Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Herdlevær 29 March 2017 - Otters and Eagles

Flat calm and mild. A great day to be out.

I took an hour out at Herdlevær and ate breakfast whilst seawatching. Nothing special but a steady stream of Common Gull fiskemåke, Oystercatcher tjeld and Cormorant storskarv heading north. Small numbers of the usual suspects with them too, Meadow Pipits heipiplerke obviously arriving big time now and singing all over the place. Three very vocal Otters and a couple of adult White-tailed Eagles havørn flew over at decent range too.

Stopped at Husvatnet on the way home as usual but something very strange happened. I not only saw but also met OTHER BIRDERS!! Not just one, but two!: At the same time in the same place in Øygarden. This is the only time this year with the exception of seeing a Kingfisher isfugl with Rixy that I have met other birders in the field. Birdwise it wasn't too bad either with the first Redshank rødstilk for the county this year and a massive four Tufted Duck toppand. One of the pairs were mating so perhaps there is hope for a breeding attempt.

Back home the best bird was a male Pied Wagtail svartryggerle along with White-tailed Eagle havørn and so on.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Øygarden 25-28 March 2017 - Fog stops play for the only day I was out

Largely little wind, ranging from foggy to glorious sunshine.

Barnacle Geese hvitkinngås beside Husvatnet - my first in Øygarden this year but this species was first seen back in February. I wonder if these two are "overshoots" from Oslo - having joined up with the wrong flock of Greylags on their way north...

Crested Tit toppmeis are setting up territories now

I had the good fortune to stumble over Eagle Owl hubro - these shots are very heavily cropped and I turned around and left the area immediately. This is a sensitive time of year for them.

Distant flock of Oystercatcher tjeld at Solberg on 28th - they would have been very close at Skogsøy

White-tailed Eagle havørn enjoying its ill-gotten gains at Nautnes, picture taken from my terrace.

The trend of not getting out continued - with the exception of 26th March when I got up early and went out to Skogsøy to watch the fog. Seriously, the visibility looked misty but reasonable from Nautnes but at Skogsøy I spent and hour waiting in vain for the vis to clear a bit. I gave up and went back home to work. Elsewhere I had Woodcock rugde roding over the house, Song Thrushes måltrost arriving in bigger numbers now - pretty much everywhere and more Meadow Pipits heipiplerke too.

On 25th I barely left the house but had the first Merlin dvergfalk flying over the road on a trip to the shop. Same story on 27th, although a trip to the shops produced a couple of Barnacle Geese hvitkinngås and two Black-headed Gulls hettemåke at Husvatnet, Tjeldstø.

From the house Otter and White-tailed Eagle havørn still being seen daily - the latter robbing the former more often than not. Also Black Guillemot teist, Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke and most of the usual.

The 28th was most frustrating as I had hoped to get out to do some seawatching but work made sure that didn't happen. I ate my breakfast at Solberg and had a few hundred Common Gull fiskemåke and over 100 Oystercatcher tjeld in just 20 minutes. Also a Turnstone steinvender heading north. This passage continued until at least lunchtime (seen from the kitchen window....). A White wagtail linerle turned up just outside the house.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sture 24 March 2017 - Too busy to bird

Dull, calm and wet at times.

Too much on to be out today (starting to sound rather like groundhog day here).

A Merlin dvergfalk flying over the road at Oen was the first of the year.

A very short walk at Sture produced the usual Crested Tits toppmeis and most of the early migrants.

A pair of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb appeared to be feeding on the buds of hazel trees - not something I've seen before but these birds will eat ANYTHING. See here for a totally bizarre example.

I haven't bothered to download my camera today so here are a couple of videos from my latest trip home to the U.K. Newbiggin-by-the-Sea is the Med Gull svartehavsmåke capital of NE England and also a great place to see a lot of other birds.

Sanderlings sandløper, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, February 2017

Just a few of the Med Gulls svartehavsmåke present at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, February 2017

Nautnes 24 March 2017 - Another day at the office / dipping

Wet and windy much of the day.

The weather was of little or no relevance as I spent most of the day glued to either my laptop or my phone.

However, my office paid off and the following pictures may go some way to why I occasionally sound distracted or ask colleagues to repeat themselves. So, I am sat writing some software that will do some QC on pipetracker data and present the results in the way the client wants...and the phone rings.

Otter disposing of a large flatfish with Hooded Crows kråke in attendance

Some videos:

This last video may be the best one in many ways

When the phone rings I walk away from the computer (so I won'y be distracted by the code on my screen) to talk about the detection of magnetic field anomalies around single core HVDC cables. I look out of the window and see an Otter coming ashore with Hooded Crows kråke in attendance. Get point and pray, keep on discussing the merits and potential flaws of a well known cable tracking device, start filming. End phone call, end filming and go back to work on the code.

I glance out later to see Great Black-backed Gulls svartbak have taken over from the Hoodies and the Otter has had enough and left for some peace and quiet. But the phone isn't ringing so I keep on at the software, stopping only to answer a few other emails that drop in.

Target acquired

Lock on target

Ignoring ray bending issues and their potential causes

The gulls may have chased the Otter off but are now hopelessly outgunned.
All the still images here were taken with my "proper" camera

Go back inside and continue work. Another call comes in, this time about how ray-bending of sound velocity may go wrong (or was it a transceiver card that got too warm). Enter White-tailed Eagle havørn, exit gulls. And the remains of the flatty. Back inside and finish the software. In other words atypical day at the office.

No wonder I don't want to go to the proper office in town....

Of interest are the cuts on the Otter's tail (easily seen on the videos) - I repeatedly saw the crows pecking the Otter's tail - no doubt in an attempt to get it to move and leave bits of fish behind. I wonder if the Crows have in fact caused these sores....

There was also some very real birding excitement in the evening. I was just about to make dinner when I was sent an MMS depicting a large white heron at Husvatnet. I was on site less than five minutes later but the bird had flown to the north just before I arrived. An almost identical repeat of last year's record of Great Egret egretthegre (the most likely candidate - only other thing could have been an albino Grey Heron gråhegre)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Øygarden 23 March 2017 - Grey Wag

Lightish westerly winds, some light showers

Once again barely out of the house, my bins would be better used as a paperweight.

Grey Wagtail vintererle - not a common spring migrant in Øygarden

Checked a few localities very superficially. Best bird was a nice Grey Wagtail vintererle at Tjeldstø.

Sparrowhawk spurvehauk

Also managed half decent pics of a Sparrowhawk spurvehauk.

No massive differences from the last few days though now more Lapwing vipe in, a third Tufted Duck toppand joined the two that have been present on Husvatnet, Tjeldstø for the last few days and a lone Guillemot lomvi turned up on the sea at Solberg.

One of two roadside Deer this evening

Errands in the evening produced a couple of roadside Red Deer hjort.

Woodcock rugde roding over the house again even later in the evening.

At least five White-tailed Eagles havørn seen today.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Øygarden 21-22 March 2017 - Considering giving up again

Mostly sunny but with some wintery showers

On 21 March another new for the year turned up at Nautnes - Song Thrush måltrost.

Displaying Rock Pipits skjærpiplerke

Later in the day I had a quick walk at Hjelme Vest and a drive-by at Sæle. Hjelme Vest produced rather little other than a flock of at least 22 Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt. Virtually no duck at all, just a few Gannet havsule, a pair of Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke displaying very actively and a single White-tailed Eagle havørn.

The Rock Pipits skjærpiplerke struck me as rather different to the obvious recent migrants at Tjeldstø. The local breeders seem to be more like the typical birds in the UK - being rather browner and duller as opposed to the migrants which are more slaty grey on the back and peachy on the breast. I wonder where these migrants really come from / are on the way to....

Nuthatch spettmeis

Sæle produced the best bird in an Øygarden context with a singing Nuthatch spettmeis. However, the best bird from my point of view was a Woodcock rugde roding over the house in the evening.

On 22 March I did the "short round" at Tjeldstø - the only bird of note was the Scaup bergand still present on Rotevatnet. My timing was bad here with a snow shower starting shortly after I arrived.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tjeldstø 20 March 2017 - Another day, another new

Southerly wind, sunny in the morning, rain in the afternoon.

Greylag grågås coming head on

The first Lesser Black-backed Gull sildemåke of the year

Didn't have time to get out today. A drive-by at Tjeldstø produced the first Lesser Black-backed Gull sildemåke of the year.

Other than that five Skylark sanglerke, displaying Curlew storspove and Lapwing vipe and a few migrant thrushes with the increasing numbers of Starling stær.

Back home I had to make do with a few White-tailed Eagles havørn and some random migrating waders.

Gratuitous Otter-with-butterfish shot, taken from my terrace yesterday

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tjeldstø 19 March 2017 - Rock Pipits and more

Strong southerly wind, overcast and snow showers whilst I was out. Clear before that....

Greylag grågås

Lapwing vipe

Meadow Pipit heipiplerke

In this picture there are three Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke and a Meadow Pipit heipiplerke in addition to the Greylags grågås

Rock Pipits skjærpiplerke

Two of the Skylarks sanglerke

Bonus bird - Woodcock rugde

A short look at Tjeldstø showed itself to be a good idea today. Highlight was a Woodcock rugde that unexpectedly came flying past. A flock of six Rock Pipits skjærpiplerke fed in flooded fields among Greylags grågås and were joined by two Meadow Pipits heipiplerke. The Skylark sanglerke flock from yesterday remained in the same place.

I also popped in at Solberg where things were pretty much as normal with the only migrants being a flock of eight Redwing rødvingetrost.

Another small flock of Rock Pipits skjærpiplerke landed in front of the house later in the afternoon - obviously something of an arrival going on.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Herdlevær / Tjeldstø / Storavatnet 18 March - Eagle quest leads to some good birds

Guiding again today (just about the only reason I can get to spend more than a couple of hours out!) in calm and sunny conditions.

The aim was getting close to White-tailed Eagles havørn - something that we managed but only just despite seeing an absolute minimum of 11 different birds including eight at one locality!

Started the day at Herdlevær which showed that there was a good passage of birds migrating north today - not that I paid that much attention. At least 100 Common Gulls fiskemåke, plenty of Gannets havsule and Oystercatchers tjeld were on the move. Otherwise it was more or less the usual with a White-tailed Eagle havørn, and most of the usual suspects including a few Tree Sparrow pilfink.

Next up was Tjeldstø where Husvatnet produced my first Meadow Pipit heipiplerke of the year, a pair of Tufted Duck toppand, a few Lapwing vipe, a flock of 20 Woodpigeons ringdue among the Greylags grågås and other birds. A male Scaup bergand, a small flock of Skylark sanglerke, a Gannet havsule, a Curlew storspove and a few more White-tailed Eagle havørn were among the other species seen at Tjeldstø.

Storavatnet's best birds today were a truly massive Goshawk honsehauk and a Golden Plover heilo - both being the first I have seen locally this year. More White-tailed Eagles havørn here as well as a couple of Sparrowhawk spurvehauk and another Curlew storspove.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Øygarden 17 March 2017 - Bad weather, good bird and some more new in.

Westerly gale with heavy wintery showers - not the most comfortable of conditions!

Took a quick look at a few localities which proved to be quite rewarding.

The first Ringed Plover sandlo of the year was back at the usual place - always nice to see.

Female Goosander laksand - something approaching a rarity in Øygarden

By far the best bird of the day was a female Goosander laksand at Heggøy. This species is almost annual in Øygarden but probably under recorded - Heggøy has hosted this species before. This species is perhaps most often in winter during colder periods where they may be forced to the coast.

Siskin grønnsisik in the garden

A male Siskin grønnsisik in my garden at Nautnes was the first one I have seen locally this year although they were reported from Sture earlier in the year.

Another noteworthy sighting was a Gannet havsule at Tjeldstø - no doubt forced down the fjord by the strong onshore winds. A decent variety of stuff here with a male Teal krikkand, several Lapwing vipe and most of the usual.

Whooper swan sangsvane family at Solberg

Small numbers of Whoopers sangsvane still knocking about here and there - it won't be long now before they move away.

The Heron gråhegre roost at Dåvøy was down to 34 birds today - possibly due to some now seeming to be moving into breeding mode....

Skogsøy 16 March 2016 - One step further towards a seawatching hide

Strong S, drizzle then showers.

Up bright and early to get a couple of hours seawatching in before meeting some people who have the will and the way to get a seawatching hide built at Skogsøy. Not where we first hoped / planned but WAY better than not having the option. Very optimistic!

One of the smaller Oystercatcher tjeld flocks to pass today

Some Gannets havsule passed "too" close today - but I was too focused on too far out too see this bird before it was too late

Ravens ravn were showing well today too - and had I been trying to take photos there were plenty of opportunities

As usual this early in the season it was Oystercatcher tjeld that dominated with around 285 heading north. 260 of these in the first hour - again very normal that the Oystercatcher passage drops off very rapidly after dawn. Other stuff included small numbers of Gannet havsule and a light movement of Mergansers siland heading south. Interesting to compare with 2006 when I sat out at Skogsøy for at least 6 hours every day from 15.03 to 31.05. See here for details.

The first Red-throated Diver smålom of the year also cruised passed and on the way out I had the first roding Woocock rugde of the year - I strongly suspect that this was a bird that dared to overwinter and is now reaping the benefits of being on the spot to grab the best territory.

At least as cool and impressive as any of the birds today this inshore naval vessel gunned past with a roar of jet engines.