Courtship in February

Krossnefur – Common Crossbill / Red Crossbill – Loxia curvirostra (males)

In the end of January and in February the male Common Crossbills become quite noticeable in the tops of the Lodgepole Pine forests (Pinus contorta) in Grímsnes area, South Iceland. They sing and try to catch the attention of the females.

Krossnefur – Common Crossbill / Red Crossbill – Loxia curvirostra (females)

Although it is still mid winter in Iceland they have obviously started courtship. Some seem now already paired and are feeding their spouses which is a sign that the nesting period is not far away.

A female and male Common Crossbills

The cones and seeds of the Lodgepole Pine are now becoming ripe and that seems to be the indicator that tells the birds that it is time for mating.

Brighter days

In February the sun crawls a little bit higher in the sky. We feel its rays warming up our days albeit just slightly.  After the darkness of December and January it feels nice to go out during midday to feel its rays on ones skin. Although the weather has been very turbulent we have had a few nice days in the last couple of weeks as these photos show.

Snow Buntings in flocks

Snjótittlingur – Snow Bunting – Plectrophenax nivalis

Snow Buntings have frequented Icelandic gardens all over the country this winter. In the past few weeks they have been seen in huge flocks and we counted 400 birds here in our garden in Selfoss. Last year, however, we didn’t see any Snow Buntings here.

This winter has been harsher than in previous years, with long lasting frost and snow. In the last century The Snow Bunting was the typical Icelandic winter bird and usually the only bird to be seen in winter along with the Raven. In the last few decades there has been a change and the Snow Bunting has been seen more rarely in Icelandic gardens.

The reasons for this change are not certain and people speculate whether this is due to a decrease in the stock. However, an increase in corn production in agricultural could be reducing the Snow Buntings need to come into gardens for feed, at least when snows do not cover the fields.