Sunday, May 14, 2017

Øygarden 12 May 2017 - The end of an era

Today my dog, Whisky, went to the happy hunting grounds in the sky where he will be forever finding cryptically patterned waders, killing mink, and going on birding trips.

When I said yes to my very young daughter as she pleaded "Daddy PLEEEASE, PLEEEASE can we get this puppy" I wasn't being a good father - I knew that having a dog would mean I would be "forced" to go out with him whatever the weather. So when I said yes to this I knew I would see a lot more birds. He was my faithful birding companion from then on - but it was a close call as at just a few months of age and still quite small he was targeted by a hungry Golden Eagle kongeørn on his first ever trip to Skogsøy.

We will now be able to say the word "Skogsøy" out loud at home without having a very excited and optimistic dog ready to go at a moment's notice.

Whisky was well liked by all those who seawatch at Skogsøy. Here watching a flock of Oystercatcher in April 2016

He was well known to all those who bird in Øygarden and especially for his patience during long seawatches at Skogsøy.  He was my constant birding companion for almost 15 years, has found countless Woodcock rugde, Jack Snipe kvartbekkasin, Water Rail vannriske and more besides.


Just a couple of the many Mink that Whisky put a welcome end to

Killing Mink on a regular basis he also did his bit for conservation in the area. Once he even managed to catch and kill a Mink underwater after leaping off a cliff into the sea - not bad for a dog who didn't like to swim. The breeding birds at Herdlevær will face tougher times without him as it was here he scored best.

Cats entered our garden to prey on birds at the feeder with their lives at stake. Those that got the chance soon learnt that my garden was not a safe place for them.

He also saved the lives of at least two lambs and a goat all of which he found having fallen into holes / boggy areas / into crevasses. He pointed them out to us enabling rescue of said herbivore.

Without him I fear there will be even less time out and about for me. Not having to take him out regularly will probably mean I end up working more and birding less....







Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Øygarden 10 May - Trying to take it easy but failing miserably....

Very light northerly breeze, calm, some cloud at first but sunny later.

The idea was not to go birding and get caught up on a load of stuff. This plan almost worked until I got out of bed.

Taking my morning coffee onto the terrace I was greeting by singing Wryneck vendehals and a displaying Common Sandpiper strandsnipe. As this was meant to be a day of not birding I did not have my binoculars or camera with me, these were in the living room several metres away.

Pinkfoot kortnebbgås with one of the locals.


Next up was the taking the dog out. I thought I would avoid all the potentially best places. I may have partly succeeded with this but picked up the long-staying Pinkfoot kortnebbgås pair at Tjeldstø. Among other things. Alarmingly I also had a flock of 200 Barnacles hvitkinngås heading north,



1000's of Barnacle Geese hvitkinngås passed today

Barnacles hvitkinngås as seen by superzoom over Solberg


Short video of a migrating flock of Barnacle Geese

Common Tern makrellterne pair at Dåvøy

There are some common birds in Øygarden too, Great Black-backed Gull svartbak is one of them. There are pairs on eggs everywhere now.

Immature Golden Eagle kongeørn at Solberg today. A rare May sighting in Øygarden.


Ignoring this I went about my business (go to shop, pick daughter up from school....) but then the dog needed to go out again. I chose Solberg as this is quick and easy and potentially relatively birdless. In the first 15 minutes at least 1000 Barnacles hvitkinngås passsed. This meant I had to stay a full half hour. A minimum of 1500 geese passed in this time along with a White-billed Diver gulnebblom, 15 Velvet Scoter sjøorre and more besides. On the sea were 20 Long-tailed Duck havelle, 30 Common Scoter svartand and five Teal krikkand.

To make matters worse a young Golden Eagle kongeørn flew over - a rare sighting in Øygarden during May. Normally this is a winter thing.

I headed home as fast as I could but the Barnacles just kept passing. However, I stayed inside working on my computer and did my best to ignore them....

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Skogsøy 09 May - Another day, another good seawatch

Northerly winds but nothing like as strong as yesterday and with more clouds today.


Pale phase Arctic Skua tyvjo


Pomarine Skua polarjo



Some of the day's White-billed Divers gulnebblom


Another short seawatch in comparison with the usual spring count of 6 hours. A most productive and enjoyable morning with nine White-billed Diver gulnebblom, a Pom Skua polarjo, three Arctic Skua tyvjo, a Great Skua storjo and finally my first local Puffin lunde of the year.

Numbers in just under four hours:

Red throated Diver smålom N 86
White-billed Diver gulnebblom N 9
Northern Gannet havsule N 23
Great Cormorant storskarv S 2
Eurasian Shag toppskarv N 2
Eurasian Shag toppskarv S 2
Eider ærfugl N  1
Long tailed duck havelle N 41
Common Scoter svartand N 19
Common Scoter svartand S 1
Merganser siland N 2
Oystercatcher tjeld N 20
Whimbrel småspove N 1
Pomarine Skua polarjo N 1
Arctic Skua tyvjo N 3
Great Skua storjo N 1
Black-legged Kittiwake krykkje N 10
Atlantic Puffin lunde N 1


Monday, May 08, 2017

Skogsøy 08 May 2017 - Short and sweet

Near gale force northerly winds and sunny.

It felt pretty cold today even though the sun was shining. I spent a few hours seawatching but couldn't stay as long as I would have liked to.

There was plenty passing without anything really remarkable - divers came by in rather better numbers than of late and there was something going on most of the time.

The numbers were like this:

Red throated Diver smålom N 143
White Billed Diver gulnebblom N 5
Northern Fulmar havhest N 1
Northern Gannet havsule N 43
Barnacle Goose hvitkinngås N 226
Eider ærfugl S 1
Long tailed duck havelle N 27
Common Scoter svartand N 39
Velvet Scoter sjøorre N 2
Oystercatcher tjeld N 14
Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt N 5
Arctic Skua tyvjo N 1 (pale phase)
Black-legged Kittiwake krykkje N 6
Arctic Tern rødnebbterne N 7
Razorbill alke N 3
Black Guillemot teist N 1
Auk N 6

Other birds included a 2 cy Great Northern Diver islom on the sea.

Pale phase Arctic Skua tyvjo

Barnacle Geese hvitkinngås with Red-throated Diver smålom in the background


Black Guillemot teist - I could have obtained much better pictures of this bird but there was too much going on at the time...

Gannet havsule overhead

Migrating Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt

Red-throated Diver smålom flock



And last but by no means least - a few of the White-billed Divers gulnebblom that passed today


Back home a random glance outside produced another flock of around 100 Barnacles hvitkinngås heading north.

No time to download pictures today but got some decent shots today.....hopefully I will be able to update tomorrow.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Tjeldstø 07 May 2017 - Dawn Chorous and then some

Light northerly breeze, gradually strengthening to strong breeze / gale.

Dawn birding at Tjeldstø

Pre-dawn White-tailed Eagle havørn being mobbed by a Raven ravn


The dawn chorous went pretty well bird wise, with at least 45 species seen or heard from where we were sitting. Roding Woodcock rugde, drumming Snipe enkeltbekkasin, the first Cuckoo gjøk of the year along with most of the usual suspects. Waders included a Black-tailed Godwit svarthalespove flushed by a White-tailed Eagle havørn that buzzed the area along with the local breeders (Curlew storspove, Redshanks rødstilk, Lapwing vipe, Common Sandpiper strandsnipe and Oystercatcher tjeld). The first Common Tern makrellterne of the year also put in an appearance.

Back at Nautnes I took the dog out and had a Lapland Bunting lappspurv come in off the sea. I followed this up with a very rare activity - seawatching from the house. Normally it is just work, housework or other daily drudgery but today I sat on my terrace for a whole hour with my scope(!). The birds were pouring past!

A new species for the house list (embarrassing really considering I could have got this one any given spring) were two White-billed Diver gulnebblom. I also had two probable Pomarine Skua polarjo but won't be claiming these. Good numbers of Long-tailed Duck havelle, a Velvet Scoter sjøorre, a small flock of Whimrel småspove and a Comic Tern (rødnebb/makrellterne) were among the other birds seen.

AND I completed my tax-return - quite possibly the highlight of the day, just for the relief of getting off my mind. 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Øygarden 06 May 2017 - I WILL be birding tomorrow!

Warm and sunny again with a northerly breeze in the afternoon.

A flock of 20 Barnacle Geese hvitkinngås seen from the house in the morning and the first Sedge Warbler sivsanger of the year at Breivik seen on the way home from dropping my daughter off were the only sightings of note today.

However, I will HAVE to go birding tonight (strictly speaking tomorrow) as I am taking part in this broadcast

So a six hours dawn chorous marathon! With Pallid Harrier steppehauk and Great Egret egretthegre as recent local highlights who knows what might turn up whilst we are on air!

Friday, May 05, 2017

Øygarden 05 May 2017 - Tjeldstø 1, Herdlevær 1/2

Yet another calm, warm and sunny day.

A quick seawatch at Herdlevær whilst eating breakfast and spending much of the time on the phone showed that there were probably more divers passing today than the last few days - 14 Red-throated Diver smålom passed in the hour I sat there - well before the peak time of day. A single Velvet Scoter sjøorre accompanied one of them,

A Carrion Crow svartkråke was the best bird here and a Common Sandpiper strandsnipe was the first of the year for me.

Great Egret egretthegre
 The bird flew several times, making me think it was going to leave but it did not move far whilst I was there.

Lapwing vipe are scary.....

Meeting the local Grey Herons gråhegre




After doing the shopping I stopped at Husvatnet where I thought I had found a Great Egret egretthegre - until I changed location in order to obtain some record shots. There I met Mr. Adolfsen who had sent me a text message about it. Note to self: GOT TO PAY ATTENTION TO MESSAGES ON MY "BIRD" PHONE. This is the second message in a week about a good bird that I haven't noticed.....

Lesser Redpoll brunsisik - one of the commonest passerines in Øygarden. Picture taken at Nautnes

Lots of Wheatear steinskvett about. This smart male was photographed at Nautnes


After sorting out some work stuff it was time to continue painting the house. This is not an interesting activity but at least I painted with a singing Wryneck vendehals for company.

Greylag grågås with newly hatched chicks

One of the singing Wryneck vendelhals at Hjelmo

A very short walk at Hjelmo in the evening produced at least two more Wryneck vendehals and the first Greylag grågås goslings of the year.


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Hernar 04 May 2017 - Tjeldstø 3, Hernar 0

Fantastic calm and sunny weather. Ideal for migrants to migrate and not get stuck on remote islands.

Fieldfare gråtrost - on Hernar usually they set up territory and get as far as laying eggs before mysteriously not just giving up but disappearing too...

Heron gråhegre

Telephone wire stare-down. Common Gull fiskemåke and Common Snipe enkeltbekkasin


It was very pleasant to walk around Hernar today, plenty of birds but nothing remarkable. Best bird was a lone Goldfinch stillits. However, it was enough just to enjoy all the Twite bergirisk, Wheatear steinskvett and other local breeders which covered the island.

Black-tailed Godwit svartehalespove


In the afternoon I received a tip-off about a Wryneck vendehals at Tjeldstø so I took a short walk there later in the evening when I had to be there anyway. No sign of this but I picked up a Carrion Crow svartkråke and a couple of Black-tailed Godwit svarthalespove.

A rather late Whooper Swan sangsvane turned up at Nautnes.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Skogsøy 03 May 2017 - Power napping

Sunny and not a breath of wind so not ideal seawatching conditions.

It was generally rather quieter today than the last seawatch. Having averaged less than five hours sleep per night for the last two weeks or so I had to take a half hour break and have a quick nap. Not that it made much difference - I ended up aborting and going back home to work anyway.

Massively cropped record shot of the Fulmar havhest

Twite bergirisk

Wigeon brunnakke heading north with Oystercatcher tjeld


White-tailed Eagle havørn

Best bird today was a Fulmar havhest. Unbelievably this would appear to be the first for the county this year. Otherwise light passage of most of the usual suspects - diver numbers very low again and only Red-throated Diver smålom today. A small flock of Wigeon brunnakke, Brambling bjørkefink and Twite bergirisk were among the passerines,

A male Redstart rødstjert at Kollsnes and two Pinkfeet kortnebbgås on Husvatnet again were among the other sightings today.

Some of the Teal krikkand seen from the house


A flock of 14 Teal krikkand on the sea in front of my house in the evening would incredibly seem to be a new tick on the house list!

No time to download the camera so pics will have to wait, or just not get downloaded which is at least as likely.


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tjeldstø 02 May 2017 - Drive-bys

The sunny weather continues. Still no time to get out but optimistic that this will change any day now.

The day started with the first Lesser Whitethroat møller of the year close to the house.

Family and house related errands meant I had to drive a bit today so the birding was a drive by past Kollsnes where there were around 30 Golden Plover heilo, Skylark sanglerke singing and the usual Lapwing vipe, Curlew storspove and plenty of Wheatear steinskvett along with several Black-headed Gulls hettemåke.

Continuing past Breivik I added a nice male Redstart rødstjert to my local year list.

Two Pinkfeet kortnebbgås on Husvatnet


A brief stop at Husvatnet provided two more new species - a couple of Pinkfeet kortnebbgås among all the Greylags grågås and a Common Whitethroat tornsanger feeding in some juniper bushes. 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Skogsøy 30 April 2017 - Back in business at last - Pallid Harrier

After what seems like an eternity I FINALLY went birding for a morning. I really should not have spent the time doing this and should not be writing this blog post either.

I spent the morning seawatching. Despite the light easterly winds the only place to go today was Skogsøy even though the conditions were not ideal. We had a decent seawatch with quite a lot of stuff passing.

Oiled Gannet havsule. An all too common sight.

Adult Gannet havsule as it should be

Mergansers siland heading south

Quite a good day for Oystercatcher tjeld despite it being quite late in the season

Two male and a female Shelduck gravand heading north

Four of the over 70 Tufted Duck toppand that headed north today

Highlights were all four diver species including six White-billed Diver gulnebblom,  a Black-throated Diver storlom and a 2K Great Northern Diver islom heading north. Low numbers of Red-.throated Diver smålom though. Other decent sightings included an Arctic Skua tyvjo, a Whimbrel småspove and what is quite possibly a record count - a massive 71 Tufted Duck toppand.

Red throated Diver N 23
Black throated Diver N 1
Great Northern Diver N 1
White Billed Diver N 6
Northern Gannet N 10
Northern Gannet S 18
Great Cormorant N 27
Great Cormorant S 5
Eurasian Shag N 1
Eurasian Shag S 13
Grey Heron S 2
Shelduck N 3
Teal N 2
Tufted Duck N 71
Eider N 9
Eider S 3
Long tailed duck N 12
Long tailed duck S 4
Common Scoter N 133
Merganser N 25
Merganser S 6
Oystercatcher N 367
Oystercatcher S 10
Golden Plover N 1
Whimbrel N 1
Arctic Skua N 1
Black headed Gull S 1
Common Gull N 190
Lesser black backed Gull S 1
Common Guillemot N 2
Razorbill N 8
Auk N 7





2cy male Pallid Harrier steppehauk



Shortly after two of us left something made me turn around and I glimpsed a wingtip disappearing behind a rocky outcrop, I just knew I had to see what it was - and sure enough a cracking Pallid Harrier steppehauk came into view, circled us briefy and moved rapidly onwards and we lost the bird gaining height over Herldevær. This is the first spring record for the county (and only around the 10th all in).