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.
All posts by Örn Óskarsson
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
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
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
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.
One year from today
One year has passed since the beginning of the volcanic eruption in Geldingadalir. It started March 19 2021 and lasted six months. The longest eruption in Iceland in the 21st century and in many ways different from what was expected. It started calmly but as the weeks passed it became more energetic, with regular pauses in between. In the end a lava shield had formed consisting of many layers of lava.
The eruption became well known worldwide and a lot of tourists visited the site of the eruption. Most with the aim of hiking to the sight and experiencing it from a short distance.
Twelve Redwings arrived unexpectedly on March 5 and have been in the garden since. We had only seen a single bird here on and off in the last few weeks, so perhaps these are migrators arriving early. Or Redwings moving places within Iceland? The group shows all the signs of birds newly arrived, are constantly on the move, fighting among themselves and singing in the snow. Usually Redwings arrive here in late March or beginning of April, so this is quite early for Redwings if they are migrators.
We have now had news of Redwings in the eastern part of Iceland so most likely these are our spring birds arriving, signalling the coming of spring.
Barrow’s Goldeneye on the River by Selfoss
Yesterday we saw a few Barrow’s Goldeneyes on the river by Selfoss, four males and two females. They are annuals here on Ölfusá River. One of the males was quite aggressive towards the others and was on constant look out, pruning himself while he was not chasing the other three away. He was obviously set on keeping the two females for himself.
Iceland is the only breeding place of the Barrow’s Goldeneye in Europe and the distribution has been more or less restricted to Northeast Iceland. It stays in Iceland the whole year round. Part of the population goes to the South during the coldest time of the year.
More birds now breed in the South, e.g. in the Southern Highlands, in Lake Þingvallavatn and River Sog. Barrow’s Goldeneye stay in spring water lakes or rivers the whole year round and unlike most non-migrators they do not move to the sea in winter.
The Green-winged Teal is a very common duck throughout North America and an annual vagrant in Iceland. It is a small duck, similar in size to the Teal that is quite common in Iceland. This one was spotted in Fossvogsdalur in Reykjavík a few days ago together with a group of other ducks and geese.
The Green-winged Teal is usually shy and difficult to photograph. This one, however, was an exception and obviously used to living near people. In the last few days a few other Green-winged Teals have been reported in Southwest Iceland.