Saturday, February 23, 2019

Tjeldstø 23 February 2019 - A new species for Tjeldstø!

Strong southerly wind but mild and dry.

I did no birding today other than a quick stop a Tjeldstø on my way home from various errands. Highlight was a new species for Tjeldstø - Mute Swan knoppsvane! Four second year birds fed there and represent only the fifth record of this species for Øygarden. Not the most exciting of "rarities" but a very nice record indeed and takes the species list at Tjeldstø up to 212.

VJ3 is back and strutting his stuff again. He bred here last year and looks to be intent on doing the same this season. 

The first Mistle Thrush duetrost of the spring

There was plenty of other interest including a Mistle Thrush duetrost feeding in the fields (this seems to be the earliest ever in Øygarden), my first local Tufted Duck toppand of the year and plenty of Greylags grågås - a species that arrived the day after I left Øygarden last week....One of these birds was neck ringed and was a bird I first saw last spring at the same locality. I checked it out on and very interestingly this bird was observed in Holland back on  20 January this year. It was first seen at Tjeldstø on 21.02.

A rare sight this winter - a young Whooper sangsvane accompanying its parents. Thus far this winter there have only been adults in Øygarden. Not an encouraging sign. Note the female Tufted Duck toppand to the left in the bottom picture.

There were also quite a few Whoopers sangsvane about - including the first immature bird I have seen in Øygarden this winter.

Working on various things outside my house I had the usual White-tailed Eagle havørn and a flyover Skylark sanglerke in addition to the usual stuff at the feeders.

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.