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.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Øygarden 30.11 - 07.12 - Back to reality

After a few weeks in Indonesia (more of that later) it was back home and back to reality. As per normal there has been a backlog of stuff to deal with.

The amount of s**t to deal with this time was even more than usual with two exceptionally crap things to deal with:

1) Planning application for an industrial fish farm RIGHT outside my house now on the cards and threatening to destroy the very reason for living out here in the middle of nowhere. Thanks a f***ing bunch for that one Øygarden Seafoods. You total t**ts.

2) Loss of job.
Thankfully somewhat easier to deal with than the destruction of the local habitat is the fact the company I work for is closing down. Plenty of jobs about it seems and the only real difficulty is deciding on where to go next😃

Needless to say little time in the field but obviously plenty about including some unseasonally large flocks of Brambling bjørkefink with 150 at Tjeldstø and 200+ at Sture. Also small numbers of Waxwing sidensvans about.

One of two Dipper fossekall at Husvatnet, Tjeldstø on 05.12

Birding Hjelme Vest on 01.12
Two Dipper fossekall on Husvatnet, Tjeldstø on 06.12 were astonishingly the first I have seen in Øygarden this year.

Otters have been a daily sight this week as usual

The seawatching hide at Skogsøy produced a Great Northern Diver islom on 05.12

Turnstone steinvender at Tjeldstø (seen on a couple of occasions this week)

Otherwise business more or less as usual with a few White-tailed Eagle havørn daily from the terrace (and plenty of other places too!),  Purple Sandpipers fjærplytt at Hjelme Vest and Tjeldstø, Red-throated Diver smålom, Great Northern Diver islom, a late Oystercatcher tjeld, Turnstone steinvender (uncommon winter visitor out here), Curlews storspove, Peregrine vandrefalk, Goshawks hønsehauk and plenty more besides. Otters various places too.

A (the?) usual wintering Slav grebe (or Horned Grebe as they are supposed to be called these days) horndykker was present at Dåvøy along with a massive count of 65 roosting Grey Herons gråhegre.

One of four Spurdog pigghår caught (and released!) during an "evening" fishing trip.
This is the first time I have caught this species in December!

A fishing trip (hoping for Cod or better) proved exceptionally interesting with four spurdog pigghår caught along with some of the more usual species...

Friday, November 08, 2019

Øygarden 03 November 2019 - (Un)Common Buzzard!

Another bright and sunny morning with winds from the east.

Jackdaw kaie

Starlings stær

I did a short check at Herdlevær where Waxwings sidensvans put in an appearance, a late Woodpigeon ringdue headed south and another typical late autumn migrant - Jackdaw kaie - turned up. Otherwise just the usual Redpolls gråsisik, Brambling bjørkefink etc

Roadside Meadow Pipit heipiplerke at Breivik
The vast majority have left the area now

I then stopped at Tjeldstø and started filling petrol. However, I had to abort, grab my camera and take pictures of a Common Buzzard musvåk that came over chased by Hooded Crows kråke and disappeared to the south....A rare bird out in Øygarden and the first I have seen at Tjeldstø.

Common Buzzard musvåk

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Øygarden 01-02 November 2019 - Still plenty going on!

On 01 November I did a quick check at Herdlevær which produced Goshawk hønsehauk and Goldfinch stillits as the best birds.

Peregrine vandrefalk at Tjeldstø

Tjeldstø was slightly better with three White-tailed Eagles havørn - two adults seemed to cooperate on catching a large fish and a younger birds that tried to get in on the action. Also a first year Goshawk hønsehauk and an adult Peregrine vandrefalk.

Thrushes and finches still picking off the last of the rowan berries and some late Dunnock jernspurv also moving through - heard or seen at a few locations.

Female Blackcap munk at Blomvåg

On 02 November I spent at hour at Sæle where I had a couple of flocks of Waxwing sidensvans as the best birds. Family errands meant I had to chase a bus to Rong and on the way home I picked up a couple of female Blackcaps munk at Blomvåg, a Merlin dvergfalk over the road at Oen and both Waxwing sidensvans and Goldfinch stillits at Ådnevika.

A short trip out in the afternoon finally gave me actual views of a Green Woodpecker grønnspett, a few more Waxwing sidensvans flocks heading south and 100s of finches - mostly Common Redpoll gråsisik, Siskin grønnsisik and Brambling bjørkefink.

Otter in my "garden"
I did actually leave the terrace to get the close up shots!

Back home at Nautnes a Little Auk alkekonge turned up on the sea outside the house and an Otter put on a nice performance as it devoured a butterfish.