After a couple of days at home after the last dip trip, we set out again towards our neighbour countries, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. First up was Stejneger’s Stonechat trapped and ringed at the famous Gedser Birding station. The Stonechat was released and then seen regularly for several days in the area. Driving south from Copenhagen, we see the bird being reported in the BirdAlarm app and we feel tick-confident. Once we arrive, the Stonechat is gone though, never to be seen again. We, together with quite a few Danish birders searched all day to no avail. Our dipping is now starting to becoming more than irritating and we’re starting to crack bad jokes about that this bad streak started just after Erik mocked God in a post.
Next destination is a long staying Stellar’s Eider two hours drive south of Oslo in Norway. When we finally walk down towards the fjord and the Stellar’s is just sitting there waiting to be ticked, we almost don’t feel joy, only relief – now everything turns for the better.
Last – and by far, the most interesting country on this trip is Iceland. There had been westerly winds for some time, and they would continue. Iceland is a vagrant magnet, and American birds are regularly seen there in fall. As we’re sitting in the airport waiting for the flight to Reykjavik, Birding Iceland reports a newly landed Hermit Thrush, the timing couldn’t have been better. The Thrush was seen very close the lake where Barrow’s Goldeneye can be seen, thus that was our first destination on Iceland. Unfortunately, the Thrush was gone, but we did land the Goldeneye.
In the evening we met up with Edward Rickson and spoke about tactics for the upcoming days. Edward decided to join us on the next day. The next morning we met up in he village of Grindavik, according to Edward a sure spot for Harlequin Duck, and also a possible spot for Gyr Falcon. The weather this day was spectacular with high winds, and a gale forecast for the afternoon. It was almost impossible to scan the bay with the scope due to the wind and waves. Finally we spot a few Harlequin Ducks at the other side of the bay. Drove there to get better views, and managed to get poor pictures of the wonderful hardy ducks.
We spent the remainder of the day searching for Gyrfalcon. The Keflavik point west of Reykjavik holds 1cy Gyrfalcons every winter. It’s just a matter of spending time on the site.
Gulling is nice on Iceland in general, both Herring Gull, Glaucous Gull and Iceland Gull are common.
Other common birds were Long-tailed Duck, Common Loon, Common Eider and also the nice Icelandic subspecies of Wren.
Eventually the weather became unbearable, mean wind was measured to 43 m/s late in the afternoon and we had give up.
The next day was entirely devoted to Gyrfalcon search. We combined driving slowly with the car scanning, with just standing at strategic points watching, waiting for that sign of gulls in panic mode. Late in the afternoon, driving, I see the Gyrfalcon, it went down behind a small hill and was gone. Neither Mårten nor Erik saw it and we had to continue searching. Close to where I saw the Falcon, we spot a group of Ptarmigans, this is the Gyrfalcon favourite food.
Late in the afternoon we tried another bay, where we were able to connect closely with Harlequin Ducks again. Erik got some great shots.
This has to be the most handsome duck in the WP. The same bay also had cooperative Purple Sandpipers.
Last day, flight is booked and we have a couple of hours in the morning to search for the Gyrfalcon. Same tactic as before, just spend time in the area. After a few hours we see that sign of panicking Gulls far away and we scan with the binoculars. Mårten screams JAG HAR DEN, JAG HAR DEN and indeed a Gyrfalcon is patrolling the coast. We drive like crazy down the coast to try intercept the bird at the Lighthouse. Too late though, a minute later we see a large group of scared Gulls further down the coast. We drive down, and sure enough, the impressive Falcon sits there on a pole intimidating a group of Widgeons. We drive closer, and then the Falcon decides to fly just above our heads.
Ten minutes later, we have to leave for the airport in order to catch the plane. Phuwwww.
Finally, thanks for the help Edward, it was a pleasure meeting you. Birding Iceland wrote about our visit here.