Red-throated Diver: Migration in May in front of Nordkyn/ Norway

SterntaucherA moment ago it had rained. Now again, you are standing in the most beautiful sunshine. Well, that one is on the lee side of the lighthouse, because the east wind whistles pretty much. In a distance on the horizon you see migratory birds flying ahead against the heavy wind towards the Barents Sea.

In the distance, migrating Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) can be discovered. They are not the only migratory birds. Other seabirds are on the trip as well. There are King Eider (Somateria spectabilis), Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis), Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra) and Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), all can be seen on off-shore over the rough sea. Now – in early May – the passage of Red-throated Divers has reached its peak and Red-throated Divers make with the largest group of migrating birds. Again and again you can hear a strange cackle. After a while, normally you observe a Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) close to see at or above the lighthouse. But the main part of Red-throated Divers pulls over the open sea. Even from a long distance you can recognize them well due to their characteristic flight pattern. The feet stay far over backwards, the neck is stretched forward and inclined. The flight is straight forward and the wing beats are fast and quite deep. The rapid wing beat distinguishes this small Diver from the much larger flying Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii), which migrates through at the time. In general the distinction to other flying seabirds (such as ducks) is simple, but the distinction within the genus is not without problems.

It is interesting to compare migration pattern and behaviour in front of Slettnes in early May with those of the sea areas around the island of Heligoland more than 2.000 km farther to the south (s. VOGELWELT 123: 203 – 211 (2002) 203 Durchzug von Sterntauchern Gavia stellata und Prachttauchern G. arctica in der Deutschen Bucht bei Helgoland von Volker Dierschke).

The questions and answers raised there are of particular interest for understanding the annual dynamics of Loons (or Divers) and can be only partially named for the northern tip of the peninsula Nordkyn. As reported by Volker Dierschke for Helgoland, a certain preference for the diurnal distribution of the migration can be observed even with the Red-throated Divers passing in front of Slettnes. In May Red-throated Diver passed by almost the whole. On some days migration distributed fairly evenly – in terms of numbers – over the hours of the day, but at the peak time of the migration (May 6) migration focused in the first hours of the morning (of daylight period you cannot speak properly because it should be noted that properly spoken, it is not dark at all during that season). Activity ceased during lunchtime, reaching another peak towards the evening – starting from 5:00 pm onwards. The whole 10 days groups of varying sizes were observed. However, mainly individual flying Red-throated Diver were seen. Flying in groups could be considerable, too. But rarely group size exceeded more than 5 individuals. Much bigger the numbers were on the exceptionally strong peak day (May 6) as for a longer period, almost all Red-throated Diver flew in long chains but at different heights. Dierschke reported that the largest observed group off Heligoland (in March) accounted for 81 individuals. Off-shore Heligoland the vast majority of the Red-throated Diver observed, passed by in less than 50 m height. The impression could be confirmed for migration in front of Slettnes as well, as most birds flew by in less than 50 m height.

If you want to switch from Red-throated Diver monitoring to photography you should consider to expose yourself to a trip with a boat on the sea. Also to watch other seabirds in their flights to the Barents Sea, it is advisable to book an off-shore tour. If the sea is not too rough, it is possible to sea birds at eye level on the boat passing in flight the waiting photographer. Mainly Razorbills (Alca Torda), Black Guillemots(Cepphus grylle) and Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) pass by sometimes as near as at 5 meters. Then you might see Red-throated Divers approaching the boat and you will verify their characteristics in detail. The image of the blog of the Red-throated Diver shot on a boat trip off-shore Slettnes shows this very well.

The lighthouse of Slettnes near the small village of Gamvik is well known as an excellent vantage point for sea bird observation. Many birdwatchers travel to the northern tip of Norway in mid-May here to observe, photograph and count the birds to on their migration.

In order to satisfy the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Palaearctic, Bird-lens.com has undertaken several travel to near and distant bird areas. This is to be able to do anything to provide excellent images of the birds of the Western Palearctic. The results in images even of rare Western Palaearctic birds are very good. Very nice images Bird-lens.com could bring back home among others from Europe from Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark), from Holland, from England, Poland, Austria, France, Portugal, Spain and of course from Germany.

The beautiful image of the blog is only a first impression of what you will find in behind “Picture- Shop” very soon. Simply contact Bird-lens.com via the contact form if you need the image of a bird before all new pictures are online.

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