Just deleted a long introductory write-up by accident
Ugg, i gotta start again now?
3 things influenced our decision to make Iceland our next birding destination, 1. the work of longtime Icelandic flickr contact Sindri Skulason, 2. Sherms (from this forum) 3 day trip to Iceland and the shots he brought back and 3. the book "The Handbook of Bird Photography" by Varesvuo, Peltomaki and Mate, in particular the section on shooting in Iceland and a picture of a Common Snipe on a fence post, i wanted that shot soo bad . oh, i heard ptarmigan could be found readily as well (i'm officlally sold).
We booked flights via flightcentre.ca and chose the cheapest flight, which entailed an 8 hour wait in Edmonton. We would fly Westjet to Edmonton Saturday morning before hopping on our Icelandic Air connector flight later that evening, arriving in Reykjavik the following morning (Sunday) at 7am.
We got up at 4am Saturday the morning of departure, ensuring that when we finally arrived in Iceland we would be zombie-fresh (having not slept in close to 24 hours) for the 200km of driving that lay ahead of us in a foreign country but at least they all drive on the same side of the street.
First though we had to find our way to downtown Reykjavik to see about meeting up with Sindri for a cup of coffee to start our trip.
Somehow he pulled me out of the crowd of early morning tourists snapping pics of the pointy church and we drank some coffee and he gave me a map with birding hotspots around country listed.
He's a day-job working guy like me and although we weren't able to shoot together it was nice to meet him in person anyways, just as nice as he seems in his posts and comments by the way.
We said our goodbyes then and Api and i were truly on our own, no guides but the soothing voice of our GPS unit (free with rental car).
So we started our drive and didn't get far before having to pull over to catch a few zzz's at a rest stop. While Api rested i wanted to get my feet wet shooting-wise and pulled out my camera to have a look-see.
Was it a snipe?!
no, one of the more common roadside birds, Common Redshank.
Later we spotted our first Whooper swans, really wanted this species after not being able to get one in Texas years ago.
who doesn't love a Black-tailed Godwit in breeding colours?
For the record, a good portion of shots were taken from inside vehicle, shooting with camera mounted to travel neck pillow balanced on window edge, not as elegant as a proper bean bag mount but it worked for me
We finally made it to Stykkishólmur, a port town where we would be taking a car ferry across to the Westfjords the next afternoon. We found a golf course with campsite and tried out camping in the minivan for the first time, not as much fun as we thought and we couldn't get a flame on the portable stove due to wind but finally were able to boil some eggs for dinner (we stopped at a gas station and tried our first Icelandic hotdogs earlier in the day). After the van was set i took a walk around the site and got my first shots of a Redwing.
Saw the first of many many snipe that evening too, sometimes later on i thought i was in Snipeland not Iceland as they were everywhere we went, the winnowing calls were ever present.
Next morning i had planned a small boat trip before the 3 hour ferry across, it was called the Viking Sushi trip since they would pull up their net at one point in trip and lay out a bounty of fresh scallops, urchins, starfish, small crabs etc, throwing most of it back but also shelling scallops to be eaten raw for everyone to try.
Before that though we checked out the town and found a beach to explore.
Scallops were really good on the boat trip i gotta say, the main draw for me however was the chance to see the locally rare and fully protected White-tailed Eagle species, this boat was one of the only almost guaranteed ways to see one if short of time.
We got to see a pair briefly at the end of the cruise along with some bird cliffs with Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, Atlantic Puffins, European Shag and others.
After the 3 hour car ferry we pushed on driving the Westfjords to the bird cliffs of Latrabjarg, our next destination for the night.
Common Ringed Plover
On the dirt road to the bird cliffs we came across an old shipwreck and while Api snapped shots of the ship i checked out the beach in front.
Was rewarded with my first looks at Purple Sandpiper (now if i can only get a Rock Sandpiper that good..), along with my best shots of White Wagtail, a nemesis bird since i dipped on the Ladner bird this past winter.
After a long sketchy dirt road on steep cliffs we finally arived at the parking lot at Latrabjarg, it was late and we were tired but it was still light out, the rain was picking up a bit though as was the wind so i made due with just shooting the puffins, which were as advertised, extremely approachable and extra tame.
Our plan was to come back the next morning to shoot the Razerbills and other Guillemots but rough weather when we woke up scuttled our bird cliff plans, the cliffs were socked in with fog and the rain was picking up, as was the wind and we decided to call it on the cliffs and continue on our way, we had loads of driving ahead of us and our next proper destination - Lake Myvatn.
Before all that i would get my dream snipe shots
as well as Lifer ptarmigan shots finally
My first European Golden Plovers as well
We were tired but had already put Southwest Iceland and Westfjords behind us in two and a half days so things were looking good time-wise, our plan was to circle the whole island in 9 days.
Stay tuned for Part 2