with its larger "horns"

same female with white patches on her breast

and then another bird arrived calling

skimming along the water

the light was harsh and the birds mostly backlit. I took a couple of hundred pictures that I thought might be "artistic" but they were just rubbish
all 5 together

they really were close at times. The shadow on the right is The Beast

this pair of Black-throated Divers (storlom) also showed well

female Adders (hoggorm) just look so cool 

and this 2cy Peregrines (vandrefalk) was the only raptor on a day that had looked very promising (again...)