Thursday 29 May 2014

Busy May

Keeping a blog updated in the busy month of May, is more challenging than I actually expected. Much because the weather has been great and the birding also very good. I have been birding every single day in this month. Normally starting at about 06 in the morning and not stopping before between 21 or 22. So not much time for other writing a log, eat, sleep and go birding. May has treated me well, and I got lots of good stuff, even though with a few exceptions, the big rarities has been few. It will be too much to write a day by day for the last half of May, but underneath is some of the highlight briefly.

15 May
Day started rather slow, with only highlight being a migrating White-billed diver (gulnebblom) and a new Big Year bird in the form of an overflying Grey wagtail (vintererle). There had been some rumours about a Serin (gulirisk) nearby, and my friend Geir and myself went there to have a look. Standing there looking over the area my binos stopped with a raptor soaring far away on clearly V-shaped wings. My mind was not expecting what I was seeing in my telescope a few seconds later. Expecting to see a Marsh harrier (sivhauk) the surprise was fantastic and made the adrenalin flow like a big river when I realised it was a Red kite (glente)! This is a bird I already spent a week searching for in Lista in end of March without success, and through the years as a birder - I have actually spent months in total staring up in the sky hoping for one of these to glide by. Finally it was here, and what a bird it was! This was also a new to my Norwegian list, and probably one of the more "embarrasing" ones that I until now have been missing. The bird soared a little bit in the distance before it started to glide straight north in high speed. We chased it by car, and found it back 10 minutes later. Just as we stopped the car, the bird changed direction directly away from us, and started to loose altitude rapidly. I didn't get much pictures that show id features, before we lost it and it was never seen again despite searching for quite some time.

 New birds: 2
Total: 232

16 May
The morning started good, as I was alone couting migration when I saw a flock of swallows coming straight in from the sea. A few minutes later I saw the same flock hunting insects over the nearby forest, and from experience, these migtrating flocks can be well worth taking an extra look at. I didn't take long before a nice Red-rumped swallow was discovered, and made it on to the list over "birds I find myself" in this Big Year. A parallell list I am doing this year just for fun. This is only the second red-rumped swallow I find myself in Norway, so quite exciting indeed. The bird lingered around for a few hours, and most of the local birders that wanted to got to see it. It landed on the same wire as the first one these season, and luckily sat for a bit longer so that it was possible to take a few pictures.

Red-rumped swallow (amursvale), showing itself from different angles.

A female Citrine wagtail (sitronerle) was also seen very briefly. Amazingly - the third citrine wagtail this year for me!

New: 0
Total: 233

17 May
Finally! Sandwich tern (splitterne). It only took me 17 mornings of early morning seabird migrationg counts to see this one....Not a big rarity in Norway, certainly not in the south-western part of the country, but I started to get a bit nervous this would be one of these scilly one to miss in my Big Year. Also a fly by Bar-headed goose (stripegås) and a Yellow wagtail of the form flavissima is worth mentioning. Also, Norway's national day - Hooray!

18 May
Two more Sanwich terns (splitterne) migrating. Very slow migration, so went to local stake of Scarlet rose finch (rosenfink). On the way there, we had a fly by White-backed woodpecker (hvitryggspett). Heard one male rosefinch singing, and this became the only new one for the day.

New birds: 1
Total: 234

19 May
Again a very slow day migration wise. A Little ringed plover (dverglo) was seen close enough to be doucumented on my list. In the morning, a Bluethroat was ringed by Aida (bird observatory staff) and this became the only new bird on for my Big Year list today.

A female Bluethroat (blåstrupe) becoming part of science.

Little-ringed plover (dverglo) documented in Big Year style (long distance).

New birds: 1
Total: 235

20 May
After a slow morning with only a Pomarine skua (polarjo) being some sort of a highlight, I received a message about a Eastern Stonechat (asiasvartstrupe) at Jæren - 150km away. This is a big rarity in Norway, so I soon was on the road.

It was, as reported by the observer, a very difficult bird indeed. After a two hour search in the area, the bird suddenly made a nice fly by, and I got to see it very well - yet briefly through my binoculars. A large pale rump, white wing bars and in genreally a very contrasty bird looked very promising. However, as over the last years, there has been quite some change in the perception of how much our "normal" westerly stonechats (svartstruper) might vary in plumage, so I needed better look to be able to identify the bird properly. Even though, the finder, Sigmar, had some rather poor photos of the bird which kind of confirm the impression of this bird really being an Eastern stonechat, I wanted to have better look at it.

I have a golden rule in my Big Year project, and that is that for a bird to be included on my Big Year list, I need to see all the important id features myself. I won't count on what other people see, I need to see it myself to be totally sure. I bird alarmed the bird out as being an Eastern Stonechat, but despite searhing by several people over the next hours, the bird was never seen again. To be honest, if I was in Asia, I wouldn't think twice calling this bird an Eastern stonechat, but because we are in Norway and the rarity scale of this bird - I just didn't see it well enough to count it on my Big Year list. Lets hope for another one some time soon!

But, while searching for this bird, I got a message about both a Golden oriole (pirol) and Tawny pipit (markpiplerke) on the famous island of Utsira. Both not only new to my Big Year list, but also to my Norwegian list. Quickly cancelling a dinner date, I realised I was on the road again and what was ment to only be a short trip for the stonechat, was now turning into a overnight trip with ferries involved. I started to think it was a bad idea to leave the sleeping bag behind at the bird observatory in Lista....More or less on the way there I added two semi rare birds to my Big Year list - Broad-billed sandpiper (fjellmyrløper) and Corn crake (åkerrikse).

21 May
After a short night in the car (getting used to it by now), without my sleeping bag, I went to the last ferry in time. The weather forecast was not good. During the day, the wind was predicted to pick up to 30 knots (15m/s) and big amounts of rain should set in. I needed some luck and to get the birds early in the day to make this a success.

Arriving the island in no wind and overcast - it was indeed perfect conditions. The pipit had not been seen since midday yesterday, but on the ferry on the way out, one of the local birders (Bjørn Ove) called me to say he had found a singing Blyth's reed warbler (busksanger). A species had expected to miss since I will be away for most of June, when they normaly turn up. As far as I know, this is actually the earliest record of this species ever in Norway! I went straight there, and heard the bird singing. I recorded the song, but never managed to take a picture, despite seeing the bird briefly on a few occasions. My next target was more important on personal level - the golden oriole is one of two Norwegian breeding birds that I have never seen in Norway. The species has a reputation for being quite a skulker - even though it is indeed a canopy bird.

I first checked the garden it was last seen without any luck. I then went on to the garden were the locals say alll orioles on this island sooner or later visit. Because this bird is so shy, I stopped at a far distance and started to search with my binos. It didn't take long before I found a thrush sized bird jumping around in the canopy. Before long, it jumped out all in the open and reveiled itself as a beautiful female golden oriole! It sat for a while and started preening - I could not believe the good views I was experiencing of this skulky critter. Soon a crow came and flushed the birds out from the trees. I got a few flightshots, and a new bird both on the Norwegian list and the Big Year list was safe!

A long wanted bird on my Norwegian list - Golden oriole (pirol). This means
I now only lack the Snowy owl (snøugle) on my Norwegian list of the Norwegian
breeding birds.

An hour or so later, the predicted heavy rain came in, and I never found the Tawny pipit despite making an effort. What I did get - was soaking wet, and again - I was so happy I left all my stuff back at Lista.....After all, it was only going to be another 8 hours before I came home so I could take on some dry clothes. That is, unless another bird alarm peeps out.

New birds: 2
Total: 240

22 May
I had planned it so this was going to my last day at Lista. I needed a couple of days birding further northeast in the country to pick up a few breeding birds before I head to the Arctic for some work. The morning migration at the ligh house was very slow, and an easterly gale didn't get my hope up for much excitement in the bushes either. However, a close up White-billed diver (gulnebblom) migrating got us a bit excited before a Nightjar (nattravn) was spotted far out at sea coming straight towards land. A rare bird indeed to see during daylight hours, not the least over open water. When it finally arrived only 400 meters to go before it touched land, a Peregrine (vandrefalk) came to meet him. The falcon started to hunt the nightjar, and the nightjar only barely escaped the four dives from the young falcon. The fifth time however, the falcon hit the nightjar so it was pushed down into the water. Only a few seconds later, a Black-backed gull (svartbak) came in and swallowed the nightjar without any chewing at all! A fairly disturbing sight. And one can not but feel a bit sorry for the nightjar that probably had been flying all night from England or Denmark only to be swallowed meters before safety. But as I say, nature is not a romantic place as Disney or natural history documentaries sometimes tries to convince you. It was indeed a rare and unusual nature experience for the few birders on land that witnessed the whole thing. The most bisarre thing though, is that only half an hour later, the same thing happened again! This time the Black-backed gull came inn to chase the Peregrine away and by that actually saved the nightjar. The nightjar got a bit spooked about this hostile welcome and turned 180 degrees and disappeared out at sea again. Not the normal way to add a nocturnal bird to the year list.

The it was time for a bush walk. Despite the hard wind, it was soon clear that there had been quite a few passerines arriving as several Wrynecks (vendehals), Spotted flycatchers (gråfluesnapper), Red-backed shrikes (tornskate) and even a Thrush nightingale and an Icterine warbler was about. The two latter was new to the Big Year list. Then I arrived to a small plantation, where I heard a song I first dismissed as subsong of Icterine warbler. Something was  not quite right though, but the bird went silent. I was there for half an hour waiting and watching other birds as this was on the lee side of the wind and had quite good bird activity. Just as I was about to leave, the bird started to sing again. Then as soon as I turned around it went silent again...I waited another ten minutes and again just as I was leaving it started again. This time from a slightly different place, and I sat down to listen more. I waited for the special Icterine sounds, but they never came. After a while, it started to sound more and more like a Marsh warbler (myrsanger). My mind started to work......isn't it Melodius warbler (spottesanger) and Paddyfield warbler (åkersanger) that has a song similar to Marsh? I needed to see this bird to see that it was not an Acrocephalus - thus ruling out the Marsh warbler theory. It lacked many of the Marsh warbler notes I am used to, and I was fairly sure it wasn't one. Then I saw the bird briefly, but only the rear hald of it from under. The vent was yellowish, and by now I felt confident that it indeed was a Hippolais type of warbler. I called for back up. By the time more people arrived, a Red-backed shrike (tornskate) had chased the bird out in the open so that I got very good, yet brief views of the whole bird. It was indeed a Melodious warbler - only the fifth record for Norway as far as I know! There has not been any twitchable Melodius warbler since one in 1993 on Utsira, so this find was going to make stur amongst the birders. I made some sound recordings, but no one managed to get any pictures. The bird was at all times very well hidden.

Unfortunately, the bird started to be silent for longer and longer periods as the day went on, and the last observation was at about six in the evening except for a few notes heard very late evening. This ment that only the local birders managed to reach the bird in time, and also this Melodious warbler turned out to be a non-twitchable one. But what an ending to my stay at Lista - very good indeed!

Late evenig, I got a phone about a Hobby (lerkefalk) that was hunting in av very Red-footed (aftenfalk) like manner. I went to see it as this was new to my Big Year list. Only about 70 meters away, a hobby was hunting insects from the fencde posts for about 40 minutes until dark. Often seen jumping on the ground and running to catch beetles. A very strange behaviour indeed, and one that proves that Red-footed falcons are not the only one with this behaviour.

New birds: 5
Total: 245

23 May
Not much happening at Lista today. I found a Broad-billed sandpiper on one of the beaches, and then I left Lista at about seven pm. My next goal was a singing River warbler (elvesanger) two hours drive away that was discovered yesterday night. I arrived just as it was started to sing, and this was indeed one the my easiest Big Year birds so far. A Long-eared owl flew by with a mouse in its talons and we could hear the young ones begging nearby. The local birder Rolf Jørn, showed me the area a bit, but I needed to head further north as I was going to try for a Great-reed warbler that was found this evening next morning.

At Borrevannet, the police apparently found it a bit strange that a dirty old car like mine was driving around in a fancy golf resort in the middle of the night. However, they quickly believed my story that I was there just to watch birds and liste for the rare and special Great-reed warbler. I was even offering them to join me in the event, but they politely declined the offer.

New birds: 1
Total: 246

24 May
I had a 3 hours sleep in the car before going for the warbler. In short, no warbler heard. At a nearby lake, I knew it was a good chance for Honey buzzards (vepsevåk) - one of those birds in Norway with an easterly distribution. Only 5 minutes after my arrival, two beautiful Honey buzzards were soaring over my head! Very nice indeed, and a bird I not often get to see in Norway.

This young Tawny owl (kattugle) was meeting up instead of the
Great-reed warbler (trostesanger)....

Soaring Honey buzzard (vepsevåk).

I headed further north, to my next destination, the estuary Ilene. I could not believe my luck when I suddenly found a Caspian tern (rovterne) sleeping on the sand bank! This is only the second time I see this species in Norway - following one all the way back in 1991 which was probably the first rare bird I actually saw in Norway. This time I found it myself though - a much better feeling! While wathcing the tern, a message about a Woodchat-shrike peeped in. The down side was that this was 600km away in the opposite direction of what I was originally going. Actually, it was not that far from where I left yesterday. Had the message come out one hour earlier, I could have reached it the same day, but now, I had to wait until tomorrow.

New birds: 3
Total: 249

25 May
After a long drive, and another night in the car, I found myself up a shining at 6 am at Jæren. It was soon clear that the Woodchat shrike was no where to be seen....I stopped by a Ruddy shelduck (rustand) that most likely is an escape, but you never know with these birds. Good to have seen it, since it was unringed and seemed a bit wary. If there is a bigger influx of the species in rest of Europe, it may very well be treated a true vagrant, and only an escape from a park or bird collection. Then I started to drive back north east.

Ruddy shelduck (rustand), for now not counting on my Big Year list, but
if it turn out to be a big influx in rest of Europe - things will look better.

During late last evening, the Great-reed warbler from yesterday morning was found again in a slighly different place. I decided to give it a go. Again, my plan was slighly altered as a report of an Ortulan bunting near Arendal came up. I made the short detour to secure this rare breeding bird on my list. After some complication to find my way (there is a lot of small roads in this area!) the local birder Rolf Jørn again assisted me to the right place and they even had the bird ready for me in the scope when I arrived. Talk about special service and efficient twitching!

Late evening I arrived again at Borrevann. This time no police, but another local birder. The finder (Bjørn) of the bird was there to make some sound recordings of the song, and he could guide me to best place. Again, the very efficient twitching and this was actually a new bird to my Norwegian list as well! The bird was sitting all in the open, albeit at some distance, singing his hoarse song. I went back to the car to fetch my spotting scope, but by the time I came back the bird had stopped singing and I didn't see it again. Anyway, a very nice experience where many Thrush nightingales added to the atmosphere.

New birds: 2
Total: 251

26 May
Another good sleep in the car, before I found myself bright and shiny outside a beautiful farm in Buskerud trying to find a Serin (gulirisk) that had been seen for a week but not reported in 4 days. I didn't have much hope that this long staying bird was still around, but I had to try. No luck during the three hours there. I was soon off towards my next target - a Red-breasted flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper) in Oslo. This rare bird, especially in spring, was easily found thanks to Bird Alarm excellent map and GPS functions. As I arrived on scene, the bird was actively singing. It was moving a lot, catching insects between his beautiful song, so getting a decent picture was actually a bit challenging.

It is small in size, but big in song. Red-breasted flycatcher (dvergfluesnapper)

Red-breasted flycatcher showing his red breast.

This was a day involving a lot a driving. My next target, was about 200km further north. One of Norway's rarest breeding birds, and at least the one that most likely is the first to go extinct. Only during the past 3 years, the already small population of the Rustic bunting (vierspurv) has decreased by 95%! Very sad indeed. Pesticide and hunting in their migration and wintering sites are probably the cause of the grim future of the species that now only counts about 20 pairs in Norway.

I arrived at scene, and some walking in a flooded area. Actually the on the radio in to the area, they said that road was close due to too much water. I anyway decided to have a go as this was a difficult bird indeed, I only had this chance to see it. The down side, since this road was dead end road, was that I could risk to get stuck for a couple of days as the peak of the flood was expected only in two days time. Anyway, I made it there. Wading up to my knees in water on the way to the exact place. I was telling myself I was quite lucky that this place was fairly high up, so that the mosquitos had yet to hatch. After a one hour search in the area, I finally found a couple feeding. The male was following the female around, and was clearly doing some sort of mate guarding. Very nice to see, and I only hope the flood doesn't ruin the breeding season for these rare birds. I took a few pictures, and then left the area not to make too much disturbance. After all, this is the breeding locality to one of Norway's rarest birds.

Coloruful but so rare - one of Norway's rarest breeding birds - the Rustic bunting

I then continued north. Had a flat tire, and saw about 20 moose on the way. When I finally went to sleep, I was almost back home and had driven more then 800 kilometers during the day, but seen a few very good birds along the way.

New birds: 2
Total: 253

26 May
Dipping a Meditarranean gull (svartehavsmåke) that had been present for the last two days. Then birded my old local area without anything worth mentioning. In the evening, I visited a famous Great-snipe lek (dobbeltbekkasin) where more than 20 birds made a spectacular performance! Very nice ineed.

Lekking Great snipes (dobbeltbekkasin) is a magic experience, and one that
in my mind easyli compete with the more famous Black grouse (orrfugl) or
Capercaillie (tiur).

New birds: 1
Total: 254

Now, I am off to work. I am guiding photographers to excellent polar bear experiences for the nest 3 weeks or so. I am hoping to add a few Arctic specialities along the way. On the way there, I am stopping one night along the way in the hope to see the true wild Lesser white-fronted goose that breed north-east Norway. The population is about 40 pairs, and together with the Rustic bunting (vierspurv) belongs to one of Norway's rarest breeding birds. Fingers crossed that I make it, and that I don't miss out on too much stuff on mainland the time I will be away. There has already been some disturbing news about Lesser-yellowlegs (gulbeinsnipe) and Collared pratincole (brakksvale) that I have no chance to reach before I leave for my next adventure.

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

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

Sunday 4 May 2014

May o'hoi!

May has arrived, and as promised in the previous blog, I have made my way south. For most of May I will be having the very southern tip of Norway as a base. I will stay at one of Norway's finest birding areas - Lista. Thats the plan anyway, lets just see if the birds want to have it otherwise.

29 April
Let's just step back a todd. It has started off very good indeed. On the way south, I went by the now, long staying, Black-necked grebe (svarthalsdykker) near Hamar. For once, things was easy, and once I had navigated all the small roads by the help of my phone GPS and Bird Alarm's very handy tool "Find Directions", it took me only three minutes from the scope was up until I found the bird. A beautiful one indeed as it was in full breeding plumage. Very actively fishing and moving a lot back and forth. Suddenly close to shore, then just as suddenly far out. Another birder I met there, and myself sat down at the water edge, and it didn't take too long before the bird was fishing close to our chosen seats. Through my spotting scope, I could study every detail of the plumage, and it was indeed my best views of this species ever. Happy with this delight, I continued south. Stopping by a roadside pool, where 4 male ruffs (brushane) were displaying their odd, but beautiful collars. Two white morphs and two orange ones. A very welcome Big Year list addition. I arrived my destination for tomorrow's birding - Mølen at 1:30 am and had another good night sleep in my car.

Black-necked grebe (svarthalsdykker) silhouette. It was interesting to see how the
 head shape  constantly was changing according to mood. Here it is in a more
 Slavonian (hotndykker) like posture, and it shows that picking out these amongst
slavonians isn't necessarily always straight forward. 

New birds: 2
Total: 180

30 April
Mølen has had its share of rarities through the years, and needless to say, I started the morning with a careful enthusiasm. It was soon proven to be a very nice morning indeed as bird activity was very high, and big year birds startet to appear one after the other. Whitethroats (tornsanger), Lesser whitethroats (møller), Redstart (rødstjert), Common tern (makrellterne), Whimbrel (småspove), and a Whinchat (buskskvett) were all new to my list. I also heard very briefly at 09:15 some calls from what I am pretty sure as a Common nightingale (sørnattergal). A bir rarity in Norway, but from the little I heard, I could just not exlude Thrush nightingale (nattergal) for sure. I waited and waited and waited in hope of hearing it again, but it never did sing. At 17:30, I gave up, and decided I just had to leave this bird unidentified and continued my travel south. In the night, at about midnight, I arrived Lista where another night in the car was awaiting.

New birds: 7
Total: 187

01 May
Up at 05:30 - which was earlier than some birds even - I started the short drive towards the lighhouse area. At Lista, the normal procedure is to start the day at the lighhouse, as many of the migrating birds pass here, and this is a very good spot to get a feel for what is around - both seabird migration and landbird migration can easily be observed. I was just nearly there, when a big white bird flew across the road in front of me. A Great egret (egretthegre) came in to land! A great start on the day, and a flying start on May - traditionally the best month for rarities in spring. It was only a short visit this time, as it took off only about ten minutes later and continued norh west. A great start and a great addition to my Big Year list as this species normally is seen 10-20 times a year in Norway.

Great white egret - the first Big Year rarity for the year that I find myself. 

The day continued at the lighhouse, and one new bird came in after the other. Wryneck (vendehals), Marsh harrier (sivhauk), Yellow wagtail (gulerle) and House martin (taksvale) were all enjoyed and ticked off. Even a short-eared owl (jordugle) made its appearance far out at sea in the horizon. As did a Black crow (svartkråke). It is something special about witnessing the bird migration like this - when you so clearly see it happening. The land birds, that need to cross vast stretches of ocean to reach their destination. However, the bird of the day arrived just as the wind turned a bit. A big group of about one hundred Barn swallow suddenly started swarming around the area we were staying, and then the one that we all hoped for, but didnt dare to mention. The Red-rumped swallow, was suddenly sitting on a wire. It was there for about three minutes before it took to the wings and was never seen again. A real touch and go bird, and for once, with two rarities in one day, and both of them extremely short stayers - I could call myself lucky.

Well, what can I say....when rarities turn up and adrenalin is pumping, you
sometimes forget to focus....Red-rumped swallow on a wire. The bird only
came in with a large flock of barn swallows, and only stayed for about 3 minutes.

New birds: 7
Total: 195

02 May
Pretty uneventful day, with the same weather more or less as the previous days. A bit stronger wind, made things a little more difficult. The only new bird of the day being a migrating Sanderling (sandløper), but my favorite will be three wrynecks that had a singing contest between them. Especially one of the birds was sitting all in the open and gave extremely satifying views....I even made a photo of it :)

In the evening, searched the fields a bit, and found a very handsome flock of 12 Dotterels (boltit). These are beautiful birds indeed. These were also making a show, as they were fighting and flying a bit back and forth over the field. In the afternoon, I finished with two Bar-headed geese that had decided to spend the night at small estuary next to the ligh house. Bar-headed goose does not count on my Big Year list as they are in the same category as the mandarin duck - namely birds that has originated from escaped birds at some stage.

Wryneck, showing off - something which is fairly unusual for this rather
skulky species.

1st of May is often made into a long weekend, and even though Norway has
very few birders, a lot of them find their way to Lista during these days. Early
morning migration counts.

New birds: 1
Total: 196