An Icelandic Birding Diary
|February - Fieldfare 1 Redwings 0|
Above: This Fieldfare has been dominating my garden for the last three weeks
No sooner had I lamented the failure of my garden to attract any Fieldfares in my last entry, the first bird I saw in my garden on 7 February was a Fieldfare. It was the first time I've had one in the garden and only the third I've seen on my patch for ten years. Garden birding is undeniably Iceland's weakest birding link; it hopeless compared to most countries, better perhaps than Greenland, Jan Mayen or Tristan da Cunha but not many other places, so a new guest was very welcome, at first. However, I had forgotten just how aggressive and domineering Fieldfares could be, and it soon became clear that it would not tolerate the presence of any other birds in the garden, i.e. Redwings or Blackbirds. I spike apples on to the end of branches in front and down the side of the house and also chop some up on the ground as the Blackbirds prefer them that way. All these sources of food were zealously guarded by the Fieldfare, who would chase Redwings if they showed the slightest interest in the fruit. The Fieldfare remained for eight days [EDIT: it's back], and I only knew for sure that it had departed when I came home and found six Redwings feasting on the remnants of some red delicious without looking over their shoulders every two seconds for a large, demented grey thrush from Scandinavia. While the Fieldfare was laying claim to the garden, the regular flock of Redpolls, usually 40 but up to 100 when it gets very cold, disappeared for two weeks. I doubt the Fieldfare was the culprit and their absence was not linked to the weather, as it was freezing the first week they were away, but other birders reported a lack of Redpolls from their gardens and the presence of huge flocks of them in the countryside at the edge of the city. I've seen few pale Redpolls this winter, and only twice birds that I've had a long hard look at as potential Arctic Redpolls (they might have been), fewer at any rate than last winter. Finally, the Blackbirds started showing signs of the coming spring, chasing each other around from mid-month and the male was first heard singing on 20 February (19 February last year). I hope they choose to breed in my garden for (at least) the fourth year running.
The month started with the discovery of a drake Bufflehead in south-east Iceland. It's been a long time since I saw a new bird, 4th June 2008 in fact, a Long-billed Curlew and young in the big sky country of North Dakota, and so here was finally a chance for a new world bird. But work and family commitments made it impossible to join the party travelling to see it from Reykjavik. It's still there at the time of writing but I'm loth to drive 900 km on my own despite the magnificent scenery on the way. It may be a lifer, but it is only a duck. I'll wait to it comes closer, or hope that it goes to Mývatn this spring. I must be getting lazy.
harbour at Hafnarfjörður remains full of life, with the female
King Eider still suffering the attentions of amorous
drake Common Eiders. March is usually the best month for King Eiders
but seven were found in Þorlákshöfn mid-month, so
it's always worth checking any large rafts of Common Eider
earlier in the winter. I managed a quick tour of some of the south-west's
best gull areas in miserable weather last week, and it proved that
February is generally not a good month for white-winged gulls in Iceland.
They tend to follow the capelin fishing fleets out at sea in February
and return in large numbers in March. Notwithstanding a flock of almost
500 Iceland Gulls in Straumsvík, I only saw
single figures of Iceland Gulls in the harbours in Keflavík
and Sandgerði, pretty uninspiring stuff. More inspiring is the
rate at which the daylight returns in February. It's now light as
I leave home in the morning, so I can bird by bike to and from work.
I aim to get Gyr Falcon on my contrived 'birds seen on my bike list'
before they leave the city in spring.
to be continued