All posts by Örn Óskarsson

At last a vagrant in the garden

Hettusöngvari – Blackcap – Sylvia atricapilla.

All autumn we have been on the look out for vagrants and at last there is a Blackcap in our garden. Many of them have been spotted around the country in the  last month or so along with other vagrants. This Blackcap was eating berries from the bushes and did not come to the feeding trays. The autumn and beginning of winter was been mild and still there are berries to sustain these little birds. We hope it survives winter.

Same time last year

Skógarþröstur – Redwing – Turdus iliacus. November 12, 2022

Some birds are unique like this Redwing that is visiting our garden for the second time now. We spotted it on November 12 but last year it was here at the same time. This Redwing has a a condition called partial albino or leucism. This is a genetic mutation resulting in the colourless spots in its  plumage.

We wonder where it has been during the last year. But we are sure that it remembers that in our garden there are nice people who put out feed for the birds in winter.

Pictures taken one year apart. The first from this year but the second from last year.

Skógarþröstur – Redwing – Turdus iliacus. November 5, 2021

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Rauðkollur – Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Corthylio calendula

Once again a rare American vagrant was spotted in Stokkseyri. Now a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Only two days ago a Common Yellowthroat was spotted in the same garden. This is the  second time a Ruby-crowned Kinglet is seen alive in Iceland. And for the record, I was the one who spotted the first one, and was the only one to see it.

The first Ruby-crowned Kinglet was found dead in Heimaey, in the Westman Islands, in November 1987. The second one was alive and also in Heimaey. That was in October 1998 and I was the only one to see it.  And now the third bird and the second one alive has been spotted, the first to be seen in the mainland.

Today the little town of Stokkseyri was teaming with birdwatchers with their cameras. Many of them saw the bird and photograped it.  Very different from when I was the only one to see it in Heimaey in 1998.

Photo taken in 1998 in Heimaey, Westman Islands.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a common breeding bird in North America. In winter it migrates to the Southern states. It is amazing for such a small bird to be able to fly all the way to Iceland, from the east coast of North America, over the Atlantic, probably around 4000 km, all the way to Iceland.

Common Yellowthroat

Grímuskríkja – Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas

A Common Yellowthroat was spotted in Stokkseyri, South Iceland, two days ago. And despite exercising great patience this is the best pictures I got.
The Common Yellowthroat is a common breeding bird in North America. This is the fifth time it  is recorded in Iceland. The first recorded spotting was in Reykjanes in September 1997.

 

Pied Flycatcher in Flói

Flekkugrípur – Pied Flycatcher – Ficedula hypoleuca

This Pied Flycatcher was spotted in Flói, north of Eyrarbakki in South Iceland today. It is a rather rare vagrant in Iceland but sightings are usually recorded here annually. In winter they migrate to West Africa from their breeding places in Western and Northern Europe. This bird has probably newly arrived from Scandinavia with easterly winds. Pied Flycatchers mostly live on insects and their chances of  surviving the winter here are rather slim. 

Guttormslundur – a lark forest grove

We always visit Guttormslundur in Hallormsstaðaskógur when we are in the area. For us Icelanders the forest is magical and one of a kind. It gives a good idea of what Icelandic Lark forests will look like in the future.

Guttormslundur is a 0,6 ha forest grove and part of Hallormsstaðaskógur which used to be the biggest woodland area in Iceland. It is situated in East Iceland in Hérað, about 20 minutes drive from Egilsstaðir, the biggest town in the East.

The trees in Guttormslundur are Russian Lark, probably from the Urals, planted in1938. That is quite early for Iceland where in general forestry didn’t start until later in the 20th century. The tallest Russian Lark trees in Hallormsstaðaskógur are now more than 25 m high and will probably reach over 30 m in the next few years.

Four Cattle Egrets in Ölfus

Kúhegri – Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis

No less than four Cattle Egrets were staying at Kröggólfsstaðir in Ölfus, South Iceland, last week. At least three of them are still there. In recent years more and more sightings are being recorded in Iceland for these beautiful birds but this is the first time so many have been spotted together.

The Cattle Egret is a rare vagrant in Iceland. It is a breeding bird in parts of South Europe and also in the southern part of North America. Their diet is mostly insects and they are most often seen in grasslands and plains among grazing lifestock such as cattle or other big grass eating animals.

A Cattle Egret was first recorded here in 1956 and then not until 2007. Their recorded number in Iceland now has with these four probably reached fifteen.

Stuðlagil in Jökuldalur

In Stuðlagil Canyon you can see one of Iceland’s largest and most beautiful collection of basalt columns. The canyon is in Jökuldalur, or Glacial Valley, in East Iceland. The drive from Egilsstaðir takes about one hour. The canyon is about 500 m long, with basalt columns of about 20-30 m on both sides of the river.

The longest river in Iceland, Jökulsá á Dal, also called Jökla, runs through the canyon. After the hydroelectric plant at Kárahnjúkar was built in 2007 there is less water in the river. The result is that more of the basalt formations in Stuðlagil Canyon have become visible making the site a very popular scenic attraction.

Stuðlagil Canyon is a place worth visiting. The hike from the east side takes less than 30 minutes (one way) if you drive over the bridge along a dirt road to the new parking area. Visiting the canyon from the west side does not involve a hike. There you go down the canyon by a steep stairway, about 200 steps, leading down to the river. We recommend going from the east side and taking the path although that takes up more of your time. There is more to see from there.

The canyon Stuðlagil has become a popular scenic attraction in the last decade.

Flocks of chicks on River Ölfusá

Æðarfugl – Common Eider – Somateria mollissima

Common Eiders with their flocks of young ones are now on their way down the river towards the sea. The Eider breeds upriver in Sog. That is the farthest from the sea that the Eider goes to breed in Iceland. Most of them breed nearer to the sea.

Usually you can see a few female birds taking care of their chicks together. This is not without reason. Getting the chicks down the river is dangerous mostly because of other birds, such as seagulls, that don’t hesitate to grab the ones that stray from the flock. Hopefully they will have a safe journey.
The photos are taken by Selfoss, June 9.

Jack Snipe in Ölfus

Dvergsnípa – Jack Snipe – Lymnocryptes minimus

A Jack Snipe was spotted two weeks ago in a warm brook in Ölfus where they have before been reported several times in winter. It is an annual visitor in Iceland in the winter time, a smaller version of the Common Snipe, and believed to have bred here although breeding has never been confirmed.

Jack Snipes are difficult to spot on the ground because they sit completely still for long periods. They can be found where the ground is unfrozen, in and near warm streams and brooks.