The cold temperatures continue and we awoke to -7C today with blue skies and no wind. A relaxed trip around Maridalen didn’t reveal huge quantities of birds but there was quality there and I had a long overdue patch tick. The lake held a single Guillemot but not the Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters that Halvard H had seen yesterday. Friday’s Pygmy Owl was in the same spot again but this time in sunlight and was clearly looking for mice or shrews and during the half an hour I was watching flew down once into long grass but without catching anything as far as I could see.
The feeding stations had good numbers of the commoner tits including Crested and Willow and while watching some of these I saw a slightly larger bird fly into a tree top and a check with the bins revealed my first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker of the year in Maridalen. This species has been very scarce this year but with luck this female will hang around and get some male company in the spring. Whilst photographing this bird I heard a call that I could hardly believe – “pitchoo”.
It sounded suspiciously like a Marsh Tit but in over 15 years of birding in Maridalen I have never seen the species and the couple of times I have heard this noise before it has turned out to be a Great Tit (which can make a similar noise and means one should never register Marsh Tit on call in areas where you don’t expect the species). I pulled myself away from the ‘pecker and located the bird which indeed looked like a Marsh Tit.
But then again it also looked like a Willow Tit. I find these two species often almost impossible to separate on plumage (although extreme individuals of both species can be striking) and this individual was one that I would without doubt have passed off as (the commoner and expected) Willow Tit if I had not heard it call. I did get to see it very well and took good photos but still could not really tell it was a Marsh just on plumage. Shortly afterwards I saw a number of Willow Tits and also here couldn’t really see the difference to the Marsh Tit.
Here are a few pictures where you can see, yourself, it you can see the differences between Marsh and Willow Tit and I’ll try to have a more detailed post later in the week comparing the two species.