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Norwegian birding news:

Birding news February 2003

» Updated March 4th

This period covers February 25th - March 4th. Not much of a change in the weather situation during the last week. Still quite cold, but a few degrees above zero on the west coast.

Ivory Gull at Bömlo
1st-winter Ivory Gull Pagophila eburnea at Andal, Bömlo 4 March 2003. The first twitchable this far south for many years! It fed on a corpse of a Grey Heron Ardea cinerea during its three days. Photo (c) Jostein Kjærandsen | More pictures
A first-winter Ivory Gull was reported at a fish farm at Andal, Bömlo, Hordaland on the 4th. This is farther south than any Ivory Gull have been in Norway for several decades. The Surf Scoter was still at Dromnes, Möre & Romsdal on the 2nd. Drake King Eiders were at Jomfruland, Telemark on the 26th and still at Sirevaag, Rogaland on the 2nd. 3 Steller's Eiders were found at Jaeren, Rogaland on the 17th, one of these remained for the whole period at Skeie. Very few white-winged gulls are reported, only 8 Glaucous Gulls and 2 Iceland Gulls south of Troms during the last week. Owl activity is picking up, nowhere large numbers but around 10 Tengmalm's Owls and a few Pygmy Owls have been reported close to Oslo. The discovery of the 3rd Great Grey Owl in a few weeks, this time in central southern Norway at Sör-Fron, Oppland was quite a surprise. Also, 3 Hawk Owls have been reported scattered in the SE. In addition to owls, woodpeckers and grouse are reported more regularly as the activity increase both among forest birds and birders. Several Three-toed Woodpeckers and Hazel Grouse are reported from woodlands near Oslo, in Trondheim both Pygmy Owls, Three-toed Woodpeckers and a couple of Siberian Jays were all reported close to the city this week. 2 Stonechats were at Ytre Stad, Sogn & Fjordane on the 1st, a Bearded Tit was at Öra, Östfold on the 2nd, and a Pine Grosbeak was at Fjellsjökamben, Hurdal, Akershus on the 28th. Also reported in the southern half were 4 Great Grey Shrikes, 3 Arctic Redpolls and only two Two-barred Crossbills.

Migration trends
Still early, but migrants are becoming more evident each day. A few Greylag Geese of the semi-urban populations around the Oslo fjord had returned to two sites in Vestfold the last weekend, 10 in total. Common Shelducks were more evident, with 14 reported from Jaeren, Rogaland on the 27th. Northern Lapwings arrived in force, with several hundred at Jaeren and more than 50 at Herdla farther north on the west coast on the 2nd. The first Common Ringed Plovers and Eurasian Golden Plovers have also arrived, and an influx of about 100 winter-plumaged dunlins took place at Jaeren on the 1st-2nd (the latter was probably not part of a true spring movement). The first Pied Wagtail (yarrellii ssp.) was at Reve, Rogaland on the 25th, two more followed during the 27th. The first arrivals are also evident among Sky Larks, Rock Pipits and Common Starlings. 3 Mistle Thrushes arrived at different sites in Rogaland (SW) on the 2nd-3rd. Enormous numbers of Mealy Redpolls seems to be building up in Nordland, on the 1st around 10.000 were reported at two sites. The flocks also contained a few Lesser- and Arctic Redpolls. On March 4th it was confirmed that the Chinese-ringed Mealy Redpoll that was trapped at Jelöya, Moss, Östfold on 10th February had been ringed in Heilongjiang Province, NE China in early October 2001. Apparently, this is the first recovery in Europe of a Chinese-ringed bird ever.

Birds and birders back at Varanger
With more than 10 hours of daylight now, birding is again an option in the far north. Very few active birders actually live and bird regulary in Finnmark, and reports are few in particular from the Varanger Peninsula. A group flew up from Oslo for the first time this weekend, and recorded 39 species in 3 days. Among the thousands of King Eiders and Steller's Eiders were also other attractive species such as 5-6 White-billed Divers, Hawk Owl, Gyr Falcon, a maximum of 7 Iceland Gulls in Vadsö on the 28th, plenty of Glaucous Gulls, one adult hybrid Glaucous- x Herring Gull, and local rarities such as Red-necked Grebe. Surprising winter records were also made of Northern Gannet, no less than 10 Red-throated divers and Turnstone. Spring were also returning to Varanger, there was a noticeable influx Black-legged Kittiwakes during the 3 days. All the auk-species were seen, but Black Guillemots were the only species appearing in any numbers. The Purple Sandpipers were everywhere and too numerous to count them all. Mammals seen included Killer Whale and Otter.

» Updated February 24th

A stable high pressure has been over southern Scandinavia the last week, with temperatures well above zero in the west but a little colder in the east. The northern part of the country is in a stream of low-pressure systems moving north of the high pressure.

Ring-billed Gull in Bergen
Hybrid Gull Larus hyperboreus x argentatus
Bergen, Hordaland 22 February 2003
Photo (c) Frode Falkenberg
More photos here
No new rarities turned up, but the adult Ring-billed Gull in Bergen put up an appearance in the city centre lake together with a first-winter Iceland Gull and a first-winter Glaucous- x Herring Gull hybrid on the 22nd. Another first-winter Iceland Gull was in Bodö harbour, Nordland on the 23rd. Both Surf Scoters, the returning adult drake and an immature drake, were still present at Lista on the 23rd. The wintering European Turtle Dove at Litjvatnet, Sör-Tröndelag was still doing well on the 22nd, and a Hawk Owl was at Berbymosen, Östfold on the 22nd-23rd.

More impressive diver counts
22 Great Northern-, 3 Black-throated- and 1 White-billed Diver was at Kraakvaagsvaet, Örland, Sör-Tröndelag on the 23rd, together with 3 King Eiders. 9 King Eiders were in Bodö harbour on the 21st. A Grey Wagtail was at Naerland, Rogaland on the 22nd. 31 Hawfinch at Eiganes, Rogaland on the 22nd was a high number in the west. In total, 8 Great Grey Shrikes, 85 Two-barred Crossbills and 3 Arctic Redpolls were also reported.

Early arrivals
A few more Common Shelducks arrived along the coast, the most northern ones so far were in Möre & Romsdal. A Common Ringed Plover was at Herdla, Hordaland on the 18th, and a European Golden Plover was at Tjötta, Nordland on the 19th. 700 Purple Sanpipers flew north through the sound separating Tromsö, Troms from the mainland on the 18th. Also, a few Northern Lapwings (including 20 at Lista, Vest-Agder) and Oystercatchers are turning up along the coast. Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls seems to be moving north already, with 100 Common Gulls in Alta, Finnmark on the 23rd and 176 Black-headed Gulls at Tjötta, Nordland the same day. 10 Stock Doves were in Rödsparken, Halden, Östfold on the 18th. The first Sky Larks arrived this week, so far only small flocks along the coast. Snow Buntings are already arriving in force, about 3 weeks earlier than usual. 1 was at Jan Mayen on the 17th, 20 were at a breeding location 1500 m.a.s.l. at Oppdal, Sör-Tröndelag on the 20th and at least 500 were at Misvaer, Nordland on the 23rd.

» Updated February 18th

The last week southern Norway has seen a change towards better weather, as a high-pressure system builds up over southern Scandinavia. The temperatures have been rather pleasant for this timeof the year, a few degrees above zero in the west and a few below in the east.

Another Great Grey Owl
Iceland Gull Larus g. glaucoides
Bergen, Hordaland February 2003
Photo (c) Frode Falkenberg
More photos here
A second Great Grey Owl turned up in Nordland this week, this time in Gylseth, Steigen on the 14th. No major rarities turned up, but there are still 3 long-staying Surf Scoters (2 at Lista, Vest-Agder and 1 at Dromnessundet, Möre & Romsdal). Long stayind drake King Eiders are also still at Borgenfjorden, Nord-Tröndelag and Herdla, Hordaland. A report of a ringtail Hen Harrier at Tarva, Sör-Tröndelag on the 14th represent the first winter record ever in the county. Still very few reports of white-winged gulls, only 3 Glaucous- and 2 Iceland Gulls were reported this week. Single Brünnich's Guillemots were at jomfruland, Telemark and Valsneset, Sör-Tröndelag on the 14th. A Bearded Tit was at Lista, Vest-Agder on the 16th. 10 Great Grey Shrikes were well scattered over southern Norway, while 15 Arctic Redpolls were alongt the sotheastern coast between Vest-Agder and Ôstfold. Numbers of Two-barred Crossbills were significantly lower this week, in total 66 were reported. At Tautra, Nord-Tröndelag only 22 were seen on the 15th, this site held 150 a couple of week ago. Perhaps the four White-billed Divers present at Tautra were equally impressive.

The first migrants arrive
It is always difficult to judge whether early arrivals are really arrivals or just wintering birds that have gone undetected somewhere nearby. 3 Greylag Geese at Öra, Ôstfold on the 11th were probably new arrivals from abroad, 3 Common Shelduck nearby at Saltholmen and Raade, Östfold were definately so. Lapwings turned up at 3 sites on the 13th-14th, indicating the very first small arrival of migrants. 3 Oystercatchers at Akeröya, Östfold on the 15th and a Mistle thrush at Bjerkreim, Rogaland on the 13th could also have been new arrivals.

Chinese-ringed Mealy Redpoll controlled in Norway
A Mealy Redpoll Carduelis flammea with what appears to be a Chinese scientific ring was controlled at Jelöya, Östfold on the 10th-11th. An amazing recovery, but a Finnish-ringed Mealy Redpoll has previously been controlled in China, documenting that these 12 gram passerines are capable of crossing the entire continent between seasons.

Hybrid gull in Bergen
Every winter a few paler Herring Gull-like birds turn up along the Norwegian coast. Compared to normal-looking Hering Gulls they share a series of common features; paler primaries, paler tail band, more barred tertials, less black along the feather shaft in the scapulars, less "angry" face due to fainter facial mask and often paler base to the bill. All these features point towars some influence from Glaucous Gull genes. Some will argue that these are only pale extremes of the variation within the argentatus subspecies of Herring Gull. We argue that this kind of phenotypic variation result from introgression of Glaucous Gull genes, at present or in the past, along the northern parts of the Herring Gull range or the southern parts of the Glaucous Gull range. With limited Glaucous- input because of a lower frequency of mixed pairings than for instance in Iceland, the majority of hybrids are expected to be more similar to Herring- than Glaucous Gull. Notice that the primaries in this bird has a paler colour and broad white fringes compared to normal Herring Gulls. While the primaries are clearly the darkest part of the plumage in a normal Herring Gull, this bird has primaries that contrast very little with the tertials/inner secondaries. This is similar to what is often seen in darker Iceland Gulls of the ssp. kumlieni - and keep in mind that kumlieni is a hybrid between Thayer's Gull and Iceland Gull! The tail band is broad and as pale as the primaries, the tertials have pale centres and the dark shadow along the feather shaft in the second-generation scapulars is missing (usually present in Herring Gull and absent in Glaucous Gull). This bird was photographed in Bergen, Hordaland county on the 17th. of February by Frode Falkenberg. More photos here

» Updated February 10th

Not much to report the last week, poor weather over most of the country probably explain the low field activity. It is warm, though - most of the country have temperatures above zero and in Kautokeino, Finnmark the temperature increased by 30 degrees to around zero.

Harlequin Duck at Jan Mayen
A drake Harlequin Duck was found at Olonkin City, Jan Mayen on the 10th. The two blackbirds that are spending the winter up there after some poor migration navigation last autumn, was reduced to one as the male died on February 4th. Sad, but that's how natural selection work on migration strategies....the female is still doing well, thanks to the local kitchen that serve grapes and other fruit every day.

Great Grey Owl at Andöy
Big surprise as a Great Grey Owl was announced in the local newspaper at Andenes, Andøy, Nordland on the 3rd-6th. The bird had probably been present for three weeks already.

Other news
Rather little because of the bad weather. A first-winter Hen Harrier was far north at Ona, Möre & Romsdal on the 5th. Only two Iceland Gulls and two Glaucous Gulls on the coast between Möre & Romsdal and Nordland. A Hawk Owl was at Östaasen, Buskerud on the 4th. 5 Great Grey Shrikes were reported, and single Arctic Redpolls were at Sukke, Vestfold on the 3rd-5th and at Jomfruland, Telemark on the 5th. In total 94 Two-barred Crossbills were reported, 11 were as far north as Tromsö on the 9th. Again, the highest numbers were at Tautra, Nord-Tröndelag with 54 on the 8th.

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