Saturday, 28 November 2020

The Terrific Three

If only there was no Covid and I could be guiding overseas birders who want to see some Scandinavian specialities then yesterday would have been a good day…

Well, there is Covid and there is quarantine and there are no tourists but the birds are still there, tourists will hopefully return and every now and then a local birder or photographer wants my services so I try to keep control of all the hard to find birds.

My “Fab Four” have been a bit difficult to find of late with only Hawk Owl being easy (pretty much guaranteed) to find. My Facebook feed recently though has been spammed ūüėä by pictures of Hazel Grouse eating alder catkins  (thanks Bj√łrn Einar) and this inspired me to try again yesterday. It transpires I only needed to try an area a few hundred meters away from my previously guaranteed spot. Here there were alder trees with catkins and this is what Hazel Grouse love to eat in winter. I also heard and then later saw a Pygmy Owl (almost certainly the same I regularly saw earlier in the autumn) and with Hawkie in Maridalen in the afternoon I managed a “Terrific Three”.

No Three-toed Woodpecker to make it the Fab Four but you can’t always get what you want. Three Common Buzzards showed themselves in Maridalen including one hunting from perches within thinned out forest in a manner that was very reminiscent of Great Grey Owl. I heard another via via report of GGO today and whilst it is very likely that there are GG in the area I can’t help but think that there might also be some mis-identification going on with Buzzards or Hawk Owls possible confusion species for someone without binoculars.

male Hazel Grouse (jerpe)

First an extended video showing feeding and singing:

and here a 10 second video of it singing:

in the winter fresh alder catkins are their favourite food. I have seen them feeding in trees before but not as well as I did today although it didn't last as long as I hoped (there were clearly other suitable trees in the area that he knew of but not me)

here taking a catkin



I would normally be more than satisfied with this type of picture

Pygmy Owl (spurveugle) he sang very intermittently but showed little interest in my attempts to get his attention

Hawk Owl in a frame of natures making - their is an artist hidden deep within me :-)

just look at how dense the feathering is

attempt at art - spot Hawkie

back lit but a bit too distant

I went looking for GGO at dusk but just found this Hawkie that was still actively hunting

another addition to my collection of birds with Oslo landmarks in the background. Here the Common Buzzard (musvåk) that was hunting in the manner of a GGO

another Buzzard - one of three I saw in the Dale

Great Spotted Woodpecker (flaggspett)

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Back lit

It was one of those lovely winter days with a crispness due to an overnight frost combined with no wind and blue skies. Although I think the overnight temperature only just nudged below zero it was cold and windless enough that puddles and more surprisingly the salt water bay of Koksa at Fornebu were frozen.

With such nice weather I knew that there would be a large turn out of photographers today. I reckoned that they have still not filled their boots with Hawkie so thought I would head instead to Fornebu. I had not expected to have the place to myself but was indeed luckily enough to. There are not a lot of birds there at the moment with this winter lacking any “invasion” species and a flock of 25 Common Redpolls was the largest I have seen this winter I think. I failed to find any Chiffchaffs (and their days must be numbered if there are still any around) but all the other special winter birds were present with Bearded Tit, Jack Snipe, Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Water Rail and Reed Bunting noted.

Unsurprisingly I spent time with the Bearded Tits seeing if I could improve on my back-lit photography skills. Early in the morning on a sunny day there is little option other than to take back-lit photos due to the geography of the site but I really think that with the right skills/settings/equipment that some exceptionally cool photos could be taken. When I read this I now can see that it sounds like I am becoming more togger than birder and this may be confirmed by the fact that twice recently I have, after 5-10 minutes walk from the car, discovered that I only have my camera with me and have forgotten my bins. An alternative explanation is that I’m losing it…

I did go into Maridalen on the way home where I had good views of a Hawk Owl which had at least 15 socially distanced and well-behaved camera toting admirers. Two Common Buzzards were up in the air together clearly enjoying the weather and the chance for a bit of soaring and thermalling.

I heard a via, via report that a Great Grey Owl has been spotted in the forest which isn’t surprising given the density of rodents and with luck snow (whenever it comes) may make them easier to find.

Does it work?

I think this Blue Tit (blåmeis) does work well

the two Common Buzzards (musvåk) in Maridalen today - note their very different plumages

and Hawkie

my Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) photos are not improving

nor are my Kingfisher (isfugl) shots - can you find it?

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Free to gaze

My Covid quarantine has come to end and I was able to extend the radius for today’s exercise/birding. In the end there was no exercise as I just stared at the sea at Krokstrand and then took in some drive-by sites on the way home. I knew that the wind wasn’t strong enough but I still harbour a hope of finding a Leaches Petrel which remains the most glaring absence to my Norwegian list and there have been some storm driven birds further south in Sweden in the last few days. There was of course no petrel or phalarope, or skua or shearwater and not even a Gannet or Fulmar but 11 Kittiwakes allowed themselves to be blown north by the wind and made it feel a bit seawatchy. When the 1cy birds go through at speed it is very easy to try to string a Sabine’s Gull which is something of a popular pastime in southern Norway each autumn. Documented flyby Sabines Gulls are an extremely rare occurrence in Norway despite birds often being described as having flown past at "close range" or having been "seen really well feeding offshore" so it was very refreshing to see nice pictures of an undisputed one recently.

Auks were the most numerous birds today with Guillemots in the majority along with a few Razorbills and best of all I had a Puffin which flew north with a couple of Guillemots. Despite being a common breeder along northern coastlines, Puffin is nearly as rare as Sabines Gull in the Oslofjord. I did not get a photo… ūüėČ

One entertaining sighting was a young Peregrine that attacked a couple of flying Guillemots and when they flashed through the telescope field of view I assumed I was watching a marauding skua. The falcon was unsuccessful in his hunt and in the end flew inland. I also had a Sparrowhawk flying low over the water and for not the first time it took quite a few seconds to work out what I was looking at.

On the way home I added Common Buzzard and Kestrel to my raptor tally.


My eBird checklist for Krokstrand can be seen here.

over wintering Kestrels (tårnfalk) are less than annual close to Oslo so this bird was yet another sign of the ample numbers of rodents

I don't know how to age and sex Kestrels other than adult males but believe that the streaking rathen than spotting on the underparts makes this a 1cy

Monday, 23 November 2020

Tits and the like

I needed a change this morning and walked at Fornebu before then taking in the sights in Maridalen.

The Bearded Tit pair showed exceptionally well in their normal spot and are clearly looking for more of their kin although I suspect it is now too late for any more to turn up. Otherwise there was disappointingly little to see although a Little Grebe was new for me.

In The Dale I had no Buzzards but suddenly Great Grey Shrikes were back with two sightings 1.7 km and only 25 minutes apart. One of the Hawkies showed very well selling his wares by the side of the roads but an hour and half wait did not reveal the Grey-headed Woodpecker. Close sightings of Jays were a distraction but I kicked myself for not digitally capturing the young male Goshawk who just failed to catch one of the Jays that I was watching only 6 meters from me (in the car).

Bearded Tit (skjeggmeis) pair

both a mustache and a beard, or is it two mustaches?


Jay (n√łtteskrike)

Nuthatch (spettmeis)

and a Treecreeper( trekryper)

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Weekend birds

Snow fell on Friday night and despite temperatures quickly rising above zero the snow remained on the ground in Maridalen through the weekend. Proper winters with lots of snow are one of the things I love about living in Oslo and hopefully this winter will see lots of the white stuff.

Dog walking in The Dale and the incidental birding that goes with it revealed the usual suspects with both Hawk Owls being on show, two Common Buzzards in their usual areas and the Grey-headed Woodpecker again turning up on the feeder. I saw him at a similar time to when I saw him on Friday suggesting (hopefully) that he has a routine that will make him more predictable to see.

Singles of Chaffinch and Common Snipe were also noteworthy as these species normally disappear by the end of October.

The pale and distinctive Common Buzzard (musvåk)

The male Grey-headed Woodpecker (gråspett) was shy

but this Jay (n√łtteskrike) which is normally shy has got used to people at the feeders

socially distanced photographers filling their boots with Hawkie

I do sometimes take pictures of things other than birds...