It was an eventful weekend considering it was late November in Iceland and culminated in my seeing a national first (or second..see below) and it proved once again that you can't believe a word that comes out of my mouth as I swore blind that I wouldn't drive through Saturday night to see a wretched pigeon but ended up doing just that.
It started on Saturday morning in the local boozer where I lost about 2 stone watching the thrilling England v Australia match. After a short and sober celebration there I drove with a fellow birder an hour east to the town of Selfoss to try and see a MOORHEN, not a great rarity (c.90 previous records) but a new bird for us two in Iceland. It was a a cold clear winter's day, visibility perfect across the southern lowlands to snow covered mountains deep in the uninhabited interior and the numerous plumes of steam from the hotsprings rising vertically into the azure sky. We quickly found the Moorhen in the garden where it has been for several days and decided to head the coastal villages of Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri to see if there were any vagrants lingering around. There weren't, with the exception of two BLACKBIRDS, and it was all very quiet. However, on the beach in Eyrarbakki, home last month to a Baltimore Oriole, we saw the biggest group of SNOW BUNTINGS I've seen in Iceland (or anywhere else for that matter. I guestimated a minimum of 600, my friend reckons there were closer to a thousand, and they regularly flew up and and skimmed our heads as the moved back and forth between different areas of the beach. A great sight.
Now, the previous day an Icelandic mega had been found 400 km east of Reykjavik, a STOCK DOVE, either the first or second bird for Iceland, after a bird had been seen on exactly the same farm in April. Two birders had already gone on the Saturday but I wouldn't have missed the rugby for all the tea in china, and I had decided 100% not to go on Saturday night and had opened a nice bottle of Aussie Merlot to prevent me from having to drive. However, when the phone call came at 9:00 on Saturday evening I folded like an amateur poker player and by 10:00 was driving east (in the passenger seat!). On the way we saw the most incredible AURORA BOREALIS we'd ever seen. Immense swathes of green and red light hurtling across the sky and we had to stop the car to get a better look. A shooting star made it even more special. After stopping at a guesthouse en route we arrived at the farm Hali shortly after sunrise (10:00) and quickly saw the STOCK DOVE, a bird I've often seen in Britain but a major bird here and no. 175 on my Iceland list! Other birds there included BRAMBLING, three BLACKCAPS, a HOUSE SPARROW (very rare bird here) six BLACKBIRDS, only three REDWING, numerous RAVENS and a very late MEADOW PIPIT. We eventually decided to head back to Reykjavík, stopping off for a WOODCOCK on the way back, admiring the incredible glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón (see latest Bond film for that natural wonder) and arriving back on Reykjavík at 8:30 in the evening.
Admittedly it's a bit of a long way to go for a pigeon but it's always good to get out of the city, look at those glacial landscapes and I wouldn't have missed those northern lights for anything.
Pictures of the Stock Dove and the surroundings can be found here