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Birding at Jæren

Birds and habitats
The 100 km long Jærcoast is a mixture of long sandy beaches and rougher stony shores. During the long migration season (April to November), these beaches holds hordes of arctic waders. And in the breaks and sheltered bays dabbling and diving ducks share territory with divers, grebes, auks and cormorants. Small fishing harbours along the coast are favourite haunts for large numbers of gulls. The Jærcoast has no sheltering islands to break the sea. This means that the sea can be relative rough during bad weather, and the sandy landscape is changing continuously. The “big ocean” is the nearest neighbour to the Jærcoast. For birding this means that seabird watching can be conducted successfully almost wherever you like along the Jærcoast. Gannets can be seen close by all year round, at least if there is some wind. If strong westerlies are prevailing sea watching can be really rewarding if this is at your preference.

The fields and small plantations close are splendid bird habitats during the migration periods. Fallouts like the one you read about from the English east coast or from Cape May (NJ-USA) can be experienced both in spring and in autumn. Warblers, flycatchers, thrushes, robins, redstarts, wagtails and finches, a rich varity of species can be experienced here. The plantations at Jæren are also the last piece of suitable land for “invasive species” arriving from the northast, from rest of Scandinavia, Russia and Sibira. In some autumns the conifer and spruce plantations are alive with crossbills, different tits, woodpeckers or even owls, nutcrackers and pine grosbeaks. One day, a few years back, I did see Black woodpecker, Tengmalms owl, Great eagle owl, Grey headed woodpecker and Pine grosbeak within a few hours. Adding the usual birds of Jæren you are up to a good birding day!

If searching for vagrants is your main interest, then the Jærcoast is not a bad choice. Rare seabirds, waders, terns, gulls, raptors; almost everything can be found during the right weather at the right time of year. The “Jær-woods” also has a nice reputation for producing “sibes” in autumn (sibes: those rare bird species coming from the far east towards NW-Europe). Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas` Warbler, Citrine Wagtail and other rare species are seen annually. On a good day with at least a few birders out searching for migrants multiple arrivals of “vagrants” are usually detected. And birding news of rare birds are spread rapidly due to our pager-system. A visit and a guided Jærtrip will increase your chances finding all the best birding spots during these enjoyable days.

Freshwater and nature reserves
Depending on water levels some of the freshwaters at Jæren can be “filled” with birds. Some of them lying close to the coast are “receiving” migrants just because of their geographical location in the middle of the migration “highway”. Especially famous is the shallow and extremely “energy-rich” Orrevatn. This large reserve lies at the heart of Jæren and besides being one of the most exciting sites to explore during migration it also has the rank as the best winter-locality in Norway. Gruda, Søylandsvatnet, Bjårvatn and Harvelandsvatn are other examples of bird rich freshwaters at Jæren. Most dabbling ducks, certain species of waterbirds and shorebirds are more easily seen here than along the coast. Some species of raptors hunts here far more regularly than along the coast, white tailed eagle naming one… These freshwaters reserves and surrounding areas are also breeding sites for large numbers of birds. For several species these are the only breeding sites in the whole of Norway.

Jæren Inland
From the flat farmland of Jæren it is only a short drive to the hilly and even mountainous inland. This is where several species of woodpeckers breed, this is the prime site for the great eagle owl and this is where you can experience raptor migration in autumn. Several species, which can normally not be found at “farmland-Jæren”, can readily be seen here. Most Norwegian tits, jay and even highland species can be found if you go far enough inland. A whole day with the aim of seeing as many species as possible would normally include a few hours in the woods and hills of the “interior” of Rogaland.

Birdwatching at Jæren and is very much dependable on weather and season. If you want to experience arctic migration you don’t come in winter! Weather is hard to predict, but even if rough weather would make birding less pleasant and even less rewarding (at least when counting species), there are always a lot of birds to see. And the scenery is at its best in rough weather!

Red-throated Diver
Great Northern Diver
Grey-headed Woodpecker
Kvassheim lighthouse
King Eider
Pine Grosbeak
Great Northern Shrike

All photos from Jæren (c) Kjell Mjølsnes
December-January-February-March. Best birding is in “nice” weather when the sea is calm. Snow and ice can push “stayers” from the autumn to migrate, but normally cold conditions only makes the birds easier to detect as they tend to concentrate onto ice free waters or along the coast. Feeders can host several interesting species and around Orrevatnet several species of raptors can normally be seen.

It is possible to see up to a 90 species during a full day, but more normal is about 75. Among the “good” species to search for are: Great northern diver (common), Bewicks swan (some are always spending the winter at Jæren), several species of geese, Smew (common), Stellers eider (a long staying male since 2002), King eider (a long staying male since 2002), White tailed and golden eagles (likely to be seen if we go where they are) whitewinged gulls (always some around), woodpeckers (easiest in March when they sing), Bearded- and Scandinavian Longtailed tits (you have to know where to look…) and several other commoner birds. Migration will start at the end of February, and “birdwise” the end of March and January do not have very much in common.


April-May. Many winter species will “hang out” long into May, and combined with a long list of common and not so common migrants a species list in April or May can easily reach 100, at least if the weather is favourable. On a good day in May 125 species are not an impossible achievement. The bulk of the waders, terns and insect eating passerines normally arrive during the month of May. Most species also tend to be most “good-looking” at this time, with their breeding plumages and all…

Along the coast skuas, geese, divers and ducks are migrating north. Early My is the best time of the year to see White-billed and Great-northern divers in summer plumage, but also four species of skuas and an extraordinary passage of Barnacle geese can be witnessed if you have the patience for seabird-watching. But anyway, at least some divers (notably Great northern diver) gather at sea anyway. Jæren is a stopover site for this species and sometimes more than a hundred individuals (!) can be seen resting close offshore.

Falls of warblers and other long-distance migrants into the plantations along the Jærcoast can sometimes be spectacular. Wrynecks, Iceterine-, Grasshopper-, Marsh-, Green- and sometimes even Supalpine warblers (plus the eight commoner warblers), Redbacked shrikes, Redstarts, Bluethroats, flycatchers, Wheatears, Whinchats, Cuckoos, hirundines and Common swifts. Cranes, Ospreys, exclusive waders like Temminck stint, Pectoral sandpiper and Spotted redshank, May is the month! In recent years many Dotterels have used Jæren as their stopover site, and they can normally be seen at close range at their chosen fields. Also Stellers eider and King eider have “hung around” long enough to be readily “ticked off” even in June…

Spring at Jæren can be spectacular, and best of all; the days are so long that most of it can be experienced in just one day. That say, if the weather is “right”…

June-July. Early June can match May when it comes to migrants. And the first week of June is probably the best time of the year to see vagrants. Every year some rare waders, terns, egrets, Beeater, warbler or whatever turns up. Many of them stay long enough to be enjoyed by all the residents and visiting birdwatchers as well. Broadbilled sandpipers are annually in very small numbers during the first week of June. So is Black tern, rare elsewhere in Norway. Nocturnal activity is also at its best. Water rails, Spotted crakes and Corncrakes. The latter most easily heard. Among the chorus of common nocturnal warblers a few Marsh warblers and normally a rare south European warbler or two tends to turn up. But otherwise summertime is wader-time!

We call them the red-hordes. Curlew sandpipers and Red knots. Side by side with up to 25 other species of arctic waders they search our shores for food. The adults arrive sometimes as early as the end of June, and at the end of July the numbers of waders are often several thousands. Many extreme rarities have been found among these in recent years, both Greater- and Lesser sandplover and the Rednecked stint to name a few.

During westerly gales rare seabirds tend to be seen, especially shearwaters. Most nights from late July a group of local ringers are ringing European storm petrels at Revekaien at Jæren. Joining them for an hour or two is no problem. Maybe we are lucky and get to be there when the eagerly returning Swinhoes petrel turns up again? It has been controlled four times since first caught in 1997! Depending of trip duration, over 100 species is possible in one day.

August-September-October-November. A long and eventful period! Shortly summarized: august is the best month for wader migration, and the movements out on the sea can be spectacular as well, with e.g. “bonxies” seen daily. The plantations tends to come alive again, passerine migration is starting. In September the numbers of passerines are highest, but the rare ones can be more far between than later in the autumn. On calm and sunny days in September raptor migration can be worthwhile checking out. A few hundred raptors of up to 15 species can be seen, among them both Whitetailed and Golden eagles. Peregrine falcons are “everywhere” and we cannot miss them! On a good day in August-September 100 species is no problem, but note, on a real good day. My September and October lists in Rogaland both exceed 250 species, so at least the potential is there!

Besides the month of May, October is THE month to go out birding in Rogaland. Invasion species, “sibes”, colour bombs like Bullfinches, Greyheaded woodpeckers (very common and easy to see in October), late waders, raptors, and the whole spectre of attractive species. This is also the best time to visit the island of Utica. And this is when some of the winter species returns. November tend to be quieter, but during the right conditions at least many extremely rare species have turned up. And beside October this is the best month to see the invasion species. And all along, and not to forget, we always find the more common species. Being a visitor from abroad, our common birds are likely to be as attractive as the rare ones!

Historical sights
Some birds are always seen, and I doubt no one will be disappointed of what Jæren has to offer birdwise no matter season or weather. Anyway, the scenery are beautiful, and in rough weather spectacular. Jæren is also known for the special lightning, the way the sun lightens up the flat landscape. For those of us who loves this, it is impossible to even imagine living anywhere else. Living is also a keyword when it comes to historical sights, which I will be more than happy to show you on our day out birding. In a farming culture where modernisation have been the tradition for several hundred years not very much from the past have been restored, neither buildings or infrastructure. That means what is left is there for a reason, and well worth a visit!

Have a try!
Any daytrips can be designed accordingly to your needs and desires, but underneath are tips to a few special-designed themes in the Jæren, which can be a good starting point when planning your birding day at Jæren/Rogaland. One day is enough to give you a taster, but I recommend at least two full days out birding “to see it all”!

  1. Across Jæren: We are trying to see as many species as possible on the time we have got available.
  2. Target species: You name one or several species you want to see, I will do my best to find them.
  3. Seasonal Events: Woodpeckers in March, seabird migration in may, nocturnal activity in May/June, arctic waders in July, storm petrels in august, raptors in September, “sibes” and invasion species in October, eagles in winter. Possibilities throughout the year!
  4. Photography: there will always be photographic opportunities, but special trips concentrating on sites where you get close to the birds can be arranged.

  • Short trips at Jæren

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