May Review

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

The month of May is history. It is gone and it will never return. But how will it be remembered? It has been cold and quite wet and even snowing till at almost the end of the month. And there has been close to no easterly winds.

What does that mean? It means no eastern migrants. As far as I know only two Blackcaps, a few Lesser Whitethroats, less than 100 Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs and not a single Flycatcher, Redstart or Whinchat have been recorded. It is THE worst spring for eastern migrants that I know of when it comes to numbers.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Well, a few eastern birds have been seen including Linnet, Yellow-billed Diver and a single Eastern Subalpine Warbler.

On the other hand the spring has been uttermost surrealistic. The total number of American Duck records has increased with almost 40% (not counting sea ducks) as these have been recorded:

Green-winged Teal 3 males (2nd to 4th record for the Faroes)

Ring-necked Duck (3 males)

American Black Duck (3rd for the Faroes)

American Wigeon (2 males)

A map that shows were the American ducks and the Greater Yellowlegs have been recorded

A map that shows were the American ducks and the Greater Yellowlegs have been recorded

 

American Black Duck

American Black Duck

It is a total of 8 American Ducks in a month. Simply amazing!

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

But the true highlight was a Greater Yellowlegs initially identified as a Lesser Yellowlegs. It is a national first a not a very expected record as both Long-billed Dowie and Lesser Yellowlegs have not been recorded yet.

Lesser Yellowlegs a6

Greater Yellowlegs

White-billed Diver

White-billed Diver

Just to add to the obscurity a 3cy Iceland Gull is just outside the kitchen window – and it is June. Will a Suphur-bellied Black Cuckoo-Beesley’s Lark be next?

Silas

Sandoy

 

Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope

Today Rodmund and I checked Sandoy. We only had a few hours on the island so we had to check the island in a hurry and didn’t have time to look in all the lovely gardens on the island.

Shorebirds were present in good numbers. Dunlins, Common Ringed Plovers and Sanderlings were the most common.

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

But we also saw 3 Black-tailed Godwits and a single Greenshank.

Greenshank

Greenshank

Other birds included several Grey-lag and Barnacle Geese and two Brants, some Teal, Wigeons, Pintails, Shelducks and Tufted Ducks.

Red-necked Phalaropes

Red-necked Phalaropes

But the highlight were 12 Red-necked Phalaropes, that have returned to their breeding grounds on the island. Always an amazing bird to see – and very confiding at that.

Red-necked Phalaropes

Red-necked Phalaropes

Silas

Svínoy strikes again

Chiffchaff

Chiffchaff

The month of May has been terrible when it comes to eastern vagrants. Almost total lack of easterly winds has meant that no flycatchers, redstarts or whinchats have been recorded to my knowledge. Furthermore I’ve only seen a few Lesser Whitethroats, less than 100 Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers and only one single Blackcap and one Bluethroat. It’s almost like Iceland…

Shetland always gets some good birds, but so far they didn’t really reach the Faroes in numbers. Anyways, today I checked our own Fair Isle equivalent Svínoy. If there are eastern birds around it has to be there.

As I arrived I was pleased to see 8 pairs of Golden Plovers, several Whimbrels, Common Snipes and Meadow Pipits.

In the bay there was a Long-tailed Ducks and a few Arctic and Great Skuas were also present.

In the gardens a few Chiffchaffs were present. But after about 2 hours of birding I heard a Sylvia song, that sounded interesting. But as I approached the garden the bird went silent. So after a while I took a rest in front of another garden. After a few minutes a bird flew in and when I got my bins on it it was a superb Subalpine Warbler male! Svínoy strikes again! It is the 7th record for the Faroes.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

The bird turned out to be quite elusive. And of course it’s not easy when you are alone watching birds on an island almost four times the size of Fair Isle.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

The red colour was limited to the chest and the malar stribe being broad means that it is likely an Eastern Subalpine Warbler. Both the call (a harsh teck) and the song were recorded on video.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Silas

 

Suðuroy

Steller's Eider

Steller’s Eider

This weekend Janus and I went to Suðuroy. We also invited Rodmund, but he had to take care of his sheep (I know – it’s the most common excuse for not birding).

We met at the ferry and started birding right away. From the ferry we saw several Great Skuas, a few Arctic Skuas, 1 Pomarine Skua, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills and 6 Manx Shearwaters.

We checked a few lakes before we went to Vágur, where we stayed. We saw Greater Scup, Gadwall and a few Tufted Ducks.

Red Knots and Dunlins

Red Knots and Dunlins

In the morning we started at Sumba. Dunlins, Red Knot and Common Ringed Plovers were present in good numbers. But the best bird was the long-staying Steller’s Eider. A lifer for Janus.

Steller's Eider

Steller’s Eider

 

Steller's Eider

Steller’s Eider

 

Steller's Eider

Steller’s Eider

We then continued further north, but except for Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat and common shorebirds there wasn’t too much to see.

Janus

Janus

At Hvalba we found a Greenshank. A quite good record and the first for 6 years on the Faroes I guess.

Greenshank

Greenshank

We then checked Sumba again were the Steller’s Eider gave supreme views and a male Pied Wagtail was also around.

Pied Wagtail

Pied Wagtail

In the morning we checked Sumba again. A skuly Marsh Warbler gave terrible views, but was heard it call a few time. The Pied Wagtail and the Steller’s Eider were also present.

Marsh Warbler

Marsh Warbler

Above the village we also saw two Carrion Crows, which is a quite rare bird here. Other than that we didn’t see a lot, but we managed to find 72 species in two days.

Carrion Crows

Carrion Crows

On the way home a Great Skua was seen feasting of a Greater Black Backed Gull – quite cool!

Great Skua

Great Skua

Silas

Snow…

No I'm not a White-billed Diver

No I’m not a White-billed Diver

It is cold again. 100 meters above sea level the ground is covered with snow. There is an old saying that states that when the terns arrive is it always associated with bad weather – “ternusnert”. The first major flocks of terns arrived two days ago – and today it snows.

Anyways the american adventure has continued. An American Wigeon has been found by Karl Thomsen at Norðagøta and another one by Rodmund at Sandoy. So within a week 3 Ring-necked Ducks, 2 Green-winged Teals, 2 American Wigeons, American Back Duck and a Greater Yellowlowgs have been seen. Previously there were 23 records of American ducks (not counting sea ducks) so it is an addition of almost 35% within a weak. Amazing…

Søren Sørensen sent a mail describing how the statics are pro Greater Yellowlegs being seen before Lesser. Tenneessee Warbler was seen before any Yellow-rumped Warblers or Red-eyed Vireos (still not records), Amur Falcon was seen before Red-footed Falcon (still no records), DNA-confirmed Green Warbler seen before Greenish Warbler (now 2 records), and several Pechora, Olive-backed and a single Buff-breasted Pipit seen before any Richard’s Pipits were recorded (now 2 records). So now it’s time for Calandra, Bimaculated or Black Lark before the first Greater Short-toed Lark!

White-billed Diver

White-billed Diver and snow

Yesterday Janus sent a link to a blurred picture of a diver that looked like it had a yellow bill. So I checked it yesterday, but couldn’t relocate it. So I tried again today and after several hours I found a stunning White-billed Diver. Only the 4th for the Faroes. Rodmund came right away from Tórshavn to see it and we enjoyed great views of the bird.

White-billed Diver a4

White-billed Diver

 

So it spite of snow we had great day!

Silas

 

 

Lesser is Greater

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

After uploading the pictures of the supposed Lesser Yellowlegs on my blog I got a message from Chris Batty suggesting that is was a Greater Yellowlegs.

As mentioned before we didn’t spend much more than 10 minutes watching the bird in the field and mostly focused on getting pictures. A huge mistake. The initial ID was based primarily on the jizz. It appeared slim and small – even smaller than a Redshank. But we only had a Ring-necked Duck for comparison, so it didn’t help much. Furthermore the bill didn’t seem obviously long and it appeared rather slim – not like the Greenshank bill that I associated with Greater Yellowlegs when seeing them in Florida 9 years ago.

Lesser is Greater - note the barring on the chest

Lesser is Greater – note the barring on the chest

And maybe more importantly the Icelandic ratio of Greater vs Lesser is 1 to 10 and it remains a huge rarity in the UK – whereas Lesser Yellowlegs is annual in small numbers. And normally the common choise is also the right one. So it was kinda defolded to a Lesser Yellowlegs. We have actually considered Lesser Yellowlegs the most likely addition to the Faroese national list for a while.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

After Chris’ e-mail I started to look into it and realized that there was some variation and that ID was a wee bit less forward when dealing with single birds than my Florida experience, where I almost always had the two species together. So I started to ask for others opinion. A few suggested Lesser Yellowlegs, but slowly a pattern emerged suggesting that is was in deed a Greater Yellowlegs. Rodmund actually raised the question right away. Harry Hussey was very helpful in getting peoples opinion. And when both American birders and Killian Mullarney suggested Greater Yellowlegs the case was settled – at least until the Danish RC has had a look at the bird.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Some of the main id features are paler grey/green bill base with obvious contrasting nostril, obvious gap between nostril and feathering, heavily barred flanks and shorter primary projection [Chris Batty]. Tail pattern and slightly curved bill are also supportive of Greater.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

So lesson learn. Never be too confident with initial id. Never leave a bird too soon. And keep the chance open that in spite of no national Yellowleg-records a Greater Yellowlegs can be the first to turn up. But obviously the excitement wasn’t lesser when we learned that is was a greater!

Silas

The American Dream

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

After seeing four American bird species in a day on the 7th of May Rodmund and I decided to spend two days at Suðuroy.

I woke up at 4:30 yesterday and headed out. I checked Eiði, where I found a Common Pochard and two Gadwalls before meeting Rodmund at the ferry terminal in Tórshavn. We headed for Suðuroy and did some birding from the ferry. The best birds were Great, Pomarine and Arctic Skua.

After arriving we headed north to Hvalba and Sandvík. There were Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, 1 Brent Goose, 1 Shelduck and a single Lesser Whitethroat around, but noting rare.

Then we checked Fámjin, where we saw Pintail, Curlew, a few Dunlins, Chiffchaff and Great Northern Diver.

So we went to Hov, where we found a Hawfinch, some Chiffchaffs and Northern Divers. We ended up checking Sumba, where we relocated a Steller’s Eider first seen in October last year. It gave superb views and kinda saved our day.

Hawfinch

Hawfinch

Today we first checked Sumba where the Steller’s Eider was still present. We also checked several other spots, but the most significant were 3 Chiffcaffs in a single garden, a few Iceland Gulls, Slavonian Grebe and a Knot.

Steller's Eider a1

Steller’s Eider

So we headed to ferry and went back north. While on the ferry we received news about a Linnet seen in the morning – the 5th for the Faroes.

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

 

I went to drop of Rodmund in Sørvágur. He didn’t seem to keen on the Linnet. On Vágar we checked Vatnsoyrar, and there we relocated two Ring-necked Ducks at a small pond. They gave amazing views.

As I headed back home I passed by the place, where the Linnet was seen. So I checked the place and found the bird right away as it was eating grass seed. I got some nice pics before heading to Eiði, where a Bluethroat was present.

Linnet

Linnet

 

Linnet

Linnet

Then I went home to be with the family.

We did hope for gold and glory and a lot of yanks, but had to settle with a Linnet, two Ring-necks and a Hawfinch. But we had a great time down south, even though the dream of Americans didn’t turn into an American Dream.

Silas