Iceland is waking up after a snowy winter and everyone is looking forward to the return of birds from the south. It really is a fantastic place to see a range of migrants. Work starts in earnest tomorrow but we checked out some estuaries yesterday, finding four unringed Black-tailed Godwits at Grafarvogur, a tiny muddy inlet in Reykjavik. Grafarvogur was really quiet; only 200 waders, almost all of which were Oystercatchers and Purple Sandpipers that will have been here all winter. The winds have been from the north for the last fortnight so migration has been slow to start this year. Within a week, there should be ten times as many birds.
We are staying with friends in Stykkishˇlmur, having taken a two-hour drive northwest from Reykjavik, a journey which provided sightings of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese in roadside fields. None of the White-fronted Geese have made it this far west yet but we hope to see a Top Goose in the next two weeks. The first flock of Brent Geese arrived from Britain or Ireland this morning. Other new arrivals include Lesser Black-backed Gulls from Spain and Portugal, a flock of juvenile Whooper Swans that have now been abandoned by their parents, intent on setting up territories for the summer, and a lone Golden Plover. It seemed hard to see where these birds would find food but the land that was brown yesterday is already looking greener in today’s sun.
This is a wonderful time of year to be in Iceland. What could be better than watching migration in action against the backdrop of snow-topped mountains? The anticipation, as we await the arrival of our Black-tailed Godwits and vast flocks of geese and waders, is truly exciting.