Two eggs but only one chick

Himbrimi – Great Northern Diver – Gavia immer

The Great Northern Diver raises its chicks on trout fry and therefore resides on lakes that offer such food. This Diver has  one chick which is most common although the eggs are two. The parents can seldom find enough food for two chicks to survive, thus only one lives to become an adult. This bird with its chick was in Veiðivötn Lakes in the southern highlands.

Feeding its chick
Feeding its chick

Barrow’s Goldeneye with recently hatched ducklings

I photographed this Barrow’s Goldeneye with 7 recently hatched ducklings at Veiðivötn /Hraunvötn, southern highlands  in the week – a very late date for such young birds. In Iceland Barrow’s Goldeneye is more or less restricted to the north-east although some pairs do breed in the southern highlands.

Húsönd – Barrows Goldeneye – Bucephala islandica

Leaving soon for the South

Kría – Arctic Tern – Sterna paradisaea

The Arctic Tern  (Sterna paradisaea) has now left the mountain lakes in the Icelandic interior. On August 7 they were flying above the lakes in flocks, catching sticklebacks to feed to their young ones. Three days later they had disappeared with their chicks that were by then ready for flight. In all probability they are now in the sea around the country and will soon take flight in a southward direction. After about two months flight they will reach the sea around the South Pole (Antartica) where they will stay until spring arrives again.

Young Artic Tern

The photoes are taken  in Veiðivötn, Fishing Lakes, in the Icelandic Southern Interior.

Fishing in mountain lakes

Veiðivötn, view to some of the lakes, Fossvötn
Veiðivötn, view to some of the lakes, Fossvötn

Veiðivötn, Fishing Lakes in translation, is a cluster of lakes in the southern interior. In total there are 50 lakes and ponds in the area.

Veiðivötn, the cabin area
Veiðivötn, the cabin area

Three species of fish are found in the area: trout (Salmo trutta), char (Salvelinus alpinus) and stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

Great catch, mother and daughter
Great catch, mother and daughter

From ancient times trout could be found in the lakes and today it is still in most of them. This trout is unique. Trout of this size and this fat can only be found in a few places today.


According to genetic research  the trout in Veiðivötn lived in isolation after the end of the Ice Age.  It is rare to find Ice Age trout as little evolved at this one. The trout in Þingvallavatn Lake is of the same species. This trout is very fast-growing and puberty starts later than in trout species that live in lakes in lowlands and in seagoing trout.

Char was first noticed in Snjóölduvatn Lake in 1972 and today char can be found in 11 lakes in the area. Sticklebacks can probably  be found in all the lakes in the area.

Trout fishing
Trout fishing

Trout fishing has most likely been practiced from the beginning of settlement in Iceland. In 1965 fishing permits were first sold in the lakes, for two months every summer, from the end of June to the latter part of August. Today fishing permits are sold for the period of June 18 to August 19. In 1965-1980 the number was limited to 20 rods but today the number has been limited to 80 rods. In the last 10 years  20 – 35 thousand fish have been caught every summer.

Arrive late and leave early

The Red-necked Phalarope is one of the latest migratory birds to arrive in Iceland, in the middle of May. They also leave early.  They merely come here to mate and only stay long enough for their young ones to grow  old enough to travel.

Óðinshani – Red-Necked Phalarope – Phalaropus lobatus, in June

Now they are getting into their winter plumage that is much lighter than the summer plumage.  Most of them have already left lakes and ponds for the sea. There they put on some weight for their long journey to the Pacific coast of Peru where they stay on the open sea while winter rages in the northern hemisphere.

Red-necked Phalarope,  in August
Red-necked Phalarope, in August

American vagrants

Kambönd-  Hooded Merganser -
Kambönd- Hooded Merganser – Mergus cucullatus

A Hooded Merganser had been seen on Skógtjörn in Álftanes (suburb of Reykjavik). It took a while to spot it among the other birds but I managed to catch a photo of it in the distance. There it was with other birds such as Greylags, Eiders and Mergansers. The Hooded Merganser is moulting and will probably stick around for a while. This bird is probably the one that has been seen in lakes around Reykjavík the last two winters.

A White-rumped Sandpiper was in Bakkatjörn Pond in Seltjarnarnes (suburd of Reykjavik), but I did not find it. The White-rumped Sandpiper is an annual guest in Iceland.

Divers’ party

Himbrimi – Great Northern Diver – Gavia immer on Lake Litlisjór / Veiðivötn

One of the most prominent birds on lakes in the interior is the Great Northern Diver. It is most spectacular with its checked black and white pattern. Usually there is one pair on each lake. This summer was however not a successful breeding season so many of them have already started grouping before they leave for the sea around Iceland.


The five Divers, that seemed to get on very well together, were photographed on Lake Litlisjór (Littlesea) in Veiðivötn (Fishing Lakes) in the Icelandic Southern Interior. This is a big lake around 9,2 square km, a fishing lake full of trout, up to 12 pounds or more.