Wednesday, 14 February 2018


Today was a good day to visit the Botanical Garden in Oslo. My reasoning (which differs to that of the majority of people) being that it was cloudy and sleeting and there would therefore be nobody else there and I could enjoy the birds on my own…

There was a nice flock of Redpolls at one of the feeders and amongst them was a nice 1st winter / 2cy male of the northern clinal form, aka Arctic Redpoll. This bird stood out as a much colder, whiter bird and the large white rump and undertail coverts confirm the ID but in my pictures it looks a lot greyer although I put this down to the light and the poor quality of the photos. As usual there was a wide variety of plumages and sizes amongst the redpolls and there was at least one other bird that was probably of the arctic type but I only ever saw this bird above me in a tree and never noticed it on the ground so it might well be that it gave a different and less convincing impression when seen on the ground (all the birds were frequently coming down to feed on sunflower seeds). None of the birds conformed to the southern clinal form aka Lesser Redpoll.

There was the usual variety of other finches (9 species in total) but a single Blackbird was the only thrush I saw suggesting that all berries have now been eaten

On the Plaza hotel there are now two Peregrines: an adult and a 1st winter/2cy. It is normally only an adult that winters in town with young birds migrating south to Europe and I think it is unusual for two birds to hang out together unless they are a pair. I would imagine therefore that these birds are a parent and young and for some reason the parent still has a bond to its offspring.

here the bird on the left is the same one in the other pictures. The bird on the right also looks to have a very large unmarked white rump but I never noticed this individual on the ground and believe that the rump has been make to look much larger and whiter due to the feathers being fluffed up. But it could well also be an arctic

the Arctic from different angles and looking decidedly different in each one
here the pointed outer tail feathers show it to be a 1st winter / 2cy bird

A redpoll that is difficult to place and may well be an arctic - note the small bill, fairly large white rump but the streaking on the undertail coverts may be too much and the ground colour on the back may not be light enough

despite a lot of white on the rump this is a Common Redpoll - large bill and streaking on the rump and too dark on the back

this bird was very striking. The bill was small and it was generally grey rather than brown but was very straked on the rump and flanks and undertail coverts. A Common Redpoll but from where?

a well marked male Common Redpoll

Despite the white rump this must be a Common Redpoll due to it being a male (red on breast) and a male arctic would have less flank streaking and greyer back

This bird was in the garden a couple of days ago on its own. Agian it has a small bill and a white rump (athough only a narrow area unstreaked). It could well be an arctic (and the first garden record) but not for sure

a small 2cy male Sparrowhawk was unpopular

Four species of finch (Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch and Redpoll) are in this picture plus a possible arctic Redpoll. I also had Hawfinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch and Siskin so quite a good finch day

Collared Dove

the two Peregrines on the top of the Plaza Hotel plus the reflection of one of the birds which has fooled more than one birder into thinking there were even more birds. The closer bird is a 2cy and and the further bird an adult. The noticeably larger size of the youngster suggests it is a female and the adult a male (daughter and father?)

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Taiga Guiding

Yesterday I was guiding Manolo, David and Cãni from Albacete, Spain who were taking advantage of cheap Ryan Air flights for a long winter birding weekend in Norway. They had had a couple of days birding on their own before leaving the best to last and hiring me to look for some taiga specialities. The wish list was long but expectations were realistic, and we hoped to find 3-4 new species but ended up with 6 and when these included both Piney and Hawkie then of course the guide was also very happy with the day J

I took an early morning train from Oslo to meet them in Hedmark and we spent the day driving snow covered forest roads. With the snow 2 metres deep there was no chance of leaving the road so the tactic is to drive slowly and scan continually and walk along the road at areas where things look good. With snow in the air it was not the best conditions but luckily there was no wind. Birds, were as to be expected, few and far between but we had 2 Hawk Owls, 10 Pine Grosbeaks, 2 Siberian Jays, Willow and Crested Tit, Black Grouse and a flock of flyover Waxwings from the car as the highlights. The Waxwings were one of the target species and the views were not satisfying but I was able to recommend a site where they saw a flock of 200 this morning before they had to get to the airport for 10am so they were happy campers.

We stayed out until after dark but failed to hear any singing owls despite being in an area where both Great Grey and Tengmalm’s should be expected. It was a cloudy night, early in the night and early in the season but I fear that this year will not be a good owl year and I only noted one set of rodent tracks in the snow the whole day.

Pine Grosbeak (konglebit) watching - undoubted highlight of the day and the first record for Hedmark county this year although is more a reflection of observer coverage

Pine Grosbeaks - as is typical they are feeding on buds and shoots on a spruce tree

Hawk Owl spotted!

and Hawkie himself

Sibe Jays in the bag

Siberian Jay (lavskrike)

Two Sibe Jays but unfortunately they weren't curious enough to come closer
and Black Grouse are sighted

male Black Grouse (orrfugl)

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Singing Great Grey Shrike

The weather today was fantastic. Despite temperatures being around -5C there were blue skies and with no wind it was possible to feel the warmth of the sun. I kept myself to Maridalen where I hoped that I would have some fantastic photo opportunities. That was not the case with hoped for birds either not showing or being too distant. The Great Grey Shrike did show closer than it has up until now and in the sun was singing which is not a song I have heard many times before. The video below contains a short snatch of the sing although it is not very loud.

A lot of moose have come down to Maridalen now although I only saw their tracks today. A very exciting sight though was the remains of a Roe Deer which I was shown, and the deer had apparently been killed by a Lynx!

Yesterday I was at Fornebu. Things are very quiet here with both the Bearded Tits and Firecrest seemingly long gone. A few Waxwings and all three (sub)species/forms of Redpoll were the highlight.

an adult male Goshawk (hønsehauk) was also displaying low over woodland but proved difficult to photo

the white feathers that are fluffed out by the tail are fluffed out during display
winter wonderland

this Redpoll was lying dead by the road. The pointed tail feathers show it to be a young bird (2cy)

ice and water

the remains of the Roe Deer killed by a Lynx
with the winter Olympics coming up I thought I would show why Norway will win so many medals in cross country skiing. It is not because they are born with skis on their feet but because an enormous amount of resources are used to prepare thousands of kilometres of ski tracks which are then free to use. Here is one of the machines that drive 24-7 through the forests - the two black rectangles are what are lowered to create the perfects tracks for the skiers to use

the only picture I managed of an arctic Redpoll at Fornebu yesterday
and a lesser Redpoll which interestingly fed alone and not with the flock of 80 Redpolls that contained the arctic form
this pale Redpoll was interesting and may well be an arctic (or intergrade) althoug the pink wash to the chest shows it to be a male and the flank streaking is therefore perhaps too bold

the fjord is starting to ice over
Waxwings (sidensvans) are always a joy

Monday, 5 February 2018


Pygmy Owl (spurveugle)

Last night was forecast (and indeed, surprisingly enough, was) to be wind and cloud free so Per Christian and I ventured out for our first owling trip of the year. It is still very early in the season and we were not sure what we would hear (and if lucky see). Our first 4 stops around 7pm all gave us a singing Tengmalm’s so it really felt like we were on to something. None of the birds was close though but the night was still young and I felt certain we were going to experience something magical. After that though it all stopped up. We had no more owls (of any species) and on our way back a couple of hours later only heard one of the four original birds. Why is difficult to know but as said it is still very early in the season so they might not be singing much yet and secondly there was no moon (lots of stars though) and the presence of a bright moon is by some said to be an important factor in owl activity.

The night was quite magical and with all the snow even the star light was enough to mean it was not completely dark. It was properly cold though. -20C is the sort of temperature that means taking your gloves off to fiddle with a camera or mobile becomes dangerous, so it was in a way just as well that I had no pictures to take. What was worse though last night was my toes which were still painful two hours later when I went to bed. When it is so cold you can hear dead wood cracking and the noise is often so loud you wonder if someone has fired a gun.

So last night gave a cautiously promising start to the owl season with four Tengmalm’s heard and today gave an extremely close encounter with a Pygmy Owl in Maridalen.

I first spotted the bird atop a pine tree and thought I would see how it responded to be a bit of playback. It flew to some trees closer to me where it then gave a high-pitched call which corresponds with recordings I have of the call of a female (sounds surprisingly like a Hazel Grouse). What was most surprising though was that it flew into an old woodpecker hole. Perhaps it was searching for the source of the song or perhaps this hole is where it roosts or has one if its food stores and it was checking there was another owl in there but it came back out of the hole almost immediately. I was able to see the owl at close range after having first (and perhaps rather unfairly) got its attention. The owl in turn attracted the attention of Bullfinches and four species of tits which scolded it. The owl looked as though it was keen for lunch but unfortunately I did not see it go after one of its tormentors.

The Great Grey Shrike was also nearby atop its favourite tree and this area would therefore seem to have a good population of rodents. In the autumn there was a large flock of Yellowhammers because the crop hadn’t been harvested and I would imagine that mice have also discovered this crop (which is now covered in snow) and could well be multiplying in numbers and providing food for both the shrike and the owl (and perhaps other nocturnal owls?).

I have previously taken a mobile selfie with a Hawkie and here is my attempt with a Pygmy

I took rather a lot of photos and can't decide which are the best so will dump a big load on you

visiting the old woodpecker hole

I wanted to get a white background but after finding the right angle this was the only picture I managed before the bird moved

they have eyes in the back of their heads

being scolded by a Great Tit