The Icelandic weather is very changeable, to say the least. In one day we got a selection of different weather in the southern interior, Veiðivötn, Fishing Lakes. There was sunshine, rain, hail and snow. The weather was still and sunny in the morning.
At midday clouds rolled up with hail, snow and rain.
And in the afternoon the sky was adorned with a beautiful rainbow. The Icelandic weather is seldom boring.
The Blackbird pair in the garden usually breeds four times every summer. The first breeding is in April and the last one in August. This summer the couple has bred three times. Raising the chicks is a difficult job, the cats in the neighbourhood stalk them and most of them are eaten. One chick from the June breeding (photo) is alive and two small chicks from the July breeding. We hope they will survive.
On our birding trips we often meet like-minded people. Last year we met a group of Belgian students on a birding trip in Iceland. This was in February and the weather was quite cold. The group were searching for a Hooded Merganser on Elliðavatn, a lake just outside Reykjavik.
When we found out that they were sleeping in tents we invited them to come and stay inside the next night. No Icelanders would ever think of camping in February. The group took our offer and we cooked them some traditional Icelandic lamb soup.
One of these young birding friends was back in Iceland again last week. Joachim Bertrands from Belgium and his mother, Denise, had a week here to look at birds, whales and glaciers. The bird reserve in Flói was visited on their last day and then they came for a visit. Meeting birders from other countries is always interesting.
Common Crossbills (also called Red Crossbills) are new breeding birds in Iceland. New spruce and pine forests are growing fast in many places and are now big enough to be a habitat for some new settlers like the Crossbills. The Crossbills have various colours.
The Nootka lupin (Lupinus nootkatensis) is very apparent in the Icelandic landscape at this time of year. Lupin seeds were first imported to Iceland in 1945 and used for land reclamation in desert areas all over the country, – with great results.
The lupin grows in fields in barren land and creates a fertile soil for other plants. In about 30 to 40 years it starts to give way to other plants and that is now happening in the oldest areas. The soil has proved good for forestry.
The lupin has from the start been controversial. Some Icelanders are against land reclamation and view this plant as an alien intruder. Others are concerned because the lupin might eliminate other fragile vegetation such as heather.
Yet another group welcomes this plant and its beautiful blue fields of flowers in the Icelandic landscape.
In Iceland the tradition has been to drive flocks of sheep into the interior where they are allowed to graze the whole summer long. The result of this has been massive land deterioration and erosion. The lupin only grows in areas that are protected against sheep grazing because the sheep love lupin. Therefore there is no need for concern in areas where sheep graze. The bottom line is that the lupin is effective if the aim is to reclaim land and eliminate erosion.
In summer the Redpolls often become rather rough and darker than in winter and spring. They probably replace old feathers (moult) and gradually take on a new and fresh plumage. To see the difference there is a picture from July 12 above and below another from the end of April.
The Long-tailed Duck is a common breeding bird by lakes and ponds in the interior. The breeding time is in July.
The female is well hidden on the nest while the male keeps watch not so far away. The nest is very difficult to spot because it matches the surroundings and the female stays perfectly calm. So pay attention to where you walk, tread lightly and carefully.
Veiðivötn (Fishing Lakes) are a cluster of lakes in the southern interior of Iceland. Ordinarily there are around 35 to 40 Great Northern Divers there over the summer time and usually 10 – 15 nests. This spring it was very cold and a lot of snow and ice. The Great Northern Divers turned up at their usual time and at least 10 pairs layed eggs by the water edge of lakes. When it at last started to get warmer snow and ice melted and six of the nests went under water and were destroyed. Only three chicks hatched from two nests in the area. This is by far the worst breeding to be seen since I started observing the Great Northern Diver in the area 15 years ago. The nest in the picture went underwater but in recent years this pair has always managed to raise two chicks.
This picture is of the same pair with two chicks last year.
This ringed Black-tailed Godwit was spotted in the Bird Reserve in Flói, South Iceland, 30 June. The bird was ringed in this same spot on June 24, 2011. It has been spotted in the UK and near the place of ringing every year since then.
Black-tailed Godwits are quite obvious at this time of year. They are loud and try to protect their chicks and eggs from predators.