Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Risavika Again ...

After several outings here at Risavika Havn, it seems that this place is great for early morning waterbirds during calm weather days.

The Velvet Scoters are here daily, even the male was inside the bay one morning ... the day I popped over without a camera nor bino. The Goldeneye either in pairs or rafts are seen regularly. They were close enough for some pictures too on a couple of occasions. The Common Widgeon seems always there with the Mallards. Cormorants are usually gathered on a small rocky island nearby, too far for a close photo but there's usually one or two flying overhead. Common Eider pops in and out and always foraging close to shore.

The nicer recent surprises were the Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) , Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) and Common Loon (Gavia immer). All were seen in the very early morning close to shore during calm almost no wind days, I suspect they were first winter birds.

Very early morning shoots with a long lens has always been a bit of a challenge. Low light, flash, and flash attachment are always not easy to maneuver ... by the time the set up is ready and propped, the quarry is all but a dot in the dark. You can forget about shooting on those cold windy days with all those accoutrements.

However on good days, being in Risavika just for the sunrise is worth getting over there.

Warning : It's a long video with a wide view ... a couple of ducks towards the end though.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Supposed to be sunny but cloudy - Risavika, Sele and Granebukta

I took a day off Friday on the expectation that it'll be sunny in the morning and only cloudy towards the end of the day. At least half of the day promised to be bright for some decent bird photography. However as far as Stavanger goes, if it doesn't rain it's already more than one can ask for. And it didn't rain, it was cloudy and the birding wasn't too bad. Blueskies was asking too much.

My first stop was Risavika Havn, approximately 30 mins from home. There were rafts of Goldeneyes and Mallards far across the bay. About 20-25 Grey Heron in flight spooked by a big raptor which I couldn't identify. And there they were two seals in the water right in front of my set-up ... which quickly answered my question as to why the ducks were so distant today as opposed to a couple of weeks back.

I have been to this spot several times over the years, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Common Widgeon, Mallard, Cormorant are the usual suspects spotted around the bay. The herons actually roosts on the trees and rocks on little islands nearby. The seals too have been spotted before in the bay. On this session I also saw a pair of Redbreasted Merganser foraging close to shore. These birds are not usually present in big numbers but enough to sustain a birder's interest, well mine at least.

I think the best from this spot are the sea ducks ... both the Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) and the Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra). They too are not present in great numbers however those that are present which usually number less than ten individuals afford very close views especially for photography without any elaborate hides and what not. They are usually scattered over the small bay, but always one or two close to shore.

There are times when one or two curious individuals (ducks) would come quite close for great views on the 600mm lens coupled with a 1.6 crop factor camera. Normally they are far at the start, but once you are settled in, one or two would make a close swim by feeding and foraging along as it does so, definitely within a 10m range.

My second stop was Sele Havn. Here I bumped into a Longtailed Duck right in the harbor, Purple Sandpiper on the outer harbor walls jumping in and out of the surf, three flotillas of Mallards further out to sea as well as a juvvy Black Guilemot just outside the harbor walls. Nice finds indeed! I've been trying to get a decent shot of the Longtailed since I first saw them though a scope at Reve Kai over the next bay sometime back.

As I swing around on my way back home, I stopped by Granebukta connected to the waters of Harsfjord near Three Swords. This is a great spot for wintering species. You do however have to put up with people traffic and their dogs and in better weather with windsurfers and fly fishermen. So I normally stop here only during the weekdays on my off days, early mornings or late afternoons just before sunset. Common Widgeon, Mallard, Velvet Scoter, and waders are easily seen here and in reasonable numbers. Early morning and late afternoon will afford you closer views as the species roost  closer to shore.

Notwithstanding the weather which wasn't too bad but could be better, the birding itself was great. I bagged several diving sequences of Velvet Scoter that I wanted as well as a rather decent grab shot of the beautiful Longtailed Duck. The Black Guillemot was a big fat Friday bonus. I definitely went home a happier birder!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Gloomy but no rain

I missed completely last year's autumn migration ... still haven't figured what exactly happened. Went on a short two weeks holiday to Kuala Lumpur, came back, and the running around at the start of school year started and never ended. That was all of 2016 birding  over in a flash... not much birdwatching took place.

This year 2017, I popped over to Sandness Havn for the usual suspects wintering at Gandalfjord. Local weather being warmer than the past few years (warmest yet at 4-5 deg C this year in the midst of Jan). Saw a couple of cormorants, several swans, Tufted Ducks and a single Goldeneye on one particular Sunday. There were no Common Widgeon spotted.  It used to be much more festive during colder winters of previous years.

Tried again over the past weekend at Risavika Havn. First with a scope than followed up with the 400mm. There were Common Scoter (Melanitta fusca), Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra), Goldeneye, Common Eider, Common Widgeon and Mallards. It was pretty interesting watching the M. fusca diving in for mussels. First ever sighting of a first winter M. nigra for me this year.

After Risavika, I took a quick detour to Sola airport. With parts of the Sola splitten road almost completed, the ducks are back. Saw many Mallards and Common Scaup (Athya marila) both adults and first winter juveniles.

Must go back with the 600mm ... if only the sky stays clear and dry.