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Posts Tagged ‘Vestmannaeyjar’

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Storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) is a seabird in the northern storm petrel family, Hydrobatidae. It is the only member of the genus Hydrobates. The small, square-tailed bird is entirely black except for a broad, white rump and a white band on the under wings, and it has a fluttering, bat-like flight. The large majority of the population breeds on islands off the coasts of Europe, with the greatest numbers in the Faroe Islands, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iceland. The Mediterranean population is a separate subspecies, but is inseparable at sea from its Atlantic relatives; its strongholds are Filfla Island (Malta), Sicily, and the Balearic Islands.
The storm petrel nests in crevices and burrows, sometimes shared with other seabirds or rabbits, and lays a single white egg, usually on bare soil. The adults share the lengthy incubation and both feed the chick, which is not normally brooded after the first week. This bird is strongly migratory, spending the Northern Hemisphere winter mainly off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia, with some birds stopping in the seas adjoining West Africa, and a few remaining near their Mediterranean breeding islands. This petrel is strictly oceanic outside the breeding season. It feeds on small fish, squid, and zooplankton, while pattering on the sea’s surface, and can find oily edible items by smell. The food is converted in the bird’s stomach to an oily orange liquid, which is regurgitated when the chick is fed. Although usually silent at sea, the storm petrel has a chattering call given by both members of a pair in their courtship flight, and the male has a purring song given from the breeding chamber.
The Storm petrel cannot survive on islands where land mammals such as rats and cats have been introduced, and it suffers natural predation from gulls, skuas, owls, and falcons. Although the population may be declining slightly, this petrel is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being of least concern due to its high total numbers. Its presence in rough weather at sea has led to various mariners’ superstitions, and by analogy, to its use as a symbol by revolutionary and anarchist groups.
See more information at Wikipedia, eBird and Fuglavefurinn.
Largest colony of Storm Petrel in Iceland can be found in Elliðaey Island, near Vestmannaeyjar island, south of Iceland, but they can also be found in small numbers in two other places in south and east Iceland.
When I and Bob McGuire and Marino Sigursteinsson arrived in Elliðaey the 5th of June 2018, we were not sure if the Storm Petrel had arrived. It was almost too early for their breeding season.
So it was a big success when suddenly at midnight the air was filled with flying Storm petrels. I never saw this tiny bird, even though they were all around my head. They flew extremely fast like bats and disappeared in holes in the ground, and in the load wall of the old shelter.
I started recording inside the shelter because it was like hundreds of birds were heavily busy in conversation inside the wall, but outside and behind the shelter was a low lava cliff, named Skápar also with interesting soundscape. So I started to recording with other recorder there too.
Sadly I spent to much time talking in too short distance behind the rig, so most of the recording is spoiled with human talking. It is sad because this fabulous Storm petrel soundscape did not last more than two or three hours before they all flew to the sea again.
The following recording is what is left of the recording without the human chat. So the best part of Storm Petrel is sadly missing. Instead other bird, very similar is common in this recording. It is Leach’s Storm Petrel which is audible throughout all the recording. More info in Wikipedia, eBird and Fuglavefurinn
Background noise is a rumble noise from a trawler. It was almost constant noise all the time we stayed on the island. Even though I did not see any ship around the island, the air was vibrating with this deep rumble engine noise.
It seems like I need to spent much more time in this remote island and record its biological soundscape. It change over the day, every months, spring, summer, autumn and winter. So just 24 hours is not enough. Same as with other nearby islands, which host different bird species and different soundscape.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

( mp3 256kbps / 27,6Mb )

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 AB40
Pix. LG G6
Location:  63.466924, -20.175122
Weather: Calm, misty & light shower, ca 12°C
Listen to the recording Elliðaey part1

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Remote islands are interesting places. Almost every island has it’s own ecosystem which can be interesting to record. One of those islands is Elliðaey, which is a part of Vestmannaeyjar islands, south of Iceland.
I got an opportunity to go there on a 24 hours trip with Bob McGuire, which is recording birds in association with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds.
I am not a specialist in the ecosystem in Elliðaey so I will not say much about it here. It is slightly different between each island in the region and the bird species can be different from cliff to cliff
Our main target in Elliðaey was European storm petrel and Leach’s storm petrel. Bob was collecting individual calls and songs but I was going to record hours of ambiances. The bird colony gives a strong smell as usual, but this island also has a strong smell of sheep. For decades there have been several landowners and farmers from Heimaey island who keep there several dozens of sheep during the summertime.
Puffins have been in a very difficult situation for many years, especially south Iceland and Vestmannaeyjar islands. Mainly because some annually rhythm changes in the ocean biosphere. That situation was visible in Elliðaey. Probably more than 50% of the Puffins burrows were empty and abandoned and dead chicks were also visible around.
Not all birds have difficulties and many other bird species also live and breed in the island; Atlantic Puffin, Manx Shearwater, Leach’s Storm-petrel, European (British) Storm-petrel, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Fulmar, Common Eider, Common Murre, Black Guillemot, Common Raven, European Starling, White Wagtail
As soon as we arrived I quickly found locations for the recorders and then we walked around in the bumpy landscape for other locations. We were early in the breeding season, 4th of June, so we were even not sure if birds we were going to record, like European storm petrel, had already arrived. What surprised me most was the silence in the interior island. No sound from the ocean waves or cliff birds, only wing flaps from busy birds above our heads, mostly puffins. But there was also a low rumbling noise, which filled the air and was difficult to locate. It took me time to figure out what it was, but it was from ships somewhere far away on the ocean, so far I could not even see them in the horizon. This noise never stopped when I was awake. It was just differently loud during day and the night, and of course louder when ship passed close to the island.
The following recording was made just before midnight on a hill south of the hut in the island, located almost in the middle of a puffin colony.
It is mostly puffins wing flaps, when they fly over, landed close by the microphones and sometimes a „spray & splash sound“ when they poop
Later that night both Leach’s Storm-petrel, European Storm-petrel surprisingly arrived to the island. But that will be for another blog.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 60.3Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser paralell MKH8020/8040 in AB40 (4ch)
Pix. LG G6
Location: 63.466604, -20.176682
Weather: Calm, misty & light shower, ca 12°C

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The Vestmannaeyjar archipelago is young in geological terms. The islands lie in the Southern Icelandic Volcanic Zone and have been formed by eruptions over the past 10,000–12,000 years. The volcanic system consists of 70–80 volcanoes both above and below the sea.[3]
The largest island, Heimaey, has a population of 4,135. The other islands are uninhabited, although six have single hunting cabins. Vestmannaeyjar came to international attention in 1973 with the eruption of Eldfell volcano, which destroyed many buildings and forced a months-long evacuation of the entire population to mainland Iceland. Approximately one fifth of the town was destroyed before the lava flow was halted by application of 6.8 billion litres of cold sea water.[2]
With extremely high precipitation considering the latitude, Vestmannaeyjar features an ET Tundra climate (closely bordering Subpolar Oceanic (Cfc)) under the Köppen climate classification. It is often very windy in the islands, and the highest wind speed measured in Iceland (61 metres per second;140 mph) was recorded in Stórhöfði. The main wind directions are easterly and south-easterly. The islands enjoy the country’s highest average annual temperature, the Gulf Stream having a strong warming effect, especially in winter. (Text Wikipedia)
The following recording was made at Stórhöfði 31st of March 2016 in a windspeed around 20 m. pr/sec

Stormur í Vestmannaeyjum

Upptaka þessi var hljóðrituð hádegi á Stórhöfða þann 31. mars 2016 stuttu áður en viðvera á Stórhöfða varð óbærileg vegna veðurs.
Þarna hvín ansi hátt í stögum á loftnetsmöstrum sem eru sunnan við vitahúsið. Hljóðnemarnir voru hafðir skjólmegin við húsið á meðan á upptöku stóð. Gera má ráð fyrir að vindstyrkur hafi náð þarna 20m/sek en síðar um kvöldið komst vindstyrkur upp í 35m/sek og enn meira í hviðum.

  (mp3 192kbps / 30Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 744
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pics: Canon EOS-M (see more pictures)
Location: 63°23’58.7″N 20°17’19.2″W

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