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Around Iceland, may 24th to june 7th, 2016 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Here is my report of the trip, thank to all Birdforum members that provided information directly or indirectly.

I hope to post some photos soon

Around Iceland, 24th May to 7th-June, 2016

Although I’ve travelled a lot around the world before, this was my first trip entirely devoted to birdwatching, carrying also digiscoping equipment (and also my first, and expect not last, trip to Iceland)

My plan was travelling on my own with a tent, not disdaining to “upgrade” accommodation if weather forced me to do it.

Better availability of flights, similar high speed train connection from my hometown at Cuenca and better transfer between train station and airport made me prefer Alicante vs Madrid airports as start point at Spain. One difficult task was to fit all the scope+digiscoping equipment, plus tent, sleeping bag, clothes, guides, cooking equipment and some food (suggestion ) into the allowed baggage limits of WOW. An upgrade from 5 kg to 12 kg in cabin luggage (34 eur each leg) as well as 20 kg for checked baggage (38 eur each leg) made it possible.. With them the flight ticket went up to 527 euros. Flight tickets from WOW, Alicante-Keflavik, bought in February. Flight was fine, during the return leg there was a 3 h delay due to strike of French air controllers.

Car rented from AVIS-Budget at Keflavik about two months before. Getting and returning the car was straightforward and quick for myself, but I notice when leaving that people arriving in June were a long queue. I chose the smallest size available, being given a Suzuki Swift which performed nice on the road. It was ok for carrying things and I have to say that stayed very confident carrying the scope and photographic material inside the car around the country. I didn’t get additional insurance, I was a little worried (perhaps my only worry while there?) when I discovered near the end of the trip some amount of lava/sand particles damage to the surface of the car in the lower parts of the doors. Finally there was no problem during checkout. Another problem with the car came when digiscoping. I use an angled scope and a TLS APO that works fine for me at home were I take many photos from my van as “car-hide”. Here, the small space between head and also the lower height of the seat in relation to the window forced me to open the doors and loose many photo opportunities.

As I arrived in late May, the Flatey ferry summer schedule was not yet in place, so decided in the last moment to reverse the original plan and travel counter clockwise, as I arrived on Tuesday and there was no ferry until weekend.

I drove around 3.200 km (a substantial amount in dirt –non F- roads) with the following itinerary (camping at the last spot indicated in each day)

1st night: Late afternoon plane from Spain and drive from Keflavik airport to Gardskagi lighthouse.
1st day: Gardskagi-Sandgerdi-Grindavik-þorlasthöfn, with a visit in the afternoon to Flòi reserve.
2nd day: þorlasthöfn- Vik cliffs- Skaftafell National Park
3rd day: Skaftafell-Jökulsarlon-Höfn.
4th day: Höfn- Egilstadir (via road 939-Oxi col)-Bakkagerdi (Borgarfjordur).
5th day: Bakkagerdi-þorshofn-Raufarhöfn (free, nice campsite with showers & electricity)
6th day: Raufarhöfn-early start driving around Melrakkastetta peninsula-Kopasker- Husavik(with Whale watching trip at 5 p.m)
7th day: Husavik- Mytavn (early arrive, all day around the lake)- Reykjalid by Mytavn lake.
8th day: Mytavn (all morning up to 2 p.m)-Godafoss-Blondúos
9th day: Blondúos- detour to Hvammanstangi and seal site at Svalbard-Budardalur-around Breidafjordur-late arrive at Latrabjarg
10th day: All day at Latrabjarg
11th day: Latrabjarg-Brjanslaekur-Flatey (by ferry, 5-hour stop)- Sttykisholmur
12th day: Sttykisholmur-around Snaeffels peninsula-Borgarnes-detour to Akranes- tunnel-Laugarvatn- Geysir
13th day: (mostly sight-seeing) Geysir-Gullfoss-through þingvellir to Selfoss- to Keflavik via road 417- Gardskagi
14th day Last attempt at Keflavik for scoter- Packing and return back car at 10 a.m.

All day light conditions enabled long days, usually I started around 6:00-7:00 in the morning and went to sleep (sleep mask mandatory in the tent!) around 21:00.

List of birds (lifers in bold):

Pink-footed Goose; Graylag Goose; Brant; Barnacle Goose; Whooper Swan; Common Shelduck; Gadwall; Eurasian Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Shoveler; Northern Pintail; Eurasian Teal ; Tufted Duck ; Greater Scaup ; Common Eider ; Harlequin Duck; Common Scoter ; Long-tailed Duck; Barrow's Goldeneye ; Red-breasted Merganser; Rock Ptarmigan ; Red-throated Diver ; Great Northern Diver ; Slavonian Grebe ; Northern Fulmar ; Manx Shearwater; Northern Gannet ; Great Cormorant ; Shag ; White-tailed Eagle ; Oystercatcher ; European Golden-Plover ; Common Ringed Plover; Common Redshank ; Whimbrel ; Black-tailed Godwit ; Ruddy Turnstone ; Red Knot ; Sanderling ; Dunlin ; Purple Sandpiper ; Common Snipe ; Red-necked Phalarope ; Grey Phalarope ; Great Skua ; Arctic Skua ; Common Guillemot ; Brünnich's Guillemot; Razorbill ; Black Guillemot ; Atlantic Puffin ; Black-legged Kittiwake ; Black-headed Gull ; Common Gull ; Iceland Gull ? (I have to confirm this one yet when I find the relevant photos); Lesser Black-backed Gull ; Glaucous Gull ; Great Black-backed Gull ; Arctic Tern ; Short-eared Owl ; Merlin ; Common Raven ; Eurasian Wren ; Northern Wheatear; Redwing; European Starling ; White Wagtail ; Meadow Pipit ; Snow Bunting; Common Redpoll.

Other animals:

Harbour seal (Jokulsarlon, Husavik, Hvammanstangi) , Grey seal (at Latrabjarg), Minke whales (several), Humpback whales (at least two), Porpoises (all the cetaceans at Husavik whale watching trip), Arctic fox (devouring a puffin and attempting to catch a couple of mallard, at Latrabjarg).

Not a twitcher myself, I have to say that I enjoyed as much as new ones a lot of many already seen species in different plumages or behaviour, specially waders.

Although advised by Facebook Birding Iceland page I came close by five rarities (a lesser yellowlegs/pectoral sandpiper combo near Grundavik, two female Steller’s Eiders “near the eider farm” far in the NE, a White-winged Scoter (at Keflavik) and a Sabine gull (reported four days after my stay at Jokulsarlon, so it may be already there) I wasn’t able to found none of them. I understand that is difficult, because with the exception of the scoter I wasn’t even sure to be at the right spot. On the other hand among the less frequent birds I was rewarded with a Common Gull (quite uncommon at Spain, and a bird I haven’t seen yet) while driving towards Geysir, quartering the road, two different merlins and a short-eared owl (while at the camping at Flonduos), four barnacle goose (flying at Jokulsarlon) and a brant. I was also lucky enough with the two white-tailed eagles seen while driving around Breidafjordur. And also, with the help of the directions of a Dutch birder, a distant but well seen Grey Phalarope at Flatey. What I missed most from my desire list was the gyr falcon but well, that happens!

Birding, landscape and locals were (not necessarily in that other) excellent. Having placed very high expectatives on Mytavn lake I came a little bit disappointed, as two consecutive windy days blew the birds out to the shores, leaving the main waterbodies nearly empty. I think that arriving to during the second half of the trip, with already a lot of birding behind, made it less surprising. But anyway the show of arlequin ducks and goldeneyes at Laxa river was wonderful. On the other hand I enjoyed a lot the sense of solitude at Melrakkastetta (with not the best light) but also, in general, in all the East.

Weather was only bad (rain plus wind) the first two and a half days. After passing Vik it improved substantially and was sunny and excellent for most of the trip, except for a couple of spells (at Húsavik area) and early mist near the coast and two windy days at Myvatn. It wasn’t cold at all, even a couple of afternoons were fine for short-sleeve.

In a short line, a lifetime experience I’ll be looking forward to repeat!

Thanks to all the people at the Iceland thread of Birdforum.net for helping me in preparing this wonderful birdwatching trip.

Summary of expenses (14 days, from 24th may to 7th june)

Train from home to Alicante and Return 55 eur
Flight (ALC-KEF) and weight excess: 527 eur
Car rental (Suzuki Swift): 442’63 eur
Petrol: 42.000 ISK aprox 300 eur
Campsites: 15.600 ISK aprox 110 eur
Food, gas, SIM card, others: 25.000 ISK aprox 180 eur
Extras (ferry and whale watching trip): 21000 ISK aprox 150 eur

Making a total of about 1.750 euros for the fourteen days holiday.


- No need of bringing any food from abroad, even in a low budget trip
- Better homework with e-bird prior to the trip
- Another choice of car- more space- or on the medium term, change from angled to straight scope?


Well-known member
Thanks for your comments!!

Great slides and an excellent choice of music ;-)

Actually it was the first time I used the Lightroom presentation menu. Although fine for managing digital photos, this software is limited to very basic settings in slideshows, allowing only one track to be used as background music (couldn't event put the credits for the music for younger people!)... fortunately people like Deep Purple did produce some fantastic loooong themes than can accomodate over hundred slides. Now it is nearly impossible to find something similar. So I agree in that the music is excellent, but the choice was very limited! ;)
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Dave Williams

Well-known member
Some great shots but I'm not sure about the backing track either but you can always play something on Spotify whilst watching!
Very envious you saw Artic Fox but like you I didn't see a Gyr Falcon when in Iceland earlier in the month .
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