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.

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