Friday, May 31, 2019

Øygarden 23.05 - 25.05 Catch-up

I spent a few days R&R in Oslo 18-21.05 on my way back from Dubai and reunited with my binoculars I had a couple of very relaxed a pleasant walks with my better half and caught up with many migrants in the Oslo including Wood Warbler bøksanger, Swift tårnseiler, Redstart rødstjert, Tree Pipit trepiplerke, Common Buzzard musvåk, Black-throated Diver storlom, Garden Warbler hagesanger, Pied Flycatcher svarthvit fluesnapper and more. Other birds included Black Woodpecker svartspett and what seems to be the first Pintail stjertand away from the overwintering bird at Østensjøvatnet.

Back in Øygarden I found out I had missed out on all sorts including Ortulan Bunting hortulan, Bluethroat blåstrupe, Rosefinch rosenfink, Pomarine Skua polarjo , Corncrake åkerrikse, and much, much more. Now that I have effectively lost the best part of the spring it remains to salvage what I can and catch up with a few things....

Predictably there was not much time to get out but on 23.05 my terrace provided a string of local year ticks including Cuckoo gjøk, Common Tern makrellterne and Common Whitethroat tornsanger.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese ringgås heading north

Male Linnet tornirisk. As usual both Twite bergirisk and Linnet tornirisk are breeding at Skogsøy.

Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke

Southbound Shelduck gravand - failed breeders and thus the first of the autumn migrants?

White-billed Diver gulnebblom (or no-billed diver as they should be termed under such conditions)

I didn't get out at all on 24.05 but on 25.05 I managed just over 2.5 hours seawatching at Skogsøy. Here I was rewarded with a flock of 43 Brent Geese ringgås of the pale-bellied form hrota returning from my home turf back in north Northumberland to Svalbard. Other stuff passing included almost 50 Red-throated Diver smålom, a single White-billed Diver gulnebblom, four Shelduck gravand heading south, small numbers of Arctic Terns rødnebbterne, 18 Kittiwake krykkje, a couple of Black Guillemot teist and a Velvet Scoter sjøorre.

Back home at Nautnes it was back to work and chores but five minutes from the terrace showed that migration continued to well into the afternoon with a single flock of 16 Red-throated Diver smålom and at least 15 Kittiwake krykkje.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Dubai and the Persian Gulf 03.05-17.05 Birding without bins

About the only thing about life that is predictable is that it is unpredictable. An overnight trip to SE England turned into a few weeks in Dubai, including some time offshore in the Persian Gulf.

This was not exactly planned for and as such I had no luggage, no binoculars and no DSLR. Equipped only with eyes and a "point and pray" superzoom I had to make the best out of the few chances I got to look at any birds....

Common Mynah

Graceful Prinia

Laughing Dove

Red-wattled Lapwing - this pair had raised young in the middle of a busy road junction!

White-eared Bulbul

For the first few days I was stuck in a hotel but one morning I took 20 minutes free to walk around the block. This produced a selection of the commonest birds in the area, White-eared Bulbul, Graceful Prinia, Common Mynah, Red-wattled Lapwing, House Sparrow, Indian Silverbill, Laughing Dove, Collared Dove and House Crows were the species I managed to identify here. Some flocks of swifts went unidentified.

Leaving Dubai behind....

Sunset in the Persian Gulf

A six hour transit in a small boat out to the vessel I was joining produced several Bridled Tern and a few Greater Crested Terns.

Bridled Tern - a common species offshore


Just a couple of the different kinds of Grasshoppers that turned up onboard - a long way from land!

Greater and Lesser Crested Terns (birds 3,4 and 5 from left) resting on a hose

Greater Crested Terns with one Lesser Crested Tern (in flight on right of image)

Greater Crested Terns with one Lesser Crested Tern (in flight)

Greater Crested Terns with two Lesser Crested Tern (front centre)

Marsh Warbler

Willow Warbler

Butterfly (one of several species seen)


Once offshore I was, as so often the case, stuck inside. Towards the end of the trip I had some opportunities to pop out on deck. There was almost always a passerine on deck feeding on the huge number of grounded insects. The only species I managed to identify were Willow Warbler, Marsh Warbler and a Yellow Wagtail (the latter as I left the vessel).

Nocturnal Sooty Gull

Once night I went out on deck for a breath of fresh air and was rewarded with several Sooty Gulls feeding around the vessel - no doubt attracted to the small fish and other creatures attracted by our lights.

How to charge a camera battery without a charger......(don't try this at home!)

As the trip was so unplanned I did not even have the charger for my camera battery with me. I did, however, have access to a few helpful bits and pieces which meant I managed to charge the battery without this essential bit of gear (not the first time something this has happened!)

Greater Crested Tern Roost

Seabirds were generally limited to small feeding parties of Greater Crested Terns and Bridled Terns. However, on one occasion a group of well over 200 Greater Crested Terns rested on the hose of a loading buoy, among them were several Lesser Crested Terns and a few Cormorants were knocking about.

Returning to Port Rashid

The way home was once again in a small boat. This time I was not hunched over a laptop and manged to see two Long-tailed Skua (flying south), two Swallows (more predictably heading north) and quite a few more Bridled Terns and Greater Crested Terns.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Nautnes / Tjeldstø 29 April - 01 May 2019 - Back to work

And back to earth with a bang. Very frustrating to sit glued to phone/computer during the best week of the spring....

Checked Tjeldstø to a varying degree each day and glimpsed a few bits and bobs from the terrace at home.

Barnacles hvitkinngås passing Nautnes on 30 April (whilst I was hanging up nestboxes...)

Shoveler skjeand pair on Husvatnet, Tjeldstø

Song Thrush måltrost

Random White-tailed Eagle havørn shot from the terrace

Highlight were the two male Gargany knekkand which stayed until the afternoon of 30 April. A pair of Shoveler skjeand also turned up on Husvatnet as did a few Wigeon brunnakke.

On 29 & 30 April some flocks of Barnacle Geese hvitkinngås headed north - interestingly some large numbers of Pinkfeet and Greylag were reported on artsobs at exactly the same time as the main Barnacle movement happened. Credible obs? Highly unlikely. That thousands of geese of three different species passed over the same area at the same time is just too much of a coincidence.....

Lapwings vipe on eggs, several Greylag grågås families now with chicks, Golden Plover heilo stopping up for a break in their migration were other signs of spring.

01 May is traditionally a day for seawatching at Skogsøy. I did not have the chance to do this but made the "mistake" of doing 15 minutes at Solberg just to get an idea about what might be going on. In the short time I sat there I was rewarded with a White-billed Diver gulnebblom and 15 Red-throated Diver smålom. Doh!!

Massively cropped image of an Eagle Owl hubro being mobbed by a Hooded Crow kråke

Also managed another Eagle Owl hubro sighting....:)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Skogsøy 28 April 2019 - Misty but far from dull

A very misty start to the day so I went back to bed for an hour or two after my alarm clock woke me.
I therefore didn't get out to the lookout point until 0740 (a couple of hours later than I should have had there been any visibility).

I sat there as long as I could (four hours) and had to run back to the car in order to not be late for a family thing.

Common Scoter svartand

Gannet havsule

Red-throated Diver smålom

One of the 12 White-billed Diver gulnebblom

Highlights were 12 adult White-billed Divers gulnebblom heading north and a 2cy bird on the sea as a bonus. The first of these to pass was the closest, and as it was still drizzling my camera was still in my rucksack so I just sat back and enjoyed it - no need to photograph everything! Almost 240 Red-throated Diver smålom, a couple of cracking pale phase Arctic Skua tyvjo, two Whimbrel småspove, some 30 Long-tailed Duck havelle and 50 Common Scoter svartand were among the other birds seen.

Two drake Gargany knekkand just after landing...

A message regarding two male Gargany knekkand at Tjeldstø meant that despite my super fast time back to the car I was still late for the family thing - after returning home for a change of clothes there was a mandatory stop at Tjeldstø to catch up with these superb birds - I was very lucky as shortly after I arrived they flew up and then landed much closer.....

Other birds seen/heard included a Lesser Whitethroat møller at Tjeldstø, another Whimbrel småspove and some Twite bergirisk from my terrace at Nautnes