In mid September I headed out with the long-liner Núpur to do by-catch research. As we reached fishing grounds the weather was nice and the sea was calm – perfect conditions when being at sea.
It always takes some time before the seabirds arrive in numbers. The fishing needs to start. But being on a fishing vessel is like a dream for anyone interested in pelagic birding. The fish are cleansed at sea, so liver and other intestines are being thrown overboard continuously. So basically the boat is ”chumming” 24/7. This attracts seabirds – lots of seabirds.
Up to 8000 and estimated fulmars followed the ships including several dark morph. The fulmars are by far the most common birds around any fishing vessel in Faroese waters and I expect that the explosion in the numbers of fulmars during the last 100 years is mainly due to ships like this one discarding loads of offal.
European Storm-petrels are also following the ship constantly. A day maximum on this trip was an estimated 1000 birds. And I counted over 200 at the same time. Most of the time they stay at a distance of 100 or more meters from the boat, but every now and then single birds gets closer.
With the amounts of European Storm-petrels around it is hard work to check them, but it does pay off. On the first day of fishing I found a Wilson´s Storm-petrel, which was close enough to document. And the following day I saw a Wilson´s Storm-petrel twice. It could of course be the same bird.
There is one accepted record of Wilson´s Storm-petrel from the Faroes. A bird that I found in August 2017 while being on a trawler.
Up to 15 Sooty Shearwaters have been around the boat. They are chased around by the fulmars, but their ability to dive for longer periods makes them able to eat sinking scraps, that are out of reach for fulmars (though they can dive too, but not nearly as well as the Sooty Shearwaters).
We started our trip at rather deep seas some 30 NM east of Fugloy fishing for Greenland Halibut. There we were lucky to have some Sei Whales around. One came as close as 300 meters from the boat. Quite an experience to get this close to the third-largest whale in the world. They were seen during several days and a few Mink Whales were also observed. And talking about whales… Just to make it clear I am against the hunt for White-sided Dolphins on the Faroe Islands.
As the days passed weather worsened and during the last four days we had wind speed reaching 40 m/s with huge waves. Fishing continued of course, but birding became more difficult. That being said I got some great opportunities photographing birds in the waves.
Birds seen during the trip with daily maximum mentioned:
Great Skua 7
Pomarine Skua 1
Long-tailed Skua 1
Arctic Skua 1
Herring Gull 1
Black-headed Gull 2
Northern Shoveler 2
Common Teal 1
Leach´s Storm-petrel 1
European Storm-petrel 1000
Wilson´s Storm-petrel 1
Sooty Shearwater 15
Manx Shearwater 1
Meadow Pipit 2
White Wagtail 1
Northern Wheatear 1
Pink-footed Goose 27
Grey Heron 1