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Hernar - Øygarden's rarity hotspot

Hernar is an island at the northern end of Øygarden and is only reachable by boat. A regular boat service operates from Hellesøy to Hernar and other islands in the group. The island is Øygardens answer to Fair Isle or Utsira and has only recently started to receive attention from birders. There is little coverage even during peak migration times - the island is visited less than once a week for the vast majority of the time. Based on my own oberservations and reports from some of the residents there must be a vast amount of stuff that gets missed.

In May 2011 Hernar showed its potential and was in the limelight for a few days as it hosted the first documented Crag Martin for Norway. The normally quiet island was then invaded by twitchers for the first time....

If there were to be any regular ringing in Øygarden this would be the place I would hope nets could be set up....

Hernar is probably THE best place in Øygarden for migrant passerines and rarities. Statistically it produces more good birds per visit than anywhere else. This is probably due to a number of reasons - Hernar is an island, there is relatively little disturbance and there are some good habitats. Another reason is probably that once on the island one is stuck there until the boat goes - meaning that once can really cover the available habitat well.

Crag Martin
The bird that really put Hernar on the map - Norway's first Crag Martin /Klippesvale, 06 May 2011

Greenish Warbler
Greenish Warbler / Østsanger, Hernar, 26 August 2009

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warblers turn up in varying numbers each autumn

The number of species seen in a day spent birding on the island is usually around 40, almost irrespective of the time of year.

Although rarities and migrants are the main reason to visit Hernar the island has other birds too. White-tailed Eagle and most of the other species seen in Øygarden can also be seen here. It is by far the best place for Twite which breed in good numbers and large flocks build up during the autumn. 

Regular migrants include Water Rail (present for the majority of the autumn between at least September to November) and Grey-headed Woodpecker (largely in October).

Grey-headed Woodpecker
Grey-headed Woodpecker, Hernar, October 2009

View of Hernar showing most of the habitated area

The best garden on the island.....

Summer fields on Hernar, June 2020
Summer fields, June 2020

During the winter months species such as Woodcock, Snipe and thrushes can be found here as they try and move away from harsher conditions further inland. Autumn and winter is also the best time to see Black Grouse on the island.

In the spring species such as Icterine Warbler can turn up. 

Barred Warbler Common Rosefinch
Barred Warbler / hauksanger, Hernar, 02 October 2009 Common Rosefinch / Rosenfink, Hernar, 16 September 2009

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike / Tornskate, Hernar, 03 September 2009

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike / Varsler, October 2008

Fjord Express
Fjord Express arrives at Hernar on a blustery October day - since replaced with "Tornerose" and will soon change again....
(Click on picture for boat timetable)

The boat to the island leaves from Hellesøy which is a birding destination in its own right - well worth checking if there is enough time and/or light available. In April 2009 whilst standing on the deck of the Fjord Express waiting for it to depart this Great Egret came flying over....I have since been informed that this superb bird was seen on Hernar by some of the residents on a number of occasions.

Great Egret

The commonest species of warbler in the autumn tend to be Blackcap and Chiff-chaff, with smaller numbers of Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warblers being seen. Often these species can be seen out of context foraging on the ground rather than in bushes and trees which are in short supply on the island.

Garden Warbler
Garden Warbler, Hernar, October 2008

Raven White-tailed Eagle
Raven are a common resident White-tailed Eagle are a very common sight at Hernar

Raptors are often seen here, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine and White-tailed Eagle are the most common. Goshawk, Kestrel and Merlin are all regular visitors too.

Twite Jack Snipe
Twite / bergirisk are a common breeder and passage migrant on the ilsand Jack Snipe/kvartbekkasin are regular in small numbers on Hernar

The heath and boggy areas on the eastern side of the island often hold few birds, but if there is time are still worth checking as something is usually seen in this area.

Dawn view from Hernar, November 2009
For more views of Øygarden click here

Hernar Hernar garden
"Downtown Hernar" "Orchard" garden on Hernar
Migrant Wryneck, Hernar, September 2019
Migrant Wryneck, Hernar, September 2019

Birding Hernar Blue Tit
Birding Hernar, October 2009 Blue Tit / Blåmeis foraging on the heaths on the east of the island, October 2008

Siberian Chiff-chaff Lapland Bunting
Siberian Chiff-chaff are a possibility in October Lapland Longspur are regular in the autumn

A selection of the rarities seen at Hernar is given below:
(Needs something of an update now!!)

English Norsk Scientific
Grey Phalarope Polarsvømmesnipe Phalaropus fulicarius
Glaucous Gull Polarmåke Larus hyperboreus
Eurasian Wryneck Vendehals Jynx torquilla
Grey-headed Woodpecker Gråspett Picus canus
Richard's Pipit Tartarpiplerke Anthus novaeseelandiae
Crag Martin Klippesvale Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Bohemian Waxwing Sidensvans Bombycilla garrulus
Black Redstart Svartrødstjert Phoenicurus ochruros
Icterine Warbler Gulsanger Hippolais icterina
Blyth's Reed Warbler Busksanger Acrocephalus dumetorum
Barred Warbler Haukesanger Sylvia nisoria
Greenish Warbler Østsanger Phylloscopus trochiloides
Yellow-browed Warbler Gulbrynsanger Phylloscopus inornatus
Great-grey Shrike Varsler Lanius excubitor
Red-backed Shrike Tornskate Lanius collurio
Common Rosefinch Rosenfink Carpodacus erythrinus

Grasshopper Warbler
Grasshopper Warbler, Hernar, May 2011

Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher / Gråfluesnapper
Hernar, August 2008

Corncrake, Hernar, June 2016
Corncrake have been regular on Hernar in recent years

Singing Blyth's Reed Warbler, June 2020

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