Tuesday 23 May 2023

Østfold and Kurefjorden 2023

Southerly winds overnight, rain in the morning and the second half of May sounds like a guaranteed recipe for a rarity bonanza in Oslo. The question was just where should I go to partake in this bird fest? Nordre Øyeren would normally have been a fair bet but water levels are so high now that there are no mudbanks although I did consider that flooded meadows may produce some interesting birds. Maridalen is of course always a mega place for birds 😉 but with the high water levels there aswell I discounted it for today. I did seriously think about Gressholmen for the chance of a wader or two that is missing from my Oslo list but in the end I decided on Østfold and Kurefjorden.

A decade or so ago (writing that makes me feel old..) I regularly visited Kurefjorden and Brentetangen in May and often in the company of Rune Zak and we had many good birds but the hour long drive has become less and less appealing (I definitely am getting old!) and I’m probably not even managing annual trips these days. There is a lot of promise in the area though for both water birds and raptors so it felt like the best choice for today.

As I drove down a message from Jack informed me that he had chosen to go to Gressholmen and had found one of those waders that is missing from Oslo list – Broad-billed Sandpiper aka Mountain Marsh Runner. Jack had found the 3rd record for Oslo (all at Gressholmen) and a real blocker. Should I change my plans?? Of course not! I am such a useless twitcher that it would just end ruining what I had planned to be a seriously successful day.


The day had started very promisingly with an Oystercatcher heard flying over the house (garden tick) whilst I lay in bed and as I approached Kurefjorden I saw a Rook (year tick). Kurefjorden itself looked with the tide and lighting seemingly perfect. There were lots of Greylag and Barnacle Geese and Shelduck but my first sweep revealed little else. It just required patience and thoroughness though and I had my own Mountain Marsh Runner although the Østfold : Oslo exchange rate for this species exceeds 100 : 1. A Grey Plover, 4 Dunlin, a Temmincks Stint and over 20 Ringed Plovers headed the wader list and an Red-throated Pipit flying over calling was a big passerine highlight. Raptors were scarce although an Osprey displayed over me and my first Honey Buzzard of the year flew over. My eBird checklist can be seen here.

There were lots of young birds with Greylags and Barnacle Geese having large young and at least 4 broods of Lapwing was a joyous sight.

I checked out Nordre Ovenbukt expecting to find Avocet or Black-winged Stilt but Lapwing were the only waders here with another 2 broods. A couple of Rook here were a big surprise and I wonder if the species has started breeding in Østfold?

A drive through a lot of agricultural land without finding a single raptor or Dotterel, or anything rarer.

My thoughts kept drifting to Gressholmen but I remained strong and instead went to Jeløy where Firecrests look to be establishing themselves as a breeding species. It took me a loooong time to find one though although in the end I saw a male very well and the forest was alive with the song of other species.

typically distant Broad-billed Sandpiper (fjellmyrløper) with a Ringed Plover (sandlo) which in my experience is the species it is most likely to turn up with on spring migration

singing Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge)

the first Rook (kornkråke) together with Jackdaws (kaie) and a Grey Heron

and the other 2

At the time I assumed this was one of the pair of birds but it seems to have more grey feathering so maybe is an additional bird

Stock Dove (skogdue) were nesting in the same wood as the Firecrest

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