Feeding the females before breeding

Krossnefur – Common Crossbill – Loxia curvirostra

It is mating time for the Common Crossbill, also called Red Crossbill. The males eagerly find food for the females and feed them to their apparent delight.

The Crossbills breed very early, sometimes in the middle of winter if there is enough feed and that seems to be the case now. People also put out seeds for them which hopefully makes life a little bit easier.

That is the case here where these photos are taken yesterday in the last week of January. Some visit their summerhouses all year round and part of the enjoyment is observing nature and the transformations that come with the changing seasons, – and the bird life is often at the top of the list.

Frozen paradise

Frosen paradise – the nature reserve in Flói

The Nature Reserve in Flói consist of wetlands, ponds and grassland. In the winter time when everything is frozen over it looks like something from á fairiy tale, – a winter wonderland.

The bird watching house in Nature Reserve Flói

In the summer time the Nature Reserve in Flói is teeming with birds. Today in mid winter I was surpised to see a pair of Wooper Swans, a Snow Bunting, a Redwing and a Wren.

The northeasternmost part of Iceland

Langvía – Guillemot – Uria aalge – at Fontur

Langanes is a 40 km long peninsula that jots out to the North Atlantic in a northeasterly direction. It becomes more narrow as it nears the tip which is called Fontur.

At Fontur

At Fontur there are huge Guillemot colonies in the steep sea cliffs.

Langanes is one of the most remote places in Iceland. It is know for its birdlife, and a good birdwatching spot in Skoruvíkurbjarg. There you can watch the Gannet and Brünnichs Guillemot in Stóri Karl, a sea rock, from a relatively short distance.

View to the lighthouse at Fontur, the tip of Langanes.

Arctic Skua and its prey

Kjói – Arctic skua – Stercorarius parasiticus

The Arctic Skua is rather common all around the country, especially by the shore although it can also be seen in the highlands. It is known to steal eggs and food from other birds such as the Arctic Tern but  also preys on smaller birds.

Last summer we witnessed an Arctic Skua catch a young Redshank (Tringa totanus). The parents tried to attack the Skua but were overpowered and the Skua swallowed to young Redshank.

It was a terrifying scene witnessing the helpless parents try to save their young own without success.  The pictures tell their story.

Photography is a challenge

Auðnutittlingur – Redpoll – Carduelis flammea

Redpolls are the most common birds in our garden this winter. There are about one hundred of them that come here every day. They  eat the sunflower seeds that we put out for them and the big old trees probably also play a part in the popularity of the garden.

I keep count of the birds that come here all year round. For information see my Weekly Bird Report.

I never tire of photographing these  quick and adorable birds. The Icelandic winter with its endless twilight poses a challenge for me to constantly try to get better photos that are sharp and clear.

On the river

River Ölfusá in January

River Ölfusá is a popular spot for birds especially during the winter time when creeks and lakes are frozen over. Due to spring water, part of the river never becomes frozen. There are several species of Gulls, mostly Iceland Gull, Whooper Swans and ducks.

River Ölfusá starts about 8 km north of Selfoss where two rivers join, a spring water river and a glacial river. One is River Hvítá which is mainly originated from the glacier Langjökull. The other is River Sog which is the biggest spring water river in Iceland. It comes from Lake Thingvallavatn (Þingvallavatn) which is usually the biggest lake in Iceland.

Winter Bird Count

Last weekend was the annual Winter Bird Count around the country. This time of year is considered ideal because all the migratory birds have by now flown to warmer climates leaving only the ones that will definitely stay and endure the Icelandic winter.

Selfoss town and Ölfusá River

My area has for decades been the town of Selfoss and the area around it.  More or less the same route is taken every year and I look for birds in gardens and on and by the river.

I also have an area in Grímsnes, Nautavakir, which is about a quarter of an hours drive from Selfoss inland. In my observations I include both the river and the forrest nearest to the river. This year there was no snow, no ice on the river and the ground unfrozen.

Nautavakir in Grímsnes

Selfoss: Merlin 1, Iceland Gull 23, Blackbird 13, Redwing 4, Redpoll 242, Starling 242 and Raven 41.

Ölfusá River: Cormorant 1, Whooper Swan 11, Shelduck 2, Mallard 51, Teal 6, Tufted Duck 15, Barrows Goldeneye 1, Goosander16, Black-Headed Gull 2, Herring Gull 5, Great Blackback 8, Iceland Gull 134, Undentifide Gulls 20,

Nautavakir /Grímsnes: Mallard 15, Ptermigan 4, Goldcrest 12, Redpoll 2, Common Crossbill 2.

Cormorant by Selfoss

Dílaskarfur – Cormorant – Phalacrocorax carbo (juv)

Cormorants are often seen by River Ölfusá around Selfoss in winter. In the last few days a young Cormorant has been seen on the river. Today it could be seen by the river bank drying off after fishing.

Cormorants are breeding birds along the Icelandic coastline but they only lay their eggs in islands off the coast. In other countries they are more prone to fresh water and lay their eggs in trees or cliffs. In the winter time many of them stay on rivers and lakes, sometimes in flocks.

Grey Wagtail wintering in Reykjavík

Straumerla – Grey Wagtail – Motacilla cinerea  (with Black-headed Gull in winter plumage)

A Grey Wagtail has been spotted in downtown Reykjavík in the last two weeks. It has mostly been seen around the Pond.

Grey Wagtails are rather uncommon in Iceland but they have been spotted here around 50 times.They are common breeding birds in West Europe to the east of Asia. Their winter grounds are in South Asia and Africa.

The photos are taken by the Pond in Reykjavík, on Friday, 6 January, (500 mm lens and 70-80% crop), from a distance of 70 m.  The birds on the photos are Black-headed gulls in winter plumage.

Hjálp waterfall

Hjálp waterfall in Þjórsárdalur

Hjálparfoss Waterfall in Thjosardalur (Þjórsárdalur)  is situated just before the road takes you into the Southern Highlands and is easy to access from the main road. It is a beautiful place, the double waterfall, the lagoon and some interesting lava formations make it a place you should definitely not leave out if you are in the area. It is more than worth the while to hike down the short footpath to the river although the view from the parking place is great.

There are some very interesting places to visit in Thjorsardalur Valley and you should not pass them by. One of these is Gjáin, not far from Hálparfoss.

Hjálp at summer time