Golden Plover – golden moss

Heiðlóa – Golden Plover – Pluvialis apricaria

The Golden Plover can be found all over Iceland, both in lowlands and highlands. They often choose their breeding place in areas that match their own colours, like the moss in the pictures here.


This pair was busy trying to divert our attention from its chicks which were running around on their long legs. This was in the Southern Interior, more precisely in Veiðivötn, Fishing Lakes.

Changeable weather


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.


Blackbird chick

Svartþröstur – Blackbird – Turdus merula

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.

Birding friends

In the bird reserve in Flói
In the bird reserve in Flói

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.

The Belgian students in February 2014
The Belgian students in February 2014

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.

Denise, Joachim and Kristin
Denise, Joachim and Kristin

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.

The Bird Reserve in Flói
The Bird Reserve in Flói

Colourful Crossbills

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 controversial lupin

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.

Alaska luðina – Nootka lupin – Lupinus nootkatensis

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.

Sólheimasandur, South Iceland

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.

Birch planted in old Lupin field

Yet another group welcomes this plant and its beautiful blue fields of flowers in the Icelandic landscape.

Blue colours are dominant but others exist
Blue colours are dominant but others exist

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.

Not easy to spot

Hávella – Long-Tailed Duck – Clangula hyemalis  (male)

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 almost completely camouflaged on the nest

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.

Keeping watch
The male keeping watch

Cold spring spoils nests

Himbrimi – Great Northern Diver – Gavia immer

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.

With two chicks in summer 2014
With two chicks in summer 2014

This picture is of the same pair with two chicks last year.

Creature of habit

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.

Jaðrakan – Black-tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa

Black-tailed Godwits are quite obvious at this time of year. They are loud and try to protect their chicks and eggs from predators.