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Tjeldstø

Iceland Gull / Grønlandsmåke
Iceland Gull / Grønlandsmåke
Second year birds have overwintered during the winters of 2006-2007 and 2007-2008

Species List Download Page (Year reports etc.) Pictures of the reserve



Tjeldstø is a wetland nature reserve in the municipaltiy of Øygarden on the islands of Sotra, Hordaland, Norway. It has been a reserve since 1995 and is one of the largest wetland nature reserves in Hordaland. One of the reasons behind its formation was the number of wintering Whooper Swans in the area. It is also an important breeding ground for a number of wildfowl and wader species such as Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank and Greylag Goose. In excess of 180 species have been recorded in the vicinity of the reserve - despite receiving very little coverage for much of the time.

I like to think that Tjeldstø gets its name from one of the most typical birds of the area - the Norwegian for Oystercatcher is "Tjeld" but there may be a lot more to it than that.

There are two birdwatching hides at Tjeldstø, the best one is probably the converted bus stop pictured below. Public transport facilities at their best.....

Bus stop beside Husvatnet, Tjeldstø




The area was used for peat extraction earlier, presumeably many of the pools originated in this way. There are numerous remains of stone  houses that were used for storing and drying the peat, some of which have been restored.

In common with the rest of Øygarden, Tjeldstø does not receive much coverage but still boasts a list which puts Tjeldstø in the top 3 localities in Hordaland.

A number of rarer species have bred in or near the reserve in the past, these include Stonechat  (1990), Red-backed Shrike (1991) and Common Rosefinch sang in June 1994. Other species which have previously bred but now no longer do so include Arctic Skua and Black-headed Gull. 
Tree Sparrow / Pilfink
Tree Sparrow are one of the speciality species at Tjeldstø



The area is dominted by nutrient poor heathland, small pools and marshes. There are two larger lakes, both of which are viewable from the main road, it is from the main road that most birders cover the reserve. However, there is a lot more to Tjeldstø than can be seen from the roads; a series of paths cross the reserve and give access to much more of the area.

Aerial view of Tjeldstø
Aerial View of Tjeldstø (most of the area east of the main road is nature reserve). Picture taken from Google Earth

The areas surrounding the reserve can be at least as productive as the reserve itself. There are a number of small fields which attract migrants and the fjord to the east of the reserve can hold small numbers of various species of seaduck and auks along with Great Cormorant and European Shag. A series of islands (skerries) out in the fjord regularly attract waders such as Purple Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone that do not otherwise use the reserve itself.



Migration is a continous process and there are birds on the move almost all the time. Even in the middle of winter birds escaping from extreme weather in other places can occur - indeed the largest flock of Northern Lapwing turned up unexpectedly in January, along with Jack Snipe and a few species of goose.




Introduction to Tjeldstø in Norwegian

In winter the main birding interest is wildfowl such as the Whooper Swans and other wintering duck. In addition to these there are a number of passerine species that are generally considered migrants in Norway but that overwinter regularly in the relatively mild coastal climate. Waders at this time of year are generally limited to small numbers of Common Snipe and Eurasian Woodcock in the reserve with larger numbers of Purple Sandpiper and occasionally Ruddy Turnstone along the coast.

Whooper Swan numbers are generally at their highest in January.


Whooper Swans on Rotevatnet, Tjeldstø Northern Lapwing
Whooper Swans / Sangsvane - a winter visitor Lapwing /Vipe - a common breeder

Spring arrivals start turning up towards the end of February with Northern Lapwing and Common Starling being among the first to arrive. These are followed in turn by Greylag Goose and other species of wader and wildfowl. By the end of May most species have either nests, or have fledged young by this time. Northern Gannet, Black-legged Kittiwake and auks can be seen heading north up the fjord in early spring - especially during periods of poorer weather.



Wood Sandpiper Eurasian Oystercatcher
Wood Sandpiper / Grønnstilk - a regular passage migrant at Tjeldstø and in Øygarden Eurasian Oystercatcher / Tjeld -  one of the commonest breeding birds at Tjeldstø and in the rest of Øygarden
Pectoral Sandpiper Black-tailed Godwit
Pectoral Sandpiper / Alaskasnipe. The first record for Øygarden and the fourth for Hordaland turned up 22 June 2006. See gallery for more pictures and a video Black-tailed Godwit / Svarthalespove - a rare but regular spring visitor to Tjeldstø



Just as some species are arriving, others are departing, with the Whoopers leaving towards the end of March, although stragglers can be seen later than this.  Common Goldeneye remain until well into April before they finally head off to their breeding grounds.

A few pairs of Eurasian Teal breed in the area but become extremely unobtrusive during the breeding season. It is also possible that Eurasian Wigeon breed, but this has not been confirmed in recent years. It is during the spring that the rarer dabbling duck species (Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Garagany and Gadwall) turn up with the vast majority of records for these species occurring in April and May.  Spring is generally not as good as the autumn for migrant waders, but both Black-tailed Godwit and Little Ringed Plover have turned up at this time.


Waxwing
Cormorant
Waxwing / Sidensvans - a regular autumn migrant  "sinensis" Great Cormorant / Mellomskarv - The second record for Hordaland

Breeding birds include good numbers of Common Gull, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Northern Lapwing and Common Snipe. Both Common and Arctic Tern breed, often together with the gulls - probably a great help when sending off marauding predators, one of the more regular of which is Peregrine. Greylag Goose seem to be increasing the area - these are often seen flying around in wild panic as the White-tailed Eagle fly over the area.

Return passage of waders starts in June, sometimes as early as mid-month, Tjeldstø attracts all of the usual tringa waders - the majority of these birds turn up between mid-July and mid August. 
Tjeldtsø is, however, less popular with calidrids which tend to opt for Herdla (Askøy) on the other side of fjord.  Some of the breeding birds, such as Northern Lapwing and Greylag Goose start leaving towards the end of July. Summer rarities have included Common Crane and Pectoral Sandpiper.


Sedge Warbler
Arctic Tern / Rødnebbterne Sedge Warbler / Sivsanger, a species that seems to be disappearing as a breeding bird at Tjeldstø
Eurasian Curlew Pochard - Taffeland
Eurasian Curlew / Storspove - a common breeder at Tjeldstø Pochard / Taffeland - has occurred several times at Tjeldstø
Grey Plover Bar-tailed Godwit with Ruff
Grey Plover - a rare bird at Tjeldstø in the spring Bar-tailed Godwit with Ruff, both species are regular at Tjeldstø.

As summer progresses into autumn the number and variety of species increases along with the chance of rarities. Typical waders at this time of year are Ruff and European Golden Plover. Oystercatcher numbers drop and after the middle of August this species is a seldom sight at Tjeldstø; in a similar manner the breeding Lapwings also leave, although passage birds continue to be seen in small numbers throughout the autumn. The Eurasian Curlew hang on a little longer, but by the end of September these too have departed with only occasional records during the rest of the autumn and winter.
 
September is the best month for number of species recorded. Eurasian Wigeon numbers peak at this time and flocks of around 20 are not unusual. The majority of Merlin records at Tjeldstø are during the first half of September. By the end of the month both Common and Arctic Terns have all but disappeared.

Common Goldeneye generally return during the first week of October as do one of the few overwintering passerines - Rock Pipit.

September and early autumn rarities have included Citrine Wagtails, Richards Pipit,  Red-throated Pipit, Barred Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler.

Ruff Oystercatcher nest
Ruff / brusfugl Oystercatcher / tjeld nest

Late autumn (mid October end November) is the best time to see divers over the fjord; usually these are seen heading south but are also noted on the sea from time to time. Both Red-throated and Great Northern Divers can be seen but numbers are never high. White-billed Diver has also been recorded from time to time. This is also a good time to see locally rare species such as Common Moorehen. Whooper Swan tend to turn up in the first half of November.

Auks are not normally numberous but good passage of Little Auks can be seen in November, with the best counts coming from this time.

Northern Goshawk and Eurasian Sparrowhawk are at their most regular as they head south together with the majority of their prey - thousands of thrushes can be seen in the fields, especially during periods of southerly winds with rain.  Waxwing are regular passage migrants during the second half of October and into early November, although the majority are seen flying over and relatively few actually use the area. Blackcap too are at their most numerous in late October and November.

Other "good" passerines at this time include Goldfinch and Snow Bunting.

Rarities at this time of year have included Tundra (Bewick's) Swan.

The diagram below shows the number of species I have recorded in the area - largely since July 2003. There a few species that have occurred that are not included below, most notably a Great White Egret in January 2004 which I missed due to being on holiday in Lanzarote.

Number of species recorded per month at Tjeldstø


View of the marshes east of Rotevatnet
View of the marshes east of Rotevatnet, June

 Common Crane
Common Crane beside Rotevatnet, May 2010 - a very scarce migrant in Øygarden




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