Birding Heligoland in Early September

By Luca Feuerriegel

Household holidays to nature reserves and the abundance of nature books together with fowl guides at house paved the best way for Luca to be a dedicated birder by the point he was in his early teenagers. Rising up in Namibia, South Africa, and Sri Lanka offered the right setting for this curiosity. Luca not too long ago accomplished his BSc within the Netherlands and at present spends his time working (and birding!) earlier than beginning his MSc.

The North Sea Island of Heligoland has lengthy been on my dream checklist of birding locations. My likelihood materialized in September this 12 months after I spent a month volunteering on the “Vogelwarte Helgoland”, the fowl observatory on the island that’s a part of the Institute of Avian Analysis.

The observatory on Heligoland is well-known as one of many world’s oldest fowl observatories and the place the place Heligoland traps, a sort of funnel system to entice birds for ringing, was developed. Most members of the observatory had been round my age – primarily volunteers but additionally BSc, MSc, and PhD college students. The shared curiosity in birds and the communal feeling that got here from the collaborative work and even having meals collectively made for a particularly comfy and fulfilling setting. Other than the work on the observatory which consisted primarily of fowl ringing, upkeep of the observatory and trapping backyard, and entry of historic knowledge into databases, we had a good quantity of free time. This time was invariably spent birding on the island (surprisingly…).

Stepping off the ferry upon arrival on the island, I used to be welcomed by almost 20 Northern Wheatears that crowded the pavement proper in entrance of the boat. The observatory recorded over 500 people on the island in complete. This was one of many highest counts ever, so I couldn’t have requested for a greater introduction to Heligoland. Willow Warbler, Backyard Warbler, Frequent Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Eurasian Blackcap, Frequent Redstart, Noticed Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Meadow Pipit, and Tree Pipit had been additionally among the many species current in excessive numbers, and the species we most frequently caught and ringed.

We frequently had dry spells throughout which few good birds had been recorded for a number of days. This was exacerbated by the big variety of Eurasian Sparrowhawks that seemingly rid the island of the few passerines that remained. Nevertheless, I’m certain that this was most likely additionally largely only a matter of notion. As a result of everyone is aware of that particular birds may be discovered on Heligoland at any second, even a good day is tough to endure right here as expectations are always extraordinarily excessive.

General, the birding was glorious, nevertheless, and I noticed many birds together with an excellent haul of lifers. Iberian Chiffchaff, Greenish Warbler, Crimson-breasted Flycatcher, Ortolan Bunting, and Quick-eared Owl, had been a number of the nicer finds in early September. We additionally frequently loved migrants on passage, together with a doable hybrid Hen/ Montagu’s Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Western Marsh-Harrier, Western Honey-Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Passion, and Osprey.

Little Bunting is a traditional autumn particular on Heligoland excessive on my goal checklist, and we had been handled with many alternative people of this enticing fowl. Some people had been very tame and proved highly regarded with photographers.

To not point out the far rarer Rustic Bunting, which appeared on the compost heap within the northeastern space of the island and was round for a number of days though being stressed and laborious to get good views of. A number of Yellow-browed Warblers, one other a typical autumn migrant on the island, additionally confirmed up. Actually, one particular person hopped onto the identical department on which the Rustic Bunting had perched a number of seconds earlier, whereas Iberian Chiffchaff and Greenish Warbler had been calling from a close-by thicket – one thing you’ll be able to absolutely solely have on Heligoland!

One other spotlight was the waders, which allowed a really shut method on the north-eastern seashore of the primary island. Species included Crimson Knot, Frequent Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, European Golden-Plover, Gray Plover, Ruff, Eurasian Godwit, and Little Stint.

No birding journey report on Heligoland could be full with out a point out of the well-known breeding colony of pelagic birds breeding on the western cliff. By the point I arrived solely Northern Gannets had been nonetheless round (fulmar, gulls, and auks additionally breed right here), they usually had been certainly amusing to observe (see featured picture). Nevertheless, I’ve to confess that after two visits, the potential rarities lurking in bushes in different components of the island obtained the higher of me and I hardly ever ventured to the viewpoints over the colony once more.

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