Autumn 2021

A windy autumn with unsettled weather

Autumn has turned into winter and I have returned to Mongolia after spending a little more than a year back home on the Faroe Islands due to covid-19. If you wish to continue reading about my birding adventures you can go to my blog birdingmongolia.wordpress.com

But how was the autumn birding on the Faroe Islands? This I will blog about this time. I have never been able to spend as much time in the field as I have done this autumn since my wife and kids had already returned to Mongolia. But apart from myself I don’t think anyone went out birding on a regular basis in order to look for rarities and I have no knowledge of any visiting birders, who came this autumn to look for migrants either. So I pretty much had to cover the entire country myself – which obviously is impossible though some others did some sporadic birding of course.

While Iceland had stunning numbers of American warblers in early autumn, I only managed to find 3 Pectoral Sandpipers and a single Semipalmated Sandpiper from America. Some good American birds must have visited the islands, but I just didn’t manage to find any of them. If only there were more birders around.

Pectoral Sandpiper

The dominant wind direction during autumn was between northwest and southwest, with very few days of easterlies. This meant that the numbers of eastern vagrants were low – and the weather windy and unsettled. If we take the Yellow-browed Warblers as an example I see around 100-150 during autumn on average. This autumn I only found 15. So it is 10% or so from my normal numbers. In general numbers were just low and only once in late October we had a notable arrival of eastern birds – mostly Redwings and Blackbirds, but also Siberian Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, a few Barred Warblers and a Citrine Wagtail. There was also a small arrival of three Little Egrets and a single Cattle Egret (third for the Faroes) in late October.

Yellow-browed Warbler

A juvenile Western Osprey arrived in October at Saksun, where is was really efficient in catching trout. It was still present in early November. Interesting to see if it attempt to winter of the Faroes.

Western Osprey

Other rarities or scarcities during the autumn include the third Greenish Warbler for the Faroes, second Wilson’s Storm-petrel, Little Grebe, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, a few Rosy Starlings, three Ring-necked Ducks, Little Bunting and Little Stint, Common Coot and a few Hawfinches.

Wilsin´s Storm-petrel – second for the Faroes

Greenish Warbler – third record for the Faroes

My personal highlight was obviously the male Snowy Owl in mid October, which seems to return regularly to the area around Halgafelstindur.

All in all this autumn was much below average when it comes to numbers of birds present. Normally there come periods of continual easterly winds at least a few times each autumn, which fill the gardens with birds. This autumn did not have any such arrival except for the one incident in late October, which still was too little too late.

Male Snowy Owl

But still I met my personal target of finding two new national firsts a year (when I am home), as I found both Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and Eurasian Stone-curlew in late spring. And adding Snowy Owl and Wilson’s Storm-petrel to the equation the result is pretty sweet.

Silas Olofson

The Snowy Owl and I

Male Snowy Owl

To be honest I have anticipated this blog for many years now. The day had to come eventually. Even if it required a private plane to Point Barrow in Alaska at age 97 I´d do it.

The story started back in 1999 and developed from there. At first I was soaked up in self-pity, but after a while it became too tragic not to laugh at – the story of the Snowy Owl and I.

I started birding very early on. At age ten I was hooked and twitched my first Pale-bellied Brents in my hometown of Fuglafjørður. I read all the field guides about birds that I could get my hands on and one of the birds that stood out was the Snowy Owl. Big and white with staring yellow eyes. A dream bird for anyone to see.

I made my first attempt to twitch a Snowy Owl aged 15 in 1999. A bird had been present in northern Denmark for weeks. I got a ride with some twitchers and we hit the road. As we reached the area we scanned with the scopes and found a white spot on a pole far away. Too far to tell what it was. We drove closer but a thunder-shower hit us and when we reached the pole, there was no white thing on top. Further search proved fruitless.

The second attempt was of a bird in the Hansted Reserve in Denmark. Again I got to drive with some twitchers. We arrived, scanned the area for hours, but then started to do alternative birding. We didn´t see the owl, but when I got home I learned that it was seen 20 minutes after we left – mocked by a Gyr Falcon.

I went back to the Faroes in vacation in 2000. During the week I was gone two Snowy Owls were just 7 kilometers away from the school I was attending. They both left the day before I returned.

I really wanted to see Snowy Owls. So I went to Lapland with some other birders in 2001. We checked breeding sites way off the grid. We say plenty of awesome birds, but we didn´t see any Snowy Owls – they was apparently breeding at another mountain peak that year we were told by a ranger as we left.

In 2006 we hard our first daughter. When my wife went into labor we rushed to the hospital. As the birth got close I got a message about a Snowy Owl 30 minutes drive away. After careful consideration I remained at the hospital. The Snowy Owl only stayed for that one day…

At a family birthday on the Faroes in 2009 my brother in law and I talked about football. After a while he said: “Oh, by the way, did you hear of the Snowy Owl at Múli?”. He pulled out his phone and showed me pictures that a friend of his had taken just 10 minutes drive from my home. It had been present the entire previous day. I rushed out the door with permission from my wife – but didn´t see any Snowy Owl. It was gone.

Then I moved to Mongolia in 2018. But I didn´t find any Snowy Owls there – but got the Great Grey Owl. Due to covid-19 we came to the Faroes in August 2020. In September and November a Snowy Owl was seen on Eysturoy. I hiked and hiked in the remote area, but didn´t find anything. Then I got a call from people hunting Hares. They had seen a beautiful Snowy Owl sitting on a specific rock. I hiked to the place. I found the rock, I found its droppings. But no bird.

My oldest daughter and I – I stayed for her birth rather than twitching a Snowy Owl.

Yesterday I got a call from a shepherd. He had just seen a Snowy Owl close to the Halgafelstindur mountain. I jumped into the car with my oldest daughter. Blizzards, rain and long hiking distance didn´t keep us from going. We hiked, got soaked and pressed on. And then it was there. The white dot in the distance. The Snowy Owl.

Male Snowy Owl

We obtained good views from a distance and then I tried to get some photos. It turned out that the adult male Snowy Owl was very approachable and allowed me to get great views. What a stunning bird! Beyond words simply. This is only the 5th record for the Faroes in 32 years!

Not always easy to see

I am still not quite sure if I was dreaming, but it seems like I´ve finally seen a Snowy Owl 22 years after my first attempt to see the species. I´d did see it. I really did. No need for Point Barrow now.

Silas

Prime time

Prime time in autumn means windy days, when water defies gravity

When writing the last blog post I was at sea. While being out Yann Kolbeinsson warned me of yanks to come as a very promising low pressure was approaching. And even before getting back from the trip yanks turned up in Iceland. Soon Iceland gained pace and booked six or so American Warblers and Scotland also got a fair share of Americans.

As soon as I got home I packed my bag and headed to Suðuroy. My wife and kids are already back in Mongolia, so I am quite a free bird when it comes to birding. Suðuroy is the southernmost island on the Faroese archipelago. It is rather isolated and birds from both east and west can reach the island without being blocked from any direction. The island also has a history of hosting American birds like Tennessee Warbler, Buff-bellied Pipit and Rough-legged Hawk just to mention a few.

Barred Warbler

I spent four days on the island and as American birds kept being reported from Iceland excitement grew. The prospects of finding something where certainly there. And I did find some good birds. Barred Warbler, Common Rosefinch, a beautiful adult Rosy Starling and good numbers of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and a few Lesser Whitethroats.

Rosy Starling

But the yanks avoided me. Then a question came to mind. Should I be disappointed? I actually used quite some time thinking about. A Danish birder and biologist called Morten D.D. Hansen said on a TV-show that birding is like chronic disappointment with a few highlights that make all the disappointment go away.

Well, in a way he is right. Most birders dream of a Black-throated Grey Warbler, Black-tailed Gull or Grey´s Grasshopper Warbler. Finding a mega or a new to WP would really be something. But this kind of result-oriented birding does in deed carry a lot of disappointment. Because, well, we rarely find one of those birds. It requires a lot of luck, patience and skills. It is easier to fuel your car in the UK than finding a new to WP – and that says something. But my birding on Suðuroy was awesome. It was pure excitement. Always the prospect of something cool. I really enjoyed the birding as I didn’t use a result-oriented but an experience-oriented approach. And frankly if birding on the Faroes this should be the approach – and doing it long enough will yield results as well!

Common Rosefinch

And maybe I did find a yank after all. On the beach in Sandvik I had a small calidris together with Dunlins, Sanderlings and Common Ringed Plovers. I took a few distant photos to document the bird. But as I climbed down the hill towards the beach the flock took off and to my utter horror they headed out of the bay not to be seen again. The distant pictures seem to suggest Semipalmated Sandpiper…

Small stint

Small stint

After returning from Suðuroy I have done my normal birding on the Northern Islands and Eysturoy. On Svínoy I found a cracking Greenish Warbler, which showed amazingly well. It is the third record for the Faroes. I also found the first a few years back.

Greenish Warbler

Greenish Warbler

Svínoy also had an estimated 20 Tree Sparrows. It seems like the species is gaining a foothold on the Faroes after being gone for more than a century and re-establishing itself during the last years.

Other birds that I have found during the last few days include two Barred Warblers, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian and Blyth´s Reed Warbler, several Blackcaps, Garden Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats, good numbers of Brambling and Chaffinch, a few Chiffchaffs and several Willow Warblers.

Blyth´s Reed Warbler

Eurasian Reed Warbler
Subtristis-type Chiffchaff

Finally the first Yellow-browed Warbler was in Àrnafirði on the 1st of October, five were on Svínoy on the 2nd, and two on Viðareiði on the 3rd. So a total of eight in three days. Not bad. Prime time for autumn birding has kicked in. Let us see what October has to offer.

Yellow-browed Warbler

Silas

Another pelagic trip

Fulmar

In mid September I headed out with the long-liner Núpur to do by-catch research. As we reached fishing grounds the weather was nice and the sea was calm – perfect conditions when being at sea.

It always takes some time before the seabirds arrive in numbers. The fishing needs to start. But being on a fishing vessel is like a dream for anyone interested in pelagic birding. The fish are cleansed at sea, so liver and other intestines are being thrown overboard continuously. So basically the boat is ”chumming” 24/7. This attracts seabirds – lots of seabirds.

Up to 8000 and estimated fulmars followed the ships including several dark morph. The fulmars are by far the most common birds around any fishing vessel in Faroese waters and I expect that the explosion in the numbers of fulmars during the last 100 years is mainly due to ships like this one discarding loads of offal.

Fulmar

European Storm-petrels are also following the ship constantly. A day maximum on this trip was an estimated 1000 birds. And I counted over 200 at the same time. Most of the time they stay at a distance of 100 or more meters from the boat, but every now and then single birds gets closer.

European Storm-petrel

With the amounts of European Storm-petrels around it is hard work to check them, but it does pay off. On the first day of fishing I found a Wilson´s Storm-petrel, which was close enough to document. And the following day I saw a Wilson´s Storm-petrel twice. It could of course be the same bird.

Wilson´s Storm-petrel

There is one accepted record of Wilson´s Storm-petrel from the Faroes. A bird that I found in August 2017 while being on a trawler.

Wilson´s Storm-petrel

Up to 15 Sooty Shearwaters have been around the boat. They are chased around by the fulmars, but their ability to dive for longer periods makes them able to eat sinking scraps, that are out of reach for fulmars (though they can dive too, but not nearly as well as the Sooty Shearwaters).

Sooty Shearwater shearing the water

Sooty Shearwater

We started our trip at rather deep seas some 30 NM east of Fugloy fishing for Greenland Halibut. There we were lucky to have some Sei Whales around. One came as close as 300 meters from the boat. Quite an experience to get this close to the third-largest whale in the world. They were seen during several days and a few Mink Whales were also observed. And talking about whales… Just to make it clear I am against the hunt for White-sided Dolphins on the Faroe Islands.

Sei Whale

As the days passed weather worsened and during the last four days we had wind speed reaching 40 m/s with huge waves. Fishing continued of course, but birding became more difficult. That being said I got some great opportunities photographing birds in the waves.

Gannets fighting for a Haddock

Gannet resurfacing

Birds seen during the trip with daily maximum mentioned:

Great Skua 7

Pomarine Skua 1

Long-tailed Skua 1

Arctic Skua 1

Herring Gull 1

Black-headed Gull 2

Northern Shoveler 2

Common Teal 1

Leach´s Storm-petrel 1

European Storm-petrel 1000

Wilson´s Storm-petrel 1

Sooty Shearwater 15

Manx Shearwater 1

Fulmar 8000

Meadow Pipit 2

White Wagtail 1

Northern Wheatear 1

Dunlin 2

Whimbrel 1

Guillemot 50

Puffin 7

Razorbill 30

Gannet 50

Kittiwake 15

Pink-footed Goose 27

Grey Heron 1

One evening I even got to see the green flash at sunset!

Silas

Early autumn kick-off

Wood Warbler

September has started and the birding peak of the year is approaching fast. Passerines are moving south in large numbers. Species like White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits can now be seen and hear everywhere, Arctic Terns have mostly departed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are much reduced in numbers.

August and early September are mostly quiet when it comes to rarer birds. The first Garden and Barred Warblers have been booked though. Willow and Wood Warblers have also been around. But stable, sunny weather did not produce any massive arrivals from the east so far.

Barred Warbler

A Mandarin Duck at Eiði was a slight surprise though.

Mandarin Duck

Shorebirds are around in good numbers. Sanderlings, Dunlins, Common Redshanks and Knots are all moving south.

Two days ago the remnants of hurricane Ida hit the Faroes. And as I checked Viðareiði (8 minutes drive from home) I found a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper

So yesterday I decided to do more proper birding to the north and west. At Eiði I found another Pectoral Sandpiper along with all the common stuff.

At Sørvágur I also found a Pectoral Sandpiper. So three records in two days. That is quite remarkable since there were only 8 records before this. Now there are 11 records of which I have found 8 myself. Admittedly finding Pec Sands gets a bit trivial, but I do have to break the rules of the Gyr Crakes – ´cause otherwise I´d be out of pools.

Thou shall always bird – The Gyr Crakes

But well, the autumn is still to peak. So maybe… just maybe… I might find the first American Golden Plover for the Faroes. After all I did find Eurasian Stone-curlew and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler this year… so maybe.

Other news include a few lingering Rose-coloured Starlings making this years total to reach 15 birds. And the Ross´s Geese seen for a single day in spring where excepted by the Danish Rarities Committee and placed in the oh-so-lovely category D, which contains all birds that are either escapes or genuine vagrants. I guess we need one with a Canadian ring or an arrow from some Canadian First Generation tribe – like the famous Pfeilstorch. Google it – just for fun. This is how bird migration was detected!

Now let us see what autumn brings.

Silas

Pelagic birding

European Storm-petrel

From May to the start of July I spent about a month on long-line fishing vessels in Faroese waters. I were gathering data for the “Faroe Marine Research Institute” about by-catch. This work provided me with a unique opportunity to do pelagic birding.

The beginning of May was rather cold and windy, but the birding was awesome. Every day provided thousands of Fulmars, hundreds of Gannets and Great Skuas and occasional Manx Shearwaters and Arctic Skuas.

Great Skua and Fulmar

It was interesting to see how the different species fought over discarded scraps. The Gannets were able to dive down and catch fast-sinking items. They also used a trick were they came from below and gapped the food from the bills of the Fulmars.

Gannet

Gannet and Fulmars

The advantage of the Fulmars is the lack of fear. They get really close to the boat. Literally touching the site of it and just wait for the scraps to be flushed overboard. So they are pretty much always the first ones to catch the food. But they fight viciously over the scraps and if the food item is big enough other birds are often able to steal it.

Pale Fulmar

The Great Skuas are some of the strongest birds out there. They use their strength to plunge into the mist of the Fulmars grapping the bites and then flying off. But they fear the Fulmars as they try to vomit on the Great Skuas. Seeing the Fulmars in defense mode was truly amazing.

Fulmar in defense position

Great Skua

A few oddities also turned up as both a Purple Sandpiper and a Barnacle Goose visited the ship.

Barnacle Goose and Great Skua

My personal highlight was the passing of Pomarine Skuas. A few birds passed the boat every day. Nice adults in prime plumage with long tail-extension. On a single day I had 21 birds passing the boat giving supreme photo opportunities.

Pomarine Skua
Pomarine Skua
Pomarine Skua

Pomarine Skuas are rarely recorded on the Faroes and I think this is the first time the species is actually photographed in Faroese waters. But the observations proved that the species migrates north in some numbers west of the Faroes (the same would likely be true east of the Faroes).

A single dark Lesser Black-backed Gull was likely a ssp. intermedius, which to my knowledge has never been confirmed on the Faroes.

Dark Lesser Black-backed Gull

A second trip started in June and ended early July. Fulmars, Great Skuas, Gannets were now joined by European Storm-petrels (ESP). In May I didn´t see a single Storm-petrel, but now I had totals up to 250 per hour passing the boat. In windy conditions they even came very close providing some great photo opportunities.

European Storm-petrel

A single Leach´s Storm-petrel also passed the boat, but it was distant. I did get a crappy photo though.

A few Pomarine Skuas still passed the boat, but all were 3cy. Finally a few Long-tailed Skuas also passed the boat though they only hung around for seconds or minutes. All of them turned out to be 3cy-birds. Probably non-breeding birds roaming the seas.

Long-tailed Skua
Long-tailed Skua

The trip offered two genuine surprises. The first was a Greater Scaup passing the boat. Not an expected species off-shore.

The biggest surprise proved to be a Black Guillemot that passed the boat 40 nautical miles east of Fugloy, which is the easternmost island of the Faroes. It showed a very white underwing and the white patch on the inner part of the upper wing had white extending out of the outer wing making this a Black Guillemot of the subspecies mandtii from the arctic. Black stripes in the white wing-patch made me age it as a 1. summer. If accepted it will be the third Mandt´s Black Guillemot for the Faroes – and my second self-found.

Mandt´s Black Guillemot

Currently I am waiting for the phone to ring in order to head out again on another pelagic trip. Hopefully some nice rarities are out there waiting to be seen!

Gannet

Silas

Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler

Eastern Bonelli´s Warbler

Spring migration was much delayed due to the coldest May on record, but we have had significant late arrivals of migrants during the first two weeks on June. On the morning of the 8th I found a skulky Marsh Warbler at Viðareiði along with several more common migrants. That was a promise of more to come so I went birding with 10 year old Elias Lützen, who had the day off from school.

Marsh Warbler

We decided to check Millum Fjarða, where a Little Egret had been photographed. Sadly we didn´t see the egret, so we continued to Eiði. The first surprise was a presumed Glaucous x Herring Gull hybrid.

Glaucous x Herring Gull hybrid

Singing Lesser Whitethroat, singing Icterine Warbler and several Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers were also nice. Elias was also very pleased with a summer plumage Slavonian Grebe on the lake.

Icterine Warbler

We then continued to check the most remote gardens. As we arrived I saw a small warbler with purely white belly and brown upper parts. I reacted to it right away, and the colours just shouted ”rarity”. After a while I got reasonable photos, but I was not sure if I was looking at an Iduna or a Phyllo. The plumage was worn and bleached. I posted some pictures on my FB-wall and also got some great personal comments from Yann Kolbeinsson and Magnus Hellström.

The conclusion was that it was a Bonelli´s Warbler. I had heard some chirp-like calls that I thought came from the bushes, where bird was foraging – but I was not entirely sure. I had to drive back home, but the next day I retuned to try to record the call.

Eastern Bonelli´s Warbler

The bird was still present in the same garden, and just 5 minutes after arriving it started calling eagerly with a chirp-like call. I was able to record the call and Magnus made a sonogram of it. He also compared it to the Eastern Bonelli´s Warblers. His comment was this: ”Songram 1 is your bird, 2 is from Greece and 3 from Cyprus. A good match. The frequency and length is spot on, and note that the sound consists of two parallel notes, like a double backslash, like this: \\ ”

Sonogram by Magnus Hellström

This is the first record of Eastern Bonelli´s Warbler for the Faroes. It is a true rarity with only two Shetland reords and two records from Sweden. I don´t know the situation in Denmark or Norway – but surely one of the rarest birds I have found on the Faroes. I was also lucky enough to find the first Western Bonelli´s Warbler for the Faroes a few years back in Kunoy. This will be the 27th national first that I have found (or co-found).

On the way home I found a Black Redstart beside the road at Klaksvík. In is the 12th national record.

Black Redstart

Rosy Starling

During the last few days Rosy Starlings have turned up in numbers. I´ve heard of 11 birds so far and I was lucky enough to see two at Viðareiði the other day.

Silas

The month of May

Pilot Whale

The month of May was cold on the Faroe Islands. Actually the coldest ever measured. Snow and freezing temperatures were its trademarks this year although the last week of the month improved a little bit.

The first ten days of the month I spent on a long-liner west of the Faroes. More on that later. But that meant that I only started to do proper birding on land from the 10th onward.

The first highligh was on the 12th when Jón Aldará found a ssp. thunbergi male Yellow Wagtail at Sandágerð in Tórshavn. As I was only 10 minutes away I twitched the bird. The same period also proved good for hirundines as Sand and House Martins and Barn Swallows showed in good numbers.

Then cold weather again made spring migration slow down, but on the 25th an American Black Duck was present along with a presumed hybrid ABD x Mallard at Søltvík, Sandoy.

On the 26th I a total of 49 species were present on Svínoy including a Wood Sandpiper – the 9th record for the Faroes.

On the 28th I visited Suðuroy. In Sumba I found Spotted Flycatcher, Greater Whitethroat, Rook and a Skylark was singing at Akraberg.

The real highlight was on the 29th though. As I scanned Sumba I found Common, King and Steller´s Eider in the same flock off the coast. That was quite amazing. The Steller´s Eider was a long-staying female, but the King Eider was a nice male.

I saw 74 different species during two days on Suðuroy. That is quite ok taking the wind and weather into consideration. Another highlight was a male Reed Bunting in Sandvík – an uncommon fellow up here.

On the 31th I found another Wood Sandpiper on Viðareiði. On the 1st of June Jóna Ólavsdóttir sent me at video of some small white geese. She was the one who found two Snow Geese in late Apríl. The geese looked spot on for Ross´s Goose, so at 19:45 I drove 1½ hour to Vatnsoyrar, where I managed to connect with the Ross´s Geese.

There is one previous record of Ross´s Goose from the Faroes in 1962, but it was considered an escape. If these birds are accepted it will be the first record for the Faroes.

On June 2nd I went to visit Svínoy along with Jórun Pólsdóttir. Birding was nice with Red-backed Shrike, Garden and Willow Warbler, Greater Whitethroat and Common Swift.

Outside the village I checked a flock og Eurasian Golden Plovers. Two Arctic Skuas flew over the flock and within the flock a large, brown bird with white on the outer wing and slow wing beat took off. I almost panicked as I told Jórun that I just found an Eurasian Stone-curlew – first for the Faroes.

Finally I pulled myself together and obtained some photos as the bird landed. We got a little closer and more pictures were obtained. Then it took off and settled behind some rocks, where it hid.

Eurasian Stone-curlew was not on my top ten over most expected new additions to the Faroese list. But well, always a pleasure to add another bird to the Faroese list. This is the 25th that I have added.

Silas

Spring news

Three ring-necked Ducks at Toftavatn

Looking at my last post I think to my self: What a wonderful world… oh no, rather what a lazy host. Not a single update for months. How come? Well, I frankly don’t know except for me being lazy.

But well, as March turned into April snow melted at last. I spent a week in Denmark in March photographing birds for a new field guide to the birds of the Faroe islands, that I am working on with Jórun Pólsdóttir currently.

As I returned I took a 5 minute detour from the airport to see the third Great Crested Grebe for the Faroes (and my second). It was at the exact same spot as initially located and I got some nice pictures.

Great Crested Grebe

Then on the first of April I found three Ring-necked Ducks at Toftavatn. The lake had been solid ice for a month but after thawing the ducks had made their appearance. It later turned out that they had been seen on the lake earlier by Rodmund.

The month of April turned out to be rather good with two Hornemann´s Arctic Redpolls (none that I saw), a single Hoopoe in Trongsvágur and on the 9th of April I found a nice dark 3cy Kumlien´s Gull at Eiði, which showed really well.

Kumlien´s Gull

On the 13th Jón Aldará found an American Green-winged Teal at Kaldbaksbotn. We had just had a meeting, so I was only 10 minutes away, so I did the detour and obtained great views of the yank.

Amerian Green-wined Teal

A visit to Sandoy along with Kim Frost produced two Tree Sparrows, which are rare here. But they do seem to be establishing themselves here slowly as another two were present of Svínoy on the 24th.

Tree Sparrows at Sandoy

On the 19th a blue and a white morph Snow Goose were present at Vatnsoyrar. I managed to connect with the birds and obtained some great views with awesome local help. The Snow Geese seem to be the same as in Iceland in January this year.

White and blue Snow Goose

Other bird news include the first Whimbrels, Northern Wheatears, White Wagtails and two Pied Wagtails, up to 20 House Martins, a few Barn Martins and Black-tailed Godwits.

During next week I will be on a long-line fishing boat conducting by-catch surveys. And of course I hope to get some time to scout for sea-birds!

Silas

Winter has passed

Tindholmur at sunset

It has been a while since my last blog post. But slowly we Faroese people are waking up after winter hibernation. Or so it feels.

The winter has been cold – in fact the coldest for at least 27 years with snow an ice covering the entire country for weeks and weeks. Most lakes froze over and the scenery was just stunning. As winter days are no longer than five hours from sunrise to sunset the snow brightens up the days significantly and January was easier on people than normal due to the snow and calm weather.

Whooper Swan on ice

The harsh winter provided some good winter birds. Flocks of Snow Buntings came down from the mountains to forage in the villages. They are fairly common here, but tend to stay at high altitudes except when snow forces them down.

Snow Buntings

The winter has also been good for birds like Common and Jack Snipe and Water Rail, but surprisingly no Woodcocks were recorded though most of western Europe saw quite an influx of the species.

Jack Snipe

Common Snipes of different color morphs

On Sandoy I found a likely hybrid Ring-necked x Tufted Duck in January.

Ring-necked x Tufted Duck

Ring-necked x Tufted Duck

At the same location Russian White-fronted Goose was also present with some 250 Greylags.

Russian White-fronted Goose

Two Taiga Bean Geese have been present all winter at Viðareiði and they are still around.

Taiga Bean Goose with Greylag

When it comes to white gulls (Iceland and Glaucous Gull) the winter has been just about average. With my experience from working on trawlers at sea I am convinced that the white gulls have quite a pelagic life style in winter – and they do need some stormy weather to be forced into the harbors.

Gull fest

Early winter saw quite an influx with an estimated 1000 Iceland Gulls present around the country. But as frost and clear skies became dominant most birds disappeared. Now we’re back to normal with rain and wind – and numbers of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls have again increased with a few ssp. kumlieni among them.

On the 18th of February the first Lesser Black-backed Gulls turned up as I found three birds around the islands. It is an early arrival date for the species, but I guess strong south-easterlies combined with a freezing Europe made them come early.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Oystercatchers have also arrived early and five Lapwings arrived at Viðareiði in mid February. So it starts to feel like spring.

Lapwing

The winter highlight is of course the first national record of Pied-billed Grebe. It was present at Eiði until the 29th of January, when the lake froze over. Only small hole remained in the ice on the 3rd of February, and there I found a nice female Ring-necked Duck along with a few Tufted Ducks, Common Goldeneye and Whooper Swans. A single Song Thrush was also present at Eiði.

Pied-billed Grebe

Ring-necked Duck

Song Thrush

Silas