Tuesday 29 April 2014

Tripple yankee doodle doo

Busy times indeed. Blue sky and steady easterly winds all the way from south eastern Europe to Norway made spring bird migration finally arrive! Despite little snow, and early spring botanical wise, birds this year has been rather late arriving due to long lasting northerly winds. But last week all this changed. I was planning a relaxing easter holiday with family, but already on the second day - 19 April, three avocets near Oslo (550kilometers away) made me hit the road. The birds were seen through the day and last updated only 1,5 hrs before dark in the evening. I drove most of the night, but despite being on the spot ready to X at sunrise, the birds were already gone. I searched the nearby area most of the day but all I was left with was the beautiful sunrise in the morning as well as an Osprey (fiskeørn), two Barn swallows (låvesvale) and 4 Northern shovelers (skjeand) which was all new to the Big Year list and brought the total up to 167.

The long drive back went smooth, but uneventful bird wise.

New: 3
Total 167

One day home again, trying to do some raptor watching in hope of any of the kite species (glenter) to turn up. I did find a Hen harrier (myrhauk) and had a pair of peregrines (vandrefalk) mating at a traditional nesting site. Great nature experiences indeed. This peregrine nesting site, me and some friends discoveres already in 1992, and assuming at least one of the birds still are the same individiual, it starting to be a pretty good age for the birds. Golden eagles (kongeørn) also nest in the area and the male did aerial courtship display for most of the day - securing this species to my Big Year list as well.

Several lapland longspur (lappspurv) were seen during a few short days
in my home area during Easter.

Next day, I awoke to the news of a Lesse scaup (purpurhodeand). One hour later, flight tickets were purchased. The lesser scaup being the star attraction of course, but also in the area, only a few hundred meters away from each other, there were also a male Ring necked duck (ringand) and the long staying Surf scoter (brilleand) that I missed on an earlier visit to the area. In other words, a luxury of 3 American species in Europe within short distance!  Landing at Stavanger airport, I had 1.5 hours to pick up my rental car, drive 30 mins to the localities and to see all the birds before dark. I made it both the ring necked duck and some rather distant, but satisfying views of the Lesser scaup. The latter being a lifer for me, so this was well worth the visit!

The last minutes of light was used to search all the swallows in hope of any Red-rumped swallow or  any harrier that would decide to have night roost in the large reed areas of Ergavannet.

The luxury of three American birds within few hundred meters from
each other in Norway. Ergavann in the foreground, the famous Orrevann back
to the right and the ocean on the left.

Ducks are certainly not the easiest to photograph, and difinetly not on either
of these loclaities which are both nature reserves and difficult to approach due to
agricultural land and lots birds you can potentially disturb. They are best viewed
at a distance through a spotting scope. Ring-necked duck on the left (you can barely
get the head shape).

New: 5
Total: 172

Next morning - I enjoyed the nice and warm weather and tried a little bit again for the Lesser scaup, but without luck as most of the ducks were at very long distance. I then went on to search for the surf scoter. Last time I tried for this, heavy waves and strong winds, made searching very difficult. Now, on the other hand, weather could not have been better. Flat calm sea, blue sky and with the sun warming on my back it didn't take too long before I found the bird actively feeding on the far side of the bay. Happy to finally have caught up with this bird, I enjoyed the record influx of ring ouzel (ringtrost) at Jæren (at least 20 birds) before I made my way to other side of the bay in hope of getting a photo of the surf scoter. By the time I made it there, the bird unfortunately had moved far out at sea, and I found it back sleeping way too far away for any pictures....

Searching for other birds, made a few nice additions to the big year list, but nothing rare. I again visited the ring necked duck and saw the Lesser-white fronted goose (dverggås) in that had been in the area for a few days. This species is very high on my wish list, but this particular bird originates from captive birds put out in Sweden in hope of rescuing the species from extinction in Western Europe, and thus not count on my Big Year list. Hope to see this handsome goose on the breeding grounds in northern Norway later in May. In the evening I flew back home, to reach a very early morning flight to Russia the next morning.

The short visit to Russia, could possibly not have been timed more badly, as the strong easterly winds prevailed and brought lots of good stuff to Southern Norway. Though most of these species, I feel I have a very good chance to catch up with during May - which is only a few days away.

I am now going birding virtually every day, and starting this afternoon with a long drive to southern Norway in hope of a black-necked grebe (svarthalsdykker) that has already been present for a few days. A very rare bird in Norway which usually are only two or three times a year in this country.

Wish me luck!

New: 5
Total: 177

Thursday 17 April 2014

Photo competitions

Travelling around Norway, trying to spot as many birds as possible for my Big Year project is fun and exciting. It also means, as it shows on this blog, that I spend less time trying to take pictures. After all I am a wildlife photographer, and this is what I make most of my money from during a year. I therefore just wanted to share the good news I received the other day that my images had reached the finals in two of the world's most prestigeous nature photo contests. I don't participate in many contest through a year, but GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the year and BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year are two that I try to enter. Both these competitions receive tens of thousands of entries each year. I have been successful in both of these on earlier occasions, and now I have 11 images (of 20 in total) in each of these highly ranked competitions through to the finals. Nothing is decided yet, but fingers are crossed that one of these images will make it all the way through and be awarded. 

Wish you all good light


Saturday 12 April 2014

Green-winged teal

03 April

The day started way too early. Already at 3 am I found myself on the road! I received tip of a Lynx (gaupe) that was eating on a roe deer (rådyr) kill a few hours away (thanks to local newspapers!). This is a mammal I have worked a lot with, but never actually seen wild in Norway. I just had to try for this! In short, I didn't see it, but got Long-tailed tit (stjertmeis) as a comfort prize instead.....This was only the start of my journey this time though.  News of a green-winged teal (amerikakrikkand) that seemed to have settled down a bit reached me the other week, I went for a visit :)

Every year, along with the common teal (krikkand) migration, a few of this American vagrants also show up. April is indeed THE month to see it in Norway, so no surprise with timing or the locality which was Starene - a flooded field near Hamar in southern Norway. Actually, this was my first visit ever to this place. A very nice bonus of doing a Big Year is indeed that I get to visit places and bird localities I have never seen before. After half an hour searching - I found the green-wined teal amongst the other ducks. The evening sun was setting, and with no wind and in the company of some local birders - I truly had a nice time at this site. Birding wasn't too bad either as species such as Pintail (stjertand), Long-eared (horn-) and Short-eared owl (jordugle), White-fronted goose (tundragås), Stock dove (skogdue) and a Stout (røyskatt) made an appearence. Only the short-eared owl was new for the Big Year list.

Look very careful here, and you will see the Green-winged teal's diagnostic
 vertical white line in front of the wing. Ths place is very open, and not
 made for photographers as it is impossible to get close to the bird without
 disturbing them - at least that's the excuse I am haning on to in excuse
 for this rather poor and severly cropped image.

I had timed this trip with the weather forecast, to go south for a day with blue sky in hope of searching up a Red kite (glente). The night was again spent in the comfort of the front seat of my car so that the next morning I would be ready for some birding at Kurefjorden, Rygge. A famous bird site that sometimes also get kites flying by - missed it by one day a week ago!

New birds: 3
Total: 153

04 April
Most of the day was spent at this site and I got plenty of migration and new birds for my Big Year list. Nothing rare, but species such as, Marsh tit (løvmeis), Merlin (dvergfalk), Kestrel (tårnfalk), Rough-legged buzzard (fjellvåk), Dunnock (jernspurv), Chiffchaff (gransanger), Green woodpecker (grønnspett) were all new birds to the Big Year list. However, probably the three best birds were a flock of 8 bean geese (sædgås), a Crane (trane) and a Bar-tailed godwit (lappspove) but none of these were big year ticks. While standing looking for migrating raptors I got a message about some Garganeys (knekkand) a few kilometers further south. So since the raptor migration was rather slow, I decided to have a look in the afternoon. Garganeys are semi rare in Norway, so why spoil this chance. Yet again, for the 3rd time this year already, I found myself in Fredrikstad - about 600km away from home.

Two out of 6 Garganeys seen at this place :)

This day also brought me on top of the year tick listers for the first time this year. Many people have seemed a bit worried that I have been displaying so far down on the lists so far this year. I do have a plan, and all that really matters to me is where I am on this list at the end of this year.

New birds: 8
Total: 161

05 April
I spent the night at a friend's place in Oslo before I decided to search for swans. I am really getting a bit nervous that my chance of Bewick's swan (dvergsvane) has eluded me this year because of an unusually early swan migration. Normally last week of March is the peak for these, but this year warm winter made them travel through already first week of March. On top of this, they seem to get a bit harder to get in Norway as only three birds have been seen this year - two of them I missed by only a few hours!

I searched all the traditional places for swans in the inner parts east of Oslo and the large valley all the way up to Trondheim (a roughly 560km drive), but only about 40 whooper swans (sangsvaner) were seen.  I did find a flock of 4 Green sandpipers (skogsnipe) at Hærsetsjøen, which was the only big year tick of today.

The next evening I tried again for the lynx, that still was reported to feed on its kill. I spent three evenings here. That is my excuse for not have kept the blog updated, but more on that later.

New: 1
Total: 162


Wednesday 2 April 2014

Nature is the greatest artist

As a photographer I often try to make my pictures something special - something close to art. However, sometimes, it is just to point the camrea and shoot. Welcome to the world of the mandarin duck (mandarinand). Big year tick # 149.

A mallard (stokkand) can sometimes look nice as well

Mandarin duck originates from East Asia, where they are freshwater birds often hanging out in big rivers or shallow lakes. They breed in hollow trees. Appearantly, in Korean culture they represent peace. I like that.

The birds seen in Europe originates either directly or indirectly from captivity as this species understandably is popular amongst bird collecters and as park ornaments. A relatively small population is breeding in Southern England and that originates from escaped birds from captiviy. These two males turned up in the river next to my garden.

New species: 1
Total: 149