Update from the Faroes

Shag

Shag

 

 

It’s been 1,5 years since I moved from the Faroes to Mongolia. But this Christmas we spent the holidays back home on the islands.

During my time away a few good birds have turned up. A Black-browed Albatross was seen last spring both south of the archipelago by Icelandic fishermen and also around the gannet-colony on Mykines.

Other rare birds include a Franklin’s Gull in August 2018, Glossy Ibis in September 2018 and a Red-rumped Swallow in April 2019.

Visiting Dutch birders also found Bonaparte’s Gull, Rustic Bunting and Ring-necked Duck during the autumn of 2019. Pictures can be seen here: https://faroer.observation.org/foto/index

A Snow Goose had been present for several months in Norðadalur, but left only a few weeks before I came home for the holidays.

In late December it is impossible to do any intensive birding on the Faroes. There are about four hours of light, but it has very little intensity. In reality there is a window between 11 and 13 with enough light to document birds. After that it is just dark grey before getting dark.

In spite of the odds I did a little birding. Shortly after arriving from Mongolia I visited Eiði on the 17th of December. There I found a Little Grebe. This is the 12th record for the Faroes and my second.

Little Grebe

 

 

I tried to relocate the Snow Goose from Streymoy by checking good areas on Eysturoy, Streymoy and Sandoy. But apart from two Russian White-fronted Geese I didn’t find anything unexpected.

The arctic gulls hadn’t really arrived yet. About ten Iceland and four Glaucous Gulls were present I different harbours. This isn’t strange though as especially Iceland Gulls tend to arrive from late January onward.

 

Iceland Gulls

 

Glaucous Gull

 

 

I still dream of finding both smiths and caspians, but so far I need to do with pale and brown Herring Gulls I guess.

 

Herring Gull

 

Herring Gull

All in all it was great being back home. And luckily I get to spend late September and October on the Faroes this year. So hopefully a rare gull will turn up!

 

A few days in Denmark meant, that I had the opportunity to twitch a Northern Hawk Owl on southern Sjælland. I have only seen it one before, so it was great connecting with this nice owl. Now I need to find one in Mongolia.

Northern Hawk Owl

 

 

Silas

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis – photo by Janus Hansen

Yesterday Janus Hansen found a Glossy Ibis in Sandavágur. Rodmund á Kelduni also twitched the bird and wrote a small article that can be seen here:

http://jn.fo/i+dag+var+eitt+bognev+at+siggja+i+sandavagi.html

This is the 4th record for the Faroes. The last record was in 2013, where a flock of 13 birds were observed in late December and a few birds lingered till spring arrived.

Other news include a White-tailed Eagle seen on Svínoy. It could be the same individual that has roamed the islands since spring.

Silas

 

 

 

Spoonbill

Spoonbill – photo by Marjun Joensen

Yesterday Marjun Joensen found a juvenile Spoonbill in Skopun on Sandoy. Marjun managed to photograph the bird from her car.

Spoonbill is extremely rare on the Faroes as there are only two previous records. The first one is prior to 1655 as is the oldest record of any rare bird from the Faroes. The second was in November 1896 also on Sandoy.

 

Spoonbill – photo by Marjun Joensen

 

Congrats to Marjun with this awesome record.

 

Silas

 

 

 

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

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