Saturday, 23 September 2017

Værøy 2017 day 3

My hopes for today were met (although one can always hope for a bit more…)

The day started with an Olive-backed Pipit that for once showed well and allowed itself to be photographed. This was just the first of a number of encounters with the species during the morning with two overflying birds calling a lot and another bird being caught and ringed.

After yesterday’s dead Jack Snipe I was not quite sure what to feel when I found a dead Hawkie. As the pictures show I was quite happy to be holding my favourite bird (despite my trying to look sad due to the gravity of the situation). I found it dead face down in a field and like the Jack Snipe had no body fat and had probably just died of hunger. Judging by the location it had probably been flying and then just dropped dead – obviously pining for the fjords! Hawk Owls can look quite large birds when perched on top of a telegraph pole but in the hand they are surprisingly small.

After this we located a calling Little Bunting but views were brief and photos nothing to write home about. A Common Rosefinch was trapped and ringed, a Short-eared flew past, I finally saw the very rare Carrion Crow that has been around a week or so, I saw a single Arctic Redpoll, 25 Parrot Crossbills flew over and a few (but not many) Yellow-browed Warblers revealed themselves including my first calling bird. An adult Glaucous Gull was unexpected and a couple of juvenile Peregrines that flew around making a hell of noise were the noisiest species of the day.
Apart from very brief views of a Garden Warbler yesterday I have not seen a single Sylvia warbler and there is very visual evidence of the lack of this family on the island – all the redcurrant bushes in the gardens are still full of berries whereas normally there are very few again.

The only bird I missed today was two Jack Snipes which were seen very close to our house but I was on food duty (I had foolishly started cooking whilst it was still light outside).

Olive-backed Pipit (sibirpiplerke)
same bird
dead Hawk Owl

looking far too happy
adult Glaucous Gull (polarmåke) with Herring Gulls

an obscured Arctic Redpoll (polarsisik)

Carrion Crow (svartkråke)

a Little Bunting (dvergspurv) - honest
Common Rosefinch (rosenfink)
Short-eared Owl (jordugle)

Værøy harbour
Yellow-browed Warbler (gulbrynsanger)

Friday, 22 September 2017

Værøy 2017 Day 2

Things did improve today. Egil found an Olive-backed Pipit although I failed to see it and Kjell found a Savi’s Warbler! I did manage to see the Savi’s although in similar fashion to last year it was a touch and go as to whether the views were tickable. The views were unforgettable though. Kjell had seen the bird very well although unfathomably did not have his camera with him! Once the rest of us had gathered where Kjell had found the bird we embarked on what is described as an “organised flush”. The only problem was that the bird didn’t want to flush. Instead I suddenly noticed it running like a mouse through the vegetation less than two metres from me! I got the others on it and the bird ended up being more or less surrounded but did we see it again? Absolutely not! Locustella warblers are famous for acting like this although I have not witnessed it before and it was incredibly cool to see it running away from us instead of flying and then managing to completely disappear. This was a great reward for Kjell especially after finding both Pallas Grasshopper and Lancy last year (or Stars and Stripes as they say here in Norway). We tried to find the bird again but it was a hopeless task.

After this things got very quiet. In what might be a Værøy first I did not see a Yellow-browed Warbler but may have heard one. I did have 6 Chiffchaffs though as my only warbler and got a dose of Hawkie with a bird showing well as it hunted from telegraph poles. It went down three times and looked to have caught something. In one of my pictures it looks like it is swallowing a mouse or shrew but I have understood that these don’t occur on Værøy…

Waders were the most (and only) photogenic birds today with a couple of Barwits and Grey Plovers and a few Ringed Plovers showing well. Jack Snipe also showed well but not exactly as I would have hoped. I searched a suitable area thoroughly and saw three lots of primary feathers from corpses that matched this species and later saw a cat that could well be the culprit. I did flush one bird and in trying to locate this bird on the deck I made an unexpected discovery. I came across a muddy area where there were LOTS of footprints and droppings from Jack Snipe. I immediately froze and started scanning hoping to find the bird and there it was. Only problem was that it was lying on it’s side in a puddle and was clearly dead! It appeared very freshly dead and had no visible injuries but was just skin and bones so maybe had been unable to find food. The areas where it was looked good but judging by the small was probably very polluted.

Let’s hope tomorrow delivers more birds and better views and the rain that is falling as I write this is definitelty promising.....

juvenile Grey Plover (tundralo)

juv Grey Plover

Hawk Owl with a rodent

a distant Iceland Gull which others have seen much better

northern lights

female Parrot Crossbill (furukorsnebb)

male Ring Ouzel (ringtrost)

Snow Bunting (snøspurv)

White-tailed Eagles (havørn)
floating dead Jack Snipe (kvartbekkasin)

footprints, dropping and beak marks of Jack Snipe
and the (presumed) Jack Snipe assasin

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Værøy 2017 Day 1

Well, Kjell and co might be in the duldrums after 6 quiet days but I was happy with my first evening on Værøy. Only two warblers seen but when both were Yellow browed then one cannot possibly complain and one can also have absolutely no doubt that one is on Værøy.
We have been interviewed for NRK1 and seen a good northern lights show and tomorrow the weather will change for the better (it can't get any worse) so I am looking forward 2 2morra.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

1 day to go

With only 1 day to go until Værøy I am very excited but those who are already on the island appear to be wishing they could go home especially Kjell who has been there since Friday. Birding wise it has been absolutely pants so far. The highest day count of Yellow-browed Warblers has been a paltry 3 birds and the rarest bird has been a Carrion Crow!! But I have faith and let’s face it Kjell isn’t exactly an observant birder - don’t allow yourself to be fooled by the face he leads the Norway self-found league ;-)

My birding today was limited to a quick trip to Fornebu where the big surprise was a Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler in the reedbed. In addition to being a bit late this is actually my first Sedge Warbler at Fornebu (following my first for Oslo earlier in the year).

In Maridalen the Whooper Swan family have made their maiden flight and were first on the lake before continuing their flying lessons with a tour around the valley. I so wish I had seen them making their first flight as I really wonder how risky it is with them having to take off from land and gain height quickly to avoid trees.

I didn't manage a photo of the Sedge Warbler (sivsanger) but here is the Reed Warbler (rørsanger)

this juv Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) was also at Fornebu

autumnal Tree Sparrow (pilfink)

the Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family on Maridalsvannet where there was lots of wing flapping and running on water

flying lessons

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Oslo islands

With just 2 DAYS TO GO UNTIL VÆRØY 2017 begins I thought I would get some practice for island birding in today with a trip to Oslo’s own rarity (un)filled islands. I took the public boat and had an hour each on Gressholmen, Lindøya and Nakholmen.

Passerine wise I guess I have vague hopes of one finding something along the lines of a Yellow-browed Warbler, Richard’s Pipit or Little Bunting out here one autumn but more realistically I can hope to see some waders. My Oslo list still lacks the likes of Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone and Grey Plover and it these islands that offer the best chance of encountering these species (which are far less than annual).

Today’s trip did not deliver any of the sought after rare passerines but a Wheatear and a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were enough to keep me looking for more. Waders were not exactly numerous either but a juvenile Knot showed well (it was only last year I added this species to my Oslo list) and three flyover Ruff were only my fourth Oslo record. But surprisingly there were no other waders what so ever.

A couple of seals were hauled up and one showed well. These were Common/Harbour Seals and both this species and Grey Seal seems to be becoming far commoner in the Oslo Fjord.

Knot (polarsnipe) a rare species in Oslo 

overflying Ruff (brushane)
a resting Seal (steinkobbe)

and another Seal. This one looks to be a young animal
over 130 Cormorants (storskarv) were resting on Galteskjær but I didnæt have a shag today - not so far anyway...;-)

my first auk of any kind in Oslo this year - a Guillemot (lomvi)