Monday 20 October 2014

Reality sneaks up on me...

East and south easterly winds in October normally means good birding, and lots of Siberian migrants. NOT this year! The low pressure over northwest Russia has been quite steady still, and I blame this for the worst rarity autumn in Norway for decades! Not the best combination when trying to set a new record in number of birds seen in one year.

Well, it is not because of lack of effort at least. Since I arrived back from sea 10 September, I have been out every single day except two (one funeral, and one sick day). Easterly winds has kept the spirit up, but to be honest, rarely have I seen so few birds in the gardens and out in the field this time of year before. First I spent a few days chasing a Hoopoe, that despite being seen briefly many of the days I was there, I still needed this one on my list. This bird apparently has a secret favorite spot that we still don't know about. Or maybe it hasn't and that this is the big problem with this bird. This bird in Verdal has been seen all over town, on locations so far from each other that several have started to speculate if it really only is one bird or if there are at least two birds involved. Anyway, investing more or less 5 full days on this bird - I had given up and went birding on a nearby location - Rinnleiret. As I walked back to my car, I get to see a bird flying in the far distant quite high up. I lifted my binoculars and to my big surprise - a hoopoe! It was flying in the direction of where it normally is seen, but this is at least 3 kilometers away! One thing I have learned this Big Year, is to never give up! It is now on my Big Year list and this was species number 297. I also tried for two other Hoopoes that have been around before this, but without any luck.

A Hoopoe (hærfugl) flying high and in way too far distance to be enjoyed
properly after 5 days searching...

Apart from that, all I have managed to find in the gardens was a fox. It had nowhere to run but up a mountain, so this became the first time ever I have seen red fox (rødrev) climb a vertical cliff.

Fox climbing the mountain, after being woken up by an eager birder in the garden.

Because the birding was so slow in my home area, I decided to go south and try my luck at one of my favorite localities - Lista. I spent all of May here with reasonable good results. Lista is so far south, that birding can be good here even at least for a month longer than where I normally live. So off I went, and 921 kilometers later, I was again at Lista Bird Observatory! Here I found a very late Common sandpiper (strandsnipe), that of course carefully was checked for spotted (flekksnipe). I also found back a White-backed woodpecker (hvitryggspett) that was ringed at the observatory a few days ago. At least I think it is a White-backed. It has rather large white spots on the shoulders, but everything else - including its call - seems to fit with a white-backed. Since hybrids are so rare, I stick with my theory until otherwise proven.

White-backed woodpecker (hvitryggspett) or hybrid white-backed x Great spotted (flagg)?

A Stonechat (svartstrupe) was reported from Kjerkevågen in Lindesnes the second day of my stay here. Not a rare bird in Norway, but anyway one of those that has escaped me so far. I went there, and before long I had ticked bird # 298 on my Big Year list!.

Stonechat (svartstrupe). I was starting to get a bit nervous about this species
lacking on my list for so long to be honest. Late autumn is generally a good time
to see it in the south of Norway, and my theory was proven right ;)

Even though I am now close to 300, and only 12 birds from the record, I starting to realise that this is not going to be a record year. I still have ten days of October birding but 1st November I need to go for a work assignement in South Georgia and then Antarctica. This means no Big Year birding all of November.
Is it still possible to take the record, with ten more days in October and ten days in December to do it? It will be very hard, and I need to be extremely lucky these last days. But who knows, I still miss a few common ones like Common crossbill (grankorsnebb), Two-barred crossbill (båndkorsnebb) and Richard's pipit (tartarpiplerke) so who knows...

It aint over before the fat lady sings....

New birds: 2
Total: 298


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