Trip Report: Norway, June 10 - August 23, 1996

Steve Hampton, Dept. of Ag. and Resource Economics, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA;

This brief narrative is followed by a list of all species.

(permission for reproduction granted to all)

I had the pleasure of spending the summer in Norway, mostly in the small college town of Ås, about 30 km s-se of Oslo. With my non-birding spouse, 5 year old, and 2 year old, we did some travelling: to Hardangervidda, Dovrefjell, Andelsnes, many of the fjords from Romsdalsfjord south to Stavanger, Jæren, Lista, and Mandal. Birding was often limited by family responsibilities (i.e. hardcore birding opportunities were very limited).

Nevertheless, birding in Norway is a delight. The scenery varies from picturesque to breathtaking, native habitat is easily found, and it's a free country -- that is to say, under Norwegian law any person is allowed to walk and even camp on anyone's property (except near homes or on cultivated fields), making about 96% of the land accessible to birders (in contrast to my home county in California, where "no trespassing" sign on private land and liability concerns on public land make about 10% of the land accessible).

I set a modest goal of 100 species, and ended up with 109. Prior to the trip, I made a list of common birds, and found 71 out of 96; a list of uncommon birds, finding 23 of 66; and birds of the fjords or mountains, finding 15 of 46. About 30% were lifers, but most felt like lifers, as I hadn't been to Europe since I was 12 years old (yes I kept a bird list then). I watched 25 of the species feeding young, which was a special thrill. Special thanks to many on Fugle-Nett who gave great and often detailed advice: Morten Gunther, Per Ole Syvertsen, Geir Andersen, Alf Tore Mjørs, Bjorn Einar Sakseid, Torklid Jensen, and Christian Steel. (Morten, feel free to forward this to Fugle-nett; I've lost the address.)

My birding may be broken down into three catagories: birding around Ås, the trip to Hardangervidda and Eidfjord, and the trip to Andelsnes and all the fjords south to Lista on the southern tip of the country.

Highlights from Ås:

June was great, with so many birds singing all day (which lasts about 20 hours!). I devoted myself to local birding and learning the calls and songs. Common yard birds were: PIED WAGTAIL, FIELDFARE, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, MAGPIE (very different in voice and behavior from our Yellow-billed Magpies in Calif.), GREAT TIT, BLUE TIT, WILLOW WARBLER, BLACK-HEADED GULL, WOODPIGEON, LAPWING. Things got quieter by mid-July, and the woodland passerines became tougher to find (and I suspect some of this had to do with the immense number of free-roaming house cats, surely the biggest blight on the Norwegian landscape). I developed a "yard list" of 76 species, including a HEN HARRIER on June 10 (unusual time of year), a HAWFINCH feeding a fledgling (there are fewer than 10 local breeding records), a SAND MARTIN (BANK SWALLOW) amidst other swallows on June 20, and a pair of fly-over RAVENS on July 4. By July WOOD SANDPIPERS became regular at the southern tip of Årungen lake, where I birded the most. RED-BACKED SHRIKES and WHINCHATS also made this a nice place. In mid-August, the birds began moving around and migrants caused my yard list to swell again. Highlights included all three wagtails (PIED, YELLOW, and GRAY WAGTAILS) in the same square meter, with an OSPREY overhead. An immature GREAT CORMORANT, many gorgeous CURLEWS, and a migrating BLUETHROAT (with some blue on the throat, finally) also added to the local birdlife. My biggest local miss was Thrush-Nightingale, which had stopped singing before I had a chance to look for them.

Highlights from Hardangervidda and Eidfjord:

On the way across the gorgeous countryside, I added REDSTART, BRAMBLING, and WILLOW TIT to my list, as well as MERLIN apparently defending a nest at Skurdalen south of Geilo. Hardangervidda is a high mountain plateau, essentially with an arctic tundra ecosystem (complete with lemmings, caribou, and arctic foxes). Seeing many GREATER GOLDEN PLOVERS and singing LAPLAND LONGSPURS on the breeding grounds was a wonderful experience here. Other birds including many NORTHERN WHEATEARS, MEADOW PIPITS, a DUNLIN, a SHORE (HORNED) LARK (endangered here), and a GREATER SCAUP. I didn't make it all the way to the marshes at Langvassmyra, but I had a good time nevertheless. I also missed Snow Buntings and Dotterels, which tend to stick to the highest peaks. Down at Ovre-Eidfjord (one of Norway's hundreds of valleys which rival Yosemite any day), a pair of REDPOLLS captivated me, while a downy COMMON GULL chick on a nest enthralled my kids. A DIPPER (the national bird) just below Voringfossen (the largest waterfall) made that hike even more memorable -- I can still vividly recall the sun glistening on the black mist-soaked cliffs and the fern forest at the base of the falls, giving it all a Na Pali Coast (Kauaii) type of feel.

Highlights from the Big Trip around Much of Southern Norway:


The first stop here was the old refuge of Fokstumyra. I strategically put my 5 year old on the trail ahead of me, and he did exactly what he was supposed to do, flush a GREAT SNIPE. I got fairly good brief looks at this rare and local species. Also present were numerous BLUETHROATS (though I never saw a male with a blue throat), many REDPOLLS, WILLOW WARBLERS, and a YELLOW WAGTAIL. A COMMON CRANE called from over a rise, but I never saw it. I didn't do the full loop trail, so missed other breeding waders. A hike out of Kongsvoll up to the highlands produced 7 MUSK OXEN, along with a GREATER GOLDEN PLOVER and a WHEATEAR on the tundra, and many BRAMBLINGS in the birch forest below.


At my wife's urging, I sacrificed going to the famous seabird colony at Runde in order to visit Trollstigen (the Troll's Road), Geirangerfjord, and the glacier at Briksdal (which was awesome). The Norsk gods smiled upon me, and I was compensated with a fully adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLE soaring along with the boat for about 10 minutes through Geirangerfjord, a nice complement to one of the world's most beautiful places. A fly-by BLACK GUILLEMOT on Sognefjord was the only other addition to the trip list in the fjords.

The Southern Coast

A visit to the islands in Bknfjord n of Stavanger allowed great opportunities to study GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS. There was once some discussion on BirdChat as to how to separate them from Western Gulls (though the two are unlikely to meet). I found the GBBGs bigger with a slower hawk-like wingbeat, a much darker mantle (often flecked with white at the secondary and primary bases), surprisingly paler greyer pink legs, and the obvious different bill shape and head shape. Next stop was the sand dune coast of Jæren, where I saw about 6 COMMON REDSHANKS, one SPOTTED REDSHANK (mostly in breeding plumage), one RINGED PLOVER, a SHAG, a flight of SHELDUCKS, and a flight of CURLEWS, calling beautifully. My wife's long-lost relatives live in Lyngdal, which is a bit like having family in Pt. Reyes Station, CA, as it's a 20 minute drive out to Lista, Norway's premier rarity hotspot (near the southern-most tip of the country). My big morning at Lista produced a PEREGRINE FALCON, a GREENSHANK, a GREY (BLACK-BELLIED) PLOVER, two SNIPES, GREAT CORMORANTS, and more COMMON REDSHANKS. Rough weather prevented me from finding some rarities that were reported the same day (great skua, hobby, red-footed falcon). Back near Lyngdal, a got a brief unsatisfying look at a TEMMINCK'S STINT and a GREEN WOODPECKER. In general I found shorebirds hard to come by, and a trip to Kurefjordan and other seemingly good habitats failed to add any to my list (I missed Little Stint entirely). Do these birds overfly Norway? (I'm used to the flocks of hundreds of peeps in Calif). I enjoyed gull watching, especially the LESSER BLACK-BACKS. Are these intermedius or fuscus?

Trip List

Here is a list of birds seen, in the order I saw them, date and location of first sighting, how often I saw them in the Ås area ("local" means I saw them regularly but only at one spot), and if I observed them tending young.

                                                             tending young
                           FIRST SIGHTING           status   ** in Ås
      species              date     location        in Ås    * elsewhere
1     COMMON GULL          June 10   Fornebu        daily       *
2     BLACK-HEADED GULL    June 10   Fornebu        daily       *
3     BLACKBIRD            June 10   s of Oslo      often
4     CANADA GOOSE         June 10   s of Oslo      Aug 17      *
5     MAGPIE               June 10   Ås             daily       **
6     FIELDFARE            June 10   Ås             daily       **
7     CHAFFINCH            June 11   Ås             daily       **
8     PIED WAGTAIL         June 11   Ås             daily       **
9     MALLARD              June 11   Ås             daily       **
10    WOODPIGEON           June 11   Ås             daily
11    SWIFT                June 11   Ås             daily       *
12    HOODED CROW          June 11   Ås             daily
13    HOUSE MARTIN         June 11   Ås             daily       **
14    WILLOW WARBLER       June 12   Ås             daily       **
15    GREAT TIT            June 12   Ås             daily       **
16    BLUE TIT             June 12   Ås             daily       **
17    NUTHATCH             June 12   Ås             often
18    STARLING             June 12   Ås             daily
19    JACKDAW              June 12   Ås             daily
20    TREE SPARROW         June 12   Ås             daily
21    HOUSE SPARROW        June 12   Ås             daily       **
22    GREENFINCH           June 12   Ås             daily       **
23    GREY HERON           June 12   Ås             daily
24    HEN HARRIER          June 15   Ås             6/15
25    GARDEN WARBLER       June      Ås             often
26    SWALLOW              June      Ås             daily
27    SONG THRUSH          June      Ås             few times
28    ROBIN                June      Ås             often       **
29    TREECREEPER          June      Ås             few times
30    PIED FLYCATCHER      June      Ås             daily       **
31    YELLOWHAMMER         June      Ås             often       **
32    MARSH TIT            June      Ås             often
33    SKYLARK              June      Ås             daily
34    LAPWING              June      Ås             often
35    STOCK DOVE           June      Ås             few times
36    LESSER B-B GULL      June      Ås             daily
37    BUZZARD              June      Ås             few times
38    WHINCHAT             June      n.of Årungen   local       **
39    LINNET               June      n.of Årungen   local       **
40    MUTE SWAN            June      Årungen        local       **
41    REED BUNTING         June      Årungen        local       **
42    COMMON TERN          June      Årungen        local       **
43    GOLDENEYE            June      Årungen        few times
44    MOORHEN              June      Årungen        local
45    SAND MARTIN          June      Årungen        June 2
46    HERRING GULL         June      Årungen        few times
47    SPOTTED FLYCATCHER   June      n.of Årungen   often       **
48    REDWING              June      n.of Årungen   few times
49    GREAT-SP.WOODPECKER  June      Ås             few times
50    GOLDFINCH            June      Ås             often       **
51    GREAT B-B GULL       June      s. of Oslo
52    HAWFINCH             June      e.of Årungen   June 2      **
53    SISKIN               June      e.of Årungen   few times
54    JAY                  June      e.of Årungen   June 25
55    BLACKCAP             June      n.of Ås        few times
56    COLLARED DOVE        June      Ås             few times
57    TEAL                 June      Årungen        few tims
58    GOLDCREST            June      Ås             few times
59    WHITETHROAT          June      Ås             local
60    COAL TIT             June      s.of Ås        June 2
61    SPARROWHAWK          July 1    w.of Ås        July 1
62    COOT                 July 2    Årungen        local
63    RAVEN                July 4    Ås             July 4
64    COMMON SANDPIPER     July 4    Årungen        local
65    RED-BACKED SHRIKE    July 4    Årungen        few times
66    WOOD SANDPIPER       July 4    Årungen        few times
67    GRAYLAG GOOSE        July 7    Oslo
68    GREAT CR. GREBE      July 9    Ostenjovenett, Ås  local
69    MARSH WARBLER        July 9    Ostenjovenett, Ås  local
70    TUFTED DUCK          July 9    Ostenjovenett, Ås  few times
71    REDSTART             July 11   s.of Skurdalen
72    MERLIN               July 11   Skurdalen
73    WILLOW TIT           July 12   Skurdalen
74    BRAMBLING            July 12   Skurdalen
75    MEADOW PIPIT         July 12   Hardanger-vidda
76    SHORE LARK           July 12   Hardanger-vidda
77    GR.GOLDEN PLOVER     July 12   Hardanger-vidda
78    GREATER SCAUP        July 12   Hardanger-vidda
79    NO. WHEATEAR         July 12   Hardanger-vidda
80    LAPLAND LONGSPUR     July 12   Hardanger-vidda
81    DUNLIN               July 12   Hardanger-vidda
82    COMMON REDPOLL       July 13   Øvre Eidfjord
83    DIPPER               July 14   Voringfossen
84    PHEASANT             July 15   Alby, Jeloy
85    OYSTERCATCHER        July 15   Alby, Jeloy
86    RED-BR.MERGANSER     July 15   Alby, Jeloy
87    DUNNOCK              July 21   Ås             local
88    BLUETHROAT           Aug 3     Fokstuamyra    Aug 22
89    YELLOW WAGTAIL       Aug 3     Fokstuamyra    local in Aug
90    GREAT SNIPE          Aug 3     Fokstuamyra
91    COMMON CRANE         Aug 3     Fokstuamyra
92    WHITE-TAILED EAGLE   Aug 6     Geirangerfjord
93    COMMON REDSHANK      Aug 9     Jæren
94    SPOTTED REDSHANK     Aug 9     Jæren
95    RINGED PLOVER        Aug 9     Jæren
96    SHAG                 Aug 9     Jæren
97    SHELDUCK             Aug 9     Jæren
98    CURLEW               Aug 9     Jæren          local in Aug
99    PEREGRINE FALCON     Aug 10    Lista
100   GREENSHANK           Aug 10    Lista
101   COMMON EIDER         Aug 10    Lista                    *
102   GREAT CORMORANT      Aug 10    Lista          local in Aug
103   GREY PLOVER          Aug 10    Lista
104   COMMON SNIPE         Aug 10    Lista          Aug 22
105   TEMMINCK'S STINT     Aug 11    s.of Lyngdal
106   GREEN WOODPECKER     Aug 11    s.of Lyngdal
107   OSPREY               Aug 17    Årungen        Aug 17
108   GREY WAGTAIL         Aug 17    Årungen        Aug 17
109   ROCK PIPIT           Aug 18    Alby, Jeloy

Steve Hampton

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