Sunday, 31 August 2014

Winday Sunday

A mix in weather fortunes today. It was a lovely bright Autumn type of morning but then the sun shone brightly and the wind got up and the birds could see the nets very easily. Net rounds produced very few birds from about 08.30 onwards and by 10.30 we decided to pack up and go home. While no new species turned up today we continued to enjoy the company of Redstarts and Bluethroats and we are becoming much more confident ageing difficult species like Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings. Despite our early finish the morning still resulted in a very respectable total of just over 200 new birds.

The first two years' ringing has resulted in several interesting passerine recoveries:- a Sedge Warbler in Italy, a Reed Bunting and  two Meadow Pipits ringed on the same day being caught again together in Slovenia. I wonder if any of this years, birds will turn up again.

Back at base we opened the nets in the garden and continued to catch a steady trickle of Redpolls for a couple of hours before becoming tourists again and making a return visit to Vadsoya. While we were away, Dave caught an Arctic Redpoll, which Colin H duly added to the database for DNA analysis.

No new bird pictures from the ringing sessions. However I had a couple of hours out this afternoon with the camera and took these three pictures. The bird above is a Little Stint. This is one of the waders we have been ringing in the last 10 days.

A juvenile Kittiwake in it's first winter plumage.

I posted a picture of a Reindeer earlier. This guy looks a little menacing. He has been antler rubbing which takes round about a day signalling its readiness to breed. The antlers will harden off ready for the rutting season in October.

Tomorrow we have another visit from some school children and there is the possibility the "press" may be coming as well.

Further information at

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bunting Bonanza and Sami Spectacular

This morning the forecast was correct in saying the wind would be from the west with sunny periods. It was cool and bright first thing and it wasn't long before birds started to drop into the nets. We thought  it was going to be a good day. We did not have any new species but made our target of 300 birds. The birds of the day were Reed Buntings with 58 being caught. The total number of species caught was 18. Willow Warbler, Sedge Wardler, Common Redpoll, Redwing, Meadow Pipit, Bluethroat, Reed Bunting, Brambling, Greenfinch, Little Stint, White Wagtail, Lapland Bunting, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Dunnock and Curlew Sandpiper. One of the nuisance problems today was the consistent visit to out nets by a Merlin, often putting the birds down for a while. We also had good views of two White Tailed Eagles.

This Redwing is a juvenile and was one of 5 caught today and the total at the moment is 73 birds.

I thought I might post more pictures of where we do our ringing. Both pictures taken this morning, even though the tide is out on this picture and in on the picture below. This picture is looking East.

This picture is looking West. If you look closely you can see the nets furled in the foreground. As the tide recedes we open them. The birds come to the beach to feed on the bounty left behind by the tide.

After lunch we decided to go to the Sami Craft and Food Fayre at Varangerbotn. There were lots and lots of people there and it make you wonder where they all come from because where we are staying in Norway is a very low population area. The Sami dress culture was amazing so bright and colourful as can be seen from these pictures.

Also they had these rides for the kids. Each trolley on wheels pulled by eight dogs.

There were lots of crafts which showed a lot of interest, especially by the people who were dressed in their traditional clothing.

Finally I got this picture of a Lady in Sami clothing being interviewed on video, probably for a newspaper.

See more information at

Friday, 29 August 2014

Hoody Heartache saved by Merlin's Magic

This morning was milder, brighter and wind was coming from NNW which is better than from the east as in previous days. We were not disappointed and there was plenty of bird movement. We processed 115 Meadow Pipits being the best total since we arrived. The total birds for the day was 291, a good result.

The highlight of the day is this Merlin processed by Colin H and a lifer for him. This is the 5th bird since we have been coming to Norway. One was caught last year and three in 2012.

This Merlin was a juvenile male and the biometrics were 140gms weight, 200mm wing length, tail 120mm, tarsus 36.8mm and bill 11.23mm which puts it into the male category.

We also caught this Hooded Crow only to be horrified a few minutes later to discover we had not got a Norwegian ring size 4. Colin drove back to Kate's house to check the spare rings in the garage and still no ring. Alas we had to let it go.

This Siberian Tit is the second we have caught. It is a resident breeder throughout arctic and subarctic Scandinavia. It's size is slightly smaller than a Great Tit.

A few more waders again today 17 Dunlin, Lttle Stint and 9 Curlew Sandpiper. I haven't counted them but I am sure it is now in the region of 100 wading birds.

See for further information

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Wader Go

Today was not a good day for passerines, it was drizzly, dark and overcast for most of the morning and as a result there was little movement of birds. There were birds from every round but not in big numbers
We did however have a good day with waders. Dunlin 36, Ringed Plover 4, Curlew Sandpiper 1, and Little Stint 5, was the best daily wader result of the trip. To finish off Colin and Dave caught 29 Redpoll and a Great Tit in the garden when we got home after a tourist trip to the tundra. The total for the day ended up being a reasonably respectable at 235 birds.

The main highlight of the day were the 46 waders we caught. We had our first adult Dunlin so I have posted a few pictures below to try and show you the difference between a young bird and an adult.

This picture shows the adult on the left and juvenile on the right. The adult has lost its brown head.

Also the overall wing colour of the juvenile on the left has moulted the grey colour of it's Primaries and Secondaries to the new brown colours of the adult.

Finally the creamy coloured spotty breast of juveniles moult to the black breast of an adult in breeding plumage as can be seen in the picture. This is the first adult wader ever caught on these  visits because they have usually migrated south in advance of the juveniles.

We went out for a drive today after lunch on the road between Tana Bru and Botsfjord. After a short drive we arrived at the Tundra area above where the tree line is inhibited by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The geography of this area is amazing. On the way there is always a chance to see Hawk Owls and Rough Legged Buzzards. We were so lucky to see both. The Hawk Owl picture is posted on the Varanger Ringing blog and of course the picture above is the buzzard.

Please see additional information on

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Rain stopped play but a double century still achieved.

I think the title of todays post will probably sum it up straight away as to what sort of day we have had. Up at 3.00am as usual and it was chucking it down, so back to bed for some sleep which we all needed. We got up again at 6.00am and were on site for 7.00am. This was a serious loss of prime ringing time. Anyway nets were opened for just past 7.00am and it poured down again, so nets up for another 30 mins and it stopped, so nets we opened yet again but on this occasion we managed to keep them up for the rest of the morning. It was still slow but we managed to catch a few birds.

After these were processed we bagged them again because Colin was doing a talk and demonstration to some school children from a second school in the area who were just arriving. Colin had learnt the Norwegian names for these birds and the kids loved it. After they went we had plenty of other visitors, Petra and Frank our Dutch friends and then an English and Finnish couple who were also on holiday.

Colin giving a ringing demonstration to the students.

There was some movement of Meadow pipit and 89 were processed the second highest since we arrived, but everything else was in smaller numbers. As the title suggests we ended up with 202 birds, under the circumstances an excellent result.

Below I have summarised the number of species and total number of birds processed for week 1.
The birds with an * against them are new birds for the site.

1st Week's Total
Willow Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Common Redpoll
Meadow Pipit
Reed Bunting
Red Throated Pipit
Great Tit
House Sparrow
Little Stint
Siberian Tit *
Blue Tit *
Lapland Bunting
Ringed Plover
Willow Tit
Arctic Redpoll
Barred Warbler *
Little Bunting
Pied Flycatcher
Bullfinch *
Curlew Sandpiper
31 Species
1716 Birds

By any standard 1716 birds is a great start. The Meadow Pipit passage has been slow until the last couple of days and there is a very good chance that this could improve.

Caught this pair of Lapland Buntings today. The male is on the left and female on the right. On the male two clues of identification are the development of the black bib and slightly redder beak.

The weather forecast tomorrow seems to be ok until 8.00am and then rain so It could be another day with low numbers, we will see.

For further information see

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mipits dropping out of the sky

This morning felt an overcoat warmer than yesterday so we were hopeful of better catches. Shortly after we set up the nets we could see there was bird movement and flocks of Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings flying about. The first round we had only a few birds, however the next round started to produce better numbers and at one stage they were dropping into the nets as we were extracting. The total Mipits for the day was 135, an excellent result.

Other species that were coming fairly regularly were Lapland Bunting at 10 and Willow Warbler at 41.

Colin left us for a few hours because he had to do a presentation to the children at one of the schools, on bird ringing, what we do and why. It was the first of two that has been planned. In addition the children are coming to the ringing site from tomorrow for some supervised practical experience.

This is a female Wheatear aged as a juvenile. This was the sixth bird since we arrived

Similarly this is a Sedge Warbler the thirteenth we have caught since we arrived.

A Willow Tit the second bird we have caught. They are very similar to uk birds but do not have the pale buff underparts, they are more whiteish.

The highlife for me are the few waders we caught in a new trap Colin had designed and sent to Norway long before we arrived here. We had Curlew Sandpiper (left) and Dunlin (right).
As can be seen in the picture the bill of the Curlew Sandpiper is longer and more evenly decurved than that of the Dunlin.

The pattern of breast feather differs between the two birds. The Curlew Sandpiper has a peach wash and the Dunlin has dark spots.

In the Dunlin the rump and upper tail coverts are more extensive and dark than those of the Curlew Sandpiper.
The Curlew Sandpiper is another new bird for me and to ring it as well was a bonus.

Tomorrow the forecast looks better than today so we are hoping for another good day!

Please see for more information.

Monday, 25 August 2014

It's official, first for Finnmark

Today was bitterly cold at 4.00am and warmed slightly after a couple of showers. There was a marked difference in numbers caught on a cold day compared with the warmer morning when we first arrived. We still managed 210 birds which is an excellent result even though there were no new species. It was also nice to catch a few more waders, Little Stint and Dunlin. Our Dutch friends Petra and Frank arrived again mid morning with hot coffee and tea with biscuits which was very nice of them.

There are no new bird pictures today so I have dipped into the archives to show you some of those I have kept in reserve.

Caught on camera early this morning with bags of birds for processing from the marsh nets behind me.

Bluethroat have been caught in good numbers all week. This birds is a fine looking male.

This Arctic Hare was hanging around the ringing base today. By the time I picked up my camera it was almost in the hedge. In the winter of course during the snowy weather here they moult and the fur is pure white.

Yesterday we went to Vadso which is about 30km to the east of Nesseby. There is a nature reserve there which is an Island called Vadsoya. We spent about about 2 hours walking around and I managed to get this picture of a Ruff and the one below of Ruff and Dunlin flying together.

It was only a small flock but nevertheless really nice to watch as they turned in the air and showed of their flashy undersides as they turned.

Only minutes ago we have heard that this Barred Warbler is the first record in any form for the Finnmark region ........ YES !!!!!!!!!! ringed my me.

This map shows where the Arctic circle is relative to Nesseby which is 30km west of Vadso which can be found on the map in top right hand corner.

This map is FINNMARK. It borders Sweden, Finland and Russia, Click on the map: at the top RHS is Nesseby, next to Vadso. It is a huge area so I feel that this being the first bird to be seen or ringed in this area is brilliant.

Lets hope something more interesting happens again tomorrow.

Please see the for further information.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

I've been barred!!!

It was a very cold 5 degrees C this morning at 3.00am and the number of bird caught reflected this. It was not until 9.00am that it started to warm up and bird catches improved.

The previous two days we have had exceptional numbers but what a difference a day makes. We caught 218 birds which is still good by any standards. What we noticed today was the quantity was replaced by quality. We had some very nice Wheatear, Pied Flycatcher, Little Bunting, Redstart and a very very special Warbler which we need to check, but suspect there has never been one caught so far North in Norway before.

I extracted this bird from the net and took it back to the ringing station and said to the rest of the team "I have a bird here and have no clue as to what it is". I removed it from the net bag and it was obvious from everyones faces that this was indeed a special bird. Colin was beside himself with excitement. He asked me what I thought it may be and I replied I thought it to be a Warber and it looked very much like an oversized Whitethroat. After checking through Collins bird guide I identified it correctly with the aid of Svennson as a Barred Warbler, hence the name of the blog. Colin who is our team leader offered it to me to be ringed and processed. How good is that. I was overwhelmed.

The Barred Warbler with a happy face. I am looking forward to finding out if any have been caught in the past this far north.

A couple of extra pictures. The bird was aged as a juvenile. The criteria is the eye colour and lack of yellow in the iris and the lack of bars on the flanks and breast.

Female Wheatear, We caught three of these today

Shortly after lunch we stopped ringing and decided to have a drive around and went to Vadso, the island Vadsoya is a small reserve which we waked around for a couple of hours. There were plenty of waders which kept us interested for a while. On the way back to the car the big Reindeer above seemed to show some interest to us. We decided a quick exit was necessary.

A little more information, the church above is at Nesseby and our main ringing site on the water front is to the right. We however ring to the left as well.

Finally I thought I would show you exactly where we are in North Norway. Nesseby in the arctic is one of the most northerly towns in the country. About 30 kilometres to the east is the Russian border.

Tomorrow is another day, weather looks good although a cold start again.

Please also look at the Norwegion blog

Saturday, 23 August 2014

It doesn't get better than today

It has been a cold day today because of the chilly light winds. Temperatures never rose above double figures. We were on site and ready to go at 03.45am. I was vert tired because it was rumoured there might be an Aurora

Out of interest we have two major areas where we set the nets. One area has 4 x 60ft's in a line and perpendicular to that 2 x 60 nets. The scrub in this area is suitable for 9ft high nets. The other area is in a scrub area just back from the sea shore and here we have 3 shelf 6ft nets set in a square and a further 4 nets in pairs at random to the square in various suitable places.

It was again a slow start put picked up after a couple of hours. In terms of numbers and species today it was even better than yesterday as it  included some waders from the extra nets we put up on the beach

The total birds caught and processed were:

Willow Warbler 36, Sedge Warbler 3, Common Redpoll 62, Fieldfare 1, Redwing 19, Meadow Pipit 60, Bluethroat 54, Reed Bunting 36, Red Throated Pipit 1, Brambling 10, Greenfinch 5, Great Tit 6, Harrow Sparrow 11, Little Stint 1, White Wagtail 1, Lapland Bunting 17, Redstart 1, Dunlin 9, Ring Plover 3, Wheater 2, Chiffchaff 2, Willow tit 1, Arctic Redpoll 3, and Dunnock 3. 347 birds in total of 24 species.

The White Wagtail was a first for me again. Can't believe how many new birds I have had in such a short time. Such a smart bird with a shield of black on its breast.

Ring plover I have ringed before. This is a juvenile and we caught 3 today all youngsters. We put up some nets on the beach today and besides the Ring Plover we also caught Dunlin and Little Stint.

Sedge warblers are stunning. After ringing and processing this bird it just sat on my fingers for a few minutes before flying away. Sara managed to take this picture for me sitting on my hand.

This is a Redstart, the second bird in the last two days. It was aged as a 3 male. There were male characteristics starting to show through this years moult indicating it would be a male.

The pictures above and below are Redpoll, what are we doing? We are looking at correlating phenotype with genotypes (Is it what it looks like on the tin).

Tomorrows another day. The difference may be trying to catch more waders without scarfing the our mist net results of today.

Further information from our Norwegian blog