The Goosander on River Ölfusá

Goosander – male in winter colour

The Goosander is a winter guest on River Ölfusá, in South Iceland. Sometimes there are up to 50 Goosanders on the river where it flows through Selfoss. This is in fact a considerable part of the Icelandic breeding population which counts only around 300 pairs.

Goosander – pair in spring colour

The Goosander is a  breeeding bird by rivers and lakes throughout the country.

Snow Buntings arrive

The Snow Buntings arrived in town today. They prefer the open fields in the highlands but when it gets colder and the snow covers everything, they come in huge flocks.

Snow Buntings

They change colours with the seasons. In the summer the males are white and black but in winter they are browner and darker. Beautiful birds but because there are so many of them people tend to take little notice of them.

Snow Bunting – male in summerform (July)

In Iceland the Snow Bunting is called Snjótittlingur similar in meaning to Snow Bunting but in the summer it is called Sólskríkja which means the bird that sqeaks in the sun, Sun Bunting. The song of the male is very vocal and high and the Sun Bunting is the symbol of the highlands.

The Harlequin Duck breeds in Iceland

Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) – pair

The Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) is a common bird on the River Ölfusá near Selfoss in March and April.  In the wintertime the Harlequin duck stays in the ocean around Iceland but in early spring it goes up the rivers (March-April) and lays eggs near spring rivers and streams. Sometimes they can be seen on the River Ölfusá in winter.

Harlequin Duck – male

The Harlequin duck is one of the most beautiful ducks. It is often tame and easy to approach and observe at short distance.

Iceland is the only nesting place for Harlequin ducks in Europe. It is, however, a nesting bird in Greenland, North America and the eastern regions of Siberia. The breeding population in Iceland is around 2000 to 3000 pairs.

In the darkest time of the year, which we have now, it is nice to know that these beautiful birds are waiting for spring off the coast all around the country.

A group of Harlequin Ducks

The Fieldfare has arrived

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) -photo from 2011

After a stormy night with some very heavy winds (20-30 m/s), snow and 0°C, this winter’s first Fieldfare has arrived in the garden. Every autumn groups of Fieldfares come from Scandinavia and overwinter in Iceland. They are annual visitors in the garden. Once in a while they breed in Iceland, mainly in the northern part of the country. Only one known breeding has been reported in Selfoss (1980).

Other birds in the garden this morning:
Blackbird 6
Redwing 6
Starling 22
Blackcap 3
European Robin 1
Chaffinches 4
Redpolls 70
Common Crossbills 6