#510 and #511 in Keflavík

I arrived in Iceland early this morning and despite hopes for Ptarmigans in the airport parking lot my first Icelandic species was — wait for it — European Starling on the old U.S. Air Force base. Worse yet, it turns out that even though Iceland is in Europe, the starlings aren’t even native here. I’m told they first showed up about 30 years ago. (I have seen European Starling in London and the Netherlands, where they are native birds so I can still include that one on my life list even under the strictest rules.)

That was pretty much it till the afternoon when I got down to the harbor and turned up 11 more species. The first lifer, #510, was a European Shag next to a Great Cormorant. No pictures yet since it was raining and I didn’t want to drag my camera or my scope out in the rain. I’ll try and grab some tomorrow when the sun comes out. There were a few around.

There were a lot of gulls as well. I tallied five species: Herring, Glaucous, Great Black-backed, Black-headed and of course Iceland Gull. It was nice to get a chance to really work on the difference between the very similar Herring, Glaucous, and Iceland Gulls. Back home in NYC Glaucous and Iceland are so rare that those that do show up are often overlooked amongst large flocks of Herring Gulls.

Only one species of duck: Common Eider which was, well, common.

A few shorebirds on the rocks were nice surprises including a flyby of two birds that had to be either Ruddy Turnstones or Purple Sandpipers. I wasn’t sure, but fortunately I found a little further down the path two Purple Sandpipers. That answered that question, or I thought it did until I saw a Ruddy Turnstone on the same batch of rocks. :-)

Walking back I saw one apparent peep fly by a couple of times, but there aren’t supposed to be any peeps here this time of year. Maybe just a Purple Sandpiper a little further away than I thought? Shortly afterwards a couple of stocky birds flew right in front of me heading inland. Probably another turnstone of Purple Sandpiper but to be sure I climbed up and scanned the parking lots and small lawns and soon enough found not two but seven! European Golden-plovers. #511. I’ve still never seen a definite American Golden-plover. However these were unmistakable. Unlike all the American “Golden-plovers” that people have tried to show me over the years (and which always looked exactly like Black-bellied Plovers with a case of wishful thinking to me) these were distinctly golden. Really no question about the ID on these.

Final bird of the day was a small flock of it — wait for it — European Starlings. 12 birds total including two lifers. Not bad for jet lag in the rain.

Tomorrow I’ll try to get some photos of these, and visit Reykjavik.

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