Trip Report: Iceland, October 18 - 25, 1995

Morten Gunther, Oberst Rodes vei 22 A, N-1152 Oslo, Norway;

Writing this report today my thoughts are with the Icelandic people who suffer from another tragic avanlanche accident early this morning. About people are found dead or still missing in the small village of Flateyri. Another severe and incomprehensible loss for a small nation...

However, I had a nice and memorable stay on this Saga island. I didn't have very much time for birdwatching, but anyway I found most of the species I had expected. Allready on the bus from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik I saw the first Whooper Swans, Eiders, Starlings and Ravens. I was surprised to learn that Icelandic Starlings are not migrating. They were seen in small flocks near settlements and in the city of Reykjavik. The second most common passerine was the Redwing which also were observed several places...

I spent most of the first four days in Akranes with very limited time for birding. However, during two periodes of twenty minutes in the mornings I found the following species near the beach and the harbour: Cormorant (3), Mallard (1), Long-tailed Duck (10+), Eider (50+), Purple Sandpiper (1), Black-headed Gull (10+), Glaucous Gull (20+), Icelandic Gull (1), Great Black-backed Gull (1), Feral Pigeon (2), Redwing (1), Raven (2) and Starling (20+).

Near Borgarnes I saw the first Great Northern Diver resting on the fjord, and on the fields along the river Hvitá I found some minor flocks of Greylag Goose and Pink-footed Goose besides more Whooper Swans and Ravens.

In the bottom of Hvalfjordur quite a lot of ducks and shorebirds were gathered along the coastline: Mallard (40+), Common Scooter (6), Long-tailed Duck (50+), Eider (500+), Oystercatcher (25+), Purple Sandpiper (10+) and Glaucous Gull (10+).

During an excursion to Lake Thingvellir I found some Goosanders, Redwings and Redpolls. On the river Sog and Lake Ulfljótsvatn nearby I was happy to see two flocks of 20 ex. respectively 25+ ex. of the Barrow's Goldeneye; one of the most special Icelandic bird species. There were both males and females, and the males were allready in breeding plumage. Near Lake Ulfljótsvatn I also found more Goosanders (30), Red-breasted Mergansers (20), Whooper Swans (4), Scaups (40+), Redwings (70+) and Ravens (2). Another climax was the observation of a young Gyrfalcon which passed closely above my head.

Seltjarnarnes is a nice birding area only 3 km NW of Reykjavik. This is a small peninsula with a shoreline, golf links and a minor lake. When I visited the area monday morning I didn't find anything special. However the following species were observed: Cormorant (1), Whooper Swan (5), Mallard (45+), Long-tailed Duck (50+), Tufted Duck (8), Eider (35+), Red-breasted Merganser (1), Oystercatcher (10), Golden Plover (90+), Purple Sandpiper (85+), Turnstone (50+), Redshank (2), Black-headed Gull (15+), Icelandic Gull (2), Glaucous Gull (10+), Great Black-backed Gull (1), Redwing (3) and Starling (55+).

Later the same day I went to the small fishing village Hafnir near Keflavik Military Airport. I had got some advice that this would be a good spot to look for Harlequin Ducks. Unfortunately, it was quite cold and windy in this flat lava area, but the finding of my first Harlequin did warm me up!!! No less than 30 individuals, most males, were feeding in the heavy fizzing surf just off the rocky coast near the small harbour. Like the Barrow's Goldeneyes, the males had colourful plumages with conspicuous patterns in blue, red and white. This is probably one of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen... Other species observed near Hafnir were: Great Northern Diver (1), Cormorant (5), Wigeon (45+), Mallard (15+), Long-tailed Duck (10+), Eider (300+), Herring Gull (2), Great Black-backed Gull (40+), Glaucous Gull (15+), Kittiwake (150+) and Alk (1).

Near Grindavik on southern side of the Reykjanes-peninsula I found no less than 100 Glaucous Gulls and 200 Great Black-backed Gulls. There were also some Icelandic Gulls among them.

Tuesday morning I went to Hofsvik about 20 km east of Reykjavik. There I found another 10 Harlequin Ducks and 3 Common Gulls.

In the middle of Reykjavik there are two small lakes called Tjoernin. These hold a good variety of birds all year round, but of course October is not the best month. I visited Tjoernin tuesday afternoon in a terrible weather: Whooper Swan (80+), Greylag Goose (6), Mallard (265+), Gadwall (10), Tufted Duck (45+), Barrow's Goldeneye (1), Eider (1), Red-breasted Merganser (4), Black-headed Gull (450+), Herring Gull (1), Feral Pigeon (30+) and Starling (20+). At least 15 Icelandic Gulls were found in the harbour of Reykjavik, and a single drake Wigeon was found in the valley Laugardalur, also in Reykjavik, together with Mallards and Greylag Geese.

This was my first trip to Iceland and in spite of the time of the year, the weather conditions and the limited time for birdwatching I'm quite satisfied.

Next time I'll go back during the breeding season...

Return to trip reports.

This page served by Urs Geiser;; November 1, 1995