Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Sun and geese

In glorious warm, sunny autumn weather I went out east hoping there might be some congregations of geese and perhaps some Bearded Tits or raptors to find.

Kallaksjøen felt like I was at the WWT Welney Reserve because there were so many noisy wildfowl at close range. There were a good 1200 Greylags and amongst them 18 Pink-foot, 3 Canadas and two Tundra (rossicus) Bean Geese. 180 Teal had the company of a Pintail and there were 9 Whooper Swans. The video gives a bit of the feeling.

I found large flocks of Greylags at Hemnessjøen and Hellesjøvannet but they revealed no scarcer cousins in their ranks and the very extensive reedbeds at both these locations seemed to be Bearded free. Hellesjøvannet held very few ducks with for example not a single Goldeneye but 9 Pochard were at relatively close range.

Raptors were limited to just two Common Buzzards and I only had two Great Grey Shrikes.

Kallaksjøen WWT Reserve viewed from its luxury mobile hide 
Pink-footed Geese (kortnebbgås) with Greylags

Two Tundra (rossicus) Bean Geese - note the orange bill

2 male and 2 female Pochards (taffeland) 

3 females and 4 males. The female on the right was a lot darker (sign of age?)

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Marsh Tit !!

I wouldn’t normally employ the use of exclamation marks on conjunction with Marsh Tit but today warrants them – after 16 years of searching I saw one in Oslo! The species is a scarce resident in many parts of southern Norway and occurs in Akershus county within 10km of the centre of Oslo but for some reason appears to have no regular population in Oslo. There are 1 or 2 reports every year but I have not seen any that are documented and with the notorious difficulty of separating this species from the far commoner (in Norway at least) Willow Tit a number of the records will no doubt be misidentifications.

The bird I had today was at Østensjøvannet which accounts for more than half of the reports and historic records suggest that maybe the species has been resident in odd years but fails to establish itself permanently. Usually I identify Willow and Marsh tits by call without resorting to the small differences in plumage but today’s bird took a (surprisingly) long time to call and I had actually got around to identifying it on plumage in the meantime. The pale cutting edge to the upper mandible was visible on the back of the camera and the general warmer tones, lack of a wing panel and small black bib were enough to clinch it.

Østensjøvannet held very few waterbirds due to high water levels and a lack of aquatic vegetation this year but a single Shoveler was a good find.

I had started the day sea gazing at Hulvik where I hoped that Ophelia would resort in some seabirds but the winds didn’t quite make it so far north so there was nothing of any note to see on the sea.

Marsh Tit (løvmeis) - my first ever in Oslo 

the pale patch at the base of teh upper mandible is clearly visible in this picture

note how the bird appears to have a noticebale pale wing pannel in the left picture but not in the right

one of the pale 1st winter Herring Gulls  that we see in Oslo (and Bergen...) which often result in discussion as to whether there are some Glaucous Gull genes involved

this 1st winter Herring Gull has moulted a lot of mantle feathers but I'm not sure why some are so dark

Shoveler (skjeand)

Friday, 13 October 2017

MUGIMAKI u I did not see

Last week I got a message from Kjell that he and Geir were going to go back to Værøy for another week as the weather forecast was promising and would I also like to go? Well, Mrs OB is a VERY understanding wife but I myself could not justify extravagance of another trip.

The weather forecast subsequently changed negatively and after two very quiet days I think Kjell was ruing his impulsiveness. That was until this morning. I was waiting at the barbers for a short back and sides when Kjell sent me this picture:
A MUGIMAKI Flycatcher on Værøy although I must admit to not being able to recognise it myself when sent the picture... (PHOTO: KJELL MJØLSNES)

While obviously rare I couldn't put a name to it and had to ask a friend and was pleased to find out its given name is one that oozes cosmic mind f*ckness – MUGIMAKI flycatcher!!!! This far eastern bird has to my knowledge only been seen three times before in Europe/WP but the British Rarities Committee considered their only record so implausible that they refused to accept it as a wild spontaneous bird meaning only two previous records are considered “good”. So Geir (he found it), Kjell and Værøy have a Norwegian first and a third for the WP on their hands and I, as usual, have to control my jealousy (reminds me of my brief appearance on a Norwegian TVprogram looking at jealousy and rightly thinking birders would be a good example).

My Oslo birding today rather pales into insignificance but Grey-headed Woodpecker (unfortunately heard only but I now feel confident to ID based on call after more experience with this species) and a Rough-legged Buzzard in Maridalen were good birds.

Rough-legged Buzzard (fjellvåk) heading purposefully east in Maridalen

one and a half Sparrowhawks also in Maridalen
I started feeding up in the garden a few days ago and already have a good flock of House and Tree Sparrows. These have attracted a smart male Brambling and more excitingly a Collared Dove. This is, I think, my first record actually on the deck in the garden of a species which has become rare in Oslo (I wouldn't be surprised if there are less than 50 birds left in the city).

Collared Dove (tyrkerdue) 

male Brambling (bjørkefink)

Thursday, 12 October 2017


I made way down to Fornebu once the rush hour toll fee had stopped ;-) and almost the first bird I heard in Storøykilen was Bearded Tit. The birds were making a lot of noise and sitting high in the reeds. Very soon after I got my eye on them 8 birds erupted up into the sky and flew around for a minute or so before plunging down again. At least one bird was still calling in the reedbed at this time. After a while I decided to head to Koksa to see if there were any birds in Koksa. Whilst walking there I heard Beardies flying high above me and failed to find any in Koksa or later in Storøykilen so it looks like they used the good weather to leave but it would not surprise me if the same or other birds turn up again later as there are not many reedbeds to choose between around Oslo.

From the reeds in Koksa I heard the special sound of a tristis (Siberian) Chiffchaff and got to see the bird subsequently quite well. It had a quite pronounced wing bar which made it a quite distinctive bird. This is now the third tristis I have seen in Oslo and Akershus compared to just a single Yellow-browed Warbler which is a ratio that in no way reflects the national observations of both species where Yellow-browed is a far commoner bird. I also heard (but didn’t see) a Chiffchaff calling with sweeoo call which has been reported a lot in Norway this autumn and can really get you excited for a short while.

I played the calls and songs of “normal” and Sibe Chiffchaff to the Sibe Chaff and only got a response when playing the song of Sibe which can be observed on the video. It responded by wing shivering and by making a quiet sound which reminded me of the sound you sometimes hear at the beginning of a normal Chiffchaffs song. Otherwise though it did not respond vocally to sound provocation.
Tristis (Siberian ) Chiffchaff in neutral light

here with sunligh behind the bird 

8 Bearded Tits (3 males & 5 females) shortly before erupting

this male remained in the reeds but was very vocal

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Beardies r back

Today was pretty wet and grey but with no wind. Maridalen had good numbers of thrushes and finches flying around but nothing to set the pulse racing.
I thought that Bygdøy might have something. I’ve always fancied the reedbed and wasteground at Hensenga for Stonechat or something rarer but it was pretty birdless today. The Oslo fjord was also very birdless but a Chiffchaff with a sweeo call got me a bit excited and needed to be seen to ensure that it wasn’t something else. I had intended that my birding would be restricted to these two sites but with so little to see time had flown and I then decided to defy the new ridiculously high road tolls that have been put up around Oslo (notionally in the name of the environment but really just a very regressive tax from a left wing council) and drive out to Fornebu.

I had been thinking yesterday that maybe there was a chance of Bearded Tits as I have seen other reports from further south that suggested the autumn movement of this species had begun but thought it was a bit too early in the autumn and had my mind more on Kingfisher or Jack Snipe. As I endeavoured to find these species I heard a “ping” from the reedbed. Beardies! There was in fact lots of pinging and a flock of at least 11 birds exploded out of the reedbed and partook in the high flying they are famous for before plunging back into the reeds where I managed some god views in the rain. These birds were in the small reedbed at Storøykilen which often seems to attract the first arriving birds before they relocate to the larger reedbed at Koksa where some attempt to overwinter most years. I thought about also checking out Koksa to see if there were any more birds but the rain put me off although I see that another observer had 4 in Koksa so there may have been at least 15 birds present at Fornebu although they could of course have moved around. Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny with little wind so should give a good opportunity to discover how many there are unless they use the nice weather as a chance to move on (they seem to have an untameable urge to move around).

There were many Blue Tits also in the reedbed which I think are probably migrants and also two Chiffchaffs. I also heard a Water Rail and put up a Jack Snipe and had a very unexpected Dipper so there was a nice birdy feeling.

I checked out Sørkedalen for the first time in ages. There have been a couple of reports of large numbers of geese using Bogstadvannet but it seems there is no one regularly visiting the valley anymore so there is probably lots going unnoticed. There were still a lot of geese today with 320 Greylag and 260 Barnacles but I couldn’t find anything more exciting other that four Greylag x Canada hybrids with their parents.

male Bearded Tit (skjeggmeis)


three females and a male

2 males & 2 females
a female with a Blue Tit (blåmeis)
an underexposed flock of part of the flock when it went high flying

3 (of 4) Canada x Greylag hybrids

all four can be seen here with dad on the right. Mum (the Greylag) had her head down

this picture of female Goosander (laksand) and Red-breasted Merganser (siland) from Maridalen yesterday was supposed to be very educational except for the fact that the birds were always swimming away from me and the Goosander always had its head underwater

Monday, 9 October 2017

Back with Mari

My recent radio silence has been due to a non-birding family retreat to Trysil. The snows haven’t come yet so we enjoyed ourselves hiking in very warm and unexpected October sunshine. I did of course have expectations to bump into some half decent birds in the forests and mountains but saw hardly anything. Not a single raptor or owl of any description, no woodpeckers, Siberian Jays or interesting finches or passerines. In fact the only bird worth mentioning was a roadside male Capercaillie from the car on the way home which showed really well but of course the camera was in the boot.

Oslo also had nice sunny weather today but it was cold and the first frost will surely come soon. Maridalen delivered a good autumn days birding though. The Great White Egret was last seen on Saturday but the first (if small) movement of ducks was evident with 4 Common Scoter, 6 Goosander, 6 Goldeneye, a Red-breasted Merganser and a Tufted Duck on the lake today. A few Greylag were also on the lake and the Whooper Swan family is still in the valley along with some Mallard so actually a good wildfowl day.

A Jack Snipe in snipe marsh was the first sighting in Oslo this year and looked to be new in with no tracks or droppings to be seen. There were lots of finches flying around and amongst a small flock of Common Redpolls I had a pale northern, aka Arctic bird – one of those flying snowballs. Five Parrot Crossbills flying north were the first I have had in southern Norway this autumn but there is a serious influx occurring with birds all along the coast (including Værøy when I was there) and birds have also crossed the North Sea to Scotland.

Buntings were only represented by Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting but I reckon I can pull a Lapland or even better a Little Bunting out of the bag over the next few weeks. There were small flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares feeding on rowan berries and a Mistle Thrush was a rare autumn sighting.

There was no movement of raptors but I did have three Goshawk and single of Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.

Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin) - in typical style it flew up at very close range on weak wings before landing again not very far away

Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The sunny Dale

Rain this morning turned into a sunny, warm afternoon and Jr needed little persuading that a walk in Maridalen would be good for the body and soul. We spied a few Egret twitchers and the egret itself which eventually allowed itself to be photographed through some bushes. I saw it catch a fish so it looks like it is thriving here and may well become a long-term fixture.

The warm weather led to a raptor bonanza with, in just over an hour, there being 20 Common Buzzards, 1 Rough-legged Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawks and 2 Goshawks. In terms of quantity I think this must the most productive raptor session I have had in the Dale. The Buzzards were all heading south except for one of the Commons which seems resident in the valley at the moment. An adult Great Grey Shrike also showed plus a late Wheatear.

The sun also brought out butterflies with 4 Red Admirals, 3 Brimstones and an unidentified white. There were also a few dragonflies.

Great White Egret (egretthegre) with lunch. There was a lot of branches between the bird and I

swallowing lunch

the egret took a short flight to join this Grey Heron and called frequently whilst in flight

Great Grey Shrike (varsler) - an adult due to the solid dark lores and jet black bill

Long-tailed Tit (stjertmeis)

Common Darter (Rødbrun høstlibelle)

black darter (svart høstlibelle ) I believe

Wheatear (steinskvett) and Tree Sparrow (pilfink)