A business trip arranged at short notice to Trondeim gave me this opportunity for a follow-up to my earlier brief experiences of northern birding in Sweden in 2002. Having previously headed east from Trondheim into Sweden, this time I thought I would head south to the Dovrefjell and Rondane mountain areas of central Norway. This was prompted by two interesting sounding sites - the famous Fokstumyra reserve near Dombas, and also the report by Phil Benstead from Birding World a few years back. In a short note, he described the road to Doralseter in the nearby Rondane National Park - and mentioned Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay, both of which would be lifers for me. To see if I found them - read on!
This was a hastily arranged visit, but I was able to use the Internet to find reasonably priced accommodation for the two nights of my birding trip without too much problem. I found searching for "tourist information" more effective at finding low-cost places than use of "hotel" or "accommodation" - both of which give the glossy commercial websites who specialise in very expensive hotels.
Avis provided a 2-day rental of a hire car, which I picked up in the centre of Trondheim on Friday afternoon after my business commitment and returned on Sunday evening to the airport. Cost for two days and 3 hours (extra hours not charged) was a not unreasonable c. GBP120, including additional CDW insurance. The Dovrefjell region is some 3 hrs by road from Trondheim airport - beware heavy traffic heading south from Trondheim along the E6 on a Friday afternoon.
The weather was remarkably good - no rain at all and even warm sun at times. And of course at this time of year, very light indeed all night. Biting insects were remarkable by their absence - unlike the Swedish trip two years ago.
Despite the relatively late date, there was a reasonable amount of bird song, although many species had young.
Road to Doralseter
This is a dirt track which goes some 12 km from route 27 up into the Rondane national park, through a range of habitats from undisturbed pine forest, through birch to dwarf birch and then bare tundra. Lichen covers the ground almost throughout. The start of this track is some 12 km south of Folldal, and the turn is clearly marked. There is a barrier shorly after the turn off which was unmanned when I was there - a fee of NOK30 is expected to proceed - well worth it! After about 3 km from the main road, there is a metal yellow & green painted gate which was open. Just before this, by the warnings signs, there is a little turn off to the left - a good place to leave the car. This gate is the location recommended by Phil Benstead.
Arriving at around 10:00, I spent the next hour and a half searching the forest for my target species of Siberian Tit and Jay, in surprisingly warm, still conditions. No joy, but there was some compensation in the form of a Golden Eagle seen over the rounded hill above the road. The other side of the road (south side - sloping down from the road) seemed better for small birds, and there were Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Siskin and Lesser Whitethroat. Also at least one pair of tits, but these were very grey and definitely the northern race of Willow Tit, not Siberian, which made me wonder... At this point in the forest, pine was just begining to give way to birch, but I was concentrating on the pine area.
I then decided on a change of scene and drove on further up the road. It soon emerged out of the forest and passed a lake on the right. At a second lake on the right, I stopped again for a quick scan, and was delighted to see a number of Red-necked Phalaropes, "spinning" close in to the near shore. Very tame, and allowed close approach with 'scope and camera. There were at least 6 including some juv. On the far shore there were a further 4 or so. Also by this lake were a number of Grey-headed Wagtails and northern Redpoll (flammea).
Just a bit further on, I came across a family of Willow Grouse crossing the road. At the end of the road were some buildings and a mountain hut, in a very scenic location indeed - mountains all around. On the return, I had another family of Willow Grouse crossing the road, this time quite close to the road end.
I then returned to the yellow & green gate for another attack on my target species. An initial wander down below the road, and then back up and along produced only another Willow Tit, in very warm conditions. But on my return to the car (parked at the end of the side-turn - about 100m from the main track), I was amazed to latch onto a group of Siberian Jays!! Wow! Success at last! Had amazing views - they were very tame, but I didn't manage to get any proper photos. It was now around 16:00 and bird activity was clearly begining to pick up again. There was also a Crossbill in the area, and another Willow Tit appeared. The Siberian Jays then moved off through the pine forest and I attempted to follow with scope & camera. It was a frustrating and fruitless chase, but I then heard yet more tit calls, and decided to leave the scope and follow this up. Very soon I came across a definite pair of brown-headed Siberian Tits - quite different from the Willow Tits and moving quite rapidly from tree to tree. So both target species in the space of about half an hour. Excellent!
This wetland reserve is beside the main E6, a few km north of Dombas and made a good contrast to the forest/tundra habitat of the Doralseter Road (above). The parking area is close to the main road, so there is a bit of a walk even to reach the start of the main 7km long trail through the reserve. There was no need for a permit, and no sign of a wardens house.
I first called in briefly in the early evening after the Doralseter road (see above), and managed distant views of a Crane - 'scoped from a slightly raised area by the farm's cow shed to the right of the gate for the approach road/track.
Having spent the night in Dombas, I was at the reserve reasonably early the next morning for a longer visit, and had the place to myself for the duration of my 3 hr stay. The main trail is some 7 km long from the entrance at the railway station - at least 8 km from the parking area by the main road. I didnt have time to walk all this, and only went as far as point 2 on the map. Even before crossing the railway, I was delighted to find a few Bluethroat - many more were easily visible when on the reserve side of the railway (a few singing occasionally) - around no. 3 on the map. I counted at least 10 before stopping! Also where the path went under the railway, I heard Snipe drumming.
Further on, the observation tower provides general views over the reserve, but was not particularly well situated - all the lakes were distant, and there was nothing much in the foreground either. Nevertheless, there were better views of another Crane - around location 2 on the map. I then approached this bird along the boardwalk, trying to get reasonable photos, but the results were spoilt by shimmer. There were however some Common Hawker dragonflies around (thanks to dragonfly expert Richard Lewington for the ID on pics I sent him.
It was then time to leave. Not a great variety of species here; no sign of Lapland Bunting for example, which should have been present. Maybe this site is better earlier in the season.
For a more extended version of this report, complete with digiscope pics, maps and accommodation details see Stephen Burch's Birding Website