YBWs are here

Yellow-browed Warbler

Two days ago it was raining cats and dog. So after working I went to Fuglafirði in hope of finding the Bonaparte’s Gulls roosting at the beach. They surely wouldn’t be out at the salmon farming rings in this bad weather.

As soon as I parked the car close to the beach I found both Bonaparte’s Gulls in a flock of other gulls, but one of the birds took of shortly after. But I managed to get nice views and photos.

Bonaparte’s Gull

 

Bonaparte’s Gull

 

Bonaparte’s Gull

Then I checked Eiði, where a Yellow-browed Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and two Chiffchaffs were present.

Lesser Whitethroat

 

Chiffchaff

 

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yesterday I took 3rd grade in Tofta School out birding around Toftavatn. The weather was awesome and we had a really nice trip. Really cool with the enthusiasm of the kids using a telescope for the first time. Maybe some new birding coming up?

3rd grade at Tofta School

After 3½ hours of birding finding 19 species including Greater Scaup, Whooping Swan, Common Ringed Plover and Wigeon I checked Rituvík, Lamba and Rituvík. In total I found 8 Yellow-browed Warblers including 3 birds in the same tree in Lamba – surely some movement is happening.

After returning home I took the kids out fishing and we managed to catch a 70 cm long salmon at Árnafirði. Only twice have I caught a larger salmon!

Salmon

So quite an exciting day.

Silas

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Bonaparte’s Gulls

Bonaparte’s Gull

One of the things that surprised David Lindo about the Faroe Islands was that fact that we could pretty much just walk into every garden without brimstone and fire raining down on us. Worst case scenario was probably an invitation to come in for tea (which means less time for birding). Well, the concept of private property is quite different on the Faroes.

Today I experienced the same kind of attitude at Fuglafjøður. I wanted to get better looks and pictures of the Bonaparte’s Gull. But as it normally staid off shore around the salmon farms I needed to get on a boat. So I asked the people at the salmon farm if I could take a ride with them to the rings. But they weren’t going just yet. But hey, we have a speed boat you can use the guy in charge told me (he went to primary school with my wife’s sister). A guy working there wanted to join me so we headed out to the rings.

Sailing around the salmon farming rings

It took us 15 minutes to locate a Bonaparte’s Gull among 50 Black-headed Gulls as it flew right over the boat. What a stunning bird!

Then it flew off but later I relocated it on the rocky shore. We drifted a bit and then it was flying again. But wasn’t it sitting in the other flock just a moment ago? We headed black to the previous flock, where it was sitting again. Hm… surely a fast and mobile bird. Then a little further down the shore it was flying again. It seemed like I picked up the Bonaparte’s Gull were ever I was watching. Extreme luck?

Bonaparte’s Gull

After an hour watching the bird we headed back. A huge thanks to the guys at Bakkafrost in Fuglafirði for being so helpful with the boat and everything.

A large flock of Black-headed Gulls including the Bonaparte’s Gull had landed a bit further inland. So I drove to Kambsdalur and walked down the ridge to watch the flock. As I approached one bird took flight and flew just over my head even diving towards me while calling – and yes, it was a Bonaparte’s Gull! Then it flew back and settled with the flock again.

Bonaparte’s Gull trying to chase me off

So I approached from a different angle and once again a Bonaparte’s Gull flew straight towards me calling and diving only 5 meters away. A flock of about 15 Black-headed Gulls took off and much to my surprise TWO Bonaparte’s Gulls were flying together. I even managed to get photos of them together – but subtle plumage differences were also noticed.

Bonaparte’s Gulls – both birds visible

 

Bonaparte’s Gulls – the other bird in focus

One bird had small black markings around the alula and also pale tips on the greater coverts making me thing it is a 2cy bird (2. winter) whereas the other bird was more clean-looking and thus aged to a 3cy+.

Bonaparte’s Gull

Quite amazing that the second record for the Faroes just a week ago was joined by another bird today – though both birds could have been present all along. Maybe the Icelandic breeders wintering on the Faroes?

Silas

American White-winged Scoter

Presumed American White-winged Scoter

This morning David Lindo and I woke up early as we had to clean the house and pack our stuff as David was heading back home. We had to catch the ferry from Suðuroy to Tórshavn, but on the way to the ferry we made a short stop at Tjaldarvík. It’s a good place for scoters as Surf, Black and Velvet Scoter have been seen there.

As we got out of the car I found a ”Velvet Scoter” type quite far away. It was still quite dark in the weather and the bird was already quite distant when I got a scope on it (after taking some pictures as it swam away from us). The combination of an apparently solid dark bird (making me think of an adult male), the lack of a ”horn” on the bill and just a small white patch behind the eye made me exclude the ”funny” white-winged options. And we were in a hurry to catch a ferry, so we had to leave the bird. And after all I did have some photos so I could double-check later.

When I got home and uploaded the pictures to the laptop I almost choked. The colour on the bill wasn’t yellow as I had thought in the field. It was pink rather than yellow and the coloured area was restricted compared to Velvet Scoter. Furthermore the head shape was rather squarish.

Presumed American White-winged Scoter

The extent of yellow on the bill should exclude Stejneger’s Scoter thus leaving us with the second ever American White-winged Scoter of the Faroe Islands. But comments on the identification are most welcome as it is rather tricky when pictures and less than ideal.

 

Presumed American White-winged Scoter

I sent the pics to some good friends, who all commented (albeit consciously) that the bird looked like an American White-winged Scoter. But surely the pictures leave much to be desired.

 

Presumed American White-winged Scoter

To default a species as being the most common of options has once again seemed to be a bad option when it comes to birding on the Faroes. And after all it’s been 7 years or so since I saw my last adult male Velvet Scoter. But lesson learned once again. Always scrutinize your scoters. Not that it would have made a huge difference after all. The ferry still needed to be caught.

Silas

Suðuroy birding

Arctic Skua

The last two days David Lindo and I have been birding on Suðuroy. Constant northerly winds didn’t make expectations too high. But as always hard work can compensate for a bad forecast – at least to some extent.

In total we managed to find about 15 Willow Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs, Redpoll, Siskin, Curlew 3, Whimbrel, Knot, Pintail and many more. In total we locked 71 species. 

Chiffchaff

We also managed to find a few scarcities. These included a Kestrel af Akraberg, a Pied Flycatcher at Fámjin and a Common Rosefinch at Hvalba.

Pied Flycatcher

 

Common Rosefinch

 

Kestrel

We also spent a few hours seawatching. Among the 40 Fulmars passing pr minute we also saw a large diver sp (probably White-billed), 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Sooty Shearwater.

The some of the Lesser Whitethroats looked eastern. And taking into consideration that all 5 Lesser Whitethroats caught last year in September were ssp. Blythi based on DNA some of ours are also like to be just that.

Eastern Lesser Whitethroat?

 

Eastern Lesser Whitethroat?

 

Eastern Lesser Whitethroat?

So taking the less than ideal winds into consideration the result was acceptable.

Silas

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Two days ago I picked up David Lindo aka the Urban Birder at the airport. As his plane was delayed a bit I managed to do a little birding and found the first Yellow-browed Warbler of the year at Sandavágur. Probably the earliest record for the Faroes.

David is visiting for 6 days and yesterday we went to Svínoy. The weather forecast was not ideal nor totally awful. And we did managed to find some bird on this Fair Isle on the Faroes. 2 Willow Warblers, 4 Chiffchaffs, 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, Arctic Tern, Goldcrest and 3 Redpolls were the best birds seen. We did use quite some time with a small elusive warbler that sunk into the abyss…

Goldcrest

Today we first checked Klaksvík, where we ticked the long-staying Mandarin Duck before we headed to Fuglafjørð (where I grew up). When we drove into the village we spotted a flock on large gulls on the beach near Gjógvará. So we drown down there and from the car I spotted a small gull roosting with the larger cousins.

We parked the car and started to check the birds without getting out of the car as we wouldn’t disturb the birds. As I got the small gull within view I noticed pink legs, back bill and a neat jizz – bingo! Bonaparte’s Gull!

Bonaparte’s Gull

David had also connected with the bird, but while we were still in the car it took of. But David got the wing pattern and other details down while I rushed to get the camera. But the bird headed south and we lost it around the salmon farming area. We did get some very distant shots, but nothing really usable.

So we drove south and then walked as close as we could to the salmon farming area some hundred meters off shore. And luckily after waiting for some time the bird was relocated and usable though distant record-shots were obtained!

Bonaparte’s Gull

The bird was soon aged as an adult. And it was really quite a beauty with the fine and clear marking on the wings, pale underwing and neat posture. What a bird and what a find!

We then checked Rituvík and Æðuvík. There we found a few Willow Warblers and a Siberian type Lesser Whitethroat.

Then we continued to Eiði, where Tufted Duck, Long-tailed Duck and Brent were seen.

A short stop in Hvalvík produced a Grey Wagtail and a Yellow-browed Warbler and in Tórshavn we saw a few Collared Doves.

We then took the ferry to Suðuroy, where we’re gonna do some birding for the next 3 days. Due to very calm seas we only saw a few Bonxies and a Manx Shearwater from the boat.

As we came ashore we drove straight to Sumba, where we found a Lesser Whitethroat and a Willow Warbler before sunset.

Lesser Whitethroat

Now we’re quite excited to see what the next days bring.

Silas

Most expected new to the Faroes

Wood Warbler at Viðareiði two days ago

The only regular “birding effort” has been the heligoland trap on Nólsoy, where species like Paddyfield Warbler, Green Warbler, Radde’s Warbler and Melodious Warbler have been caught.

Other than that most birding has been rather random with groups visiting every now and then – and tourists or locals finding weird things – like an Amur Falcon photographed with an Iphone on the stairs, or a man happening to hit a Scops Owls with the car or catch a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater on a trawler or catch an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross during long-line fishery.

It is hard to say which record is the best Faroese record, but besides the above mentioned Sandhill Crane, Needled-tailed Swift, Lesser Kestrel, Common Nighthawk, Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee Warbler and the american subspecies of Long-legged Buzzard are surely some of them. But probably Amur Falcon is the weirdest record so far.

But just how random the records are can clearly be seen by looking at the birds not recorded yet. My personal and updated top eleven as most likely national firsts in random order are:

1. Pallid Harrier

2. American Golden Plover

3. Spotted Sandpiper

4. Lesser Yellowlegs

5. Temminck’s Stint

6. American Herring Gull

7. Black-throated Thrush

8. Greater Short-toed Lark

9. Booted Warbler

10. Firecrest

11. Red-eyed Vireo

Now let’s see what the autumn brings. And autumn is about to start. So far Wryneck, Wood Warbler, several Willow Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher and Grey Phalarope have been recorded.

This evening David Lindo aka the urban birder is gonna visit for 6 days. The weather forecast looks less than ideal, but hopefully some good birding is due in the concrete jungle of the Faroes. Tomorrow we will do serious urban birding on the heavily populated Svínoy (10 residents). Hopefully some good migrants will be around.

Silas

Red Phalarope

Fish and Chips

Yesterday Ragnar Smith and I checked Svínoy. It gave 4 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 10+ White Wagtails, 1 Dunnock, 2 Sanderlings, a few Dunlins and Sanderlings, but that was pretty much it.

Set and Carina

After using the whole day today at the ”Seamens Day” in Klaksvík with the family eating free Fish and Chips made by English chefs and watching rays, crap and starfish I checked Viðareiði for 15 minutes.

Red Phalarope

And as so many times before there was jackpot. A Red Phalarope was foraging in a small pond. It is only the 7th record since 2002 for the Faroes and only my second ever. Quite a catch.

Red Phalarope

Silas