Friday, 22 September 2017

Værøy 2017 Day 2

Things did improve today. Egil found an Olive-backed Pipit although I failed to see it and Kjell found a Savi’s Warbler! I did manage to see the Savi’s although in similar fashion to last year it was a touch and go as to whether the views were tickable. The views were unforgettable though. Kjell had seen the bird very well although unfathomably did not have his camera with him! Once the rest of us had gathered where Kjell had found the bird we embarked on what is described as an “organised flush”. The only problem was that the bird didn’t want to flush. Instead I suddenly noticed it running like a mouse through the vegetation less than two metres from me! I got the others on it and the bird ended up being more or less surrounded but did we see it again? Absolutely not! Locustella warblers are famous for acting like this although I have not witnessed it before and it was incredibly cool to see it running away from us instead of flying and then managing to completely disappear. This was a great reward for Kjell especially after finding both Pallas Grasshopper and Lancy last year (or Stars and Stripes as they say here in Norway). We tried to find the bird again but it was a hopeless task.

After this things got very quiet. In what might be a Værøy first I did not see a Yellow-browed Warbler but may have heard one. I did have 6 Chiffchaffs though as my only warbler and got a dose of Hawkie with a bird showing well as it hunted from telegraph poles. It went down three times and looked to have caught something. In one of my pictures it looks like it is swallowing a mouse or shrew but I have understood that these don’t occur on Værøy…

Waders were the most (and only) photogenic birds today with a couple of Barwits and Grey Plovers and a few Ringed Plovers showing well. Jack Snipe also showed well but not exactly as I would have hoped. I searched a suitable area thoroughly and saw three lots of primary feathers from corpses that matched this species and later saw a cat that could well be the culprit. I did flush one bird and in trying to locate this bird on the deck I made an unexpected discovery. I came across a muddy area where there were LOTS of footprints and droppings from Jack Snipe. I immediately froze and started scanning hoping to find the bird and there it was. Only problem was that it was lying on it’s side in a puddle and was clearly dead! It appeared very freshly dead and had no visible injuries but was just skin and bones so maybe had been unable to find food. The areas where it was looked good but judging by the small was probably very polluted.

Let’s hope tomorrow delivers more birds and better views and the rain that is falling as I write this is definitelty promising.....

juvenile Grey Plover (tundralo)

juv Grey Plover

Hawk Owl with a rodent

a distant Iceland Gull which others have seen much better

northern lights

female Parrot Crossbill (furukorsnebb)

male Ring Ouzel (ringtrost)

Snow Bunting (snøspurv)

White-tailed Eagles (havørn)
floating dead Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin)

footprints, dropping and beak marks of Jack Snipe
and the (presumed) Jack Snipe assasin

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Værøy 2017 Day 1

Well, Kjell and co might be in the duldrums after 6 quiet days but I was happy with my first evening on Værøy. Only two warblers seen but when both were Yellow browed then one cannot possibly complain and one can also have absolutely no doubt that one is on Værøy.
We have been interviewed for NRK1 and seen a good northern lights show and tomorrow the weather will change for the better (it can't get any worse) so I am looking forward 2 2morra.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

1 day to go

With only 1 day to go until Værøy I am very excited but those who are already on the island appear to be wishing they could go home especially Kjell who has been there since Friday. Birding wise it has been absolutely pants so far. The highest day count of Yellow-browed Warblers has been a paltry 3 birds and the rarest bird has been a Carrion Crow!! But I have faith and let’s face it Kjell isn’t exactly an observant birder - don’t allow yourself to be fooled by the face he leads the Norway self-found league ;-)

My birding today was limited to a quick trip to Fornebu where the big surprise was a Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler in the reedbed. In addition to being a bit late this is actually my first Sedge Warbler at Fornebu (following my first for Oslo earlier in the year).

In Maridalen the Whooper Swan family have made their maiden flight and were first on the lake before continuing their flying lessons with a tour around the valley. I so wish I had seen them making their first flight as I really wonder how risky it is with them having to take off from land and gain height quickly to avoid trees.

I didn't manage a photo of the Sedge Warbler (sivsanger) but here is the Reed Warbler (rørsanger)

this juv Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) was also at Fornebu

autumnal Tree Sparrow (pilfink)

the Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family on Maridalsvannet where there was lots of wing flapping and running on water

flying lessons

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Oslo islands

With just 2 DAYS TO GO UNTIL VÆRØY 2017 begins I thought I would get some practice for island birding in today with a trip to Oslo’s own rarity (un)filled islands. I took the public boat and had an hour each on Gressholmen, Lindøya and Nakholmen.

Passerine wise I guess I have vague hopes of one finding something along the lines of a Yellow-browed Warbler, Richard’s Pipit or Little Bunting out here one autumn but more realistically I can hope to see some waders. My Oslo list still lacks the likes of Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone and Grey Plover and it these islands that offer the best chance of encountering these species (which are far less than annual).

Today’s trip did not deliver any of the sought after rare passerines but a Wheatear and a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were enough to keep me looking for more. Waders were not exactly numerous either but a juvenile Knot showed well (it was only last year I added this species to my Oslo list) and three flyover Ruff were only my fourth Oslo record. But surprisingly there were no other waders what so ever.

A couple of seals were hauled up and one showed well. These were Common/Harbour Seals and both this species and Grey Seal seems to be becoming far commoner in the Oslo Fjord.

Knot (polarsnipe) a rare species in Oslo 

overflying Ruff (brushane)
a resting Seal (steinkobbe)

and another Seal. This one looks to be a young animal
over 130 Cormorants (storskarv) were resting on Galteskjær but I didnæt have a shag today - not so far anyway...;-)

my first auk of any kind in Oslo this year - a Guillemot (lomvi)

Monday, 18 September 2017

And some more videos

I found this post in drafts and had obviously intended to post it some time during the summer.....

And here is the second instalment:

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Woodpecker guiding

Yesterday morning I was guiding Paul from Oxford and woodpeckers were high on the list of desired species. These are never easy to find and out of the breeding season are especially difficult as I cannot just visit a nest. I considered that Great Spotted, Green, Black and Lesser Spotted would be possible and succeeded in finding three of these. The lack of Green was hardly a loss for an Englishman and Black and Lesser Spotted were definitely good birds. The Black flew low over our heads and then showed in a tree whilst the Lesser Spotted called a lot before finally giving itself up and showing well. Result!
Bird of the day was a Great Grey Shrike which Paul found hovering over a reedbed at Fornebu hunting Blue Tits!

I can also start my countdown to my annual autumn Værøy trip – 4 DAYS TO GO J

As usual when guiding I had my camera in my bag and was not focused on pictures but did manage to record some of the highlights

Great Grey Shrike (varlser)

male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) doing an impression of a hummingbird

a late(ish) Greenshank (gluttsnipe).

Friday, 15 September 2017

Water Rail

Even though I did not witness a large raptor movement yesterday there were birds on the move further south in Østfold close to the border with Sweden. Today’s weather was raptor friendly with sun, blue skies, a light northerly wind and a few nice fluffy clouds. I therefore thought it would be worth a trip to the Hellesjøvannet area. There were lots of Common Buzzards in evidence today, mostly perched feeding birds but also a few thermalling although none gave any real sign of being on migration. A single juvenile Honey Buzzard and a couple of Rough-legged Buzzards were migrating though and seeing all three buzzards in a day is I am sure a first for me. Despite this though it was far from a big day and the only other raptors I had were 3 Sparrowhawks and a single Kestrel.

Hellesjøvannet did give me some quality birding though. I had found a good sitting position to scan for raptors and from the nearby reedbed I could hear calling Water Rails (were at last 4 birds and probably a family). The edge of the reedbed went over into grassy vegetation and was bathed in sun and at least one of the rails liked this and showed really well (for a Water Rail that is). I fired off hundreds of photos but amazingly enough not a single one shows the whole bird unimpeded by either vegetation or shadows. Nice bird though.

I finished the day looking for the Taiga Beans. One of the tagged birds which had gone radio silent for a few weeks suddenly transmitted on the 13th from the breeding areas. It sent many plots that day and then went silent again before phoning home last night to say it was on the Glomma in Akershus. I wanted to find out how many birds were now on site and hopefully read some new collars. I found the birds on the river and counted 136 birds but distance was too great for any collars to be read. 136 is a lower autumn max count than I have had before so I hope there are still birds to arrive. The birds were disturbed by a boat on the river and flew up as one flock. They subsequently split into smaller flocks though and headed in different directions which is unusual and probably a result of smaller flocks only recently having come together and not settled into a common mindset. 

spot the Water Rail (vannrikse)

Water Rails are adapted for a life in the reedbed and are very thin birds

The Beans along the bank and some Canada Geese further out on the river

after taking off they headed SWW 

before heading north

this shows roughly the route I observed the birds taking. They split into at least three groups when they reached the northernmost point with I believe one group heading north to where there was a plot at 16:00. Two other groups (of 41 and 21) headed south again before turning round and heading north (before I lost sight of them) and I expect they joined up again at the 1600 plot which is the peat bog at Flakstadmåsan.