A good year

Sólskríkja / Snjótittlingur – Snow Bunting – Plectrophenax nivalis

The Snow Bunting is a high Arctic bird that breeds as far as the Northernmost regions of Greenland and Canada. It is common in Iceland where it lives the whole year round although in many countries it is a passerine. It used to be a very common breeding bird in the highlands but with rising temperatures the Icelandic stock has decreased. This summer has been fairly cold and seems to have been a good breeding year for Snow Buntings in Iceland.

With the beak full of flies for the nestlings

The Snow Bunting builds its nest deep in cracks in rocks. The nest is lined with feathers and fur, made with care to keep the eggs and chicks warm in the cold rock.

Young Snow Bunting (juv.)

In wintertime it goes round in huge flocks and comes into towns in search of food but putting out feed especially for Snow Buntings has been something of a tradition in Iceland. In the summer time the Snow Bunting goes under the name “Sólskríkja” which translates as sun screecher.

The Icelandic Goat

The Icelandic goat is an ancient breed of Norwegian origin, brought to Iceland by the settlers for over 1100 years ago. Today the Icelandic goat is mainly kept for maintaining the population so it does not become extinct.  Is is a friendly animal and does not shy away from humans.

The Icelandic goat has been on the verge of extinction for a long time and the Icelandic population is highly inbred. In 2003 there were 348 goats but in 2012 the population had been on the rise and there were 849 goats in Iceland. For the purpose of ensuring the Icelandic goat’s survival annual grants are paid to farmers that keep them.

Some experiments have been made in producing cheese from its milk but on the whole products are not made from the milk, meat or cashmere which is of high quality.

Keeping track of the chicks

Jaðrakan – Black-tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa

The Black-tailed Godwit is always agitated when its chicks are on the move. As with other waders they are born quite mature and leave the nest very early. By now they have started finding their way in life. The parents however do not seem so sure of their potential. The chicks are usually four so its quite a job to keep track of them. Here the parents have chosen a tree top to keep watch over them.

The Black-tailed Godwit is a migratory bird and those who did not manage to find a mate this spring have already left. Reports of ringed ones tell us that some are already in their winter grounds in Britain.

Aggressive Great Skua

Skúmur – Great Skua – Stercorarious Skua

The Great Skua is stout and dark. Some say it is not a beautiful bird and some even say they hate it. The Great Skua is sometimes referred to as a pirate because it is aggressive and always on the look out to harass and steal food from other birds such as puffins, fulmars, gulls and even birds as big as gannets. Their main diet in Iceland is probably sand eel and they also eat other birds. In the breeding time this big and stout bird is very aggressive and often dive-bombs people if they come too close to the nest. Stories say they might even damage cars and injure people.

The Great Skua is one of the biggest Icelandic birds and most common in the big sand dunes in the Southeast. Their numbers count around 5400 pairs. They are migratory birds and overwinter off the coasts of Spain and Africa.