Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Birding Molde and Ona Island

Molde is a unique town on the west coast of Norway. It is situated on the south side of a mountain slope with the Moldefjord stretching out before it. Beyond the fjord to the south is a panoramic vista of mountains, with a total of 222 mountain peaks, of which 88 reach higher than 1000 meters above sea level. Quite a sight!

A view over Molde at sunrise, with some of the mountain peaks in the background.

With a few days to spare, my friend Eirik took me birding around Molde and the small island of Ona, some 20 km from the mainland. Ona was our first target and we headed out early the first day to catch the two ferries to the island before sunrise. Standing on a high point on the island, Eirik was calling out the names of bird species he could hear or see, as they flew over us. Interestingly, birds seem to ‘drop’ onto the island under certain weather conditions, such as overcast skies. Hence a number of interesting bird species can be found on such offshore islands. 

Early morning on Ona, with grassland and shoreline habitats.

The usual species such as Blackbird, Blue Tit, Brambling, Redpoll, Common Starling, Redwing, Chaffinch, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare and others were heard above us. There were many others, but I lost track! A Grey-headed Woodpecker was heard calling nearby, which we later got to see, perched on a pole. As the sun appeared, we started our walk through the various habitats on the island, such as grasslands, gardens, beaches and small patches of woodland. The gardens produced some of the most exciting species for me, such as Lesser Whitethroat and a female Blackcap, which I did not get to see well on Røst in September. Wrens, Robins, Blackbirds, House Sparrows and various tit species were frequently found in the gardens.  Snipes were flushed from the moist grasslands, while Curlews, Grey Herons, and Cormorants were found along the rocky shores. Unfortunately we did not see any unusual pipits, with Meadow Pipit being the only species around.

Walking the beaches of Ona in search of larks and pipits.
At midday we decided to take the next ferry to Sandøy, situated between Ona and the mainland. From the ferry we saw a Common Guillemot, Razorbills and Red-breasted Mergansers on the water, while a Peregrine Falcon flew by. At Sandøy we saw many of the species seen earlier on Ona, but also a host of additional species. Along the shoreline were White-tailed Eagles, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers, Mallards, Teals and Pintails, with a male Pintail in striking breeding plumage. Further out to sea were Kittiwakes and a Great Northern Diver. A pair of Whooper Swans flew overhead, which was a surprise as they are normally found on the mainland. 

A typical garden on Ona. A White's Thrush was seen here some years ago!
The grasslands held flocks of Twite, while a few Skylarks and Snipes were also flushed. A new Norwegian tick for me was a flock of Barnacle Geese on the agricultural fields, which also supported a small flock of Golden Plovers. A Merlin also made an appearance, perching for some time on a small tree before taking off again. The day on Ona and Sandøy was a great refresher of the excitement that comes with island birding, even though we did not get to see any major island rarities. I later heard that Ona was rather quite this year with regards to rare birds, compared to the other islands such as Røst, Vaerøy and Utsira. Nevertheless, I look forward to returning to Norway someday to indulge in some more extended island birding!  

Choose your colour. Some houses on Ona Island.

We also birded areas further north of Molde, visiting many of Eirik’s old birding haunts. Some of the highlights included my first Smew and Common Scoter. A Common Greenshank on the exposed tidal flats was an exciting find as I had not yet seen this species on the trip. Species I had not seen for a while which made an appearance during the day included Black-headed Gull, Waxwing, Little Stint, and Ringed Plover. Flocks of Snow Buntings and the odd Lapland Longspur (seen only in flight) and Skylark were found along the grasslands bordering the beaches. 
A Great Spotted Woodpecker, the most easily seen woodpecker in the area

We made a couple of concerted efforts to find a White-backed Woodpecker, a rather sought-after species. However, owing to the large home ranges that birds occupy, it is not any easy one to find. Great Spotted Woodpecker was usually the first and only woodpecker to show itself. A search in the forests above Molde delivered another woodpecker species though, which I was delighted to see, namely Black Woodpecker. This is a seriously impressive bird, with its pitch-black plumage and red crown, not to mention its good size. The species is somewhat of a regional rarity in the area, so we were lucky to see it. Though it did not hang around long, my impression of the bird is still very clear!

Birding some lakes north of Molde; the white specks are Whooper Swans!

Besides birding, we also took a drive along the famous Atlantic Ocean Road between Molde and Kristiansund, an 8 km drive that zigzags between islands and 12 connecting bridges, with sea on both sides. It was chosen as “Norway’s construction of the century” in 2005 and was awarded the status as a National Tourist Route because of the bridge and road architecture and the magnificent coastline that it traverses. So if you ever find yourself in the area, take it for a ride! 

The Atlantic Ocean Road on Norway's west coast

After a few great days in the Molde Area, it was time to head south again. Thanks to Eirik’s hospitality, I managed to see quite a number of new lifers as well as add several new Norwegian ticks to my trip bird list. My next major destination was Bergen in southern Norway, with a couple of stops along the way of course…

No comments:

Post a Comment