Thursday, 15 May 2014

Melanistic Montagu's harrier!

10 May
The day started rather slow, and with few birds seen in the morning. I decided to go to a local decidious forest to look for Wood Warbler (bøksanger) - a new Big Year bird. Havnehagen just inside Lista is a beautiful place - a protected pristine forest. Wood warblers were plenty, and I got a bonus of a hunting Tawny Owl (kattugle).

In the afternoon, I was not sure what to do. But a phonecall about some possible Bee Eaters (bietere) made me go out at 17:00. No luck with the Bee Eaters, but on my way to a the store I suddenly saw a slim harrier roadside. Before I even managed to stop the car, my first thought was Montagu's Harrier (enghauk) - a very rare bird in Norway indeed, but Lista usually has one or two each year. To my surprise the bird was all black, and I had to look twice to make sure I wasn't mistaking the bird for a Marsh Harrier (sivhauk). A confusion which is actually not very likely as the Montagu's has a totally different jizz with its slim body and long and narrow wings. Even so, the bird were all black, and it was soon clear that this was a Montagu's Harrier of the rare melanistic form. To my knowledge, the first record of this form in Norway! I quickly got a few shots with my camera just before the bird dissappeared behind some trees. I alarmed the local birders in the area, but despite searching in the evening it was not seen again.

Black (melanistic) morph of Montagu's Harrier (enghauk) - as far as I know,
the first record for Norway of this form. This picture show the upperside, and
note that it doesn't even show a white rump.

Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) just to show the difference in the jizz. A much more
powerful bird with broad wings and short and large tail.

Melanistic Montagu's Harrier from below. Again pictures only from a distance,
but note the jizz - long narrow wings, especially the hand. Only four "fingers"
visible and long narrow tail. The Montagu's has indeed an unmistakeable shape and
elegancy to itself.

A friend and I waited at a big reed marsh (Slevdalsvann), where harriers that visit the area often spend the night. Heavy rain ment less then ideal conditions for raptor watching. Then, just before dark, at about 21:15, a big raptor that I assumed was one of the local Marsh Harriers took to the air. It made a circle and I instantly saw the triangular tail marking - and made the comment " Black Kite!" I more or less threw myself out of the car to confirm the id with my spotting scope. Fog on the lens ment no view at all and before I got to look it again it had disappeared behind the trees. The whole observations took no more than 5 seconds, and I couldn't positively id the bird - even though I was almost certain it was indeed a black kite. My friend, Geir, amazingly managed to shoot a few pictures of the bird, and they confirmed my suspition. But because of the picture quality, we decided to let the bird go unidentified for now and hope we got better views later. Something that didn't happen before the next morning. A Grasshopper Warbler was singing in the rain and made a nice ending to the evening being the third new Big Year bird of the day.

New birds: 3
Total: 223

11 May
The morning started with the message that a Black Kite had been positively identified at the exact same place we had our bird yesterday! A great start, and I was on it to get better views myself so I could include it on my Big Year list. I have a policy, that I will not include any bird which I don't see the identification clues myself - I needed to see this bird again! Searching for it, the melanistic harrier from yesterday showed again in the distance, and before long I received a message from other birders out looking for the rare harrier that both the Kite and the Harrier were sitting on a field nearby. By this time, I had also received a message via Bird Alarm that two White-winged terns (hvitvingesvartterne) had been seen hunting at Orrevannet - a two hours drive north. I quickly got some views of the Kite as it lifted off from the field and it was only seen once more this morning before it probably left the area.

Black Kite (svartglente) at Lista. 

As the terns are usually very brief on their visit before moving on to the next place, time was of an essence and I soon found myself on the road going north. Only 3 hours since the first message on Bird Alarm went out to the public, I was watching these beautiful birds hunting insects over the lake. Not only a Big Year tick, but also a new bird to my Norwegian list! Since we so quickly got the birds, we decided to bird the area a bit and found a female Black-Redstart (svartrødstjert) at Reve, which also was new Big Year bird. This day was nothing short of excellent!

The rest of the day was rather unexciting, and I returned back to my base at Lista in time to do some afternoon birding here. Adding a Moorhen (sivhøne) and Spotted Redshank (sotsnipe) ment that my total now got up to 228.

New birds: 5
Total: 228

12 May
Northwesterly rather strong winds for most of the day stopped most of the migration. A few good birds such as Spotted crake (myrrikse), a few Wrynecks (vendehals), Quail and a rather late Iceland gull kept the hopes up, but was not adding anything to my Big Year list.

In hand - the Wryneck (vendehals) - really lives up to its name. It bends the neck
 in the most unlikely angels. Here it is pictured in a less embarrasing way -
looking more like a normal bird without any super skills.

13 May
Another day with rather bad northwesterly. Pomarine skua (polarjo) migrating and a flock of 7 Dotterels (boltit) was virtually the only birds worth mentioning. We also saw a submarine with German flags - not sure what that means. This became the second day of May without any new Big Year birds.

A Marsh Harrier (sivhauk) in its favoured habitat - reeds.

14 May
Still northwesterly - not ideal at all for bird migration at Lista. A few hours of seabird watching in the morning gave a Great Skua (storjo), which was expected yet new for my Big Year list.  Luckily, the wind eased a bit over the morning, and I decided to take a long walk in the areas I hadn't visited for a few days. You never know, and after all it is indeed mid May and one should always be ready for something unexpected. When conditions are not ideal, it is just about spending time outside. The only place you are guaranteed not to get anything new, is when sitting inside on the sofa feeling sorry for yourself. And so it was - a beautiful male Citrine Wagtail (sitronerle) made its appearance. So brightly coloured in yellow that it can compete with the easter chicken any day. Unfortunately, the bird stayed rather far out on a field, so that it was not possible to take any decent pictures.

In the afternoon, I visited a nesting site for White-backed Woodpecker (hvitryggspett) nearby. Thanks to the local birder Asle for excellent guiding and help with this sometimes very tricky species. We waited only for about ten minutes before the female appeared with a mouthful of fat insect larvae. She almost directly flew into the nest to feed the chicks before she went off for another foraging trip. Another ten minutes and there she was again. In the meantime, a male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker (dvergspett) had started drumming just next to us and Green Woodpecker (grønnspett) flew by just to emphasize the quality of this beautiful forest. Overhead, no less than five Common Buzzards (musvåk) were having an airborne display to draw the territory lines between them. Getting the White-backed Woodpecker on the Big Year list means that I have now seen all woodpecker species in Norway this year - the first group to be completed. A very nice evening indeed.

The globally rare White-backed Woodpecker
(hvitryggspett) will most likely be one of my top 4 Big Year birds when
it comes to small population numbers globally. The species is very
dependent on old forest, something that unfortunately is dissappearing
every day. In Sweden, the species is already virtually extinct, while in Norway,
thanks to steep fjords and mountains, it is still at least locally fairly common.

New Birds: 2
Total: 230

1 comment:

  1. Veldig artig å følge deg her Eirik! Flott og spennende blogg :)
    Virker som du virkelig er i flyten nå! Keep up the good work, og send noen godbiter oppover til Smøla :)