North Sea - We`ve just returned from a trip to Norway aboard the MV Balmoral and whilst not specifically a birding trip, as always, there were one or two bits and pieces of interest along the way. The ship sailed from Dover and the first day out in the North Sea amongst the gas and oil rigs proved to be the most productive with Gannets, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Fulmars regularly noted, plus two Puffins, two Sooty Shearwaters and a Bonxie.
However, much of the birding interest that first day was provided by a `flock` of raptors that accompanied the ship comprising five Kestrels and two Sparrowhawks. At times they followed in the ships wake like a flock of petrels, occasionally swooping down just above the waves to pick off insects, presumably blown off the superstructure; on one occasion I noticed a butterfly being taken.
But during the afternoon we were visited by a small fall of passerines (several each of Willow Warbler, White Wagtail, Siskin and singles of Grey Wagtail and Wheatear) after which the raptors moved aboard and created havoc chasing their prey about the deck fixtures and fittings and in between the sun-bathing guests! I saw a Kestrel kill and eat a White Wagtail and a Willow Warbler, and once the passerines were finished a female Sparrowhawk was reported to have killed and ate a Kestrel.
Day two at sea was deadly dull apart from a few of the aforementioned common seabirds.
Norwegian Fjords - We then spent five days in and out of the fjords stopping off at various places and going ashore to marvel at spectacular snow-capped mountains, alpine plateaus and meadows, waterfalls, rivers and glaciers. All very nice, but mostly birdless with a few Siskins,White Wagtails and Hooded Crows the only obvious species along the valley bottoms. The only summer migrants seen were a handful of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Swallows. At two locations Dippers of the dark-bellied race showed well in river rapids and Crested Tits were present amongst tit flocks.
The mountain lakes were devoid of birds, although a few Eiders, Common Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers were noted at the seaward end of the fjords, plus Dunlins, Golden Plovers and Whimbrel. Most of the gulls were Common, Lesser and Great Black-backed and the largest concentration of Hooded Crows was around the harbour in Bergen; where much to Mrs PT`s delight (a life long Man City fan) we managed to watch the Manchester derby in a sports bar, surrounded by shirt-wearing Norwegian Man Utd fans, a surreal experience indeed!
North Sea - The return sea crossing to Dover was largely uneventful except for the surprise appearance of a spanking adult Sabines Gull that crossed the stern and proved some compensation for six hours of seawatching. The only other noteworthy, on the final morning approaching Dover, was what I initially thought to be a petrel following the ship that eventually morphed into a small bat!