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Postcard from Iceland - Day Five

  • 20 Apr 2008
  • Tags: When to go,
  • Author: Graham Appleton

It definitely feels like spring now and the Black-tailed Godwits that we came here for are out in force.

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Spring is all around us now. Our rented chalet is next to a tiny pool that has become home to five Whooper swans and three Teal. Three Redshanks were disputing ownership this morning and Snipe were drumming all night long. When we arrived, just three days ago, we only had Ptarmigans for company, camouflaged against the snow. They look rather more obvious now that the thaw has set in; someone needs to tell them that it is time to moult out of their winter plumage.

The Black-tailed Godwit project that has brought us to Iceland is very much an international operation. We are working with Tómas Gunnarsson here in Iceland and Becca Hayhow and Jose Alves, from Ireland and Portugal respectively, will be joining us next week although ‘their’ birds have already started to arrive. Portuguese, French and Irish birds tend to get here earlier than birds that winter in the UK and the ten colour-ringed birds that we saw today have all been seen in these countries during the wintertime. Becca will be particularly pleased that we spotted one bird that she saw just two weeks ago and Jose will be equally delighted that he ringed one of the day’s birds on the Tagus estuary in Portugal.

This evening, as we looked out over one of the western estuaries in Mýrar, new Black-tailed Godwits were arriving in small parties, losing height and joining a flock of 300 roosting birds. As we waited for the birds to show their legs, we saw small numbers of Knot, grey wading birds newly arrived from Europe that will look like small red footballs by the time that they have moulted and fattened, ready for the next leg of their journeys to Greenland and Canada in three weeks time.

We must have seen 850 Black-tailed Godwits today, which is pretty good for this early in the season. By the end of the first week of May there will be about 45,000 in total, spread around the lowland basins of the island. There are still plenty of other birds to come too, including Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Red-necked Phalaropes. Today, we enjoyed the trilling song of the first migrant Dunlin; a magical note on which to end today’s diary.

Graham Appleton

Further Reading:

Next report: Sixth Postcard from Iceland
Last report: Fourth Postcard from Iceland

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