Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Iceland Day 5: An early morning drive along the river

Hekla (one of Iceland's more active volcanos) at dawn
On the morning of our stay in Ranga I got out early to do some birding, safari-style, down the road (Rte. 25) along the river just west of the hotel. I had originally planned to explore the estuary system some 50 km farther to the west, but this was a closer, more efficient path that suited our day's time-table a little better. It was a good choice.
Whimbrel on a post
Many species of what might be considered shorebirds actually spend a great deal of time on agricultural land.
Whimbrels competing over a spot on the hay bale
It is easy to see godwits and redshanks just by driving next to farms.
Black-tailed Godwits
Indeed, the Eurasian Oystercatcher is as much a bird of open fields in Iceland as it is the shoreline.
Eurasian Oystercatchers
Nevertheless, the river was also full of life.
The only Eurasian Wigeons I would see on this trip
I was particularly taken by the myriad Whooper Swans in the area.
Whooper Swans
Sometimes hiding in the grass,
Whooper Swans
sometimes out in the water. With large families.
Lesser Black-backed gulls
The road eventually leads to a small town, with no easy access to the sea. A dirt road continues to the estuary system to the west but I didn't have faith that our Ford Fiesta would make it and a road emergency on a Sunday morning was the last thing we needed....
Greylag Geese crossing the road
When I wrote "safari-style" earlier, I meant it. Birds are not just visible from your car. They love to sit in the middle of the road, daring you to approach. And will not fly, but slowly walk, to the edge of the road to let you pass.
Eurasian Oystercatcher in the road
This means the best photos I have of several birds are out the side window of the car, looking ahead.
Meadow Pipit in the road
This is why early morning car birding is so much fun. I didn't see another car on the road the entire time I was out. I could stop anytime I wanted to take a picture. And did.
Eurasian Golden Plover on the road
Sheep did seem to understand what cars were. I've never seen sheep run so fast.
Icelandic sheep on the road
Next: Time to say good-bye

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