Red Kite

The preferred habitat of the Red Kite

Yesterday I had some work to do in Tórshavn which provided me with the opportunity to do some birding. In the plantation I found a flock of 10+ Redpolls including a very pale bird. But it never provided good views, so it remains unidentified. I called Rodmund to tell him about the putative Arctic Redpoll and of course we talked about the White-tailed eagle and the Red Kite seen earlier.

Gásadalur

I had checked most of the obvious areas with no result, so jokingly I suggested that both birds might be in Gásadalur on the island of Vágar where Rodmund lives. As I arrived back home after driving to the capital and back to Hvannasund Rodmund called me.

Red Kite

 

Red Kite

I’ve just found the Red Kite in Gásadalur he told me. From Hvannasund to Gásadalur there are 105 km. Almost the longest distance that you can drive by car on the Faroes (east to west). I jumped into the car and after 1½ hour I arrived in Sørvágur and picked up Rodmund before going the final miles to Gásadalur.

Upon arrival we found the Red Kite right away as it flew into the valley. We only saw it for about 10 seconds and it didn’t show again until dusk.

I was kinda unhappy with the views obtained so after enjoying a good meal at Rodmunds place I crashed at Januses place in Sandavágur. Janus is the head of the Museum of Natural History on the Faroes.

Skerpikjøt at Rodmund’s place

After enjoying a cosy evening and morning with Janus I returned to Gásadalur. After less than an hour the Red Kite turned up. I phoned Rodmund and soon he arrived with coffee and newly baked danish… Surely a friend in need giving the cold snowy conditions.

Coffee in the snow

 

Rodmund and I after seeing the Red Kite 

 

Coffee and Rodmund

The Red Kite seemed to fancy the steep cliffs close to the village and as we sad and had our coffee it suddenly arrived giving exceptional views. It was foraging along the cliffs below us for at least 15 minutes. Truly a stunning experience.

 

Red Kite

 

Red Kite

 

Red Kite

After scrutinizing the pictures it looks like the bird seen on the 30th of March at Velbastaður is in deed a different bird than the bird in Gásadalur (the Velbastaður bird had a broken primary feather and was worn differently). This makes the Gásadalur bird the 3rd record for the Faroes.

Silas

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Spring is around

Long-tailed Ducks

Nice sunny weather and fresh snow in the mountains. Spring is slowly arriving. We finally have plenty of daylight and birding is a delight. Scarce and rare birding are also turning up.

A White-tailed Eagle was first seen about a week ago on Suðuroy. It’s the 9th record since 1842. Since  its discovery it has moved further north and was seen yesterday in Leirvík. I’ve been trying to relocate the bird several times without luck. Raptors are in deed very difficult birds to work with on the Faroes. They tend to be mocked to exhaustion by local gulls, ravens and crows. Only smaller falcons seem to be left alone. Actually raptors that I’ve seem on the Faroes like Gyr Falcon, Peregrine, Honey Buzzard and Black Kite have all just given brief views before flying off.

With records of Red Kite from both Utsira and Shetland during the last week I warned Rodmund that one might be coming this way. And yesterday it materialized. A Red Kite was photographed at Velbastaður close to Tórshavn. It was observed with a crowd of crows chasing it. After the sighting was published on facebook it looks like people have seen a raptor that might very well be the Red Kite two days ago in Gjógv and later Saksun. In spite of intense search it has not been relocated today. There is one previous record of a Red Kite found dead in Leirvík a few year back also in late March.

Red Kite – photo by Bjarki G. Dalsgarð

I spent Wednesday to Friday on Sandoy with the family. I managed to get out for a little birding. Highlighs included the wintering American Wigeon, Short-eared Owl, Hawfinch, Common Merganser, Greenland Greater White-fronted Goose and an early Sanderling.

American Wigeon

 

Short-eared Owl

The best bird of the trip was quite a surprise. While leaving the island on the ferry I found a white winter plumage Mandt’s Guillemot in Skopun. It was sitting on a rock but as it took of I managed to see white on the upper side of the primaries. I also managed to get a few shots of the bird.

Mandt’s Guillemot – Skopun

 

Mandt’s Guillemot – Skopun

I immediately suspected that it was the bird from Sund that had moved on. So on the way back home I checked Sund and Kaldbaksbotn. Rodmund had relocated that bird one day earlier at Kaldbaksbotn. To my surprise it was still present making the Skopun bird the second Mandt’s Guilemot for the Faroes. So maybe it’s not such a rarity after all?

Mandt’s Guillemot – Kaldbaksbotn

 

Mandt’s Guillemot

The bird in Kaldbaksbotn gave amazing views yesterday and seems to check all the boxes when it comes to Mandt’s Guillemot.

Mandt’s Guillemot

 

Mandt’s Guillemot

Now let us see what the next week brings. Happy easter everyone!

Silas

Mandt’s Guillemot

Mandt’s Guillemot

A few weeks ago I was shown a bad quality photo of a pale Black Guillemot apparently taken weeks or even months ago. It looked very interesting as a possible Mandt’s Guillemot. As the observation seemed old I’d didn’t travel to Sund close to Tórshavn to look for it. And the quality of the one picture was so bad that it would never be accepted as a such anyways.

Yesterday new pictures taken on the 6h of March were presented on the internet on Jens-Kjeld Jensens homepage. The photos still were not very good, but it surely looked much paler than our resident faroeensis Black Guilemots.

Mandt’s Guillemot

Today I happened to pass the place where the pictures were taken 19 days ago. So I convinced the family to check the place Í Sundi. A long shot alright, but if you don’t try you don’t succeed. As we drew along the pier my 7-year-old daughter, who fancies birds all of a sudden asked: ”Hey dad, what’s that black and white bird with a black bill over there?” I got the bins on the bird and bingo! It was the pale Black Guillemot foraging only 30 meters away. Honestly I could easily have missed the bird if it wasn’t for my daughters sharp eyes.

Mandt’s Guillemot

 

Mandt’s Guillemot

The bird spent most of the time under water, where it caught at least three Rock Gunnels while we watched it. It gave amazing views and was much less shy than our breeding birds (which are almost in complete summer plumage now).

It think the bird is a strong candidate for a Mandt’s Guillemot from the Arctic.

  • White covers about half on the underside of the primaries (almost black in other taxa).

  • Secondaries similarily white-based.

  • White bar across median and greater covers on outer upperwing.

  • White colouring on primaries visible on upperwing.

Mandt’s Guillemot

 

Mandt’s Guillemot

 

Mandt’s Guillemot

 

Mandt’s Guillemot

The bird is moulting into summer plumage which explains the dark patches on the head and rump. The lack of black in the white ovals on the inner upperwing makes me think this is a 3cy+.

If accepted this will be the first record of Mandt’s Guillemot for the Faroe Islands. A truly stunning bird.

Silas Olofson

Mandt’s Guillemot

Eiders

 

 

Gannet

 

Gannet

It has been a bit quiet during the last month. Jack Snipe from the kitchen window, a Gannet, the first Lesser Black-backed Gull and lots of white-winged gulls pretty much summons it up. The one exception are eiders. Last month I found a female King Eider in Klaksvík. It was only present for a single day. I check the harbour almost daily so I’m quite sure it has been gone. But two days ago I relocated the bird. Now an adult male would be welcome.

Queen Eider and photo bombing gannet

 

Queem Eider

In Fuglafirði I found a Northern Eider (ssp. borealis) last week. It is thought to be a somewhat regular visitor, but I’ve never seen one myself. The orange bill, position of the nostrils and the sails all indicate borealis.

This week I found a different bird in Klaksvík. It had the same orange bill, but nostril position was more like our native ssp. faroeensis eiders. So I’m note sure if it can be nailed as anything with certainty. But a stunning bird non the less.

Bottom line is that my interest in eiders has been tricked. Maybe a Spectacled, v-nigrum, dresseri or a male Steller’s is around the corner?

Silas

 

 

 

Thayer’s Gull thing…

Thayer’s Gull?

On the 11th of February Rodmund found a putative adult Thayer’s Gull in Vestmanna. On the following day we went to look for it and after six hours of searching we relocated the bird. It showed very well along with 60 Iceland Gulls, 3 Kumlien’s Gulls and a few Glaucous Gulls.

Thayer’s Gull?

I’m not an expert on Thayer’s vs Kumlien’s Gull and they’ve been lumped as variations of Iceland Gull. The bird is non the less very close to Thayer’s Gull when it comes to wing pattern. On the gull research org home page similar looking 4th winter Thayer’s Gulls can be seen:

http://gull-research.org/thayers/thayers5cy/5cyfeb028.html

Without making any bold claims this bird surely lies very much in the Thayer’s end of thing considering the Thayer’s – Kumlien’s – Iceland Gull continuum.

Iris

 

Wing pattern

 

Thayer’s Gull?

And nailed or not… seeing this bird was surely magnificent. A video of the bird can be seen here:

Other birds around during recent days include hundreds of Iceland Gulls, a Great Tit in Klaksvík, Steller’s Eider in Sumba (long-staying female seen by Rodmund today), male Merlin and a Common Merganser in Hvannasund.

Common Merganser

 

Merlin

Silas Olofson

Sandoy

Chaffinch rather than Chiffchaff 🙂

As the light is slowly but safely returning it is possible to use more hours in the field. This again means more birds seen. February really is a nice month as the daylight increases rapidly – maybe on of the best months of the entire year.

Two days ago I checked the plantation in Tórshavn. Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Bullfinch and Water Rail were the best birds around.

Kumlien’s Gull

 

Kumlien’s Gull

In the harbours good numbers of white-wingers are still around including about 5 Kumlien’s Gulls.

King Eider

Yesterday I found a female King Eider in Klaksvík. King Eiders are almost annual on the Faroes. I’ve seen 3 females and 2 males during the years. But both the males were seen 10 or more years ago – so a new male would surely be nice though yesterdays female was quite a beauty.

King Eider

Today Rockmund and I checked Sandoy. Upon arrival in Skopun a few Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were around.

European Wigeons

 

Greyish European Wigeon?

 

American Wigeon

 

American Wigeon

At Sandsvatn we found 3 Common Goldeneyes, 245 Greylags, 1 Eastern Greater White-fronted Goose, two Pink-footed Geese, 1 Barnacle Goose, about 150 European Wigeons, 1 American Wigeon (long-staying), Common Merganser, 8 Curlews, 20 Tufted Ducks and 4 Common Pochards.

Common Pochard

 

Common Pochard

 

Common Merganser

 

Common Merganser

The weather was awesome which made the birding delightful.

Silas

Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll

Arctic Redpoll

‘Today I found an Arctic Redpoll that surely smells like a ssp. hornemanni. It was really pale along the upper back, had long wings, was big like a Brambling and was joined by three Greenland Redpolls. If accepted it will be the second ssp. hornemanni for the Faroes.

The last few weeks haven’t offered much but lots of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, Great Northern Divers, Moorhens, Common Merganser, Slavonian Grebes, a minor Fieldfare-influx, one Jack Snipe and two Great Cormorants.

Greenland Redpoll

 

Water Rail in a Pine Tree

 

Winter sun

But as the days turn longer there is more time to search. The rarities must be out there!

Herring Gull

 

Common Merganser

 

Fieldfare

 

Iceland Gull

 

Herring Gull

Silas