In the end of January and in February the male Common Crossbills become quite noticeable in the tops of the Lodgepole Pine forests (Pinus contorta) in Grímsnes area, South Iceland. They sing and try to catch the attention of the females.
Although it is still mid winter in Iceland they have obviously started courtship. Some seem now already paired and are feeding their spouses which is a sign that the nesting period is not far away.
The cones and seeds of the Lodgepole Pine are now becoming ripe and that seems to be the indicator that tells the birds that it is time for mating.
In February the sun crawls a little bit higher in the sky. We feel its rays warming up our days albeit just slightly. After the darkness of December and January it feels nice to go out during midday to feel its rays on ones skin. Although the weather has been very turbulent we have had a few nice days in the last couple of weeks as these photos show.
Snow Buntings have frequented Icelandic gardens all over the country this winter. In the past few weeks they have been seen in huge flocks and we counted 400 birds here in our garden in Selfoss. Last year, however, we didn’t see any Snow Buntings here.
This winter has been harsher than in previous years, with long lasting frost and snow. In the last century The Snow Bunting was the typical Icelandic winter bird and usually the only bird to be seen in winter along with the Raven. In the last few decades there has been a change and the Snow Bunting has been seen more rarely in Icelandic gardens.
The reasons for this change are not certain and people speculate whether this is due to a decrease in the stock. However, an increase in corn production in agricultural could be reducing the Snow Buntings need to come into gardens for feed, at least when snows do not cover the fields.
A Siskin appeared in the garden this week, one of its kind. It stayed for two days and then was on its way. Such a beautiful bird and easy to notice in its bright yellow and black plumage that catches the eye. It is an annual guest here in spring and autumn.
Since autumn this Robin has been a daily guest in the garden. Our Robin roams the neighbourhood but always turns up again. We have news of another one just over the river. Hopefully they are a male and a female that will pair up and breed here in the spring.
The Robin is a rather common vagrant in Iceland and is known to have breed here.
The most voluminous river in Iceland is River Ölfusá. Around this time of year you can expect to see a lot of ducks and gulls there, some Greylags and Swans and a Gyrfalcon, a Merlin or even a White-tailed Eagle flying above.
Due to spring water a big part of the river never freezes. When creeks and lakes are frozen over, River Ölfusá is the perfect winter habitat for birds. The river flows just outside our window about 50m away from our house.
Circles or “Frost Boils” are formed when wet surfaces and mud freezes. This happens where there is no vegetation to bind the soil. The soil expands and pushes up the gravel that is in the way, the bigger stones moving outwards to the sides creating a circle. These rings are about one foot in diameter but in the highlands where there is permafrost they can become several meters.
The new year greets us with some cold northerly winds and clear blue skies. We have said goodbye to the old year, which had its ups and downs – hoping that in 2018 we humans will strive to make the world better. If ever there was reason for taking better care of the environment it is now. We wish you all a prosperous year – peace to all, Kristín and Örn.