Monday 10 February 2014

Water Pipit!

What a week! Started off with the Black-throated thrush vividly explained in the previous post. Then a couple of days in the office and then a few days in the local forest searching for some of the forest special. A lot of wind makes forest birding challenging, but on a Saturday search for Great-grey owls (lappugle) I managed at least to find a very welcome Pygmy owl (spurveugle).

This particular place, I have had pygmy owls since more than 10 years. So, if this is the same male holding the territory all these years, it must be a quite old one by now. Owl season is now starting in Norway, and I do look forward to the next weeks when I will be out searching for these fantastic critters. Eagle owls (hubro) are usually first out, starting to sing their hearts out already in last half of Februrary. By mid March, it should be good activity on tengmalm's (perleugle) and Tawny owls (kattugle) as well. This year seems to be recenably good one for rodents, so it will be a fun year out owling. There are still a lot of Hawk owls (haukugle) about, and the other day I managed to find a pair. Will be interesting to follow this site during the spring, and hopefully they will start breeding soon.

During my owl search, both a Black woodpecker (svartspett) and a European jay (nøtteskrike) flew over the road and by that made their way onto my Big Year list. Most of the smaller roads I was planning to drive in the search of Great-grey owls (very rare, and probably some of the harder one to get this year), were closed during winter (I know, bad planning) and this has to take its share of blame for my lack of success. Despite driving 600km, no owls apart from the pygmy owl on the very first stop for the day were seen.

A presumably very old pygmy owl, responding to my whistling

Later that night, I received a message from a friend about a very interesting picture. It was out there as a rock pipit (skjærpiplerke), but the colours and plumage looked very promising for the extremely rare Water pipit (vannpiplerke). This is a species I have been searching quite a lot for during the years, and I really do have a lot of respect when it comes to id these very similar species that only fairly recently were split into two different species. Even though the pictures looked very promising, I didn't want to celebrate too loudly before I went to have a look at the critter myself. With the extreme variety that rock pipit can show (in the line of herring gulls (gråmåker) I would say), it was an exciting moment when some friends and myself were approaching the place Sunday morning just after light. We quickly found the bird, and what a beauty!

All the classic features, white belly with fine streaking, brown back with even a more paler brown rump and diagnostic head pattern and behaviour. It was indeed a water pipit! And just outside Trondheim on a well known birding site in on the island Tautra. This is the northernmost record in Norway (and probably in the world), and to find this species in this part of the country I consider a mega find! Big congrats to the finder, and thank God for pictures! There have been reports of a few rock pipits all winter at this site, so who knows how long this particular bird has been present.

Water pipit is a species breeding in the mountains of Central- and Southern Europe, and normally migrate only a short distance to lower areas during winter. In Norway, there are only about 30 records of this species, with the first one as recent as 1997. This bird was my 6th in Norway. It is a typical winter bird in Norway, and I have kind of been waiting for the long drive awaiting me when the news of one turning up in Southern Norway on one the more classic sites in Norway (Lista, or Tjøme). But hey, I'm not the one to complain when it turns up only one hour drive away!

Other new birds this day was Crested grebe (toppdykker) and Slavonian grebe (horndykker).

Out of respect for the many birders on its way to see the water pipit, I didn't
try to go close to take a picture close up. But I promise, that the bird is on this
picture, walking in the grass on the far side of the lake, above the white hat on
the person just to the right of the middle in the picture. 

  I arrived back home, and in the neighbour's garden - a second year male Goshawk (hønsehauk) was playing with the local crows (kråker).

Goshawk silhouette in an urban landscape.

New species: 6
Total: 114


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