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Iceland - early June 2010 (1 Viewer)

plane_crazy

Well-known member
This was rather an adventurous holiday in the north of Iceland, having done the south of Iceland last year (and un-knowingly looking at Eyjafjallajokull every morning down the end of the valley...)

Flying from Gatwick with Iceland Express (far cheaper than Icelandair and recommended) - £780 inc taxes etc for the 5 of us - 2 adults, 3 children, we were in Reykjavik by late afternoon on the Sunday.

So, as soon as we dropped the bags in our accommodation right in the centre, myself and my eldest daughter walked around the corner to Tjörnin, the big lake in the middle of the town, next to the parliament building.
The eiders live on an island in the middle of the lake, and there's plenty of Whooper Swans and pink footed geese, as well as the usual ducks. And scaup, which are very determined not to be photographed!
And Arctic Terns of which more will be told later....

Monday saw us fly up to Akureyri - 45 minute flight from the domestic airport in Reykjavik with Air Iceland, who have a very casual attitude for checking in. Now, at other airports you are asked to check in up to 2 hours before the flight and check in closes about 30 mins before the flight, but Air Iceland only open the check in 30 mins before, and keep you guessing about the gate until a few minutes before departure, they still however leave on time...

Anyway, we were staying in a modern cottage on the hill about halfway between the airport and the town, and we decided to walk (there's no bus) as it was 20 deg C and sunny and we'd spent a lot of time sitting around or travelling during the previous two days. - not bad for near 66 north.
Walking got us the first decent bird, a grey phalarope on the shore of the lagoon just down from the airport. The airport is built out into the lake, and there are a series of lagoons along the road into town. However, our time with the phalarope was cut short as two cars pulled up and the drivers offered us a lift into town - the kindness of strangers!

Anyway, in the evening myself and the kids had a walk down Aðalstræti to the nearest lagoon - there's also a path into the woods which we didn't explore - and were rewarded with red-breasted mergansers and a rather ambiguous Goldeneye. Now, I thought that common goldeneyes didn't go to Iceland, and it was the Barrows Goldeneye that was the local species. But this one didn't have the distinctive white comma. When I got back to the UK I mailed the photo to an Icelandic bird forum - and indeed it was the common sort, they are rare but are around.

Anyway, while I was puzzling over the goldeneye, my daughters had carried on round the lagoon and were waving excitedly. And no wonder, 6 red-necked phalaropes spinning around the edge of the lagoon, rather untroubled by our presence. We also saw some on Mývatn and on Grímsey, and visited this particular group again another evening.

Tuesday, and I picked up the hire car, a 4*4 (it's worth paying the extra for a 4*4 as there's plenty of gravel roads around) and we set off towards Mývatn. Just before the lake there's a bridge and junction on Route 1, the latter carrying on round the south of the lake and the other route going around the north.
Just over the bridge there is a layby, and you can walk down to the Laxá river, which is a good place to see Harlequin Ducks, and we were not disappointed. Also seen was a snipe on a lamp post. The warmth of Akureyri was gone and it was pretty chilly.
Along the north of the lake now, which is where a lot of the birds on Mývatn breed, and another new one, this time a Great Northern Diver. We parked up in Reykjahlid for lunch (try the rye bread and smoked char from the lake - the bread is baked in holes in the ground where the heat bakes the bread in about 24 hours). You can walk down to the lake, where there were lots of Wigeon, scaup, Slavonian Grebe, some purple sandpiper flying over.

We carried on from there eventually ending up at Dettifoss up what is definitely 4*4 road - allow about an hour from Route 1 to Dettifoss and about 1.5 hours from Dettifoss to the north coast. Completely empty landscape along route 1 and to Dettifoss - just rocks and no sign of life, a few strange plants at Dettifoss but little else apart from German tourists and possibly one of the world's more remote toilets....

Anyway, Wednesday was Grímsey, the only bit of Icelandic territory on the Arctic Circle, three hours by boat from Dalvik (30-40 mins from Akureyri by car - Great Skua added to list). We saw a number of dolphins leaping about and a Humpback whale as well a couple of other whales. Plenty of eider in various places we visited in the holiday although we missed the King Eider at Husavik on the Thursday.
Grímsey is home to a big Arctic Tern colony, and they are determined to make sure you know about it. The Icelandic word for them is Kría - this is sound they make just before they dive bomb you - carry an umbrella or stick to defend yourself - the birds go for the highest point. Also seen whilst walking up to the Arctic Circle were several Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Snow Buntings and there are shed loads of puffins and Guillemots and yet more Eider, and of course the red-necked phalaropes, and some Arctic Skua, Glaucous Gulls. Bruinnich's Guillemot are supposed to be there but not where we were....
Just a word of warning, the ferry company only seem to have one film - "You, Me and Dupree", so if you've seen it already then you'll get to see it at least 3 more times if you stay in the cabin....

Thursday was Husavik and whale watching, or rather mostly puffin, guillemot, eider and black guillemot watching with half an hour of up close and personal with a Blue Whale, but worth it as they are rare even around Iceland. And hot chocolate and pastries and seeing my daughters dressed up in waterproofs and lifejackets looking more like the Michelin Man...

Friday was back to Mývatn and finally a bona fide Barrows Goldeneye. As well as a summer plumage Ptarmigan which we wouldn't seen if we hadn't taken a wrong turning looking for Gullfoss on the way there (we saw an all white one last year)

Keep a good lookout whilst driving around as there are plenty of waders, knot, whimbrel, snipe, plovers etc. Ravens and redwings are common as well.

Anyway, hope this is useful!

Michael

p.s blue whale pic added by popular demand!
 

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plane_crazy

Well-known member
The Harlequin ducks were flying around, I have a video rather than photos - don't know whether you can upload video?

Will upload blue whale photos later (I presumed a photo of a whale would be a little off-topic for a bird forum.....!)
regards
Michael
 

plane_crazy

Well-known member
more blue whale and bird pics from Iceland

more blue whale and bird pics from Iceland
 

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plane_crazy

Well-known member
more Iceland pics and notes from April 2009

Just a quick addition - in April 2009 we were down in the south of Iceland, as I said before just along the valley from the now famous volcano...

Attached are a winter plumage ptarmigan at Þingvellir, and Whooper swans just off route 1 along towards Dyrhólaey and Vik.

Dyrhólaey was good for Iceland Gulls and Glaucous Gulls and skuas, but we were too early for the puffins both here and on the Westmann Islands - the latter hosting several million in summer, providing meals for one for the local population. Cooking times may vary.

Quite happy to answer any questions, provide info for anyone planning a trip.

regards
Michael
 

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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Many thanks for the extra pix!

When it comes to other wildlife I guess the BirdForum motto would be "we're not proud if you're not shy!" - and Blue Whale is a near mythical beast!

Love the Ptarmigan.

Cheers
Mike
 

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
Scotland
The Harlequin ducks were flying around, I have a video rather than photos - don't know whether you can upload video?

Yes, you can upload them to BFTV - they'd be most welcome there. The video can then be linked to the relevant Opus article too.

Will upload blue whale photos later (I presumed a photo of a whale would be a little off-topic for a bird forum.....!)
regards
Michael

Not at all, Michael. All wildlife photos are acceptable, both in threads and the Gallery.

A superb report - it sounds like you had a great time.

D
 

Edward

Umimmak
Hi Michael

Always interesting to read trip reports from this part of the world and you did well to see Grey Phalarope in Akureyri, not a location where they normally occur but they can turn up in unusual places on migration. Húsavík has been very good for Blue Whales in recent years, with up to 10 different animals on one trip last year (or 2008). The geese you saw in Reykjavík will have been Greylags though, not Pink-footed. You'll have to go to western Iceland next time.

E
 
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