It has been a while since my last blog post. But slowly we Faroese people are waking up after winter hibernation. Or so it feels.
The winter has been cold – in fact the coldest for at least 27 years with snow an ice covering the entire country for weeks and weeks. Most lakes froze over and the scenery was just stunning. As winter days are no longer than five hours from sunrise to sunset the snow brightens up the days significantly and January was easier on people than normal due to the snow and calm weather.
The harsh winter provided some good winter birds. Flocks of Snow Buntings came down from the mountains to forage in the villages. They are fairly common here, but tend to stay at high altitudes except when snow forces them down.
The winter has also been good for birds like Common and Jack Snipe and Water Rail, but surprisingly no Woodcocks were recorded though most of western Europe saw quite an influx of the species.
On Sandoy I found a likely hybrid Ring-necked x Tufted Duck in January.
At the same location Russian White-fronted Goose was also present with some 250 Greylags.
Two Taiga Bean Geese have been present all winter at Viðareiði and they are still around.
When it comes to white gulls (Iceland and Glaucous Gull) the winter has been just about average. With my experience from working on trawlers at sea I am convinced that the white gulls have quite a pelagic life style in winter – and they do need some stormy weather to be forced into the harbors.
Early winter saw quite an influx with an estimated 1000 Iceland Gulls present around the country. But as frost and clear skies became dominant most birds disappeared. Now we’re back to normal with rain and wind – and numbers of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls have again increased with a few ssp. kumlieni among them.
On the 18th of February the first Lesser Black-backed Gulls turned up as I found three birds around the islands. It is an early arrival date for the species, but I guess strong south-easterlies combined with a freezing Europe made them come early.
Oystercatchers have also arrived early and five Lapwings arrived at Viðareiði in mid February. So it starts to feel like spring.
The winter highlight is of course the first national record of Pied-billed Grebe. It was present at Eiði until the 29th of January, when the lake froze over. Only small hole remained in the ice on the 3rd of February, and there I found a nice female Ring-necked Duck along with a few Tufted Ducks, Common Goldeneye and Whooper Swans. A single Song Thrush was also present at Eiði.