Inland Seabird

The Northern Fulmar’s first known breeding in Icelandic territory was in Grimsey, an island north of Iceland, in the beginning of the 19th century. Since then they have spread over the whole country, first in ocean cliffs and now they have started breeding in mountains and cliffs, even 70 km inland.  Despite this they get all their food in the ocean.

Fýll – Northern Fulmar – Fulmarus glacialis

They look for breeding places as early as February and start laying eggs in March. To protect their eggs and chicks they throw up foul smelling bile.

This photo is taken in Látrabjarg, Westfjords, Iceland, 2011.

Great Northern Diver / Common Loon

The Great Northern Diver is a characteristic bird on Icelandic mountain lakes.  You can hear its a special laughing call on the lakes and in flight its wailing calls resound in rocks and craters, creating an unforgettable atmosphere, memories of quiet summer nights. In USA it is called the Common Loon but in UK it is called the Great Northern Diver.

Great Northern Diver / Common Loon

The Great Northern Diver chooses its nesting place on islands or islets or else by the banks of the lakes. The nests are most often in moss or grass but sometimes on sandy lakeshores. The nests are usually about 1 – 2 meters from the water level. The eggs are usually two.

Himbrimi – Great Northern Diver / Common Loon – Gavia immer

Big clear mountain lakes full of fish are the Great Northern Divers favourite nesting place. Their main food source is trout. There is usually just one pair on each lake unless the lake is very big.

Fanning its wings

A nesting pair usually claims a whole lake as its territory and makes sure that no one gets too near and uses force to keep other Divers away.

A pair with a 2-3 week old chicks

Most Great Northern Divers stay in the ocean around Iceland over the winter time, a few go to the UK or West Europe.

A perfect place for the Great Northern Diver – Veiðivötn in the South Iceland highlands

There are around 300 breeding pairs in Iceland and it is the Great Northern Divers only nesting place  in Europe.

Today’s garden birds

In the lack of daylight in the last few weeks photographing birds in the garden has been difficult. Now the days are getting longer and it’s easier to get good photoes.  Today I managed to take two rather nice photoes, if I say so myself, of a Common Crossbill and a Redpoll.

Auðnutittlingur – Redpoll – Carduelis flammea

The birdlife in the garden has been very lively today.
This is a list of today’s birds:

  • Merlin (smyrill) 2
  • Sparrowhawk (sparrhaukur) 1
  • Blackbird (svartþröstur) 6
  • Redwing (skógarþröstur) 3
  • Raven (hrafn) 3
  • Starling (stari) 50
  • Robin (glóbrystingur) 1
  • Chaffinch (bókfinka) 5
  • Redpoll (auðnutittlingur) 30
  • Common Crossbill (krossnefur) 3
  • Snow Bunting (snjótittlingur) 50
Krossnefur – Common Crossbill – Loxia curvirostra

For further information on the garden birds:

Hi there look at me

The male Harlequin Duck here is trying to get the female’s attention.

Female and male Harlequin Duck

The Harlequin Duck’s habitat is rapid spring water rivers with benthic in abundance.  The larva of the the Blackfly is its main food source.  The breeding population in Iceland is around 2000 to 3000 pairs.

Straumönd – Harlequin Duck – Histrionicus histrionicus
Rapid spring water rivers are the Harequin Duck’s habitiat

The Brunnichs Guillemot

The Brunnichs Guillemot (Uria lomvia) is similar to the  Common Guillemot. The main difference is a shorter beak with a white beak line and the sides that are whiter. It breeds in big bird colonies in ocean cliffs. No care is taken in the nest making and they lay their eggs on bare rock ledges.

Stuttnefja – Brunnichs Guillemot – Uria lomvia

Látrabjarg and other ocean cliffs in the Westfjords are the main nesting places for the  Brunnichs Guillemot. There are around 300,000 breeding pairs in Iceland. The Brunnichs Guillemot is one of the species whose numbers have been decreasing in the last decades.

Iceland’s most common Gull

The Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) is Iceland’s most common Gull and the most dominant bird in cliff colonies and the ocean around the island.  The Kittiwake is a loud bird and mostly responsible for the loud buzz in bird colonies. The breeding population is around 530,000 pairs but their numbers are decreasing due to a decline in krill, its main food source, in the ocean.

Rita – Kittiwake – Rissa tridactyla

This photo of a Kittiwake pair is taken in Látrabjarg, Westfjords, Iceland.

Kittiwakes gathering nesting material

Kittiwakes gathering nesting material in the moorland above the cliff.

Látrabjarg is one of the biggest Kittiwake habitats  in Iceland. Kittiwakes breed there in dense settlements along with Razorbills, Guillemots, Brunnichs Guillemots, Fulmars and Puffins.


The Water Rail

The Water Rail  (Rallus aquaticus) was an uncommon breeding bird in Iceland until the middle of the last century. The last known breeding was in 1963. Its extinction as a breeding bird is most likely due to drainage of marshlands and the arrival of the mink in Icelandic nature. A few birds are seen here in the winter time.

Keldusvín – Water Rail – Rallus aquaticus

This bird was seen near Hveragerði in South Iceland in January 2011. There are ditches there with warm water that  the bird was attracted to.


The biggest Razorbill colony

Here Kristin is taking a photo of a pair of Razorbills. You have to lie on your stomach to protect yourself from falling.


The cliff below is probably around 400 metres high and actually the biggest bird colony in Iceland and the biggest Razorbill colony in the world.

Álka – Razorbill – Alca torda

These photoes are from a birding trip we  took in 2011 to the Westfjords, more precisely from Látrabjarg, which is the Western most point of Iceland. It is also the Western most point of Europe if you don’t take the Azore Islands into count.


The Chaffinches are still here

On New Year’s Eve the fireworks, which have become louder and more powerful, often chase the birds away but today on January 2 there are five Chaffinches here in the garden. One male has joined the group of four that were here before the New Year.  Here in the Selfoss area there have not been as many Chaffinches since 1980.
This picture was taken on New Year’s Day.

Bókfinka – Chaffinch – Fringilla coelebs

We also have  about 100 Redpolls, 100 Snow Buntings, 15 Starlings,  six Blackbirds, four Redwings and two Common Crossbills. – And it continues to snow…