North Sea, Scotland, Iceland wildlife highlights

This video is called Barrow’s goldeneye (species of duck found in northwestern USA).

In Europe, Barrow’s goldeneyes live only in Iceland.

This blog has already posted about a sea journey, from Iceland to the Faeroe islands, to Fair Isle and the Isle of May in Scotland, across the North Sea to Zeeland province in the Netherlands. This was 19-28 September 2015.

Highlights of that journey were:

Barrow’s goldeneyes, harlequin ducks, great northern divers, gyrfalcons, ptarmigan and northern lights in Iceland.

13 species of marine mammals, including:

30 fin whales
9 humpback whales
1 blue whale
25 orcas


10,000’s of fulmars
60 sooty shearwaters
25 storm petrels
Blyth’s reed warbler, common rosefinch and yellow-browed warblers during landing on Fair Isle
Yellow-browed warbler at sea and on board the ship

North Sea, Scotland, Iceland wildlife video

This video shows a sea journey, from Iceland to the Faeroe islands, to Fair Isle and the Isle of May in Scotland, across the North Sea to Zeeland province in the Netherlands. This was 19-28 September 2015. Ms Neeltje Groot-Schamp made this video.

It shows birds, whales and dolphins encountered on that voyage.

Puffins’ and guillemots’ eyes, new research

This 2009 video says about itself:

In Iceland‘s remote Westman Islands, warming weather is threatening a beloved mascot: the Atlantic puffin.

From Ibis, international journal of avian science:

The visual fields of Common Guillemot Uria aalge and Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica: foraging, vigilance and collision vulnerability

Graham R. Martin and Sarah Wanless


Significant differences in avian visual fields are found between closely related species that differ in their foraging technique. We report marked differences in the visual fields of two auk species.

In air, Common Guillemots Uria aalge have relatively narrow binocular fields typical of those found in non-passerine predatory birds. Atlantic Puffins Fratercula arctica have much broader binocular fields similar to those that have hitherto been recorded in passerines and in a penguin.

In water, visual fields narrow considerably and binocularity in the direction of the bill is probably abolished in both auk species. Although perceptual challenges associated with foraging are similar in both species during the breeding season when they are piscivorous, Puffins (but not Guillemots) face more exacting perceptual challenges when foraging at other times when they take a high proportion of small invertebrate prey.

Capturing this prey probably requires more accurate, visually-guided bill-placement and we argue that this is met by the Puffin‘s broader binocular field, which is retained upon immersion; its upward orientation may enable prey to be seen in silhouette. These visual field configurations have potentially important consequences that render these birds vulnerable to collision with human artefacts underwater, but not in air. They also have consequences for vigilance behaviour.

A sanderling’s life

Sanderling G3BGGW on Texel, 31 December 2014 (photo Micheal Hermes)

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

The life of G3BGGW – 12 February 2015

No, not a character from Star Wars. G3BGGW is a sanderling which was ringed in Iceland in May 2013. He was found dead on February 1, 2015 on Texel. What makes this bird so special is that he was not only seen several times in the past two years, but he was even seen alive a day before his death. So, the day of his death is very accurately known, something bird researcher Jeroen Reneerkens has experienced only a few times. Such small birds are almost never found when they die, let alone so quickly.

What’s in a name?

Thanks to his rings this sanderling was recognizable. When he came in sight of the telescopes of various bird watchers, viewers have noted the series of rings and passed the information on to the ring station. The letters in his name are about the colours: G = green, B = blue, W = white; the numeral 3 indicates that one of the rings is a flag, in this case a green flag, this was on “position 3”: above the rings on the left leg. Bird rings are read from left to right and from top to bottom.

Winter beach guest

Sanderlings are found on Dutch beaches outside the breeding season, so from late July to late May. The largest numbers you see on beaches in the winter months. They breed in the far north. … Those little birds that fast run back and forth with the surf – that are sanderlings. It seems like they are trying to go as close as possible to the water without making their feet wet. But actually they are looking for worms that appear quickly from the sand when the seawater flows over them. In the water there is plankton on which the worms feed. The birds try to catch the worms.


In Iceland G3BGGW was ringed and weighed. He weighed 71 grams and had OK fat stores to fly even further towards Greenland to breed. In winter sanderlings slim to about 50-55 grams. Five months later, he was seen on Texel, north of beach post 12. Then he came back a year later on the island, on November 5, 2014 at beach post 9. Presumably he remained until his death in this environment. Two days before his death he was seen on the parking lot near the beach. That is very strange for such a beach bird. There it cannot find food. The birdwatcher thought that he did not look too healthy there. The next day the bird was seen again on the beach and the next day he lay dead along the road to this beach.


Jeroen Reneerkens for years has been doing research into sanderlings. To do that, he has a large network of people in many countries who help with the rings and retrieval of this species. Except for Iceland also in Greenland, Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Mauritania, Ghana and Namibia research teams are involved. There are 6,000 birds ringed and 61,000 observations noted. A chore, but it provides a lot of information on which the survival of sanderlings can be mapped accurately. Furthermore, the scientists discovered that while most sanderlings are worm eaters, they eat shellfish only in Ghana! They swallow them in their entirety and so have strong stomach muscles. The life of bird G3BGGW is not over. Jeroen will investigate this bird further. By viewing its organs and fat, he hopes to find out why the animal died: by disease, age, something else? Such a fresh dead bird is an unique opportunity!