Wednesday, 31 March 2021


When we are at home at Easter one of the things I really like is to go birding in Maridalen at dawn and then get home and make breakfast for a still sleepy family. The quality of the birding varies greatly from year to year depending on when Easter falls but there is always something good to see. This year there, so far, not large numbers of birds but new migrants are creeping in every day.

Yesterday I added Grey Wagtail and Siskin (finally!) to my 2021 list and today I saw my first Song Thrush but the most notable event is the bird song. There is suddenly loads of noise everywhere with the following birds singing or displaying: Chaffinch, Blackbird, Redwing, Wren, Robin, Yellowhammer, Lapwing, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Goldcrest, Blue and Great Tits, Nuthatch, Wood Pigeon, Greenfinch, Skylark, Mistle Thrush and Reed Bunting. The change in the soundscape from just a week ago is hardly to believe.

The White-fronted Goose is still around but there is little other wildfowl with the lake still 99% frozen – I suspect it will still be a couple of weeks before there is a lot of open water but temperatures did rise to 15C yesterday so the thaw could go quickly. The sudden increase in temperature caused the GPS tagged Taiga Beans to move north to their next staging grounds in Hedmark where they usually only have a short stop before they make the final move to their breeding grounds. It feels like the geese spend shorter and shorter periods of time on their staging grounds with warmer springs meaning they can press on earlier.

early mornings in Dale can be quite misty

a flock of 7 Twite (bergirisk) this morning were a welcome sight

Whooper Swan (sangsvane) pair on one of the few aras of open water alongside Goldeneyes (kvinand). There are at least 5 Whooper Swans in the valley and things do seem more peaceful than usual between them. Maybe more than one pair will manage to breed this year

Monday, 29 March 2021

Another Dale tick!

Birding since my last post has been pretty uneventful until today when I had that most notable of birding events – a local patch tick. The bird in question was a White-fronted Goose and this was the second record in the Dale. I did not find the bird but my twitching skills were for once in order and I had seen the bird less than 15 minutes after getting the message. This is a species that I always scan the flocks of Greylags and Pink-feet for and was one I felt confident would fall sooner rather than later. With this bird I have now had three new species in Maridalen already this year and am now on 199 species – maybe the magical 200 will come sooner than I expected. A Rough-legged Buzzard was also a nice to see although was soon chased off by a Hooded Crow.

A much anticipated owling trip on Saturday night along the most owled forest track in this part of Norway was in what are considered by many to be perfect conditions: full moon, stary sky and no wind. They were however far from perfect with just two Tengmalm’s Owls for my troubles. Rain earlier in the day may have been the factor that affected the owls (lots more Tengmalm’s had been heard earlier in the month) but it may also be that eggs have been laid and singing is no longer necessary although given how long I was out I would have expected to hear more. On the way there I stopped to look at the Taiga Beans. I had only a pair feeding on one of the fields but on the river there were a lot of geese. Unfortunately distance and light meant that I could not make out how many were Beans and how many were Pink-feet but it did look like there were considerably more than 100 Taiga Beans which would mean additional arrivals since I last counted them.

I did see Cranes which were new for the year and I have also chalked up Redwing, Woodcock, Shelduck, Smew and Ringed Plover so have now accelerated to 108 species.

2cy European (albifrons) White-fronted Goose on it was to siberia with a little pit stop in Maridalen

this Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) is also heading north but will probably breed in Scandinavia

Taiga Bean Geese and Pink-footed Geese on the Glomma River at sunset

Grey Heron

I actually tried to get a good picture with the reflection but the bird moved off after this shot

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Another Stonechat & Pink-feet on the move

Pink-footed Geese came today with 9 flocks containing over 1600 birds heading north over Maridalen. Although an impressive sight this is not the big migration day and that may well come tomorrow as the southerly winds are forecast to continue. As is often the case on days when Pink-feet move there was precious little else in the air. In fact a couple of hundred Wood Pigeons that headed north in dribs and drabs was the only other viz mig I witnessed. There was in increase in wildfowl on the lake with a few more Greylag Geese and now two pairs of Whooper Swans. Lapwings had increased to six but there were fewer passerines on the fields although I did have my first Meadow Pipit of the year and four Mistle Thrushes in total.

As I ate breakfast my phone had plinged with a message of a Stonechat at Fornebu. This had geared me up for finding another one in Maridalen but as the morning drew on and I realised that was unlikely to happen I decided I would twitch. It ended up being a nice twitch as I had the bird mostly to myself and it showed really well which is exactly how twitches should be in my book. Clearly a different bird to the one that had been in Maridalen I reckon it to be an adult (3cy+) male whereas the Maridalen bird was a 2cy male.

A Lesser Black-backed Gull was new for the year and I am now up to a paltry 101 species in 2021. I have previously seen 100 species by the end of January and the slowness of my species accumulation this year is primarily due to very little travel outside of Oslo (trying to abide by Covid recommendations to avoid unnecessary travel although clearly some birders still view long distance twitching with friends as very necessary). Although a lack of focus is also to blame as a few more minutes at Fornebu today would have easily given me another 3 species...

Male Stonechat (svartstrupe) at Fornebu

The fight feathers look to all be of the same generation which should make this bird a 3cy+. I also reckon it to be of he race hibernans although this early in the season it is perhaps not possible to tell

the (or one of the) wintering Great Grey Shrikes (varsler) in Maridalen is still often to be seen atop its favourite tree. Some migrant birds may well also appear soon

2 of 4 Mistle Thrushes (duetrost) seen in Maridalen. Redwing and Song Thrush will also arrive soon

over 1600 Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgjess) passed Maridalen today

whooping Whooper Swans (sangsvane), Canada and Greylag Geese

Wednesday, 24 March 2021


I do love spring. With fresh southerly winds and no overnight frost I had high expectations for today. I thought that Pink-footed Geese would go through in good numbers and expected to see lots of raptors and Cranes. Well that (of course) didn’t happen but there was a noticeable arrival of birds in Maridalen.

On the lake Mallards and Goosanders had joined the Goldeneyes, 4 Lapwings were displaying over two different fields and 7 species of finch were feeding in the same field: Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Brambling (my first of the year), (Common) Redpoll, Goldfinch, Linnet and Twite (also my first of the year). They were feeding alongside Yellowhammers, Fieldfares and Starlings so there was a lot of life! Seeing all these finches reminded me that I have still to record Siskin this year!! Some will certainly appear on spring migration soon but this has been a terrible year for wintering finches in South Eastern Norway.

Mistle Thrush and Great Grey Shrike were notable birds but the only raptor I saw was a half second glimpse of something that may have been a Red Kite or may have been something commoner…

 Here is my main eBird list from today.

my first Twite (bergirisk) of the year. This was a male and he spent a long time singing from a tree. There was another bird in the same field but they were never together

here two Linnets (tornirisk) and the Twite

male and female Linnet. This species breeds around Oslo and is regular in Maridalen on migration but does not breed there

male Lapwing (vipe)

pair of Lapwings. The female on the left is less well marked especially on the throat and breast

this Mistle Thrush (duetrost) was on its own on a still snow covered field

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Snow Buntings

The last two days have been promising in Maridalen: the first flocks of Pink-footed Geese have migrated north and on the fields I finally caught up with Snow Buntings (others have been seeing them for a few days) as well as having my first Linnet and Reed Bunting of the year. Chaffinches are now all over the place, 3 Lapwings are back and with temperatures reaching double figures in the afternoon spring feels like it has sprung.

Last night I took Conor owling and we heard Pygmy Owl, Tawny Owl and Tengmalm’s Owl although activity was very low which surprised me as conditions had seemed perfect although it did cloud over which may have been the nail in the coffin.

male Snow Bunting (snøspurv)

the same male in the front and a presumed female behind

Goldfinch (stillits)

my first Lizard of the year

Two Buzzards (musvåk) in Maridalen

A flock of Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgjess) heading north with 6 Barnacle Geese amongst them. These are probably proper will Barnacles on their way to Svalbard and it has become more common over the last few years to see Barnacles amongst the Pink-feet although the normal migration of Svalbard Barnacles is much later.

3 of the Barnacles

and a close up of one of the Barnacles with 3 Pink-feet

a caterpillar of Ruby Tiger Moth (rustvingespinner). The species overwinters as a caterpillar and they emerge early in the spring and then look for a suitable place to pupate

Sunday, 21 March 2021


Seeing my first Adder of the spring is always a highlight of the year in Maridalen and here is the 2021 edition 😊

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Three-toed Woodpeckers

Friday’s guiding did not go entirely to plan (as is unfortunately sometimes the case with my feathered friends) and the Pygmy Owls which had been anything other than shy last week decided to play hard to get. A good time was of course had though and an easy to get Water Rail rather saved the day.

Today on the family walk in Maridalen I had a hope of finding Hawk Owls still present but that was not the case and a lack of recent records suggests they have moved off now. In the neighbouring valley of Nittedal, to the east, though it looks like Hawk Owl will breed with song and mating recorded. Three Common Buzzards in the air together suggests that migrants are back and yesterday I also heard my first Chaffinch of the year singing away. As is often the case when I first hear a new species for the year it takes a little bit of time to register what I am actually hearing but very soon I will be hearing them everywhere. A couple of Three-toed Woodpeckers were a pleasant sighting.

In this video of the peckers you see the female feeding and then can hear her calling and drumming and then hear the male calling before seeing him (he only appeared very briefly).

female Three-toed Woodpecker (tretåspett)

adult Water Rail (vannrikse)

it was very good at hiding in vegetation

Starlings (Stær) and Fieldfares (gråtrost) in the snow