2020 will of course go down in the history books as the year the Corona crisis knocked out an entire planet. From the end of March onwards the travel and other social restrictions imposed all over the world meant that tourists could for all intents and purposes not travel to Norway unless they were prepared go into 10 days quarantine. It also impacted on the travel I could do within Norway but did result in more people using the countryside (for good and bad) as indoor activities were no longer available.
I started using eBird after my patience and trust in the Norwegian Artsdatabank (and NOF) and its reporting system Artsobservasjoner finally ran out. EBird and its easy to use reporting app have made my life a lot easier and I feel that my observations are contributing to improve global knowledge.
Birding wise I had three Norwegian ticks: Lesser Yellowlegs which I found, Ferruginous Duck which was very nice but probably plastic and a Rufous tailed Bushchat which was a second for Norway and which fate conspired to allow me to identify from the pictures the finder had taken and then to refind it.
I was unable to travel to Værøy in September which was a big disappointment but two of its classic birds decided to come to me with twitchable Yellow-browed Warbler and Red-flanked Bluetail just a short drive from home.
Hawkie on tap in Maridalen meant the birding year ended on a high.
Both birding wise and guiding wise I had a great start to 2020. My, and Oslo’s, “Taiga Trio” of Great Grey Owl, Hawk Owl and Pine Grosbeak proved very popular with day tripping British birders. With these fantastic birds on my doorstep I didn’t have the inclination or the time to do much other winter birding but did see a showy Glaucous Gull.
I was able to read the ring of one of the many Grozzas I saw which showed it to have been ringed in southern Sweden at the end of October.
|Glaucous Gull (polarmåke)|
|Mallard x Wigeon hybrid (stokkand x brunnakke)|
|Great Grey Owl (lappugle)|
|a Swedish ringed Pine Grosbeak (konglebit) whose ring I managed to read through the wonders of digital photography|
|male Pine Grosbeak and one of many attempts to get a good back lit image|
|getting close to one of the GGs|
|I managed to identify 4 different GG in Maridalen using their tail feathers|
|Hawk Owl (haukugle)|
February started where January had left off with lots of guiding for the Taiga Trio. Some Purple Sandpipers gave a nice change on a sunny day and at the end of the month I guided up into the real taiga in Hedmark where Siberian Jay and Two-barred Crossbills were highlights.
|The Tiaga Trio|
|every now and then I looked at other birds, here a Purple Sandpiper (fjæreplytt)|
|but did always get drawn back to the GGs|
|a Siberian Jay (lavskrike) from a guiding trip to real taiga in Hedmark|
|guiding in Hedmark|
|and in Oslo with GG in the background|
The Taiga Trio ceased to be at the end of Feb and only Great Grey Owls hung around into March but they too disappeared in the middle of the month. March heralds the start of spring migration though so there was suddenly lots more to see. The Taiga Bean Geese were as always a highlight and I paid them a few visits. An inland 1st winter White-billed Diver at the start of the month showed really well and at the end of the month there was a heavy passage of Pink-footed Geese and I had in excess of 10,000 birds over Maridalen on the 31st.
|migrating Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) at the end of the month|
|a Brent Goose (ringgås) at Fornebu|
|The GGs became a family thing - here Mrs OB with one|
|amd here Jr and Jr Jr|
|Taiga Bean geese (taiga sædgås)|
|Snow Bunting (snøspurv)|
Three-toed Woodpeckers were a big part of the month and they seemed at times to be everywhere in Maridalen. On one memorable occasion I had two pairs fighting over territory and they were so obliging to line themselves up on the same tree trunk to be photographed.
Most beautiful bird of the month was undoubtedly the Oslofjord male King Eider, aka Elvis, that normally can only be seen by boat but for one day, and one day only, popped up at a beach at Fornebu.
After 19 years in Norway it was about time that I saw breeding Tengmalm’s Owl and with the help of some friends my time came 😊
Maridalen had some good days with Red Kite, Hen & Marsh Harriers and upto 5 Slavonian Grebes
|young White-tailed Eagle (havørn) and Hooded Crows (kråke) from a boat trip with Halvard|
|Oslo's returning male King Eider (praktærfugl) aka Elvis aka The King|
|a unique picture? Four Three-toed Woodpeckers but as one of them is missing a toe there are only 23 toes ;-)|
|finally I saw nesting Tengmalm's Owls (perleugle)|
|my rarest bird of the month I think but definitely not the best photo - a Red Kite (glente) in Maridalen|
|the return of the Black-throated Divers (storlom) is always a highlight in Maridalen|
|as are the brief annual visits from Slavonian Grebes (horndykker)|
In May I split my focus between my patch of Maridalen and the vast Nordre Øyeren wetland with especially the area called Svellet getting attention early in the month when it is a mecca for waders. Svellet can hold thousands of waders (primarily Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper) but due to long distances and often heat haze it can be very challenging identifying smaller waders. I have found Broad-billed Sandpiper but never anything rarer but that all changed on May 4 when the force was obviously with me and I finally managed to put a name to a bird that I had also seen the previous two days but at too long range to ID it. I had found Oslo and Akershus’s first Lesser Yellowlegs! It was also a Norwegian tick for me and many of those who came to see it.
Only three days later I twitched my second new Norwegian bird of the year; a smart male Ferruginous Duck that had probably jumped a fence but with no rings will be accepted as wild.
An equally smart duck was a male Smew that could also perhaps have been an escape but more likely thought it was a Goldeneye (happens probably because a female Smew had laid some of her eggs in a Goldeneye nest hole) and had taken an eye to a female Goldeneye who was hanging around in a surbuban setting close to Oslo.
At the end of the month there was quite a bit of action in Maridalen with breeding Tawny Owls, Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike and Three-toed Woodpecker.
At the very end of the month a long weekend in the mountains at Beitostølen was just fantastic. Species such as Ptarmigan, Dotterel, Temminck’s Stint, Shore Lark, Bluethroat and Short-eared Owl obliged but it was all topped off by my best visit ever to “my” Great Snipe lek. I had birds lekking so early in the evening that the lek site was still bathed in sunshine and it was so early in the season that the birds were extremely active. Even better Mrs OB joined me for the first time and did, I think, finally understand a bit of the excitement of birding….
|my bird but not my picture - Lesser Yellowlegs (gulbeinsnipe). Picture courtesy of Reidar Myhre. Together with a Greenshank (gluttsnipe)|
|male Ferruginous Duck (hvitøyeand)|
|male Smew (lappfiskand)|
|male Bluethroat (blåstrupe) migrating through Maridalen|
|and male Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett) nesting in Maridalen|
|Tawny Owl (kattugle) in Maridalen|
|and an unexpected migrant Black Redstart (svartrødstjert) in Maridalen|
|Thrush Nightingales (nattergal) are now established breeders at Fornebu but are never easy to see|
|a young Tawny Owl just out of the nest and still flightless|
|Broad-billed Sandpiper (fjellmyrløper) and Dunlins (myrsnipe) at the end of the month at Årnestangen|
|Wryneck (vendehals) in Maridalen. This male was unmated but a pair bred|
|male Ptarmigan from the trip to the mountains|
|Short-eared Owl (jordugle)|
|and lekking Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin)|
June is a month when dragonflies and butterflies start competing with birds for my attention but thus year the birds did their best to keep me interested.
River, Grasshopper and Blyth’s Reed Warblers showed well, Corncrakes, Nightjar and Firecrest sang, Long-eared and Tengmalm’s Owls had young and a Little Gull graced Maridalen. But there was one bird that stole the show. On 11 June I decided to visit Årnestangen with the hope of seeing Black Tern. As I walked out I met Edna Mosand who casually mentioned a bird she had seen and photographed but was struggling to ID. I looked at a couple of the pictures on the back of the camera without being any wiser but it was clearly something good. I hurried on to where it was seen with my mind working double speed and then finally worked it out. A quick call to Edna to find out if she had a photo showing the tail and its ID was confirmed – a Rufous Bush Robin!! I assumed at the time it was a first for Norway but was actually the second record. I now had to refind it but due to a misunderstanding as to where it was it ended up taking nearly another two hours but finally there it was!
Dragonfly wise had two highlights. A male Broad-bodied Chaser was a long awaited species and with its Cambridge Blue coloured body also very smart and Green-eyed Hook-tailed Dragonflies. I had seen this species once before in the beak of a Yellowhammer and had decided that I would work hard to find them this year at the one site in Oslo where the species is known to occur and it was a bonus to see them emerging from the larval form.
|in a good year for me and owls I also had this young Long-eared Owl (hornugle)|
|not often one sees Corncrakes (åkerrikse) this well|
|this Little Gull (dvergmåke) was a rare visitor to Maridalen|
|singing River Warbler (elvesanger)|
|singing Blyth's Reed Warbler (busksanger)|
|a young Tengmalm's Owl|
|bird of the month - Norway's second Rufous Bush Robin (hekkskvett)|
|Grasshopper Warbler (gresshoppersanger)|
|Rosefinches (rosenfink) really brighten up a days birding in Maridalen in June and this bird had a strange plumage|
|singing Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge)|
|a Green-eyed Hook-tailed Dragonfly (tangelvelibelle) emerging|
|and the finished deal - look at that tail!|
|male Broad-bodied Chaser (bredblålibelle) probably the smartest dragonfly I have seen to date|