Minks were first imported to Iceland in the autumn of 1931. The first two mink farms were in Grímsnes and in Selfoss, South Iceland. Early on some escaped from their cages and took up permanent residence in the Icelandic nature. Now they can be found all over the country.
The first minks were imported from Norway but were of North American origin. The mink is usually dark brown with white patches on the lower part of the jaw and neck.
Later minks of different colour variations were imported; black, grey and white. These are the ones that are now bred in Iceland but they are not as tough and rarely survive in the Icelandic nature like the ones first imported.
This week we went on a tour around Snæfellsnes peninsula. Within a 30 km drive we saw five White-tailed Eagles, adults and young ones. Since these birds were one of the reasons for our trip we thought we were quite lucky when we at last spotted three of them on the second day. As we were driving over the mountain from the Northern side of the peninsula we saw three birds gliding in the air directly in front of us and lowering their flight as they came nearer. What an amazing sight, – such majestic birds.
White-tailed Eagles are more common in this area than in other parts of the country, their main breeding territory being around Breiðafjörður Fjord. In total around 75 pairs breed in Iceland and two thirds of the population in the area around Breiðafjörður.
– More on the second sighting coming up soon.
Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) is common along the Icelandic coastline during the winter months. It is a breeding bird in Greenland and on the northernmost islands of Canada. It is however only a winter guest in Iceland and by the end of March it has usually left the island.
The Iceland Gull is very similar to the Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreusstundu) which is a breeding bird in Iceland. The Iceland Gull is smaller, its head is shorter and more curved, the beak is delicate and the wings longer. It is also a more agile flyer than the Glaucous Gull.
In the last few weeks a pair of Common Crossbills have visited the garden regularly. The male is especially beautiful with its orange and yellow patches on the breast and head.
Male Common Crossbills come in different colours of red, orange and yellow. The yellow colour is rare in Iceland and in West Europe but more common in Mid Asia. The colours are due to genes and food.
This pair probably bred in Selfoss last spring and brought three young ones to our garden. Now it seems they have arrived in their breeding territory from last year. We are excited to see if they turn up in our garden in May with their chicks.
The waterfall Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most visited tourist attractions, along with Geysir. Both are on the Golden Circle, the route that most tourists in Iceland travel. It runs from Reykjavík, the capital, to Thingvellir, the site of the old Icelandic parliament, to Geysir and then Gullfoss.
Gullfoss is a massive waterfall and special for its two steps. It is in the river Hvítá and is originated in Langjökull Glacier. Gullfoss is very spectacular both in summer and winter.
The area is called Geysir although today Strokkur geyser is the one that people come to see. Geysir is a geyser, the ONE that gives its name to the phenomena. Only once in a while does the old Geysir erupt whereas Strokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes. The term geyser is described: “A geyser… is a spring characterized by intermittent discharge of water ejected turbulently and accompanied by steam.”
Last weekend was beautiful, the countryside was covered with snow and the sun was shining brightly, as can be seen in the photos.
The Geysir area is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Iceland and an increasing number of tourists visit it daily. It is situated inland in the South of Iceland about one and a half hours drive from Reykjavík, the capital. From Selfoss it is about one hours drive. A trip to Geysir usually also involves a visit to Gullfoss which is only about 10 minutes drive away.
The Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) is the most common Owl in Iceland. Her niece the Long-Eared Owl (Asio otus) is quite scarce here and there are only a few Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus).
The Short-Eared Owl is most commonly at large in the twilight looking for mice which are her favourite food. In March the Short-Eared Owls are more likely to be seen in the daytime when they start claiming territory. Then they may be seen on fence poles and in tree tops.
Driving inland in southern Iceland last weekend we saw two Long-Eared Owls. It is always interesting to see owls and being able to photograph them makes it even more enjoyable.
There are a lot of Ravens in Iceland. They breed in rocks and cliffs but also in buildings and even telephone poles and sometimes trees. Most of the time, except during the breeding season, they roam the country side, visiting shores and urban areas in search of food. In evenings they gather in cliffs where they can rest and sleep.
One of these sleeping places is in Mount Ingólfsfjall not far from Selfoss. When counted in January and February, as they were coming into their sleeping area, the number of Ravens was around 450.
In the evenings, just before sunset, they come in flocks, large and small, from a big area in the Western part of South Iceland. They reside high up in the cliffs and come every evening. Sleeping sites or places like these are all around the country. When the breeding time begins the Raven pairs spread to their territories and cease coming to their joint sleeping places.
A Hooded Merganser (Mergus cucullatus) was on River Elliðaá and Elliðavatn in Reykjavík the other day. It is a beautiful bird and always a treat to see.
This bird was very shy and special care had to be taken to get close enough to photograph. The Hooded Merganser is such a spectacular bird with a prominent crest that it can raise and lower, as can be seen in the photo.