Iceland 15-18 March 2007

Published by Svend Linderström (sal AT

Participants: Svend Aage Linderström


The new issue is to visit Iceland in March. The weather is unpredictable but temperatures may be a little higher than central Scandinavia. For some 850 euro my wife Dorthe and I got a prolonged weekend I Reykjavik including flight by Iceland Express, half board at Cabin Hotel (except for one night where we had diner in town) and a rental car by Budget including insurances and free kilometres as a special offer by Hekla Travel.

Don’t expect to find anything cheap on Iceland. Petrol 1,40 euro a litre, lunch for two at a burger bar 30 euro and diner – a two course thai meal – 115 euro.

That said Iceland is beautiful and Reykjavik is a modern town dominated by lots of new building as economy is at a peak.

However it is possible to do some good birding in and around Reykjavik and March is a perfect time of the year if you want to find  Barrow’s Goldeneye close to Reykjavik.

Itinerary and sites visited

Thursday 15 March 2007
Left Copenhagen Kastrup airport 12.30 (GMT -1) and arrived in Keflavik 14.30 (GMT), got our rental car immediately – a Toyota Yaris (that’s how you can recognize a tourist) and left the airport 15.05 heading north to Gardur at the point of Reykjanes Peninsula, arriving 15.15. Main target was the long staying Black Duck – present since 1993 – which we found in the lakes north of the harbour – also good numbers of Iceland Gull here. We went further north to the light house and point Gardskagi where we found Great Northern Diver, Shag, Purple Sandpiper and Little Auk. Left Gardur 16.10, short stop at Vogar 16.25-16.40, found a female King Eider in the harbour. Arrived in Reykjavik 17.10, walked along the waterfront east of the harbour 17.25-18.40, saw a few Black Guillemots showing all plumages.

Weather :  SW 10 m/s, overcast 8/8, visibility > 10 km, showers, 1-3 C. Sunrise 7.49, sunset 19.27.
Friday 16 March
Walked the waterfront in the morning 7.50-8.40. Then we started driving the famous Golden Circle, crossing a snow covered Tingvellir 9.30-10.40. Due to snowfall it was hard to find a lay by anywhere, and all vehicles we met where either busses or 4WD which made good sense as the road was covered with snow and ice. Anyway the road from Tingvellir to Geysir and Gullfoss was closed as at least 6 inches of snow covered the road. Instead we headed south toward Sellfoss. The first place we were able to stop was the power station at Steingrimsstöd at lake Ullfjötsvatn which turned out to be a good choice as a male Barrow’s Goldeneye was swimming side by side with a male Harlequin Duck in the stream. Some more Barrow’s Goldeneyes were found in the lake, a female gave good views next to the powerstation. 10.50-11.15. Had a short stop at River Sog at a bridge a little north of Sellfoss, a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye was present in the river.

Went back to Reykjavik, birded the harbour and city. A Gyr Falcon crossed the harbour, where Iceland Gulls were abundant. In the city centre Lake Tjörnin is good for Greylag Goose, Whooper Swan and ducks –a Ringbilled Gull should be present, but we had no luck. 12.30-16.15.

Weather : WNW 10, 6-8/8, > 10, showers, -3-2 C
Saturday 17 March
Birded the water front 7.35-8.30, then the harbour 9.20-10.25 and finally the largest forest on Iceland found at Perlan in the south western suburbs of Reykjavik 10.35-11.05. We intented to explore Reykjanes and had a short stop west of Hafnafjördur 11.20-11.30, next stop at the Blue Lagoon 11.50-12.10 then Grindavik 12.10-13.05. The wind was increasing and as we left Grindavik snow began. We stopped at Hafnir watching a group of 42 Harlequin Ducks in the small harbour 13.25-13.50. We found at least some shelter behind a building as the weather now had turned into a snow gale. Headed north to Keflavik and returned to Reykjavik – a rather unpleasant drive as we witnessed two car crashes due to slippery roads – fortunately we returned safely. However in the afternoon weather changed, sun was shining and we had a walk in the Botanical Garden 16.00-17.15.
Sunday 18 March
Had a slow return toward Keflavik airport. First stop Ellidavatn a lake in the south eastern suburbs of Reykjavik. Unfortunately due to snow fall the roads in the area were not passable in a two wheel drive. Lesser Scaup and Ringnecked Duck had been reported in this area recently. Anyway the lake was partly covered with ice and ducks were few 8.30-8.55. We decided to get close to the airport having a stop at Sandgerdi 9.30-10.00 and then back to Gardur 10.05-10.50, where we couldn’t find the Black Duck. Birded the harbour of Keflavik 10.55-11.45, got excellent views of another Gyr Falcon. The wind was bitterly cold, so we returned to the airport 11.55. Our plane left 15.45 and 19.30 we were back in Copenhagen airport.

Weather : WNW 15, 4-8/8, > 25 km, dry, -6 - -2 C.
Bird list
Red-throated Diver  Gavia stellata
1 Vogar and 1 Keflavik
Great Northern Diver  Gavia immer
1 Gardur and 1 Hafnir
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis
600 Gardur, 2 Vogar, 800 Reykjavik, 20 Grindavik, 20 Hafnir, 200 Sandgerdi and 20 Keflavik
Gannet  Morus bassana
4 Gardur
Great Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo
10 Gardur, 220 Reykjavik, 15 Grindavik, 4 Hafnir, 14 Sandgerdi and 4 Keflavik

Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis
8 Gardur and 12 Grindavik
Whooper Swan  Cygnus cygnus
5 Reykjavik harvour, 86 Tjörnin, 42 Lake Ellidavatn and 4 Sandgerdi
Greylag Goose  Anser anser
2 Tingvellir, 2 Reykjavik harbour, 140 Tjörning and 110 Botanical Garden
Wigeon  Anas penelope
48 Gardur
Common Teal  Anas crecca
1 pair Hafnafjördur
Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos
22 Gardur, 12 Vogar, 220 Tjörning, 2 Reykjavik harbour, 220 Botanical Garden, 4 hafnafjördur, 1 hafnir, 2 Ellidavatn and 4 Sandgerdi
American Black Duck  Anas rubripes
15/3 1 drake Gardur
Tufted Duck  Aythya fuligula
8 Tjörnin and 2 Ellidavatn
Scaup  Aythya marila
1 female Tjörnin and 1 drake Ellidavatn
Common Eider  Somateria mollissima
300 Gardur, 30 Vogar, 3 Tjörnin, 600 Reykjavik harbour, 4.000 Grindavik, 400 Hafnir, 600 Sandgerdi and 200 Keflavik
King Eider  Somateria spectabilis
1 female Vogar harbour 15/3
Harlequin Duck  Histromicus histromicus
1 male Steingrimsstöd, Lake Ullfjötsvatn, 42 Hafnir harbour and 2 Sandgerdi harbour
Long-tailed Duck  Clangula hyemalis
2 Vogar, 8 Reykjavik harbour, 12 Hafnir and 18 Sandgerdi
Barrow’s Goldeneye  Bucephala islandica
12 Lake Ullfjötsvatn at Steingrimsstöd and 2 River Sog near Sellfoss
Red-breasted Merganser  Mergus serrator
2 Gardur, 2 Vogar, 4 Tingvellir, 12 Ullfjötsvatn, 40 Reykjavik, 4 Tjörnin, 20 Hafnir, 4 Ellidavatn and 10 Sandgerdi
Goosander  Mergus merganser
1 drake Tingvellir
Merlin  Falco columbarius
1 brown Reykjavik harbour and 1 brown catching a Starling at the Botanical Garden
Gyr Falcon  Falco rusticulus
1 probably 2cy 16/3 Reykjavik harbour and 18/3 1 3 cy+ Keflavik
Ptarmigan  Lagopus mutus
1 near Grindavik
Oystercatcher  Haematophus ostralegus
3 Reykjavik
Purple Sandpiper  Calidris maritima
48 Gardur, 25 Reykjavik harbour and 120 Sandgerdi
Redshank  Tringa totanus
1 Sandgerdi, robusta
Turnstone  Arenaria interpres
3 Sandgerdi
Black-headed Gull  Larus ridibundus
800 Gardur, 600 Reykjavik, 300 Grindavik, 20 Hafnir, 200 Sandgerdi and 200 Keflavik
Common Gull  Larus canus
1 Reykjavik
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus
2 Gardur 15/3
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus
200 Gardur, 20 Vogar, 300 Reykjavik, 20 Hfnir, 100 Sandgerdi and 50 Keflavik of which several seemed to be hybrid Herring x Glaucous Gull
Iceland Gull  Larus glaucoides
300 Gardur, 1.600 Reykjavik harbour, 20 Hafnafjördur, 300 Grindavik, 300 Sandgerdi and 30 Keflavik. 18/3 4.000 unidentified large white gull far at sea Gardur – probably mostly Iceland Gull.
Glaucous Gull  Larus hyperboreus
80 Gardur, 30 Reykjavik harbour, 20 Grindavik, 2 Hafnir, 20 Sandgerdi and 50 Keflavik
Greater Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus
200 Gardur, 200 Reykjavik, 50 Grindavik, 30 hafnir, 40 Sandgerdi and 50 Keflavik
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla
1 Reykjavik, 50 Grindavik, 2 Gardur and 20 Keflavik
Auk  Alca torda
2 Sandgerdi
Black Guillemot  Cephus rgylle
12 Reykjavik and 1 Hafnir
Little Auk  Alle alle
2 Gardur
Feral Dove  Columba livia
In Reykjavik 40 Lake Tjörnin and 2 Botanical Garden
Wren  Troglodtyes troglodytes
1 Reykjavik in a garden near Botanical Garden
Redwing  Turdus iliacus
1 Lake Tjörnin and 1 Botanical Garden
Raven  Corvus corax
7 Hafnafjördur, 2 Tingvellir, 41 Reykjavik, 1 Grindavik, 2 Hafnir, 2 Ellidavatn and 2 Keflavik
Starling  Sturnus vulgaris
3 Hafnafjördur, 450 Reykjavik, 2 Grindavik, 10 Ellidavatn, 20 Sandgerdi, 2 Gardur and 40
Redpoll  Carduelis flammea
1 Ullfjötsvatn, 1 Perlan and 2 Botanical Garden
Snow Bunting  Plectophenax nivalis
1 Reykjavik harbour, 1 Blue Lagoon, 1 Hafnir, 12 Ellidavatn and 120 Gardur
1 tame black and white at Perlan