Saturday, January 18, 2020

Øygarden 11-18 January 2020 - Back to work

Much less time out and about this week as work required some attention.

The first Dipper fossekall of the year turned up at Husvatnet on 14 January.

Other than that there was not much of note before 17 January when I birded an area I rarely cover. I had a couple of species in mind, neither of which showed and neither would have required a telescope.

Record shot of four Turnstone steinvender together with a Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt

However, a feeding flock of gulls definitely required a scope and will need to be checked at the first opportunity. Among the Herring Gull gråmåke dominated flock a single Black-headed Gull hettemåke and a few Common Gulls fiskemåke were both new for me in Øygarden this year. The best sighting was a flock of four Turnstone steinvender resting on a nearby rock along with around 15 Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt.

On my way back to the car the first local Woodpigeon ringdue of the year flew over.

Mistle Thrush duetrost

White-tailed Eagle havørn over the house - I actually took this picture only because I was carrying my camera from the car into the house when it flew over.

On 18 January I quickly refound the Mistle Thrush duetrost that was reported there yesterday - the first ever January record for the area despite there being a couple of historical December sightings.

Another Mute Swan knoppsvane turned up on 18 January to join the two long staying birds on Husvatnet.

Still plenty of finch flocks about - Brambling bjørkefink have been the most numerous to date but on 18 January a flock of 30 Chaffinch bokfink showed up - a very good midwinter flock around here.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Hjelme Vest, Dåvøy & Hatten 10 January 2020 - Calm weather clean up

Calm and sunny with a touch of frost.

I spent some time out and about trying to make the most of the cracking weather attempting to pick some of the "missing" species that I knew had to be around. This was largely successful with five more new for the Øygarden 2020 list.

First stop was Hjelme Vest, although a number of the hoped for target species failed to show. At least six Black Guillemots teist, 35 Long-tailed Duck havelle, a Curlew storspove and the first Gannet havsule of the year were the best of the sightings over the sea. No other auks, no divers and no grebes....

The woods were more productive too with the usual Crested Tits toppmeis along with Brambling bjørkefink and Redpoll gråsisik.

Next up was Dåvøy where the hoped for / expected Slavonian (Horned) Grebe horndykker showed. A Common Crossbill grankorsnebb flew over and there were 41 Grey Heron gråhegre at the roost.

A male and presumed female Two-barred Crossbill båndkorsnebb

Female Two-barred Crossbill båndkorsnebb

On the way home I popped in at Hatten where birds of the day were a flock of seven Two-barred Crossbill bånkorsnebb. A Jay nøtteskrike put in an appearance along with a selection of the usual woodland suspects.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Skogsøy 09 January - Calmer conditions but no movement

Calmer conditions today and I was hoping for some kind of movement of birds displaced by the recent heavy winds. There was very little passing in the short time I sat there.

The walk in and out proved slightly more productive with a single Great Northern Diver islom heading north, four Mealy Redpoll gråsisik and a flock of around 60 Siskin grønnsisik.

Other than that it was the usual suspects including a few White-tailed Eagles havørn

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Herdlevær 08 January 2020 - Unexpected auk

Still gale force winds but more from the west today. Mostly sunny but a few heavy sleet/hail showers.

The best birds were seen from the car at Skogsøy just before I got to Herdlevær with a Puffin lunde feeding in one of the channels. It was very closed but managed to disappear in the 45 seconds it took me to back up and get out of the car. This is normally a spring/summer bird out here and not often seen in January (perhaps not even annual). A solitary Starling stær was the first of the year too.

Herdlevær was very quiet with just a couple of White-tailed Eagles havørn and a Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke of any interest.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Hjelme Vest 07 January 2019 - Visibility pays off

The gale force winds continue but today much clearer and no rain - which meant there was enough visibility to give the sea another go.

Before I left I spent a couple of hours on a Skype call with work and had a massive Goshawk hønsehauk fly over the house - surely a female. Other birds seen during the call were a couple of White-tailed Eagles havørn and a Raven ravn or two. No bad start to the day.

Close inspection of this photo should reveal the White-billed Diver....

Obscene levels of cropping give this kind of image

Actually out and about the highlight was a cracking 2cy White-billed Diver gulnebblom. Although it gave excellent views in the scope it proved impossible to phone scope (no adaptor and too much movement). This bird looked very similar to the one I saw in the same place on 25 December. Although relatively regular locally in small numbers in the winter it is much less predictable at this time of year than during the spring passage and anyway is always a good bird to see.

Around 25 Long-tailed Duck havelle, a Black Guillemot teist and a couple of Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt were among the other sightings along with the obligatory White-tailed Eagle havørn.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Dåvøy 06 January 2020 - Yellow legs.....

Near gale force southerly winds again but little rain. Little in the way of visibility so fairly hard going again today

Obviously darker than Herring Gull gråmåke (pro YLG feature)

Red spot on bill bleeding over to upper mandible - another pro YLG feature

Unfortunately the bird was spooked (possibly by Whooper Swans) before I managed to document the open wings...

This is the time of year those troublesome yellow-legged gulls turn up. Today a (the?) yellow legged gull turned up at Dåvøy - a regular spot for this to happen. It could potentially be a Yellow-legged Gull gulbeinmåke as it shows a number of pro YLG features - darker grey mantle, red eye ring, powerful bill with pronounced gonydal angle, red bill spot bleeding over to upper mandible, yellow legs, darker yellow eye and all white head. It was spooked by something before I managed to see the open wing properly - P10 looks to be all white (not good for YLG) but P5 does appear to be black (good for YLG). Or it could just be an omissus type Herring Gull gråmåke - hopefully some better shots of the wings will point ID in the right direction. The advanced moult (i.e. no streaking on the head) is obviously another pointer to YLG.

Red-breasted Merganser siland at Dåvøy

Also at Dåvøy the Grey Heron gråhegre roost numbered 46 birds which is a decent count.

A Peregrine vandrefalk hunted at Tjeldstø.

Willow Tit granmeis

The only definitely identified new for the year today were a couple of Willow Tit granmeis - although common enough inland it is not a common bird locally except during "invasion" years. In 2019 there were only three records of this species in Øygarden - none of which I managed to see.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Oslo 31 December 2019 - Downtown birding

Although it is not exactly a secret that I am not a fan of birding in the parks of Oslo they are a good and easy way of getting up close and personal with a number of species.

Priority today was buying beer but I managed half an hour in the Botanical Garden at Tøyen. The park contains a wide variety of berry and seed bearing trees and is currently full of birds - many of which are relatively tame and easy to get close to.

Hawfinch kjernebiter

Waxwing sidensvans

Even though I was armed with just a simple point and pray superzoom it was straightforward to take pictures of some of the park's inhabitants.

Birds from my point of view were at least seven Hawfinch kjernebiter and the same number of Waxwing sidensvans.

Øygarden 05 January 2020 - Wash out

Heavy rain and strong southerly winds.

Although the winds were not as strong as yesterday the conditions were much worse with not much in the way of visibility.

I started at Hjelme West but there was not really the visibility to cover the best areas in the scope. Most of the target species were therefore not seen and I had to make do with a male Velvet Scoter sjøorre and a fly-by Curlew storspove.

Tjeldstø produced another local new for the year in the form of Siskin grønnsisik and a few Common Scoter svartand on the sea. The two Mute Swans knoppsvane were still present on Husvatnet.

Other species noted included the first Greenfinch grønnfink I've seen in Øygarden this year (they are rather scarcer than usual this winter), a couple of Redwing rødvingetrost and several White-tailed Eagles havørn.

A few Otters seen at various places including from my terrace.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Skogsøy and Tjeldstø 04 January 2020 - Skogsøy blow out

Near gale force north westerly winds with some sleet / hail showers.

Given yesterday's Kittiwake at Nautnes I hoped that the winds might produce something at Skogsøy. I did not sit out there very long but there was almost nothing passing and it was one of the most disappointing Skogsøy trips ever. A few White-tailed Eagles havørn were present and being only the second day I have been in Øygarden there were a few local year ticks in the form of Eider ærfugl, Coal Tit svartmeis, Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke, Goldcrest fuglekonge and Goldeneye kvinand.

Mute Swans knoppsvane at Tjeldstø - a local rarity.

On the way home I spent some time at Tjeldstø which was MUCH better with two Mute Swans knoppsvane as the best sighting - similar to last year's winter sighting. This is only the sixth record of this species here although it seems like it is becoming more regular. Other sightings included a Woodcock rugde, a Snipe enkeltbekkasin, six Redwing rødvingetrost, a Fieldfare gråtrost, Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke and a Tree Sparrow pilfink.

Dying Robin rødstrupe at Solberg. The puffy eye may indicate some kind of disease

I also popped in at Solberg where the lack of sea duck was once again noticable. Only one Common Scoter svartand was present. A dying Robin rødstrupe sat in the path here, the puffy eye probably indicates some kind of disease. Of more interest was a hunting Peregrine vandrefalk and the 11th White-tailed Eagle havørn of the day.

Mother-of-pearl clouds perlemorskyer (polar strasospheric clouds)

Another observation of interest were polar stratospheric clouds - so called mother-of-pearl clouds (perlemorskyer) - particularly obvious as I left the house before the sun came up.

Nautnes & Tjeldstø 03 Janaury 2020 - First bird photo of the year

Very strong westerly winds with some showers.

The first bird I saw in Øygarden in 2020 was rather fittingly a White-tailed Eagle havørn flying over the road as I drove over the bridge at Toftøy.

2cy Kittiwake krykkje - photo taken from my terrace

I returned home in the early afternoon and the first bird I saw from my terrace was a storm blown Kittiwake krykkje. Not often they come so close to my house!

After that I had a quick look around in combination with a trip to the shops. Disturbingly a dead Whooper Swan sangsvane lay under the power lines that cross the nature reserve at Tjeldstø - it was being fed on by an adult White-tailed Eagle havørn and some Hooded Crows kråke. This dead swan was not there when I left just before New Year and it is not unreasonable to imagine that it was panicked on New Years eve and collided with the power lines in the dark.

Other species noted included a Peregrine vandrefalk flying over the shops, a Sparrowhawk spurvehauk and small numbers of Brambling bjørkefink.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Øygarden 20-27 December 2019 - Festive birding and guiding

With a full house and the Christmas season upon us birding opportunities were limited. However, the weather was pretty much as good as it can get so time spent in the field was productive.

Whooper Swans sangsvane numbers seemed to increase during the period - but only to a maximum of 12 on Rotevatnet. Unfortunately all were adults - pointing to yet another poor breeding season wherever these birds come from.

Small numbers of Waxwing sidensvans still hanging around - but almost invariably only seen in flight. Brambling bjørkefink numbers continued to be high for the time of year - seemingly tempted to stay in the area due to the high number of pine cones. Common Crossbill grankorsnebb were also a common sight.

On 23 December I spent the day guiding away from Øygarden in the Bergen area. Around 45 species were noted during the day with highlight being a (the) female Smew lappfiskand on Kalandsvatnet. Great Northern Diver islom, Velvet Scoter sjøorre, Marsh Tit løvmeis, Dipper fossekall, Goosander laksand and Crested Tit toppmeis were among the other species seen.

I was not out on 24 December but a Goshawk hønsehauk over the house along with the usual White-tailed Eagles havørn was a bonus bird.

On 25 December a family walk to Hjelme Vest was a great success with a White-billed Diver gulnebblom on the sea as the best bird. Also present were at least four Great Northern Diver islom, a couple of Little Auk alkekonge, Black Guillemots teist, 15 Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt, Curlew storspove, a minumum of four White-tailed Eagle havørn, 17 Long-tailed Duck havelle and more besides.

Another family walk, this time to Skogsøy, on 26th gave Peregrine vandrefalk as the best bird. Other sightings included Otter, Grey Seal and at least three White-tailed Eagle havørn

Monday, December 30, 2019

Northumberland 13-19 December - Back on the home patch

A pre-Christmas family visit back in Northumberland gave me the chance to visit Holy Island causeway for an hour, a couple of short strolls on the beach at Newbiggin and half an hour in the hide at Cresswell ponds.

Bar-tailed Godwit lappspove

Curlew storspove

On 15 December we joined the WeBS count on Holy Island causeway. This was a magical experience as always with hundreds of waders and wildfowl including 450 Shelduck gravand, 72 Pale-bellied Brents ringgås and plenty of Grey Plover tundralo, Bar-tailed Godwit lappspove etc etc etc. Best bird in a Holy Island context was a Little Grebe dvergdykker - an unusual bird to see along the causeway.

An amazing picture with a normal mobile phone - easy to pick up the Med gulls even here....

The prom at Newbiggin produced plenty of birds with the highlight being good numbers (20+) of Mediterranean Gulls svartehavsmåke. A good selection of the usual waders also fed along the shore there whilst Pinkfeet kortnebbgås flew overhead.

A random visit to Cresswell ponds at Druridge on 18 December (with half an hour of daylight to play with) really produced the goods with a Long-billed Dowitcher langnebbekkasinsnipe, several Ruff brushane, 100s of Lapwing vipe and a good selection of other waders and wildfowl. Nice!! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Oslo 09 December 2019 - The last in Norway

I somehow missed out on the massive Pine Grosbeak konglebit invasion in the Bergen area and managed not to locate any of the few that turned up in Øygarden. As I don't really travel to see birds outside of wherever I happen to be I am probably the last person, nevermind birder, in Norway to connect with these incredible birds.

They have been all over the media and gained interest from all over the place - birders from the UK and no doubt other places have been coming over to experience this influx of a very enigmatic species. For most birders, including myself, Pine Grosbeaks are synonymous with the wilds of the north and east of Scandinavia so to get up close and personal in a car park in the capital city was a brand new experience!

As they are so photogenic even on a dull winter's day I went completely over the top with the photography.....

Waxwings sidensvans, normally an over-photographed species, were also about but didn't get a look-in today.