Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Øygarden 15 February 2017 - A new kind of guiding

Weather better than forecast (as is often the case out here at the coast). Basically calm and more or less sunny at first going over to more or less cloudy. Very little rain and nothing like as much wind as forecast either,

Normally I guide birders. Today, for the first time,  it was photography that was the aim of the game - and we were not disappointed. Within the first hour close range pictures had been taken of an Otter dragging a large lumpsucker rognkjeks ashore. This has long been my "dream shot" but as I was guiding my camera was in my rucksack and there was not the opportunity to take pictures myself.

During the day we had a minimum of 10 White-tailed Eagles havørn, a couple of which also were obliging for the camera. Other birds that performed for the camera included some Common Crossbill grankorsnebb, Merganser siland and Heron gråhegre,

Bird of the day was seen after dark as I took my compost out and filled up the bird feeders - a couple of "grey geese" flew up from the sea in front of the house. They were not Greylags or Pinkfeet, based on the call I'd guess Bean Goose sædgås.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Øygarden 14 February - I love SEAPOP

Indescribable weather! Calm and sunny - in other words perfect conditions for messing around in boats- which is just as well as today was the annual SEAPOP count - in other words counting seabirds from a small boat.

Most of this was done in Øygarden but with a brief foray into the neighbouring district of Fjell.

Black Guillemot teist

A common sight today - mixed flock of Cormorants storskarv and Shag toppskarv resting on the islands

Bachekor boys - an almost all male group of Eiders ærfugl. The lone female was getting rather a lot of attention....

Male Eider ærfugl

Male Long-tailed Duck havelle

....with a more typical shot - not easy trying to take pictures of moving birds from a moving boat

Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt - this flock was of around 70 birds

Shags toppskarv - adult on the left, presumed 2cy bird on the right

Conditions were great even if the numbers of most of the seaduck were not. NO Velvet Scoter sjøorre seen and only TWO Common Scoter svartand seen from the boat. Numbers of Long-tailed Duck havelle and Eider ærfugl also seemed down on usual. Although I don't have the data from previous years I am pretty sure gull numbers were also much reduced compared to normal and with very few immatures.

However, Black Guillemot teist, White-tailed Eagle havørn and Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt were around normal.

Dipper at dawn

Other stuff today included a Dipper fossekall near Alvheim and the first Black Guillemot teist I've seen from the terrace this year.

I also saw a distant flock of four grey geese (quite possibly Bean) flying north and apparently going down but I didn't see them on my way home.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Herdlevær 13 February 2017 - Winter weather at its best

Not a breath of wind and sunny. Just cracking!

Just fantastic to be out and about today in the calm and sunny conditions. I took a walk around Herdlevær where there were just the usual suspects with a single Common Snipe enkeltbekkasin, a Black Guillemot teist, Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke among the birds seen. The species list in no way reflects what a great walk this was today.

Driving past Breivik on the way home I picked up another Snipe enkeltbekkasin and a flock of thrushes feeding in one of the fields numbered around 20 Fieldfare gråtrost with at least five Redwing rødvingetrost.

A Water Rail vannrikse at Tjeldstø was the first of the year for me but given the conditions (very frozen) hardly a surprise. The weird thing is that although most freshwater is frozen there were quite a lot of insects hatching in the sun (especially near any water that isn't frozen) and I even saw a bee today!!

Back at the house a Little Auk alkekonge fed actively and one sweep with the scope from the terrace produced five White-tailed Eagles havørn.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Nautnes / Skogsøy 12 February 2017 - Spring!

Glorious calm and sunny weather,

It felt too warm too have frost but all freshwater very much frozen.

The first Lapwing vipe of the year flew over the house as I took my first cup of coffee on the terrace. More snowdrops now flowering in my garden and the first crocus in flower just down the road. With Robin rødstrupe and various other species in song it really felt like spring today!

I did a quick trip to Skogsøy today - nothing out of the ordinary but unsurprisingly some Whoopers sangsvane now present there (a popular place with this species when freshwater freezes). Also a Curlew storspove and small numbers of various duck.

Common Crossbill grankorsnebb still very widespread - this one was singing

I took my youngest skating in the afternoon - something that produced the first local Great Spotted Woodpecker flaggspett of the year.

As the light went an Otter turned up on the shore in front of the house.,..

Otter with fish - probably short-spined sea scorpion

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Hjelme Vest 11 February 2017 - Best weather of the year so far?

Very springlike today, calm and sunny with more snowdrops now flowering in the garden (first was out a couple of weeks ago), Robin rødstrupe singing and so on.

Took a stroll at Hjelme Vest in cracking weather - some species "missing" but at least 60 Long-tailed Duck havelle, 12 Common Scoter svartand, at least 5 Black Guillemot teist, 5 White-tailed Eagle havørn, a flock of four Curlew storspove, 21 Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt and a bunch of other stuff present.

At Nautnes a couple of Sparrowhawk spurvehauk, a Curlew storspove feeding on the shore.

A Dipper fossekall showed up at Alvheim yesterday evening as it got dark.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hjelme Vest / Nautnes 29 January 2017 - Garden Birdwatch / Glaucous Gull

Strong southerly winds, rain in the afternoon,

Even less time in the field than usual the last few days,

Friday saw me doing a massive half an hour seawatch at Skogsøy - just the usual but a Common Gull fiskemåke was the first of the year.

Yesterday there was no real birding - went fishing instead, just a quick trip but landed the first Cod torsk, Whiting hviting and two other species of fish. Velvet Scoter sjøorre was one of the species seen here.

Today the walk went to Hjelme Vest where the best bird was a first winter Glaucous Gull polarmåke. Only one Black Guillemot teist today but very suddenly in breeding plumage. Otherwise just a few Otter (two being robbed by a White-tailed Eagle havørn), at least 30 Common Crossbill grankorsnebb and two Woodcock rugde.

This weekend was the national garden birdwatch (same as UK!) and I ended up with this dilemma:

Cormorant storskarv in the garden for the Garden BirdWatch count

A Cormorant storskarv sat on the shore on my property and therefore is technically in the garden. This species is very common from the house but not actually IN the garden, Do I count this as a garden bird....?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sør Straumsundet 25 January - How many Woodcock are out there?

Strong southerly winds with light drizzle most of the day.

I only had time for the shortest of walks today and went through a short stretch of coastal woodland, I only saw a few birds but one of them was a Woodcock rugde - Sør Straumsundet is a very good place for this species. Woodcock are often more obvious during periods of cold weather when they concentrate on areas of unfrozen ground - more probably move out to the coast at these times too, This winter must be a good one for this species - the woods must be full of them given the warm and wet conditions. I tend not to spend much time in among the trees but also on Monday I saw one flying out of a wood to feed at dusk. There must be loads of them about. I know the dog gives me an advantage with this species as he often points them out to me - it seems he either hears or smells them in the undergrowth and if I pay attention he shows me where they are - though this was not the case the last three times I have seen them.

Next best on the list was a single Starling stær.

I barely had time to even look out of the window today - but had both White-tailed Eagle havørn and Otter from the living room.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tjeldstø 24 January 2017

Strong Southerly wind with a couple of light showers.

There are just not enough hours in the day! Got out for a quick look at Tjeldstø and Solberg, whilst doing so did a drive-by at Dåvøy and that's it.

Tjeldstø held some Whoopers sangsvane, a small flock of Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt on one of the islands and a White-tailed Eagle havørn put in an appearance.

Solberg was virtually dead with only four Long-tailed Duck havelle and a couple of eagles over and above the usual Cormorants storskarv, Shag toppskarv and gulls.

Most of the Heron gråhegre roost at Dåvøy

At Dåvøy the Heron gråhegre roost has halved in size since I was last there with only 24 birds present today.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nautnes 23 January 2017 - Best weather yet this year BUT...

Calm, sunny and mild.

Cracking weather but work and taking my youngest to the dentist meant I couldn't make anything of it. However, a short walk from the house produced a relatively good bird - the first Treecreeper trekryper of the year. Treecreeper can be a hard species to see in Øygarden (though undoubtedly under recorded as they prefer the areas least visited) - I checked it on artsobs and got the following:

Treecreeper trekryper occurrence in Øygarden by week number
(One could argue that the peak in the autumn is due to observer effort with most birders putting the effort in during the peak rarity season but when I check my own records a very similar pattern is shown.

...and by year. Prior to 2010 it wasn't even recorded annually - this may well partly be a feature caused by when observers have started using artsobs. Either way you get the idea - there are not many seen out here.

Among other things seen here were a flock of at least 30 Common Crossbill grankorsnebb feeding in the woods, several Crested Tit toppmeis and a couple of  White-tailed Eagles havørn.

The trip to the dentists produced another local first for the year in the form of a roadside Collared Dove tyrkerdue at Tofy. Generally a spring and early summer migrant in most of Øygarden there is a small resident population in the south of the district.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Skogsøy 22 January 2017 - Whisky's last Skogsøy season

Fresh southerly winds, misty at times

I took a quick walk out to Skogsøy and did a short seawatch. There were no real surprises in the 45 minutes I sat there with best bird a nice Great Northern Diver islom heading south. Small numbers of seaduck including a couple of Velvet Scoter sjøorre headed past along with several Gannet havsule and a couple of first winter Kittiwakes krykkje.

My dog, Whisky, is quite well known to many of the local birders as he is my constant birding companion. Of late he has started showing his age (>14 now) and today was more often behind me than the usual running on ahead. It is likely this will be his last Skogsøy season :(

The only new species for the Øygarden 2017 list was a couple of Mealy Redpoll gråsisik from my terrace before I left.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Breivik 21 Janaury 2017 . I should stay at home

Very calm and dull

Took a walk with the dog at Breivik where I added Tree Sparrow pilfink and Fieldfare gråtrost to the local year list. Other than these it was very much the usual with a flock of 40 Greenfinch grønnfink, at least eight Chaffinch bokfink and the usual Crested Tit toppmeis etc

A sandwich break at Alvheim on the way home produced a couple of Great Northern Diver islom on the sea but the ONLY duck present were two Mergansers siland.

Goshawk hønsehauk - taken with the phone through my scope - quite possibly the first time I have tried this.

Cropped from image above

Heavily cropped image of the same bird from the point and pray at full zoom....

The Goshawk is in this picture even though it doesn't even show up as single pixel - part of the view from my terrace

Back home the local corvids warned about the presence of a Goshawk hønsehauk, I had stupidly gone out on the terrace without binoculars and saw a distant accipiter that I thought was this species. I dashed back inside to grab my bins and came outside to see a Sparrowhawk spurvehauk fly over the garden. I didn't like being wrong and took a sweep of the treeline - sure enough the Goshawk hønsehauk had landed in the trees some distance away. Also at least one White-tailed Eagle havørn.

The first Siskin grønnsisik and Meadow Pipit heipiplerke of the year were reported from Sture.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Hjelme 20 January 2017 - Woodland stuff

Dull and wet but not windy.

No time for anything other than a quick walk along the road at Hjelme, basically woodland habitat. Best bird was a lone Bullfinch dompap which had me going for a bit as it flew over at the same time as a flock of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb. Bullfinch, like yesterday's Dipper, is probably one of the more under recorded species in Øygarden. It's winter status is a scarce but regular - but this may just be because the places it favours are not visited that much by birders.

A Nuthatch spettmeis also here - seem to be quite widespread this winter - something that is not usually the case.

Blomvåg 19 January 2017 -Triple Trumf Bonus

Fresh WSW, some light drizzle at times,

Dipper fossekall, ISO 5000 and slow shutter speed - see the splash in the water to the right of the image

Better images of the same bird - not a photo one could expect to take on a mild winter's day in Øygarden

Basically not out and about today, although I did go to the shop that is 12 minutes to drive to instead of 6 because I get more bonus on whatever I buy on a Thirsday - the so-called "Trippel trumf torsdag". There is a small lake with a stream running past it right next to this shop so I thought I would check it out - this proved to be a good idea with an unexpected bonus bird in the form of a Dipper fossekall - another local year tick.

Dipper are relatively scarce although regular winter visitors in Øygarden and not really something one can just go and see out here. Had I wanted to take pictures I would have gone somewhere else - like Gullfjell for example.

Spent the rest of the day inside working but picked up a Curlew storspove and a flock of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb from the house in addition to the usual White-tailed Eagle havørn etc.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tjeldstø / Solberg 18 January 2017

Mild and calm with light rain. All the snow and most of the ice now gone.

All I managed to day was a quick walk around Tjeldstø and an even quicker visit to Solberg.

Nothing out of the ordinary at Tjeldstø - eight adult Whoopers sangsvane and three young, a few flocks of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb and a flock of eight Chaffinch bokfink were the best of the sightings - nothing to get excited about,

Solberg was better with a Great Northern Diver islom flying in and landing as I ate my sandwiches. Also a few Velvet Scoter sjøorre (beginning to wonder if it is the same "gang of three" I've been seeing at various locations since December....), a single Long-tailed Duck havelle and a lone Common Scoter svartand.

Other sightings today included a few White-tailed Eagle havørn, a couple of Snipe enkeltbekkasin and Otters.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tjeldstø/Nautnes 17 January - Best bird from the house again

Fresh southerly with light rain most of the day.

Work prevented any proper trip today but a short walk at Tjeldstø produced a Woodcock rugde, a couple of Snipe enkeltbekkasin and the first Starlings stær I'v seen this year.

Snipe enkeltbekkasin at Sture

A drive-by past Sture on the way home produced a roadside Snipe enkeltbekkasin - probably one of the birds seen there yesterday.

Little Auk alkekonge from the terrace, light was going so very ISO values used

An Otter swam past whilst I waited for the auk to surface

Back home I knuckled down to work but during a telephone call stood up and looked out of the window and saw something swimming on the sea. It dived before I could reach bins or camera, as luck would have it my camera was closest. Whilst I was waiting for it to resurface an Otter turned up. Back on the surface I could confirm it was a Little Auk alkekonge -.and managed to take a couple of pictures before it dived. Amazingly this is only third Little Auk alkekonge reported in the county thus far this year - they really are thin on the ground this winter!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Øygarden 16 January 2017 - A new for the house list and lots of Snipe

Cold with SE winds. Snow on the ground and pretty much frozen over.

Today's walk with the dog was at Herdlevær - which was pretty quiet with not much of interest. A Black Guillemot teist and a Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke might have raised some eyebrows elsewhere in Norway but that was about as good as it got here. Lots of Woodcock rugde and Snipe enkeltbekkasin tracks but no birds. Of almost no interest at all a couple of House Sparrow gråspurv were an addition to my Øygarden 2017 species list.

Two Snipe enkeltbekkasin at Breivik (same as video below)

Snipe #1 at Sture

Snipe #2 at Sture

Common Snipe enkeltbekkasin feeding at Breivik

Note that all the Snipe pictures and video were taken without leaving my car. Not disturbing the birds is very important - especially under these conditions.

The drive home was a lot better with two Snipe enkeltbekkasin feeding at Breivik and two more at Sture where a couple of Goldfinch stillits flew over and a Nuthatch spettmeis visited a bird feeder (a real contender for the bird of the day as this is not the commonest of species in Øygarden). A Sparrowhawk spurvehauk at Sture was another local first of the year.

Late afternoon Slav grebe horndykker - picture taken from the terrace - species #128 from the house

Back home a break from the computer produced a new species for the house list (#128 and no sign of slowing down!) in the form of a nice Slavonian Grebe horndykker on the sea off the terrace. Undoubtedly the bird of the day!

Today may have been the first day this year in Øygarden where I did not see White-tailed Eagle havørn.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hjelme Vest 15 January 2017 - WInter wonderland

First snow of the year in Øygarden (the rest of Norway will be laughing at us), A few cm of snow fell yesterday afternoon and through the night, We awoke to calm and sunny conditions,

Given the sea state and the fact that I left the dog's lead in a hard to find place at Hjelme Vest this was the only choice for today's brief outing, Work has meant that too much the weekend has been spent in front of the computer...

Birding Hjelme Vest

View to the south

....and some of the islands

Even the dog was seawatching today!

Woodcock rugde tracks in the snow

It was quite a successful trip with the highlight being a Red-necked Grebe gråstrupedykker. Enough of the usual suspects showed to make it worthwhile with (predictably) Woodcock rugde featuring prominently with one bird seen and tracks of at least two others observed in the snow, At least five Black Guillemot teist were on the sea - another new for the county this year (the outer coast is being pretty much ignored so far - understandable give the number of Hawk Owls haukugle and other goodies inland). A Great Northern Diver islom, 25 Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt and around 40 Long-tailed Duck havelle were among the other birds noted.

Last (and least) I saw my first Crested Tit toppmeis of the year. Only one White-tailed Eagle havørn here today.

My "good Dad reward" in the evening was Eagle Owl hubro - driving children around can be a good thing!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Øygarden 14 January 2017 - More new birds (and otters!)

Northerly winds with snow showers today. The sun did come out briefly a few times though.

Birds of the day were two Snow Bunting snøspurv that flew over the house whilst I was trying to decide where to take the dog out.

Slavonian Grebe horndykker - the original image

Obscenely cropped version of above - it really is a Slav Grebe!

We went to Dåvøy where I added Common Snipe enkeltbekkasin and Slavonian (should be calling it Horned really) Grebe horndykker to the Øygarden year list. The Heron gråhegre roost here was an amazing 50 birds today! Otherwise fairly quiet on the sea.

A couple of Otters put in an appearance and I shot some video with my "point and pray". Turned out OK.

Otter feeding on the shore in the snow

Some shots taken with my grown-up camera:

and a random one from the superzoom:

Finally a rare shot of me in the field. And proof that the sun was out!