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Iceland for the bewildered (1 Viewer)

James Jobling

Well-known member
Iceland has always been on my list of birding countries to visit, but, over the years, has been side-lined by glamorous tropical venues. Now that comfort is marginally as important as lifers, Tricia and I are booked on a week’s clockwise cruise around Iceland next June. Starting in Reykjavik we shall then be disembarking at Isafjördur, Akureyri, Seydisfjördur, Djúpivogur, Heimaey and return to the capital. Excursions at each port will be available, but are not yet finalised. It would be exciting to see Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Gyr Falcon, and British Storm-petrel, but what are the chances on a non-birding cruise? I suspect we shan’t get far into the hinterland (so Mývatn is doubtless out), but would welcome any suggestions as to suitable sites to attempt during our dudes tour.
 

foresttwitcher

Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
Hope someone local sees this but to keep it at the top - it was a long time ago but I saw: Brunnich's at Latrabjerg so keep an eye out while off the westerly point prior to reaching Isafjordur; the only Gyr was on the tundra area on the most northerly peninsular.

It would be a shame to miss Myvatn as Harlequin & Barrow's were both seen here.

Enjoy, its a spectacular place.
 

Ignatius

Auf der Suche nach der eierlegenden Wollmilchsau
Austria
The 710 and I are planning a two-week tour of Iceland next August/September. Using our own vehicle we intend to see as much as possible of this amazing place including the interior highlands. Besides looking into getting a 2" lift for the Ranger Wildtrak we are researching the best places for Gyr, Arctic Fox, whales and other wildlife. I shall bookmark this thread to follow it in the hope of other members chiming in with first or at least second-hand information and tips.
 

foresttwitcher

Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
The 710 and I are planning a two-week tour of Iceland next August/September. Using our own vehicle we intend to see as much as possible of this amazing place including the interior highlands. Besides looking into getting a 2" lift for the Ranger Wildtrak we are researching the best places for Gyr, Arctic Fox, whales and other wildlife. I shall bookmark this thread to follow it in the hope of other members chiming in with first or at least second-hand information and tips.

I saw Arctic Fox from the road in the south west (east of Selfoss) and in the east (south of Egilstadhir) but I believe the best place is the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, although access would require research.
 

Edward

Umimmak
Iceland
Brünnich’s Guillemot breeds in vast numbers in NW Iceland, which you will pass on the way from Reykjavík to Ísafjörður and then again from Ísafjörður to Akureyri. Not sure how close you’ll sail to the bird cliffs but there should be Brünnich’s Guillemot (and Common G and Razorbill) at sea as you round the West Fjords.

Harlequin Duck is pretty common but local, and when on the sea (winter and post-breeding, i.e. mid-June onwards) they stick close to land and again I’m not sure how close you will sail to land, not very I assume. But they occur all around the West Fjords, in Eyjafjörður (where Akureyri is located). I’ve never been to Seyðisfjörður by sea but there are sure to be Harlequins on the sea here I think. They favour rough waters below cliffs.

I would be surprised if they don’t offer you an excursion to Mývatn when you dock in Akureyri (it’s only an hour away). If you go there you should see Barrow’s Goldeneye easily enough. As you descend from the moors down towards the lake the river Laxá appears on your left and there are usually plenty of them here. I tend to visit in late May where they are unmissable and Harlequin Duck is fairly common here but males become scarcer as June progresses. Usually plenty of Barrow’s on the lake itself but no Harlequins.

Although Iceland is probably the best place in the world to see Gyr Falcon, it’s easy to miss (although I’ve seen it on three consecutive days this week). It occurs primarily in NW and NE Iceland but on a fleeting trip it’s just a matter of luck.

I would think you have a good chance of European Storm Petrel while sailing to Heimaey and between Heimaey and Reykjavík.
 

James Jobling

Well-known member
Edward, thank you very much indeed for this very useful information, which makes me feel more optimistic about our goals. Nearer the time we set sail more info should be available as to excursions (I had not realised that Mývatn was so accessible from Akureyri).
 

Val35

Well-known member
The 710 and I are planning a two-week tour of Iceland next August/September. Using our own vehicle we intend to see as much as possible of this amazing place including the interior highlands. Besides looking into getting a 2" lift for the Ranger Wildtrak we are researching the best places for Gyr, Arctic Fox, whales and other wildlife. I shall bookmark this thread to follow it in the hope of other members chiming in with first or at least second-hand information and tips.
Saw Gyr Falcon several times around Lake Myvatn in late June.
I missed Arctic Fox during my trip but it seems like the Western Fjords area is the best for them ? I haven't been there myself.
As for whales/dolphins :

-saw Minke Whales and Harbour Porpoises a bit everywhere from the coast
-a whale watching trip from Husavik allowed me to see Humpbacks, White Beaked Dolphins (and Minke Whales + bunch of seabirds)
-saw Sei Whale off Heimaey as well as a pod of Orcas on each day I spent on the island (from the coast)
-More Orcas from the coast near Grindavik
-Humpbacks very close to the shore between Blönduos and Akureyri but not sure where and one likely but very distant Blue Whale on that same day...
 

Dortmundbirder

Well-known member
Surely you get offered the Golden Circle as an excursion I think. We were also on a non birding trip in late June
We were lucky to have Gyr Falcon in Dingvellir National Park (local Wren there as well) and were lucky enough to have a female + I presume 2 young Harlequin Ducks on the river next to the Geysir.

We had the Storm Petrel + Brünnichs Guillemot on a whale watching trip from Reyjkavik, so i think that might be very easy if you have a lot of sea time.
 

James Jobling

Well-known member
Thank you, Dortmundbirder. Our excursion itinerary has yet to be finalised, although "Northern Iceland Natural Treasures" has been mentioned, as has whale-watching (from Akureyri or nearby), Vigur Island, Dynjandi Waterfall, Skalanes Nature Centre, hiking at Halsar (probably give this a miss - my hiking days are well past!), and an inflatable boat cruise around Heimay. There should be lots of birds to see from the cruise-ship itself as it circles the island.
 

Edward

Umimmak
Iceland
The 710 and I are planning a two-week tour of Iceland next August/September. Using our own vehicle we intend to see as much as possible of this amazing place including the interior highlands. Besides looking into getting a 2" lift for the Ranger Wildtrak we are researching the best places for Gyr, Arctic Fox, whales and other wildlife. I shall bookmark this thread to follow it in the hope of other members chiming in with first or at least second-hand information and tips.
August and September should be pretty good for looking for Gyr Falcons as the young will be on the wing and starting to fend for themselves. North-east Iceland is the best place, not just around Mývatn but the whole area, especially the Melrakkaslétta peninsula. I also see them pretty much every time I visit the West Fjords. Arctic Fox is very easy at Hornstrandir but it's a bit of a challenge logistically as it can only be reached by boat or on foot. However, Arctic Foxes do occur throughout Iceland so you can come across them anywhere, but they are shy (persecuted) and mainly nocturnal.
 

Edward

Umimmak
Iceland
Thank you, Dortmundbirder. Our excursion itinerary has yet to be finalised, although "Northern Iceland Natural Treasures" has been mentioned, as has whale-watching (from Akureyri or nearby), Vigur Island, Dynjandi Waterfall, Skalanes Nature Centre, hiking at Halsar (probably give this a miss - my hiking days are well past!), and an inflatable boat cruise around Heimay. There should be lots of birds to see from the cruise-ship itself as it circles the island.
I've never been to Vigur but that will be a good trip I think, tons of birds on the island and very often a King Eider in the Common Eider colony
 

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