July 15, 2018

Iceland July 2018

I was fortunate enough to go on a five day trip to Iceland with my aunt and uncle and their tour group of 23 recent high school graduates this past week. Though this trip wasn't focusing on the ecology of Iceland, I was still able to experience some of it. We stayed in the southeast region overnighting in Reykjavik, Selfoss, and Vik and visited spectacular waterfalls, including my favorite Skogafoss, climbed a glacier, explored Reykavik, and much more. I was really excited for this trip because this was my first time being able to experience unique Old World species.
In total I saw 34 species of birds, 18 being lifers. I was happy with what I was able to see considering Iceland has only 73 regularly nesting birds, with only 9 being passerines! Definitely the land of shorebirds. Gulls were omnipresent, despite black-legged kittiwakes being the most common gull I only saw a small few but lesser black-backed gulls and black-headed gulls were everywhere. Of course I did not see an Iceland gull in Iceland. Like most geographical common names the Iceland gull is just an uncommon winter visitor. I was looking forward to seeing sandpipers in breeding plumage thinking they would be a common sight, but I was wrong. I saw 6 species all but one being seen while in a bus (ugh) besides, most of them didn't even have an alternate plumage like common snipe, whimbrel, Eurasian oystercatcher, and common redshank. I was really surprised to see the amount of common snipe in the area, one of the most common birds, frequently seen zipping over head with their long bill leading the way. Funny how I haven't seen any Wilson's snipe this year but have seen probably 30 common snipe. I was also surprised with the number of Eurasian oystercatchers, very common, flocks of 30+ were seen a couple of times. I knew I had to see puffins on this trip so I, along with a few people from my tour group booked a puffin tour to an island off the shores of Reykjavik. After a short 15 minute ride we made it to the island. From the boat we were able to see great views of Atlantic puffins and Northern fulmars nesting. The puffins were smaller than expected but lived up to their goofy reputation. Common eiders and lesser black-backed gulls were also common around the island along with parasitic jaegers chasing the puffins for their fish. I was expecting geese to be more common and more diverse but I only saw graylag and a drive by of a pair of pink-footed geese. Redwing was definitely the most common passerine being more numerous in urban areas. White-wagtails were also quite common being seen hopping about wagging their tail with their black bib. Of course I wish I had more time to actually go birding but I am glad that I was able to still the species and their behaviour on this trip.
I've travelled to throughout the United States, and have been to Ecuador and Costa Rica through my adventures I've experienced cloud forests, deserts, grasslands, saltwater marshes, and deciduous forests but never anything like the wet tundra of Iceland. Iceland's few flat areas are not hilly but bumpy, like someone (Odin maybe) took a hammer and smashed it on the landscape creating cracks where the Earth crumbled and jutted out. And then there were mountains with sheer cliffs providing homes for the fulmars and kittiwakes. Over this land glacial rivers and streams were everywhere carving the land and creating brilliant waterfalls. Over this desolate land carpets of green grew of moss and grass sprinkled with colorful flowers such as sea mayweed, alpine bartsia, and wood crane's bill. Fields of Nootka lupine were everywhere especially near Reykjavik. It was difficult seeing them because they are probably Iceland's worst invasive species but lupines are also one of my favorite plants and they looked so beautiful. I also wish I had more time to appreciate the alpine plants and more resources to identify the plentiful lichens.
I was only their for a brief 5 days but I think that was enough. The 21 hour sun really messed up with everyone's sleep cycle because we would sit outside at the hot tub and talk and before you knew it it was 11:30pm but was still as bright as noon. Everything was also very expensive there. The Krona was easy to convert, just move the decimal two places to the right and it would reveal the typically double amount you'd have to pay there than over in the States. Iceland was unbelievably stunning but when I go back I would be when I'm older, maybe retired and I would definitely set aside more time to bird.

Posted on July 15, 2018 13:50 by ty-sharrow ty-sharrow | 1 comments | Leave a comment