Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Europe Part 8 - Birding Norway's Mountains (Eurasian Dotterel, Great Snipe, Capercaillie); Sight-seeing the Netherlands

Eurasian Dotterel
After pottering around Oslo and the southern Norway coast (see following post) we headed north to Lillehammer, where we looked without success for Pine Grosbeak, making do with more numerous fare such as Meadow Pipit and Common Redstart, along with some fine alpine scenery.

Common Redstart
Mountains above Lillehammer
We continued north to the Knudsen family's lovely cabin in the Synnfjell Mountains in the district of Nord-Torpa, stopping to look at a pair of Slavonian Grebes with chicks. 

Slavonian Grebe 

Nord-Torpa cabin

Like so many cabins dotting the length of Scandinavia's Langfjellat mountains, the roof is adorned with a flourishing garden of wildflowers (abundant at this time of year), grasses and small shrubs. The weather was chilly but pleasant and sunny.

Great Tit
A pair of Great Tits were feeding a clutch of young in a nest-box on the cabin wall.

Pied Flycatcher
Other birds about the cabin included Pied Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Eurasian Siskin  and Willow Tit. Glenn was fortunate to see a Long-eared Owl.

Eurasian Siskin

Spruce forest, Nord-Torpa
The forests in this part of the world are mostly spruce with pockets of treeless moor. 

Siberian Jay
Walking the road through the forest behind the cabin I found Siberian Jay on four occasions, with a maximum of 3 birds at one spot.


I stumbled upon a female Capercaillie being highly protective of a couple of chicks by the road. I also saw a single female Black Grouse briefly. A juvenile White-tailed Eagle overhead was unexpected.

White-tailed Eagle
I had seen Brambling just once before so it was nice to track down a singing male.

We drove further north to the spectacular Valdresflya Plateau where plenty of snow was about, notwithstanding the time of year.  On the way we were surprised to find a Hawfinch by the road.

This beautiful area is a mosaic of highland moors, snowfields, lakes, forest patches and mountains.



At Valdresflya it took a couple of hours to track down a prime target – Eurasian Dotterel, which nests on the rocky mountain hillsides. An adult showed nicely as it watched over two small chicks.

Eurasian Dotterel
Other birds in the area included the distinctive regional race of Bluethroat, Shore Lark and Western Yellow Wagtail. A Wood Sandpiper in breeding plumage was nice.

Wood Sandpiper
Also an Arctic Tern along one of the lake shores.

Arctic Tern

Ketil sets up the hides at snipe lek
We moved on to the Hersjomyrin Nature Reserve at Storhosaestren where Ketil knew of a Great Snipe lek. Here we set up two tent hides and waited until “sunset” at 11pm. Night at this time of year consists of 3 or 4 hours of dim twilight, and that is when some birds such as snipe are most active.

Great Snipe displaying at lek - pic by Ketil Knudsen

Great Snipe
We weren't to be disappointed. We had 15-20 Great Snipe in full swing at the lek with a cacophony of bill-snapping, whinnying and whirring noises. They shut up when a Short-eared Owl soared overhead. A Merlin also flew over while Red Grouse was heard. Mammals in the area included Mountain Hare and Field Vole.

Common Snipe - Pic by Ketil Knudsen
On the way back in the semi-darkness we encountered Eurasian Woodcock and Common Snipe (with a noticeably longer bill than Great Snipe) on the road.

We had a couple of Moose cross the road.

We're extremely grateful to Ketil and Bente Knudsen for their warm generosity and excellent company during our 10-day visit to Norway. Then it was on to The Netherlands, the last of 12 countries we visited during our 6.5-week sojourn to Europe (the others were, in order: Italy, Vatican City, Monaco, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway).

Haarlem & Great Church of St Bavos
St Bavos concert

Haarlem's Adrian windmill

We stayed near Amsterdam in the historic city of Haarlem with the tower of the Great Church of St Bavos shadowing our comfortable apartment; the constant ringing of its 5-tonne bell offered mixed blessings. The huge pipe organ in the church was played by Mozart when he was 10.

We checked out the sites of Haarlem and Amsterdam including, in Haarlem - Teyler's Museum, the city's bustling Saturday market in the town square and the Adrian windmill. We enjoyed the splendid mosaic of canals in both cities.

Amsterdam - marijuana shop


In Amsterdam we saw Westerkerk, Hermitage and the Auschwitz Memorial. We contemplated the plates along canal footpaths commemorating the Jewish people taken from their homes and murdered by the Nazis. The whiff of marijuana in crowded Amsterdam back streets was in the air.

Amsterdam - Jewish people taken from their homes and killed by the Nazies WWII
Near Haarlem we did not expect to find a large area of natural wilderness along the coast in Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. Fallow Deer were common here.

Zuid-Kennemerland National Park

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Europe Part 7 - Birding Norway I

Common Tern
After looking around Oslo (see following post) Ketil and I drove up to the Krysbmyra Forest in the mountains near the city. Our drive was followed by a 30-minute bicycle ride and a hike through the beautiful spruce and pine forests.

Ketil in Krysbmyra
We were looking for Pine Crossbill and encountered 4 parties, seeing two birds briefly. This was the fifth lifer of the trip for me. Tree Pipit showed nicely.

Tree Pipit
We flushed a pair of Eurasian Nightjars.

Eurasian Nightjar - Pic by Ketil Knudsen
We had a delightful lunch with the Knudsen family in Oslo before travelling south to the family's equally delightful coastal villa at Tasken, near the mouth of the Oslo Fjord.

Lunch with the Knudsens
Here we took a boat ride around the fjord, with Ketil at the helm.

Tasken, Oslo Fjord
Birds on the islands included Rock Pipit, numerous Greater Black-backed Gulls and Northern Wheatear.

Greater Black-backed Gull
Common Terns were nesting on the islands but they are suffering greatly from increasing predation by gulls, which have fewer fish to catch, evidently due to warming waters in the fjords.

Common Tern
Many male Common Eiders were coming into breeding plumage. Other waterbirds included Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser.

Common Eiders
Around the villa were Eurasian Linnet, Common Wheatear and nesting Greater Whitethroat.

Eurasian Linnet
Driving east towards the Swedish border we found several Western Marsh-Harriers, including one that had caught a large vole.

Western Marsh-Harrier
Yellowhammer and Whinchat were quite common.


We spent a day wandering the streets of Oslo, seeing the Parliament, the waterfront, the Royal Palace and Akershus-Festning Fort, among other things.

Oslo waterfront
Akershus-Festning Fort

Friday, 23 June 2017

Europe Part 6 - Copenhagen & Oslo

Barnacle Goose
Following our stay in Berlin (see following post) we took the bus north to the Danish capital of Copenhagen. It was an entirely relaxing mode of transit after our extensive travels in the hire car. We crossed the Baltic Sea on the ferry from the German port of Rostock.

Amalienborg Palace
In Copenhagen we had an Airbnb homestay in the district of Norrebro for 3 nights. We wandered the city centre and suburban streets, taking an on-off touring bus again, and were delighted by the beauty and general ambience of this place. We were told we were fortunate to be there for rarely warm summer weather; thousands of scantily clad (some naked) Danes were sunbaking by the numerous waterways.

Copenhagen canal

Copenhagen inner harbour
We took a ferry ride through the maze of canals and harbours.

City Library

Little Mermaid statue

Stock Exchange tower
We saw the Amalienborg Palace where the royal family lives; the imposing Christianborg Palace complex that includes the Parliament; the iconic Statue of the Living Mermaid along with City Hall; and other sites including the Opera House, Tivoli, Rosenberg Castle and the Botanic Gardens.

Hans Christian Anderson grave
In Norrebro we admired how the Danes have turned a cemetery into a fine suburban park. Here we saw the grave of Hans Christian Anderson.

Jackdaw was abundant in the city streets.

Oresund Bridge
 After Copenhagen we took another bus north, crossing the Oresund Bridge to Sweden, the 10th state to be visited since arriving in Europe a month ago. We crossed southern Sweden into Norway, arriving in the capital of Oslo and the home of our friends Ketil Knudsen and Bente Mjomen Knudsen.

Barnacle Goose
After Ketil picked us up at the bus depot, we stopped at the quaintly named Middle Aged Park in Oslo for the third lifer of the trip - Barnacle Goose. I've seen this species in many European parks but not ticked it previously. The Norway birds evidently have established a large and permanent breeding population; the extent to which this is an entirely natural phenomenon is impossible to determine but climate change is affecting other waterbird breeding behaviour. In any event, the Norway population is a mix of wild and birds originally introduced but is now accepted as wild.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Common Gull
Common, Lesser Black-backed, European Herring and Black-headed Gulls were all numerous.

In Oslo we visited the Vigeland Park with its famous sculptures and the adjoining Western Graveyard - together creating a vast area of wonderful parkland in the city's heart.

Vigeland Park sculptures
 Common Goldeneye and Tufted Duck were among the waterbirds on the lakes.

Tufted Duck & Common Goldeneye

Viking Ship Museum
We enjoyed a visit to the Viking Ship Museum.

Common Eider family
We had a look at the Holmenkollen ski jump and the woods and coastal coves around the Nesodden Peninsula. Here were several Common Eiders with ducklings in tow.

Common Tern
Common Tern was feeding in the shallows.

Eurasian Oystercatcher
Eurasian Oystercatchers were about.

European Robin
European Robin, always a nice bird to see.

In a field nearby I finally connected with Redwing - my fourth lifer for the trip.