Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll 2017

Most men have a hobby. Some are encouraging their favourite soccer club, some become a wonderful cook, other go running, start saving stamps or maybe even start saving tattoos...

For me I started photographing birds in the cold north. Arctic birds aren’t colourful nor numerous. For the same (or perhaps even less) amount of money you can travel to tropical destinations where birds without exception are wonderful and colourful.

I don’t know exactly why, but for me Arctic birds are wonderful creations. In March 2017, I traveled to Greenland to photograph redpolls. Yes, you’re right… I had been done that before! But this time the destination is Illulissat, in the western part of Greenland. Before I left, I sent a package of birdseed by mail to Greenland. However, it didn’t pass the Greenland customs, obviously, they didn’t trust it. Months before my departure I had contact with residents through a Facebook group. So, I got already an impression of everyday life and to my surprise one of my new ‘Facebook-friends’ uploaded beautiful pictures of… redpolls! I asked (and received) already permission to visit her balcony during my stay at Illulissat.

Thursday March 9th
Groenland 17 R9A4463

I travelled from Schiphol Airport to Copenhagen and from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq (Greenland). At Kangerlussuaq, I had to wait for an hour at the airport, so I left the airport and quickly went to the local supermarket, to buy birdseed. At the opposite of the shop I saw some redpolls! Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take pictures. 

The last part of the trip was by a small airplane from Kangerlussuaq to Illulissat. When I arrived in Illulissat the temperature was minus 17 degrees Celsius. During a short walk, I watched: Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll, Raven, Glaucous Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull.

Friday March 10th
Groenland 17 R9A4553

In the morning, I met Erene, the lady I knew through Facebook. She was very welcoming, offered me a delicious meal and I had the opportunity to photograph some Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls. After photographing, Erene showed me around at Illulissat with its glacier and huge icebergs in the sea. Very kind of Erene to show me these beautiful places! I photographed: Glaucous Gulls, a Great Black-backed Gull and an Iceland gull (not a Kumliens).

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 Z9A0944

Groenland 17 R9A4860     Groenland 17 R9A4947

Groenland 17 Z9A2333     Groenland 17 Z9A2342

Grote mantelmeeuw 17 Z9A2567     Kleine burgemeester 17 Z9A2741

Grote burgemeester 17 Z9A2773     Groenland 17 R9A4954

Chris 17 R9A4964

Saturday March 11th
Groenland 17 R9A5037

Nearby the hotel, I found another feeder and I spent the morning and afternoon photographing redpolls. I even spotted a Greenland redpoll (rostrata) between the Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls. Hopefully during the rest of my stay I’ll get the opportunity to photograph this interesting bird. I collected a dead Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll (adult male), probably crashed against a window. I took the bird to the hotel to do some measurements. In the late afternoon, I went to the harbour where I saw many Glaucous Gulls. At the end of a perfect day I took some pictures of the local church. Amen!

Measurements redpoll
From bill to tail: 15,5 cm
Wing: 8,9 cm
Bill length: 0,9 cm
Bill height (measured at the bill base): 0,9 cm

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 Z9A5575

Groenland 17 R9A5080     Groenland 17 R9A5090

Sunday March 12th

The day started at ‘my’ redpollspot. I took pictures till the afternoon and after that I walked to the harbour to photograph gulls. I spent the night at Erenes place, because I was invited for an authentic Greenland dinner together with her boyfriend Abia, his son and his girlfriend. Very interesting to hear from locals about their culture and country. Redpolls are just for the last ten years wintering in Greenland. Perhaps because they have been fed or maybe because of the temperature increase?

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 Z9A5641     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A5275

Grote burgemeester 17 Z9A7232     Grote burgemeester 17 Z9A7243

Monday March 13th
I had breakfast with two German ladies (Sonja and Jenny) who are traveling to places all around the world that can not be reached by car. Very special! It’s cloudy, temperature around minus 16 degrees and there was some snowfall during the day. I took pictures of a beautiful coloured male Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll: a lot of white and beautiful pink colour on the breast and rump. Probably it’s the most beautiful bird I have ever seen! An estimated 20 to 25 redpolls were visiting the feeder. I also saw a snow bunting and I took pictures of a Greenland Redpoll (rostrata). Obviously the Greenland Redpoll is smaller than the Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll but it has a larger bill.

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A5417     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A5701

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A5709     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A6044

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A6058     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A6339

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A6572     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A6785

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A6871     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A7103

Groenlandse barmsijs 17 R9A7439     Groenlandse barmsijs 17 R9A7515
Greenland Redpoll (rostrata)

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 Z9A7302     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A7754

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A7962     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A7979

Tuesday March 14th

Today in a few words: breakfast; some grocery shopping (birdseed nowhere for sale); snow; minus 17 degrees; windy (so it feels like minus 27 degrees); a hole in my glove; cold and a lot of redpolls...

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A8690     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A8742

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A9025     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A9030

Wednesday, March 15th

In the morning, during a walk at the harbour, I watched a first winter Iceland Gull (not a Kumliens). Then I waited all day for redpolls, but strangely enough, they didn’t show up. Did they already go to the north? Only the Greenlandic Redpoll (rostrata) did show up. Fortunately I saw at the end of the afternoon three Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls. A nice end of the day!

Grote burgemeester 17 Z9A7966     Groenland 17 R9A9050

Thursday, March 16th
Witstuitbarmsijs 17 Z9A8612

This day, the redpolls were back, even in great numbers! It’s my last day at Greenland, therefore I photographed non-stop. I was not the only ‘redpoll-lover in town’, even the neighbour’s cat seems to appreciate them (see picture).

Chris 17 R9A9159     Witstuitbarmsijs 17 Z9A9091

Witstuitbarmsijs 17 R9A9464

Friday, March 17th
I flew to Kangerlussuaq (by the way, in Greenland are no security checks on domestic flights) and from Kangerlussuaq (minus 26 degrees) to Copenhagen, where I stayed overnight. The next morning, I flew to Amsterdam. That’s it: the end of a beautiful trip!

Birds I’ve seen during the trip
Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll
Greenland Redpoll (1)
Glaucous Gull
Iceland Gull (2)
Great Black-backed Gull
Snow Bunting (1)
Cormorant (3)

My special thanks go to Rasmus Due Nielsen, David Boertmann, Erene Olsvig and the owner of hotel Hvide Falk. Thanks to their help this trip has become so successful...