Sunday, 11 May 2014

Two hundred - and then some!

May is just as busy as expected. I appologize for not keeping this blog as updated as I should. I try to at least keep the species list updated day by day, so you can follow my progress. Writing and posting proper blogs with pictures takes quite a lot of time, and even though I should do it, I do need to sleep some times as well. At the moment, the weather has been more or less steady easterly with overcast and blue sky for most of the time. This means many hours out in the field birding! Unfortunately this also means less than ideal time in front of computers or in bed....A typical day so far in May starts with migration count at Lista light house at 06:00, and then birding all day until about 21. Then some dinner, write a log for the bird observatory and suddenly its way past bed time already. But hey, who said doing a Big Year would be a holiday?

The last week has been great. Not only did I cross my 200th species of the year mark, but the quality in birds has also been great. So much has happened, and here is some of it.

03 May
A rather slow day with relatively hard wind from west (12m/s or 20-24 knots if you talk that language). The only new bird of the day was a migrating Sanderling (sandløper). In the evening, two Bar-headed geese (stripegås) landed in the marsh next to the bird observatory. Nice birds indeed, but as records in Europe of this species are considered to be escapes from bird collectors or parks it can't count on my Big Year list. Its original home is East Asia. 

The highlight of the day was a flock of 12 Dotterels (boltit), which was displaying for each and showing all kinds of different plumage stages.
Yesterday, news of male Collared flycatcher all the way north in Lofoten (northern Norway and a long way away from Lista - about 1700km to be more exact) came to my ear. The place where the bird was staying was actually covered in snow earlier in the morning, and I was a bit hesitant that this bird would stay for long. Anyway, the bird was updated today, so things look promising until I checked flights. The cheapest flight the next 3 days was a astronomic NOK7000 (USD1200). So with my limited budget it was no way I could risk this......

Sky lark (sanglerke) in display

New: 1
Total: 196

04 May
Weather improved since yesterday, and I was starting the day with migration counts at the light house. Actually lots of other birders around as well. I spent all day birding in the light house area. Two White-billed divers passed by - both in beautiful summer plumage. A Brent goose (ringgås) of the eastern subspecies B.b.bernicla was feeding and a very welcome Lesser ringed plover (dverglo) was also present at the same place and could be seen in the same scope view. Both of them were new to the Big Year list. The next new bird was a "bird in hand", as there is also ringing going on at this bird observatory. Sedge warbler became species number 199 for the year, and I now was very excitied who would get the honor to be 200 - a small milestone in my Big Year history. Even though not a bird, I also truly enjoyed a pod of orcas (spekkhugger) fishing outside our migration look out. At first fishing and even breaching a bit before the whole pod - including two very large males - migrated north east passing fairly close to where we were enjoying them from. As said before - Big Year is not only about numbers, but also about spending a lot of time outside and enjoy many great nature experiences. Later in the afternoon, me and the stationed ringer Aida, birded a bit in the area and suddenly a few notes from a Garden warbler (hagesanger) reveiled itself and became my 200th species of the year! A little Big Year history was written.

The Collared flycatcher up north was today ringed. Unbelievably though, another Collared flycatcher was reported from the famous rarity magnet Utsira. Also a male, which is a smashing bird indeed. I have only seen the species once in my life, when I persuaded my fellow Geography students to take a detour in Sweden to see a male that was breeding together with a pied flycatcher. I still remember it as it was yesterday. I would very much like to see the bird again. Utsira is conveniently much closer to Lista than Lofoten, and it was within 15 minutes set a departure time to ensure we made it with the first ferry the next morning.

New: 4
Total: 200

05 May
Up at 03am - which was actually half an hour later than planned! Not the best day to oversleep when two ferries were needed to get to our destination for the day and hopefully see the Collared flycatcher. But luckily, few of those people that think their car can go no faster than 60Km/hrs is up at this time of day (night), so we made it in time and already at 09 we disembarked the ferry with great excitement. The local birder Bjørn Ove kindly met us on the pier to take us directly to the garden the bird was last seen. Weather was rainy and windy, and the predictions for the day was not promising with increasing amount of both rain and wind. We needed to find this bird in the morning to have a chance.

We searchced the garden. A small and relatively isolated one, with two apple trees and a few other bushes. Just above and small spruce plantation which could give some shelter for the wind. After standing for about twenty minutes here, nothing was seen except for a few black caps (munk). It was time for plan the nearby gardens. So we did. Another half an hour - nothing...rain increasing. Wind stronger. Plan C...The four of us split up to make the search more efficient. One of us, Jonas, placed himself in original garden as rare birds have an tendency to keep coming back to the place it was discovered. This bird was actually discovered by a observant football suporter as he something black and white fly by his window while watching his favourite team play on tv.

Anyway, my phone rang, and imediatly got the adrenalin pumping. It was Jonas - the message was short and firm - the bird is back! We ran, and all sorts of memories from running across the island in the early 90s came to mind. Before the cell phone inventions, birders on this island spent a whole lot of time just watching other birders and interpret their behaviour. Waving arms, staring at the same spot for a long time etc ment they might see something good. The island is not extremely big, but is divided in the middle by fields you cannot cross. And it is a fair bit to run around. The behaviour there was not possible to confuse was when other birders were running. Then, it was serious and I often found myself just starting to run in the same direction as the other birders. No idea what I was running for, or how far I needed to run - but it was probably a rare bird somewhere in that general direction. The funny thing, is that as you ran, you met other birders along your way. They started to run too, just because I did. When they asked where and what - all I could say "no idea - but those on the other side of the valley is running so it must be something good". Well, depending on the distance and amount of birders - it was almost like a small parade of people running after each other along the road, with no idea why or for how long. Binoculars, telescopes and cameras made it not only physically challenging, but also to a financial hazard game. One wrong step, and one month of sallary could be gone..Anyway - now, birders have cars and cellphones.

To run all the way around to the other side of valley take some time and not the least a lot of stamina. Something I quickly realised I had a lot more of in the early 90s than now, as I was running toward the garden. Luckily the garden was only a few hundred meters away, and I made it there in time. I beautiful male was catching insects in the garden for about five minutes before it dissappeared out of sight. The wind was still strong, and the rain still pouring down. We heard the bird and it made a few very brief visits to the garden, but mostly it stayed out of the wind where it was not possible for us to see. After an hour we decided to be satisfied with what we got and went birding in some other gardens in hope to find back a subalpine warbler (rødstrupesanger) and little bunting (dvergspurv) that was seen here a few days back. We found neither.

A reason to run...

Collared flycatcher (halsbåndfluesnapper) - a very satisfying bird!

But we did see a kingfisher (isfugl) - not new for my Big Year list, but a very rare bird indeed. This is only the second record for this island. This bird has been present in one of the harbours for a few weeks already. Steady rain and increasing wind made us leave the island a bit earlier than planned. During the ferry crossing back to mainland, both Fulmar (havhest) and an Arctic skua (tyvjo) was nice addition to my list. Already happy with todays results, we became even more happy when two Little gulls (dvergmåke) was found roosting in Orreosen during our short visit. Back at Lista we stopped briefly in Slevdalsvann to listen for a Spotted crake (myrrikse). A very nice ending memorable day.

New birds: 5
Total: 205

06 May
A day at Lista again. Weather a bit rainy and migration counts needed to be done from inside the observation hut. A steady migration of Common scoter (svartand) and Tufted duck (toppand) was fun to see. Otherwise very slow. In the afternoon, the weather radar showed 3 hours with no rain, and so we decided to take a walk in the area. A nice Shore lark was somewhat surprising, but nevertheless a welcome addition to the Big Year list. A female harrier (kjerrhauk) made its appearence, and made the adrenalin pump a bit as this is prime time for Montagu's harrier (enghauk). Unfortunately though, this bird was a hen harrier (myrhauk). In the forest my first Pied flycatcher (svarthvit fluesnapper) for the year was hunting for insect in lee of the wind.

Shore lark (fjellerke) - the more colorful of the larks.

New birds: 2
Total: 207

07 May
Oh, what a day. It started off with a good tern migration. Most of them going quite far out from land, but those which were close enough to be identified were all Common tern (makrellterne). A the end of one of those flock a first summer Little gull (dvergmåke) was very nice to see - and only my second for this year. The observation point at Lista lighthouse is not only good for seabirds, but many passerines (spurvefugler) also pass this spot. This place in calm mornings are thus very good to see a good selection of birds. But as they are migrating, many of these observations are very brief, and this should very much prove to be true for this morning. Suddenly the unmistakeable flight call of a Corn bunting (kornspurv) appeared and soon the bird was found passing us close by. Even though it looked like it was about to land, it dissappeared behind some buildings and was never to be seen again. Shortly after this, a female Citrine wagtail (sitronerle) landed in front of us. Sitting only for about 30 seconds, I only made to see it briefly in my spottingscope befor it flew away. Despite some searching and attempts to document the record on camera, we never managed to see it again.

The first Swift (tårnseiler) and the first cuckoo (gjøk) was also seen. In the evening, I got exciting news of a Glossy ibis (bronseibis) a bit further north. It was time to leave Lista again. As I had no chance making it to the bird before dark, I decided to go back to where I stay and eat a proper dinner and prepare for the travel. As I am eating my dinner, a friend of me calls me just to tell me he saw a picture of Great bittern (rørdrum) on facebook. When he told me the picture was taken in the Lista area, the conversation suddenly became exciting. Some rather precise detective work and a few phone calls later, I found myself looking at a Great bittern fishing all in the open! A truly amazing bird and only the second time I see this bird. The species usually keeps itself well hidden in reed beds, but this one was a real show off!

Camouflaged and bit cryptic - it is a real privelege to any birder to
see this bird in the open! Great bittern (rørdrum)

At 22, I started on the drive north towards the ibis. The plan was to stop and sleep along the way somewhere and then be ready at the location near Odda, at 06 the next morning. Due to a lot of road construction and detours and closed tunnels, I didn't make the ferry I wanted and was a few hours delayed. At the end, I only managed one hour sleep in the car before I was needed to drive on to make it to the bird in time. You never know when they decide to fly, so better be as early as possible.

New birds: 5
Total: 212

08 May 
At a narrow valley, with a rather nutrient poor river running in the middle and surrounded by snow capped mountains and glacier, the small village of Sandvin is located. A beautiful place indeed, but not exactly the first place you think of when searching for rarities. But here I was, searching for a glossy ibis. I found the bird fairly easy and a very good Big Year addition secured. The bird, a first summer, was a bit scruffy looking. I was a little bit skittish and was very alert immediately when I tried to approach for a picture. As I know more birders was on their way, I didn't want to push it too much, and left it with some distant shots seen under. This was a very exciting find indeed, and it was also new to my Norway list.

Glossy ibis (bronseibis)

This pond is where the ibis spent most of its time when I saw it in the
morning. It is difficult to imagine it could choose a more beautiful place
in Norway to visit on its northern "expedition".

On the way back I managed to stop on Gruda at Jæren before a heavy rain started. A rather late Glaucous gull (polarmåke) and a long staying Green-winged teal (amerikakrikkand) was nice to see. Finally back home, and almost straight to bed as sleep was not very much part of the last 36 hours...

New birds: 3
Total: 215

09 May  
A bird rich day, but with no rarities. I birded most of Lista, and searched all the black fields for larks, turtle doves and whatever that was thinking of sitting down on them. Nothing rare found, but a nice flock of waders in summer plumage included Grey plover (tundralo), Red knot (polarsnipe) and Sanderling (sandløper) to mention a few were very nice to see. At a nearby beach, I found a little ringed plover (dverglo) and two males of the flavissima yellow wagtail (engelsk gulerle).

Red-backed shrike (tornskate) male, on the look out.

Two males yellow wagtails of the subspecies flavissima (engelsk gulerle)

New birds: 5
Total: 220

1 comment:

  1. Hi Eirik. Well done on getting over 200 species, and beyond! Good luck with the summer birding that lies ahead. Look forward to reading about more exciting finds. Best wishes, Eric