Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Øygarden 29-30 March 2021 - Great to be back

 Magic to be home again and to not wear a face mask!! Quarantine at home is no different from pre-COVID life with time divided between working at home and out in the field.

There was a lot of stuff to catch up on so I was barely out on 29 March - drove to Tjeldstø to pick up some groceries that were bought for me and that was about it. Despite that there were some photo opportunities- roadside Herons gråhegre performed well:)

Curlew storspove at Dåvøy - almost ridiculous looking bill!
I'm guessing this is the female judging by the bill length - the accompanying bird had a much shorter bill and was therefore probably the male

Adult Heron gråhegre catching what looked like a goby kutling of some sort - also at Dåvøy

Second year Heron gråhegre at Hatten - this one caught a Three-spined Stickleback trepigget stingsild

What a difference a week makes at this time of year! Despite (or perhaps because of) the calm, dull and wet weather there were a lot of new birds in on 30 March.

I started with my usual round at Herdlevær where two Meadow Pipits heipiplerke were the first I've seen this year (though the first in Øygarden were seen whilst I was away), Woodpigeons ringdue, Ringed Plover sandlo, singing Chaffinch bokfink, a Snipe enkeltbekkassin and more.

At Kollsnes four Lesser Black-backed Gulls sildemåke were another new for the year (again, the first were seen in Øygarden over a week ago), a flock of six Linnet tornirisk (first of the year for the county as well as Øygarden) and a couple of Skylark sanglerke.

Husvatnet held the first Black-headed Gull hettemåke of the spring, a roding Snipe enkeltbekkasin and at least 20 Common Gull fiskemåke. A flock of 80 Starling stær flew over here - spring vibes:)

At Hatten a flock of four Lesser Redpoll brunsisik were present (they have been there for over a week now), 25+ Chaffinch bokfink, Great Spotted Woodpecker flaggspett and plenty more.

Back home at Nautnes an odd Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke had the pulse racing for a bit with one white outer tail feather, very pale underparts, paleish legs and what appeared to be brownish back. Turns out the brown colour seems to be worn primaries. The rest I put down to the enormous variability of this species - I'm sure different populations must move through Øygarden. At least two White-tailed Eagle havørn, two pairs of Greylag now settled in and (drum roll please) the first House Sparrows gråspurv at my feeder this year.

At least three different Song Thrush måltrost singing at various locations really gave the day a springlike feel despite the conditions.

Blck-headed Gull hettemåke with Common Gulls fiskemåke and a Herring Gull gråmåke - Husvatnet, Tjeldstø

UN7 is back for a second spring! First ringed at a moulting site further south at Kårstø in 2019 this bird wintered in Germany in 2019 and was seen at Sture last year and is now back in the same place

A couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls sildemåke

Ringed Plover sandlo back at its breeding grounds at Herdlevær

This Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke photographed from my terrace had me going for a bit

I had to be quick to take this shot - I came up over a ridge and saw this looking the other way - I knew it would fly as soon as it turned it's head - 3cy White-tailed Eagle havørn

Cracking bird!!

Monday, March 29, 2021

La Ciotat 22-28 March 2021 - Not birding in the south of France

 A week spent in La Ciotat in the south of France was rather busy but still gave a few limited opportunities to see some birds. 

Most stuff was seen from the hotel room balcony in the short period of daylight before work started, the rest was completely incidental.

sinensis Cormorant mellomskarv looking pretty good in the sun

Yellow-legged Gull gulbeinmåke (rather different to the bird recently accepted in Øygarden)
These birds showed rather smaller spots on the primaries and were generally bulkier looking than the Øygarden bird which must have a different origin than the western Mediterranean

Black Redstarts svartrødstjert became more and more obvious as the week progressed, starting with a singing male and a female from the hotel balcony but with several singing males in a small area by the end of the week. Sardinian Warbler svarthodesanger were heard singing on the last couple of days.

Other than that it was Yellow-legged Gulls gulbeinmåke, Goldfinch stillits and White Wagtails linerle that dominated. Offshore a flock of 30 Black-headed Gulls hettemåke together with one Mediterranean Gull svarthavsmåke were seen during a couple of days spent out in the bay.

Best bird from my point of view was a Kingfisher isfugl fishing in the harbour  on 23 March. A migrating Meadow Pipit heipiplerke put in a quayside appearance outside the hotel on 26 March - no doubt on its way further north.

On 24 March I was eating my breakfast on the quayside when I saw a Yellow-legged Gull gulbeinmåke killing and eating a feral pigeon - not something I can remember seeing before. In the video below you can hear me struggling to swallow the croissant I quickly stuffed into my both to free my hands up to grab my camera out of my bag....best to switch off the audio😄

Yellow-legged Gull killing feral pigeon

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Øygarden 16-19 March 2021 - Just one seawatch

 Good weather for much of the week but unable to make the most of it with the exception of Friday when I spent the morning seawatching at Skogsøy.

Things starting to feel very springlike with Robins rødstrupe and Blackbirds svarttrost singing at dawn, Greylags grågås, Oystercatchers tjeld and the gulls setting up territories close to the house. 

More signs of early spring migrants too with Woodpigeons ringdue, Rock Pipits skjærpiplerke and others becoming more obvious.

At Tjeldstø the Greylag grågås numbers had increased to at least 70 on 16 March and a Lapwing vipe was displaying there too. 

A short walk at Herdlevær on 17 March produced a few Skylark sanglerke and a Snow Bunting snøspurv as the best sightings along with small flocks of resting Oystercatcher tjeld along the shore.

Some migration obvious from my terrace on 18 March with Oystercatchers tjeld heading north and a Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke dropping in. A trip to get a COVID test meant I picked up a couple of male Tufted Duck toppand at Nordlavatnet.

On 19 March with clear skies and light winds for the third morning in a row I just had to get to Skogsøy. Unfortunately I slept in and didn't make it out to the lookout point until 0710 - way too late under such conditions. I spent just under three very pleasant hours enjoying the spring migration - typically dominated by Oystercatchers tjeld but other early species joined the journey north with Common Gulls fiskemåke, Cormorants storskarv, a Shelduck gravand and a Curlew storspove all passing.

Bonus birds here were a Peregrine vandrefalk keeping a keen eye on the migration, a flyover Snow Bunting snøspurv and at least two Rock Pipits skjærpiplerke in full song.

The Oystercatcher flocks came very high today with numbers dropping very quickly after dawn - something typical of the early spring passage for this species.

Cormorants storskarv

Curlew storspove

Gannet havsule

Oystercatcher tjeld

A mixed flock of Shag toppskarv and Cormorant storskarv

The totals for 0710 - 1000:

Northern Gannet N 14
Northern Gannet S 3
Great Cormorant N 16
Eurasian Shag N 45
Eurasian Shag S 27
Greylag Goose N 2
Shelduck N 1
Merganser N 2
Merganser S 2
Oystercatcher N 849
Oystercatcher S 1
Eurasian Curlew N 1
Common Gull N 28
Herring Gull N 14
Razorbill N 3
Auk N 2

Back home a flock of 18 Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt flew in and landed and at least eight more were seen during a brief visit to Herdlevær in the afternoon.

As usual an Otter showed up in front of the house - this time with a flatfish of some sort and as is so often the case it was joined Hooded Crows kråke and Great Black-backed Gulls svartbak trying to steal the Otters catch.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Inland Vestland 13-15 March 2021 - Getting away

I spent the weekend well inland away from the coast and only had one short but productive walk.

Being inland meant that some species that are rare or infrequent out in Øygarden were suddenly on the cards. Things like Mute Swan knoppsvane, Goosander laksand and Green Woodpecker grønnspett😊.

A short walk in a valley near the treeline produced both Golden Eagle kongeørn and Nutcrackers nøttekråke which are absolutely not species I see every day and were a welcome bonus. A massive five species were seen during this walk but quality beats quantity.

Sub adult Golden Eagle kongeørn

Friday, March 12, 2021

Øygarden 08-12 March 2021 - Work lock down

 Work hit harder than anything COVID-19 has done so far and resulted in a week with less time than ever out and about. Birding was limited to little more than drive-bys at best.

On 08 March I managed a short and very uneventful walk at Herdlevær. A few Oystercatcher tjeld, a Red-throated Diver smålom on the sea and 11 Raven ravn were the only sightings of remote interest. The day was saved by a male Pied Wagtail svartryggerle back home at Nautnes.

I popped in at Solberg on 09 March. Much the same story here with several Oystercatcher tjeld and 18 Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt present. A Woodpigeon ringdue at Tjeldstø was the first of the year there. The best sighting were three Ringed Plover sandlo back at one of their regular breeding sites. Tragically most Ringed Plover breed on industrial sites now - the reason being at these places there is little in the way of disturbance.

Ringed Plover sandlo

Seven Lapwing vipe were back on their breeding grounds at Tjeldstø on 11 March. Greylag grågås numbers were up to 40 at the same locality. Best bird was a Mistle Thrush duetrost at Hjelme.

Mistle Thrush duetrost

On 12 March the only sightings of any interest were three Teal krikkand on Husvatnet and two small waders flying over my terrace at Nautnes.

Teal krikkand at Tjeldstø

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Øygarden 01-07 March 2021 - The week that wasn't

Work took the upper hand this week and there was very little time spent out and about.

On 02 March I did my usual round at Herdlevær but it was very quiet indeed. On my way home a tip off about an owl at Oen had me doing a U-turn but it turned out to be just a Sparrowhawk spurvehauk. Always nice with such messages though - sometimes they come good:) This one turned out well too as on the way home I picked up the first Teal krikkand of the year on Rotevatnet.

Starling stær at Nautnes 01 March

Sparrowhawk spurvehauk at Oen 02 March (picture taken through a window)

Teal krikkand on Rotevatnet, Tjeldstø 02 March

The Teal krikkand pair were on Husvatnet again on 05 March.

Other than that just the usual White-tailed Eagles havørn etc from the terrace.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Skogsøy 28 February 2021 - Oystercatcher on the move

 Light southerly winds, some low lying cloud reducing visibility.

Despite the reduced visibility a couple of hours spent seawatching produced over 90 Oystercatcher tjeld heading north - most flocks came past quite high rather than low over the sea - most likely due to a combination of the  mist over the sea and tailwinds. These were the first migrating Oystercatcher of the year - a few days later than usual. Over 100 Shag toppskarv headed south towards their breeding grounds in Rogaland and a lone Common Gull fiskemåke headed north.

The first migrating Oystercatcher tjeld flock of the year

White-tailed Eagle havørn

Rock Pipit skjærpiplerke and a couple White-tailed Eagles havørn were also seen here.

A drive-by at Kollsnes on the way home gave the best bird of the day - a Snow Bunting snøspurv that flew over calling. A couple of Skylark sanglerke were also in the same area.

Otherwise more Greylags grågås and Starling stær continue to arrive. Still flocks of Common Crossbill grankorsnebb pretty much wherever there is suitable habitat.