Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Sunday, 27 May 2018

Southwest Iceland, 21st-23rd May

Harlequins, River Sog, 22/5/2018.
Back from a thoroughly enjoyable few days in southwest Iceland. I was there primarily for 3 Western Palearctic ticks, which were achieved, but also to soak up the ridiculously confiding selection of special species that breed on the island.

A more detailed, logistical report can be found here on Cloudbirders. This includes specific directions for connecting with Barrow’s Goldeneye in the southwest, for which there is just one site (they’re elusive too).

The first port of call, just minutes from the airport, was the bay at Keflavik where a drake American White-winged Scoter has taken partial residency on and off since 2010. Viewing from Ægisgata I didn’t manage to locate him, though Purple Sandpipers, Iceland Gulls and a Viking/Nelson’s Gull kept me entertained. A little further up, at Njardvik, I was surprised to find a drake Ring-necked Duck on some ponds in a industrial estate!

Iceland Gull, Keflavik, 21/5/2018.
Next up was a search of the River Sog, the only site in the Western Palearctic away from Lake Mývatn where Barrow’s Goldeneye are resident. Checking several spots, we had no luck, although there were plenty of other species, including this showy pair of Harlequins (lifer number 1). Other bits and bobs included Greater Scaups, Red-necked Phalaropes, Mealy Redpolls, Great Northern Divers and, somewhat surprisingly, Swallows!

Harlequins, River Sog, 21/5/2018.
Harlequins, River Sog, 21/5/2018.
Having given the river a good comb, it was the scenic drive to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This whole area had loads of good birds – most roadside pools had either Arctic Skuas, Red-necked Phalaropes or Red-throated Divers. Whooper Swans and Pale-bellied Brent Geese were also a common sight.
Whooper Swans, Mosfellsdalur, 21/5/2018.
One pool held all 4 of the above species. A pair of Red-necked Phalaropes were particularly confiding, and had no qualms with me settling right beside them. It was a truly magical experience, and allowed for some close-up photos.

Red-necked Phalarope, Snæfellsnesvegur, 21/5/2018.

Red-necked Phalaropes, Snæfellsnesvegur, 21/5/2018.

Further on my only Slavonian Grebe pair of the trip shared a reedy pool with a Black-headed Gull colony, and next door a noisy Red-throated Diver couple made themselves known. As with the whole trip, there were birds everywhere, and it was hard not to stop every few minutes to have a look.
Slavonian Grebe, Snæfellsnesvegur, 21/5/2018.

Red-throated Divers, Snæfellsnesvegur, 21/5/2018.
The most conspicuous birds of the trip were waders – they are literally everywhere, from drumming Snipe on the airport runway to Golden Plovers on the roof of our accommodation. Second to the waders in terms of density are gulls, and Arctic Terns. Indeed, on the way to Öndverðarnes lighthouse, we passed a large Glaucous Gull colony at Grundarfjörður, and a load of roadside Arctic Terns at Ólafsvík.
Arctic Terns, Ólafsvík, 21/5/2018.
We eventually reached the lighthouse, and it took little time to locate the target - Brünnich's Guillemot. At least 20 of this hefty appearing auk were dotted around the huge seabird colony here, which included loads of Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmars.
Brünnich's Guillemots, Öndverðarnes, 21/5/2018.
The rest of the day (of which there was lots, given the sun goes down after 23:00), was non-birding. On the second day we visited the world-famous geysers first of all, and then went for a second stab at the Barrow’s Goldeneye along the River Sog. This time we got lucky, with a distant pair near the dams (full details in the trip report).
Barrow's Goldeneyes, River Sog, 22/5/2018.
Indeed, at times they were in the same field of view as a pair of Harlequins – two special Western Palearctic ducks together.
Harlequins & Barrow's Goldeneyes, River Sog, 22/5/2018.
The weather closed in after that, with gale-force winds and heavy rain. We retreated home, and were surprised to witness a Ptarmigan pair take shelter outside our front door! This was unexpected, but not as much as seeing one on the outskirts of Reykjavik the following day.
Ptarmigan, Laerkjot, 22/5/2018.
Another check of the White-winged Scoter night before the flight back yielded no joy. This took no gloss off an excellent trip though, with the 3 targets all seen, and loads of intimate moments with other birds. I’ll definitely be back.
Black-tailed Godwit, Borjanes, 22/5/2018.