A rare North American vagrant has been the number one diversion for Icelandic birders in the past week. This is the second time that a White-winged Crossbill is spotted here but the first time that a bird of Western Palearctic origin is recorded, the North American subspecies. It was first seen in a small forest clearing called Sólbrekka, near the Blue Lagoon in Reykjanes Peninsula. It is still there and has been since November 8. It is now with a group of Common Crossbills and seems delighted in their company. The females especially seem to have taken a liking to this brightly coloured foreigner.
The American White-winged Crossbill is a breeding bird in the conifer forests of North America and well adapted to severe frosts. However, the White-winged Crossbill that was first spotted here in 2009 in East Iceland was of North Scandinavian/Siberian origin.
The European Robin has been an annual autumn guest in our garden for the last four years but before that we did not see one here for more than 15 years. From the beginning of November a Robin has visited us. It usually appears when there are few other birds around, quietly sneaking about in the undergrowth and visiting the feeders.
Usually one Robin claims the garden as its territory and drives other Robins away.
A number of European Robins were spotted around the country after a Southeast storm in October. They are annual vagrants in Iceland and are known to have bred here.
The Hermit Thrush, a very rare American vagrant, was spotted in Iceland this week by Lake Thingvallavatn. This is the12th time that a Hermit Thrush is seen in Iceland. It breeds in North America, as northerly as Alaska and Canada. It winters in South America or the southern states of USA – so this poor little guy is very far from home.
The Hermit Thrush lives in woodlands and is often seen in the undergrowth, foraging in leaves and foliage looking for food. It is not a garden bird and is almost never seen at feeders. It might come into gardens in winter to look for berries. – So we are probably not going to see one in our garden.
Never before have we been visited by so many Bramblings. In late October big groups could be seen in the East, probably more birds than have ever been seen in Iceland. These have now spread around the country and we are so fortunate as to have our own group here the garden.
For two weeks now we have counted three to seven Bramblings every day. Yesterday there were at least seven outside our living room window. The Brambling is a breeding bird in Northern Europe and usually flies southwards for winter. Although the Brambling is a vagrant in Iceland, some instances of breeding have been recorded.
These are beautiful birds and mostly peaceful so a good addition to our usual lot. We hope they will join our group of garden birds, Redpolls, Blackbirds, Crossbills and Starling, – and stay for the winter.
Reindeers are not native to Iceland. They were brought here in the years 1771 to 1787, in four trips, from Finnmark, North Scandinavia.The reindeers have mostly been located in Northeast Iceland and have thrived well there. In the last few decades their distribution has been increasing to the east and southeast, all the way to Glacier Lagoon (Jökulsárlón).
In autumn hunting is permitted but there are very strict regulations concerning the permits and the number of animals killed. Not everyone is content with the hunting of these majestic mammals but it plays a part in controlling their numbers in the fragile vegetation of the Icelandic Highlands.
The pictures are of a female reindeer and probably a young stag.