The first Common Crossbills are now with chicks. They breed very early, sometimes in the middle of winter if there is enough feed. Yesterday I found three week-old chicks on my walk in spruce and pine forests in Grímsnes, South Iceland. In previous years the first chicks have also appeared at this time of year, in the latter part of April.
Migrants are now coming to Iceland from Europe in flocks. In the last couple of weeks there has been headwind on the 800 km migration route over the ocean from Scotland and Ireland. Now weather conditions are better and in the last two days many migrants have started their long and difficult flight.
Among these is the Black-Tailed Godwit that overwinters on the west coast of Europe from Holland to Portugal. A group of around 300 birds was by the banks of Hvítá River in Grímsnes yesterday. The birds are obviously dead tired and eagerly searched for food in the in the sand.
Today is the first day of summer in Iceland, – a holiday celebrated every year on the first Thursday after the 18th of April. Iceland is the only country that has a special holiday to celebrate the coming of summer. It is part of an Icelandic folklore. In olden days there were only two seasons, equally long, summer and winter. In this respect the first day of summer was actually new years day.
The folklore says that if there is frost the night before the first of summer the summer will be good. Tonight the temperatures went slightly below zero and there was frost on the ground. The sun rises at 5:30 now and the sun is shining so it seems we will be having a nice warm day. According to the folklore the summer should be a good one.
The Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) is a breeding bird in the southeastern part of Iceland. A big part of the Barnacle Geese that are seen here in spring and autumn however are on their way to and from their breeding grounds in Northeastern Greenland. Their winter grounds are in the British Isles.
The first known breeding of a Barnacle Goose in Iceland was in an island in Breiðafjörður Fjord in 1964 but since 1988 they have breed in islands in Jökulsárlón Lagoon and in other places in the Southeast. The Icelandic stock now counts several hundred pairs.
In springtime the Barnacle Goose along with other geese can be seen in meadows in the lowlands, especially in the North. This spring big groups of them have been seen in meadows in the South which is unusual. Possibly some rough northernly winds blew them off course. The photos are taken near Selfoss, South Iceland last week.
The Starling is a fascinating bird. In springtime when courtship begins the white dots on the breast almost disappear and beautiful blue and violet colours intensify when they ruffle their feathers and sing their love songs.
Starlings are underestimated. They are both enjoyable and beautiful.
We witnessed the courtship of a young pair of White-tailed Eagles in Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the week before Easter. They turned around in the air, clasped claws and flew in circles. Later they landed together in a heath not far from where we parked our car.
The White-tailed Eagle reaches puberty around the age of six, finds a mate and starts a life long relationship. The eagle usually stays in the same area and its territory is huge. The couple more or less stay in their territory or near it the whole year round. Competition for the best territories is hard. Sometimes they might stray from their territories in October to December but they come back before courtship begins again in January.
The eagle’s courtship begins with a spectacular exhibition of arial agility early in spring, followed by mating and breeding. Such shows of arial competence are also seen among other birds of prey and ravens.
In the last few days a Blackbird couple have been very busy in the garden. The male stands watch, intermittently singing his soul out, as the female searches for nesting material. She is busy gathering last years grass, rotting leaves from the gutter and moss.
Placing the material diligently in her bill she flies up into a spruce where the nest is carefully hidden from bad weather and possible enemies. Soon she will lay her eggs.
Several Blackbird pairs are in Selfoss now and usually each pair breeds up to four times during the summer time. We can expect the Blackbird stock in Selfoss to have grown considerably this autumn if things go as planned.