Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Checking in

Infrequent blog posts are a sign of few birds, lots of snow and little activity by yours truly. Yesterday we had over 30cm of snow and I had a hope that this would lead to an increase of birds at feeding stations but if anything there were fewer birds to see.

Today I had another visit to the Drøbak area which offers the most exciting birding close to Oslo at this time of the year. I had hoped to enjoy some quality time with the Kingfisher but it was not of the same mind. Three distant Purple Sandpipers and a couple of flyover Twite ended up being the only birds of any note.

Back in Oslo I paid a visit to the dump but only turned up Herring Gulls (over 300) and a few Great Black-backs which has been the case with every visit I have had recently. I am sure that more frequent and prolonged visits would turn up a white winger or a Caspian but I don’t have that dedication.

 Maridalen had a flock of 7 Parrot Crossbills and when I got home 5 Common Crossbills flew low over the house so just need a Two-barred now.

Three Parrots Crosbills (furukorsnebb)

These Blue and Great Tits responded to playback of Pygmy Owl song

at least 30 Blue and 10 Great Tits materialised and their response was a clear sign that there is still a Pygmy Owl in the area although it failed to respond

a snowy Maridalen

Friday, 12 January 2018

Studying Beardies

Yesterday’s snow has left everything very nice and white. I had little belief in there being anything new to see but went to Fornebu determined to refind the Firecrest and see how it was coping with more snow than it has ever seen before. Three hours of searching though failed to find it and although it is good at disappearing it wouldn’t surprise me if conditions have become too harsh for it. I found the two Goldcrests and heard one of them for a long time before I saw them. At this stage I thought I had found the firey one so it was a bit disappointing when after 10 minutes of searching first one and then two Goldcrests revealed themselves.

Water Rails also seem to have found the conditions a bit too harsh. I have previously heard up to four birds but today all I had was fresh tracks in the snow from a single bird.

The Bearded Tits, or at least some of them, are still here but had chosen a new reedbed and there were only two males which were keeping each other close company. Normally when you see them they are in (mixed) pairs so it was surprising to see two males together. I got to see them very well as they fed mostly on the ground and also drank from a pool. They would disappear under the reeds and snow and at one stage they stood next to each on the ground under some reeds for about five minutes and preened each other and themselves (apparently called allopreening). When searching for food they were sometimes up eating reed seeds but also seemingly searching (and finding) insects. In this video you can see them preening each other and also one of the birds finding what looks like an insect inside a reed stem.

the 2 male Bearded Tits (skjeggmeis) just after having had a drink

their wings are amazingly short

it was difficult to see what food they were finding on the snow but I reckon it was both reed seeds and insects

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Kingfisher & landscapes

The sunshine we had today was the last I am going to see for at least if I am to believe the weather forecast. There really was quite amazing light this morning and due to moisture in the air and freezing temperatures there was a thick layer of frost over all trees in addition to the snow that is now lying on the ground. I regret not having stopped to take more landscape pictures as some of the landscapes were very powerful with a real contrast between the snow and a dark sky.

My travels took me out to the Drøbak area for the third time this year and finally the birdlife was cooperative. I was finally rewarded with a Kingfisher after a number of attempts. The bird has only been reported a couple of times earlier in the winter and is clearly moving around a bit but may become a bit easier during the forthcoming cold spell as long as it finds enough food.

A single roadside Great Grey Shrike revealed itself and at Drøbak the two Little Grebes showed and even called, I finally saw a (very distant) White-tailed Eagle over the breeding island of Håøya (they are amazingly hard to see here despite breeding) and my gazing at the offshore rocks finally gave me the four Purple Sandpipers that are wintering here.

Tomorrow will see falling snow all day so a day doing emails and admin beckons…

Kingfisher (isfugl)

Little Grebes (dvergdykker)
and now for some really poor photos. I will let you decide whether these qualify as record shots or not

Great Grey Shrike (varsler)

White-tailed Eagle (havørn)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Great Grey Shrike in Maridalen

The Firecrest was Bærum Kommune’s most visited tourist attraction and perhaps the best pictures to date were the result although I of course was not in the vicinity as I prefer to visit when the light is bad and the crowds non-existent.

Yesterday I paid another visit to the Drøbak area but again without finding anything too exciting although Rock Pipit and Twite were good winter records. Both these species were feeding on an offshore island 1km from where I was viewing. The Rock Pipit was just about identifiable but the six Twite were another story. I managed to conclude they were small finches and the choice therefore lay between Redpoll and Twite. Their behaviour pointed in the direction of the later but I was only able to nail them when they luckily flew off the island and eventually over my head calling.

Today the weather was suitably dreary that a visit to Fornebu was appealing. At least three Bearded Tits were calling and two showed in the reedbed and the Firecrest gave itself up relatively easily by calling just often enough that I first found it and could then follow it. It moved over 500m in the hour I was watching it with I assume continuous movement necessary to keep warm (temperatures are down to about -7C). It was mostly low down but for about 10 minutes was feeding up in the top of small low pine trees where it then became quite vocal. I have previously assumed the bird to be a 1st winter male due to the orange but not deep red colour to the crown. The only way to really age them though it the shape of the tail feathers and good pictures have shown them to be pointed which confirms the age as 1st winter and the crown colour confirms it to be a male. Otherwise there was really very little at Fornebu and the two Goldcrests seem to have moved away.

A trip to Maridalen surprisingly revealed a Great Grey Shrike. It was in exactly the same tree as the last bird I saw in the Dale on 20 October but this bird has more white in the wing than that bird and is presumably a bird pushed out of a territory further north which is no long suitable due to too much snow.
Great Grey Shrike (varsler) in Maridalen - the first record for 3 months


the sharply pointed tail feathers that mean it is a 1st winter

it spent most of its time in the snow as usual

Friday, 5 January 2018

Firecrest still surviving

Jules Bell was in town and in need of some birding and I persuaded him that we could do no better than a trip to Fornebu and yet another search for the Firecrest which was last seen 9 days ago. With fresh snow covering sheer ice on the ground and a cold wind in the air it was not very promising conditions though.

There were VERY few birds and next to nothing in the air. Water Rails and Bearded Tits were still going strong but no Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits or Treecreepers showed and Wrens were the only insect eaters we noted. We are not ones to give up though and thoroughly checked out all suitable areas. After two hours Jules phoned to tell me he had heard and briefly seen a crest but without nailing the species. When I got to him the bird had vanished and we then split up again to look for it. A full half hour later I heard and then briefly saw a crest around 50 metres away but the bird then vanished without me seeing what it was. I tried calling Jules but I couldn’t hear him and then the battery died in the cold. I had to stick the phone down my pants and after 5 minutes of clammy warmth it vibrated and was back in life again. I still hadn’t seen the bird again but then suddenly there it was high in a tree and I saw the stripes! But then it was gone again. Finally after Jules had arrived I got control of it feeding on the ground and we were then treated to very close views as it fed on the snow at the base of bushes and clumps of grass. It remained silent during this period though confirming that a touch of luck is needed in addition to dedication to the task.

When I came home a flock of 20 Redpolls flew up from the feeders but unfortunately didn’t come back. As this was more individuals than I saw yesterday at the Botanical Gardens I am sure that the flock contained a least 3 different types! There is also a single female Blackbird and a Fieldfare eating the apples I put out in the garden. Until today the Blackbird was dominant but just before dusk I saw an intense fight between the two and the Fieldfare has now come out on top.

Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge) on the snow. I imagine that this bird is currently the most northerly observation of the species in the whole wide world!

it seemed to be able to find microscopic food items just above the ground

here it seems to be snapping at something

creeping through the grass nearly at our feet

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Slogging it for an Arctic roly polly

Yesterday I paid a visit to the Drøbak area and notched up a couple of Great Grey Shrikes, Little Grebe and Rock Pipit for my troubles. Today I did my traditional Oslo New Year birding by public transport and foot outing. I visited the Botanical Gardens, the harbour seafront, Bygdøy and Frognerpark and walked 14km so have hopefully burnt off a few of those extra xmas calories.
The Botanical Gardens were good for finches with 3 species/forms of Redpoll with a white male Arctic the highlight, plus Hawfinch, Crossbill, Brambling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch. A young male Goshawk also showed well, and I could make out a Peregrine sitting distantly on the top of Oslo’s tallest building.
The harbour was very quiet with hardly any gulls and Bygdøy and Frognerpark offered up the expected species but nothing too exciting.

Redpolls are as is well known a complete mess and the latest taxonomical status is that they should all be lumped together which suites me just fine. This year is a good redpoll year in Norway and a bird trapped recently in Denmark with a Chinese ring gives an indication that some of these birds have travelled great distances. We could realistically have birds from Greenland/Iceland, Southern and Northern Scandinavia and from the whole of Siberia all mingling at the moment. Certainly today there was a good variety in the Botanical Gardens and that was only in a flock of about 15 birds. The Arctic Redpoll was a fairly simple bird but there was also another bird that could have been an Arctic of the less obvious variety. There was a small warm coloured bird that fitted the bill for a Lesser(southern) and then amongst the rest there were small birds, large birds, cold grey birds and warmer browner birds. Treating them as a single clinal species does seem the most pragmatic thing to do!

one of those snowbal birds - an Arctic Redpoll 
look at the contrast! The bird on the right is probably a Lesser

the single black feather on the undertail coverts is rather obvious but OK
this bird never showed any better than this but was possibly also an Arctic

a Lesser Redpoll (brunsisik)

three Mealy/Common Redpolls

a few other birds in the Botanical Gardens

a 2cy male Goshawk (hønsehauk)

same bird in flight looking like a thrush

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Kick starting 2018

New Years day is usually spent in Blighty but this year I was at home. Birding was not a priority though and I could only note 13 species with a Nutcracker seen whilst downhill skiing the most notable.

Today I hoped to add the Firecrest to my 2018 list. It was last seen on 27 December and many have searched since without finding it and I added my own name to that list. Most of the other birds that were to be found at Fornebu in December were still present though with Bearded Tits, Water Rail, Long-tailed Tit and the two Goldcrests still surviving so we can hope that the Firecrest will turn up again.

In Maridalen I finally got to see the Yellowhammer flock well (70 birds) but couldn’t find any rarer buntings amongst them. A couple of Waxwings were the highlight in the dale.

The two Collared Doves were in the garden today and at this rate I am expecting them to stay in the area and breed – perhaps in one of the conifers in the garden.

Waxwing (sidensvans) in Maridalen
Yellowhammers (gulspurv) in the snow in Maridalen

the two Collared Doves (tyrkerdue) that have visited the garden on and off since mid October

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 - the year that was part II

July is holiday time. This year we didn't have our usual week in Beitostølen so I missed repeated visits to lekking Great Snipe (although had got my fill whilst guiding earlier in the year) but I did pop in on my drive back from the north of Norway to see the male Pallid Harriers that had summered there.

this adult Little Gull (dvergmåke) showed very well on a mountain lake near Røros on our drive north

The Asian (stejneger's) White-winged Scoter (knoppsjøorre) near Bodø for it's third summer

male Pallid Harrier (steppehauk)

August is a good month for guiding around Oslo with wader passage in full swing, raptors up in the air and passerine migration starting up

this juvenile Arctic Tern (rødnebbterne) was a real surprise in Maridalen at the beginning of the month

this spot turned out to be a Red Kite (glente) and was a real surprise in Maridalen

juvenile Red-backed Shrikes are always a delight in August

the breeding male Black Redstart was looking very grotty when moulting in August

Honey Buzzards (vepsevåk) proved hard to find in 2017 but this male showed well

Cuckoos are also becoming scarce so it was nice to see this juv in Maridalen

and a photogenic Common Buzzard (musvåk)

September is about my annual visit to Værøy but there is still a bit to be found around Oslo with seawatching sometimes giving results. Highlight for me on Værøy this year was a Siberian Thrush with a good supporting cast of Siberian Stonechat, Savi's Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit, Little Bunting and of course Yellow-browed Warbler which on its own would make the trip worthwhile. Seawatching in the Oslofjord was quite good this year and I racked up Manx Shearwater, Sandwich Tern, Great Skua and record numbers of Gannets.

I paid my first ever visit to Lista where this Citrine Wagtail (sitronerle) was the highlight

a self found Black Tern (svartterne) at Svellet was also a Norwegian tick

every September I spend some time with the Taiga Bean Geese on their migration from Sweden to Scotland. Breeding success seems to have been very poor this year

an usually cooperative Water Rail (vannriske) although it never came fully out of the reeds 
Maridalen's Whooper Swan family. 8 eggs hatched but one youngster died young and then another youngster disappeared after this photo

Olive-backed Pipit (sibirpiplerke) on Værøy

Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) on Værøy

and of course Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger)

the highlight of the trip - Siberian Thrush

of course it deserved a selfie

Siberian Stonechat 

October can be a quiet month around Oslo but southerly storms can always bring some seabirds into the fjord. Those storms didn't materialise this year but Maridalen came up with the goods when I found Oslo's first Great White Egret whilst on a mushroom picking trip with Mrs OB and Fornebu despite the continued development that is going on had some decent birds.

Great White Egret (egrethegre) and Grey Heron (gråhegre)

Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff

and if I had revisited Værøy with Kjell and Geir then maybe I would have seen this - Mugimaki Flycatcher

it's difficult to get tired of Bearded Tits

or Snow Buntings

November sees the onset of winter so it is the more special over wintering birds that become my priority. Fornebu saw lots of visits in the never ending search for an even better Bearded Tit photo and Maridalen had a couple of photogenic Pygmy Owls. Trips into the forest revealed little (unlike last year) except for one very onfiding Three-toed Woodpecker.

Woodlark at Fornebu was definitely rare

but Three-toed Woodpeckers are just difficult to find

Pygmy Owl - a minature killing machine

more beards

Golfinches (stillits) - not rare but still nice

December should be the least exciting month but one bird ensured that the birding excitement continued until the year end. I paid regular visits to Fornebu from October to December and had a hope of finding something with stripes. Yellow-browed or Pallas's Warbler were at the top of my mind at the start of the period but after the middle of November I was thinking of Firecrest especially as a record 7 were seen together in SW Norway. On 6 December my stripes materialised - Akershus's first record of Firecrest!

Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge)

and a Treecreeper - common but not often you see them so close