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

Flycatchers

 

Red-breasted Flycatcher

I’ve been out of the country for a week. And yes. End of May is not a good time to leave. Just like T. May should not leave the EU…

Pied Flycatcher

Just before leaving I managed to see my first Spotted and Pied Flycatchers along with Garden Warblers and more common stuff.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Yesterday I returned from Denmark and managed to find a male Red-brested Flycatcher today. The first male for the Faroes and the 18th record on total. A very nice bird in deed.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

 

Red-breasted Flycatcher

 

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Other news include a Great White Egret in Hvalba last week, but otherwise it has been quiet. But a summer plumage Great Northern Diver is outside my kitchen window.

Great Northern Diver

 

Silas

Visitor and migrants

David Lindo aka the Urban Birder

The last few days have been quite exciting. Two days ago the head of the Atlantic Ariways called me. She had two guys who wished to go birding with me. And all of a sudden David Lindo alias the Urban Birder was outside my door. So after showing him my wall of fame (pics of my national firsts) we went birding at Viðareiði.

It was raining a bit, but not too windy. So we managed to see some good birds including a Gadwall, which is my first at Viðareiði. Then we checked Árnafirði, where David found one of those grey Willow Warblers. But the highlight was a splendid male Long-tailed Duck in full summer plumage. Other birds included Common Scoter, Chiffchaff and a brief fly by Yellow Wagtail. Hopefully we’ll see David back on the islands sooner rather than later!

Long-tailed Duck

I checked the place again yesterday, and the Long-tailed Duck was still present and a Lesser Whitethroat was my first of the year.

Lesser Whitethroat

 

Svínoy

Today I checked Svínoy. It was loaded with migrants. There were birds in every garden. Common migrants included 13 Chiffchaffs, 5 Willow Warblers, two Blackcaps, 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Tree Pipits, a stunning 11 Barn Swallows and a Pink-footed Goose.

Barn Swallow and Sand Martin

More scare migrants included a Common Whitethroat, a Sedge Warbler, a summer plumage Slavonian Grebe and two Sand Martins. The settings were just spot on for a mega… But it didn’t materialize.

Sedge Warbler

 

Common Whitethroat

 

Common Snipe

But a wonderful day on Svínoy with loads of excitement with both migrants and breeding birds including several Great and Arctic Skuas and 500+ Arctic Terns – and not to forget coffee and biscuits at Símons place (a local resident).

Arctic Tern with a double catch

Silas

Crazy week

Photo: Dánjal Petur Højgaard

It has been a crazy week for migrants. On 2. May Dánjal Petur Højgaard caught a Scops Owl in his fathers garage in Rituvík. It is the 3rd record for the Faroes. Sadly it could not be relocated after being released.

On the same day a male Hen Harrier was photographed at Funningur, Eysturoy. It is the 6th record for the Faroes.

Rodmund á Kelduni and I decided to check Suðuroy during the weekend. Iceland had reported Black-winged Stilt, Avocet and Pallid Harriers. So the hopes were high. But we soon found out how the Icelanders get their birds…

Icelandic Coast Guard guiding the rarities to Iceland

Suðuroy did deliver good birds. Some of the best were Pied Wagtail, 10 Chiffchaffs, 5 Willow Warblers, Brambling, Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Common Whitethroat, 2 Reed Warblers, Short-eared Owl etc.

Pied Wagtail

Common Whitethroat

Carrion Crow

Razorbill

Short-eared Owl

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

But the star birds proved to be the long-staying Steller’s Eider, which for once gave supreme views.

Steller’s Eider

Steller’s Eider

Rodmund

The other star bird was a Twite. It is the first record for 30 years. It has been breeding on the Faroes earlier, but no birds have been seen since 1987. So it was nice finally to get one.

Twite

Twite

Silas

Birding Tenerife

Barbery Partridge

My wife and I decided to celebrate our 12½ years wedding anniversary on Tenerife in February. The island has a great combination of possibilities for relaxing, hiking, shopping, dining and birding. Because of the fact that there were not huge numbers of lifers for me out there I could probably find them without using too much time – and finding them could be combined with nice hikes or boat rides.

The birds I most wanted to see were: Barbary Partridge, Cory’s Shearwater, Macronesian Shearwater, Laurel Pigeon, Bolle’s Pigeon, Berthelot’s Pipit, Tenerife Robin, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Tenerife Goldcrest, Tenerife Blue Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Blue Chaffinch and Canary.

Barbary Partridge

We went hiking in Masca on the western side of the island. Right upon arrival in the village we flushed a Barbary Partridge and later we saw two more, but they were distant. In Masca there is a trail to the ocean, which takes about 2½ hours to walk. As we watched the tail two British tourists passed us. I asked them if they had seen any partridges down the path. Much to my surprise they had had amazing views of two “chickens” about 30 minutes down the track. They even suggested that the chickens were looking for food, so they gave us a fig-bar, so we could try to feed them. We decided to go down the path towards the ocean with the fig-bar. On the way down we saw Speckled Warbler, Blackcap and Raven.

Barbery Partridge

 

Barbery Partridge

When we came about 40 minutes down we reached a place that hikers obviously use for resting. There we stopped for a while and suddenly a Barbary Partridge was looking at us. It had obviously learned to eat left-overs from the hikers. We tried to feed the bird some fig-bar and it worked. Suddenly another bird showed up at gave amazing views. What a stunning bird.

Raven

Sea Watching

I didn’t do much sea watching from land as it would be boring for my wife. But I managed to persuade her to come on a whale safari off Los Cristianos. It was 20 Euros pr person for two hours. There weren’t many birds about but the species were awesome. 1 Barolo Shearwater, 3 Cory’s Shearwater, 1 Manx Shearwater, 1 Gannet, Sandwich Terns and Yellow-legged Gulls. Sadly the Barolo Shearwater was quite far away, so I only managed very crappy photos.

Cory’s Shearwater

 

Manx Shearwater

We also saw about 20 Short-finned Pilot Whales and 5 Bottlenose Dolphins.

Short-finned Pilot Whales

Laurel Pigeon and Bolle’s Pigeon

One morning I woke up early and headed towards Erjos. At the 16 km marker along the main road the track turns west. If you follow this track you will end up in a valley with undisturbed laurel forest. Well, kinda undisturbed. As I arrived workers had already started to work on improving the road in the forest with concrete and rocks. Quite soon you reach a view-point, where pigeons can be seen. But I continued past the view-point and the workers. After a kilometer or so I escaped their nosy work. Almost at the same time I stated flushing Bolle’s Pigeons along the track. So I started to walk very slowly and look for pigeons in the canopy. But my first well-watched Bolle’s Piegon was actually just foraging on the track itself. But I didn’t see it for long. As soon as I started to fumble with the camera it went off. They are pretty shy after all. The hard thing is to see the birds before the fly away. But soon I got lucky and spotted a Bolle’s Pigeon exposed in the canopy. It didn’t seem to mind me, so I got to watch it for as long as I wanted. But eventually I had to continue on the track, which brought me so close that the bird flew off. After a while I started meeting hikers coming from the opposite site and from that on I didn’t flush more pigeons. All in all I saw 13 Bolle’s Pigeons in Erjos during the morning walk. I also heard the wing beat for some pigeons that I didn’t see. All in all Erjos is really great – even if there were no birds the place itself is breath-taking.

Bolle’s Pigeon

 

Bolle’s Pigeon

In Erjos I also found good numbers of Canary Coldcrests – the only place I saw the birds.

I didn’t see any Laurel Pigeons in Erjos, so I tried La Grimonas – a small view-point along T5 about 30 min drive west of Puerto de la Cruz. From the time I stepped out of the car I saw Laurel Pigeons every 3-5 minutes. During half an hour I even had birds sitting fully exposed twice. One of them for 5 minutes at least.

Laurel Pigeon

 

Laurel Pigeon

Berthelot’s Pipit

This Meadow Pipitish Pipit is common around the island. I saw it mostly in more dry areas. At Punta de la Rasca it was very common for instance, where the local race of Southern Grey Shrike is also common. It is a fine pipit, that likes to walk rather than fly away. It isn’t shy at all and with a bit of patience it can be observed at a very close distance.

Berthelot’s Pipit

 

Southern Grey Shrike

Tenerife Robin

I must admit that when I first saw a Tenerife Robin at Erjos I was quite surprised by the obvious difference from the continental birds. It was almost like a Red-breasted Flycatcher male with its grey head very red chest. It was actually a very lovely bird, but somewhat more shy than the continental birds. I only saw it in Erjos during our trip.

Tenerife Robin

 

Tenerife Robin

Canary Islands Chiffchaff

The Canary Islands Chiffchaff is very common in all kinds of vegetation from city centers to rather dry areas at high altitude.

Canarian Chiffchaff

It is a funny little phyllo that made me think of Dusky Warbler due to the colouration, rather pale legs and prominent supercilium.

Canarian Chiffchaff

At Las Lajas I connected with Blue Chaffinch, Canaries, Tenerife Blue Tits, the local subspecies of Great Spotted Woodpecker. This picnic area is awesome for birding as the birds are used to people and tend to give supreme views. At Las Lajas Plain Swifts were also common.

Blue Chaffinch

 

Blue Chaffinch

 

Great Spotted Woodpecker

 

Plain Swift

 

Plain Swift

 

Tenerife Blue Tit

 

Tenerife Blue Tit

 

Canary

 

Chaffinch – local subspecies

 

Yellow-legged Gul (atlantic)

All the species observed on out trip can be seen below.

Barbary Partridge

Cory’s Shearwater

Macronesian Shearwater

Manx Shearwater

Gannett

Little Egret

Grey Heron

Osprey

Common Buzzard

Sparrowhawk

Kestrel

Barbery Falcon

Stone Curlew

Whimbrel

Black-headed Gull

Yellow-legged Gull

Sandwich Tern

Feral Dove

Laurel Pigeon

Bolle’s Pigeon

Collared Dove

Plain Swift

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Berthelot’s Pipit

Grey Wagtail

Tenerife Robin

Blackbird

Black so

Sardinian Warbler

Spectacled Warbler

Canary Islands Chiffchaff

Tenerife Goldcrest

Tenerife Blue Tit

Southern Grey Shrike

Raven

Spanish Sparrow

Chaffinch

Blue Chaffinch

Canary