Saturday, February 27, 2021

Øygarden 27 February 2021 - Even more spring:)

 Southerly winds with light rain in the morning, calmer and dry in the afternoon.

Kicked off with a look at Hjelme Vest, I turned up a bit on the early side and it was hard going to pick stuff up. With a bit more daylight there was slightly more to see - though some of the usual species failed to show. Best sighting was a flock of around 50 Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt. There were also four each of White-tailed Eagle havørn and Black Guillemot teist, about 40 Long-tailed Duck havelle and several Common Scoter svartand.

The woods were quiet with just the usual Crested Tits toppmeis and small flocks of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb and Greenfinch grønnfink.

Drive-bys on the way home proved rather more productive with the first Woodpigeon ringdue of the year at Sæle. At Hjelme there were two Mistle Thrush duetrost which were joined by two Fieldfare.

Mistle Thrush duetrost at Hjelme - early spring is the best time to see this rather species which rather scarce in the west of Norway.

Woodpigeon ringdue at Sæle

On my way to pick up my daughters for a fishing trip I picked up four more Mistle Thrush duetrost at Tjeldstø.

Four Mistle Thrush duetrost at Tjeldstø

The fishing was not too successful, although there will be fish for dinner much of this week:) White-tailed Eagle havørn, Greylags grågås and a newly arrived Oystercatcher tjeld were among the birds seen.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Øygarden 23-26 February 2021 - More Spring

 Mild with southerly winds with the exception of 26 which mild with NW breeze. Some rain at times but mostly dry.

On 23 February a cheeky pre-work seawatch was in order, I managed just over an hour. Not that much going on but a hunting Peregrine vandrefalk was quite impressive as it sped out to sea and stooped at something I couldn't even see in the scope. It had managed to spot whatever it was from somewhere slightly further inland from where I was sitting without the aid of powerful optical equipment. The southbound migration of Shags toppskarv is now underway - the birds from further south in Norway head north for the winter:)

Peregrine vandrefalk

Shag toppskarv

Lapwing vipe

On the way home two Lapwing vipe flew over as I left the shop - the first of the year for me.

More Greylags grågås and Starling stær have now arrived. Other birds reported on 23.02 were a couple of Stonechat svartstrupe at Breivik and the first Mistle Thrush duetrost of the year at Harkestad

The 24th was a none starter, just a 12+ hour day at the coal face.

On 25 February it was time for the first trip to Hernar this year. Once again nothing remarkable but most of the usual suspects seen including several Black Guilemot teist, a couple of Sparrowhawk spurvehauk seemingly hunting as a team, Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke,  Starlings stær and so on. 

Two Sparrowhawk spurvehauk

Most interestingly I was informed about a sighting of an Ivory Gull ismåke at the fish farm north of the island in the autumn/winter of 2019/2020 - seen by three of the workers there who googled the bird but did not see it subsequently. 

A pre-work round at Herdlevær on 26 February showed that the Shag toppskarv migration has picked up considerably with 134 heading south in 45 minutes (biggest count in the county so far this year). A Goshawk hønsehauk put in an appearance and a dark looking duck had me frantically grappling my camera out of my rucksack - just in time to prove it was just a rather odd and dark-looking Mallard stokkand. Better safe than sorry though.

Goshawk hønsehauk being mobbed by a Hooded Crow kråke

This dark Mallard-like duck had me going for the camera....

...just in time to prove that is was just a dark looking Mallard stokkand (pale tail sides and white borders to the speculum indicate this). Odd looking thing though.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Øygarden 21-22 February 2021 - Spring!

 The mild and windy weather continues.

Before work on 21.02 I did my usual round at Herdlevær picking up nothing in particular but nice to see that at least one Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke survived the cold spell. A flock of 15 Merganser siland was one of the larger flocks I've seen so far this winter. The best sighting here was at least one Porpoise nise feeding right in the surf below my usual coffee place - though it was only visible very briefly at the surface.

Quite an obvious movement of large gulls noted both here and at home

Great Black-backed Gull svartbak

Shag toppskarv - one of last year's birds by the look of things

Before I left the house, and before the sun came up four White-tailed Eagles havørn turned up and I just managed to get all four in the same shot:) A Sparrowhawk spurvehauk also made a pass over the garden.

Three White-tailed Eagles havørn at dawn - photographed from my terrace

then four....

Others were out and about and reported Lapwing vipe at Breivik and Wigeon brunnakke at Solberg.

My pre-work outing on 22.02 predictably went to both Breivik and Solberg where I spectacularly failed to see either of yesterday's newcomers.

However, all was far from lost as Breivik produced a Skylark sanglerke and Solberg a nice male Stonechat svartstrupe. Both these observations tie in well with an obvious influx of both species along the south and west coast of Norway during the last few days.

Male Stonechat svartstrupe at Solberg

An obvious arrival of Starling stær has occurred with more and larger flocks present at more places than during the winter. It looks like the first returning Greylags grågås are also back (as opposed to the winter visitors that have been seen on and off). 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Øygarden 19-20 February 2021 - Back West

 Brisk southerly winds with temperatures up to 7-11 degrees.

Although it is now a lot milder and the snow has gone most of the lakes are still pretty much frozen and the ground remains frozen below the surface. Too little too late for many/most of the birds that gave it a go this winter....

Not out much but a quick reccy on 19 saw Whooper Swans sangsvane trying to find suitable fresh water habitat with limited success - two birds on the ice at Tjeldstø whilst three more flew overhead and didn't bother landing.

Raven ravn from the terrace

Whoopers sangsvane looking for some freshwater localities but slightly optimistic regarding the conditions

Solberg held a couple of Curlew storspove, a few White-tailed Eagle havørn and a selection of the usual seaduck including a (the) Velvet Scoter sjøorre that has been there most of the winter.

From the terrace in the afternoon it was more of the same - another Curlew storspove, White-tailed Eagles havørn, an Otter and a few of the usual passserines in the garden - though numbers much reduced since the thaw has started.

Even less time out and about on 20 February - a Black Guillemot teist at Hellesøy. three White-tailed Eagles havørn from the terrace and not much else out of the ordinary. Single Greylags grågås flew over the house both days - no doubt scouting for suitable areas.

Black Guillemot teist at Hellesøy

Mallard stokkand now moving back onto land / fresh water localities now that it possible for them to feed there.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Oslo 16 - 18 February 2021 - Back to relative warmth again

 Overcast with light snow most of the time but temperatures were up to only a few degrees below freezing. Positively roasting compared to further north:)

A lightening visit to Gressholm on 16 February provided a Little Auk alkekonge as the best sighting - and it did a better job of posing for the camera than I gave it credit for.  Interestingly this was the first record for Oslo so far this year. The few remaining Blackbirds svarttrost on the island seemed to be surviving on rosehips.

Blacbird svarttrost feeding on rosehips

Common Seal steinkobbe

Little Auk alkekonge

The fjord was otherwise relatively quiet with a couple of small flocks of Velvet Scoter sjøorrre and several auks - mostly Guillemot lomvi but with a single Razorbill alke.

Razorbill alke

Velvet Scoter sjøorre

On 18 February I did something very unusual indeed and actually met up with another birder - none other than Oslo Birder. We had a quick look at Østensjøvatnet and caught up with one of the Water Rails vannrikse frequenting this largely frozen area. 

I had stupidly left my spare battery at home so only managed a few shots before the camera gave up the ghost....

This Water Rail vannrikse left the area it was feeding in to dig up food left for it in the snow

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Engerdal 10-14 February - No Romance

With temperatures down to -28C it was hardly surprising that birds were hard to find in the limited time I spent birding.

Incredibly a Treecreeper trekryper showed up in -22C. This bird must have survived weeks of such temperatures. That an insect eating species such as this continues to survive under such conditions is nothing short of amazing!

The river at Heggeriset gradually froze over but still held a Whooper sangsvane and a few each of Mallard stokkand and Dipper fossekall.

Higher up there were a lot of tracks in the snow - Roe Deer, Hare, Elg, a bunch of other stuff and lots of game birds. Eventually I found out that the only way to see any of the birds was to get out early so on 14 February I left a perfectly warm bed and headed into the hills where I was rewarded with four male Black Grouse orrfugl at a lek - amazing that they have the energy for this given the low temperatures! No females were present so no romance for these boys trying their best on a mildly put chilly Valentine's day. I aslo got a brief glimpse of a Willow Grouse lirype.

My eyelashes froze, as did the lenses on my binoculars. Otherwise a very pleasant morning:)

Black Grouse orrfugl at a lek in -20C!

Bullfinch dompap - the only numerous and widespread finch this winter

Very fluffy Willow Tit granmeis

Other than that very few finches, plenty of Great-spotted Woodpecker flaggspett and the Hawk Owl haukugle at Drevsjø remained faithful to its chosen tree....

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Engerdal 08-09 February - And I thought it was cold in the west.....

 Temperatures 10-15 degrees colder than the west of Norway.

After a few weeks of temperatures down to several below freezing in the west of Norway I am now in the east and it was -23C on the morning of 09 February. In the heat of the day the temperature rose to a balmy -15. No concerns regarding birds trying to overwinter here - I don't think any migrants even try and get the hell out in plenty of time before winter sets in.

As many others have noted it can be rather quiet and birds few and far between in the woods of eastern Norway. However, a few species hang on in there - including Dippers fossekall - surely one of the toughest of them all. For me a Hawk Owl haukugle has been the highlight so far but I have barely been out yet.

Hawk Owl haukugle in Engerdal

Some of the Whoopers sangsvane at Isterfossen

On 08 February a Dipper fossekall hung around whilst an Otter pulled up a fish through a hole in the ice. Not sure if it was waiting its turn at the hole, scared of the Otter or hoping to pick up some scraps...

Otter and Dipper fossekall at Heggeriset

Hopefully some more time out and about will produce some more eastern Norwegian goodies...