Thursday, 21 July 2016

Iceland 7th to 14th July - part 1 Keflavik to Snaefellsnes

I decided on a trip to Iceland at fairly short notice having returned early from my 'European Tour'. I was joined by long time friend Roger (Birdman) Barnes, despite only returning from the States a few days before we flew, so thanks Roger for making the trip so enjoyable.
Roger and I at Svortuloft Lighthouse

We flew with Easyjet from Manchester to Keflavik (£272 each) and hired a car via Auto Europe which was with Budget (£445) for 8 days. Accommodation was via and cost from £30 to £50/night each.
We landed about an hour late at around 10am local time due to a staff shortage at Keflavik, apparently!
Having got the car we drove to the nearby Gardour lighthouse for our first birds; Arctic Terns everywhere, Golden Plover on any grassy areas and a steady movement of Manx Shearwater off shore with auks, Gannets and Kittiwakes and Eider in loose flocks off the rocks.
Manx Shearwater

We drove along the coast road through Keflavik and had our first Red-necked Phalaropes on the pools on the edge of the town, not close though so we moved on up the coast making a few stops on the way for Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, Whooper Swans and what proved to be our only White-tailed Eagle, an adult which flew right past us just north of Borgarnes. 
Stykkisholmur harbour - the hostel is the building on the extreme right
We were staying in the Harbour Hostel at Stykkisholmur which is a very attractive fishing village where you catch the boat to Flatey Island (home of the Grey Phalarope) although we had decided not to make that journey.
Redwing - adult and juvenile

We added Redwing, with several pairs feeding young and Black Guillemot in the harbour before enjoying fish and chips from a stall by the harbour entrance. Food was expensive, the fish and chips were around £12 each!
The following morning, it never got dark and was light enough to take photos all night, we set off on a trip round the Snaefellsnes peninsula. We passed the famous Kirkjufell peak and soon had close views of Red-necked Phalaropes as we approached Rif. The light was superb with clear blue skies and watching the phalaropes at close quarters was simply amazing - it was worth the trip just for the this!
Rif  lake

Red-necked Phalarope - female
Red-necked Phalarope - male
Red-necked Phalaropes - already starting the moult to winter plumage
In all we counted 94 birds on the main lake with additional pairs on many small pools. Red-throated Divers with young were close to the road and we had our first Arctic and Great Skuas and around 50 Glaucous Gulls.
Red-throated Diver
Glaucous Gulls - pair with larger male on right

I decided I would base myself at Rif on a return visit it was a superb spot.
Moving round the coast we headed for the cliffs at Svortuloft Lighthouse where we soon found the various groups of Brunnich's Guillemots amongst the more numerous Common Guillemots and Razorbills whilst Puffins flew around off shore.
Seabird cliffs at Svortuloft
Brunnich's and Common Guillemot

We had several Wheatear on the ride out to the cliffs.
We cut across the peninsula and headed back to Borganes to rejoin route 1 for the drive up to our next stop over at Blonduos.

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