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

American invasion

 

Reality sometimes surpasses imagination. Today was one of those days. It all started yesterday. Rodmund and I had noted the arrival of american birds during the last few days in Northern Europe – and with a promising looking weather forecast we decided to go birding on Sandoy today.

When talking about logistics yesterday night Rodmund calmly mentioned a few minutes into the conversation: By the way I found an adult male Ring-necked Duck today a few kilometers from my home. Cool! There are 8 records for the Faroes. Rodmund has found four and I’ve found three. So I didn’t need it as such, but who can resist and adult male? Only one of the previous birds was an adult male.

So I decided to go for it and pick Rodmund up on the way. I woke up at 5 am and headed for Vágar. On the way there I stopped at Klaksvík, where I found an Iceland Gull.

Green-winged Teal and Pintail

Green-winged Teal and Pintail

Later I made a brief stop at Skálabotn. There I located a flock of Teals and soon I found a male Green-winged Teal among the birds. The third Faroese record and the second yank in two days. This looked promising. I used a few minutes getting some photos and then hit the road again.

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

Finally after 1,5 hours drive I picked up Rodmund and headed to Vatnsoyrar, where the Ring-necked Duck had been seen. We couldn’t relocate it right away, but Rodmund suggested that it might be under a bridge. So he went out to check while I stayed inside the car and scanned the river and lake.

Suddenly a shore bird came into view and I got my eyes on it. What??? Rodmund, you needa look at this one I said. But he was outside the car and probably didn’t hear me. But he noticed how I started using the camera and then he got all excited too.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Just 20 meters in front of us a Lesser Yellowlegs was foraging. A national first! We have talked and talked about the species. When would the first record be made? Who would find it? And now it was there – right in front of us.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

We used about 10 minutes getting photos before we left the bird as it walked along the shore of the river. At one point it did fly a bit, so we got flight shots too.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

We hadn’t found the Ring-necked Duck, so I suggest that we checked an old swimming pool and bingo – there it was:)

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

Now we had to hurry up to catch the ferry to Sandoy. On the way there we saw a Shelduck at Kirkjubø.

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

We arrived at Sandoy and started birding. There were good numbers of Barnacle Geese, several duck species including Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck but nothing rare.

5 Great Northern Divers, Black-tailed Godwit, Blackcap, Merlin and Sand Martin turned out to be the best birds. So we left the island a little disappointed.

We still had several hours of light, so we continued birding. First we checked Havnardalur, but didn’t find anything. Then we checked the plantation in Tórshavn. We looked at the ducks that were getting fed with crumbs by kids and moms and all of a sudden Rodmund shouted: Look at that one in the back. It’s an American Black Duck.

American Black Duck

American Black Duck

And so it was. Interestingly I found the first Faroese record at the exact same spot 13 years ago. Since then only one other bird has been recorded, so todays bird was the third for the Faroes.

American Black Duck

American Black Duck

The bill colour and plumage didn’t look as bright and striking as on the previous birds, so I first thought that it was probably a female. But judging by its behaviour it was probably as male as it was constantly fighting Mallard males over a Mallard female.

American Black Duck

American Black Duck

The bird seemed quite stressed, so when ever someone threw bread it swam off.  So I guess it hasn’t been around for long.

American Black Duck

American Black Duck

After getting some pictures we continued our quest, but only added Black Scouter and Slavonian Grebe to the list. We even picked up Janus and forced him to try to twitch the Lesser Yellowlegs (it is simply too embarrassing to find a National First without anyone even trying to twitch it). But we couldn’t relocate it, so Janus dipped. Better luck next time:)

One can only imagine what the result would be if more than two guys were birding on the Faroes today. It is kinda hard to cover 1400 km2. But seeing one yank makes a day good. Seeing four is unbelievable.

Silas

Eremomelas, parisomas and whydahs

Red-fronted Warbler

Red-fronted Warbler

Well, here on the Faroese it is snowy and cold. Standard migration is going on as usual – aka 1 Barn Swallow, 1 Chiffchaff, some Golden Plovers, White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. So I’d rather continue blogging about warm Tanzania.

After seeing the extremely rare Beesley’s Lark with James Wolstencroft we continued to the far side of Mount Meru. There are large areas only used on a very low intensity level – that is grazing and chopping for wood.

White-browed Scrub Robin

White-browed Scrub Robin

The first place we stopped was simply amazing. Due to the recent rains there were birds everywhere. And because James is a real birder, he just picked out everything by hearing the calls and songs. So I was kinda set back as I don’t know the calls of Brubru, Grey Wren Warbler, Red-fronted Warbler, Tiny Cisticola, Red-throated Tit, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, White-browed Scrub Robin or Banded Parisoma. But eventully I got to see them all.

Yellow-bellied Emereo

Yellow-bellied Eremomela

After walking a while I spotted a small bird in a bush. It sat upright like a raptor – and yes, it was a female Pygmy Falcon. What a weird and cool little fellow.

Pygmy Falcon

Pygmy Falcon

Birding in these low-intensively used areas was wonderful. New birds just kept appearing. 3 Steel-blue Whydahs was quite a treat, White-headed Mousebirds were common several species of barbets were seen.

White-headed Mousebird

White-headed Mousebird

Suddenly we heard a call, that James couldn’t identify right away. So we checked it and it turned out to be a pair of Spotted Thick-knees.

Spotted Thick-knee

Spotted Thick-knee

James pointed out that these areas with casual grazing, logging and shepherds random fires seen to be even more biologically diverse then the national parks, where grazing is often lacking. Well, the numbers and variety of birds was simply stunning.

Temmincks Courser

Temmincks Courser

We later continued to some more cultivated areas, where a flock of Temminck’s Courses gave amazing views.

Temmincks Courser

Temmincks Courser

Close to a small village two Red and Yellow Barbets were seen just in front of the car, but were soon chased off by local kids.

Red and Yellow Barbet

Red and Yellow Barbet

We ended the day in a more wooded area, where we saw Grey-headed Silverbill, Cardinal Woodpecker and Marico Sunbird.

Cardinal Woodpecker

Cardinal Woodpecker

All in all we saw about 106 species (and it was not a bird race!).

Common Kestrel ssp rufescens - probably a separate species

Common Kestrel ssp rufescens – probably a separate species

Again, if you go to Northern Tanzania don’t hesitate to contact James on gonolek@gmail.com. He guarantees both great birding and great company – and a true passion for nature!

Silas

Fischer's Sparrow-lark

Fischer’s Sparrow-lark

Beesley’s Lark

Beesley's Lark sign

Beesley’s Lark sign

A few days ago I went birding with Mr. James Wolstencroft. He is a birder, but also knows his mammals, plants, trees, well a true naturalist. I guess meeting James is like meeting a modern day Dr. Livingstone. Truely british but with a profound love for Africa.

James

James and his dog

We met in Arusha and the plan was to see the extremely rare Beesley’s Lark only found in a small area north of Arusha. After driving for about 30 minutes we reached the area and soon after a Nubian Woodpecker was seen.

Taita Fiscals

Taita Fiscals

The plains around Engikaret are also know as the Lark Plains. It is an area the size of quite a few soccer fields, but yet obviously limited in size. It is weird to know that this tiny area contains the whole worlds population of Beesley’s Lark.

Fawn-breasted Lark

Fawn-coloured Lark

As we started to look for larks the first species found was Fawn-coloured (or Foxy) Lark, which was quite common in the area. But is was only seen around bushes and shrubbery. Not out on the short-grassed fields.

 

The second lark was Fischer’s Sparrow-lark which was very common. It likes dry dusty areas and thus James called it a bird of the future – a future were specialists decrease and generalists will take over.

Short-tailed Lark

Short-tailed Lark

Soon after a Short-tailed Lark gave nice views. A cool lark with a very distinctive head pattern and an almost Dupontish bill.

Athi Short-toed Lark

Athi Short-toed Lark

It the more open areas Athi Short-toed Lark (split from Somali Short-toed Lark) was the most common lark. One bird was even seen nest-building.

Red-capped Lark

Red-capped Lark

Another common and colorful lark was the Red-capped Lark. It is striking with its red cap. A few Rufos-naped Larks were also seen on the plains, but after 2 hours we still hadn’t found any Beesley’s Larks.

Once the population had been estimated to 1000 pairs. Then a new assessment said 65. And even James got a bit worried – ‘cause we had checked a good chunk of the area without seeing any birds.

Beesley's Lark

Beesley’s Lark

We did check and check and talk and talk – about used Land Rovers, Shetland vs the Faroes, African birds and ecology… And finally James in a calm voice stated: There is one here!

Beesley's Lark

Beesley’s Lark

A few hundred meters away a bird was foraging and soon another one was located. They gave good views and their calls were also heard. And what a weird bird! Rather than flying away it just ran away if you got too close. But if you stood still it could walk very close to you. Buff breast, long bill, very short tail and an obvious supercilium. It somehow gave a Rosy-breasted Longclaw feel  – except for the colours.

Beesley's Lark

Beesley’s Lark

As we headed back to the car we stumbled upon another pair of Beesley’s. So at least there are four birds remaining. But with intense grazing, the spread of shrubbery and bushes and the birds very limited range it might not have a future – so now is the time to enjoy this little weird fellow. It might be too late next year.

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

On the plains we also saw two Lanner Falcons, more than 100 Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouses, a few Taita Fiscals, Speke’s weaver, lots of Capped Wheatears and two Greater Kestrels.

Greater Kestrel

Greater Kestrel

We then headed for the some wooded areas but that is material for another blog post.

James know his birds, but his love for nature is just as appealing. It felt like we could go on talking for days that is. So birding with him means not only good birds but also good company.

If you wish to get some inspiration on birding it Tanzania just read his blog post here:

https://africanaturalists.com/safari-birding-out-of-arusha-in-tanzania/ 

or contact him directly on: gonolek@gmail.com

Silas