Sunday, December 27, 2020

Oslo 20-27 December 2020 - Christmas in the east

 For the most part a grey and wet Christmas.

I was out in some form every day, ranging from short strolls in downtown Oslo to 10km+ walks in the surrounding area.

Bygdøy on 20 December produced Black Woodpecker svartspett and  five Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt as the best sightings.

Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt

Gressholmen on 22 December was very quiet for the most part but a Goshawk hønsehauk looked like it was hunting the many rodents there. Red-throated Divers smålom, Guillemots lomvi and Razorbill alke gave good views from the boat. An unusual finding was a dead Lesser Spotted Dogfish on the shore.

Goshawk hønsehauk

Red-throated Diver smålom 

Some of the many Guillemots lomvi present in inner Oslofjord

A long walk around Bogstadsvannet on 23 December produced a Hawk Owl haukugle as the best bird along with Black Woodpecker svartspett, Dipper fossekall and most of the usual stuff.

Hawk Owl haukugle
Christmas tree decorations as they should be!

Fornebu is a place I tend to avoid as the development there makes me sick, but unable to think of aywhere else to go I went there on 24 December. A flock of Long-tailed Tit stjertmeis were as always delightful and a couple of Water Rail vannrikse made themselves known.

The Botanic Gardens were full of feeding Fieldfare gråtrost, Goshawk hønsehauk and a single Hawfinch kjernebiter.

Goshawk hønsehauk in the Botanic Gardens

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Øygarden 15-16 December 2020 - Quietening down

 Milder with some rain at times.

On 15 December a walk at Hjelme Vest barely produced the usual suspects with just a Great Northern Diver islom, 45 Long-tailed Duck havelle, several White-tailed Eagles havørn, a few Gannet havsule and small numbers of other seaduck. 

At Tjeldstø a total of 12 Whoopers sangsvane fed on the now reopened fresh water - the best count of the winter thus far but disturbingly all were adults. I have often experienced that pairs with young are forced to use less optimal habitats so hopefully this is what is going on.

My usual walk at Herdlevær on 16 December was even quieter with just a Wigeon brunnakke of interest. Several White-tailed Eagle havørn, a couple of Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke and a Gannet havsule were among the other sightings.

At Tjeldstø 17 Mallard stokkand, 7 Whoopers sangsvane and a Sparrowhawk spurvehauk were among the species noted.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Herdla 14 December 2020 - Christmas shopping

 It is not often I bird outside Øygarden when I am at home. Today was an exception - the weather forecast was anything but ideal - but the first rain in over a week is nothing to complain about:). I also needed to get rid of Christmas - and that means, despite some intense internet shopping last night, that I still needed to go to a shopping centre - making the most of bad weather was the plan. The nearest such hell hole is half way to Herdla so I decided I would do Herdla and do the shopping on the way home.

I first made sure I had no sharp objects or other weapon-like items with me. Then I took my shopping pills and booked an emergency pyschologist appointment. My daughters then said they also wanted to go to Herdla despite the weather and (for them at least) the early start. Things looked promising:)

This cracking male Snow Bunting snøspurv made me take the camera out of my rucksack.
After I heard it and frantically asked if anyone had seen anything my youngest informed me she'd had her eye on it "for a while" so I had to remind her about the last time she found a Snow Bunting outside my house on the way home from school and the appropriate actions to take. She then followed it's every move like any decent daughter should:) 

The low cloud and rain made me wonder if it would ever get light but a minute or two after we got out of the car the weather cleared and stayed that way making for wonderful conditions. Highlights included an Eagle Owl hubro (what I call a "good Dad reward" - we found it doing some totally non-birding stuff involving tiktok and the like) , a female Pintail stjertand, a male Snow Bunting snøspurv, a Lapwing vipe and a Grey Plover tundralo. The supporting cast was decent too with at least 10 Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke, Wigeon brunnakke, over 20 Velvet Scoter sjøorre, several Long-tailed Duck havelle, a couple of Snipe enkeltbekkasin.

So Christmas is done. We picked up sushi on the way home and life is good. Feeling pretty lucky!

I don't even care that we didn't definitely connect with the long-staying Citrine Wagtail sitronerle that has been present since late November. Though there was one call and a probable wagtail flying along the shore.....

Dåvøy & Tjeldstø 13 December 2020 - A taste of winter

 Calm and mild again - but it was obviously colder during the night as much freshwater was frozen.

Started at Dåvøy where the hoped for species - Slavonian Grebe horndykker showed well in the scope with two birds fishing together. The other birds of note were mostly at long range with a Little Auk alkekonge, a Velvet Scoter sjøorre and a Red-throated Diver smålom also present. Birds that were a lot closer included a couple of Snipe enkeltbekkasin, White-tailed Eagle havørn and a flock of 17 Common Crossbill grankorsnebb.

Juvenile Peregrine vandrefalk

Whoopers sangsvane

A lunch break at Tjelstø saw two Whoopers sangsvane looking for some unfrozen water - and they did find what they were looking for not too far away:) A juvenile Peregrine vandrefalk put on an impressive performance - it seemed to spot a Snipe enkeltbekkasin on the ground at long range and headed straight for it. The Snipe escaped at great altitude and the Peregrine just kept going until I lost it just before it went into orbit.

Other birds seen included a Grey-headed Woodpecker gråspett at Nautnes.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Øygarden 11-12 December 2020 - ID frustration and missed photo opportunities

 The superb weather continues with sun for the most part along with light SE winds.

On 11 December I decided to start the day at Tjeldstø. I was rewarded with several Snipe enkeltbekkasin - as expected and a flock of 17 Greylags grågås which had found a good place to hide from casual observers. I also picked up a Velvet Scoter sjøorre, the usual White-tailed Eagles havørn and more. 

Frustratingly a falcon put in an appearance and I struggled to identify it even when zooming in all the way in my scope. The bird was at long range and was not Kestrel or Peregrine. Judging the size was the challenge and I am not sure why I don't just claim it as Gyrfalcon jaktfalk. It seemed to be hunting Cormorants storskarv yet looked a bit on the small side for this. I spent a long time watching it sitting on a look out post before it went low over the water to one Cormorant roost and then proceeded to another island with Cormorants before heading off south down the fjord. Something just did not click for Gyr, normally they seem huge. 

Falcon with Cormorants storskarv. The bird had its back to me at this point - massively cropped image. Even the scope wasn't quite enough today....

However, I managed to both identify and photograph at least a couple of birds - both the following from my terrace after I returned home:

Common Scoter svartand

Cormorant storskarv

A trip to Skogsøy on 12.12 could have been a photo bonanza had I been in my usual place instead of the relatively newly built hide (don't ask). Best birds were a total of four Great Northern Divers islom - two of them together at point blank range and the next two also together although a little further out. My camera was still in my rucksack so I only have myself to blame. A Peregrine vandrefalk also posed nicely but I had not opened the window it was visible from....Several each of Gannet havsule and Kittiwake krykkje along with singles of Black Guillemot teist and Velvet Scoter sjøorre and a distant small pale bird low over the sea that was rapidly overtaken by a Guillebill was also intriguing to say the least. Little in the woods other than a flock of around 20 Common Crossbill grankorsnebb.

Peregrine vandrefalk. Photo taken through a dirty window.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Øygarden 08-10 December 2020 - Fantastic winter weather

 Calm and mild without any rain throughout the last few days.

On 08 December I did my usual round at Herdlevær with the best birds being a Woodcock rugde, 30 Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt and 22 Starling stær. Plenty of White-tailed Eagles havørn "all over".

A boat trip around northern Øygarden on the 09 December produced the usual winter fare - several Curlew storspove, a Great Northern Diver islom, around 10 Black Guillemots teist, 40-ish Long-tailed Duck havelle, 10 White-tailed Eagles havørn, a few each of Common Scoter svartand and Velvet Scoter sjøorre and a late Red-throated Diver smålom right outside my house.

Black Guillemot teist - now easily the commonest auk during the winter months

Eiders ærfugl

This should probably have some kind of he/she caption with the male hiding behind a wave:)

Long-tailed Ducks havelle

First year Red-throated Diver smålom at Nautnes

A mix of Cormorants storskarv and Shag toppskarv (mostly the latter)

Velvet Scoter sjøorre

Adult White-tailed Eagle havørn

After the boat trip it was time to go to the shops, a slight detour produced a first year Herring Gull gråmåke from Kvamsøy, Møre og Romsdal, some 182km further north.

JNJ15 - a rather more interesting bird than my last colour ringed Herring Gull!

This shows how far the bird has moved since it was ringed as a chick.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Eastern Norway 25.11 - 07.12 - Winter is coming

 A few days in Oslo produced no big surprises, though I did see record numbers of Wigeon brunnakke and Mute Swan knoppsvane on 25.11 at the well known locality Østensjøvatnet. I have never seen so many birds on this lake that I only visit occasionally. A hybrid Mallard / Wigeon got the pulse racing at long range!

The visit was not really planned so I ended up there with only my superzoom - it did the job though:)

Lots of auks in the area around Oslo, many of them obviously dying of either disease or starvation. I saw Red-throated Diver smålom catch fish that were almost too big for them to swallow so perhaps it is something to do with not being enough smaller fish...

On one of my visits to Gressholmen the "lagoon" there was completely frozen over - a sure sign that things are cooling down a bit....

The Botanic Gardens were also full of birds, a bit different from other winters with no Waxwings sidensvans and little in the way of finches. A Goshawk hønsehauk and plenty of Fieldfare gråtrost though.

Fieldfares gråtrost feasting on fallen apples in the Botanic Garden, Oslo

First year Goshawk hønsehauk, Botanic Gardens, Oslo

One of several Red-throated Diver smålom together with a Long-tailed Duck havelle, Gressholm, Oslo

I did see Waxwings sidensvans during a very brief visit to Hamar but did no birding there.

The period 30.11-04.12 was spent in Engerdal where the best sightings in a local context were a Grey-headed Woodpecker gråspett and a couple of Goldfinch stillits at Drevsjø. Most of the local specialities showed up - species such as Hazel Grouse jerpe, Capercaille storfugl, Siberian Jay lavskrike, Black Grouse orrfugl and more. Still no owls and not a lot of rodent activity.

Rather more wintery than back west - most freshwater here was frozen and there was a covering of snow (although nothing like as deep as it will get!).

Grey-headed Woodpecker gråspett

Dipper fossekall

Dippers are finding their habitat shrinking rapidly - still some open areas of water for them to find food though.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Mediterranean October / November 2020 - Late autumn migration

 Finally found the time to go through my pictures and notes from my latest offshore trip - this time between mainland Spain and Mallorca.

More details available on this page.

Bottle-nosed Dolphins

Cattle Egrets kuhegre

Balearic Shearwater balearlire

Black Redstart svartrødstjert - 1-3 birds daily onboard the vessel

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Skogsøy 23 November 2020 - Calm after the storm

 Relatively light SW winds.

Pleasant conditions but with some onshore wind saw me trying Skogsøy in case there was some kind of return movement following the recent weather.

I sat for a couple of hours but apart from a steady passage of Kittiwake krykkje heading north there was not much out of the ordinary. A Black guillemot teist on the sea and small numbers of Red-throated Diver smålom and Common Scoter svartand were among the other things seen.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Øygarden 21-22 November 2020 - The Weather is here / should have stayed at home

A weekend of wild weather. Gale force onshore winds with some short hail / rain showers.

On Saturday 21 November I thought I would try somewhere at least slightly out of the brunt of the weather and opted for Hellesøy. A Little Auk alkekonge, a few White-tailed Eagles havørn, a couple of Kittiwake krykkje and a Red-throated Diver smålom were the rewards here. Otter up close and personal here too.

One of the White-tailed Eagles havørn at Hellesøy

Common Gull fiskemåke

I then proceeded to pop in at various localities to see if anything had been blown down the east side of Øygarden. Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt and Kittiwakes krykkje at Tjeldstø were a promising sign  (both new species for the year there) and two more Otters even more up close and personal.

Aduøt White-tailed Eagle havørn at Solberg

Otters from Tjeldstø (just some of the Otters seen today at various places)

Flocks of thrushes and Starlings stær all over the place but nothing out of the ordinary.

Starling stær (Breivik)

Back home I had a Common Scoter svartand on the sea, a couple of Curlew storspove (first of the "winter" birds which I suspect come from Iceland - just as this weather front did) and more Kittiwakes krykkje

Another highly unusual sighting were two birders checking out the promising area in front of my house. They did not see anything much of note - but someone else REALLY did. A Leach's Petrel stormsvale was photographed passing through Nautnesvågen - past my house in other words - just an hour or so before I came home.

One of the Cormorants storskarv fishing in front of my house

From artsobs (thanks for the message Rixy) :

A number of birders were out in Øygarden on Saturday - the two keenest did 2.5 hours of seawatching at Herdlevær before starting to check bays etc - including Nautnesvågen just an hour after this bird passed. Just shows how the luck of the draw affects things:)

Note to self: Do more birding from the terrace, there IS a reason behind the location. My house is not the best place for traditional seawatching but I've always thought of it as a potential spot for storm-blown bird. Next storm I'll stay at home:)

Sunday saw more of the same weather and a similar routine. Hellesøy produced little of note, just three White-tailed Eagle havørn and a couple of Long-tailed Duck havelle  among the usual suspects.

Other birds of note included a Goldfinch stillits at Toft, two Woodpigeon ringdue and a Peregrine vandrefalk at Tjeldstø where the Greylag grågås flock had increased from 19 to 22.

A colour ringed Herring Gull gråmåke at Blomvåg was not the most exciting of finds but still nice to see where the birds were are seeing come from. This particular bird was ringed in 2019 some 15km away at Å not a big mover (but this was the first sighting since it left its nest!)

2cy Herring Gull gråmåke. All the way from Ågotnes.

A short stop at Solberg gave the best sighting of the day in the form of a Knot polarsnipe - a species never before recorded in November in Øygarden together with a late Oystercatcher tjeld and a seal. The wind was so strong it was impossible to keep my scope steady so I gave up and went home.

Seal at Solberg. The flat forehead makes it look like a Grey seal havert but there was something "off" about this animal, including the buff colour and very thick whiskers.

From the still very windy terrace I picked up a Red-throated Diver smålom on the sea, a few Common Scoter svartand and several Kittiwake krykkje. My terrace provided the best photo opportunities of the day:

Common Scoter svartand
First year Kittiwake krykkje

Red-throated Diver smålom