A busy nesting place

Hrafn – Raven – Corvus corax

Breeding time has started for the Raven and as in previous years it has arrived back to its nesting place on a ledge in the building that houses the hardware store BYKO in Selfoss. In Iceland most Ravens lay their eggs in the end of March or the beginning of April.

The Raven makes its nest in cliffs and rocks but lately they have started making their nests in buildings and even in trees which is actually not uncommon outside Iceland. Now however there are trees tall enough for them to consider that possibility.

In early spring Ravens can be seen in tree tops where they try to break off twigs and small branches. This seems to be a game for them but we don not approve of this behaviour.

Whooper Swans arriving in flocks

Álft – Whooper Swans – Cygnus cygnus

Last weekend flocks of Whooper Swans could be seen flying along the Southeast coast, having just arrived over the Atlantic Ocean. Most Whooper Swans migrate to the British Isles in the autumn and come back in the spring.

Whooper Swans are very common in Iceland and can be seen all over the country.  Pairs stay together for life and  are true their old breeding places which they return to year after year. The chicks stay with the parents until it comes to the nest making when they chase their chicks from last year away. If the Whooper Swan is disturbed or feels threatened the pair may abandon the nest and eggs.

Dangerous waves

Dyrhólaey and Reynisfjara are among the most popular scenic attractions in Iceland and not without reason. A lot of tourists come there every day and last Saturday when we were there was no exception. It was windy and the waves were nothing to play with.

Several fatal accidents have occurred on the shore in recent years and despite warning signs tourists keep risking their lives running after the waves or trying to catch a good photo. There is no denying that it is a mesmerising place and probably the coolest beach in Iceland.

One of the first migrants

Tjaldur – Oystercatcher – Haematopus ostralegus

The Oystercatcher has arrived. On our trip along the south coast to the east last Saturday we saw several huge flocks that had just arrived. With their bright orange beaks and feet they are such a beautiful sight. The Oystercatcher usually arrives in the middle of March making it one of the first migrants to great us and signal the coming of a new season.

The Oystercatcher is mostly a migrant in Iceland and quite common in lowlands. Most go to the British Isles in the autumn and come back in March to April.

Crossbills and pine cones

Krossnefur – Common Crossbill – Loxia curvirostra

In Grímsnes, South Iceland, the Crossbills are busy eating seed from the cones of the Pinus contorta tree. Although the cones have not yet opened properly they manage to get to the seeds. They use their distinctively shaped beak, which they get their name from, to open the cones and with their tongue they fish the seed or nut out.

The Contorta pine goes under several names such as Lodgepole pine, Shore pine and also Twisted pine. The Common Crossbill usually prefers seed from spruce cones but in South Iceland there are more pines than spruces so pine seeds are their main food source, at least in the spring.

A secretive bird

Keldusvín – Water Rail – Rallus aquaticus

Today a Water Rail was spotted in a ditch near Selfoss. It is five years since one was last seen in Iceland. It used to be a breeding bird here but has now become a rare guest. Its habitat is freshwater wetlands in Europe, Asia and North Africa.

The Water Rail was well visible in the bright sun today but was not eager to be seen. If disturbed it hid under some weeds, easily blending in with its surroundings, and birdwatchers had to wait for some time for it to appear again.

The Water Rail is such a special bird and a shame that it does not exist in Iceland any more. Two main reasons are probably to blame for its disappearance, irrigation and drainage and the introduction of the mink in Icelandic nature. But the minks escaped from mink farms. Water Rails are vagrants that usually come here every year from Europe.

Lonely Snow Bunting

Snjótittlingur – Snow Bunting – Plectrophenax nivalis

On one of the few cold days this winter, that was about two weeks ago,  a lone Snow Bunting visited the garden. The first day it seemed a bit dazed and tired. We even thought it was seeking refuge here to die. But after a day or two it was up to par and stayed here alone for a week, enjoying the food we put out for it. Flocks of Snow Buntings have flown over but this is the only one in the garden this winter.

Reykjavik Pond – Reykjavíkurtjörn

In the heart of downtown Reykjavík is Tjörnin, or the pond, with its ducks, geese and swans. On weekends it used to be a pastime to take the kids there to feed the birds leftover bread. This is alright in the winter time but people are now being asked to keep this under control especially in warmer weather when there is enough feed.

Going skating on the Pond was quite popular when we were young but today this is not so common with global warming and everything.

Despite this it is always interesting to watch the birds on the Pond whatever the season.