21st July - 7th August 2007
We arrived at Keflavik airport at 4.00pm, collected our hire car and headed into town to find our B&B, seeing Golden Plover and Redshank on the way. Later, we headed out to Gardur seeing many Arctic Terns, Lesser Black Backed Gulls and Oystercatcher, once in the village we were amazed to realise that the bird perched on the lamp post was a Whimbrel. Gardur pools held Red - necked Phalarope, Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Turnstone, Dunlin, Mallard, Scaup, Teal, together with Red Breasted Mergansers and Goosander both with downy young. Whilst viewing the pools we were continually harassed by Goldies, Ringed Plover and Redshank all trying to move us on, there were birds everywhere. Scanning the sea from the lighthouse added Fulmar, Gannet, Puffin and Cormorant to the evenings tally together with many eider crèches along the shoreline and starlings feeding in the sea weed. On the way back to the B&B we had a Curlew in a newly mown meadow, a snipe on a lawn and yet more Goldies, Whimbrel and Ringed Plovers.
Cormorant & Snipe
Whooper Swan & White Wagtail
Redpoll & Redwing
We left Keflavik and headed to Sudar Bar on the north of the Snaefellsnes peninsula for five nights. Roadside pools held Greylag, Canada Geese, Tufted Geese and our first Whooper Swan families. The few bushes at the picnic site North of Mosfellsbaer were alive with Redpoll, Redwing, Meadow Pipit and white wagtails. A muddy bay just before Borgarnes bridge was full of waders, with hundreds of Dunlin and Redshank and fewer Knot and Bar Tailed Godwit, a Raven flew through and then panic struck as a Great Black Backed Gull helped itself to a Redshank for lunch! A Great Northern Diver was fishing close to the bridge with Glaucous and Common Gulls patrolling the beach. Along road 54 we had our only sighting of a White Tailed Eagle, circling and climbing before disappearing over the mountain, both light and dark phase Arctic Skuas were seen. The last couple of miles were on a gravel road which was bordered by thousands of arctic terns, with ringed plovers every few yards along the road and an abundance of Whimbrel and Goldies in the fields the whole area was buzzing with breeding birds.
Glaucous Gull & Great Northern Diver
We awoke to the call of Whimbrel and looked out to see white wagtails and redwing on the lawn. It was a bright calm morning ideal for a whale watching trip. On route to Olafsvik we saw purple sandpiper and had Black Guillemot and Kittiwake in the harbour. Once out of the harbour we soon had lots of Fulmar, Puffin and Arctic Skuas further out we had Red-necked Phalaropes feeding on the sea along with many young Guillemots each accompanied by a parent. One Minke whale showed regularly and a few Manx Shearwaters flew past. On the return journey a razorbill was spotted before a pod of White-beaked Dolphins put on a superb show racing in front of the boat. An afternoon visit to the roadside pools at Rif revealed several hundred Red - necked Phalaropes frantically feeding and lots of Dunlin, which all flushed together with thousands of Arctic Terns as a Merlin flew through. Along both sides of the road for over 2 Kilometres and on any bare surface in town was a massive tern colony containing thousands upon thousands of birds.
Purple Sandpiper & Redwing
Another sunny morning and an early start to catch the ferry from Stykkisholmur to Flatey Island. A short walk from the ferry lead us to the village and harbour where a family of Snow Buntings were actively feeding their chicks, and Black Guillemots swam close to the rocks. Several photos later we soon took the decision that we would wait for the evening ferry! Following the path which was never far from the shore good numbers of obliging Black Guillemots and Puffins, with off shore islands covered in Kittiwake, Guillemot and Shag. Arctic tern attacked from all directions. The quiet bays held Purple Sandpiper, hundreds of Red-necked Phalarope, Ringed Plover and Wheatear, while the grassy slopes were full of displaying Redshank and Black Tailed Godwit, defending their young or nests. No grey phalarope but a magical place all the same. On the way back to Sudar Bar we stopped at Kolgrafafjordur where there were hundreds of summering Whoopers.
Snow Bunting & Puffin
Black Guillemot & Black-tailed Godwit
Black Guillemot & Black-tailed Godwit
A visit to Svortuloft Cliffs soon revealed a few Brunnich’s Guillemot among the lingering common guillemot, Kittiwake and Fulmar. Our first Harlequin Ducks were on the rough sea at the foot of the cliffs. Calling back at Rif the Phalarope numbers had increased to over 2000 with almost as many variations of plumage. A shingle bank on the way back held varying ages of extremely shy Glaucous Gulls.
Red-necked Phalarope & Kittiwake
Shoveler & Dunlin
A trip around the South coast of Snaefellsnes peninsula produced roadside pools with Slavonian Grebe, Red - throated Diver, Shoveler, Wigeon and female Harlequin with young ducklings. Both Dunlin and Black Tailed Godwits with young were spotted along the road and Whimbrel were everywhere. The cliffs and rock formations at Pufubjarg were very good for Kittiwake and a walk along the cliff tops soon attracted both Great Black Backed and Glaucous Gulls defending their territories. There were Fulmar in the harbour and plenty of waders and Actic Tern in the grassy areas by the car park.
Redshank & Ringed Plover
We took the “ scenic” route along the North side of the Snaefellsnes peninsula as we left for Bakkaflot, and didn’t regret the decision as the gravel road was fine and we had up to 1,000 Whooper Swans on Alftafjordur and spent time watching a family of Arctic foxes squabbling on the hillside. A wetland regeneration area east of Laugarbakki, made a delightful stop with a young Red-necked Phalarope, with parent, in the dyke on the path side, Red - throated Divers (RTD) with 2 chicks and lots of Snipe among the ever present, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit. Blonduos was full of Greylag geese including one with a collar.
We drove to Godafoss for a four night stay, but first explored the river delta North of Varmahlid where we had breeding Common Gulls and 9 RTD together on the river.
At Godafoss a young Merlin allowed close approach but frustratingly the light was horrible.
We spent the day in the area around Lake Myvatn, which lived up to it’s name and reputation with clouds of midges, non biting, and almost as many ducks. There were ducklings everywhere, from newly hatched to half grown all feeding in the mêlée and totally oblivious to anything else, certainly not keeping in family groups. Careful checking produced, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Pintail, Tufties, Scaup and Red-breasted Merganser. Just before the lake we had stopped by the bridge over the river Laxa and sure enough there were female Harlequin and young diving in the swirling currents together with female Barrow’s Goldeneye. A small pool on the road side held two Slavonian Grebe chicks which gave great views as the adult repeated dived through the culvert under the road, each time returning with a fish caught in the main lake. The quiet area near the volcanic rock formations at Dimmuborgir held several families of Barrow’s Goldeneye together with an eclipse male. Merlin and Redwing were the only birds seen around the main viewing area. WE ended the day at the geothermal area east of the lake with its amazing boiling mud pots, steam vents and striking colours.
Another calm sunny morning and another whale watching trip, this time from Husavik, with a Sei whale and 3 Harbour Porpoises being the stars of the show, a Minke whale gave brief views but proved elusive. Back on shore we went round to the back of the harbour and found a waste pipe and fulmars!!!!! Several pics later, and wet from the splashes of the squabbling hoards, I finally decided to let them have the pipe to themselves. The drive back to Godafoss was extremely productive with a Great Skua on the shore and then a family of Commen Scoter on the river and several Long-tailed duck families on a nearby pool. A female Ptarmigan standing guard while the chicks enjoyed a dust bath proved approachable, even waiting while two Shorties flew past.
A dull cold morning saw us heading North East to Dettifoss, we had several families of Pink Feet on the way and arrived with time to admire the canyon and filthy raging torrents, before the mist and rain set in and we headed back to Myvatn, not even getting out of the car at Krafla volcanic field. We found several RTD on smallish pools to the West of Myvatn, along with numerous ducks, terns and waders.
1st August – A damp and misty day
We left the Myvatn area and headed for Bakkagervi, with the first stop being Dimmbuger and the lava formations, this time we were lucky enough to pick up a large falcon in flight as it displayed above the volcano crater and then flew rapidly down wind and out of sight, brief but unmistakably a Gyr Falcon, wow. Heading East the terrain became rugged and barren, but any pool or lake had a family of Whoppers and wherever there was sufficient vegetation, Pink Feet were present. The marshy area just West of Bakkagerdi was alive with birds, numerous terns, skuas, waders, swans and a family of Red-throated Diver on a roadside pool. Heading over the twisty road, with dense fog hiding the view/drop offs we arrived at Bakkagerdi to find lots of Harlequin, and Long-tailed Duck among the Eider in the harbour.
Long-tailed Duck & Red-throated Diver
The mist had lifted and we could see the fresh snow on the hill tops as we left, driving South towards Hofn. The East coast scenery was spectacular with mountains towering above the fjords. A raft of 2 – 3,000 moulting Eider and Common Scoter was found in Breiddalsvik Bay but careful checking failed to find anything! Lonsfjordur was a mass of white with an estimated 7,000 Whooper Swans.
A dull morning which deteriorated rapidly. We left Hofn and headed to Skogar. The first stop being the Jokulsa Glacier lake, with snow buntings feeding on car grills and Great Skuas parading round the car park. The lake was spectacular, full of icebergs, white, black, and clear as well as the most amazing shades of blue, floating calmly until caught by current when they tumbled and crashed their way to the sea. Terns dived all round, harassed by Arctic Skuas and seals swam in only to disappear, just as you thought they were coming towards you. The only disappointment was the continual rain and restricted visibility, reluctantly we left to dry out and desteam! Puffins abounded all around Vik with some within 2-3 feet at the Dyrholaey bird reserve, where heavy seas and spray added to the atmosphere. Driving through the large tern colony we had yet more stunning views of these noisy birds. Two rock doves flew past as we approached Skogar.
After viewing the falls at Skogar, together with the ever present Fulmars, our next stop was Seljalandsfoss and 360 degree views as we walked behind the fall. After a stop at a volcanic crater we arrived at Laugarvtn for a three night stay.
First stop Geyser, where Strokkur fired jets of steam and water up to 30 metres every 2 – 5 minutes, followed by a visit to Gullfoss, certainly two of the most famous tourist attractions on a bank holiday weekend and still enjoyable! The rest of the day was spent exploring the surrounding area with redwing and golden plover being the most numerous birds.
A day in the Thingvellir district on the continental divide produced lots of the usual birds both in the shrubby areas as well as on the lake where we were surprised to see over 10 fulmar. Finally as we headed back to the car a begging baby alerted us to a family of 6 juvenile Wrens all being fed by one adult, our first of the trip.
Arctic Skua & Great Skua
Back to Keflavik for an early morning flight the next day.
Another day of heavy drizzle meant that little was seen in the morning, with a very wet stop at a geothermal area providing the highlight of the morning. The afternoon saw some soggy juvenile terns in yet another roadside colony before a stop at a lake west of Selvogur Lighthouse produced thousands of Red-necked Phalaropes, Arctic and Great Skuas and “clouds” of Kittiwake. As the rain eased we headed for a final look at Gardur, where two white beaked dolphins were seen together with numerous of the now familiar bird species. The fading light saw us arrive at Sandgerdi harbour to find our first Iceland gull, a second winter, Bar-tailed Godwit and Sanderling of the trip! Close inspection revealed two colour ringed birds in the Sanderling flock. With the light fading we gave up.
Iceland Gull & Whimbrel
The trip total was 70 species with the highlight being the numerous breeding waders and especially the whimbrel which woke us nearly every morning.
All Images taken by Margaret and Brian Breaks, Copyright - © Breaks Bird Photography