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.
Once again we are visited by the Blackcap. This vagrant has come by our garden in the autumn almost every year for a long time now. They are not breeding birds in Iceland and most likely come from Scandinavia. They have been spotted all around the country this autumn.
This Red-flanked Bluetail is a first for Iceland! Two birds were spotted last week. These beautiful birds are supposed to fly south to warmer climates in winter. Their summer habitat is in Northern Asia and Northeast Europe, as far as Finland. They winter in Southeast Asia.
The Red-flanked Bluetail has been a rare vagrant in Western Europe but has lately been spotted more often, mostly in Great Britain. This one was obviously blown off course and ended up in Southeast Iceland, in the fishing village of Höfn in Hornafjörður.
The Wren is very busy these days catching winter moths. It seems to be a great part of its diet at this time of year. This clever little bird is very diligent and picks them off the walls and in crevices where they might hide.
One has claimed our house as his own private property, driving others away with force, and cleaning the moths off the walls like a perfect little housekeeper.
There are more Wrens this autumn than often before so this summer seems to have been a prosperous one.
The Red-eyed Vireo is an American vagrant and a near annual in Iceland. This autumn two have been spotted in Iceland, one in Stokkseyri and the other near the neighbouring village Eyrarbakki, in Floi Reserve.
This is the third year in a row that a Red-eyed Vireo is spotted in the same garden in Stokkseyri – nice coincident that. The birds that fly off course, way over the North Atlantic, will not survive the winter in Iceland. Their winter habitat is in warmer climates, in lowland forests in South America.
The Ptarmigan is getting ready for winter. Its plumage is changing from the earthen colours of its summer habitat to the white of the winter snows.
It seems there are more Ptarmigans now than often before. The summer was a good one for breeding and in the forests that we frequent we see groups of them. These are probably parents with their grown young ones from early summer but the chicks are often 10-12 in one breeding.
A lot of hustle and bustle on the feeding tray while the birds come and go. More want to join the pack than fit the tray but we make sure to fill up frequently so that hopefully none will go away without having had a morsel.