Sunday, January 31, 2021

Øygarden 28-31 January 2021 - Winter!

 Cold, calm, mostly sunny with snow showers.

Abnormally cold and snowy for the west of Norway. Temperatures mostly around freezing, down to a few degrees below at night and up to a few degrees above during the day.

On 28 January all I managed was a late afternoon walk west of Rong. Just a few White-tailed Eagle havørn, six Velvet Scoter sjøorre and some of the usual suspects. Generally rather quiet - and hard to walk on the snow/ice never knowing if it is rock or ice below the snow.

Dethloff hytta, Rong

A walk at Herdlevær with Sonia on 29 January was rather more productive - potentially a LOT more. Highlight was a probable Grey Phalarope polarsvømmesnipe at long range in the scope - a small. pale bird fluttering around in circles low over the sea. Worth claiming? Maybe - not sure what else it could have been. A light passage of auks heading north were too far off to identify. Birds that were identified included a Razorbill alke on the sea, Snipe enkeltbekkasin (despite staying away from the most likely spots) and a Velvet Scoter sjøorre.

Elsewhere Woodcocks rugde at a couple of locations, Starling stær and Fieldfare gråtrost struggling in the snowy conditions and 12 Blackbird svarttrost in the garden.

Moon over Nautnesvågen, before dawn on 29 January - picture taken whilst putting food out for the birds in my garden

Early on Saturday morning (30 January) I did my usual Skogsøy walk and seawatched for an hour. Very quiet, just a couple of flocks of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb and a Woodcock rugde on the way out. Seawatching was largely unproductive though a distant flock of 40 auks was the biggest flock thus far this year. A flock of 20 Guillemot lomvi headed the same way and a couple of Gannet havsule stopped to look at something.

Cormorant storskarv with the wrasse too far

Raven ravn moving in on an eagle

Seawatching never stops....

Whoopers sangsvane at Alvheim at 0815 - 45 minutes before the sun came up. ISO 5000 and upper image lightened considerably....

One of at least three White-tailed Eagle havørn over the lookout point at SKogsøy on 30 January. This one is a 3cy bird.

As usual a few White-tailed Eagles havørn were seen and a Cormorant storskarv struggled with a wrasse sp that was right on the limit of what it could manage:)    A flock of 24 Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt was probably the best sighting here.

On my return to the car the local Hoodies kråke panicked and a flock of Herons gråhegre took to the wing. Despite looking frantically around I didn't get onto the raptor that scared them - I was thinking Goshawk hønsehauk but given the timing of a reported Gyrfalcon jaktfalk a kilometre to the north it may well have been this that scared them

Other stuff seen during the day included a couple of Whoopers sangsvane at Alvheim well before dawn, Woodcock rugde and Curlew storspove from the house and the flock of 20 Greylag grågås at Breivik.

Needless to say on 31 January I was thinking raptors - even though I have had my eye open for them the last couple of weeks. This paid off quite well with a Goshawk hønsehauk at Tjeldstø, Sparrowhawk spurvehauk at Oen and from my terrace and best of all - a cracking male Merlin dvergfalk at Solberg

It is rare to see so much snow out here in Øygarden! Here looking north over the reserve at Tjeldstø (I saw 5 White-tailed Eagles havørn from this point)

The Merlin dvergfalk showed well in the scope - I really need on of those mobile/scope adaptors!

Heavily cropped image from the DSLR

A couple of different Snipe enkeltbekkasin that were not flushed.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Øygarden 25-27 January 2021 - Cold again

 The thaw came to an abrupt halt with calm, cold and sunny weather throughout. During the day the temperature has crept up to above freezing but down to a few degrees below at nights.

A dropping briefly the number of Blackbirds svarttrost in the garden is back at 10 - by far the most numerous bird in the garden this winter.

In the very early hours of Monday morning the northern lights put on quite a display. I was too slow to find the other lens for my camera and completely missed what could have been a nice opportunity. However, a 30 second exposure still gave quite a nice image which just about captured faint traces of the green in the sky which were not visible to the naked eye.

Part of the view from my terrace at around 01:00 - 30" exposure.

The remainder of the day pretty much went down the pan with an appointment in Bergen meaning I got no work and no birding in. However, all was not lost with two Oystercatcher tjeld at Turøy on the way home and my first Grey-headed Woodpecker gråspett of the year flying over the house in the afternoon.

Tuesday was rather better with a walk at Hjelme Vest producing most of the target species including a cracking White-billed Diver gulnebblom which gave good views in the scope, a Great Northern Diver islom, an Oystercatcher tjeld (probably the same one seen in the area a couple of times by others), 11 Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt, a couple of Curlew storspove and 11 White-tailed Eagles havørn on the same island! 60 Common Crossbill grankorsnebb in the woods were showing signs of pairing up with pairs feeding each other.

Nine White-tailed Eagles havørn in this picture

Pushing the limits of a record shot - however, this clearly shows a very distant White-billed Diver gulnebblom

On 27 January all I managed was a walk at Solberg which was rather quiet with just a Velvet Scoter sjøorre and a Curlew storspove of any note.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Nautnes 23-24 January 2021 - Birding from home

 Brisk SW winds on 23 January which dropped in the afternoon. Calm with snow/rain/sleet showers on 24th.

For reasons nothing to do with work I spent more of the weekend at home than I would normally have done. On 23 January the birds seen from my terrace included a Peregrine vandrefalk, a Red-throated Diver smålom, three Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt, several Long-tailed Duck havelle and at least three White-tailed Eagle havørn.

A second plumaged (3cy) White-tailed Eagle havørn photographed from my terrace. At least two older birds were also present

I did make a short visit to Solberg where things were fairly quiet - just a Curlew storspove, a Velvet Scoter sjøorre, Kittiwake krykkje and Gannet havsule among the sightings. I spent a bit of time trying to sort out a rather dark 2cy Herring Gull gråmåke which didn't fly and didn't come any closer.

Rather dark 2cy Herring Gull, it looked rather better in the scope.....

On 24 January I made the briefest of stops at Tjeldstø where the Yellow-legged Gull gulbeinmåke was with Herring Gulls gråmåke. A Sparrowhawk spurvehauk flew past whilst I was waiting for wing-shot photographs.

Part of the 20-strong Greylag grågås flock at Breivik

The long-staying and regular Yellow-legged Gull gulbeinmåke at Tjeldstø
Soon this birds white head will no longer be an easy feature to pick it up by as the Herring Gulls are starting to lose their winter head streaking

Cormorant storskarv fishing in front of my terrace.

At home a couple of Curlew storspove fed on the shore.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Øygarden 18-22 January 2021 - Finding a balance

 Now with a proper job again it is hard to find the right balance such that I can get the hours in at work and still find time to get out and about. Luckily for me I can to a large extent decide when I work. This week felt like I was not really out that much...

On Monday 18 January I found a dead Woodcock rugde as roadkill at Nautnes - the cold weather no doubt in part to blame for this. I had a quick look at Blomvåg, Breivik and Solberg without seeing much of note. Breivik held the usual three species of thrush and a Velvet scoter sjøorre at Solberg were the only sightings of remote interest.

Woodcock rugde - roadkill

The following day I had to head to the airport and on the way stopped at Alvøen which is in the "new" Øygarden. Here there were several Mute Swans knoppsvane, Eiders ærfugl, Tufted duck toppand and a bunch of other stuff. Curlew storspove from the house before I left and 20 Greylags grågås at Breivik on the way out of the real Øygarden.

Having spent 20 January at the office in Oslo I was out again on 21 January, this time to Hjelme Vest where things were rather quiet with a number of the usual species failing to show. However, all was not lost with a Great Northern Diver islom, a Red-throated Diver smålom, 65+ Long-tailed Duck havelle and a couple of Velvet Scoter sjøorre seen along with the usual White-tailed Eagles havørn etc.

My usual round at Herdlevær on 22 January in exceptionally good conditions - mild and calm - produced a Little Auk alkekonge, a Black Guillemot teist, a few White-tailed Eagles havørn and quite a lot of passerine activity including a few Redwing rødvingetrost and around 10 Chaffinch bokfink. 10 Fieldfare gråtrost and the flock of 20 Greylag grågås (probably of Icelandic origin) were at Breivik.

Even though it has been mild for several days the ground is still frozen not far below the surface and despite all the water at the surface ice remains on most open fresh water and under the water in the fields. There are definitely more places available for Snipe and Woodcock to feed but things must still hang somewhat in the balance for such species.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Northern Øygarden 17 January 2021 - Taking things easy.

 Strong southerly winds, some rain showers. A thaw has slowly started - lets hope it lasts long enough to give the birds some respite.

I took things very easy today starting off at Hellesøy just after it got light. Not a whole lot going on with a few Starling stær the best sighting. A few White-tailed Eagles havørn, nine Herons gråhegre feeding in the channel there and a selection of the usual stuff.

A drive-by at Sæle on the way home was a bit more exciting with a Song Thrush måltrost the first of the year as well as being the first for quite some time. This species is a scarce winter visitor here.

Song Thrush måltrost at Sæle

A very short visit to Tjeldstø gave a couple of Woodcock rugde and a flock of 10 Chaffinch bokfink.

Back home at least two, probably three Woodcock rugde in or close to the garden, a Fieldfare gråtrost, a couple of Redwing rødvingetrost and three White-tailed Eagles havørn were among the species noted.

Redwing rødvingetrost

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Skogsøy 16 January 2021 - Auk movement

 Fresh SE wind, frozen and bitingly cold.

I spend a huge part of my life being too warm. Today was not one of those days:)

There was quite a bit of movement today, although most of the passing birds were very distant. Well over 80 auks headed south and around 30 north. Only a handful were specifically identified, though the vast majority were Guillebills alke/lomvi. Seven Razorbill alke were the first for the county this year and just one Guillemot lomvi was identified.

A few Gannets havsule, a Velvet Scoter sjøorre, 18 Common Scoter svartand and at least 20 Kittiwakes krykkje were among the other birds passing. A Great Northern Diver islom turned up on the sea right in front of where I was sitting and a Peregrine vandrefalk hunted in the area. As I left five Whoopers sangsvane came in over Herdlevær and seemed to be losing height with a few to landing at Skogsøy.

Great Northern Diver islom

Herring Gull gråmåke

Velvet Scoter sjøorre

Adult Cormorant storskarv followed by a 2cy bird

Adult Shag toppskarv followed by a 2cy bird

On the way home small numbers of Redwing rødvingetrost, Fieldfare gråtrost and Starling stær fed in the still frozen and snow covered fields at Breivik.

Back home a couple of Woodcock rugde in the garden and a Curlew storspove feeding on the shore were the highlights. A couple of White-tailed Eagles havørn were present as usual.

Uncropped image of a bird I think is a 5cy - photographed from my terrace

Same bird as above

On 15 January I did not get out birding but did buy some more bird food. Just Snipe enkeltbekkasin and Woodcock rugde in/from the garden along with the more usual garden birds.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Herdlevær 14 January 2021 - Slav

 Calm and frozen.

I did my usual round at Herdlevær in between working from home. Best bird was a nice Slavonian Grebe horndykker - a species I have looked for a few times already this year without success. Other sightings of interest were a coupe of Woodcock rugde, a Snipe enkeltbekkasin, a flock of 20 Greylags grågås that looked like they went in for landing in the Breivik/Kollsnes area but were not seen on the way home, a couple of Redwing rødvingetrost and a bunch of other new species for the year for this locality.

Slavonian Grebe horndykker at Herdlevær

Back home a Woodcock rugde gave cracking views from the car at the end of my driveway - it believed itself invisible and did not fly, a Redpoll gråsisik flew over (few and far between this winter) and the Blackbird svarttrost flock showed no signs of diminishing - they are eating me out of house and home at the moment.

Woodcock rugde

Friday, January 15, 2021

Tjeldstø 13 January 2021 - Avoiding disturbance

 Calm, sunny and frozen AGAIN.

All I managed today was a lunchtime walk around Tjeldstø with one of my daughters. We deliberately stayed well away from the areas being used by Woodcock rugde and Snipe enkeltbekkasin but still saw three of the former and one of the latter.

The female White-backed Woodpecker hvitryggspett was back at Hatten and gave brief views on the way home.

White-backed Woodpecker hvitryggspett

Back home at Nautnes several Redwing rødvingetrost fed near my house but did not join the flock of Blackbirds svarttrost there.

One of the Snipe enkeltbekkasin seen today - cropped image of a bird photographed from my car and not flushed,

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Breivik and Rong 12 January 2021 - More new for the year

 Fresh noetherly winds with some snow showers.

Actually warmer today although it didn't feel it. There was something of a thaw in the afternoon / evening despite the snow.

I only managed a short walk at Breivik and a drive-by at Rong today.

Nothing unexpected at Breivik with just the usual species seen. Rong produced two new for the year in the form of a Tufted Duck toppand and a female Bullfinch dompap.

The usual views of Woodcock rugde, Snipe enkeltbekkasin etc from the car - I am actively not going to the best feeding areas for them as the conditions are such that I don't want to disturb them.

Common Snipe enkeltbekkasin were seen at a couple of places today

Two Woodcock rugde feeding at Nautnes

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Solberg and Tjeldstø 11 January 2021 - Snipe in trouble....

 Another day of calm and cold weather

Just had time for a couple of short stops today. Solberg was first up and was generally quiet with just a single Long-tailed Duck havelle, a second year Kittiwake krykkje and a couple of White-tailed Eagles havørn.

Tjeldstø was perhaps even quieter, with two Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt out on the rocks and a couple of Snipe enkeltbekkasin in the one area I checked. Unfortunately tracks in the snow indicate the local cats are patrolling the ice free areas....just another threat when these birds are at their most vulnerable.

Massively cropped pictures of feeding Snipe enkeltbekkasin - it is vital not to unduly disturb these birds in the difficult times they are currently facing

The end of a Snipe enkeltbekkasin - tracks in the snow indicated that this bird was taken by a bird

However, some feathers and blood on the ice indicated that it was an avian predator that took a Snipe.

Back home at Nautnes a Curlew storspove fed on the shore and a couple of Common Scoter svartand spent the day diving in front of the house.