All posts by Örn Óskarsson

Colourful Crossbills brighten up the day

Krossnefur – Common Crossbill / Red Crossbill – Loxia curvirostra

In the last two years Common Crossbills have scarcely been seen in gardens in Selfoss. The reason is probably the abundance of seeds in pines and spruce trees. They have therefore enjoyed their stay in Icelandic forests with enough food to sustain them.

This autumn they started turning up here to visit the feeding trays and in the last few days we have had up to 9 Crossbills here enjoying the Sunflower seeds that we put out for the birds.
The Crossbills are colourful and tame and a great addition to the usual guests. They brighten up our days during the darkest period of the year.

Better times ahead

View to Ölfusá River from our window

It is November already and Christmas around the corner. How time flies. Our web ORNOSK.COM has not been up to par the last year or so. However, better times are ahead. We have moved the hosting to Iceland and problems with SSL certificate and Facebook sharing have been resolved. The last two years have been very special for us, to say the least. Not only COVID restrictions but also some health issues. Yes, we have been seriously reminded that we are not growing any younger. – Our resolve is to continue blogging and emphasise the essential role birds have in our ecosystems.

The Black-and-white Warbler is a rare vagrant

Klifurskríkja – Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia

For the fourth time a Black-and-white Warbler is reported in Iceland. This very tame little bird was spotted in a garden near Lágafell in Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It has been there for more than a week now, first spotted June 10.

The Black-and-white Warbler is a breeding bird in North America, migrating south to the Caribbean Sea and South America in winter. It makes its nest on the ground but spends most of its time picking insects from the limbs and leaves of trees.

The Black-and-white Warbler in Snæfellsnes Peninsula is very tame and has not been disturbed by the excited birders that have visited the area with their great big lenses.

Solar Eclipse

Solar eclipse, Selfoss, June 10, 2021.

Today, June 10, a partial solar eclipse is visible from Iceland, where weather conditions permit. It started at around 9 o’clock am and was visible until around 11 o’clock am.  This picture is taken a little before 11 o’clock in Selfoss when the sun could be seen through a layer of clouds.

A total eclipse could be seen in Greenland and northern Canada, and in some places in Russia,  In Northern Asia, Europe, and the United States a partial eclipse could be seen.

Common Moorhen in Hafnarfjörður

Sefhæna – Common Moorhen – Gallinula chloropus

A Moorhen was staying at the pond in the center of Hafnarfjörður for about four weeks in March. This was probably a nice surprise for the ducks, geese and swans that have permanent residency there.

Moorhens are rare vagrants in Iceland but very common in most of Europe, Asia and some areas in Africa.

The Common Moorhen is very common in marsh lands, lakes and can even been seen in parks in cities. In areas that freeze in winter they migrate to more temperate climates in summer.

Bohemian Waxwing visiting

Silkitoppa – Bohemian Waxwing – Bombycilla garrulus

We had heard of a Waxwing being seen in Selfoss and when one appeared in our garden on February 1st we had actually been waiting for it. The Waxwing has now been with us for about five weeks much to our delight. This beautiful bird is in competition with the other birds that occupy our garden, i.e. Starlings, Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds, and the Waxwing does not give in easily.  Apples is the item on the menu that they all crave, as well as the sunflower seeds, so there is sometimes a lot of commotion.

The Waxwing is a vagrant in Iceland and this one probably came to to the country in the autumn from Scandinavia.  Waxwings have been known to breed on and off in the last few summers in North and Northeast Iceland.

Northern Light activity

There has been a peak in solar activity in the last few days but cloudy skies here in the South have often prevented us from seeing them clearly and photographing them.  The North of the country, however, has enjoyed clearer skies and some magnificent shows of Aurora Borealis.

These photos were taken by Lake Þingvallavatn a few days ago when the the clouds gave way to the Northern Lights. Its colours were reflected in the frozen lake and the moon lit up the scenery.

A few nights ago we had some strong Northern Lights in green and beautiful red to pink colours. They could be seen dancing across the sky over Selfoss despite the lights from town.

Colourful Starling

Stari – Starling – Sturnus vulgaris

Now when the sun has started climbing higher in the sky and spring not so very far away, the Starlings have begun to sing and their plumage is becoming more colourful.

Although February has just started and temperatures below zero every day, they have begun to claim territories with their song. This Starling male has great expectations for this spring and has started to defend part of the garden as his own. His task is a difficult one as there are flocks of 20-30 Starlings here every day in the feeding trays.  But he doesn’t give up.

Mysterious Swans

A black bill Swan family

A few years ago we noticed a pair of Swans that were different from the Whooper Swans that usually breed in Veidivotn Lakes in the Southern Interior of Iceland. Since then we have been observing the pair that comes back to the same lake to breed, raising two to three chicks every summer.

Mystery pair?

The Whooper Swan is the only species that breeds in Iceland but these Swans in Veidivotn Lakes are smaller, more delicate and have a black bill without any or little yellow. They are also quieter and not as shy.

Some speculation has been ongoing concerning the identification of this breed of Swans, without any definite result. They are similar but not identical to either the Bewick’s Swan or the Tundra Swan. According to ornithologists they are possibly a local genetic aberration from the Whooper Swan.

On a field trip last summer seven Swans like these were found in the Veidivotn Lakes area, three paired with ordinary Whooper Swans and two where both had these same characteristics. Whatever they are we will continue to observe them and see how they fare.