Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Øygarden 22 October - Uncommon Buzzard

Despite the offshore easterly winds I started the day seawatching. There was plenty moving:)

Hightlights were an adult White-billed Diver gulnebblom, a Great Northern Diver islom and two large divers that could have been either of these two - distance was not really an issue but I got onto them too late:( A Little Auk alkekonge, decent movement of seaduck and a good variety of other species including three White-tailed Eagle havørn, a flock of Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt and more meant that it was never dull. Marine mammals also featured with a couple of Porpoise and what could only have been a Risso's Dolphin with a long, thin and falcate dorsal fin. 

Common Scoter svartand on the sea at Skogsøy

Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt heading north

White-tailed Eagle havørn coming in off the sea having bullied a couple of GBBG svartbak

An ongoing military exercise put paid to two of my plans (rare pipits and fishing) so I briefly checked another couple of localities. I was rewarded by a roadside Common Buzzard musvåk at Nautnes. Chiff-chaff gransanger, Blackcap munk, Waxwing sidensvans and Parrot Crossbills furukorsnebb were among the species at Sæle.

Common Buzzard musvåk at Nautnes - lower two pictures through the car window

Chiff-chaff gransanger at Sæle

Goldfinch stillits at Nautnes

Part of a flock of Waxwing sidensvans at Sæle

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Øygarden 18-21 October 2023 - Welcome home

I arrived home from the airport around 1500 on the 18th, unpacked and sat down to start work. It didn't take long before I noticed a message on the local bird alert about a Barred Warbler hauksanger at Sæle which is very close to home indeed (had I not intended to work I had thought about going there). The bird performed quite nicely, although having not used a DSLR for a year it took way too long to remember how to set up my newly purchased second hand 7D MK2. Bullfinch dompap, Waxwing sidensvans, Goldfinch stillits and more also put in an appearance here.

Initially I managed better pictures with my point and pray...

Always something in the way

Target acquired.....

photo-bombed by a wasp

First year Barred Warbler hauksanger

On Thursday 19 October I went to Hernar for the morning with a couple of other birders. Tactically it could have been a challenging day had I been on my own - there were A LOT of birds on the move but not much on the deck. Fairly quickly I chose to sit it out on a high point, exposed to the strong easterly wind. Although this proved to be the correct choice I'm not sure I would have done this without other birders doing the rounds.....

Flocks of Fieldfare gråtrost, Redwing rødvingetrost and Redpoll gråsisik passed constantly. It was really a vis mig kind of day with all kinds of stuff passing. Highlight was a Hen Harrier myrhauk but probably the best bird in a Hernar context was a female Scaup bergand that flew right over - a new species for the island😀 Still re-learning a proper camera I failed to capture what could have been excellent images:). Migrating Jack Snipe kvartbekkasin, a very late Arctic Tern rødbebbterne, Peregrine vandrefalk, a Bullfinch dompap, Velvet Scoter sjøorre, Parrot Crossbill furukorsnebb, a late Bar-tailed Godwit lappspove  and more meant that there was never a dull moment. Even with three birders sitting together different stuff was picked up depending on who was looking where. Well in excess of 50 species logged.

Two birders on the way to Hernar (photo Harald Totland)

Bar-tailed Godwit lappspove

Blackbird svarttrost, many feeding on the island and more passing over

Migrant Male Bullfinch dompap

This flock is mostly Common Scoter svartand with a Velvet Scoter sjøorre and a Long-tailed Duck havelle accompanying them

Hen Harrier myrhauk, luckily Oddvar did better:)

Bull-necked, thick billed and with the mandibles not crossing this Parrot Crossbill furukorsnebb spent some time hanging around

First year Peregrine vandrefalk

Female Scaup bergand

On the way back to Hellesøy we picked up to pale waders with wing bars, it is very tempting to think that these were Grey Phalaropes polarsvømmesnipe but they were not really claimable. Even more frustratng was a pipit that flew over which sounded dead on for Pechora Pipit tundrapiplerke. As soon as we got off the boat we tried to relocate the waders and heard the distinctive call a few times. Despite some searching we could not relocate the bird and typically I had a meeting I had to attend....

Friday saw me locked to the computer all day, although during a Teams meeting I glanced out of the window to see a Goshawk hønsehauk flying over and there was a noticeable influx of Blue Tits blåmeis. In the evening the Northern Lights put on a bit of a show.

Northern Lights from my terrace 20th October.
The point and pray does as well with Northern Lights as it does with Dark-sided Flycatcher:)

On 21 October I did my usual round at Herdlevær. Best bird was a White-billed Diver gulnebblom heading south along with a decent movement of Common Scoter svartand. Several Long-tailed Duck havelle accompnied one of the scoter flocks. A Lesser Black-backed Gull sildemåke, a Kittiwake krykkje and a few Red-throated Diver smålom also flew south.

Other sightings of interest included 20 Waxwing sidensvans at Skjold and a Tree Sparrow pilfink in my garden,

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Oslo 15-18 October 2023 - Urban Birding

On 15 October we took an afternoon trip to Gressholmen, birdwise it was rather disappointing but this may have been because it was rather late, the weather was nice and there were people everywhere, both on land and on the water. Just my second trip to this locality this year:( Typically for the time of year Guillemots lomvi and Razorbill alke on the sea, a couple of Red-throated Diver smålom and most of the usual duck species including a few Velvet Scoter sjøorre off Malmøya.

Red-throated Diver smålom off Gressholmen

No birding on 16 October - visited the office instead. Only bird of any interest was a Skylark sanglerke flying over the terrace before we left for work.

The next day I met up with Oslo Birder for a couple of hours birding around Østensjøvannet, mostly for the company than any real hope of anything interesting. A very pleasant stroll around the lake produced a Smew lappfiskand as the best bird. Also nice to see species I don't often see at home like Great-crested Grebes toppdykker, Coot sothøne, Moorehen sivhøne, Treecreeper trekryper and so on. Good numbers of geese present too with around 600 Barnacle Geese hvitkinngås putting on quite a show.

Smew lappfiskand
This bird seemed quite unpopular with the local grebes who chased it.

As I headed for the train to the airport on 18 October I had Waxwig sidensvans flying over and two Guillemots lomvi looked in pretty poor shape on the river close to Oslo S.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Engerdal 08-14 October 2023 - Inland Autumn

After the excitement of the coast it was time to head up to Engerdal for a week, I managed to get out and about a few times but as always time was too short to cover all the localities I wanted to.

Arriving in the late afternoon of 08 October I headed straight out for a quick check at Heggeriset. Best bird was a Great Grey Shrike varsler with prey. Among the birds mobbing it was a female Blackcap munk. Also in the area a couple of Waxwing sidensvans flocks, a Chiff-chaff gransanger, a female Goosander laksand and plenty more. A great start in other words.

Heavily cropped record shots of the Great Grey Shrike varsler

Waxwing sidensvans eating berries in next door's garden

The following day I did my usual round covering some of the freshwater sites in the area. LOTS of thrushes in the lowlands - no doubt forced down by recent snow above the treeline. A Black Woodpecker svartspett at Volbrenna was a nice bonus.

Galtsjøen was almost devoid of birds with just a single Whooper sangsvane present, Isteren held 35 Goldeneye kvinand, 4 Dipper fossekall and several Wigeon brunnakke. The lake at Drevsjø held nothing at all. Vurrusjøen, however, made up for all this with over 20 Wigeon brunnakke, a Common Scoter svartand and six Scaup bergand among the birds seen. Highlight was a female Shoveler skjeand - the first I have seen in the area and only the second recorded in Engerdal in the national database.

Scaup bergand now moving down from their breeding sites

Shoveler skjeand with Wigeon brunnakke
Unfortunately this flock of duck were scared up by a fisherman rowing his boat right past them. They flew around a few times and disappeared

Some flight shots as the duck flock passed having been spooked

A walk at Hyllsjøen / Liseter on 09 October was predictably quieter although a few Siberian Jays lavskrike put in an appearance and I saw a rather distant male Black Grouse orrfugl. The most surprising find though was a Cormorant storskarv - I didn't expect that so high up - at least not at this time of year.

Cormorant storskarv resting at Hyllsjøen

The next day I wasn't really out but did pick up a singing male Parrot Crossbill furukorsnebb at Heggeriset.

A bit of driving on 12 October was largely disappointing - a very cold northerly wind blasting in off the lakes made things difficult. Drevsjø and Vurrusjøen saved the day with a roadside Hawfinch kjernebiter and a small selection of duck. Still flocks of Waxwing sidensvans about along with good numbers of thrushes and finches.

Work took priority on 13 October and all I managed was a short walk in the rain at Heggeriset where the best birds were a Snipe enkeltbekkasin and a flock of 60 Waxwing sidensvans.

We had to leave on 14 October but two Goldfinch stillits in the garden were a decent parting shot:)

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Herdlevær 05 October - BOOM! And then some:) 1st for Norway and 2nd for WP

I often think birding is a rather random thing, the choice of where one goes, when one goes and even the direction one looks in all play a part.

Although I do not twitch at all I have tried to remove one part of the randomness - I live in a place where rarities can and do turn up. Apart from that all bets are off.

Yesterday evening I looked at recent sightings and the weather forecast. As usual at this time of year "everyone else" was reporting an endless string of rarities and scarce migrants. Even a Red-eyed Vireo rødøyevireo not that far north of Øygarden. All I've managed this autumn is to catch up with a Woodchat Shrike røhodevarsler found at Herdlevær and a few of the expected Yellow-browed Warblers gulbrynsanger, also at Herdlevær.

Calm winds and clear skies implied that stuff could well clear out but the chances of some reasonable vis-mig were high.

When rarity hunting I normally opt for the island of Hernar, also close by and Thursdays are a good day to do this as there is a boat home at midday so it doesn't need to eat up a whole day. This would normally have been option one, however:

a) I had visited earlier in the week without any luck on the rarity front and nothing dramatic had happened with the weather. 

b) I also (correctly) assumed the island would be covered by others

So I went elsewhere. This was also partly due to the fact I had a plane to catch in the afternoon and needed to sort some stuff out before I left.

I opted for Herdlevær and did my usual round thinking it would only take a couple of hours and I'd be back home in plenty of time to pack and sort stuff out. Maybe even get some work in too. How wrong could I be!

The usual round turned out quite nicely picking up my first local Ring Ousel ringtrost and Yellowhammers gulspurv of the year and enjoying the influx of Goldcrests fuglekonge and other migrants that must have turned up overnight. The calls of Fieldfare gråtrost, Redwing rødvingetrost, Brambling bjørkefink and Twite bergirisk and other species were heard more or less constantly and a nice Red-throated Diver smålom fed close in so all in all a decent enough day. 

I had just picked up a Yellow-browed Warbler gulbrynsanger when I met Bert de Bruin, an Øygarden regular. We chatted for a bit, even mentioned the lucky streak some other birders seem to be on at the moment (EA, you know who you are). We also mentioned that this goes in cycles and it will be our turn again sometime, we just had no idea about how close our time would be:). I felt the first Gull-billed Tern sandterne for the county that I found back in late June counted for something and left it at that.

We headed back towards our cars birding as we went. On the second last garden before we were done I picked up a flycatcher low down in an oak, called it as a Spotted and then immediately said there was something off and the game was on. The bird kept disappearing but we knew we had to see more and hopefully obtain some photos. After many nerve-wracking minutes we re-found it, saw it quite well and I managed to take a few record shots.

This did not help much as it was nothing like anything on the conventional radar. We discussed the possibility of a recently fledged Spotted but Bert kept coming back to Dark-sided (or Siberian) Flycatcher. I was rapidly running out of time, felt I had good enough shots to sort things out later, and didn't want to set birding Norway in motion for something stupid. I said my goodbyes and left, thinking I would look at the images later and release if they looked good for something. Bert, however, had one last look at his images before driving home and put it out there.

Long story short after uploading some images and having a quick skim through some literature it turned out to be a Dark-sided Flycatcher gråflankefluesnapper.

As EA wrote - this is likely to be the rarest bird we will see in our lifetimes on our home turf:)

I'm not going to get into the ID nitty gritty now, but all the features (undertail coverts, extent of yellow on the underside of the bill, eyering, wing length etc) fit and it looks like a good record. Various sources have assisted the ID too - big thanks for that!!

Dark-sided Flycatcher gråflankefluesnapper

The following pictures probably won't even be looked at but would have normally constituted enough for a normal posting:

"Peek a boo"

Goldcrests fuglekonge are very energetic and always on the move. So quite happy that I managed even these images with my point and pray. Shutter lag is a bitch if one is used to using a DSLR:)

First year Red-throated Diver smålom. Always a favourite with me:)

Also-rans today also included Grey Wagtail vinterle.