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.
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.
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.
It is still winter and spring far away here in the North. The last few weeks have been difficult for the birds, heavy winds and blizzards day after day and temperatures sometimes well below zero. Feeding the birds has saved lives and the birds come to the feeding trays in the garden in flocks. It is nice to know that more and more people have started feeding the birds and are making it part of their lives.
In the end of January we had the Garden Birdwatch Weekend here in Iceland. People keep count of the birds that visit their garden and the numbers are gathered by Fuglavernd, Birdlife Iceland.
This year we counted birds here in the garden on Sunday, January 30. It was windy and snowing.
This is a list of the birds that visited the garden:
Rock Pigeon (Bjargdúfa) 9
Raven (Hrafn) 2
Starling (Stari) 5
Blackbird (Svartþröstur) 14
Redpoll (Auðnutittlingur) 38
Common Crossbill (Krossnefur) 5
Winter solstice, the shortest day (4 hours, 8 min.) and longest night, are upon us. Last night we enjoyed the full moon along with the Northern lights. Now the sun will start to rise higher in the sky every day, something that most of us look forward to, especially here in the high North.
The Sun stays in its place in the cosmos but as the Earth revolves around its orbit and around the Sun, the seasons change. For us here in the Northern hemisphere the days become a tiny bit longer with each day, tomorrow a few seconds longer.
Winter solstice, or Yule, is the oldest winter celebration in the world. In ancient times when the seasons and weather played an essential role in people’s lives, when we were hunters, there was a lot to celebrate. Making it through the winter was harsh and when the days started to get longer it was time for optimism.
And despite everything we feel optimistic in the Yuletide and hope that in the coming years there will be a little less poverty, less hunger, fever wars, less discrimination, better environmental management – and above all peace on Earth for all men (- all living beings and plants).
Redpolls are the most common birds in our garden as before. There are about twenty every day and sometimes up to seventy. Since a decline in the population in the winter 2018-19 they have been growing in numbers. They eat the sunflower seeds from the feeding trays along with thrushes and Common Crossbills but the big old trees probably play a part in the popularity of the garden.
The Redpolls’ main feed during the coldest months is birch seeds and the seeds from spruce cones. As seeds are scarce now here in the south and the earth covered in snow they come into gardens in search of food.
Luckily more people are putting out feed for the birds nowadays so they have a better chance of surviving the coldest weathers.
As it gets colder the birds frequent the garden and the feeding trays. Redwings, Blackbirds, Starlings and Redpolls are here in the dozens along with several Crossbills. When it gets well below zero, minus 12° C in the picture, the birds puff themselves up to retain body heat, like the Redwing here.
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.
This summer we came upon these Arctic Skuas in Mýrar, West Iceland, a pair with their offspring. One of the pair was of the pale morph and the other the dark morph. Looking after their young one seemed quite a handful, keeping them busy chasing him him. As we watched them one of the pair, the white morph, stayed in its place and the others kept coming back. Not so different with us humans.