RFI iceland in june (1 Viewer)

James Lowther

Well-known member
hello,
i'm in iceland or the first two weeks in june. probably going to visit reykjavik, golden circle, snaefellsnes, flatey, latrabjarg, husavik, myvatn, but chances are will drive round the whole island.

have checked out the superb birding iceland for some tips on target species but have some additional species i'd like to see that aren't listed. This might be because they are so common you cannot miss them, but should probably check just in case!

any tips for seeing the following would be much appreciated

long-tailed duck
merlin
black guillemot
common redpoll
snow bunting

also any extra tips for connecting with ptarmigan would be useful.

finally, would like to know if it is vital to pre-book accommodation at this time of year or whether we can be more flexible and arrange stuff when we arrive?
thanks,
James
 

StuartReeves

Local rarity
Hi James,

As ever, Edward's your man for this stuff, but as I went in early June last year I have some experience. Of the species you list, we managed to miss Merlin, though only by looking the wrong way when one flew over our heads near Myvatn. Everything else we bumped into without really trying. Re. accomodation, I would suggest booking ahead on Flatey at least. Admittedly, when we were there we were the hotel's first customers of the year, but if that is the case it would be a good idea if they knew you were coming. As you can't take a car onto the island, there is a system in place where you leave your car, and the keys, on the ferry then pick it up at the port when you travel onward, so that also needs booking ahead. A delightful place, where you can watch Black Guillemot & Red-necked Phalarope from your bedroom window. We also booked ahead at Myvatn, but that was partly to minimise hassle given that we knew we would be arriving late. Elsewhere, we mostly left it to chance & didn't have any problems.

Stuart
 

Edward

Umimmak
Hi James

Stuart has answered most of your questions and he answered your question about accommodation probably better than I could! You can often stay quite cheaply in Iceland if you bring a sleeping bag and rely on basic "sleeping bag accommodation". July and August are generally much busier than June so you should be all right, although pre-booking in Reykjavík might not be a bad thing and as Stuart says at Flatey, it's the only accommodation available!
http://www.hotelflatey.is/
and ferry timetable
http://seatours.is/FerryBaldur/

As for the target species:
Long-tailed Duck - widespread and fairly common, plenty at Mývatn
Merlin - the commonest raptor but there are no specific sites for this. Just a matter of being lucky. I saw plenty this winter but have seen few this spring.
Black Guillemot - common at Flatey and elsewhere in western Iceland
Snow Bunting - should see them at Flatey although they have declined there. Otherwise they are more common in higher areas. I think Stuart and I saw them in the Krafla lava field north of Mývatn last June, but again they are very widespread. In fact listen out for them when you are in the car park at Keflavik airport, I have often heard and seen them singing from the roof in summer. EDIT: Látrabjarg, they should be easy to see there.
Common Redpoll - you can see them every day in my garden. Apart from that they are common in birchwoods. If you have time in Reykjavík, then they are in Fossvogur cemetery, and at Mývatn in the small birch woodland at Höfði on the eastern shore.
Ptarmigan - they are currently at the bottom of their 10-year population cycle and are hence much scarcer than in some years. I did see one the other day in a kids playground while I was on swing-pushing duty! They can be found in a variety of habitats, e.g. open moorland, birch shrubland, lava fields, and remember that they are not necessarily mountain birds in Iceland - they are frequently found at sea level. Try the lava fields south of Húsavík or those at the western end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. They are also common (in good years) on the Tjörnes peninsula north of Húsavík and on the Melrakkaslétta peninsula further round.

You'll certainly enjoy driving round the whole island. Very few birders seem to do this as all the specialties are more easily seen elsewhere. However, the SE glacier country is fantastic and has plenty of birds (big Great Skua population for example, breeding Barnacle Geese). If you have time then try to visit the delightfully picturesque village of Borgarfjörður eystri, the drake Steller's Eider is still there in his 14th year with the local Harlequins.

Feel free to contact me for more info.

E
 
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Edward

Umimmak
One more thing, you may find this link to eBird useful
http://ebird.org/ebird/GuideMe?repo...ocations=countries&continue.x=61&continue.y=5
Just click on "Map" next to the species name to get an idea of sightings, recent and older. There are rather few of us entering data at the moment (and it is far from complete, for example I have loads and loads of old records to enter, and the data on some species such as Snowy Owl are hidden) but it still gives you a good idea of when and where you can see birds in Iceland.

E
 

James Lowther

Well-known member
thanks Edward,
that's great. have checked out e-bird and it's really helpful.
one(ish) more thing, would love to see some of iceland's limited mammal fauna!
hope to go whalewatching from husavik, is it worthwhile making another trip from somewhere else also? any particularly good spots for cetaceans from land?
how about arctic fox and the introduced reindeer?
cheers,
James
 

StuartReeves

Local rarity
If I might barge in again, whalewatching at Húsavík is certainly worth a go or two. We did one trip and had good views of Humpback and White-beaked Dolphin as well as a distant Minke. With the benefit of hindsight we should have tried again another day as our main target (and my biggest dip), Blue Whale, was seen the day before and the day after our trip.

Látrabjarg is reputed to be a good bet for Arctic Fox as they forage around the seabird colony in the evenings. We missed it there, but jammed one from the car on the way back from Látrabjarg.

Our only other mammal was Wood Mouse.
 

Edward

Umimmak
If I might barge in again, whalewatching at Húsavík is certainly worth a go or two. We did one trip and had good views of Humpback and White-beaked Dolphin as well as a distant Minke. With the benefit of hindsight we should have tried again another day as our main target (and my biggest dip), Blue Whale, was seen the day before and the day after our trip.

Látrabjarg is reputed to be a good bet for Arctic Fox as they forage around the seabird colony in the evenings. We missed it there, but jammed one from the car on the way back from Látrabjarg.

Our only other mammal was Wood Mouse.

What Stuart said, although in fact the Blue Whale was also seen on the same day you went, just on the afternoon trip, not the morning one (or had you forgotten Stefán's gripping text?). My friend Yann Kolbeinsson told me the other day that he has six species of cetaceans on his living room window list in Húsavík, including Blue Whale, so a headland near Húsavík is as good as any for land-based whalewatching. Other good spots for whalewatching on land are the end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula (Killer Whale) and often from the lighthouse at Garskagi, which is close to Keflavík airport and you should visit anyway if you have time - there were Minkes, Killers Whales, Humpback and Whoite-beaked Dolphins there the other day. It's not always like that though!

A visit to Látrabjarg in the evening can be good for Arctic Fox - evening being perhaps 10 o'clock onwards as foxes are most active at night, although night is a pretty redundant term in June in Iceland. They often patrol the cliff tops. Arctic Foxes are very widespread but are persecuted and thus very shy (except in the Hornstrandir reserve where they will eat out of your hand and urinate in your frying pans - well that's what happened to my pans). I've seen them on a couple of occasions at Mývatn and you could come across them anywhere, but late evening/early morning is the best time. I hear them far more than I see them.

Reindeer are found in eastern Iceland and particularly in the area around Egilsstaðir. I've seen them by the main road between Mývatn and Egilsstair before and also in SE Iceland east of Höfn.

I've seen Polar Bear in Iceland in June so be careful if you are taking a romantic walk on a northern beach;)

E
 

Edward

Umimmak
by the way,
any recommendations for car hire companies?

thanks,
james

Not sure about that, I'm afraid as I've never hired a car in Iceland. Can't remember which company Stuart dealt with last year. You don't need a 4WD in case you were wondering but there are a lot of unsurfaced roads in the West Fjords so just be careful when cornering and braking if you are not used to driving on gravel!
 

StuartReeves

Local rarity
I can't remember what car hire company we used either. I'll try and find out. I recall that none of them were cheap. We had a Focus estate, which was fine, but it was still a relief to finally leave the West Fjords and get back on proper roads!
 

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