Sunday, 20 July 2014

Demoiselle crane and then some!

25 June – 5 July
I have again been guiding nature photographers for WildPhoto Travel, and besides trying to find great things for them to photograph I also had a goal to tick off the last breeding species up here for my Big Year list. Over the years I have learned the favorite hangouts for the rare Sabine’s gull in Svalbard.  The species is a fairly late arrival up here, and this is its eastern border of distribution. Already the first evening, we manage to find one, maybe two adults feeding in front of a nice glacier cliff.  Later in the trip, we even found 3 breeding pairs. Great success, and also big applaud from the clients as this was a group a bit more than average interested in birds. Even the famous Finish bird photographer Jari Pältomaki was amongst the crowd cheering. We also saw several Brent geese (ringgås), Ivory gulls (ismåker) and all four skuas (joer), as well as some great Polar bear (isbjørn) encounters (as usual on the WildPhoto trips).

I know this is not a bird. But having a bear mother with two cubs around our
zodiacs for more than an hour was a nice experience even without any feathers

Sabine's gull (sabinemåke) in full breeding plumage is one of the more handsome
gulls of the world.

New birds: 1
Total: 273

6 July
Already on 5th July, the day we finished the photography trip, the news of a Demoiselle crane (jomfrutrane) in southern Norway came out! The bird had been foraging in a field near Larvik already for some days. It is only one previous record accepted as a wild bird in Norway, and that was all the way back in 1966 from Varanger as far as I know. No need to say I was already eager to get there. Flights from Longyear was already arranged, and just before take off, I got a message about a little egret close to Trondheim. Despite almost one hour delay, I arrived in Gaulosen just as the sun was setting, and another birder had already found the egret so this became a very easy Big Year tick! Enjoying the Little egret in red coloured sea from the sunset was very nice indeed, but I had to get going. Eight hours driving during night to Larvik laid ahead of me, and I could only hope the crane stayed for a few more hours. The weather forecast was horrible, with a downpour of 50mm rain in just a few hours. I needed to tick off the bird before this weather came in!

Little egret (silkehegre) in far distance but this was actually the first in
Norway this year and only my second time I see it in Norway.

New: 1
Total: 274

7 July
At eight o’clock, I arrived at scene, and luckily the crane was still there! One of my easiest Big Year ticks, but at the same time one of my best experience so far into my Big Year as the Demoiselle crane is a bird that has for a long time ranked high on my “want to seeˮ list. It was even a lifer for me!
By doing this twitch I also made a record as the longest twitch ever made in Norway – From Longyearbyen, Svalbard to Kjose, Larvik. A trip no less than 1400km one way.
I got to enjoy the bird for an hour before the down pour started. I got soaked in water within few minutes. I started the drive home, towards my next target that was a long staying Pacific plover (sibirlo) at Smøla.

The beauty itself. Actually the Indian name for it is used to describe beautiful
girls and women - it fits well. Demoiselle crane (jomfrutrane) for the second
time in Norway.

New birds: 1
Total 275

8 July
Arrived Smøla late evening and spent all day searching for Pacific golden plover (sibirlo) on the various fields on this island. A couple of times, I had my suspicion about the right kind, but the feeling was never a 100 percent. My experience with the difficult species that are sometimes very similar to one or more common species is this: If you are in doubt – it is for sure the common one. Once you see the real thing, at least I, always get an eye opener and can’t really understand I have spent so much time checking the more common ones when it really is this easy.
So was the case here as well. I left the island with some probables, but the feeling was not hundred percent. I needed to come back.

A happy white-tailed eagle (havørn), an angry herring gull (gråmåke) and a
sunset. Smøla is the White-tailed eagle capital in Europe.

9 July
Trying for Manx shearwater (havlire) at my local sea watching patch outside Molde. But unusually hot weather with 30+ Celsius and some easterly wind made things difficult.
The next days were mostly spent relaxing. Some birding in between, but without anything big happening.
14 July
I returned to Smøla, and this time – after a 3 hours search – I got the “a-ha” experience I was looking for. A small slender built plover with extremely long legs. No doubt in the world about it – Pacific golden plover ticked off as species number 276 this year!

A perfectly documented Pacific golden plover (sibirlo) finally! Grey armpits, long
legs, and slender built

New: 1  Total: 276

15 July
Big Year is again on national tv in prime time! This time on the talk show Sommeråpent, with the super friendly and professional host, Haddy N’jie, which made it to a very nice experience indeed. According to the statistics, it was watched by 498 000 viewers. Part of my plan with my Big Year project, because birding is such a small hobby in Norway, is actually to show enthusiasm and excitement with birding and that birding can be much more than protesting against habitat loss and disturbance to the birds due to industry development etc. Birding is a fun, healthy and social hobby. If more people were birding, we would also get more people interested in taking care of the birds. Together with Haddy, I think we managed to get this message trough, and they even showed some of my images and videos of rare birds during my Big Year.

Haddy and me - I think I managed to get her at least a little
bit interested in birds....

While on tv, I got a message about another mega in Norway! A well documented Egyptian vulture (åtselgribb) had been seen a few days in a mountain area about 5 hours away from Trondheim. I was still in Oslo, but quickly got home and into the car to start the drive as soon as the locality was released. Unfortunately, no bird seen….but while there, another very good bird came out on Bird Alarm. A pratincole (ubestemt brakksvale) had been seen in flight only. Unfoturnately, the observers had seen it too poorly to make a positive id. After realizing that the vulture was nowhere to be seen I started to drive towards the pratincole – not too far away from Trondheim. Next morning I searched 5 hours, but also this one seemed to slip away…
I hurried home to make it in time for my flight north again. For the next weeks, I will be guiding for Aurora Expeditions in Svalbard and Big Year need to take another break. Hopefully, I manage to pull out something good here in the Arctic during the next weeks. Who knows, maybe a spectacled eider (brilleærfugl) is hiding around the next corner?


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