September 24, 2016 Leave a comment
Iceland is the best for birds! Nesting there every spring and early summer are 60% of the world’s puffins, and 20-30% of the world’s arctic terns. Arctic terns have the longest migration ever recorded. One tern weighing a mere 4 ounces set a record this year (2016) by flying 59,650 miles pole to pole during its twice annual migration! http://www.audubon.org/news/how-tern-broke-record-longest-known-migration That adds up to 1.8 million miles of flight over a 30 year lifetime, which equals four round trips to the moon! Arctic terns are diligent parents and will drive off anyone who gets in their territory. A video showing the abundance of arctic terns in a nesting area on the Reykjanes Peninsula (southwest of Reykjavik) is below.
We were excited to see our first Harlequin ducks in the rough surf off western Iceland – a life bird for us. They have the most striking feather pattern. Iceland is the Harlequin ducks’ only European breeding ground. Another unusual sea bird we saw was the Fulmar, which has tube-like nostrils to excrete excess salt. We saw them most often on cliffs nesting next to gulls and kittiwakes. A fun fact is that many sea birds have pointed eggs that roll in a circle, which stops them from falling off rock ledges.
We particularly enjoyed seeing Whooper swans nesting at marshes and lakes. Their soft grey cygnets are so fluffy. White wagtails nest in Iceland in June. We watched a pair constantly bringing insects to their babies in a nest box on the porch. The European golden plover is a happy bird in Iceland. Tradition says that its arrival signals the start of spring. Click on any images to enlarge for greater detail.