NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.

Report 4. Saturday, May 13, 2017. Guided Birding with Simon Rix, Professional Oslo Bird Guide

Good morning. It's 5:40 here this morning and it feels like it should be about 7:30. We are waiting for bird guide Simon to pick us up.

BIRDING NOTE: Birds we have never encountered are called Life Birds, in our language, and will be in ALLCAPS. Birds we have not seen on the trip will be listed in Initial Caps (first letter of each word in caps, the rest in lower case), as well as special views of birds we have seen before on the trip. All others in lower case.

PHOTO NOTE: All pictures not otherwise identified are taken with my Canon, or one of our iphones.

We are up at 4:45 or so, and we dress for cold, but make sure to have our iphones, Canon camera, binocularses (that means more than one set of binoculars in Bob-eze), parkas, digital voice recorder, a lunch each, a coke to share, chips and our alertness. {Always start off with some uncertainty. What kind of person will he be? Does he know I walk slow? Will he expect us to be better birders than we are? It usually turns out perfect.}

We have some breakfast, make sure we are full on our waterbottles, and we leave and lock up our trailer, walk up to the entry gate and walk up the few steps to the porch of the reception building and wait. It's five til six - the time that Simon is to pick us up...

... which he does, at just about exactly six.

He's a young, bright guy, lightly sunburnt face, enthusiastic and he helps us load our stuff. I ride shotgun, with Sharon behind Simon. And we're off.

WE'RE BIRDING! Well, not exactly, but he's driving us to a lake and forest area in the country, around Oslo.

In short order, we're out of the city, parked and birding at a spot he's familiar with. There is a nice lake, with a cool rock, shown below, in mirror image format. {A beautiful morning. This lake is the drinking water for Oslo so no boating, swimming allowed. The air is calm so the reflections are spectacular. We see a beaver swimming that Simon spots. Then he leads us to the place where a stream comes into the lake where he can hear birds calling that he is interested in. These guides universally have such great ears and can tell if it is a bird we need.} {Simon is a Brit who met his wife, a Norwegian, in Peru when they were both travelling there. They had a long distance relatiionship, then married and lived in England for 2 years and then she wanted them to "try" living in Norway. They moved, he loved it, so they settled here. She is an Accountant and he is a guide. They have 2 young daughters.}

We get a flying WRYNECK, a couple of Yellowhammers, Chaffinch and some Tree Swallows, near a lake. Then within the next few minutes, Common Sandpiper on a fence. Below are the yellowhammer (ours) and a wryneck (internet photo).

Back in the Simon's black VW sedan, we move a little further on, swapping situations and bird stories. Simon parks, and we're out again.

We get Tree Pipit on this clear, cool, wonderful day. Then we get a wryneck again in a tree, great views. A Goldfinch flyover and a beautiful REDWING.

Pied Flycatcher moving rapidly, eating insects in a tree. Simon points out an ICTERINE WARBLER, which quickly takes off, so we're lucky to get him.

Distant views of a flying Jay. Hey, isn't that a gasoline truck stop in the U.S.?

It's ten o'clock.

We're at the edge of some water, and Simon points out a little vole (like a mouse), sneaking through the grassy water's edge. Then a European Robin, or as they call it over here... a robin.

We continue walking up a long path to get into the territory of a special bird we have targeted, and which Simon has staked out (that means he has found it in the last few days or weeks, and knows it should be here when WE get here). But to get to that territory, we must walk past several farms.

As we come up to the first farm, we see two things: a couple of horses on our left, and a woodpecker close to us, on our right. Simon IDs it as a Great Spotted Woodpecker. {The horses are big, work horses, Fresians, I think. One is lying down and the other watches us go by.}

Great Spotted Woodpecker.

To our amazement, this fairly large bird flies up to the farmhouse, where there are several bird feeders, and perches awkardly on one, where he begins to eat on a suet block. Cool.

Sharon picks up movement in a tree, and Simon quickly identifies a pair of Treecreepers - birds that behave a bit like nuthatches, doing small flight/jumps up or down the tree, to check for bugs under bark or just on the side of the tree.

A type of swallow flies over a house, which Simon IDs as a House Martin. Closely following this, in a field, is a Meadow Pipit. A Raven does his honking call as we come even with a small building.

Below shows the traditional foundation method of out-buildings - strucures for food storage, implements, etc. A concrete "toadstool" I like to call it. The objective is that none of the wood touches the ground, where it would deteriorate from frost, insects etc.

We continue on our quest, and Simon identifies a Song Thrush, a common bird around here. I catch the flight of a Magpie (called Black-billed Magpie in the U.S.), and he looks streamlined for wind resistance minimization. A Pied Wagtail like the peak of the roof on the farmhouse.

We continue our walk and eventually Simon says that this is the area of the staked-out bird he says is nesting in a hole in one of the trees. It's a bit of a walk down a steep section. It's dry, but he says he will walk down while we stay here, with our binocs at the ready. He will scratch on the tree in question, hoping that the bird inside will show itself in the hole. {He explains that the scratches sound to the bird like some predator is climbing the tree so it will look out of the hole to see.}

As he scratches, suddenly a bird comes flying from our left and perches in a couple of trees, checking us out. I get these photos:

It's a gorgeous BLACK WOODPECKER, one of our top target birds of Norway. Simon is tickled because he says the bird flew out of an old nest hold from previous years, and not the new nest hole that it has spent a week or more making in the tree he was scratching on! But we got our bird. Image Google "BlackWoodpecker" if you want a better look. This is, of course, true of any bird I name in these reports, but I'm mentioning it once to pass on the information in case you've never done it before. And for more detailed instructions, if you need them, google "Black Woodpecker", then when it comes up, click on the row of gray individual words, one of which says "Image". You will get a thousand pictures, but they are individual contributions and you will notice some birds that are in no way the bird you are searching for. What can I say? People will make mistakes or try to fool you. I can remember at 17 that was a very cool thing to do.

I like the roots of this tree, which remind me of the toes of a coot or other long-toed waterbird. Here's Sharon after getting one of our lifers today - probably the woodpecker.

We walk back to the car, "chuffed" as British birders would say, high on satisfaction.

On the way, we pass the two black horses we encountered near the great spotted woodpecker. I tell the joke about the dog with the "Talking Dog For Sale" sign around his neck, and one horse gets it. He says to me, "So. Why the short face?" I snap some attractive little white anenomes, harbingers of Spring - ID by Sharon, of course, based on Simon's ID.

We go to another forested location, where Simon parks, and we all get out.

Simon has been following a pair of birds that have nested deep in the woods, and after a short walk, he points out the nest. The female is sitting on the deep nest, and occasionally we can just see her eye. He says he has been following her for several years also. I didn't get a photo good enough to show the eye clearly, and I am not including photos of forestry.

Oh yes, it's a Goshawk, one of the fiercest defenders of territory in the bird kingdom. Simon, who went ahead of us on the walk in, says she was asleep when he got here, but the bird woke up pretty quickly at the sound he made getting there.

Wow, it's only 8:45! That's birding for you.

Next we move to a location that's been inhabited by a snipe or two. We are instructed to wait at the upper edge of the triangle-shaped area while he walks in the edges of a marsh. If a snipe is still there, it will be flushed up and out. We wait. Simon Walks. No bird. But he does flush up a nice Whinchat and a Wheatear, called a Northern Wheatear in the U.S.

But we are parked next to what appears to be the ruins of an old church.

We get a pair of nice Tree Sparrows in the church "ruins". I know. "Hey!", you say, "Why the quotes on 'ruins'?" Well that's because it turns out that the original structure was totally collapsed over the centuries, and a couple of hundred years ago, they built it AS a ruins. Ha. Strikes me as a little funny, though I'm sure it was a great educational thing to do, for the people at that time.

There is a lake, quite some distance off, but Simon points out a Black-throated Diver (called a Pacific Loon, in North Americ, based on its Latin name) . But having just told you that, Simon says that the powers that be have split that bird species, so this bird should actually be (wait for the all-caps!) BLACK-THROATED DIVER. Now a separate species from the Pacific Loon. A lifer. Ha!

We finish up here, and Simon drives us kind of into town where, at one point, he points to a house we can see, and he says, "That's my house." It's a little after ten am. He continues, "My youngest daughter will be up, but the older one will still be in bed." Two different ages and two different personalities - or maybe it's just the ages. The older, as I remember him telling it, is maybe young pre-teenager and the younger under ten. {He points out that he owns the first floor of this house, another couple owns the second floor. They share the back yard and storage areas and bills for electricity, garbage, water etc. Hmm, maybe not all of those, there are probably separate monitors on water and electricity. A not uncommon story here in Oslo where prices of houses are high.}

He dives us to a set of buildings, parks, and up we climb, behind the buildings, which it turns out, is his younger daughter's school. But it's Saturday, and there's no school, and that, of course, is the reason for the older daughter's sleep-in.

We are here because Simon says this is the closest place he knows where he has seen hawfinch, another of our highly desired birds. We have tried to see this bird in several countries, but were always in the wrong season or just missed them.

There are birds flying around high in the tall, tall trees behind the school, and after a while, Simon plays their call. BINGO! A pair react that bounce around, finally staying in two places (one each, don't ya know) for us to see their field marks enough to agree: HAWFINCH!!! WOOHOO! Too high for meaningful pictures. Just think of three or four huge trees, with birds bouncing around high over your head. {Actually, Bob had asked Simon after we had looked for but not seen the bird, "could you play the call for us so we know what it sounds like?" He does and then the pair of birds respond to the call. He actually points out they are mating and supposes they are building a nest in these trees. Lucky for us!}

A Hawfinch, from the Internet

The last place we go, Simon is trying to get us a difficult bird on our list. We park beside a newly sown field, and scour the area with his scope. After moving around a bit, without success, he finally gets a call or text from a fellow birder as to a field where the birds have been seen and off we go. Finally he says, "DOTTEREL! In the scope!" Sharon gets on, gets a good enough look, then I get on, and I can tell they are dotterel, but man, they are a long way off. Very cool. Sharon also spots a Lapwing. Then Simon picks up a Ringed Plover with two babies, running in one of the fields.

And a little bit later, he gets us on a Eurasian Golden Plover, and later points out a patrolling Marsh Harrier.

We finish up, and he drives us back to our camp. We pay him the agreed upon amount, and say not goodbye, but so long, because we've hired him for one day at the end of our trip also. There will be new birds that still have not migrated in, so we're looking forward to that.

Sharon takes a warm shower in the service building. I will take mine later.

Later, just before bedtime, I fire off two of my LED, rubber-band fired rocket-copters, and they look great in the semi-dark, as I don't think it ever gets totally dark here in Oslo this time of year.

That's it for today,
Bob and Sharon

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