Saturday, December 30, 2023

Oslo and Hamar 22-27 December 2023 - Christmas in the east

Another period of no birding although I was out for an hour or so with both binoculars and camera on 24.12.

Flocks of Waxwing sidensvans seen whilst going about the usual Christmas activities both in Hamar and downtown Oslo. Biggest flock in Oslo was 25, biggest in Hamar 45 - but just random sightings really. Still flocks of Redpoll gråsisik knocking about in both places.

Near Hamar a flock of 70 Yellowhammer gulspurv was the most I have seen in one place for years! Also on Hamar good views of Beaver, Roe Deer and Fox. Goshawk hønsehauk here and there and, in a Hamar context at least, a Robin rødstrupe was probably the most unusual sighting.

Beaver were very active near Hamar

Redpoll gråsisik flocks still numerous in the east of Norway

Roe Deer struggling in the cold

Goshawk hønsehauk in downtown Oslo

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Øygarden 15-21 December 2023 - Darker times

Just returned from three bird-filled weeks in New Zealand - including a few pelagic trips:) More of that sometime in the future I hope.

I returned to Øygarden just as the weather turned mild - +10C a lot of the time. All the snow and ice that was present whilst I was away rapidly thawed. Quite a bit of wind and showers throughout the period although it was work, life and a bout of covid that kept me chained to the house. No birding at all, although I did have my binoculars and point and pray camera with me whenever I did actually leave the house. As usual under such circumstances it was my terrace that produced most of the interest. Not much in the way of daylight as we approached the shortest day of the year but this was absolutely not the limiting factor this time around.

White-tailed Eagle havørn and up to four Otters were seen daily from the house. My bird feeders proved attractive to flocks of Greenfinch grønnfink and a Chaffinch bokfink or two. Sparrowhawk spurvehauk had a go at the garden birds a couple of time. Other stuff from the terrace included a first year Great Northern Diver islom on 21.12 when an unseasonal flock of Oystercatcher tjeld also turned up. Velvet Scoter sjøorre and more also seen at Nautnes.

First year Great Northern Diver islom photographed from my terrace 21.12

A most unseasonal flock of Oystercatcher tjeld turned up in front of the house on 21.12
Oystercatcher are seen in very small numbers most winters but a flock of four is a big flock during the wintertime:)

Tjeldstø was largely frozen during the period but a male Teal krikkand joined Mallard stokkand and Mergansers siland on the sea there. As the thaw set in Whoopers sangsvane and other wildfowl returned to their usual freshwater haunts.

Male Teal krikkand with Mallards stokkand at Tjeldstø

Breivik produced a young Whooper sangsvane associating with 1-3 Greylags grågås and on 20.12 there was also a Yellowhammer gulspurv there - never a common species out here it is only rarely recorded in the middle winter.

First year Whooper sangsvane with a Greylag grågås at Breivik 15.12. Greylag numbers increased to three a few days later

Yellowhammer gulspurv at Breivik - quite a rarity in northern Øygarden in December:)

Dåvøy was short on gulls but the Heron gråhegre roost numbered up to 30 individuals and a Slavonian Grebe horndykker was present on 21.12.

Record short of the Slav grebe horndykker at Dåvøy

Otherwise small flocks of Fieldfare gråtrost and Redwing rødvingetrost still hanging on various places.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Øygarden 11-17 November 2023 - Crossbills can be difficult

 The calm weather with light easterlies continues.

On 11 October I spent the entire day outside, only the morning birding, the rest of the day was spent changing to winter tyres, doing stuff in the garden and fishing:)

Breivik and Herdlevær produced the usual suspects with highlight being a flock of 11 Jackdaw kaie which dropped in briefly, an uncommon migrant here November is one of the best months to see this species. Several Snipe enkeltbekkasin, lots of Crossbills korsnebb, small flocks of Redwings rødvingetrost and the usual stuff. Obviously some movement over the sea too with Common Scoter svartand and Red-throated Divers smålom on the move.

Some years I have thought that I can separate Parrot furukorsnebb and Common Crossbills grankorsnebb on call. This might have been true at times but this year it seems impossible. Most flocks I have been able to identify this autumn have been single species flocks but a group of Crossbills at Breivik seemed to be a mixture.

Common Crossbill grankorsnebb

Common Crossbill grankorsnebb

Parrot Crossbill furukorsnebb

Fishing gave me a new fish species in the form of a couple of Hake lysing!

The next day was also spent outside:) Skogsøy in the morning, fishing in the afternoon:)

A couple of hours spent seawatching showed that there seemed to be less passing than yesterday but a couple of Great Northern Diver islom, a few Little Auk alkekonge and "plenty" of Kittiwake krykkje meant it was quite worthwhile.

Great Northern Diver islom

Red-throated Diver smålom

A male Teal krikkand with Mallard stokkand at Husvatnet on the way home

On Monday 13 November it was back to work but I spent a couple of hours visiting various localities. A Willow Tit granmeis at Hatten was the first I've had in Øygarden this year:) Otherwise Jay nøtteskrike, Woodpigeon ringdue, small numbers of Waxwing sidensvans and a Slav Grebe horndykker were the highlights. Still flocks of up to 30 Redwing rødvingetrost around.

Jay nøtteskrike at Hjelme

Wren gjerdesmett at Sæle

The next day I was not out at all but clocked up a Hawfinch kjernebiter flying over my house and a Velvet Scoter sjøorre also flew over:)

Whoopers sangsvane at Kollsnes

The rest of the week was spent away from home and/or working but a female Blackcap munk turned up in the garden again for a couple of days.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Øygarden 06.11-10.11.2023 - Frustratingly good weather

For yet another week it was calm and sunny with light easterly winds. Very frustrating to not be out and about!

Half an hour at Breivik on 06 November was very pleasant but not much other than a few Snipe enkeltbekkasin, a few Bullfinch dompap and a Sparrowhawk spurvehauk. The two Scaup bergand were on Rotevatnet along with a couple of Wigeon brunnakke, a Tufted Duck toppand and the usual Mallard stokkand and Goldeneye kvinand. Back in the garden a Crested Tit toppmeis actually came into the garden - a common enough species but not often they come so close to the house, a Carrion Crow svartkråke flew over and several Common Crossbill grankorsnebb paused nearby.

Snipe enkeltbekkasin hiding in plain view at Breivik

The next day was similar with a female Blackcap munk turning up in the garden. Rotevatnet was the same but a family group of Whooper Swans sangsvane were new in - two adults with three young:)

Two Scaup bergand and a Tufted Duck toppand (left hand bird)

On 08 Wednesday I was in a meeting in Bergen most of the day but picked up a Little Auk alkekonge swimming past my house before I left.

On Thursday I stopped for at least 30 seconds at Husvatnet where a late flock of four Teal krikkand were present. I saw some roadside Waxwings sidensvans near Nautnes but didn't have time to stop.

I took a couple of hours free on the 10 November - and there is obviously still plenty to see. First bird I saw from the garden was a Goshawk hønsehauk having a good go at a Herring Gull gråmåke but it decided to call off the attack. Brambling bjørkefink and a Chiff-chaff gransanger that may have been tristis but did not call were also seen in the garden and a Snipe enkeltbekkasin posed nicely also at Nautnes.

I had a quick look at Hellesøy where migrants were a female Blackcap munk and a few Bullfinch dompap. Stopping briefly at Sæle I was rewarded with cracking views of five Waxwing sidensvans. Now all the rowan berries have gone they have moved onto other things. Introduced bushes are the only thing keeping them hanging around now:) The Scaup bergand / Tufty toppand combo remained at Tjeldstø where one young Whooper sangsvane was going it alone. Two Woodpigeon ringdue here too.

Potentially the bird of the day with a very tristis feel to it. Unfortunately no call so difficult to claim

Roadside Snipe enkeltbekkasin at Nautnes. For once a picture that isn't cropped at all:)

And now for a bunch of gratuitous Waxwing sidensvans shots:

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Øygarden 01.11 - 05.11.2023 - Home office birding and drive-bys

The superb weather just keeps going. Largely sunny with light easterlies throughout. So once again good migration conditions and not the kind of weather to drop stuff down.

On 01 November birding was limited to a few minutes of drive-bys. With local frost freezing some of the fresh water overnight open water was at a premium and thus it was no surprse to find a couple of Scaup bergand along with a Tufted Duck toppand at Alvheim. Also here a relatively large flock of Mallard stokkand with two Wigeon brunnakke in tow. From the terrace a late Woodpigeon ringdue flew over and a Razorbill alke fed on the sea.

Two Scaup bergand and a Tufted Duck toppand at Alvheim

Wigeon brunnakke at Alvheim

On 02 November I didn't even leave the house but three late Oystercatcher tjeld, the usual White-tailed Eages havørn and an Otter were noted.

Pretty much the same story the next day too but with a female Blackcap munk in the garden and a Peregrine vandrefalk flying over at Sture.

During the weekend I managed a couple of walks at Herdlevær. On 04 November this resulted in a few new species for the locality this year in the form of a Slavonian (Horned) Grebe horndykker, Whooper Swans sangsvane and Bullfinches dompap. Black Guillemot teist, Twite bergirisk and Snipe enkeltbekkasin were among the other species seen. Back home a flyover Waxwing sidensvans was the the best bird. Amazingly Red Admiral admiral and plenty of bees and other insects still around - perhaps the term "Indian Summer" is applicable at the moment.

One of several Bullfinch dompap at Herdlevær. These birds are without doubt migrants (and a sometimes a "carrier" for a rather more exciting species)

Mallard stokkand

Otters are still pretty much daily, not often I bother photographing them  - this one at Nautnes

Slavonian Grebe horndykker at Herdlevær

Whoopers sangsvane at Herdlevær

The next day was quieter but a couple of Black Guillemot teist, a late Oystercatcher tjeld, a couple of Curlew storspove (overwinterers now arrived?), a Peregrine vandrefalk, Skylark sanglerke and more meant it was a very pleasant walk. My terrace at Nautnes produced a hunting Merlin dvergfalk and some light vis mig (Siskin grønnsisik, Goldfinch stillits, Woodpigeon ringdue, Meadow Pipit heipiplerke etc).

Still lots of Crossbills korsnebb about, those positively identified have been a mix of Parrot fuukorsnebb and Common grankorsnebb.

The Northern Lights showed a few times, the most notable display was on 05 November where my Pavlovian response was to spend some time on the terrace. Point and pray camera delivered nicely with a minimum of effort:)

Things started quietly and to be honest the camera captured the scene better than the naked eye.

Later on things geared up a notch or two and it was a sight to behold:)