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Wednesday 24 July 2024

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - SECRETARY BIRD (Sagittarius serpentarius),


The secretarybird or secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a large bird of prey that is endemic to Africa. It is mostly terrestrial, spending most of its time on the ground, and is usually found in the open grasslands and savanna of the sub-Saharan region. John Frederick Miller described the species in 1779. A member of the order Accipitriformes, which also includes many other diurnal birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, kites, vultures, and harriers, it is placed in its own family, Sagittariidae.

The secretarybird is instantly recognizable as a very large bird with an eagle-like body on crane-like legs that give the bird a height of as much as 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in). The sexes are similar in appearance. Adults have a featherless red-orange face and predominantly grey plumage, with a flattened dark crest and black flight feathers and thighs.

Breeding can take place at any time of year but tends to be late in the dry season. The nest is built at the top of a thorny tree, and a clutch of one to three eggs is laid. In years with plentiful food all three young can survive to fledging. The secretarybird hunts and catches prey on the ground, often stomping on victims to kill them. Insects and small vertebrates make up its diet.


Although the secretarybird resides over a large range, the results of localised surveys suggest that the total population is experiencing a rapid decline, probably as a result of habitat destruction. The species is therefore classed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The secretarybird appears on the coats of arms of Sudan and South Africa.

The secretarybird is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and is generally non-migratory, though it may be locally nomadic as it follows rainfall and the resulting abundance of prey. Its range extends from Senegal to Somalia and south to Western Cape, South Africa.

The species is also found at a variety of elevations, from the coastal plains to the highlands. The secretarybird prefers open grasslands, savannas and shrubland (Karoo) rather than forests and dense shrubbery that may impede its cursorial existence. More specifically, it prefers areas with grass under 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in) high and avoids those with grass over 1 m (3 ft 3 in) high. It is rarer in grasslands in northern parts of its range that otherwise appear similar to areas in southern Africa where it is abundant, suggesting it may avoid hotter regions. It also avoids deserts.

24-7-2024 IRISH COAST, IRELAND - NORTHERN GANNET (Morus bassanus),


The northern gannet (Morus bassanus) is a seabird, the largest species of the gannet family, Sulidae. It is native to the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, breeding in Western Europe and Northeastern North America. It is the largest seabird in the northern Atlantic. The sexes are similar in appearance. The adult northern gannet has a mainly white streamlined body with a long neck, and long and slender wings. It is 87–100 cm (34+1⁄2–39+1⁄2 in) long with a 170–180 cm (67–71 in) wingspan. The head and nape have a buff tinge that is more prominent in breeding season, and the wings are edged with dark brown-black feathers. The long, pointed bill is blue-grey, contrasting with black, bare skin around the mouth and eyes. Juveniles are mostly grey-brown, becoming increasingly white in the five years it takes them to reach maturity.


Nesting takes place in colonies on both sides of the North Atlantic, the largest of which are at Bass Rock (75,000 pairs as of 2014), St. Kilda (60,000 pairs as of 2013) and Ailsa Craig (33,000 pairs as of 2014) in Scotland, Grassholm in Wales, and Bonaventure Island (60,000 pairs in 2009) off the coast of Quebec. Its breeding range has extended northward and eastward, with colonies being established on Russia's Kola Peninsula in 1995 and Bear Island (the southernmost island of Svalbard), in 2011. Colonies are mostly located on offshore islands with cliffs, from which the birds can more easily launch into the air. The northern gannet undertakes seasonal migrations and catches fish (which are the mainstay of its diet) by making high-speed dives into the sea.


The northern gannet was previously hunted for food in certain parts of its range, and although that practice still continues in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and the Faroe Islands, the bird faces few other natural or man-made threats.

Northern Gannets have excellent vision. They detect foraging gannets at great distances, enabling them to move quickly to reach prey. Their sharp eyes also allow them to detect prey underwater amid the reflected and refracted light where water and air meet.

Gannets are Scotland’s, and indeed Britain’s, largest seabird. The specific type found here is the northern gannet, identifiable by its bright white plumage, long neck and beak, and distinctive black wing tips. 

Gannets feed on a variety of fish at sea, and to catch these fish they have to dive (makes sense). But did you know that when these seabirds actually hit the surface of the water they can be travelling as fast as 60mph?! To do this they have specifically developed neck muscles and a spongy bone plate at the base of their bill to reduce the impact. They also have special membranes to guard their eyes.

15-7-2024 BLIJDORP, ROTTERDAM - CARRION CROW (Corvus corone)


The carrion crow (Corvus corone) is a passerine bird of the family Corvidae and the genus Corvus which is native to western Europe and the eastern Palearctic.

The plumage of the carrion crow is black with a green or purple sheen, much greener than the gloss of the rook (Corvus frugilegus). The bill, legs and feet are also black. It can be distinguished from the common raven by its size of around 48–52 centimetres (19–20 in) in length as compared to an average of 63 centimetres (25 inches) for ravens, and from the hooded crow by its black plumage. The carrion crow has a wingspan of 84–100 centimetres (33–39 in) and weighs 400–600 grams (14 oz – 1 lb 5 oz).

Juvenile carrion crows can be identified by their brownish plumage and blue eyes, both of which darken to black and brown as the crow grows older.

The rook is generally gregarious and the crow largely solitary, but rooks occasionally nest in isolated trees, and crows may feed with rooks; moreover, crows are often sociable in winter roosts. The most distinctive feature is the voice. The rook has a high-pitched kaaa, but the crow's guttural, slightly vibrant, deeper croaked kraa is distinct from any note of the rook.

The carrion crow is noisy, perching on a vantage point such as a building or the top of a tree and calling three or four times in quick succession, with a slight pause between each series of croaks. During each series of calls, a crow may perform an accompanying gesture, raising its shoulders and bowing its head and neck downwards with each caw. The wing-beats are slower, more deliberate than those of the rook.


Carrion crows can become tame near humans, and can often be found near areas of human activity or habitation including cities, moors, woodland, sea cliffs and farmland where they compete with other social birds such as gulls, other corvids, and ducks for food in parks and gardens. other species of corvid, carrion crows will actively harass predators and competitors that enter their territory or threaten them or their offspring, and will engage in group mobbing behaviour as a method to defend themselves.

Like all corvids, carrion crows are very intelligent. For example, they can discriminate between numerosities up to 30, flexibly switch between rules, and recognise human and crow faces. Given the difference in brain architecture in crows compared to primates, these abilities suggest that their intelligence is realised as a product of convergent evolution.

15-7-2024 BLIJDORP, ROTTERDAM - CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

The Canada goose (Branta canadensis), sometimes called Canadian goose, is a large wild goose with a black head and neck, white cheeks, white under its chin, and a brown body. It is native to the arctic and temperate regions of North America, and it is occasionally found during migration across the Atlantic in northern Europe. It has been introduced to France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, Argentina, and the Falkland Islands. Like most geese, the Canada goose is primarily herbivorous and normally migratory; often found on or close to fresh water, the Canada goose is also common in brackish marshes, estuaries, and lagoons.

Extremely adept at living in human-altered areas, Canada geese have established breeding colonies in urban and cultivated habitats, which provide food and few natural predators. The success of this common park species has led to its often being considered a pest species because of its excrement, its depredation of crops, its noise, its aggressive territorial behavior toward both humans and other animals, and its habit of stalking and begging for food, the latter a result of humans disobeying artificial feeding policies toward wild animals.

The black head and neck with a white "chinstrap" distinguish the Canada goose from all other goose species except the cackling goose and barnacle goose (the latter, however, has a black breast and gray rather than brownish body plumage). Some Canadian geese come with a pepper-spotted or brown neck with brown plumage, and these are assumed to be a leucistic variety.

Canada geese are primarily herbivores, although they sometimes eat small insects and fish. Their diet includes green vegetation and grains. The Canada goose eats a variety of grasses when on land. It feeds by grasping a blade of grass with the bill, then tearing it with a jerk of the head. The Canada goose also eats beans and grains such as wheat, rice, and corn when they are available. In the water, it feeds from aquatic plants by sliding its bill at the bottom of the body of water. It also feeds on aquatic plant-like algae, such as seaweed.


In urban areas, it is also known to pick food out of garbage bins. They are also sometimes hand-fed a variety of grains and other foods by humans in parks. Canada geese prefer lawn grass in urban areas. They usually graze in open areas with wide clearance to avoid potential predators.

During the second year of their lives, Canada geese find a mate. They are monogamous, and most couples stay together all of their lives. If one dies, the other may find a new mate. The female lays from two to nine eggs with an average of five, and both parents protect the nest while the eggs incubate, but the female spends more time at the nest than the male.

Its nest is usually located in an elevated area near water such as streams, lakes, ponds, and sometimes on a beaver lodge. Its eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with plant material and down.

The incubation period, in which the female incubates while the male remains nearby, lasts for 24–32 days after laying. Canada geese can respond to external climatic factors by adjusting their laying date to spring maximum temperatures, which may benefit their nesting success. As the annual summer molt also takes place during the breeding season, the adults lose their flight feathers for 20–40 days, regaining flight about the same time as their goslings start to fly.

As soon as the goslings hatch, they are immediately capable of walking, swimming, and finding their own food (a diet similar to that of adult geese). Parents are often seen leading their goslings in a line, usually with one adult at the front and the other at the back. While protecting their goslings, parents often violently chase away nearby creatures, from small blackbirds to lone humans who approach: first giving a warning hiss, and then attacking with bites and slaps of the wings. Although parents are hostile to unfamiliar geese, they may form groups of a number of goslings and a few adults, called crèches.

The offspring enter the fledgling stage any time from six to nine weeks of age. They do not leave their parents until after the spring migration, when they return to their birthplace.

Tuesday 23 July 2024

16-7-2024 ROTTERDAM ZOO, NETHERLANDS - EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)


The Eurasian coot (Fulica atra), also known as the common coot, or Australian coot, is a member of the rail and crake bird family, the Rallidae. It is found in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and parts of North Africa. It has a slaty-black body, a glossy black head and a white bill with a white frontal shield. The sexes are similar. Similar looking coot species are found throughout the world, with the largest variety of coot species living in South America.

The Eurasian coot (Fulica atra), also known as the common coot, or Australian coot, is a member of the rail and crake bird family, the Rallidae. It is found in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and parts of North Africa. It has a slaty-black body, a glossy black head and a white bill with a white frontal shield. The sexes are similar. Similar looking coot species are found throughout the world, with the largest variety of coot species living in South America.

The Eurasian coot is 36–38 cm (14–15 in) in length with a wing-span of 70–80 cm (28–31 in); males weigh around 890 g (31 oz) and females 750 g (26 oz). It is largely black except for the white bill and frontal shield (which gives rise to the phrase "as bald as a coot", in use as early as 1430). As a swimming species, the coot has partial webbing on its long strong toes. The sexes are similar in appearance.

The juvenile is paler than the adult, has a whitish breast, and lacks the facial shield; the adult black plumage develops when about 3–4 months old, but the white shield is only fully developed at about one year old.

The Eurasian coot is a noisy bird with a wide repertoire of crackling, explosive, or trumpeting calls, often given at night.

The coot breeds across much of the Old World on freshwater lakes and ponds, and like its relative the common moorhen, has adapted well to living in urban environments, often being found in parks and gardens with access to water. It occurs and breeds in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The species has recently expanded its range into New Zealand. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, but migrates further south and west from much of Asia in winter as the waters freeze. It is known to occur as a vagrant in North America.

The coot breeds across much of the Old World on freshwater lakes and ponds, and like its relative the common moorhen, has adapted well to living in urban environments, often being found in parks and gardens with access to water. It occurs and breeds in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The species has recently expanded its range into New Zealand. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, but migrates further south and west from much of Asia in winter as the waters freeze. It is known to occur as a vagrant in North America.

17-7-2024 BLIJDORP, NETHERLANDS - ROSE RINGED PARAKEET (Psittacula krameri)

The rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri), also known as the ring-necked parakeet, ringneck parrot (in aviculture) or the Kramer parrot, is a medium-sized parrot in the genus Psittacula, of the family Psittacidae. It has disjunct native ranges in Africa and the Indian Subcontinent, and is now introduced into many other parts of the world where feral populations have established themselves and are bred for the exotic pet trade.

One of the few parrot species that have successfully adapted to living in disturbed habitats, it has withstood the onslaught of urbanization and deforestation. As a popular pet species, escaped birds have colonised a number of cities around the world, including populations in Northern and Western Europe. These parakeets have also proven themselves capable of living in a variety of climates outside their native range, and are able to survive low winter temperatures in Northern Europe. The species is listed as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because its population appears to be increasing, but its popularity as a pet and unpopularity with farmers have reduced its numbers in some parts of its native range.

20-7-2024 HUSAVIK, ICELAND - BLACK HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

The black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is a small gull that breeds in much of the Palearctic including Europe and also in coastal eastern Canada. Most of the population is migratory and winters further south, but some birds reside in the milder westernmost areas of Europe. The species also occurs in smaller numbers in northeastern North America, where it was formerly known as the common black-headed gull.

The black-headed gull was previously placed in the genus Larus but in agreement with the NACC and SACC, and based on Pons et al. (Pons, J.-M.., A. Hassanin, and P.-A. Crochet. 2005. "Phylogenetic relationships within the Laridae" (Charadriiformes: Aves) inferred from mitochondrial markers, "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution" 37: 686-699) and earlier references, extensive changes to the taxonomy of gulls was undertaken and many species of gull were removed from the genus Larus, including the black-headed gull 

The black-headed gull displays a variety of compelling behaviours and adaptations. Some of these include removing eggshells from the nest after hatching, begging co-ordination between siblings, differences between sexes, conspecific brood parasitism, and extra-pair paternity. They are an overwintering species, found in a variety of different habitats.

This gull is 37–44 cm (14+1⁄2–17+1⁄2 in) long with a 94–110 cm (37–43+1⁄2 in) wingspan and weighs 190–400 g (6+3⁄4–14+1⁄8 oz).

In flight, the white leading edge to the wing is a good field mark. The summer adult has a chocolate-brown head (not black, although does look black from a distance), pale grey body, black tips to the primary wing feathers, and red bill and legs. The hood is lost in winter, leaving just two dark spots. Immature birds have a mottled pattern of brown spots over most of the body,[4] and a black band on the tail. There is no difference in plumage between the sexes.

It breeds in colonies in large reed beds or marshes, or on islands in lakes, nesting on the ground. Like most gulls, it is highly gregarious in winter, both when feeding or in evening roosts. It is not a pelagic species and is rarely seen at sea far from coasts.

The black-headed gull is a bold and opportunistic feeder. It eats insects, fish, seeds, worms, scraps, and carrion in towns, or invertebrates in ploughed fields with equal relish. It is a noisy species, especially in colonies, with a familiar "kree-ar" call. Its scientific name means laughing gull.


This species takes two years to reach maturity. First-year birds have a black terminal tail band, more dark areas in the wings, and, in summer, a less fully developed dark hood. Like most gulls, black-headed gulls are long-lived birds, with a maximum age of at least 32.9 years recorded in the wild, in addition to an anecdote now believed of dubious authenticity regarding a 63-year-old bird.

Black-headed gulls can be found over much of Europe. It is also found in across the Palearctic to Japan and east China. Small numbers also breed in northeastern Canada and can be seen in winter in northeast North America as far south as Virginia, often with the similar-looking Bonaparte's Gull and also in some Caribbean islands. Recorded as a very rare transient gull in the Carolina coast. 

21-7-2024 VIGUR ISLAND, ICELAND - ATLANTIC PUFFIN (Fratercula arctica)


A sharply dressed black-and-white seabird with a huge, multicolored bill, the Atlantic Puffin is often called the clown of the sea. It breeds in burrows on islands in the North Atlantic, and winters at sea. In flight, puffins flap their small wings frantically to stay aloft—but underwater those wings become powerful flippers that allow the birds to catch small fish one by one until they have a beak full. This long-lived bird, once widely hunted, is reestablishing its small range in the U.S., although warming ocean waters are causing breeding failures in other parts of the North Atlantic.

The best time to find Atlantic Puffins is during the breeding season. From late April through August they come ashore to nest on islands—the rest of the year they’re far out at sea. In the U.S. the best bet is to take a boat trip to rocky islands off Maine. Elsewhere, puffins nest in larger numbers in Canada, Scotland, Greenland, Norway, and especially Iceland, which is home to about half the global population. In these countries, a visit to a puffin colony can provide great views of hundreds to thousands of the birds. Outside of the breeding season, you’ll likely need to take a pelagic birding trip well offshore to find one.

Puffin chicks are known as “pufflings.”

Atlantic Puffins occur across the North Atlantic from Canada to Norway and south to Spain.

Like many seabirds, the Atlantic Puffin is long-lived, averaging 30 plus years. And like other birds with long lifespans, the young take several years to mature. Puffins do not breed until they are 3–6 years old.

The Atlantic Puffin is the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Half of North America’s Atlantic Puffins breed in one location: Witless Bay, Newfoundland, Canada.

The oldest recorded Atlantic Puffin was banded as a chick in Norway and lived to be 41 years old. But it’s likely puffins can live even longer than that; it’s only relatively recently that bands durable enough to last 40 years have come into wide use.


A lighthouse keeper on Iceland’s Westman Islands has been banding puffin chicks for more than 60 years. The islands are home to the largest puffin colony in the world, and the keeper, Oskar Sigurdsson, earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for his prolific banding: more than 90,000 birds in that time, including more than 55,000 puffins.

Atlantic Puffins occur across the North Atlantic from Canada to Norway and south to Spain.

Like many seabirds, the Atlantic Puffin is long-lived, averaging 30 plus years. And like other birds with long lifespans, the young take several years to mature. Puffins do not breed until they are 3–6 years old.

The Atlantic Puffin is the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Half of North America’s Atlantic Puffins breed in one location: Witless Bay, Newfoundland, Canada.

The oldest recorded Atlantic Puffin was banded as a chick in Norway and lived to be 41 years old. But it’s likely puffins can live even longer than that; it’s only relatively recently that bands durable enough to last 40 years have come into wide use.

21-7-2024 VIGUR ISLAND, ICELAND - COMMON EIDER (MALE) (Somateria mollissima)


The common eider (pronounced /ˈaɪ.dər/) (Somateria mollissima), also called St. Cuthbert's duck or Cuddy's duck, is a large (50–71 cm (20–28 in) in body length) sea-duck that is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph).


The eider's nest is built close to the sea and is lined with eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast. This soft and warm lining has long been harvested for filling pillows and quilts, but in more recent years has been largely replaced by down from domestic farm-geese and synthetic alternatives. Although eiderdown pillows or quilts are now a rarity, eiderdown harvesting continues and is sustainable, as it can be done after the ducklings leave the nest with no harm to the birds.


The common eider is both the largest of the four eider species and the largest duck found in Europe, and is exceeded in North America only by smatterings of the Muscovy duck, which only reaches North America in a wild state in southernmost Texas (and arguably south Florida where feral but non-native populations reside). It measures 50 to 71 cm (19+1⁄2 to 28 in) in length, weighs 0.81 to 3.04 kg (1 lb 12+1⁄2 oz to 6 lb 11 oz) and spans 80–110 cm (31–43 in) across the wings. The average weight of 22 males in the North Atlantic was 2.21 kg (4 lb 14 oz) while 32 females weighed an average of 1.92 kg (4 lb 3+1⁄2 oz). It is characterized by its bulky shape and large, wedge-shaped bill. The male is unmistakable, with its black and white plumage and green nape. The female is a brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks, except other eider species, on the basis of size and head shape. The drake's display call is a strange almost human-like "ah-ooo", while the hen utters hoarse quacks. The species is often readily approachable.

21-7-2024 ISAFJORDUR, ICELAND - COMMON EIDER (JUVENILE) (Somateria mollissima)

The common eider is a large diving duck that is easily distinguishable, even at quite long distances, because of the elongated profile of the head. Adults of this species are approximately 58 cm long and weigh from 1.2–2.8 kg.

Males and females have very different plumage; the male has a black crown, belly and tail, while the rest of the plumage is white, the breast usually has a pinkish tinge. Males also have characteristic green marks on the sides of the head. The female is brown with light, closely packed bars over the whole body.


Young males are a mottled brown-black and white, the pattern of which varies with age. Young birds are difficult to distinguish from adult males in transitional plumage after the nesting season, when they are switching to their winter colours.

The male’s voice is a deep, prolonged ‘coo-roo-uh’, the female’s call is a growling ‘cor-r-r’.

21-7-2024 ISAFJORDUR, ICELAND - COMMON EIDER (FEMALE) (Somateria mollissima)

The common eider (pronounced /ˈaɪ.dər/) (Somateria mollissima), also called St. Cuthbert's duck or Cuddy's duck, is a large (50–71 cm (20–28 in) in body length) sea-duck that is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph).

The eider's nest is built close to the sea and is lined with eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast. This soft and warm lining has long been harvested for filling pillows and quilts, but in more recent years has been largely replaced by down from domestic farm-geese and synthetic alternatives. Although eiderdown pillows or quilts are now a rarity, eiderdown harvesting continues and is sustainable, as it can be done after the ducklings leave the nest with no harm to the birds.

The common eider is both the largest of the four eider species and the largest duck found in Europe, and is exceeded in North America only by smatterings of the Muscovy duck, which only reaches North America in a wild state in southernmost Texas (and arguably south Florida where feral but non-native populations reside). It measures 50 to 71 cm (19+1⁄2 to 28 in) in length, weighs 0.81 to 3.04 kg (1 lb 12+1⁄2 oz to 6 lb 11 oz) and spans 80–110 cm (31–43 in) across the wings. The average weight of 22 males in the North Atlantic was 2.21 kg (4 lb 14 oz) while 32 females weighed an average of 1.92 kg (4 lb 3+1⁄2 oz). It is characterized by its bulky shape and large, wedge-shaped bill. The male is unmistakable, with its black and white plumage and green nape. The female is a brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks, except other eider species, on the basis of size and head shape. The drake's display call is a strange almost human-like "ah-ooo", while the hen utters hoarse quacks. The species is often readily approachable.


Drakes of the European, eastern North American and Asia/western North American races can be distinguished by minor differences in plumage and bill colour. Some authorities place the subspecies v-nigra as a separate species.

This species dives for crustaceans and molluscs, with mussels being a favoured food. The eider will eat mussels by swallowing them whole; the shells are then crushed in their gizzard and excreted. When eating a crab, the eider will remove all of its claws and legs, and then eat the body in a similar fashion.

It is abundant, with populations of about 1.5–2 million birds in both North America and Europe, and also large but unknown numbers in eastern Siberia (HBW).

21-7-2024 ISAFJORDUR, ICELAND - COMMON EIDER (FEMALE AND JUVENILE) (Somateria mollissima)


The Eider is the UK's heaviest and fastest flying duck. It's a true seaduck, rarely found away from coasts. Its reliance on coastal shellfish for food has brought it into conflict with mussel farmers. Eiders are very sociable and usually stay close to shore, riding the swell in a sandy bay or strung out in long lines beyond the breaking waves. It is an Amber List species because of its winter concentrations.

Flocks of these large sea ducks enliven northern coastlines. Males are white and black with a soft suffusion of green on the nape. Immature males are variable and messy-looking with patches of black and white. Females vary from rich rufous-brown to cold grayish, always with extensive black barring covering body and wings. Slight variation in bill shape and color across subspecies, especially obvious on males; Pacific birds have brightest orange bills, most others have greenish bills. Dives to feed on mollusks and other crustaceans. In late summer, look for flocks of females with dozens of ducklings; broods often join together. Compare females with other eider species, and note details of bill and head shape.

21-7-2024 ISAFJORDUR, ICELAND - EUROPEAN GLOBEFLOWER (Trollius europaeus)


Trollius europaeus, the globeflower, is a perennial flowering plant of the family Ranunculaceae. The plant is native to Europe and Western Asia and is a protected species in Russia and Bulgaria.

In Udmurtia, this plant is one of the national symbols of the republic, with many different objects named after it.

Trollius europaeus grows up to 60 cm high with a bright yellow, globe-shaped flower up to 3 cm across. The colourful petaloid sepals hide 5–15 inconspicuous true petals with nectaries at their base and, typically for the family, a large number of stamens. Each flower produces a large number of wrinkled follicles. The leaves are deeply divided into 3–5 toothed lobes.

It grows in damp ground in shady areas, woodland and scrub, flowering between June and August.

This species is pollinated mostly by seed-eating flies belonging to the genus Chiastocheta (Anthomyiidae).

21-7-2024 VIGUR ISLAND, ICELAND - COMMON REDSHANK (Tringa totanus)

The common redshank or simply redshank (Tringa totanus) is a Eurasian wader in the large family Scolopacidae.

The common redshank was formally described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae under the binomial name Scolopax totanus. It is now placed with twelve other species in the genus Tringa that Linnaeus had introduced in 1758. The genus name Tringa is the Neo-Latin name given to the green sandpiper by the Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi in 1603 based on Ancient Greek trungas, a thrush-sized, white-rumped, tail-bobbing wading bird mentioned by Aristotle. The specific totanus is from Tótano, the Italian name for this bird.

Common redshanks in breeding plumage are a marbled brown color, slightly lighter below. In winter plumage they become somewhat lighter-toned and less patterned, being rather plain greyish-brown above and whitish below. They have red legs and a black-tipped red bill, and show white up the back and on the wings in flight.

The spotted redshank (T. erythropus), which breeds in the Arctic, has a longer bill and legs; it is almost entirely black in breeding plumage and very pale in winter. It is not a particularly close relative of the common redshank, but rather belongs to a high-latitude lineage of largish shanks. T. totanus on the other hand is closely related to the marsh sandpiper (T. stagnatilis), and closer still to the small wood sandpiper (T. glareola). The ancestors of the latter and the common redshank seem to have diverged around the Miocene-Pliocene boundary, about 5–6 million years ago. These three subarctic- to temperate-region species form a group of smallish shanks with have red or yellowish legs, and in breeding plumage are generally a subdued light brown above with some darker mottling, and have somewhat diffuse small brownish spots on the breast and neck.

The common redshank is a widespread breeding bird across temperate Eurasia. It is a migratory species, wintering on coasts around the Mediterranean, on the Atlantic coast of Europe from Ireland and Great Britain southwards, and in South Asia. They are uncommon vagrants outside these areas; on Palau in Micronesia for example, the species was recorded in the mid-1970s and in 2000. A tagged redshank was spotted at Manakudi Bird Sanctuary, Kanniyakumari District of Tamil Nadu, India in the month of April 2021.

They are wary and noisy birds which will alert everything else with their loud piping call.

Redshanks will nest in any wetland, from damp meadows to saltmarsh, often at high densities. They lay 3–5 eggs.

Like most waders, they feed on small invertebrates.

The common redshank is widely distributed and quite plentiful in some regions, and thus not considered a threatened species by the IUCN. It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

21-7-2024 ISAFJORDUR, ICELAND - COMMON EIDER (MALE) (Somateria mollissima)


The common eider (pronounced /ˈaɪ.dər/) (Somateria mollissima), also called St. Cuthbert's duck or Cuddy's duck, is a large (50–71 cm (20–28 in) in body length) sea-duck that is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph).

The eider's nest is built close to the sea and is lined with eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast. This soft and warm lining has long been harvested for filling pillows and quilts, but in more recent years has been largely replaced by down from domestic farm-geese and synthetic alternatives. Although eiderdown pillows or quilts are now a rarity, eiderdown harvesting continues and is sustainable, as it can be done after the ducklings leave the nest with no harm to the birds.


Drakes of the European, eastern North American and Asia/western North American races can be distinguished by minor differences in plumage and bill colour. Some authorities place the subspecies v-nigra as a separate species.

This species dives for crustaceans and molluscs, with mussels being a favoured food. The eider will eat mussels by swallowing them whole; the shells are then crushed in their gizzard and excreted. When eating a crab, the eider will remove all of its claws and legs, and then eat the body in a similar fashion.

It is abundant, with populations of about 1.5–2 million birds in both North America and Europe, and also large but unknown numbers in eastern Siberia (HBW).

21-7-2024 VIGUR ISLAND, ICELAND - COMMON EIDER (JUVENILE) (Somateria mollissima)


A particularly famous colony of eiders lives on the Farne Islands in Northumberland, England. These birds were the subject of one of the first ever bird protection laws, established by Saint Cuthbert in the year 676. About 1,000 pairs still nest there every year. Because St. Cuthbert is the patron saint of Northumberland, it was natural that the eider should be chosen as the county's emblem bird; the birds are still often called Cuddy's ducks in the area, "Cuddy" being the familiar form of "Cuthbert".


In Canada's Hudson Bay, important eider die-offs were observed in the 1990s by local populations due to quickly changing ice flow patterns. The Canadian Wildlife Service has spent several years gathering up-to-date information on their populations, and preliminary results seem to show a population recovery. The common eider is the object of the 2011 documentary People of a Feather,[citation needed] which studies the historical relationship between the Sanikiluaq community and eiders, as well as various aspects of their ecology.


The common eider is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Eiders are colonial breeders. They nest on coastal islands in colonies ranging in size of less than 100 to upwards of 15,000 individuals. Female eiders frequently exhibit a high degree of natal philopatry, where they return to breed on the same island where they were hatched. This can lead to a high degree of relatedness between individuals nesting on the same island, as well as the development of kin-based female social structures. This relatedness has likely played a role in the evolution of co-operative breeding behaviours amongst eiders. Examples of these behaviours include laying eggs in the nests of related individual and crèching, where female eiders team up and share the work of rearing ducklings.

21-7-2024 VIGUR ISLAND, ICELAND - COMMON EIDER (FEMALE) (Somateria mollissima)

The common eider (pronounced /ˈaɪ.dər/) (Somateria mollissima), also called St. Cuthbert's duck or Cuddy's duck, is a large (50–71 cm (20–28 in) in body length) sea-duck that is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph).

The eider's nest is built close to the sea and is lined with eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast. This soft and warm lining has long been harvested for filling pillows and quilts, but in more recent years has been largely replaced by down from domestic farm-geese and synthetic alternatives. Although eiderdown pillows or quilts are now a rarity, eiderdown harvesting continues and is sustainable, as it can be done after the ducklings leave the nest with no harm to the birds.

The common eider is both the largest of the four eider species and the largest duck found in Europe, and is exceeded in North America only by smatterings of the Muscovy duck, which only reaches North America in a wild state in southernmost Texas (and arguably south Florida where feral but non-native populations reside). It measures 50 to 71 cm (19+1⁄2 to 28 in) in length, weighs 0.81 to 3.04 kg (1 lb 12+1⁄2 oz to 6 lb 11 oz) and spans 80–110 cm (31–43 in) across the wings. The average weight of 22 males in the North Atlantic was 2.21 kg (4 lb 14 oz) while 32 females weighed an average of 1.92 kg (4 lb 3+1⁄2 oz). It is characterized by its bulky shape and large, wedge-shaped bill. The male is unmistakable, with its black and white plumage and green nape. The female is a brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks, except other eider species, on the basis of size and head shape. The drake's display call is a strange almost human-like "ah-ooo", while the hen utters hoarse quacks. The species is often readily approachable.

Drakes of the European, eastern North American and Asia/western North American races can be distinguished by minor differences in plumage and bill colour. Some authorities place the subspecies v-nigra as a separate species.

This species dives for crustaceans and molluscs, with mussels being a favoured food. The eider will eat mussels by swallowing them whole; the shells are then crushed in their gizzard and excreted. When eating a crab, the eider will remove all of its claws and legs, and then eat the body in a similar fashion.

It is abundant, with populations of about 1.5–2 million birds in both North America and Europe, and also large but unknown numbers in eastern Siberia (HBW).

19-7-2024 AT SEA, ICELAND - BLACK LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla)

The black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) is a seabird species in the gull family Laridae.

This species was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his landmark 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae as Larus tridactylus. The English name is derived from its call, a shrill 'kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake'. The genus name Rissa is from the Icelandic name rita for this bird, and the specific tridactyla is from Ancient Greek tridaktulos, "three-toed", from tri-, "three-" and daktulos, "toe".

In North America, this species is known as the black-legged kittiwake to differentiate it from the red-legged kittiwake, but in Europe, where it is the only member of the genus, it is often known just as kittiwake.

The black-legged kittiwake is a coastal bird of the arctic to subarctic regions of the world. It can be found all across the northern coasts of the Atlantic, from Canada to Greenland as well as on the Pacific side from Alaska to the coast of Siberia. Black-legged kittiwakes' wintering range extends further south from the St-Lawrence to the southern coast of New Jersey as well as in China, the Sargasso sea and off the coast of west Africa. There are two subspecies of black-legged kittiwake. Rissa tridactyla tridactyla can be found on the Atlantic coast whereas Rissa tridactyla pollicaris is found on the Pacific coast.


Out of all the laridae, the kittiwakes are the most pelagic ones. Kittiwakes are almost exclusively found at sea with the exception of the breeding period, from May to September, where they can be found nesting on the sheerest sea cliffs. They are rarely found inland, though they have been reported on few instances as far as 20 km inland. For the rest of the year, kittiwake spend most of their time on the wing out of sight from the coast.

It is a coastal breeding bird around the north Pacific and north Atlantic oceans, found most commonly in North America and Europe. Kittiwakes are colonial nesters that form monogamous pairs and exhibit biparental care, meaning that both take part in nest building, incubation and chick rearing. They tend to nest in large numbers on cliffs by the sea side. It breeds in large colonies on cliffs and is very noisy on the breeding ground. Cliff nesting for gulls occurs only in the Rissa species, and the kittiwake is capable of utilizing the very sheerest of vertical cliffs, as is evident in their nesting sites on Staple Island in the outer Farne Islands.

Black-legged kittiwake gulls traditionally prefer nesting on natural cliffs and ledges, and there are historically few instances of kittiwakes nesting on man-made structures. In recent years, a shift in nesting behavior has been noted, particularly in the coastal areas of Northern Norway.

Monday 22 July 2024

21-7-2024 ISAFJORDUR, ICELAND - ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea)



21-7-2024 VIGUR ISLAND, ICELAND - BLACK GUILLEMOT (Cepphus grylle)

The black guillemot is a circumpolar species distributed in the boreal, low arctic and high arctic regions of the north Atlantic and arctic oceans and breeding between 43° and 82°N. The 5 listed subspecies inhabit different parts of this range. In North America, they can be found as far south as the Gulf of Maine and New England and across parts of the northern coast of North America as far as Alaska, where they are replaced by the pigeon guillemot in the North Pacific. In Europe and Asia, they are found from the British Isles and Northward across the northern coast of Asia. They are one of the few birds to breed on Surtsey, Iceland, a new volcanic island. It is a fairly common breeding bird in western and northern Scotland and Ireland. In Great Britain, they only breed at St. Bees Head in Cumbria, the Isle of Man and on east Anglesey in north Wales. Approximately 40% of the population breeds in the high arctic where the largest colonies are found, 30% in the low arctic, and 30% in boreal waters. In the winter, some of the birds in the high arctic waters are forced south by the winter ice making them seasonal migrants, but in more temperate zones the species is essentially resident.

Typically restricted to rocky shores, black guillemots utilize the cliffs, crevices and boulders for their nests, hunting the inshore waters for benthic prey. Compared to other auks, they forage fairly close to the colony, in the breeding season mostly in inshore waters more than 50m in depth, farther afield in the winter months.

One of the early ornithologists that described aspects of the behaviour of the black guillemot was Edmund Selous (1857–1934) in his book The Bird Watcher in the Shetlands (1905). In the chapter titled 'From the Edge of a Precipice he writes for instance that sometimes the black guillemots carry a fish they have caught in their beak for hours. He also gives further details about the behaviour.

Black guillemots are coastal foragers with diets typically associated with benthic and kelp-forest prey. They dive between 15-20m to catch their prey, but can dive to a depth of at least 43m. They use their wings to propel themselves forward and their feet to steer.  Small prey are swallowed underwater whole. Guillemots bring larger prey to the surface to soften in their bill before swallowing whole.  Guillemots are single-prey loaders, meaning they bring single prey items back to their chicks during the chick-rearing period. This limits the spatial range that parents can forage for food, as chicks must receive a high number of energy-rich prey items throughout each day.  Black guillemot diets include sculpins, butterfish, rock gunnel, northern sandlance, herring, jellyfish, mollusks, and other small crustaceans. 

A number of threats face Black guillemots. Black guillemots have been shown to be vulnerable to several species of predators including American Mink, Great Skua, gulls, and Otter Lutra Lutra, as well as introduced species like the Brown Rat and feral cats.  One large colony on an island in the Baltic Sea (approximately 2600 individuals) was wiped out by American Mink in the early 2000s.  Because Black guillemots forage close to shore, they tend to be exposed to more pollution than further oceangoing seabirds. Additional sources of pressure include fisheries bycatch, habitat destruction, and climate change.