Edward's Birding Diary
|7-9 October 2005|
Harlequins on my patch and the first snow
On Friday I managed to get out of work early enough to spend an hour walking on my local patch on the borders of Kópavogur and Reykjavík, i.e. suburban Iceland. My patch is a sheltered inlet of the sea, an adjacent cemetery and tree planatation, and whilst it isn't the Amazon in terms of bio-diversity, I've seen around 80 species or so there over the years. Friday was sunny but cool and there was a distinct whiff of winter in the air. Many of the inevitable Common Eiders Somateria mollissima were back in full plumage, Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis numbers were begining to build up and there was a drake American Wigeon Anas americana in amongst the numerous Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. However, the most exciting sight was provided by two small brown ducks with spots on the heads.
I knew what they were as soon as I saw them but rushed back home to get my scope anyway to get better views of the two female Harlequin Ducks Histrionicus histrionicus, a new bird for my patch! Harlequins are fairly common birds in Iceland but I didn't expect to see them on the calm and sheltered waters of the bay. I hope they decide to stick around but they generally prefer the rough stuff, of which there is plenty around these rocky coasts. A single Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides was the first of many hundreds I'll see over the coming months. The cemetery was heaving with Redwings Turdus iliacus, they were dripping off the trees and that rare Icelandic bird, Blackbird Turdus merula, was vocal and conspicuous. Small flocks of Icelandic Redpoll Carduelis flammea islandica flitted between the tree tops and all in all the cemtery was full of life, in a manner of speaking. On Sunday the weather was far too good to go birding, sunny and cold, and I went up in the hills north of Reykjavík with fellow Cheshire exile AKM. Looking in my diary I did the same walk on 27 March this year, when it was 10°C and mild. Interestingly enough I saw pretty much the same birds and the two walks book-ended the walking season well. On Sunday I heard a very late Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, whilst back in March I had heard my first of the season on the same mountain. We also came across three Ptarmigans Lagopus mutus and a flock of 30 or so Snow Buntings Plectrophenax nivalis. There was plenty of snow up at 500 metres, the air still and the views across the sea to the west and back over to the interior and its ice caps to the east simply magnificent. What a privilege it is to have this scenery on Reykjavík's doorstep.