Saturday, April 20, 2013

Local patch : Coastal Jaeren

I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have been flung to Stavanger, Norway in the middle of Rogaland and the midst of birding haven that is Jaeren. Birding hotspots I only used to read about before can now be reached by less than a hour's leisurely driving.

Better still was to have made connection with a couple of avid local birders such as Neil and Inger Friestad, and their daughter Hera. Not long after we made contact at Sandness Havn while checking out ducks, we went on an introduction trip around local patch around Stavanger. Not long after that we covered coastal Jaeren. It was great fun zipping through the countryside getting the lowdown on the specialties of some of these hotspots with passionate birders having first hand knoowledge.

Ali and I drove from Stavanger one Saturday morning and within one hour we were birding with Neil, Inger and Hera. See map attached.

Jaeren coastal hotspots.

From the south we covered:
Bruvatnet - several spots for waterbirds, wintering ducks and dipper
Kvassheim Fyr -waders and ducks
Madland -waders and waterbirds
Grodaland -passerines around a manmade lake in the woods
Obrestad - waterbirds and waders
Hatangen -waterbirds and waders
Soylandvatnet -wintering ducks, waterbirds, passerines in summer

Over the years many interesting sightings have been made in all these areas. Since most of the sites are located close to the coast, many waterbirds, seabirds, waders, raptors form the bulk of those sightings. Jaeren lies along the migration route North, with a point closest to UK landmass being Reve, migrant passerines are also a major feature. A ringing station managed and manned by the Stavanger Museum is located in Reve, just a few hundred meters from Revtangen.

With local patch covered (previous article) and now having completed introduction to coastal Jaeren, all that is left to do is find to find suitable weekends to stalk these sites for the birds. There are surely plenty of birds to go around all year, the trick around here is probably a day sunny enough the drag the gear out ... that there lies the challenge.

Sunset at Kvassheim, next to spot where ducks, and waders hangout.

Godwits by Hatangen, large fields dominated the landscape along the beach.

Goose in the fields next to Orrevatnet, the biggest bird magnet in the area.

Breeding curlew in the fallow fields of Obrestad, also by the coast.

Many thanks to Neil, Inger and Hera to have taken the trouble to show us around their patch, as well a Saturday moning's crash course on birding in Jaeren.

Nazer Abghani/Jul2013 (belated write up)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Local patch Hafrsfjord

Getting to know your local patch and regular birding in and around local patch is a first step towards many fulfilling outings with very low investment in money and time. Many a times you'd be able to simply zip by that favorite spot  to scan the horizons for your quarry and zip off to work with a big smile on your face having seen a feathered friend.

I did quite a lot of that when I was living in Sarawak, Borneo. An early day would see me on the beach watching a Chinese Egret, Malaysian Plover or waders sporting summer colors (in the correct season) from as early as 6:30am; I'd be at my desk just as the tropical sun starts to warm up by 8:00am. It makes for an enjoyable day at work too.

The Hafrsjord birding circuit, with mange mange takk to Neil, Inger and Hera (Map from, I added the red squares).

Having arrived in Norway last May, my birding clock has been somewhat skewed and requiring adjustment. New place, different seasons and timings had me birdwatched much less than before. Therefore it was with great joy when a local birding couple Neil and Inger (and their daughter, Hera) offered to show me around Hafrsfjord, a location 10mins drive from the house. Though I've been going there before several time, nothing beats personal insights. Everyplace seems a great place to birdwatch being a new birder here, however knowing a proper place to park can make or break that well-planned outing.

Northern Pintail at Sommevagen, apparently it's been around for the past few years. High on the list of lookouts of local birders are American Teal and American Widgeon.

One Sunday morning, we met at Mollebukta near Three Swords and set off on our way for my birdwatching orientation around Hafrsfjord. We covered all the great places where interesting records have been made by local birders. Most importantly a detailed low-down on what species to expect, which roads to take, and where to park without raising the ire of farmers and local residents. There's a fine line dividing birders and farmers here in Norway, I'm not going to be the person crossing it at this early stage of Norway birding.

Velvet Scoter which can be seen from many of the stops, they tend to be more relaxed towards the end of the day and can be seen frolicking close to shore just before sunset.

Sommevagen has ducks, waders and waterbirds on offer; this was the first site I noticed as I was passing the airport on the way to the hotel when I visited Stavanger for the first time in my life for that job interview. The rest they say is "Birding! Fuglekikker!"

Within less that 4 hours of a sunny Sunday, we stopped by Stokkavatnet (Water Rail was sighted here in recent times), Revsheim (we spotted Velvet Scoter, Northern Teal, Northern Pintail, Great Cormorant, Red-breasted Merganser, waterbirds), Pighella (nesting Arctic Tern last year), Smavagen (Shelduck and waders), Kolnes North (waders), Kolnes South (waders), Sommevagen (Kitiwake, waders, ducks), Sornesvagen (nesting European Nuthatch, divers, cormorants) and last but not least Granebukta (gulls, waders, waterbirds). All these places have convenient parking areas with the exception of Kolnes which requires some judicious placement of the vehicle along the verge to avoid being trampled upon by farm equipment.

Many many thanks ("Mange, mange takk" in Norwegian) to Neil, Inger and Hera for sharing their favorite spot. Being a new birder to this local patch, it was a tremendous help. With summer fast approaching and birding season kicking into high gear it was also most timely!

Sommevagen, Hafrsfjord is an important wintering site for Scaup in Norway.

Monday, April 1, 2013

One week at Lista Fyr, Lista, Vest-Agder

This trip has been on the cards since late last year. Lista is an important stopover within the Jaeren birding circuit and makes up  one of several must go birding sites in Norway. Between April to November the coast of Jaeren offers many ticks being on the migration route, closest landmass between the UK and the continent. Waterbirds, ducks, passerines, seabirds, waders, raptors ... Lista has got it all.

Lista Fuglestasjon is located on the grounds of the lighthouse, many years of ringing and recording has taken place at this site. They've got records dating back to 1987 if not earlier.

We planned the trip such that it coincides with the spring migration, this year as it turned out Spring was a bit late. When we arrived on the grounds to pick up our keys to the apartment and lighthouse, the fields were still frozen. There was still snow on the compound.

The one week stay combined birdwatching for the family, low light photography as well as some country walking and sightseeing. The kids enjoyed running around the compound, I the birdwatching.

Shelduck, also my first on this trip. It was high on the list of ducks that I wanted to see here.

Skylarks were the most obvious passerines in the open fields at Lista. It's was still too early for the others.

A likely scene at Lista over the years. We saw migrating geese only towards the end of our week, when in started to get warmer and the winds blowing in the northerly direction.

Some Mallards settling in for the evening. 

Birders are the second common sight here after the birds.

White-tailed Eagle, new bird for me, sighted three at different locations during the trip.

The rocky coast, part of the 100km  birding coastline. Over the horizon is the town of Borhaug where the Natur og Fritid shop is located. It has a big collection of birds and nature books on sale.

The Lista Fyr.

Although the bird activity level has not peaked during our stay, many birds made it to my list of firsts. Woodcock, Gannet, European Shag, Skylark, Shelduck, White-tailed Eagle, Black-backed Seagull were among them. This was a recce trip for the many more visits planned to the area. It was a nice quiet orientation week to an important birding destination in Norway.

Nazeri Abghani/Apr 2013