Thursday, February 29, 2024

Øygarden 23-25 Febraury 2024 - Spring continues

On 23.02 I wasn't really out but picked up two Waxwing sidensvans heading south past my terrace - an unusual time of year to see this species around here as they are normally mostly seen during the late autumn.

On Saturday I covered a number of localities. At Herdlevær 20+ Starling stær were the first new arrivals of the year - there have been fewer around this winter and this is the biggest flock thus far. Also a few Skylark sanglerke flying over and a Red-throated Diver smålom on the sea.

A Goshawk hønsehauk put in an appearance at Tjeldstø where a few Bullfinch dompap were the first I'd seen there this year and Greylag grågås numbers now obviously increasing. 

A Wren gjerdesmett in my garden was the first I've seen for some time - great to know the winter didn't kill them all off:)

At Hatten a couple of Brambling bjørkefink were the first I've seen this year but have probably been around for quite some time.

Finally a look at Sæle produced a Grey Seal havert, Great Northern Diver islom, Black Guillemot teist, a few Velvet Scoter sjøorre and the usual.

Grey Seal havert feeding at Sæle

The following day I took things easy checking Dåvøy and Breivik without anything much of interest. A couple of White-tailed Eagles havørn gave nice views through.

White-tailed Eagles havørn

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Øygarden 21-22 Februry - SEAPOP gone wrong

The weather was good on Wednesday 20 February and suddenly the annual SEAPOP count was on. With no meetings I took the day off work and we headed out in a small boat. Conditions were promising down part of the west side of northern Øygarden and also down the east side. However, as we headed out to the west near Turøy there was some heavy residual swell and the wind started picking up strongly.

So not much to report other than the best numbers of Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt thus far this year with a flock of 75 on Gjøna, 12 at Herdlevær and 20 at Solberg. Several Guillemots lomvi on the sea, most seemed well but one dead one also observed. Several Common Gulls fiskemåke were seen - more have been overwintering out here this winter than usual.

Guillemot lomvi

Oystercatcher tjeld

Part of a flock of Purple Sandpipers fjæreplytt

One of several WT Eagles havørn seen on 20.02

A Goshawk hønsehauk hunting crows and/or gulls near Rong was the first I've seen this year.

The following day I did the land based SEAPOP counts but things were rather quiet, Solberg held very little with just a couple of Long-tailed Duck havelle, a Gannet havsule in addition to the usual Mergansers siland, Goldeneye kvinand etc.

Hjelme Vest was also off form with just 35 Long-tailed Duck havelle, a Black Guillemot teist, a few Velvet Scoter sjøorre and two Common Scoter svartand present. No divers! The large gulls are now returning to their breeding localities so plenty of Great Black-backed Gulls svartbak and some Herring Gulls gråmåke present.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Tjeldstø 20 February 2024 - Lunch-break birding

Rather grey and wet most of the day but the rain stopped for a couple of hours around lunchtime.

A walk at Tjeldstø with #2 daughter gave an unseasonal Kestrel tårnfalk as the best sighting. A couple of Starling stær turned up, a Robin rødstrupe sang and the Greylags grågås are starting to make a bit of noise - so all in all a bit springlike. The Mistle Thrush duetrost also put in a brief appearance again.

Otherwise just a Rock Pipit skjæpiplerke and a huge flock of over 20 Blue Tits blåmeis.

A minimum of four White-tailed Eagles havørn were in the area and I even tried taking a picture of one of them with my point and pray. It was a bit of a rush to get the camera out and switched on but the results weren't too bad at all given the conditions.

The point and pray did well given the conditions - the auto setting almost always has too slow a shutter speed for flight shots but there was no time to fiddle with settings.

More eagles seen from my terrace later in day along with a Great-spotted Woodpecker flaggspett actually in my garden (garden is too big a word for it!).

Monday, February 19, 2024

Dåvøy and Nautnes 19 February 2024 - More signs of spring

Damp and grey day to start with, clearing up nicely after I got home.

I had to purchase some items that required me to go half way into the city today - Ågotnes. I stopped in at a site close to the shops where a colour ringed Moorehen sivhøne was present. This bird was rescued at Mongstad in late 2022 and after being cleaned up from oil it was ringed and released. Nice to see it doing well. A pair of Mute Swans knoppsvane tried to keep a few Whoopers sangsvane away at the same site.

The Moorehen sivhøne at Kårtveit. Rather skulky it kept hidden most of the time.

A drive-by at Dåvøy on the way home produced a real surprise it the form of a very early Lesser Black-backed Gull sildemåke, winter records need to be documented around here so I took a few photos. It does look very black indeed but apparently within the range of intermedius. The unusual date did ring an alarm bell or two though...

A rather black looking Lesser Black-backed Gull sildemåke
A very early date and hardly surprisingly the first in the county this year

Heron gråhegre feeding by the roadside

Back home I went out to fill the bird feeders and the first Skylark sanglerke of the year flew over purposely heading north.  Sparrowhawk spurvehauk, Guillemot lomvi, White-tailed Eagle havørn and the usual also seen from the terrace.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Øygarden 17-18 February 2024 - Signs of spring

Fantastic calm and sunny weather on Saturday 17.02. Did my usual round at Herdlevær which was rather quiet but a Red-throated Diver smålom, several White-tailed Eagles havørn and a Curlew storspove meant it wasn't a waste of time. Spent the afternoon and evening fishing - only a pod of at least eight Porpoises nise of interest and the freezer is now FULL, Ling lange, Pollack lyr, Whiting hvitting, Dab sandflyndre and Grey Gunard knurr were the fish species caught, interestingly a school of something that looked like Mackrell makrell started patrolling the surface after dark.

Calm but rainy on Sunday so I popped in a several localities, hoping to find some early spring migrants. I failed in this but later in the afternoon a Mistle Thrush duetrost was reported from the very first place I checked earlier in the day. I made a short extra trip out and connected with it, although it was typically very flighty.

Mistle Thrush duetrost at Tjeldstø
First proper migrant of the year:)

Snowdrops are now in flower many places, these are from my garden.

A lone Starling stær at Breivik was probably a new arrival - they have been very thin on the ground this winter and this is the first I've seen for some weeks.

Over the last few months an extremely rare event has taken place - a lot of  management work has been going on in the nature reserve with planted sitka spruce and other conifers being removed from the middle of the reserve. At first I thought this was a response to the extremely high electricity prices but now suspect it might actually be reserve management. However, I am far from certain. Whatever the cause it will be interesting to see how the birds react - the return to an open landscape should benefit waders and wildfowl in terms of better habitat, reduced number of breeding crows and fewer hiding places for raptors.

These photos show the massive reduction in the planted woods in the middle of the reserve. Work is still ongoing and it looks like it will all go:)

Oslo 10-14 February 2024 - WInter

 Back in a rather cold and wintery Oslo for several days.

A walk around town on 10 February produced little other than a few Coot sothøne among the usual wildfowl close to the opera house and a nice male Wigeon brunnakke on the largely frozen Akerselva.

Male Wigeon brunnakke in downtown Oslo

The next day I predictably took a trip to Gressholmen which was back to more or less normal after the last visit which produced rather more. A few Great-crested Grebes toppdykker were the best sighting, otherwise just the usual Velvet Scoter sjøorre, Guillemots lomvi and Razorbills alke. A Common Seal caught and ate a nice flatfish.

After this I didn't get out at all but managed up to five Hawfinch kjernebiter from the urban terrace.

Øygarden 05 February 2024 - Drive-bys

 Just did a quick stop at Solberg and drive-bys at a few other localities.

A Tufted Duck toppand and a Whooper sangsvane with Goldeneyes kvinand on Rotevatnet were the first for Tjeldstø this year.

At Solberg a family party of Whoopers sangsvane, a couple of Purple Sandpiper fjærplytt, a Curlew storspove and several Long-tailed Duck havelle showed a partial return to form for this locality which seems to be producing less than it used to some years ago.

A Woodpigeon ringdue flying over the road near Nautnes and a Peregrine vandrefalk seen from my terrace were among the other sightings.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Øygarden 03-04 February - A windy weekend

On Saturday, in howling onshore winds, I did part of my usual Herldevær round for purposes other than birding. Just a few White-tailed Eagles havørn, a wind-blown Kittiwake krykkje and a Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt of any interest. 

Although Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt are common enough in Øygarden I have often wondered how they cope when water levels are high and waves crash over the feeding areas. Today's bird fed in short grass - something I have rarely seen this species do - whatever the weather.

Purple Sandpiper fjæreplytt feeds in an alternative area due to high water levels and large waves.

A few Oystercatcher tjeld on the rocks at Tjeldstø on the way home and a (the) female Velvet Scoter sjøorre at Nautnes were other sightings of note.

On Sunday I had intended on an early start but wintery showers made me delay a little and I checked out a few drive-by localities on my way to Skogsøy. The most surprising find was not even a bird - an Oceaneering ROV (Magnum 190) had floated in at Dåvøy - even managing to negotiate the narrow bridge. I know ROVs sometimes get lost and it isn't surprising that one ends up in Øygarden given the amount of offshore activity nearby but for one to end up at Dåvøy is remarkable.

Oceaneering Magnum ROV at Dåvøy (being inspected by a curious Grey Heron gråhegre)

A second year male Common Scoter svartand was also at Dåvøy  - not often they visit this particular area.

2cy male Common Scoter svartand at Dåvøy

Skogsøy was even windier although I managed to find a place out of the worst of things - 13 adult Kittiwakes krykkje headed north along with singles of Gannet havsule, Guillemot lomvi and Razorbill alke.

Back home at Nautnes a Black Guillemot teist fed on the sea in front of my house. I grabbed my camera to photograph it and a Sparrowhawk spurvehauk promptly flew in and landed in the garden.

Second year Black Guillemot teist forced close inshore by the strong onshore winds

Sparrowhawk spurvehauk in my garden