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.

Great White Egret

Mjallhegri –  Great White Egret – Egretta alba / Casmerodius albus

A Great White Egret was by Markarfljót, near Seljalandsfoss, for about two weeks in the beginning of April. The Great White Egret is tall with a long neck and long feet. It has lacy, delicate plumes on its back that curl over its tail. It is a majestic bird, unliked anything we are used to.

This Great White Egret seemed to be in its ideal surroundings by the road near Markarfljót where it frequently caught small fish in the creeks and ponds that do not freeze over. It stayed calm despite the traffic and just kept on fishing as if it didn’t have a care in the world.

Great White Egrets are rare vagrants in Iceland. This is the ninth bird for Iceland and the last one spotted here in 2016. This Egret probably came from its breeding grounds in the Mediterranean where it can be found in all types of wetlands and by the shore.

In the last few days a Great White Egret has been spotted in several places in Reykjanes Peninsula. It might well be the same bird.

Icelandic migrants arriving home

Hrossagaukur – Snipe – Gallinago gallinago

At last spring is in the air and our Icelandic migrants are returning home. After an exceptionally mild winter we had some very cold and snowy weeks in March and April. Now the temperatures are rising and we look forward to frost free nights. The days are getting longer and it doesn’t get dark until after 10 o’clock.

Heiðlóa – Golden Plover – Pluvialis apricaria

Fields and farmlands have now come alive with flocks of Greylags, Pink-footed geese and Whooper Swans. The Golden Plover has also arrived much to the delight of all Icelanders. Black-Tailed Godwits are also arriving although we have news that great flocks have still to leave the shores of Holland.

Heiðagæs – Pinkfoot – Anser brachyrhynchus

Redshanks can be seen, as well as Meadow Pipits and we have noticed a lot of Snipes this spring. Only a few Whimbrels have been spotted and we have not seen or heard news of the Wheatear.

Þúfutittlingur – Meadow Pipit – Anthus pratensis

There is also little news of Pied Wagtails and we sorely miss the pair that has resided here in the garden for many years. We love spoiling them with whole meal crackers and have waited patiently for their arrival. We think we might just have heard one in the neighbourhood today.

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.

Rowan tree at Sandfell

Reynir – Rowan – Sorbus aucuparia

Again we post a picture of the beautiful Rowan tree at Sandfell in Öræfasveit planted in 1923 beside the family farmhouse. In 1947, however, this old church site and parsonage was abandoned. In South Iceland Rown trees rarely reach such a high age as this one, almost 100 years old.

This tree is by many considered the most beautiful Rowan in Iceland. In 2015 it received the title “Tree of the year”by the Icelandic Forestry Association. It is 11 metres high with seven stems. In autumn each stems displays varied colours. This difference is due to the amount of water in each stem, resulting in these magnificent autumn colours of leaves in different stages of wilting. See also Tree of the year 2015.

Enjoy nature with us