We thank Talkin' Birds Ambassador Candy Powell for this report about her recent trip to Iceland. Turns out it was an amazing birding spot! Scroll all the way down to see the photos.
My husband Chris and I recently returned from a fantastic 5-day birding trip to Iceland, en route to Holland. Iceland is not usually thought of as a birding destination, but we thought at was a wonderful place to bird. There is much to mention about Iceland, but I’ll stick to the bird sightings!
After flying into Reykjavik, we rented a car. We drove the next day to the northern coastal town of Husavik, where we spent 3 nights. The usual 6-hour trip took us a bit longer, as there was much to see along the narrow, fairly deserted, yet well-maintained road. Some of the birds we spotted on the drive included Black-headed Gull, Red-throated Diver, Redshank, Redwing, Slovenian Grebe (which we watched building a nest), and Short-eared Owl.
Husavik is a charming fishing village within a few degrees of the Arctic Circle. It's known as the whale capital of Iceland. Northern Fulmars cruised the harbor, along with numerous Arctic Terns, and Red Knots and Common Ringed Plovers were among the several shorebirds on the beach. The following day we drove south about an hour to Lake Myvatin, a well-known birding hotspot. A highlight along the way was observing courting Harlequin Ducks, Tufted Ducks and Barrow’s Goldeneyes. Having seen these birds in Rhode Island in the winter, we wanted to ask them whether they spent the cold months down our way! Other notable species in the lake area were several Black-tailed Godwits, Wimbrels, Greylag Geese, and Golden Plovers. Brent Geese, Long-tailed Ducks, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Whooper Swans were abundant in the streams and fields.
The next day, we drove east of Husavik to Tjornes, where we saw Atlantic Puffins and Northern Fulmars nesting on the cliffs, with Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Arctic Skuas, and an occasional Common Raven flying by. That evening we took a whale-watching trip out of Husavik and saw several Humpback Whales, Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and Brunnich’s Guillemots.
Our last day took us back to Reykjavik. On the way, we stopped at the amazing Godafoss waterfall, where we FINALLY saw a Rock Ptarmigan, a bird we had been searching for the entire trip.
This was a remarkable trip that we would highly recommend for birders. As a side, yet relevant, note, the temperatures ranged from 45 to 70 degrees and the sun did not set until 11 PM! If you're thinking of going, May is a great time to visit, as the tourist season begins June 1, and the costs increase.
Candy Powell, Talkin’ Birds Ambassador
(Below: Chris and Candy's photos of Atlantic Puffin, European Golden Plover, Northern Fulmar)