BIRD GUIDING AROUND OSLO

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011, the year that (nearly) was

2011 is drawing to a close so I thought it would be good to review my birding year. I focused this year on my Norwegian year list and also mopping up some of the ”easy” species I had yet to see. I finished with a year list of 244 species compared to 201 last year so there was no doubt a vast improvement. I had 14 Norwegian ticks taking me to 264 species of which 7 were also Lifers taking my Western Palearctic List to 552:
Three-toed Woodpecker (Tretåspett) 21.11.2011 Sørkedalen  Lifer
Mediterranean Gull( Svartehavsmåke) 05.10.2011 Fornebu
 Richard’s Pipit (Tartarpiplerke) 28.09.2011 Fornebu
Black-tailed Godwit (Svarthalespove) 23.08.2011 Presterødkilen, Vestfold
Ruddy Shelduck (Rustand) 08.08.2011 Ilene, Vestfold
Surf Scoter (Brilleand) 08.08.2011 Presterødkilen, Vestfold
Nightjar (Nattravn) 09.06.2011 Østre Nes, Akershus
Blyth’s Reed Warbler (Busksanger) 05.06.2011 Stilla, Akershus Lifer
Siberian Tit (Lappmeis) 30.05.2011 Pasvik Lifer
Pine Grosbeak (Konglebit) 30.05.2011 Pasvik  Lifer
Steller’s Eider (Stellerand) 28.05.2011 Vadsø Lifer
Gyr Falcon (Jaktfalk) 27.05.2011 Finnmark  Lifer
Lesser White-fronted Goose (Dverggås) 26.05.2011 Valdak Lifer
Hoopoe (Hærfugl) 12.05.2011 Kurefjorden

The trip to Finnmark in May with Per Christian was the undoubted highlight of the year and also one of my best birding trips ever. The abundance of seabirds in the autumn over a period of a couple of months also meant that the normally quiet late autumn/early winter period was very exciting. I found a single national rarity in the form of a Mediterranean Gull and quite a few local rarities so was happy with my own efforts.
I did miss some pretty easy species though: no Sanderling, Iceland Gull, White-billed Diver, Brent Goose or Yellow-browed Warbler to name just a few.
My photography skills improved during the year and I permit myself to repeat some of my favourite pictures from 2011:
Hawk Owl

Pine Grosbeak

Siberian Tit

Spotted Crake

Mediterranean Gull

Great Grey Owl

Pomarine Skua

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

15 minutes too late

Time to take the parents back to Rygge airport and a safe flight home and also an opportunity for another go at seawatching this time from Brentetangen. I had pulled out of the airport car park for the 15minute drive there when the Bird Alert went... Ivory Gull Brentetangen!! The foot went a little closer to the floor and then the Alert went again.. Pom Skua Brentetangen. Obviously my choice of birding venue for the day was a good one but would the birds still be there when I arrived? Well, by the time I got there which was around 10am (so only an hour after dawn) the gull and skua were long gone on their way south. There were 3 other birders present and I gave it a go with them for a little over an hour but obviously the action was best very early on. Best bird whilst I was there was an adult Great Skua heading south plus a steady stream of Kittiwakes and the odd Fulmar. On the way back to Oslo I stopped to look for an Iceland Gull that was found yesterday near Drøbak but without luck so was a bit gutted to find out it had been seen half an hour after I left.
Oh I di have one other good bird today..a Great Grey Shrike in Vestby. Probably a bird I have already seen a couple of times earlier in the autumn it was good to see that it is still hanging on.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Over xmas the Med Gull has been refound in Oslo and would appear to be a different bird to that in October which had a damaged primary feather not shown by the current bird. I haven't been to look for it yet but will definitely go for it in the new year. Also today another showy Great Grey Owl was discovered to the south west of Oslo and will also merit a new years visit if still present. Last night saw severe storms hitting northern and western parts of Norway and we also had strong winds in Oslo. I therefore decided on a dawn (9am) visit to Fornebu with the hope of some seabirds. Unfortunately the winds had died down and there was little to see although 5 Kittiwakes were clearly storm blown. Down the Swedish coast a Ross's Gull had been found which gives continued hope of something special around Oslo. Temperatures have been as high as 10C with of course no snow which is a huge contrast to last year when it was around -15C and around a metre of snow. I wonder whether we will have a proper winter.

Friday, 23 December 2011

some small compensation

Well the day may not have given me Norway's largest owl but it did produce the smallest and a long awaited year tick.
Whilst out delivering xmas cards I got lost and lo and behold found myself driving around Maridalen. Well every cloud has a silver lining and for me it came in the form of a Pygmy Owl sitting on top of a spruce right by the road. As I wasn't supposed to be birding I didn't have the camera with me but managed to take these pictures with the iphone to record my 244th species of the year.
The dot in the middle is a Pygmy Owl honestly

Iphone at full zoom

Very few birds at the feeders probably because the warm(ish) weather is allowing them to find food in the forests but a smattering of tits, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Jay and GS Woodpecker.

I can't believe you haven't seen an Eagle Owl


After bagging Three-toed Woodpecker a few weeks ago my “I can’t believe you live in Norway and haven’t seen it” List is now headed by Eagle Owl.
Yesterday evening one was seen and photographed just after 5pm right in the middle of Oslo. I then got a text at 11.30pm telling me it was apparently still sitting in the same tree! Well I had already brushed my teeth and had indulged in some Christmas cheer so was not willing or able to jump in the car for the 10 minute drive. I was therefore a little jealous to find out this morning that the sender of the text had been done just that and had been able to admire the bird just after midnight and apparently see it quite well despite the darkness.
I had to give it a go this morning so was down there at 0930 when it was still quite murky but unfortunately I could not find the bird despite searching the area for an hour. An Eagle Owl was reported downtown about a month ago so it is pretty likely that a bird that has taken up residence and presumably is finding enough rats, crows and pigeons to eat. Hopefully it will give itself up again soon...
A flock of 20 Waxwings flying around Karl Johans Gate (Oslo main shopping street) was a slight reward for my troubles.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Kurefjorden

As the good son I offered to pick my parents up from the airport. That they were flying into Rygge which is close to Kurefjorden of course had nothing to do with it! But if the chance arises.... Leaving nice and early in case there was bad traffic I suddenly found i had a couple of hours to fill with... birding. A quick stop at Brentetangen revealed a fairly calm sea and no movement of birds. Never-the-less 8 Kittiwakes were feeding offshore and a handful of Guillemots, Razorbills, Common Scoters amd Red-breasted Mergansers sat on the sea. Moving on to Kurefjorden it was already grtting dark at 1430. There were few birds to see and ice had formed around the edges of the inner fjord. There were still 3 Slavonian Grebes and 14 Great Crested Grebes managing to find food and 9 Velvet Scoter, 3 Common Scoter, 2 Guillemots, 20 R-b Mergansers and 100 or so Goldeneyes. Unfortunately no raptors or shrikes to see today.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Parking

I managed to persuade Mrs.Oslo Birder that a walk around Frogner Park would make a good break from xmas shopping. Well 30 minutes of standing in the cold was enough for both of us and gave no sign of rare gulls. A single adult Black-headed Gull gave some hope but otherwise just 2 Common Gulls amongst 40 or so Herring Gulls. Four Tufted Ducks today (a 100% increase on yesterday) shows there is some movement though.
Looking at the gulls I found 2 colour ringed birds which I was able to find out history on from this website
Herring Gull
Here is adult Herring Gull J2808 who was ringed at the same site as a 1K on 14.10.06 and has been seen reported regularly but always at the same location.

Next up was a ringed adult Common Gull JYAO who was ringed also at Frogner Park as an adult on 040210 and been reported a few times since but always at the same site.

Common Gull
I also spent some time looking at the Herring Gulls which is not normally one of my favoured aspects of birding but an assumed hybrid 1k Herring x Glaucous Gull was reported here yesterday so I forced myself! Here are a 1K and a 2K:
2K Herring Gull - note the grey mantle feathers

1K Herring Gull

There was also this adult Herring Gull which (for me at least) showed an usual patterning of dark feathers on the head.


Finally I turned the camera at the Tufted Ducks and managed this OK shot
male Tufted Duck

Monday, 19 December 2011

Gull dip

Yesterday afternoon a Mediterranean Gull turned up in Frogner Park which is Oslo's main park and was docu. photoed by one lucky observer. Assuming it is the same bird from October (given their scarcity this must be more likely than it being a new bird) then I wonder what it has been doing for the last 2 months? Possibly it has been hanging around parks all the time avoiding birders?
Just after 9am this morning I was at Frognerpark with the company of 3 others. It was cold (about -5C) and the two ponds were about 90% frozen. Very few gulls to see though with just a few overflying Herring and a couple of Common Gulls. I have a theory that there are more gulls here at weekends when the fish quay on the fjord is not active and there were certainly far fewer gulls today than were reported yesterday afternoon. I could only stay 45 minutes and the gull didn't turn up in that time and was not seen later in the day either. I'm sure it will turn up though over xmas.
There were a few other birds to see though confirming that Frogner Park is a prime (all is relative) Oslo winter birding localilty. Amongst the 60 or so Mallards was a female Teal, 2 Tufted Ducks and 2 Goldeneye. Overhead a  Sparrowhawk, Nutcracker and in the trees 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 40 Siskin and 8 Bullfinches.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Weekend lull

As is usual for me at the weekend there hasn't been time for birding due to family commitments but today i squeezed in 4 minutes at Fornebu (i know the precise time because my daughter counted the seconds!). The sea was very calm and it was clear that pretty much all of the storm blown birds have left. Just a single young Kittiwake was to be seen alongside a handfull of Razorbills. A single Pom Skua was seen by others but not by me - i guess this may hang around if it can find enough food although with the Kittiwakes having left i suspect it will struggle. Highlight from the kitchen window was a pair of Greenfinches on the feeders.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Whooper Swans in Maridalen

An inch or so of snow this morning gave a reminder that it is December and also a hope that we will have a white christmas. The winds have now switched to northerlies so not particularly conducive to good birding. I managed a lightening tour of Maridalen today (my first in a long while) with a vague hope of a lingering storm blown Kittiwake to add to my site list but I really should have been looking a couple of days ago. On the water a small group of Herring Gulls, 5 Goldeneye and best of all a pair of Whooper Swans. Few passerines were evident but a single Yellowhammer flew over and a flock of 20 Greenfinches were managing to find food.
I guess that garden birding will feature more over the next couple of months and it will be interesting to see if the current Robin hangs around. Very little else in the garden though, just the usual House and Tree Sparrows, Blue and Great Tits and a single Blackbird today.
The Great Grey Owl is still present down on Hvaler - with luck it will hang around into January and will merit itself another visit.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

There’s always time for another…

..seawatch! Today myself and Rune Z decided on a tour of Vestfold.  Due to a rather shortened day the tour became more of a single destination with a couple of stops on the way. Driving down the E18 we had an obligatory Great Grey Shrike (my 20th sighting this autumn) by the road just north of the turning to Horten. We made a detour to Horten as  I persuaded Rune that a little seawatch from Møringa would be a good idea. Even though there was practically no wind there would surely still be birds left over from the last few days (and who knows maybe I would still have a chance for Leach’s..).
Arriving at Møringa we immediately saw some Oystercatchers (6 in total) which must be the first I’ve seen for a couple of months and looking out to sea began to see Kittiwakes in all directions with at least 100 being counted. Most were just feeding but a few were also heading south back to open sea. A handful of Fulmars with most going south but one also feeding close inshore. Then it started to get interesting. I picked up a skua sitting on the water at some distance feeding on a dead Kittiwake with a Great Black-backed Gull in close attendance. My first thoughts turned to Pomarine but I was hesitant because it looked pretty large and fairly uniform in colour. I needed to wait for it to flap its wings which it did when the gull came too close and there were big white flashes on the upper and under wings – an immature Great Skua! Rune then decided to get in on the act and found another imm. Great Skua feeding on a (presumed) Kittiwake with its size and wing flashes very evident even though it was at quite a range. We then noticed another, smaller, skua on the water nearby which took off and chased the Kittiwakes – an immature Pomarine Skua (a fairly light bird) with its double white underwing flash and pale rump being very visible. Quite a skuafest!

Aware of the time we had to leave after only 45 minutes although I felt sure that a whole day’s seawatching would have paid dividends.
Our destination for the day was Moutmarka at the end of Tjøme. We were hoping that there might be some storm driven birds here (Grey Phalarope or maybe a large diver) and a hope of finding Water Pipit. The wind was really blowing when we got out of the car (see picture below) which made viewing a bit difficult but we put some effort in.
Unfortunately there was nothing particularly interesting to see. We went through the Rock Pipit flock but found only 16 Rock and 3 Meadow Pipits although for this time of year this was a reasonable sighting. It was very difficult to make anything out on the sea but there were 20 or so Kittiwakes and a couple of Little Auks of note.
With time now against us we headed back towards Oslo with a quick stop at Rosanes. This is home to a long staying Black Duck. On our first scan of the area (a marina!) we saw it sitting with 15 Mallards on a jetty. On the assumption that they were waiting for some bread I headed briskly towards them with camera in hand (ignoring Rune’s requests to not be “so offensive”). Well, I should have been less offensive because they all jumped into the water and headed away. I managed a couple of very poor shots of the Black Duck but rued my haste.
Male Black Duck (right) with Mallard
Male Black Duck in flight
I have some nagging doubts about the purity of this bird as I can detect green on the head and on a previous trip thought I saw a hint of a white neck collar â la Mallard but it has been officially accepted as a pure Black Duck (with I believe the blessing of American experts)
Otherwise here a fine female Smew, a pair of Goosander, 14 Teal and a couple of Kittiwakes.

On the way home the anticipated message came through... Stormsvale (Leach’s Petrel) seen going south on the other side of the fjord from Møringa. Can’t win them all!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Pomtastic

The winds were just right today and there was little rain forecast and temperatures were around 5C. In other words prefect for yet another seawatch (and probably the last of the year). I wasn't able to get out to Rolftstangen, Fornebu until 11am by which time I had received a message of a Pomarine Skua there. Fortunately it was still visible when I arrived and remained so until 3pm when I left. It had killed a Common Gull which it regularly returned to feed on just 20m away from where we were standing and gave outstanding views - very exciting stuff. The bird was definitely immature although I am not sure whether it was juvenile (1K) as it had noticeably longer central tail feathers which may be a sign of it being a year older. We also had another Pom Skua at some distance which brought down a gull (possibly a Herring Gull) which it sat on and appeared to succesfully kill and then feed on.
Otherwise there were very good numbers of Kittiwakes with at least 50 and many coming very close and also at least 10 Fulmars which also frequently gave excellent views. I have still to take a decent picture of a Fulmar and today was no exception. I got frame filling views but could not get the exposure right - something to keep practicing. One Fulmar was also noticeably dark but would probably be classified as an intermediate morph rather than a dark morph.
Few auks to see although we did have Razorbill, Guillemot and Little Auk. No Black-headed Gulls and very few Common Gulls remaining but a single immature Little Gull was a nice find.
Rarest bird of the day (although not highlight which definitely belongs to the Pom Skua) was a Grey Phalarope which I saw but unfortunately so briefly that my 2 fellow observers did not get on to it. The bird was in flight on the Bygdøy side of the fjord at Huk and landed which was when I lost it. The identification as a phalarope was easy enough but the specific identification as Grey was based on time of the year (Red-necked's being unheard of so late).
Later in the day a probable Leach's Petrel was also called by another observer but was lost from view. This is the only seabird that I have missed in the Oslo fjord this autumn and it now feels like I have run out of opportunities but I can be happy with everything else I've seen.
Pomarine Skua



Pomarine Skua with Common Gull - lunch!




A very short video of the skua tucking into lunch. You can see it having to flap its wings to deal with the wind.
video
Fulmar without the colours

Fulmar not quite in focus


Adult Kittiwake

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Clubbing

This evening was the christmas members meeting for NOFOA (local bird club). After I gave a well received presentation on the birding highlights for 2011 (do need to learn the norwegian name for Serin though!) it was time for the mystery bird competition. With a score of 20/22 I was joint winner but feel there was room for some improvement. I need to practice on the identification features of half submerged diving ducks ;-)

I'll never know...

It really blew today and there were loads of birds to see... or at least I believe so. I was housebound with an out of sorts daughter and it seems like no one else braved the elements or had the opportunity to seawatch today.
Tomorrow though we will find something. Feas/Zinos Petrel has been seen off the Swedish coast and that is only a few hundred kilometres as the Pterodrama flies.....

Monday, 12 December 2011

More to see

Seawatching from Krokstrand with Fulmar fly-by
Time for some birding again today although I was lucky to get there and back in one piece. The thermometer was a couple of degrees on the red side of freezing and rain was falling on snow covered roads resulting in atrocious conditions on smaller country roads. Oslo airport was also closed for 4 hours due to the runway being too icy which given how prepared they are for "weather" means it was pretty extreme today.

Anyway I survived and the destination was yet again Krokstrand for a spell of seawatching. Strong winds have been blowing from the south resulting in good numbers of seabirds further down on the Swedish west coast so chances were high for something good (it also does help to be optimistic). I started watching at 1015 and immediately picked up both Kittiwake and Fulmar which are the indicator birds for a good seawatch so I felt positive for a good day. Completing my second sweep of the sea I picked up a large diver heading south at moderate range. Looking goose sized with big feet dangling behind and a large blue grey dagger for a bill it was clearly a Great Northern Diver and my second for the year. I sent out a message on the bird alert system and got a message from Per G that he was on his way down aswell so I would have some company.
The Kittiwakes and Fulmars continued to show and peering into the gloom further south there was clearly good numbers Kittiwakes flying around the fjord. There was little else though with very few auks or duck to liven things up. The days possible highlight though didn't let itself be identified. I picked up another large diver, this time heading north but unfortunately on the other side of the fjord. Its enormous size was clear as was its very pale (almost brown) plumage but it crash landed into the sea before I could study the bill and I never picked it up on the water. The pale colour though pointed very much towards it being a 1K White-billed Diver.
Another unidentified bird was a small passerine that flew south about 300m from the shore only 1 metre from the waves. My thoughts strayed towards Rock Pipit but it was impossible to be sure.
Per arrived around noon and we had 45 minutes together before I had to leave. During this time Kittiwakes started heading north into the fjord and went past at great speed. Of about 70 birds I had in total only 4 were 1K's of which one had me calling probable Sabine's Gull before Per calmed me down! 2 Red-throated Divers heading south was a late record.

Just as things were starting to warm up though I had to leave Per to it on his own. As I drove home the inevitable message came in but luckly it was only of a Pomarine Skua of which Per had 2 plus another 100 Kittiwakes (a very good count in these parts). The winds are forecast to blow up again tomorrow along with a lot of rain but I think I'll have to give it another go.

Friday, 9 December 2011

No owl today

I haven't had a chance to look for the reported owl but it has been looked for by others without success. From the description that has come through to me it doesn't sound right for a Snowy Owl as it was flushed from a tree but on the assumption that it was a large owl sp I wonder if it could have been a Great Grey or Ural. Hopefully it will show again.
The weather now is terrible and with rain on top of snow but an inland Ivory Gull in Sweden a couple of hours over the border raises hopes!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

And then the Snow(y) came

A good 15cm of snow fell last night and winter is now truly with us with minus temperatures throughout the day (although Friday is forecast to have temperatures of +2C and loads of rain which will most likely leave the whole of Oslo resembling an ice rink).
No birds to report from my part but a very interesting second hand report of a Snowy Owl seen by a "layman" out walking his dog will need checking out tomorrow as it is only 20 minutes drive from the house.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Great Grey Owl

I awoke with excitement today as I had agreed last night to make the trip for the Great Grey Owl in the company of Kjetil Johannessen. We punctuated the 2 hour drive to Hvaler with one stop and some decent drive-by birding. The drive-by birding consisted of 2 Great Grey Shrikes plus a third on the return journey and a Carrion (as opposed to Hooded) Crow which we saw fly over the road at a regular site for this rare Norwegian bird. The stop was at the lake of Skinnerflo where we had a good selection of geese with 5 Tundra Bean, 26 Taiga Bean, 3 Pink-footed, 3 Greylag, 80 odd Canada and a Canada x Greylag Hybrid plus 90 odd Teal and a similar number of Mallard. Strangely not a single diving cuck and the only swans were 3 Mute. At one time I had the 2 Bean sub-species plus Pink-footed in the same 'scope view. The structural differences of Tundra Bean were very apparent when seen in direct comparison with the larger, longer necked Taiga.
Enough digresion though, today was about one bird and one bird only: Great Grey Owl. I have seen one bird very well previously in 2009 plus a bird we glimpsed on our Finnmark trip this May which was flying on the Russian side of the border. It is a majestic bird and well worth travelling to see. We arrived on site at 1030 to the news that the bird had been seen well just after 9 but not since. Well time to start looking. There were 10 of us there but the majority seemed happy to stand and chat on the assumption that the bird would return to hunt over its favoured meadow. I decided to put in a bit more effort but eventually returned to where the others were standing. After a few minutes at 11.50 I saw a movement in the trees on the other side of the meadow and there it was perched looking at us! After a couple of pats on the back we were all enjoying great views and were slowly able to approach the bird to within about 30 metres (on Sunday it had sat 7m from the road and was oblivious to the big lens being pointed at it).
In poor light these were the best photos I managed (heavily cropped) but the video has come out a bit better.






video

A stop at Kurefjorden on the way back revealed that the Scaup flock had increased to 30 with now 2 adult males amongst them.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Foreign climes

Oslobird became Amsterdam (non)Birder this weekend so little for me to report. In Amsterdam the crows were black rather than the hooded variant I am used to in norway and Ring-necked Parakeets screeched above the streets. Otherwise the birdlife was pretty much the same as Oslo.

Whilst I was away it seems that most of the local birders got to grips with Leach's Petrel with a couple of birds being seen and yesterday news came through of a Great Grey Owl that has been present for a week a couple of hours drive from Oslo and is showing very well....I think I know what I will be doing tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

No birding today....

Today was a day when I didn't really have any time for birding as I had a number of meetings during the day but when I arranged the meetings earlier in the week that was fine as today was not supposed to have any strong winds and therefore be of no particular birding value.
Well that turned out to be a poor decision as the strongest winds of the week blew today. A quick recheck of my schedule showed that I could fit in 20 minutes seawatching from Fornebu in the morning. From the warmth of the car with very strong winds blowing outside and rain falling I picked up 3 Fulmars arching majestically over the fjord and 2 Kittiwakes passing close in. There were also 16 Little Auks past in the short time I watched plus a few Guillemots and Razorbills. It all looked very promising and the winds were still getting stronger but time was pressing and I had to get on.
At 14.29 the message I had been fearing came through: Leach's Petrel close in off Fornebu seen by, of course, Per G. Within 15 minutes I had wrapped up the meeting and was hot footing it down to Fornebu. Got there at 1510 but of course the petrel was gone and not to be seen again. However I stayed until dark at 1600 and was rewarded by very good views of a young Pomarine Skua that flew past very close to land, an adult Gannet (my first record in the county I think) that flew off over land after a circuit of the fjord, only one Fulmar and 2 Little Gulls including one 1K that flew over the beach in front of us in the twilight. So for a day when I didn't have any time for birding it turned out OK but I would have loved to see the Leach's.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Less sea to see and more birds to see

I definitely deserve points (birds) for trying and today I got some reward. After heavy overnight winds I was on station at Krokstrand at 0845 just 15 minutes after it became light to see anything. Winds were still moderate and the light and viewing conditions were excellent so I felt that yes this could be a good day. Auks were immediately obvious with Little Auks and undetermined Guillemots/Razorbills heading in both directions but mostly south.
The first really good bird took only 10 minutes to get itself in the notebook. A young skua was picked up going south on the other side of the fjord but slowly made its way towards my side and sat on the sea a few times. It was a dark, almost black bird with nice double whhite flashes on the underwing, a barrel chest and strong two-toned bill - in other words a dark phase 1K Pomarine Skua. Whilst watching this I also noted Fulmar and Kittiwake. Things then calmed down for a bit but there was always good numbers of Little Auks and especially Common Gulls moving south. The next bit of excitment came in the form of a 1K Little Gull making its way slowly south and then not long after this came the absolute highlight but also most frustrating bird of the day. I always start my scan looking at the closest shore before scanning to the left over the water and on this scan I picked up a Grey Phalarope at less than 100m range. I immediately saw what I needed to confirm the ID with the thick bill confirming it wasn't Red-necked (however small the liklihood of that would be so late in the year) and then decided to run to the end of the small breakwater with camera raised in the hope of getting a fantastic point blank picture. Well 15 seconds later I was in place but where was the bird? I just couldn't locate it. I assume it had landed as it had been flying slowly but I couldn't see it. How frustrating!! (45 minutes later Ketil Knudsen had joined my and he briefly glimpsed a Grey Phalarope flying around the corner from where I had seen it so chances are it was the same bird that had landed and remained invisible to me).
After this excitement there was another Little Gull and more Kittiwakes and Fulmarts. I gave up at 1230 by which time I had racked up 75 Little Auks, 8 Fulmars, 6 Kittiwakes, 68 Common Gulls, 42 Guillemots/Razorbills the majority of which were most likely Guillemots, 17 Commn Scoter and 6 Velvet Scoter.
One of my hopes for the day had been Leaches Petrel and I got news later in the day that one had been seen going south just a few kilometres north of me. Unfortunately I got the news 4 hours after the bird was seen so it had presumably slipped past unoticed.
Fulmar

Fulmar

Kittiwake


I decided on a quick trip with Ketil to Kurefjorden to see if I could see Red-necked Grebe as one had been reported there since my visit last week. Well no red necks (on the water at least) but 3 Slavonian Grebes, 14 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Little Auks (looking very our of place), a Great Grey Shrike (I've now lost count!), a flock of 12 female Scaup, a calling Chiffchaff, Black Woodpecker and a few Common & Velvet Scoters.



Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A tasty morsel

The strong winds from the south continue so seawatching was again on the cards for today this time from Krokstrand. I was joined by Per Gylseth whose company allowed me to persevere longer than I would otherwise (but also probably longer than was necessary!).
At times there was enough movement of birds that it felt worthwhile and the hope of something rare was there but there were also long periods of nothing more than white capped waves, drizzle and mist.
Totals were 30 Little Auks many of which came very close to land, 2 of which actually few over our heads and 3 of which became a tasty meal for Great Black-backed Gulls. The auks didn't seem to realise the threat the gulls posed as I witnessed one land next to a gull (which was the only other bird to be seen at that time) and then promptly be pounced upon.
9 Kittiwakes flew south although saw only one flying north, 2 Fulmar flew north and one south and there was a scattering of Guillemots and Razorbills. 34 Common Scoter were offshore in a few small groups alongside 3 Velvet Scoters.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was a flock of 30 Wood Pigeons I saw in a field close by the seawatching location - this is a late record especially for such a large flock.

Off the southern tip of Norway today 10,000 Little Auks were counted and the observers noted that 100 were eaten (the predators noted as being GB-b Gulls, Glaucous Gull,  Peregrine and Gannet). Our 30 with 3 falling victim to GB-b Gulls feels rather insignifcant in comparison!




Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lots of sea and a few birds to see

Ever the optimists Per Christian and I were at Hulvik at 0820 before it was even truly light. The wind was strong and from the SW as predicted and we knew some good birds had been not too fat to the south yesterday so our hopes were high. As the light improved we were however disappointed to see very little other than waves. The first hour was in fact very quiet with 9 Velvet Scoters and a few Little Auks the only excitement. Then at 0920 we had a really good bird with a monster of a Great Northern Diver heading south at reasonably close range. Unfortunately we picked it up a bit late so couldn’t enjoy this local major rarity as much as we would have liked but it gave us enough energy to keep going. The volume of birds picked up a bit after this with a total of 3 Kittiwakes and another 20 or so Little Auks most of which were heading south although a few also went the other way.
We were sea watching from under the cover of a small pine tree which hosted 3 Goldcrests for much of our vigil. At one stage I had a bird less than a metre over my head and was just centimetres away from being able to grab it with my hand. I was able to take some passable pictures of these little gems although the bad light took some shine off the final result.


Goldcrest



Friday, 25 November 2011

Lots of sea to see you see

Strongish winds were again forecast for today, although not as strong as the near hurricane hitting the west coast of Norway, so of course I had to stare out to sea again. I chose the inner Oslo fjord from Fornebu this time (no point in travelling a long way to most likely just look at waves) and indeed there was quite a lot of sea to see. Luckily there were three others who had the same thought as me so an enjoyable time was had birds or no birds. There were some birds out there and a single immature Kittiwake was at least a proper seabird and 2 Little Auks also looked like they may have recently arrived. Otherwise just 8 Razorbills alongside the usual suspects and 5 Waxwings dropped in and allowed me to snap off one picture before heading off again.
Waxwings

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Quite a day

Well the strong winds never really happened and Rune Z and I spent only 45 minutes at Krokstrand this morning with 8 Common Scoter, 1 Velvet Scoter, a couple of unidentified auks and 40 Common Gulls being pretty much it. Not a great start to the day but you only find birds if you go looking so we sat course for Kurefjorden. Arriving in the Kurefjord area a Common Buzzard flew low over the road which is a good record so late in the area. So started we to drive towards the bird tower and when we could see over the fjord we stopped to scan with the scopes. As I got out of the car I thought I had the Buzzard again but hang on, wasn’t this bird a bit too large and wasn’t that plumage more like an immature Golden Eagle?! Indeed it was and it gave great views as it flew over us and then headed off leisurely to the other side of the fjord. Unfortunately the camera was in the back of the car and by the time I got it out the bird was flying away. The resulting picture was however a touch better than the effort from Fornebu.
Golden Eagle
                            
After getting over the excitement of the eagle we started scanning the water and picked up a Great Grey Shrike perched on a fence post on the water’s edge (my 14th of the autumn!). On the water were scattered grebes and ducks. In total 10 Slavonian Grebes and 20 Great Crested Grebes. Also a probable Red-necked Grebe at great distance but we couldn’t clinch the ID due to the distance and bad light. 100+ Goldeneyes, a handful of Eider and Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Common and 2 Velver Scoters. As we scanned from the bird tower I picked up another large raptor and this turned out to be a Rough-legged Buzzard which gave great if slightly distant views as it hunted over fields and frequently hovered. To round things off we had a calling Chiffchaff in the bushes although failed to see it.
We still had a couple of hours available to us so decided to head inland where a Ruddy Shelduck has been present a couple of days. Driving along we had a couple of groups of Whooper Swans by the road including one of 53 birds with a single Pink-footed Goose in the midst.
Arriving at Levernes near Rakkestad it was clearly a fantastic area for birds with a river valley with much farmland and damp fields and is presumably a great area on spring passage and for breeding birds. We couldn’t locate the Canada Goose flock that the shelduck has been associating with at first although did find a few Whooper Swans with a single Bean Goose (too distant to safely assign to race) and yet another Great Grey Shrike (taking me to 15 sightings at 10 different localities this autumn). Also a flock of 30 Bramblings and a calling Black Woodpecker. We  eventually located the geese distantly and chose to drive around to the other side of the valley to get better views. 190 Canada Geese were feeding on spilt corn in a field and amongst them was a colourful (if plastic?) female Ruddy Shelduck and a Pink-footed Goose. Also a goose that has been reported as a hybrid CanadaxBarnacle but all I could see was a Canada Goose with an abnormal amount of white on the face (size was same as Canada and all other plumage details looked the same as the Canada Geese it was associating with). Also around 80 Mallard here with a single Wigeon amongst them.
All in all a very good day with 3 species of raptor, shrikes, grebes, geese, a national rarity and good company.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Waxwings

Only incidental birding today. At Smestaddammen there were still 2 Wigeon alongside 80 Mallard and the family of 5 Mute Swans. The male was giving the three young a hard time and trying to drive them off the lake - there childhood is now over, time to fend for themselves.
Two flocks of Waxwings seen today, one of 50 birds and another of 15 with a male Sparrowhawk in fast pursuit.
Strong winds are forecast overnight so tomorrow I'll be doing some seawatching. There are even stronger winds forecast for Friday so there is a good chance something good will turn up in the next few days although it is starting to get a bit late. Maybe a Grey Phalarope of Leaches Petrel.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Little Gull

Time for a bit of birding today. I spent sometime at Fornebu searching for the Shag (a real local rarity) that was seen yesterday but failed on that score. However I did find an adult Little Gull which is a pretty good record this far up the fjord. The bird was at first sat on the sea and didn't look so healthy but later flew around a lot and then looked very perky showing off its smart white overwing and black underwing.
Otherwise 19 Razorbills including a flock of 13 and only 4 Guillemots indicating that many have either died or hopefully found there way out of the fjord. 34 Common Scoters and 4 Velvet Scoters were the best of the ducks and a well marked male Sparrowhawk briefly perched and showed itself off.


Then off to Sørkedalen where I had thought to go searching for woodpeckers again but the forest was covered in freezing fog so I lost my interest quite quickly. However the fields were under the fog so I tried for the Bean Geese that have been seen here and succeeded. Just a single bird present rather than the 10 seen on Saturday. This is quite a strange location for Bean Geese but the stubble field which has attracted them is presumably rich in split corn.
Taiga Bean Goose
This bird wasn't straightforward to assign to race but I believe that even though there is little orange on the bill that this is a Taiga (fabalis) Bean Goose based on the bill being long, no grinning patch  and narrow lower mandible plus there being some white around the bill.



Monday, 21 November 2011

It’s mine, it’s mine!


Having, on Saturday, received evidence via SMS of the continued existence of the mythical Three-toed Woodpecker I summoned my energies for one last attempt to see this bird. Destination was Sørkedalen where I had also searched for this species less than 2 weeks ago. Parking at Skansebakken car park I headed off into the forest armed with bins, camera and loudspeaker for the iphone – I was determined to be successful no matter what!
The forest definitely looks good with many large spruces and much dead wood but haven’t I thought the same many times before? A flock of 6 Long-tailed Tits was as always a nice sight but otherwise the forest was quiet. A few Bullfinches made their presence known and a Great Grey Shrike sat in a clearing (my 13th sighting this autumn) but neither sight nor sound of woodpeckers of any description. Out with the phone and loudspeaker and I played bursts of 3-toe call and drumming. After 3 km of walking (although only 1km from the car as the 3-toe flies) I played the recording and heard the sound of a bird flying towards me. Nothing to see at first but then YES!!! A THREE-TOED WOODPECKER. By the lack of yellow on the head this was a female although it did very briefly drum (according to BWP both sexes do drum). It was quite misty and dark so I didn’t manage any good photos but I was able to enjoy the bird for a couple of minutes before it flew off. It did call in response to provocation but otherwise was entirely silent with no tapping sounds heard as it fed. I am quite sure that I would not have been lucky without using sound provocation – no wonder I have not been lucky before. I will have to return in the spring to see if I can localise some drumming birds.
Three-toed Woodpecker







Long-tailed Tit


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Others have all the luck

Had an enjoyable although largely bird free day guiding Belgian, but living in Spain, birder Albert Savijn. First port of call was Mellomkollen for the grouse I had seen yesterday. Well, surprise surprise nothing to see or hear today. Two hours of trudging around the forest revealed a mixed tit flock and a calling Green Woodpecker.
Then off to Nordre Øyeren where we encountered thick fog. Upon checking my phone I saw I had a missed call and a message from Kjetil Johannessen. Whilst we were in Maridalen he had been in Sørkedalen (the next valley to the west) and had found a flock of 10 Bean Geese and also had been lucky enough to take the following picture of a bird he knew I needed (the picture is taken with his mobile of the display on the back of his camera):
A bird I never see but that others just stumble across.....

Well, at least I have a site to try out next week.
Due to the fog we saw very little at Øyeren although a flock of Common (Mealy) Redpolls was a new (sub)species for Bert. The 3 Common Scoter could just be made out through the fog and we flushed a Common Snipe.
With an hour of sunlight left we checked out Fornebu where a Kestrel, Red-throated Diver, Velvet Scoter and 9 Razorbills were the only birds of interest.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Hazel Grouse

A 3 and a half hour walk up to Mellomkollen was not exactly a bird rich experience but there was a sniff of quality. Temperatures were hovering around zero and there was a thick frost on the trees. On the way back it began to drizzle which made things very slippery under foot/wheel.
I had of course hoped for Three-toed Woodpecker but needless to say no joy although the area does look fantastic for them and there is a lot of evidence of woodpeckers but the only ones I saw were 2 Great Spotted.
The undoubted highlight was Hazel Grouse. I flushed one bird which gave me a second long glimpse then heard a bird singing which then responded to me playing the call on my phone but remained invisible. On the way back I went off track alongside a stream where there was a good mixture of decidous and spruce trees.  Here I flushed 2 birds which were feeding in trees above me. They landed not too far away but were obscured although one did allow half decent views and this cr*ppy picture.
Hazel Grouse

Then when I was leaving another bird flew out of the tree right above me! Oh well, better luck next time.
I flushed 3 three Black Grouse but only glimpsed shadows and heard their (noisy) wingbeats.
Passerines were extremely scarce with a handful of Blue, Willow and Coal Tits, Treecreeper and Goldcrest.