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A Report from

Iceland, May 2009,

Jan Landsverk

In May 2009 I went with my wife to Iceland in connection with a meeting for principals she attended, so it wasn’t a bird-watching trip. The first couple of days we stayed at a friend’s house 45 km south of Reykjavik – close to Selfoss.  On Thursday May 7 we went with him sightseeing and it was this day I saw the birds you find below. We went sightseeing on the southern side of the island. Even if we stayed on the island from May 6 to May 11 it was only this day that I did some bird-watching, even if we were not bird-watching in the right sense of the word. There was one species I wanted to see, though, which we worked hard for – The Barrow’s Goldeneye. Unfortunately they had all gone up north to Myvann (where there are thousands of them) – 7 hours drive from where we stayed. One bird-watcher told us a place where a pair or two used to stay all year round, but obviously not this year. But we were lucky to see about 50 of the Harlequin Duck (more than 40 males) and I also got good pictures of it at very close range. That was a good substitute for the Barrow’s. (Both these species I saw in Yellowstone NP in Wyoming summer of 2005). Iceland is the only country in Europe where you can see these two species.

If I had spent time doing real bird-watching all day, I could easily have added 10 species or more to my list. Especially if the nature reserve (nesting cliff) close to Vik had been open for us to see all the sea-birds, but it was closed between May 1 and June 25.

I was surprised to find that the Rock Ptarmigan was still in winter plumage when I saw two of them just above the house of our friend.

Besides the birds already mentioned Northern Diver, Great Skua and Black-tailed Godwit were the most interesting birds seen on the trip. The Blackbird wasn’t seen this day, but I saw it in Reykjavik a day later. In later years a few “new” species have “settled down” (started breeding) on the island.

Iceland is a unique country when it comes to scenery, but there are not so many species of birds breeding on the island. The best time to visit will be June/July, but the country is even more beautiful in medio/ultimo May when there is still plenty of snow on the mountains, which is a nice contrast to the green pastures. There are plenty of mountains and waterfalls on the island as well as hot springs and a few Geysirs. The Blue Lagoon about 40 km from the capital was an interesting experience, even if it is not a natural phenomenon.

By the way, we didn’t see much to the effects of the financial crisis, even if many felt it – especially those who had lost their jobs. The currency (Icelandic Kroner) was very week at the time, but that reminded me how expensive this country used to be. Now the prices were about the same as those we have in Norway – in other words: still rather expensive.

Jan Landsverk
3812 Akkerhaugen

Species List.

Great Northern Diver
Northern Fulmar
Whooper Swan
Pink-footed Goose
Greylag Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
Common Teal
Greater Scaup
Tufted Duck
Common Eider
Long-tailed Duck
Harlequin Duck
Red-breasted Merganser
Rock Ptarmigan
Eurasian Oystercatcher
Ringed Plover
European Golden Plover
Sandpiper sp.
Black-tailed Godwit
Common Snipe
Great Skua
Artic Skua
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Feral Pigeon
Meadow Pipit
White Wagtail
Northern Wheatear
Common Blackbird
Common Raven
Common Starling


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