Keeping vigil over their spouses

Brandönd – Shelduck – Tadorna tadorna

It is spring and breeding time has started. The Shelducks on Ölfusá River have started claiming their territories. The males are very protective of the females and are busy chasing away aggressive males that have not yet managed to secure a mate.

Chasing away intruders

A lot of uproar can be observed when groups of male birds make an assault and try to snatch away a female already paired. The lucky ones have to keep constant vigil over their spouses.

Night Herons in Iceland

Nátthegri – Black-crowned Night Heron – Nycticorax nycticorax

Black-crowned Night Herons are very rare vagrants in Iceland. Now three have been spotted in Stafnes in Reykjanes Peninsula. On 26 – 27 April three birds were spotted but in the last few days only two have been seen. These three are number 11- 13 of the birds that have been spotted in Iceland.

The Black-crowned Night Heron is a breeding bird in South Europe and their winter grounds are in Africa. Usually they do not breed more northerly than in France but strong southerly winds have blown them of course all the way to the North Atlantic.

A sighting like this always causes a lot of commotion among birdwatchers. They came from all over the country to see these unexpected guests, feeling thankful for such a rare and precious sighting.

First time in Iceland

Háleggur – Black-winged Stilt – Himantopus himantopus

A Black-winged Stilt has been spotted in Iceland for the first time. It must have got a bit mixed up and added several thousand km to its migration route over the Atlantic Ocean.  Its habitat is in Central Asia and the southern part of Europe, around the Mediterranean, and up the west coast of France. It winters in the southern part of Africa.

The most prominent feature of the Black-winged Stilt is its very long red legs. With these long legs it can go farther out than many other waders which is convenient when searching for food. It lives in both fresh and salt water, by the shore, in ponds and marshes.

The Black-winged Stilt was first seen on April 20 in Gardur in Reykjanes Peninsula. The bird is there still and a lot of birders and photographers have visited the area to add this special bird to their lists.

Already with chicks

Krossnefur – Common Crossbill – Loxia curvirostra

We are almost obsessed with the Common Crossbill. They are such a nice addition to the Icelandic bird population with their yellow and orange colours and the special beak. Last weekend we saw the first ones with chicks.

The Common Crossbill breeds earlier than all Icelandic birds. The males start singing in the middle of winter and breed as early as February if there is enough feed.

The males are usually more colourful and come in shades of red, orange and yellow. The females are usually yellow.

A small white heron

Bjarthegri – Little Egert – Egretta garzetta and Mallards

A white heron has been seen in Ölfus, South Iceland, in the last few weeks, – and at last I managed to spot it, a Little Egret. This is most likely the white heron that has been roaming the area.

It is difficult to say whether this bird has been here for the whole of winter or  if it arrived sometime in February or March. Several Little Egrets were seen in Iceland in the autumn of 2016. This could actually be on of them.

The Little Egret is a small heron and a great beauty. It has a spectacular white plumage. The legs and bill are black and the feet yellow.

Happiness reports

Last Friday, Marsh 30

Spring comes and goes. This is not uncommon for the month of April in Iceland. We have had some beautiful sunny days and then we wake up to snow and hail. We should be used to this but we are always amazed when we experience what looks like a battle between winter and spring.

The days are brighter and much longer. The dark winter days have retreated, the sun rises earlier and sets later. We feel optimistic and think everything is possible. No wonder we score high in happiness surveys.

Iceland is now number three on the World Happiness Report, with the Nordic countries Norway and Denmark coming first and second.

In OECD better life index Icelanders score on average higher than people in other OECD countries. Icelanders seem to be more satisfied with their lives. We rate our general satisfaction with life 7.5 on the scale from 0 to 10. This is higher than the OECD average of 6.5. – I wonder whether these surveys are taken during summer or winter.

Excellent week for Northern Lights

Some very nice Northern Lights could be seen all over Iceland last week. The weather was excellent, beautiful clear skies. The red ones were spectacular but only lasted for a short while. When I managed to get outside and put up my gear, they had vanished and the more common green colours had replaced the red ones.

Photos taken by Lake Thingvallavatn.

See my flickr here !

King Eider in Landeyjarhöfn

Æðarkóngur – King Eider – Somateria spectabilis

King Eiders are high arctic birds and only breed in arctic regions such as North Greenland, North Canada and North Russia. They are regularly seen around Iceland in the winter time. In the summer time they may be seen here when males have paired with local female Eiders. If the pair manages to breed, which is rare, the chicks are hybrid. Despite this, hybrids are seen most winters around Iceland.

King Eiders are in groups of Eiders and come into harbours in bad weathers.  This flock was in Landeyjarhöfn , seeking shelter from the storm. The ferry to the Westman Islands was not sailing so the birds had the harbour for themselves.