Birdlife Norway's annual meeting was located in Hedmark county last weekend. Hedmark is bordering to Sweden, and is the woodland county number one in Norway. The woods holds many woodpeckers, where both the black and great spotted are common. The two green, the lesser spotted and the three-toed are also present, but in lower numbers. Woodpeckers are essential for many owls, such as Tengmalm's and Hawk Owls. For me, living in western Norway, a visit to the deep forests of eastern Norway was an exciting adventure, enjoying owls and woodpeckers wherever we went! Chances to see the two big grey owls at breeding site was in close range, and I was hopeful.
On our second day in Hedmark we were guided to an active Great Grey Owl nest. When watching the female from a safe distance, we became aware of the male. He was calmly watching us with semi-open eyes. The 60 (!) of us did our photography and watching, and left the site apparently without disturbing the birds. A nicely selected nest for the showcase. Thanks to the Hedmark branch of Birdlife Norway for a one of a kind experience!
The breeding population of both of the big grey owls have increased during the last years in Norway. 2011 gave many breeding records of the Great Grey Owl. 25-30 pairs was recorded then. 2012 wasn't very good, but 2013 was pretty OK, and the forecast from the experienced owlers predicted another good year in 2014. And so it has turned out to be!
The Ural Owl is probably the most rare breeding bird in Norway. During the last 20 years the breeding population has consited of 1-2 pairs. A huge effort has been made to put out nesting boxes for the species in a gateway from the Swedish breeding grounds nearby, into Norway. Sweden has more than 2000 breeding pairs of Ural Owl! The project has worked. The last three years a dozen pairs have bred in Norway.
On Sunday I had made an arrangement to take part in checking some platforms and nesting boxes for the big owls. Lots of platforms for Great Grey Owls were put out out last autumn, and we checked a dozen of them during the day. On two sites there were breeding owls. During the afternoon we also visited a regular site (with a nesting box) for Ural Owl. The female was present, warming four chicks and an egg. She was already ringed, and has bred at this site previously. Listen to one of her alarm calls below.
It was no less than an epic weekend in the woods of Hedmark. We also encountered a couple of the smaller owls. Below you can see pictures of both Hawk and Tengmalm's Owl at breeding sites.
Other non woodpecker or owl highlights included Cranes, Parrot Crossbills
November 2018: Fieldwork in three IBA's in Nepal