Saturday, 31 October 2020

Isabelline Wheatear at Akerøya in Østfold, Norway on 29th October 2020

During a telephone conversation with a birding companion it was decided to make a day trip to the island Akerøya, Hvaler, our second to Østfold (now known as Viken) this year. The main reason for this was a stationary Isabelline Wheatear / isabellasteinskvett Oenanthe isabellina that had been found several days earlier. However, due to varying poor weather conditions the bird had not been looked for during the two preceding days before our planned visit on 29th October. After an early start we arrived at the harbour at 08:00 and met up with two other eager birders. Shortly afterwards we met our guide and boatman who was also a local birder from the Akerøya bird ringing group. The weather did not look as though it would be kind to us and after a wet crossing we arrived to sunshine and a light breeze thankfully, making birding very pleasant the rest of the morning. We soon found our way to the other side of the island where the wheatear had been stationary earlier and by 09:30 we were enjoying distant but great views of the bird. We were told that several more birders were expected to visit the island during the following days and were reminded we should be careful not to press the bird unduly while photographing, so only distant images were possible. The wheatear did gradually come closer while we sat and patiently waited for it to do so, but time unfortunately did not allow for closer images. After about half an hour, we left the bird happily feeding and we made our way back to the house close to the island harbour and birded in the area around here. Two more local birders arrived in their own boat and walked off to see the wheatear. Later in the morning we were ferried back to the mainland and then drove home after another successful birding trip to Østfold. The long range weather forecast was fine weather for the rest of the day and night but for the following days, very wet and windy and it was wondered if the wheatear would leave in the fine weather during that night. Apparently a larger group of birders could not find the wheatear the next day, so it must have been just that which presumably the bird had done.

While adjusting the images the age and sex of the bird was addressed. At first it was considered to be a first year but according to the literature, aging of autumn birds is only possible with certainty with the bird in the hand and wing feather moult can be studied. It is also not possible to define the sex of this individual because this is only possible on extreme plumaged individuals and where a clear male would show jet black lores, not blackish-brown as this undefined individual. 

These images illustrate several diagnostic features that separate it from several other species of female wheatears including Northern Wheatear.  The first four images show the black alula. The fourth and fifth images show the species characteristic tail pattern and the sixth image shows the pale, almost white underwing.  


Isabelline Wheatear - Akerøya, Hvaler, Østfold 29th October 2020

Isabelline Wheatear - Akerøya, Hvaler, Østfold 29th October 2020

Isabelline Wheatear - Akerøya, Hvaler, Østfold 29th October 2020

Isabelline Wheatear - Akerøya, Hvaler, Ødtfold 29th October 2020

Isabelline Wheatear - Akerøya, Hvaler, Østfold 29th October 2020

Isabelline Wheatear - Akerøya, Hvaler, Østfold 29th October 2020

  

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Little Egret, first year, at Horten in Vestfold & Telemark, Norway on 23-24 September 2020

On 23rd September I received a telephone call from a birding neighbour to tell me he had found a Little Egret / silkehegre Egretta garzette at Langgrunn which is close to where we live. As it was blowing a strong wind and raining, I packed my photo gear in its rain jacket so prolonged photography was possible and drove the short distance to where the egret was still feeding. By slowly moving along the breakwater with reeds partially obscuring the egrets view to the intruder it was possible to get into position for extended photography. The egret soon became accustomed to my presence and continued feeding, often quite closely, and I was able to photograph the bird undisturbed for one and a half hours. The egret was watched actively feeding on crustaceans and small fish during the whole visit, although it did make a sortie to the other side of the bay once. The lighting was not at its best and there was drizzel to moderate rain in the air so a variety of camera settings were tried to find the optimal for the available light. For these images I used a Canon EOS 7D mkII, Canon EF 500 f/4 L IS mkII and Canon EF Extender 1.4x mkIII, mounted on a tripod. Several video sequences were also taken although following a very active bird at close range with 700mm was not always easy. 

The following day 24th September the weather had worsened considerably with very strong winds and a very high tide when I walked towards the breakwater. Suddenly the egret flew over me from some high trees and towards a large rock close to yesterdays favourite feeding place and disappeared from view. As I approached where it had landed the egret was found sheltering from the wind and rain behind the rock looking more like a white plastic bag than a bird. Unfortunately my presence disturbed the bird and it flew out to sea but then turned and flew southwards and landed in some tall trees surrounding the Borre Viking National Park, however, shortly after could not be re-found. Subsequently the egret has reappeared in Tønsberg.

What was presumably the same first year Little Egret was found at Larvik on 10th September and moved north to Tønsberg on 13th September where it had been present at various localities here until its two day visit to Horten. These observations constitute the second record for the species in Horten, with the first being from Bastøy on 6th May 2015. 


Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 23rd September 2020

Little Egret, first year flying southwards - Langgrunn, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 24th September 2020

Little Egret, first year landing in trees at Borre National Park, Horten, Vestfold & Telemark 24th September 2020




Monday, 31 August 2020

Dragonflies and other insects in Vestfold & Telemark, Norway during August 2020

By August it was very evident that there had been an almost total collapse in the local butterfly populations although in other parts of Norway they seemed to be enjoying good numbers of some rare and local species. At the same time insect numbers also plummeted making local insect and butterfly sorties rather mundane. To compensate this, time was spent registering the local dragonfly populations which seemed to be doing a little better although numbers were well down compared to 2019. The images here show some the dragonfly species seen as well as several insects found during these field days. 


Vagrant Hawker (septemberlibelle) Aeshna mixta, male - Borrevannet, Horten 27th August 2020

Yellow-winged Darter (gulvinghøstlibelle) Sympetrum flaveolum, male - Gjennestad, Sandefjord 29th August 2020

Moustached Darter (sørhøstlibelle) Sympetrum vulgatum, male - Borrevannet, Horten 12th August 2020

Ruddy Darter (blodhøstlibelle) Sympetrum sanguineum, male - Borrevannet, Horten 14th August 2020

Black Darter (svarthøstlibelle) Sympetrum danae, newly hatched male - Borrevannet, Horten 12th August 2020

Black Darter (svarthøstlibelle) Sympetrum danae, mating pair - Borrevannet, Horten 12th August 2020

Brown Hawker (brunlibelle) Aeshna gradis, female egg laying - Borrevannet, Horten 12th August 2020

Common Spreadwing (nordmetallvannnymfe) Lestes sponsa, male - Gjenestad, Vestfold 29th August 2020

Cinnamon Bug (rødrandtege) Corizus hyoscyami - Borrevannet, Horten 14th August 2020

Common Green Sheild Bug (grønnbreitege) Palomene prasina, nymph - Borrevannet, Horten 12th August 2020

Pellucid Fly (hvitbåndet humleblomsterflue) Volucelle pellucens - Borrevannet, Horten 11th August 2020

Noon Fly Mesembrina meridiana - Borrevannet, Horten 14th August 2020
A not so often registered fly in Norway with just over 200 observations and with this being the 4th for Vestfold and 2nd for Borrevannet.

Phasia hemiptera male 'First observation from Horten' - Skoppum, Horten 31st July 2020
The first Norwegian observation of this species was from Vestfold in 2006.
All of the ca. 70 recorded observations since, have been from southern Norway with 7 of these from Vestfold.

Kite-tailed Robber Fly (svarthårrrovflue) Tolmerus atricapillus - Borrevannet, Horten 27th August 2020

Great Green Bush-cricket (grønn løvgresshoppe) Tettigonia viridissima - Snekkestad, Holmestrand 24th August 2020 

       

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Butterfly variants and unusual subspecies from Norway

While browsing the Facebook group British Butterfly Aberrations, I remembered that some butterfly variants and an interesting subspecies have been photographed on travels here in Norway, so I decided to search the archive and unearth them again. Instead of letting them slip back into the darkness again I decided to present them collectively here.


Green-veined White (Pieris napi adalwindi) female - Nordland, Norway 24/6-2010
1. Green-veined White Pieris napi female from Reine, Moskenes, Nordland on 24th June 2010 - A dark variant which partially resembles a Dark-veined White Pieris bryoniae from southern Europe. The situation with forms, subspecies or possibly different species is much confused throughout its European range although in northern Fennoscandia where this image is taken, a single brooded 'fuzzy grey' subspecies has been decribed as Pieris napi adalwindi which is what this individual presumably is. Otherwise in Fennoscandia there is also a dark mountain subspecies described as Pieris napi bicolorata.



Silver-studded/Idas Blue male 'missing spots variant' - Vestfold, Norway 30/6-2018 

Silver-studded/Idas Blue male 'missing spots variant' - Vestfold, Norway 30/6-2018

Silver-studded/Idas Blue male - normal individual for comparison
2. Silver-studded/Idas Blue Plebejus argus/idas male from Trollsvannet, Sandefjord, Vestfold, Norway on 30th June 2018 - an individual with many missing spots on the underside and showing abnormal rounded forwings, see first two images and compair with the third image showing a normal individual.


False Heath Fritillary female 'pale variant' - Vestfold, Norway 4/6-18

False Heath Fritillary female 'pale variant' - Vestfold, Norway 4/6-18

False Heath Fritillary female - normal coloured individual for comparison
3. False Heath Fritillary Melitaea diamina female from Merkedammen, Tønsberg, Vestfold, Norway on 4th June 2018 - a very pale individual resembling a Heath Fritillary M. athalia somewhat on the topside but with diagnostic False Heath Fritillary underside. Compare the third image of a normal coloured female with the first two images.




Dark Green Fritillary 'unusual coloured rear wing underside variant' - Vestfold, Norway 3/7-17

Dark Green Fritillary 'unusual coloured rear wing underside variant' - Vestfold, Norway 3/7-17

Dark Green Fritillary - normal coloured individual for comparison
4. Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja from Merkedammen, Tønsberg, Vestfold, Norway on 3rd July 2017 - an individual with unusual white spotting on the underside of the rear wing and also unusual dark wing patern on the upperside. Compare the third image of a normal coloured individual with the first two images.


Monday, 13 July 2020

Butterflies during late June and early July 2020

The following is a summary of butterfly observations made locally during this period in and around Horten and generally in Vestfold province of southern Norway. 
In late June it was clear that the numbers of butterflies were down compared to 2019, with the exception of Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines, which has had an exceptional good year. However, the outlook for the remaining spring looked promising particularly concerning the blues sp. and the variety of species seen and those reported by others on our reporting system. For me, Moorland Clouded Yellow Colias palaeno was probably the most exciting as it was a lifer although no photos were obtained of this fast fly-past pair and only briefly seen. Otherwise there were some interesting local species including, two Small Blue Cupido minimus, several Idas Blue Plebejus idas, the usual several Mazarine Blue Cyaniris semiargus, several Amanda's Blue Polyommatus amandus, a Queen of Spain Fritillary Issoria lathonia, several Cranberry Fritillary Boloria aquilonaris, several False Heath Fritillary Melitaea diamina, plenty of Large Wall Brown Lasiommata petropolitana and the usual several Large Heath Coenonympha tullia. During this good butterfly period until early July, we had some extremely hot temperatures reaching +30 C, then the weather changed dramatically with several days of cold wet and windy weather seriously effecting the butterfly populations. By the 13th July it was clear that not only butterflies, but dragonflies and other flying insects including bumblebees were all almost non-existent. This may be a local phenomenon but one that certainly is affecting the whole of the western side of the Oslofjord. Also, at this time of year we should be finding migrant butterflies on our flowering Buddleia bushes which surely will not be pollinated this year without a significant change of circumstances.   


Little Blue, male - Horten, Vestfold 16th June 2020

Little Blue, male - Horten, Vestfold 16th June 2020

Idas Blue, female - Vestfold 2nd July 2020

Idas Blue, female - Vestfold 2nd July 2020

Mazarine Blue, male - Skoppum Vestfold 10th June 2020

Mazarine Blue, male - Skoppum, Vestfold 10th June 2020

Amanda's Blue, male - Vestfold 2nd July 2020

Amanda's Blue, female - Vestfold 2nd July 2020

Queen of Spain Fritillary - Horten, Vestfold 26th June 2020

Cranberry Fritillary - Vestfold 18th June 2020

Cranberry Fritillary - Vestfold 18th June 2020

False Heath Fritillary, female - Vestfold 2nd July 2020

Large Wall Brown - Vestfold 25th June 2020

Large Heath - Vestfold 18th June 2020

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth - Horten, Vestfold 26th June 2020


Isabelline Wheatear at Akerøya in Østfold, Norway on 29th October 2020

During a telephone conversation with a birding companion it was decided to make a day trip to the island Akerøya, Hvaler, our second to Østf...