Planning for Iceland

Just found out I’ll be in Reykjavik or Keflavik (not sure which we’re staying in yet) in mid-October. Not the ideal time to visit for nature, I know, but it’s when my wife has an excuse to go to Iceland for her work. Two questions: where to go and what can I see? It looks like I will have missed most bird species by then, but any that are left would be of interest, and it seems like there are maybe 60+ possibles including several life birds. These range from certain (Iceland Gull) to longshot vagrant (Bohemian Waxwing, Chiffchaff).

Where to Go

Is the sea accessible? Any parks? Is there anything there? What’s right outside of town? (i.e. walking distance from the hotel?)
Reykjavik Harbor
Good for gulls and maybe seabirds.
Reykjavik City
The downtown lake for sure. Also the zoo, Botanical Gardens, and cemetery
Lake Þingvallavatn and the Sog River
Needs a full day and a car.
Reykjavik Outlying Areas
Videy? Elliðiaa River? Grafarvogur? Arnarvogur? Kópavogur? Grótta?
Álftanes Peninsula
The harbor is supposed to be especially good. Will I find anything I don’t see in Reykjavik? Maybe accessible by bus?
Reykjanes Penisula
I would probably need to rent a car for this. How bad are the road conditions? Am I likely to drive off a cliff out there? Which sites still have birds by next month? Sandgerði? Garðskagi? Hafnir?

What to Look For

  • Shag
  • Great Cormorant (Hafnarfjörður harbor)
  • Northern Gannet
  • Crossbills (Heiðmörk)
  • Long-tailed Duck
  • Ptarmigan (in the car park at the airport!, or the Heiðmörk area just east of Reykjavík)
  • Goosander
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Iceland Gull
  • Glaucous Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Ivory Gull (longshot)
  • Gyr Falcon
  • Redwing
  • Winter Wren (or is that now just Wren?)
  • Red-throated Loon
  • Common Loon
  • Snowy Owl (longshot)
  • King Eider (longshot)
  • American Wigeon (longshot)
  • Eurasian Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Greater Scaup
  • Horned Grebe (Hvalfjörður near Reykjavík?)
  • Water Rail (Longshot)
  • Pink-footed Goose (Maybe a tad too late?)
  • Greylag Goose
  • Barnacle Goose
  • Brent Goose
  • Greenland White-fronted Goose (Maybe a tad too late?)
  • Whooper Swan (Maybe a tad too late?)
  • Northern Fulmar
  • European Golden Plover
  • Ringed Plover
  • Eurasian Oystercatcher
  • Grey Heron
  • Siskin
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Brambling
  • Blackcap
  • Willow Warbler
  • Chiffchaff
  • Icelandic Redpoll
  • Arctic Redpoll
  • Merlin
  • European Starling
  • Snow Bunting
  • Bohemian Waxwing
  • Raven
  • Fieldfare
  • Gadwall (Hafnarfjörður harbor)
  • Redshank (Hafnarfjörður harbor)
  • Purple Sandpiper (Hafnarfjörður)
  • Ruddy Turnstone (Hafnarfjörður harbor)
  • Black-headed Gull (Hafnarfjörður harbor)
  • Common Gull (Hafnarfjörður harbor)
  • Little Auk (requires a boat or bad weather; maybe a whale watching trip?)
  • White-tailed Eagle, by the River Sog, hour East of Reykjavik
  • Barrows’ Goldeneye, River Sog and Lake Úlfljótsvat
  • Harlequin Duck: harbour at Hafnir, and the bay Hraunsvík east of Grindavík, and the Kjalarnes headland just north of Reykjavík.

More details at Where to find birds in Iceland

Other Prep Work

There’s a second edition of the Collins Field Guide, aka Svensson and Mullarney. Should I buy it?

What lenses do I want to take? I usually want length above all, but in Iceland I may actually find a use for the wide end of the zoom. Should I take my Canon 17-85mm or my Tamron 28-300mm or both? or rent/buy a Tamron 18-270mm?
For the birds, do I want my 400mm f/5.6L or rent a 100-400mm zoom to have more range?
Iceland is not known for bugs, and it’s getting cold. I’ll leave the macro lens at home.
Should I rent/buy a second camera body? and/or a point and shoot? I’m probably going to risk it with one camera body under the assumption that Iceland is a developed country, and if disaster strikes I can buy a new camera in Reykjavik.
And how to pack all this gear? I should probably get a photographer’s vest with a lot of pockets and abuse the hell out of carry-ons.

One Response to “Planning for Iceland”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    Don’t forget the instructions for what to do when lost in the forest.

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