126 Species: One October Day

Helgoland 22nd October 2011

Part of the Helgoländer Vogeltage each year is an all-island bird race. It’s a bit of fun and gets everyone looking. I was co-opted onto the team of Eckhard Moeller, Peter Meyrahn and Carsten Cordes the ‘Herford Birders’ (after their local patch on the mainland). I had an excellent days birding. I am sure you can imagine: by end of play, some 126 species had been recorded from a total on 2 small islands covering just 1.7 square km. There are interesting birds around every corner, the islands are alive with migration, the passerines are incredible approachable,  and the sea is only ever  5 mins viewing away. I have a neat little video showing  point bank range passerines feeding on Kelp Flies , and when I can figure out how to download from my phone I will add it here!

To give you a bit of a picture of the birding bonanza, our team was in-on finding Long-tailed Skua, 2 Sabine’s Gulls, Little Auk, Grey Phalaropes, Short-eared owl, Shore Lark, Hen Harrier, Snow and Lapland Bunting. Other highlights included both Common and Rough-legged Buzzard, Black Redstart, Richards’ Pipit and late in the day a Siberian Stonechat. We missed a Great Grey Shrike and Thrush Nightingale. Here’s a rather poor attempt at capturing a flavour of the day:

Helgoland. 2 small islands  (1.7 km square) that don’t take long to walk around, and the sea is in view most of the time.

Lapland Bunting, North Beach, Helgoland, October 2011 © René van Rossum

In one small area on North Beach it was possible to literally walk up to Snow and Lapland Buntings, Chaffinch, Brambling, Wheatear, Redwing, Meadow and Rock Pipits and White and Pied Wagtail all feeding together in mixed group. The same beach had hosted an Olive-backed Pipit the previous day.

Migrating birds seemed pretty much everywhere. Here some Redwing and Fieldfare on small field.

The German Rarities Committee are a pretty progressive bunch, young, smart and including women! This is me with Kirsten Krätzel, who covers the communication aspect of the committee as well as being a voting member.

This is the north part of the smaller Dune Beach. Along this small stretch of very white sand we saw a breeding colony of Grey Seals, Red-necked and Slavonian Grebe, Black-throated and Red-throated Diver, Snow and Lapland Bunting, Twite and Shore Larks, tons of thrushes and pipits, 2 juv. Sabine’s Gulls, migrating Pink-feet and Barnacle Geese. Not Bad!

Shore Lark on Dune beach, Helgoland, October 2011 © Thomas Langenberg

juv. Sabine’s Gull on Dune beach, Helgoland, October 2011 © Jochen Dierschke

View from crater top of the southern part of the main island

Short-eared Owl, Helgoland, October 2011 © Thomas Langenberg. Had some lovely views of this bird at very close range.

Fulmar twitch. Part of the fun of a bird race is how even the common species take on heightened importance. Here we are watching the only Fulmar seen on the day. And the chap in the sky blue coat and hat is Detlef Gruber. A long time acquaintance who wrote one of  the first papers on Caspian Gulls in ‘Limicola’ journal back in the 1990’s. Great to meet him and his family.

Siberian Stonechat, Kringle, Helgoland, October 2011 © René van Rossum- a late in the day find for one lucky team. On the fab spot at Kringle. I decided to stay watching a certain Pied Wagtail while the rest of my team went to see this. Not sure I chose the best option!

We didn’t win but I had a real blast. 2 days crammed with birds. Thanks again to all for the invite, especially Jochen D.  and very warm welcome. I hope I get back before too long…


About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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