Sunday, February 17, 2019

Øygarden 11.02 - 14.02 Signs of spring

Largely mild with southerly winds and a very spring-like feel.

Crocuses have started flowering and Snowdrops have been out for a couple of weeks at least, leaves are starting to show on my elderberry bushes so spring is in the air.

The only new bird for the year was a Skylark sanglerke migrating north over the house as I buried my newly installed fibre cable on 13.02 - a very early date for a migrating bird. A small influx of Starlings stær during the week (flocks of up to 10 birds seen) were almost certainly new arrivals. Great Black-backed Gulls svartbak numbers are increasing with many birds starting to find their favourite breeding spots out on the islands.

Yellow legs, red orbital eye ring, powerful bill with pronounced gonydal angle BUT looks like too much white in the primary tips (at least on these closed wing shots)....

As it is late winter / early spring it is time for those infruriating and time consuming "yellow-legged gulls". Or Omissus Herring Gulls gråmåke or whatever they are. I saw one such bird at Dåvøy on 12.02 and with legs, bill and orbital ring looking good my hopes were raised. However, no open wing shots to confirm either way but it looks like there may have been too much white on the outer primaries.....I noted also that the "Gulls" book mentions that omissus often also have red orbital ring....

Common Crossbill grankorsnebb at Hjelme Vest (part of a group of 16 birds that were also singing)

Random White-tailed Eagle havørn from the terrace

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentines day special - a Royal romance

In November 2018 I was lucky enough to be sent to work in the South Atlantic. One of the highlights of this trip (among over 40 species of seabird!!) was a pair of Royal Albatrosses that met up on the open sea, about as far from land as is possible on the planet.

It was an unbelievably touching experience as the pair met, and after some circling around each other went into a full pair bonding greeting with "singing" (not really the word for what albatrosses do!!), wing-spreading, a head-shaking dance, bill rubbing and mutual preening.

As I stood there on deck, thousands of miles from home and loved ones it was difficult, well impossible really, to see this as just two animals performing a ritual. As these birds mate for life and don't even breed each year it must be important to keep the relationship going even if they are separated for months at a time. Here they definitely took a time out for each other on the open sea.

To witness this presumably chance, yet incredibly intimate, meeting of a pair of birds so far offshore and to see how much time they put into greeting each other and working on their pair bond made me realise how far from home I was and had I met my better half right then I would have probably done a few head throws and wing flaps myself.

Words don't really work here so here are some pictures:


Valentines Royal Albatrosses reinforcing their pair bond

And a few gratuitous flight shots - love the way seabirds often dip a wing tip in the sea....

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Øygarden 02.02 - 10.02 - Thaw and seabirds starting to move...

All kinds of stuff rather than just work stopping me getting out and about for the time being. I am very lucky that I can just step out onto my terrace and still be in with a fair chance of seeing something of interest.

On Saturday 02.02 I took a VERY nice family walk out to Skogsøy under cracking conditions. Birding was not a priority but a pair of very vocal Guillemots lomvi on the sea along with a at least two Black Guillemots teist and an adult Great Northern Diver islom feeding there too meant it wasn't too birdless.

Part of a Whooper Swan sangsvane flock coming in to land at Skogsøy - the thaw had started and these birds were obviously looking for their preferred haunts.

Back home the first House Sparrow gråspurv of the year visited my feeders.

One of a number of Woodcock rugde this week - this one at the end of my driveway and photographed from my car window whilst on my way to the shops.

Otherwise it was week of more Woodcock rugde, Snipe enkeltbekassin and a small arrival of Redwing rødvingetrost.

White-tailed Eagle havørn very obvious pretty much everywhere with three seen most days from the terrace. Peregrine vandrefalk and Sparrowhawk spurvehauk were the only other raptors seen. Up to three Curlew storspove also regular from the terrace.

On 10.02 it was time for another walk at Skogsøy. An hour of seawatching in fresh northerly winds showed that stuff was on the move with well over 30 Gannets havsule heading north along with several Kittiwake krykkje and a few Guillemots lomvi - spring is definitely on the way.

Probably the best sighting of the week was the first Water Rail vannrikse of the year.

The end of a Grey Seal havert at Alvheim.

Mammal wise Otters are continuing to show well all over the place, but mostly right in front of my house where I also saw at least six Porpoises nise on 07.02. On the same day one dead Grey Seal havert at Alvheim (not sure if it was hunted, died in fishing gear or something else) and another still in the best of health at the same place.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Øygarden 28.01 - 01.02 - Winter has arrived.....

I arrived back home to a good covering of snow. Temperatures have been above freezing during the day and a little below at nights so the snow is gradually disappearing.

Typically given the conditions Woodcock rugde and Snipe enkeltbekkasin have become a lot more obvious. Both are relatively common even in winter but are hard to see when conditions are good for them. I have seen a few or several of each on a few occasions during the week - despite most of my birding being short trips in fading light after work.


Guillemots lomvi at Herdlevær 01.02
These birds were very vocal and called to each other often

A very stuffed juvenile (2K) Peregrine vandrefalk
I checked where the bird had been sitting and found some Goldeneye feathers.....

Redwings rødvingetrost

Snipe enkeltbakkasin - one of four seen on 01.02

Woodcock rugde - photographed in rapidly fading light by my driveway on 28.01. Daft ISO values but a nice sighting.

Redwings rødvingetrost have also started to show, with the first bird at Sele on 31.01 followed by a couple more at Herdlevær on 01.02.

Other than Redwing a couple of other new species for Øygarden this year were a Woodpigeon ringdue apparently displaying at Hjelme and Tree Sparrows pilfink finally showing at Herdlevær.

Curlews storspove also featured with a flock of three from my kitchen window the largest count.

Hjelme West produced, among other things, Guillemot lomvi, Black Guillemot teist and Great Northern Diver islom on 31.01.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tjeldstø 15 January 2019 - Another new year tick for the county

Brisk North westerly winds, mostly sunny

Awoke to a thin covering of snow which quickly melted.

Spent the day working from home and only made a brief foray out. From the house during telephone calls etc I picked up Curlew storspove, White-tailed Eagle havørn etc.

One of four Collared Dove tykerdue at Tjeldstø today

The first Song Thrush måltrost of the year

At Tjeldstø the highlight was the first Song Thrush måltrost for Øygarden (and the county of Hordaland) this year. This is a regular but scarce winter visitor which I see most winters.

Other stuff here included four Collared Dove tyrkerdue and three White-tailed Eagles havørn. Judging by the way the local Hoodies kråke were behaving there was probably a more interesting raptor about too (Goshawk or Peregrine).

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Skogsøy 13 January 2019 - Seawatching again

North westerly gale increasing to strong gale.

The winds increased during the hour I spent seawatching making it difficult to walk on the way home - goodness knows how the birds manage to fly into that kind of wind.

Gannet havsule

Kittiwake krykkje

It was more or less typical for mid January with just single Gannets havsule heading north and south, an adult Kittiwake krykkje heading north, the first Guillemot lomvi this year for Øygarden (and the county for that matter), a couple of Razorbill alke and small numbers of the usual gulls.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Øygarden 12 January 2019 - Øygarden medley

Light south easterly winds. Rather dull with rain after around 1300.

A Woodcock rugde flying over my house around dawn was a good start to the day.

Next up was a trip to Hjelme West where a small flock of Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt were new for the year, as was a first year Kittiwake krykkje. Many of the usual suspects were also present with a Great Northern Diver islom, a Black Guillemot teist, a Curlew storpsove, four White-tailed Eagles havørn and the usual ducks.

Dåvøy produced nothing much other than a couple of White-tailed Eagles havørn.

Tjeldstø was almost equally unproductive with a singles of Sparrowhawk spurvehauk and White-tailed Eagle havørn and six Whoopers sangsvane among the birds seen.

Very good views of Otters at Hjelme West (2 +1), Dåvøy (2) and in front of my house.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Skogsøy 11 January 2019 - Only slightly better than the kitchen window....

Brisk north westerly winds.

Once again looking out of the kitchen window during a telephone call paid dividends. This time in the form of the the first Oystercatcher tjeld of the year in Hordaland (and species #100 for the county this year).

Spurred on by this I took a quick trip to Skogsøy. It was almost painfully quiet but there were some birds about including four guillebills alke/lomvi that landed on the sea and three Razorbill alke heading north, another new for the Øygarden year list was a Gannet havsule heading south. The most interesting sighting, however, was a Peregrine vandrefalk aktively hunting over the sea for long periods at a time. Normally they sit on a suitable look-out and make relatively brief forays out to sea. Today it hung almost kestrel-like high over the waves scanning for prey.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Hjelme 09 January 2019 - Calm before (and after) the storm

A beautiful day weather-wise so I was typically bogged down with work most of the day. I have barely been out birding the last several days, but today I tried to make up for it.

During a lengthy telephone call to the office I picked up a number of new for the year from the kitchen window in the form of Peregrine vandrefalk, Black Guillemot teist, Velvet Scoter sjøorre and Long-tailed Duck havelle. Other species included a couple of White-tailed Eagle havørn and Common Scoter svartand.

Inspired by this I took my lunch break at Hjelme Vest where I predictably managed to clock up a few more new for the year. Best birds were two Great Northern Diver islom and a Woodcock rugde. Equally predictable but less exciting were a few Crested Tit toppmeis. Other birds seen here included several Common Scoter svartand, around 40 Long-tailed Duck havelle, a Curlew storspove, a few White-tailed Eagle havørn and a Rock Pipit skjærepiplerke.

A drive-by at Sæle on the way home produced the first Great-spotted Woodpecker flaggspett of the year flying over the road.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Nautnes 03 January 2019 - Garden birding

No birding as such today.

At home in the garden a Sparrowhawk spurvehauk was a first for the year and turned up even before the Blackbirds svarttrost and Robin rødstrupe - at around 08:50! A Starling stær also put in an appearance on the feeders.

Other stuff picked up during drive-bys / errands included Chaffinches bokfink, House Sparrow gråspurv and Whooper Swan sangsvane.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Skogsøy 02 January 2019 - A day too late.....

Strong northerly winds gradually dropping during the day.

The first new species for the year was a Curlew storspove flying over my house whilst I was outside repairing my storm damaged bird feeder. Blue tits blåmeis could now also fly and reach my other feeders....

A late trip to Skogsøy produced the goods before I even started seawatching and was a species I looked for specifically yesterday as the weather conditions dictated that they must be around - a first winter Glaucous Gull polarmåke headed north with other gulls as part of a return movement of birds displaced by yesterday's storm. Among other new for the year were a Starling stær and several Common Crossbill grankorsnebb.

Mammals seen were the predictable Otter oter in front of the house and a nice (but lonely) Orca spekkhogger heading north at Skogsøy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Nautnes and Dåvøy 01 January 2019 - Stormy!!

North westerly storm easing to strong gale with hail showers later.

Mildly put difficult conditions due to the wind - it wasn't really possible to stand up (or at least stand still) in the wind. My bird feeder and an outside light were destroyed and I lost a roof tile too.

First bird photograph of the year - Common Scoter svartand

Barely even the usual species from the house - with a Cormorant storskarv being the first species of  2019 for me. There was a nice Common Scoter svartand on the sea  in the relatively calm waters there.

At Dåvøy I picked up a Slavonian Grebe horndykker and an adult White-tailed Eagle havørn had a good go at a Herring Gull gråmåke.

The most surprising bird was a Collared Dove tyrkerdue at Tjeldstø - an unusual time of year to see this species here.

Øygarden 31 December 2018 - New Year Bird Race Day 2

Rather wet from 1300 onwards.....

Today I gambled and lost, hoping to nail a bunch of possible species, none of which materialised. So best bird ended up being a Woodcock rugde - normally a straightforward species to see in Øygarden during the winter.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Skogsøy 30 December 2018 - New Year Bird Race Day 1

It's that time  of year again.  The New Year Bird Race and for once I am actually in Øygarden.

Today it was rather predictably Skogsøy where there was, equally predictably, little passing. However, I did manage to nail a number of the target species including at least two that were seemingly not seen elsewhwere - Kittiwake krykkje and Little Auk alkekonge.

Other stuff included a Great Northern Diver islom on the sea, a few Gannets havsule, White-tailed Eagle havørn, Sparrowhawk spurvehauk, a couple of Whoopers sangsvane and most of the usual ducks.

No time to post any pics today.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Herdlevær 28 December 2018 - Back west

I enjoyed a couple of hours doing a relaxed walk around Herdlevær in fantastic winter conditions. Mild, sun at times, no wind, no rain (and above all no white stuff or ice).

First winter Peregrine vandrefalk (the other bird seen was an adult)

Male Wigeon brunnakke

Although it was relatively quiet the birds that were about were well worth seeing with two Slavonian Grebes horndykker probably taking pole position. Two Peregrines vandrefalk, a White-tailed Eagle havørn and a male Wigeon brunnakke were the best of the rest here. Porpoises and Otter also put in an appearance here.

Elsehwere a nice Goshawk hønsehauk at Tjeldstø really put the local Hooded Crows kråke into something of a panic, some flocks of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb and Parrot Crossbill furukorsnebb still around too.

A nice bonus bird was a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker dvergspett at Hatten.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas 2018 - Engerdal, Hedmark

I spent Christmas inland in my home away from home, Engerdal - possibly one of the most under-birded places in Norway. Birdwise it was definitely a case of quality rather than quantity.

Part of a flock of 30 Pine Grosbeak konglebit

Pygmy Owl spurveugle, uncropped

A few walks (far too small a word for slogging up steep slopes in knee deep snow) produced some pretty special birds. I like to think of these as very special Christmas decorations.

Common (Mealy) Redpolls gråsisik

Other species included Capercaille tiur, Black Grouse orrfugl and Willow Grouse lirype.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Øygarden 17-18 December 2018 - Difficult Crossbills

Southerly winds, relatively calm and mild.

There are plenty of crossbills in Øygarden at the moment, though identifying them is a different matter. There are some that look and sound like Common Crossbill grankorsnebb, others that look and sound like Parrot Crossbills furukorsnebb and others in what appear to be mixed flocks (something I am often sceptical of for some reason).

A walk at Skogsøy on 17 December produced little, with just a Peregrine vandrefalk of note. Apart from this small numbers of Common Scoter svartand on the sea, a few Whooper Swans sangsvane on the lagoons and the usual White-tailed Eagle havørn.

Female Common Crossbill grankorsnebb

Male Common Crossbill grankorsnebb

Crossbill - possibly large billed Common? Upper mandible suitably decurved, lower mandible not really that deep or "S" curved, tips of both mandibles visible. Mmmm......

Parrot Crossbill furukorsnebb, suitably deep and curved lower mandible, no crossing tips visible

Middle bird probably Parrot - massive and steeply curved upper mandible, bulging and deep lower.....

Elsewhere I ran into flocks of crossbills here and there with eight Parrot Crossbill furukorsnebb feeding near Tjeldstø. At Hellesøy I came across a flock that seemed to be a mixed flock of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb and Parrot Crossbill furukorsnebb. Sometimes large billed Common are difficult to separate from Parrot.....

On 18th I was out without my camera (stupid I know) and had Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke down to less that two metres away and a cracking fly-by Goshawk hønsehauk....

Sunday, December 16, 2018

North Øygarden 16 December 2018 - Time for some birding!

Cold with a brisk SE wind. The weather conditions were somewhat unusual with some heavy seas caused by winds that were not that noticeable in many places.

Today I did what I used to call my usual winter round but is in fact something I haven't done for a long time. Starting at Dåvøy then moving on to Solberg and Alvheim. This trip produced a lot of the usual winter species here in Øygarden.

Curlew storspove

Grey Heron gråhegre

Teal krikkand

Dåvøy scored with a Slavonian Grebe horndykker as the best bird with a Snipe enkeltbekkasin and couple of White-tailed Eagles havørn also putting in an appearance.

Three Teal krikkand were present on Husvatnet, Tjeldstø (an increase of one from yesterday) along with a Common Gull fiskemåke and a Whooper Swan sangsvane. Other birds at Tjeldstø included a Woodcock rugde and a couple more White-tailed Eagles havørn.

Solberg produced two more White-tailed Eagle havørn, a flock of around 15 Long-tailed Duck havelle and a couple of Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt.

At Alvheim there were at least five White-tailed Eagle havørn, two Curlew storspove and a Velvet Scoter sjøorre.

Back home I had a further two White-tailed Eagles havørn from the terrace.