Mykines

Puffin

Last Friday I visited Mykines – the westernmost island of the Faroese archipelago. The occasion was an invitation from locals, who were worried about the increasing numbers of tourists and their impact on the seabirds. The problem is that the only path to the lighthouse on Mykineshólmur leads right through a Puffin colony at Lamba.

Since Mykines has been designated a Ramsar-area certain protection measures have been taken. People from the administration, the tourist board, local land owners, the founder of the company hiking.fo and me representing the ornithological society met on Mykines. After a cup of coffee we walked for several hours through the area to observe the impact of people walking through the area.

The Puffins seem to have a reasonable breeding season with many birds flying with small Sand-eels fit for newly hatched chicks. But it turned out that when people were closer than approximately 10 meters from the nesting holes the birds did not dare to fly into the holes. This of course causes stress and decreases the valuable hunting time and increases the risk of gull and skua attacks as the Puffins cannot get into safety with their precious load of Sand-eels.

Puffin and tourists

It is next to impossible to reach the lighthouse on Mykines on foot without passing through the Puffin colony. And as this is one of the most scenic and popular hikes on the Faroes closing the area is not realistic. This means that the only way to protect the birds is by limiting the number of tourists passing through the area – and just as importantly getting them through the area quickly. For instance 10 minutes of traffic every hour would help quite a lot. Currently two local rangers are employed to facilitate a quick passage.

Gannet

But there is one major obstacle. The path trough the area is really bad. In wet conditions it is actually not even advisable to use the path at all. The designated path is so worn by tourists now that it has virtually turned into a muddy slope. It is very slippery and steep. Even for us being used to walk on the Faroes the walk was very challenging. While walking in the area we encountered tourists with kids trying to walk the path. It was not a pretty sight and surely not a nice experience for the poor tourists. If a child wearing a rain coat slips it could have fatal consequences. It could potentially slide 50 meters before hitting the rocks close to the shore.

Kittiwakes

It seems like most tourists are not aware of the difficulties they are about to face as they take on the journey. Most wear sport shores and some have even tried the walk in high heels. Sadly a day after we visited the island a tourist slipped and broke her leg, so she had to be pick up by helicopter and rushed to the hospital.

The conclusion is that the state of the path is so bad that walking there is not advisable. Secondly due to the difficulties walking the passing through the Puffin colony takes so much time that is seriously disturbs the breeding Puffins. This situation calls for immediate action!

A not-so-steep part of the path

We survived the hike to the bridge and got to enjoy amazing views of breeding Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Gannets and of course Puffins. Hopefully the breeding season will turn out well.

Silas

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Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

Marsh Warbler (?)

Today I found a small acro-looking passerine at Viðareiði. It was very elusive and during an hour of observation it only gave brief views calling with a tack now and then. I posted a few ”Back-of-camera” shots of the ”acro”on facebook, where it was suggested that it might be a Booted Warbler, which would be a national first.

I have never seen Booted Warbler, so I had no point of reference. But it behaved in a acro manner. At one point the bird jumped on the ground and for once it looked rather un-acro’ish and it had me fooled to think it was in deed a Booted Warbler.

When I got home and had a better look at the photos I started to have my doubts. It did look quite like a Marsh Warbler after all. Chris Batty mailed me about the bird and I sent him some pictures and I also posted the high-res pictures on the internet. The primary projection looks too long for a Booted, but seems to fit Marsh Warbler. If accepted as such it is the 13th Faroese record of Marsh Warbler.

Marsh Warbler (?)

I really appreciate people calling the Booted option to my mind. I could easily have let the bird go without further scrutiny, which would be sad. Better safe than sorry as the say. And: Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

On the 31th May I found a female flava type Yellow Wagtail at Viðareiði. It’s only the 3rd record of a flava since 1950.

Yellow Wagtail

 

Yellow Wagtail

Yesterday a White-tailed Eagle was seen between Fugloy and Svínoy. It has been around the islands for more than a month, but still has not crossed my path.

Spring is about to end. And it has been a rather slow one. I’ve found two American Black Ducks, Ring-necked Duck, flava Yellow Wagtail, two Linnets, Smew and European Bee-eater, and another Ring-necked Duck, Pectoral Sandpiper and a Cattle Egret have been seen.

That is all quite ok. But migrants like Redstart and Whinchat have been totally absent. Only rather few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps have been around and only two Lesser Whitethroats and a single Spotted Flycatcher. So numbers of birds have been very low. And now it’s almost too late for any great arrivals.

Spotted Flycatcher

 

Wood Pigeon

During the week I’ve managed to get some pictures of more regular birds like Sanderlings and Red Knots in breeding plumage – and a pair of Red-necked Phalaropes at Eiði.

Silas

Linnets and Smew

Fulmar

Time for an update. Spring is still here and migrants are still turning up. But while Norway, Iceland and Shetland have lots of rarities, birding is a bit quiet here on the Faroes.

A few days ago I checked Sandoy. The targets were the European Bee-eater, that was first seen on Suðuroy and then moved to Sandoy and of course the Cattle Egret seen there in mid May.

Linnet

 

Linnet

We didn’t find any of those, but I managed to find the 7th Linnet and the 5th Smew for the Faroes. The smew was a smart male even. Actually both species were new ”self-found” species for me even though I’ve seem them earlier on the Faroes. So now my self-found list includes about 95% of the species I’ve seen on the Faroes. Yes. We need more birders…

Smew

 

Smew

I’ve checked Svínoy a few times during spring and today I found a Linnet there along with a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Wood Pigeons, Long-tailed Duck and a very elusive sylvia warbler, that never gave good enough views for proper identification. It is frustrating with dense gardens and 50 school children playing in the vicinity.

In Hvalvík I found a Long-eared Owl a few days ago. Always a nice bird to see.

Long-eared Owl

 

Long-eared Owl

Hopefully there is still something good to turn up before summer sets in.

Arctic Tern

 

Barnacle Goose

Silas

Bee-eater and American Black Duck

European Bee-eater – photo by Turið Vestergaard

Yesterday Gudmundur Danberg found a European Bee-eater at Vági. It’s the 3rd national record. Turið Vestergaard managed to relocated the bird today and obtained some nice photos.

Today I went on a family trip to Saksun. At the lagoon I found an American Black Duck. As I only brought my bins and cellphone I didn’t get good photos, but wing-pattern looked spot on. Probably even a new bird compared to the earlier bird at Eiði, as I didn’t see any white on the back of the mirror. I’ll have a look for it tomorrow.

American Black Duck

Silas

 

 

Suðuroy and more

Willow Warbler

Three days ago I checked Svínoy briefly. A Lesser Whitethroat was the first of the year. A Barn Swallow and a few Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were also present. But that was pretty much it.

Lesser Whitethroat

Two days ago Rodmund and I went to Suðuroy hoping for Craig Swallow or Marmora’s Warbler. We had a splendid trip that  included a Mink Whale and Harbour Porpoise from the ferry, horse back birding at Hvalba and a total of 70 species seen.

Great Northern Diver

The highlights included summer plumage Great Northern Diver, Pintails, Gadwalls, about ten of each Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcaps, 6 Manx Shearwaters, lots of Puffins, Guillemots. 2 Long-tailed Ducks, Common Scoter, Wood Dove, Pied Wagtails and about 15 Sanderlings.

Arctic Skua

 

Guillemot 

 

Pintails

 

Pied Wagtail

The best birds were a Common Tern in Hvalba and the 6th Faroese record of Linnet. Not exactly mouth-watering in a wp context, but good in deed for locals 🙂

Rodmund

 

Silas

 

Silas

 

Turnstone

Linnet

 

Common Tern

Silas

Yanks!

Shoveler

Shoveler

Since the last post things are staring to warm up. On the 5th the ornithological society of the Faroes arranged tours on different islands. I guided tours in Viðareiði and Eiði. It was very amusing to walk and talk with people about birds and nature.

Shoveler

In total 73 species were seen on this day. Personally I saw 56 – the highlights including Mandt’s Guillemot and two Mandarin Ducks at Kaldbaksbotn and a pair of Shovelers in Tórshavn.

Mandt’s Guillemot

 

Mandarin Duck

On the 7th a White-tailed Eagle was seen at Hvalvík, but could not be relocated. So I still need it on my Faroese list. It is probably the bird that was seen in April. I wonder where it’s hiding.

On the 7th Karl Thomsen saw a Tree Sparrow in Syðrugøta and on the 8th a Crackling Goose was seen in Tórshavn. Sadly it turned out to be an escape.

The last few days have seen gale force winds that originated along the eastern coast of North America. It looked very promising and spring has brought yanks to our shore before (7th May 2016 produced Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, Greater Yellowlegs and American Black Duck):

https://birdingfaroes.wordpress.com/2016/05/07/american-invasion/

Yesterday Rodmund braved the elements and relocated Aprils female Ring-necked Duck at Havnadalur and he also found a 2cy+ Pectoral Sandpiper. Good job! Some yanks had arrived.

Pectoral Sandpiper – Rodmund á Kelduni

Today I took my wife to the airport as she is going to visit family in Denmark. On the way to airport we passed Mjáuvøtn – a lake on Streymoy. I obtained permission to check the lake and found a male Ring-necked Duck along with 7 Tufted Ducks. Really quite a beauty! It gave good albeit quite distant views. It’s the 13th record for the Faroes and my 4th self-found.

Ring-necked Duck

 

Ring-necked Duck

After leaving my wife at the airport I checked several sites in search for more yanks. At on the lake at Eiði I found a Slavonian Grebe, 19 Barn Swallows and a House Martin, 50+ Arctic Terns, Arctic and Great Skua, 15 Tufted Ducks and about 30 Dunlin.

Arctic Terns

 

Slavonian Grebe

 

Slavonian Grebe

 

Slavonian Grebe

Then I checked the shore and bingo. An American Black Duck was foraging along with a female Mallard. It’s the 4th for the Faroes and my 3rd self-found even though I co-found the third too.

The thing with American Black Ducks is of course the hybrid question. Todays bird showed a white edge to the inner wing. It looks like pure bird can show this feature, but I am not quite sure.

So four yanks in two days. That ain’t bad. One can only wonder what would be found if more birders were out there these days.

Silas Olofson

Mandt’s Guillemot and Red Kite

Wood Dove

Spring is kind of on hold. We still just manage 5-7 degree celsius and we haven’t had the southeasterlies needed to bring loads of migrants out there.

But things are happening. Great and Arctic Skuas, Whimbrels, Black-tailed Godwits, White Wagtails and Northern Wheatears have all arrived.

Chiffchaff

Today it was spiced up a bit with 10+ Chiffchaffs, 3 Barn Swallows, 2 Gadwalls, Shoveler, 2 Wood Pigeons and several nice breeding plumage Great Northern Divers.

With several yanks around in Scotland and Iceland including the weekend’s Ring-necked Duck at the Faroes I expect that some yanks could be around somewhere.

Redwing

Today I checked different sites around the islands. The highlight was the relocation of the Mandt’s Guillemot at Kaldbaksbotn. It’s still in winter plumage and looks very worn. But hopefully it will stay as it moults into breeding plumage.

Today Rodmund checked Suðuroy. There he found a Shoveler and a Red Kite, that has earlier been reported from Sumba. It looks to do fine even though it is mocked by the corvids. The Red Kite looks like the one seen earlier in Velbastaður and not like the bird from Gásadalur due to a broken primary.

Slavonian Grebe

Other birds include a few Hawfinches, 2 Mandarin Ducks and Siskins. Now we just wait for the mega.

Silas