Seldom has the sky been so brightly lit up with Northern Lights than last night. It was ablaze and just like we remember it from when we were children. There has been a lot of Northern Lights activity this winter which will continue for the next two years according to forecasts.
Solar activity increased last year and will be at a peak in two years time.
And again the pictures say more than words although they can never convey the feelings you experience seeing the Norhern Lights dancing in the night sky with your own eyes.
Since the beginning of December we have had temperatures well below zero, more than – 20° C some days. Last night it was -16° C. Circumstances have been compared to the winter of 1918, but temperatures this low for such an extended period have not been recorded here in Iceland since then. Talking about extremes, November also broke a record for being the warmest November since the beginning of the century.
Here we are in the middle of January and although forecasts predict temperatures above zero it is only for a day or two and then again frosty weather.
Here in Selfoss there are heaps of snow and with this continuing we do not foresee it melting until spring. Also, it will be interesting to see the heating bills once they arrive. Thanks to hot geothermal water our houses are mostly warm and only big users like swimming pools that have had to close down temporarily.
Not only has the weather been compared to 1918 but also the health of the nation. That year the Spanish flu, also known as the Great Influenza, is believed to have infected around 500 million people all over the world. Now cases of influenza, COVID, RS virus and other respiratory diseases have surged in Iceland and medical centres and hospitals are overcrowded with patients. Thanks to advances in medical science we are nowhere near what happened in 1918.
Now we should just try to enjoy the snow and the Northern Lights that are at a peak at this time of year.
We hope you enjoy these pictures from Selfoss, taken in December and January.
December has been the coldest we can remember with temperatures going down to minus 21° C here in Selfoss. It is actually the coldest December since 1918. Most Icelanders use geothermal water to heat their houses so thankfully our houses are warm. In the last few weeks we have had several snow blizzards with road closures and flight cancellations. It has snowed so much that people have had trouble getting out of their houses. Along with this there has been a lot of COVID and influenza resulting in the hospitals being overloaded with patients. When we look at the year we are saying goodbye to we have diverse emotions. It has been a difficult year with wars and severe weathers, resulting in floods, droughts and famine. Lots of people have been subjected to the horrors of war and have had to give up their homes, jobs, education, and some even loved ones.
We hope that 2023 will be a better place to live. That we will all strive to make the Earth a more habitable place for us humans.
Wishing you all a prosperous year – and love and peace to all, Kristín and Örn
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.