The Wigeon is quite common in Iceland but the American Wigeon is rare although an annual vagrant. Several are usually spotted every year. This male American Wigeon was spotted on a pond in Svalbarðseyri in Eyjafjörður for a few weeks in May and June.
A part of the Icelandic stock of Wigeons overwinter on the East coast of North America. When returning to Iceland in the spring a few of their American cousins tag along to Iceland. These American cousins are an annual vagrants here.
In the last week of May a group of Red Phalaropes were spotted by the southwest coast of Iceland. Sightings of this high Arctic bird are annual by the sea in Iceland but breeding is rare.
The Red Phalarope is common all around the Arctic where it breeds. It winters at sea in the tropical zone, mostly by the coasts of South America and Africa. In winter the Red phalarope changes colour and becomes grey and is called Grey phalarope.
In the end of May Red Phalaropes could be seen by the harbour at Eyrarbakki looking for feed. They were quite tame and probably not used to the company of men.
Despite the cold northern gale this week the Goldcrest sang loudly in Hellisskógur forest by Selfoss. But you need a good hearing to notice its high pitched voice. Spring is the time for mating and breeding. Singing loudly attracts others of its kind and hopefully this one has bred by now. The weather this winter and spring has not been favourable to these little birds who mostly depend on spiders and the eggs of insects for survival.
The Goldcrest, which is the smallest bird in Europe, was a vagrant in Iceland until 1995 when a flock of them got blown of course and they started breeding here. Now they are counted among Icelandic inhabitants. The Goldcrest can be found in most pine and spruce forests in Iceland.
A Common Crossbill has bred in Hellisskógur forest by Selfoss this spring. In March they could be seen in the forest eating seeds from the Contorta Pines. In the beginning of April the male started coming to our garden on the south side of the river for feed. From then on he came here several times daily and could be seen going back to the forest on the northern side.
In the end of April a female bird sometimes came with him but then the male started coming alone sometimes accompanied by a hatchling. As time passed the hatchlings became three.
Watching the male feed the young ones is amazing. He vomits sunflower seeds into the hatchlings’ beaks. However, lately he has let them feed on their own. So perhaps he is breeding again.
Spring this year was been quite snowy and May has been wetter than we can remember, the month which is usually dry and windy. So many of our Icelandic migrators were welcomed by snow and frost and now in the last week of May you can still see birds in towns looking for shelter and food. Hopefully they will return to their summer habitat soon to prepare for nesting and breeding.
Black-tailed Godwits are arriving in the thousands to their summergrounds. They are welcomed by snow and frost here in South Iceland. When the ground is covered in snow they stay by rivers in estuaries and mudflats where they can easily find feed.
The Black-tailed Godwit is one of the most beautiful waders that breeds in Iceland and their arrival in spring is awaited with anticipation.
The Black-tailed Godwit overwinters on the west coast of Europe from Holland to the shores of Portugal. The Icelandic subspecies mostly breeds in Iceland but also in the Faroe Islands, the Shetlands and in Lofoten. This subspecies is more colourful, has shorter legs and a shorter bill. The Black-tailed Godwit breeds in lowlands all over Iceland and the population has been growing in recent years.
Siskins have been spotted all over the country this spring. This bird does not go unnoticed in its bright yellow plummage. A beautiful male has been in our garden for a few days now mingling with the Redpolls and eating sunflower seeds.
The Siskin is a common bird in European forests and a frequent vagrant in Iceland in spring and autumn. In recent years they have also started breeding in South Iceland but information is limited. We hope that this male will survive the cold spell and go on to find a mate to breed with here in Iceland. The Siskin is a nice addition to the scarce birdlife in the fast growing Icelandic forests.
Flocks of Redwings could be seen in Selfoss yesterday. These are migrants arriving in Iceland from their wintergrounds in Europe. Yesterday afternoon there were 35 of them here in the garden eating sunflower seeds and apples. Also groups of them flying to the Northwest.
A few Redwings (2-6) stayed behind and were here in the garden this winter. They came here daily to feed but last week there were around 15 and yesterday their numbers had grown much more.
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.