Whooper Swan family

This Whooper Swan family, with the grown up birds at the front and the back and the chicks between them, flew over Grímsnes in South Iceland yesterday, probably just newly arrived.

Álft – Whooper Swan – Cygnus cygnus

Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) are now coming to Iceland in huge flocks from their winter grounds in the British Isles. They spread over the whole country in smaller groups and pairs seek their old breeding places with their chicks from last year. When it comes to the nest making the parents chase the grown up chicks away. Often fights break out because the chicks do not want to go .

Visitors in the garden – weekly report

This is a list of the birds that have been seen in the garden this past week, March 15 – 22, 2015. Temperatures have been rising this week and it seems that some of the birds have gone to their summer grounds, e.g. the Redpolls mentioned only stayed for two days. 

  • Merlin (smyrill) 2
  • Wren (músarrindill) 1
  • European Robin (glóbrystingur) 1
  • Blackbird (svartþröstur) 4
  • Redwing (skógarþröstur) 5
  • Raven (hrafn) 1
  • Starling (stari) 17
  • Chaffinch (bókfinka) 4
  • Redpoll (auðnutittlingur) 50
  • Common Crossbill (krossnefur) 6

For more information on the visitors in the garden see weekly report: http://ornosk.com/weekly-bird-report/

Slavonian Grebe

The Slavonian Grebe is not a common breeding bird in Iceland. You are most likely to see it in Mývatn, in the North, and surrounding areas. There are also a few birds in other areas e.g. in Ástjörn in Hafnarfjörður and Reykhólar in the West. The Slavonian Grebe makes its nest on lakes and ponds. What is special about the nest is that it floats on the water among the reeds, made of moss and straws.

Flórgoði – Slavonian Grebe – Podiceps auritus

This photo is taken in the West, in Reykhólar in Reykhólasveit, in the beginning of June, 2011.

European Shag

Toppskarfur - European Shag - Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Toppskarfur – European Shag – Phalacrocorax aristotelis

The European Shag mostly keeps to the shore and is seldom seen far from land. It breeds and lives in the Northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In Iceland it mostly keeps to the West coast, in Faxaflói and Breiðafjörður. Its nest is in sea cliffs, islands and bird colonies and it lays one to six eggs. The European Shag is a good diver and mostly lives on small fish.


The estimated breeding population in Iceland is 4,900 pairs.

Lesser Blackback

Sílamáfur – Lesser Blackback – Larus fuscus

The Lesser Blackback (Larus fuscus) started breeding in Iceland around 1920. Since then its numbers have been increasing  and now the Lesser Blackback is a breeding bird in all lowlands. It is the only Gull that is a migratory bird here, having winter grounds in the Pyrenees Mountains and North West Africa. They come back to Iceland very early, before spring arrives. The first Lesser Blackback arrived here in February. The breeding population counts around 50,000 pairs.

Lesser Blackback – Larus fuscus

This photo is taken in Selfoss April 16, 2014, the second time I came across this indivual bird. It was banded as a small chick in August 2003 in Garðaholti in Álftanes. The first time I saw it was also in Selfoss May 9, 2011.

Eclipse of the Sun


Conditions to observe the solar eclipse in Iceland today were very good. There were clear skies and people could be seen all over the place with special glasses so as to be able to look at the sun without damaging their eyes.


The total phase of the solar eclipse was not visible in Iceland, but it could be observed there as a partial solar eclipse. The Moon covered only a small portion of the Sun as can be seen in the photoes here.



The Golden Plover has arrived

The first news of the arrival of the Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) has been issued. It is said to have been seen in Breiðdalur, in the East of Iceland, yesterday, March 18. Now spring must surely be on its way.

Heiðlóa - Golden Plover - Pluvialis apricaria
Heiðlóa – Golden Plover – Pluvialis apricaria

The Golden Plover  is probably the most loved Icelandic bird. Its arrival in the spring is looked forward to because it signals the coming of summer.

Heiðlóa - Golden Plover - Pluvialis apricaria
Heiðlóa – Golden Plover – Pluvialis apricaria

The Wren is on the move

The Wren was the smallest Icelandic bird before the Goldcrest settled here. It is a tiny little bird with a big voice. It is one of the birds that stays in Iceland the whole year. In the winter time it can be found by the seaside but in other seasons all over the country, mostly lowlands though.

músarrindill – Wren – Troglodytes troglodytes

We have had a Wren in the garden now for a few days which tells us that it is expecting spring.