Red Phalarope

Fish and Chips

Yesterday Ragnar Smith and I checked Svínoy. It gave 4 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 10+ White Wagtails, 1 Dunnock, 2 Sanderlings, a few Dunlins and Sanderlings, but that was pretty much it.

Set and Carina

After using the whole day today at the ”Seamens Day” in Klaksvík with the family eating free Fish and Chips made by English chefs and watching rays, crap and starfish I checked Viðareiði for 15 minutes.

Red Phalarope

And as so many times before there was jackpot. A Red Phalarope was foraging in a small pond. It is only the 7th record since 2002 for the Faroes and only my second ever. Quite a catch.

Red Phalarope

Silas

Suðuroy

Last weekend a music festival was in Klaksvík. In order to escape my wife and I decided to go to Suðuroy. We rented a house in Hvalba, which is one of the best birding sites on the Faroes. Of course most of the time was spent with the family playing games and catching fish – but I did do some birding.

The female Steller’s Eider was still present in Sumba. I am starting to suspect that it is actually present all year round in the same flock of eiders just off the village.

Steller’s Eider

Other birds included Great Cormorant, lots of Redshanks, Dunlins and Sanderlings, 200+ Black-tailed Gowits, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit (1 cy), 5 Barn Swallows (breeding in Hvalba), lots of White Wagtails, a few Chiffchaffs and a 1cy Willow Warbler. So we’re starting to get a real feel of autumn.

Chiffchaff

During sea watch a few Sooty Shearwaters, several Manx’ Shearwaters, Great and Arctic Skuas were seen. Ragnar Smith also saw a Great Shearwater before I arrived – to my knowledge the first Great Shearwater seen from land.

Oystercatcher and a chick

Silas

Pelagic birding in Faroese waters

Fulmars feeding on fish waste

I’ve had the wish for a long time. In fact since I was working on a trawler back in 2003 and saw gazillions of Fulmars along with Sooty and Great Shearwaters and other good stuff between Iceland and the Faroes and east of Ireland. A wish to do more pelagic birding. For well, it is almost uncharted territory. What can be seen? When? Under what circumstances?

Well, the Faroese list of pelagic birds is already interesting. Great Shearwaters have been reported regularly west of the Faroes. Scopoli’s Shearwater has been shot back in the days and another Cory’s type has been seen from land. A single Fea’s/Zino’s has been photographed off the island of Lítla Dímun and South Polar Skua has been shot in 1889. Sooty Shearwater is regular as are the breeding European and Leach’s Storm-petrels and Manx’ Shearwaters. So there is potential for good seabirds and I’ve had a wish to do more about sea watching than I have before.

So on 1st August I called the captain Gullak on a small trawler called Olga Maria just to find about where he was going and for how long. After explaining my desire to watch birds he replied: ”We leave in 3 hours”. For how many days he didn’t know, but not more than 10. So what to do? With the support of my wife I made the arrangements necessary and 3 hours later we left for an area 20 nautic miles west of Mykines – the westernmost island on the Faroes.

European Storm-petrel

On the way out to the fishing field I saw no less than 59 European Storm-petrels, 2 Leach’s Storm-petrels, 200+ Manx’ Shearwaters and a Pomarine Skua. No wonder that expectations where high – and luckily seasickness has never been an issue for me.

European Storm-petrels

The sound of the engine next to the cabin took some time to get used to, so I didn’t sleep long. So the following day I woke up at 4:00 and went up on the deck. And right away the first European Storm-petrels were seen. As the sun rose and we got the first catch (haddock, cod, saith etc) I was amazed. 210 storm-petrels passed the boat pr hour – most of them just giving short glimpses for seconds before disappearing behind the waves. When dragging the net we sailed with a speed of about 7 km pr hour and we virtually never stopped. This meant that unlike pelagic birding boat trips with chum and everything where the boats wait for the birds we just passed the birds. So the first day I just tried to photograph as many storm-petrels as possible, but most pictures were blurred or too distant – and it was actually quite unsatisfying. But the day gave about 1500 European Storm-petrels, only one Manx’ Shearwater, 3 Great Skuas, 6 Sooty Shearwaters, 2 Razorbills, 1 Guillemot, 200 Puffins, 100 Gannets and about 4.000 Fulmars.

Sooty Shearwater

 

Sooty Shearwater

 

Sooty Shearwater

The next day still had a good breeze, but as we were heading north numbers of Storm-petrels were ”only” 130 pr hour. But it stead of photographing I just watched and watched. And all of a sudden a Storm-petrel with hanging feet and greyish greater coverts passed the boat. But is was too fast and I lost it while picking up the camera.

Blue Fulmar

The number of Fulmars had increased to about 10.000. They were feeding on the guts of the fish that were caught. 300-400 meters behind the ship European Storm-petrels were feeding of the Fulmars left-overs, but they were nothing more that small spots – and those that I could identify were all European.

Gannet

 

Gannet

But around noon a Wilson’s Storm-petrel passed only 30 meters in front of the boat. I got supreme views including dark underwing, greyish greater coverts and feet projecting the tail. But again I didn’t manage to get proper photos.

Interestingly I didn’t see a single Manx’ Shearwater or Leach’s Storm-petrel following the boat at any time. But Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Great and Arctic Skuas, European Storm-petrels and Sooty Shearwaters were all benefitting from following the boat.

Guillemots

 

Razorbills

 

Puffin

The following day was sunny and there was hardly a breeze. This resulted in much fewer birds and only a few hundred European Storm-petrels were seen during the day. But chicks of Razorbill, Puffin and Guillemot made my day!

Gannet

 

Yesterday was also very calm but there were more birds present again. And finally a Wilson’s Storm-petrel passed the boat again and I managed to get some blurry images. But dark underwing, pale/greyish greater coverts, extensive white rump and long feet were seen before the pictures were obtained.

Wilson’s Storm-petrel

 

Wilson’s Storm-petrel

Far away I saw large Shearwaters flying by on three occasions, and I am confident that at least on of them was a Great Shearwater.

Great Skua

 

Fulmar

All in all I spent 7 days at sea and it was simply amazing. Stormy weather would probably be even better, but I am more than happy with the result. And thanks to the crew onboard Olga Maria. Great food and great company!

Sunset at sea

Silas

Two-barred Crossbill

Two-barred Crossbill – photo by Søren Sørensen

Birding is still on summer mode. But the first migrants are slowly turning up. Today I found a female Pintail, a Tufted Duck and two Common Scoters at Funningsfirði. And a few days ago two Great Cormorants were present at Morkranes. They extint on the Faroes more than a century ago, but with an increase in sightings recently maybe they are about to come back?

Great Cormorant

 

Great Cormorant

I’ve seen four Common Crossbills during the last few days and a male was found moribund at Toftir. But the highlight has been a female Two-barred Crossbill seen by Søren Sørensen in the plantation in Tórshavn 3 days ago. It is the 13th record for the Faroes, and all the records come from the period between late June and August (except for a juvenile lingering till late September).

Two-barred Crossbill – photo by Søren Sørensen

Søren also saw a putative American Black Duck at Kirkjubø, but sufficient views could not be obtained. So maybe I should look for it eventually.

Silas

Skúvoy census

Høvdin – a bird cliff to the north

Last week members of the Museum on Natural History and the Faroese Birding Society joined forces to make a census on Skúvoy. The whole island is a designated ramsar area and one of the few places on the Faroes where birds have been counted on a regular basis.

Bird cliff

Skuvoy has a lot of breeding birds. The largest Manx Shearwater colony on the Faroes, lots of Puffins, Guillemots and European Storm-petrels. But maybe the most ”stunning” feature are the Great Skuas. It has even got its latin name after the island as the species was first described to science from a specimen caught on the island.

Great Skua

We did a two-day census, where we walked all across the island except for the most steep parts. Our focus was on the birds nesting inland and not on sea birds as others do that.

Black Gullimot

On the first evening the weather was great, so I used some time watching the flocks of Manx Shearwaters off the eastern coast. They were just everywhere. At least 5.000 birds were counted and there could easily be many more birds further ashore.

Manx Shearwaters

Counting Great Skua colonies isn’t easy as the birds are aggressive. So the tactics were to sit down and counting pairs on the ground. But we also had to pass through the colonies and twice I got a Great Skua in my face. They can be fierce thouse bonxie-boxers. And now imagine 63 birds flying over your heard…

Great Skua

It was a true pleasure to see all the Puffins carrying fish to their chicks. It looks like the best breeding season for years. And actually most birds seem to do well.

Puffin

 

Puffin landing

 

Puffins

 

Puffin

The only exception seems to be the Arctic Skuas. As Great Skuas have greatly increased lately they seem to chase away their smaller cousins.

Arctic Skua

The two greatest surprises were to find breeding Dunlins and Red-necked Phalaropes. We’ve know Dunlins to breed there, but this years several pairs were seen. And Red-necked Phalaropes, which seemed to decline for years, have finally had some good years. And now two pairs seem to breed on small ponds on the island.

Red-necked Phalarope

So all in all a very promising year for most breeding birds on the Faroes.

Summer birding

Sunset at 23:00

Spring has turned into summer. This means that the thrill of spring is over. But with all the far eastern migrants around us maybe something good is yet to turn up before the real birding season kicks off in mid august. Oriental Plovers and Swifts would be welcome additions to the Faroese list.

Since my last post Rodmund managed to find the second Curlew Sandpiper for the Faroes on Sandoy – a nice red adult bird. And visiting birder Frank Engelen reported a male Common Rosefinch in Tórshavn s few days ago.

Slavonian Grebe

Otherwise it has mostly been summer birding, which equals counting and photographing breeding birds in good light. During the last few weeks I’ve encountered a nice Slavonian Grebe in Funningsfjørður along with a Tufted Duck.

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwits are also returning as a flock of 15 birds were in Kirkjubø last Sunday.

Some Red-throated Divers gave amazing views a few days ago. They seem to be doing quite well this year.

Red-throated Diver

 

Red-throated Diver

 

Red-throated Diver

Numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes also seems to increase and this summer they have been seen in locations, where they were not formerly known to breed.

Red-necked Phalarope

 

Red-necked Phalarope

But maybe there are a few good birds out there. I’ve found Melodious and Subalpine Warbler in July, so maybe there is a gem somewhere out there waiting to be found.

Whimbrel

Silas

American Wigeon

Common Rosefinch

3 days ago I checked Svínoy. It was rather quiet and rainy, so birding was somewhat difficult. But apart for a few Chiffs here and some Chaffs there joined by a few Willow Warblers there wansn’t much around. But as so many times before after 13:00 new birds started arriving and soon I found a red Common Rosefinch in a garden. But nothing else of notice turned up.

Carrion Crow – scary much?

 

Carrion Crow

Two days ago I did a little birding on Eysturoy and Streymoy. A Common Pochard and a Carrion Crow were at Toftavatn and a Gadwall was at Eiði.

American Wigeon

But the highlight turned out to be a male American Wigeon in Kollafirði. Only my second self-found American Wigeon. Always a nice bird to see.

American Wigeon

 

American Wigeon, female Wigeon (?) and Oystercatcher

Silas