Thursday, 7 August 2014

Norway in July: Walking with Bluethroats, swimming with Goldeneye

We spent 10 days in mid July in Norway on a family holiday. Our first five nights were spent at 1000 meters altitude on the edge of the Rondane National Park at Brekkeseter in Høvringen. We were just above the treeline and sometimes just above the clouds:

Our cabin had a grass roof and Rondane National Park was our back garden:

Garden wildlife included Mountain Hares...

... the abundant Willow Warblers...

... the always shy Ring Ouzels...

... and big noisy Fieldfares. These birds are abundant around Cuddesdon in winter and it was a treat to see them on their Norwegian breeding grounds:

Further afield, out on the fjell, were proper mountain birds. Dotterel, Ptarmigan and Red-necked Phalaropes can all be found in these hills. But not if you are accompanied by a 2 year old and a 4 year old. We made do with the local Willow Grouse...

... and the ubiquitous Bluethroats. This fabulous species was common on the fjell and around Brekkeseter. We saw males:


... and lots of freshly fledged juveniles. Superficially similar to juvenile Robin, although they already have the orange tail bases of the adults:

The scenery was stunning, this is Tverrgjelet, a Great Snipe breeding area:


Golden Plover were common local breeders:

The nearest hill held a breeding pair of Rough-legged Buzzards. I photographed this female bird at 10pm, it is illuminated by the orange tones of the setting sun:

Some other wildlife: These Lapland Ringlet butterflies were abundant around Brekkeseter:

Yes, it did survive.

One evening my wife came across a Norwegian Lemming standing it's ground on the path. Using her phone, she captured this brilliant video of it shrieking madly before it scuttled off: 

Guess which of these children is NOT Norwegian?

After a fabulous five days in the mountains we headed south. We stopped at this motorway service station on the E6 some 90 minutes south of Rondane:

Note the grass covered roof on the filling station, the perfectly clean lake for children to swim in. There are tennis courts just visible in the right of the picture and a beach volley ball court behind them. Clacket Lane Services it is not. Some 5 hours later we arrived our friend's place, on Lake Lyseren, 30 minutes south-east of Oslo. It was a picture:

On our first evening we sat on the balcony and watched the sun slide into the lake as the clouds turned pink. And then, in this scene of utter tranquility, something astounding happened. A fireball exploded low in the northern sky. A dazzlingly bright streak of white light, which appeared to explode before vanishing. Brighter and stronger than any meteor I have ever seen, even with the sun still on the horizon. It looked something like this:

Having recovered from the shock of witnessing a truly rare astronomical event, and one in such scenery, we settle into life by the lake. I indulge my inner Wild Swimmer and head out into the lake a few times every day:

And out in the lake I bump into more wildlife. The local breeding ducks are Goldeneye, which by mid July are in an unfamiliar (to me) eclipse plumage. You could be forgiven for thinking that these were two female Goldeneye:

But when they take flight the extra white patch on the secondary coverts of the left hand bird reveals that this is an eclipse male. Compare wing patterns with the female, on the right:

Juvenile Goldeneye are very plain brown birds:

If I swam up quietly I could approach Goldeneye to within 10 meters or so, but occasionally they would pop up next to me, as close as 5 meters, a fantastic experience. In the centre of the lake was a family of these beauties, Red-throated Divers:

The butterflies here were more familiar, this is a Peacock:

This a Silver-washed Fritillery:

Norway is a fabulous country with some very special wildlife, we had an idyllic time. My Bluethroat encounters in particular, will long remain with me:

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