TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Iceland

Sunday 6 - Wednesday 16 July 2003


Leaders:
Andy Jones

Mike Read

TRIP DIARY

Sunday 6th July

We all arrived at Heathrow in good time and were soon enjoying the 'delights' of the departure lounge. Push back in preparation for our flight was on time and we were soon above the clouds and heading for Iceland. After a very pleasant flight, we landed at a cloudy Keflavik airport and after we had cleared customs, we were met by Andy Jones, our local guide, and John Lehr who had arrived earlier from the USA.

Soon we are on the road heading for Reykjavik and for much of the way we are seeing Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Arctic Terns. Blooming Thyme was scattered along much of our journey while Alaskan/Arctic Lupin, an introduced species as can be gathered from its name, was widespread. A couple of Arctic Skuas flew across our route and were hotly pursued by numerous terns. Rain fell intermittently as we progressed and around the capital city; we were seeing occasional Ravens, Starlings, Whimbrels and Golden Plovers as we had done since the airport.

As we neared the Icelandic president's residence at Bessastaðir, we came in view of some tidal creeks and here we could see many Greylag Geese, some with downy young in tow, plus our first Oystercatchers. The church provided some shelter from the light rain and from the steps we could see the bays on both sides of the peninsula. Birds here included Redwings, more Oystercatchers, Black-tailed Godwits, Snipe, Tufted Ducks, Golden Plovers, Redshanks and many Common Eiders feeding along the water's edge. We paused briefly at the 'Hot Water Exhibition' and added Mealy Redpoll to the list before we headed on towards Skalholt.

About 20 minutes drive out of Reykjavik we 'changed continents' in geological terms. It is here that the North American and European tectonic plates meet. Well they don't actually meet; they drift apart ...... by about 2 centimetres (that's just under an inch in old money!) per year on average though the drifting happens in spurts of anything up to 1½ metres at a time! Birds of note during the journey included a flight of 16 Whooper Swans flying along against a dark mountain and low cloud backdrop, and a few Northern Fulmars near an inland cliff where they breed. We paused briefly to reinforce the information that Andy was giving us regarding the volcanic nature of Iceland when we reached Kerið, a volcanic crater close to the road. Here we photographed and admired the scenery and found a few interesting plants including Moonwort.

We reached Skalholt and after a little time to freshen up, we enjoyed our first Icelandic dinner. There was even time to admire the local scenery and some of the birds, including more of all the wader species we had seen so far, before heading off to bed.

Monday 7th July

Woke to the sounds of various waders and after an 8 a.m. breakfast, we did just a little birding before we set off at 9 o'clock. Local birds included a Redwing on the roof of the building and waders like Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plovers and Oystercatchers in the meadows below the church. Beside the distant patch of water, a couple of Dunlins were feeding busily.

At the river in the town of Skálholt we could see 4 Whooper Swans, a Red-breasted Merganser and a small island held many breeding Black-headed Gulls which mostly had fledged, or at least fledging young. We drove the short distance to Skeiðarettir where we took a walk at the 'sheep sorting wheel'. Here, waders were once again numerous and we had some excellent views of Golden Plovers. A pair of Arctic Skuas flew past and were immediately mobbed by the local Whimbrel and Redshank populations. There were a few Meadow Pipits about and a pair of Northern Wheatears were attending to 3 or 4 recently fledged young.

We paused at Árnes for fuel and not long after we rejoined the road, we noticed a pair of Arctic Skuas and some Whimbrels dive-bombing something on the ground. It turned out to be a Common Raven that was presumably hoping to find a tasty morsel such as a Skua or Whimbrel chick!

We drove along beside 'Thor's River' (Þjörsadalur) and were seeing lots of Greylag Geese and more Whooper Swans and these species were also seen when we paused at Gaukshofði to get a higher view over the winding river. On the cliffs above us, a pair or two of Northern Fulmars were nesting many miles from the sea. There were many new flowers to be seen at this point and these included Tufted Saxifrage as well as three species of Orchid namely Small White, Northern Green and Frog.

A visit to Hjalparfoss had us marvelling at the columnar basalt cliffs and the rushing falls that had carved its way through them. Here we found many more flowers including Arctic River Beauty, a member of the willowherb family. As 'Andy's friends' (the black flies!) were rather numerous here, we decided to travel on a little further before having our lunch on a prominent ridge overlooking the river. Despite considerable efforts at searching for special wildfowl, none were found.

After a visit to an area of pseudocraters, we progressed along the valley to Stöng where we saw the footings of an old building, destroyed in the 1104 eruption of Hekla volcano. We then walked up river to another spectacular waterfall before returning to the bus via a fair piece of woodland, by Icelandic standards, where Redwings were obviously nesting. Arctic River Beauty and Angelica were both numerous beside the river.

Afternoon tea was taken overlooking a dam and lake, which held numerous Greylag Geese, and then we visited Þjoðveldisbækinn, the recreation of the Stöng farmhouse. During the journey back to Skálholt we saw a female Red-breasted Merganser with 9 ducklings but on the opposite side of the road, an American Mink swam across a creek before disappearing in to some low vegetation. We did not estimate the potential survival rate of the Merganser ducklings as very high!

We arrived back at 6.40 p.m. and after dinner, Andy gave a very informative and entertaining slide show about the geology of Iceland to conclude the day.

Tuesday 8th July

The first bird of he day 'happened' at 01.50 when some noisy calling on the hotel roof confirmed the presence of a pair of Ptarmigan. Birds coming to us continued at 7 a.m. when a White Wagtail was found inside the entrance lobby but by the time we finished breakfast, the open door and windows had enabled its departure ........... but a juvenile Redwing had taken its place!

As we drove through the edge of Skálholt, a few Snipe were perched on the tops of street lights; obviously this was a good vantage point for them. The onward journey took us past a variety of habitats though much was farmed grassland. We did not pause to view the usual (how quickly we come to accept things as 'usual') Whimbrels, Snipe, Redshanks, Golden Plovers and occasional Black-tailed Godwits, we just kept going until we reached Hvolsvöllur where we paused for a little 'retail therapy' (mostly to buy stamps).

As we approached Seljalandsfoss, we added Great Skua to the list and we began to see a few Fulmars. Quite a good number of the latter species were nesting along the cliffs over which the waterfall was plunging. We were able to walk behind the waterfall without getting too wet and here we found a couple of different Saxifrages growing. However, it was the Wood Cranesbill (growing nowhere near a wood I might add!) that was the feature plant of the area. To say it was abundant would be an understatement! There were a few other new plants as we walked along beneath the cliffs but it was here that we saw another new bird species, Wren, the Icelandic sub species of course. During the next part of the journey we saw a few Common Eiders and had brief views of a female Teal.

We had a slightly early lunch as the weather had improved considerably. From our riverside location we could see the Sólheimajökull, a tongue of the Mýrdals-jökull ice cap and there were a couple more Great Skuas flying around too. After lunch, we drove further along to a car park and on the way we paused to watch a pair of Great Skuas completing their lunch, the remains of a Black-headed Gull. We then walked to the snout of Sólheimajökull, some even stepped a little way on to it, before taking a more botanically inclined walk back to the bus. This produced a few new plants including Arctic Gentian.

Further east we visited the beach at Vík where there were masses of Puffins flying to and from their nests in the nearby cliffs or just loafing about on the sea. There were thousands present and there were also a few Common Guillemots feeding close to the shore, Kittiwakes nesting on a cliff, Arctic Terns and Northern Fulmars flying to and fro while Arctic and Great Skuas created mayhem in all parts of the vista. A few Northern Gannets flew westwards some distance off shore.

We then drove to the top of the headland at Dyrhólaey, the most southerly point of mainland Iceland, and from here we were able to watch more breeding and passing seabirds. The auk family was represented by Puffins, Guillemots and a few Razorbills, there were five species of Gulls (Greater and Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Black-headed and Kittiwake) as well as the usual Arctic Terns and Great and Arctic Skuas. Fulmars, Gannets and a dozen Red-throated Divers were passing and there were quite a few Common Eiders on the sea. The strongish wind slowed the birds heading into it and those birds that were going with the breeze were just dashing past.

In the end we dragged ourselves away and began the journey back towards Skalhölt. A brief pause at Skógafoss enabled us to view a broader waterfall than those we had seen previously. Then it was a hasty drive back to the hotel in time for a slightly late dinner.

Wednesday 9th July

Over breakfast, some of the group said that they had heard the Ptarmigan during the night ....... although it had not kept them awake for long!

We left at the usual 9 a.m. to head for new accommodation on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and just a few kilometres along the road, we paused to see a group of 11 Dunlins and our first Red-necked Phalaropes; there were at least 70 of them!! While watching the variously plumaged phalaropes, one lady member of our group said "I'm looking for a good female". All of the men in the group responded as one with "Aren't we all". Things went quiet for a while .........

After a brief pause at Laugarvatn, we took the mountain road towards þingvellir but saw little on the way. However, our walk at the site of the ancient Nordic parliament produced a good amount of interest. Firstly, there was the geological interest. You could stand with one foot on the North American tectonic plate and the other foot on no-man's land (it would be nice to think of the second foot being on the European plate but that would not be completely true).

Then there was the wildlife. As we walked out from the car park, 2 female Red-breasted Mergansers flew towards the lake and there were a number of Greylag Geese families feeding beside the stream. Close to where the parliament is thought to have been held, a Redwing was collecting flies from an Angelica plant and feeding them to a recently fledged chick. From the lookout point, 2 Great Northern Divers could be seen in the distance and as we walked back down towards the hotel, a Wren was seen in a little gully and it flew beneath the footbridge we were standing on. The lake edge held a breeding pair of Red-throated Divers and a female Harlequin Duck fed briefly in the stream before flying off to the lake.

After another Wren by the church and a brief musical interlude, we returned to the bus and headed for a lakeside camping area for our picnic. A second pair of Great Northern Divers, this time much closer, took the majority of our birding interest until one returning person said "Ptarmigan by the gents loo." They were perfect instructions and so we watched and photographed this bird from fairly close quarters.

Before we left þingvellir, we returned to the hotel area so that we could have some 'scope views of the Red-throated Divers. The female Harlequin Duck was roosting among a group of rocks some distance away and 2 Red-necked Phalaropes flew around the bay.

On Hvalfjörður we saw a number of Puffins in the distance and also a Black Guillemot but this was only seen by those hardy enough to brave the light rain and howling gale. Their viewing over the fjord was understandably brief! And a little further along the shore, we pulled up to view some of the massed Common Eiders and found a second Black Guillemot from the relative comfort of the minibus. Eiders were abundant around the edge of the fjord and there were hundreds of Northern Fulmars flying low over the waves or along the towering cliffs above us where they were nesting. There was also a lone Great Northern Diver in a more sheltered bay.

After a pause at Borgarnes we then stopped at an adjacent bay where the tidal mud held good numbers of Redshanks, Dunlins, Black-tailed Godwits and Common Eider families. From a second viewpoint we found a pair of Whooper Swans and close to them were about 4 Shelducks with a small group of young.

There were many waders on territories as we headed onwards and there was another pair of Whooper Swans out on a marshy area. A small pond close to the road held another Red-necked Phalarope and while we watched this, a pair of Red-throated Divers flew in and gave us our best diver views of the day.

Further along the Snæfellsnes peninsula, there were some fabulous volcanic features to be seen in the slightly improving weather and we then crossed to the northern shore of the peninsula where we were soon seeing Arctic Poppies beside the road. Further along there were many more Common Eider families and groups of moulting males, a few Glaucous Gulls and as we approached Grundarfjörður there were a few Purple Sandpipers and a couple of Ruddy Turnstones amongst the harbour's sea weeds to complete the day.

Thursday 10th July

As we eat breakfast there are numerous Glaucous Gulls and Fulmars passing the window. We leave the hotel at 9 a.m. and head westwards. Just a couple of kilometres out of town, we pause to view a group of gulls and a possible Iceland Gull is found but before many people can find it, it moves and is lost in a forest of Glaucous Gulls. As it does not reappear, we head on and see some waders plus many Common Eiders, a female Red-breasted Merganser with young and we glimpse some Scaup. We reached Ólafsvík in good time for the 'intrepid duo' to catch the whale watching boat.

At Rif, there are three pools which prove to be of great interest. The first (main) pool seems full of Arctic Terns, Red-necked Phalaropes and Dunlins. A conservative estimate suggests 250 Phalaropes, with more on the other pools. A couple of surprising finds were Little Gull and a Sanderling; the latter bird was still in summer plumage. There are also a few Greater Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, and a female Tufted Duck with small young and amongst a large group of Kittiwakes stood a lone Iceland Gull.

On one of the smaller pools, there is an opportunity to photograph some of the Phalaropes despite the attentions of the Arctic Terns which are behaving very territorially and are just a few of the 20000 pairs thought to be breeding in the area.

Our next stop was at Írskabrunnar where we see a Northern Wheatear among the mixture of grass and rocks while on the sea there are many Common Eiders plus a few passing Northern Gannets and European Shags. The whale watching boat was now just a kilometre or so off shore and we noticed they were paying a lot of attention to something just in front of the vessel. In the end, we found a large male Orca (Killer Whale) just a short distance off shore ..... nowhere near where the people on the boat were looking! We get some fair views but notice that the Orcas are heading for the next headland. A short drive later, including a pause for our first few Snow Buntings of the tour, and we were enjoying some really close views of the Orcas. There was an adult male, at least one smallish youngster and a good few others. In all we estimated about 15 individuals were in the pod.

By the time the Orcas moved off, it was a suitable time for lunch which we had in the shelter of the headland's shipping beacon; this and the hollows in the surrounding land gave us the necessary break from the strong wind. Leaving this area, we did manage to see a Wheatear or two, a few more Snow Buntings including a fine, fly-by male but best of all was the female Ptarmigan with 7 small chicks.

A few kilometres along the coast road, we pulled off to view an impressive volcanic crater at Saxhoffll. The climb to the top was a little strenuous but thoroughly worthwhile. The views and the lava rocks were superb. Soon, back at the bottom, we did a little botanising and a magnificent spread of pale Heath Spotted Orchids took pride of place.

At Lóndrangar, the wind was even stronger but at least the sun was shining and there were no flies to be seen. We took a short walk out to the cliffs where there were the usual massed Kittiwakes and many Fulmars nesting. Also here we found breeding Common and Brünnich's Guillemots while on the sea were some Razorbills and Puffins. The walk back to the bus was into the wind and, out of necessity, we were leaning forward with heads bowed. This produced the first Field Gentians of the tour!

A brief pause was taken at Arnarstapi for the 'facilities' and a few quick photos of the little harbour before we drove on to Búðir. We walked a short distance out to some sand dunes where a few Oysterplants were the prized species. Just off shore, a female Common Eider had a couple of growing young.

Now it was time to head back over the hills to pick up the two people who had been on the boat trip. This we did and soon we were heading back to the hotel with tales of very close Orca encounters ringing in our ears. Everyone had enjoyed a thoroughly good day.

Friday 11th July

After an earlier breakfast, we left the hotel at 8 o'clock to drive to Stykkishólmur to catch the ferry to the island of Flatey. Due to the timing of the ferry, the journey saw us dashing past birds we would normally stop for but the best we saw was a huge group of Common Eiders including perhaps 120 males. As we boarded the ferry, there was a Black Guillemot in the small harbour.

The outward ferry journey produced masses of Puffins, Fulmars and Arctic Terns as well as a few Black Guillemots, Great Cormorants and Shags. On one of the tiny islands, a 'lump' on one of the rocks was possibly a White-tailed Eagle but the distance was too great to be sure especially as it was on the (very) windy side of the boat ..... and the boat was rolling somewhat!

The island of Flatey was, well, flat (ish)! Common Eiders, Arctic Terns and a couple more Black Guillemots greeted us as we stepped ashore and we crossed the island (in about 2 minutes ... walking!) and were greeted by a pair of Redshanks which may have had young in the area. This was the first of many such encounters with the species throughout our 2½ hour stay on the island. Along the shore, a few Red-necked Phalaropes were feeding but there was no sign of its hoped-for relative. Subsequent groups of phalaropes were checked but without success. We walked on towards the town, well village, and saw a few Common Snipe on the way as well as Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and a few Purple Sandpipers along the shore. At the edge of town we could hear a Snow Bunting singing and this was eventually found sitting on one of the house roofs. This was just one of the many Snow Buntings that we saw.

We continued our search along the island shore and just before reaching the phalarope reserve (no entry!), we found a Black Guillemot and some Puffins sitting on rocks and enabling a close approach. This is where most of the group had lunch in the shelter of a large boulder.

As we made our way back along the island to catch the return ferry, some paused for coffee while others took the various routes back towards the harbour. With little time to spare, a Grey (Red) Phalarope was found and a few of the group managed to see it before the ferry beckoned us all aboard.

The boat journey back seemed smoother and less windy probably due to the fact that we were now mostly going with the wind. The birds we saw were much the same as on the outward trip with two exceptions, a Great Skua was seen chasing a Kittiwake until the gull disgorged its last meal, which was all the skua wanted. And the other piece of excitement was caused when a White-tailed Eagle was found at much closer range than the morning's possible one.

We landed and just outside of Stykkishólmur, we went to a small woodland for afternoon tea. Here we saw that a pair of Redwings were collecting food for nearby young, while Starlings and Meadow Pipits seemed to have young of their own. A number of Redpolls were also present and everyone managed to secure good views of those.

Out towards the main road, a Red-throated Diver was on a pool with two smallish young and as we watched, a second adult arrived carrying a fish which was eagerly taken by one chick. As we drove back towards our hotel we saw a couple of female Red-breasted Mergansers along the shore and then there was a male on a small pool. At this latter location, a couple of Snipe seemed a little agitated and then one of their chicks was seen to cross a wet patch at the back of the pool.

A detour around a headland had us searching unsuccessfully for another raptor species but we did get close views of a pair of Redshanks with two chicks as well as many Ringed Plovers and Arctic Terns right by the roadside.

During dinner, which just happened to be fish, someone came up with the thought that it might be possible to weave various fish names in to song titles and immediately came up with the suggestion of 'Salmon-chanted Evening'. Things went badly down hill from there! Further suggestions included 'Oh Cod Our Help in Ages Past', 'Hake, Rattle and Roll', 'Prawn to be Wild' and 'Prawn in the USA', but prize for including the most fish in one title went to 'Whale Kipper Whelk-ome in the Brill-side'! And the prize? An enjoyable walk to Akureyri the following day!!

After dinner, many of the group went on a guided tour of the town which introduced them to many of the local customs and traditions and they also had the opportunity to sample the local Brennivin (Schnapps) and dried fish. Apparently, if you had enough of the former, the latter tasted OK!

Saturday 12th July

We left the hotel at 9 a.m. to head, in a casual sort of way, for Iceland's second city, Akureyri. Just a few miles down the road, near Berserkjahavn (the Berserk lava field), we took a side road down to the shore and in a small bay were a good number of waders. These included Oystercatchers, Dunlins, Golden Plovers, about 40 Purple Sandpipers and at least 15 Knots; with the last three species, most of the birds were still in summer plumage. By the time an Arctic Skua flew over and put all of the smaller waders to flight, not all of the group had seen the Knots but unfortunately, this was the one species that did not return to the mud, and they disappeared completely. A long search for them followed but in the end, the light rain and the coldness of the wind encouraged our retreat.

A short way along the road was a small pool with a resident Red-throated Diver and just 500 yards further along, another pool held a pair with 2 chicks.

We pass the turning that yesterday had led us to Stykkishólmur and proceed on our journey. At Alftafjörður (Swan Fjord), strangely enough we pause to view the gathering of Whooper Swans. In all, we estimate there are about 350 gathered at this one staging spot. They are perhaps immature birds or failed breeders that will make the journey to Scotland for the winter.

Close to Búðardalur, we take route 59 over the hills and on the high ground we glimpse a few Snow Buntings and many Golden Plovers. When we reached Hrútafjörður, a couple of birds attracted our attention and these turned out to be Great Northern Divers; there were also 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and many Common Eiders scattered along the edge of the fjord.

At Blönduós we took some time for a walk on Hrutey (Rams Island) where there was an abundance of flowers and another Red-breasted Merganser was seen. There were also a few Redpolls and many breeding pairs of Redwings; perhaps it should more appropriately be called Red Island! There was also a group of 3 Ravens obviously enjoying the breeze as they dived and rolled in a glorious flying display.

We left and, continuing route 1, we head for Varmahlíð on another mountainous road. This was perhaps the most scenic part of our route so far. On a roadside lake there were a few Tufted Ducks and Greater Scaup but as we should be seeing plenty of these in the next day or two, we did not pause to watch them. The broad river plain beyond Varmahlíð held large quantities of Greylag Geese, perhaps as many as 500 including many family groups. But the prized species here was Pink-footed Goose and of these there were about 90 present and this again included many young.

As we drove on through Oxnadalur, the clouds were lifting a little and the jagged ridge of Hörgafell came into view. This called for a photo stop. Just a little further on, a single field, recently cleared of its grass crop, held a flock of perhaps 250 Golden Plovers, which were feeding up in preparation for their southbound migration.

We reached Akueyri and the first set of traffic lights that we had seen since leaving Reykjavik were ........ on red!! From there we crossed the fjord causeway and headed south to Öngulsstaðir where we were to spend the next three nights. In a field being cut for hay, numerous Common Gulls were feeding while a pair of Black-tailed Godwits seemed agitated presumably because they had nearby young.

We settled in to our accommodation and then enjoyed a fine and generous evening meal as usual.

Sunday 13th July

Today we headed for Myvatn (Midge Lake) and at first we drove beside Eyjafjörður on the opposite shore to Akureyri. There were numerous Black-headed and Common Gulls in the fields, a few Fulmars drifting along the cliffs and plenty of Common Eiders on the sea. We then headed off inland across some higher land and were seeing the usual waders on the way. Just before we reached Godafoss there was a sighting of two Short-eared Owls but by the time we turned around and got back to where they had been seen, they had vanished. A brief visit to the 'Falls of the Gods' enabled a few photos to be taken before we set off again. Less than a mile further on, a Short-eared Owl drifted across the road just in front of the bus and flew low over the nearby fields.

The onward drive took us past a large lake which held a Great-northern Diver and a female Scaup and a while later we gained our first sight of Myvatn. Before beginning our circuit of the lake we paused at the Laxá River and saw a female Harlequin Duck with 8 ducklings then a further 4 females. There were a few Barrow's Goldeneyes there including a female with 4 young and there were also females of Teal, Tufted Duck and Common Scoter.

Soon we were beside the lake itself and have the opportunity to view various ducks through telescopes. Mostly we were just seeing Barrow's Goldeneye, Tufted Ducks and Greater Scaup but there were also a few Long-tailed Ducks to be seen though the latter species were constantly diving and gave only brief views. Just before we left this spot, a Great Northern Diver flew past at close range and headed for the lake. Further along, small pools held Mallard, Wigeon, a Red-throated Diver, a Common Scoter with 5 ducklings and about 7 Slavonian Grebes.

Near Reykjahlið, there was the opportunity to go for a swim in a hot spring or to enjoy the wide variety of flowers that were in full bloom. These included Herb Paris, Frog and Small White Orchids, Wild Thyme and lots more Wood Cranesbill. We also had lunch at this spot before visiting the site of some recent lava flows and steam vents on Krafla. Here we saw a Golden Plover taking a hot bath (!) and we also found a Snow Bunting's nest with 3 eggs.

After a brief visit to some mud pools and steam vents, we had a look at another crack in the surface of the lava. This is another example of where Iceland is growing as tectonic plates move apart. The surprise here was that we found a Merlin's nest with 3 well grown young but the rapidly departing female was only seen by a few of the group.

Continuing the circuit of Myvatn, we paused for afternoon tea overlooking a bay where there were various ducks and a pair of Great Northern Divers with a chick. As we headed onwards, Marion calmly asked if Gyr Falcons were whitish. When she was told that they might be, she pointed to something on the top of a rock and we were enjoying good views of this wonderful species. All too soon it flew off but we were all pleased to have seen it.

Further still around Myvatn we saw our second family group of Whooper Swans, another pair of Great Northern Divers with a chick, Slavonian Grebes nest building and in amongst a huge group of Wigeon were a few Gadwalls but of the American Wigeon there was no sign.

With one final look at the Harlequin Ducks on the Laxá River, we headed back to Ongulsstaðir for an evening meal and bed after another superb day.

Monday 14th July

We left Ongulsstaðir at 8.45 a.m. to drive to Hauganes for a whale watching trip on Eyjafjörður (Island Fjord). As we head for Akureyri there are numerous Eiders on the waterways that we pass and cross and where the river flows in to the fjord, 3 Red-throated Divers are feeding. Two of the group preferred to spend the morning exploring Akureyri so they were dropped in town as we passed and then we travelled through many areas of grazing land to reach our destination. Many Redshanks, Whimbrel, Snipe and a few Black-tailed Godwits seemed to line our route and there were a few Common Eiders, some with ducklings, in the small harbour.

We boarded the boat and once the other group arrived, we were able to set off. Almost immediately we were seeing the first of the Northern Fulmars and Arctic Terns that were with us throughout the trip and there were occasional Black Guillemots and Atlantic Puffins to be seen. After some time we found our first Minke Whale and though it only surfaced briefly each time, everyone on board had views of it.

We then went to a small cliff on the western side of the fjord where many pairs of Kittiwakes and a few pairs of Fulmars were nesting. Most of the Kittiwakes had well grown young but there was at least one chick that was still covered in nothing but down. After getting amazingly close to the cliff, we left for the south side of Hrísey where we were able to try fishing for cod. Many tried and one person succeeded in pulling three to the surface in one cast. The fishing attracted a huge flock of Fulmars and Kittiwakes which followed us onwards as we headed towards Grenivík. The reason that the birds followed was that the fish were cleaned by one of the crew and the offal and offcuts were thrown overboard and made a very good meal for the birds.

After dropping the other group in Grenivík, we headed for Hauganes but were soon watching another, probably two Minke Whales. We arrived back in Akueyri a little later than planned and after a cup of tea, we ourselves headed for Grenivík to search a wet area for plants. Those found included Round-leaved Sundew, Marsh Cinquefoil and two new species of Willowherb.

Back then to the south of Akureyri and a walk to two waterfalls on the Mjaðmá River which produced a brief glimpse of a rapidly disappearing Merlin and good views of two lovely waterfalls. By now the northerly wind was very chilly and most were thankful to return to the vehicle to commence the short return to our accommodation. However, our route took in a detour along the side of the main river where we first encountered two different families of Greater Ringed Plovers, the first pair had at least 2 young and the second pair only seemed to have one chick. Whimbrels and Black-tailed Godwits were also vociferous in defence of their territories as we drove past. Presumably, they too had young nearby, as did the pair of Arctic Terns that took exception to Andy's comments in Icelandic! A couple of groups of Wigeon took off from islands in the river and a couple of female Harlequin Ducks flew past at speed to complete the day.

Tuesday 15th July

As we drove towards Akureyri there was a family of 5 Ravens close to the roadside and further along were a few Whimbrels and many Common Eiders. As we drove onwards, Andy regaled us with tales about Icelandic food delicacies most of which sounded totally undesirable! The few Whimbrels, Snipe and Black-tailed Godwits that we saw helped to take our minds off food and then as we neared Varmahlíð, there were numerous Greylag Geese and about 60 Pink-footed Geese to be seen. Further along route 1, a small lake held 9 Greater Scaup and on a marsh we saw a pair of Whooper Swans.

We now began our journey on route F35 across the centre of Iceland. At first the road seemed fine; it had a tarmac surface but then, just beyond a hydro power station, we began about 150 miles of Icelandic massage ....... a gravel road! Birds seemed to thin out as we climbed though we did see a few Golden and Greater Ringed Plovers, Greater Scaup and Snow Buntings. At a viewpoint we paused to admire the view in improving weather conditions and could see parts of 3 different ice caps/glaciers. On a marsh below us was a single adult Whooper Swan with a growing cygnet.

We arrived at Hveravellir in time for lunch and some of the group even took a dip in one of the hot pools. After an hour here, and the sighting of a few Snow Buntings, Meadow Pipits and a Golden Plover, we were on our way once again. As it had been before lunch, the scenery was fantastic as we drove between the glaciers of Langjökull and Hofsjökull and we made occasional stops for photography and a spot of botanising. One of the most surprising things in a relatively barren area, there was a slightly more sheltered area which contained fairly lush vegetation (by Icelandic standards), including Wood Cranesbill.

As we began the descent off the southern side of the high ground, we began to see a few more Golden Plovers, including one well-grown chick, and a little further along were our first Arctic Skuas of the day. There were two pleasant visits to make before we reached our accommodation. The first was to the spectacular Gullfoss (Golden Falls). This was just amazing to see yet there was plenty of botanising to do here too. Cameras clicked, and clicked ........ and then we had some afternoon tea before driving the short distance to Geysir where steam vents and the frequently spurting geysers were much admired.

Just before we reached Skalholt, we glimpsed about 30 Red-necked Phalaropes on the river where we had seen a good quantity on the day we left the Skalholt area.

Wednesday 16th July

After our usual 8 a.m. we left for an exploration of Reykjavik in glorious weather. The river close to Skalholt held the expected Red-necked Phalaropes, about 50 of them, and there were also a few Dunlins and Redshanks as well as a lone Greater Ringed Plover. The onward journey produced brief views of Golden Plovers and Black-tailed Godwits in various meadows which Common Snipe were sometimes flying over. One area of cliffs held nesting Northern Fulmars and other species noted included White Wagtail, Whooper Swans and Arctic Terns. At one point we had clear views to the Westmann Isles including Surtsey which rose from the sea in an eruption lasting from1963 until 1967.

As we entered the Reykjavik area, we began to see occasional European Starlings and a few more Redwings. We were dropped at the Town Hall at 10.30 and were given 3 hours to do as we wished. Some engaged in 'retail therapy', others visited galleries and/or churches. Some of the group were a little deafened when they were actually at the top of the church tower when the noon bells struck! Most people spent a little time looking at the town lake where there were masses of Mallards and Greylag Geese while amongst them were occasional Tufted Ducks, Scaup, Common Eiders and a pair of Whooper Swans. Overhead there was a constant presence of Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls forever on the lookout for the bread-toting people while Arctic Terns frequently dived for fish.

Andy picked us up at the arranged 1.30 and we were on our way towards Keflavik Airport for our homeward flights. We see little new during the drive but as we enter the terminal building, having relayed our thanks and good wishes to Andy, a couple of Golden Plovers flew past calling.

SPECIES ACCOUNTS

BIRDS

Red-throated Diver Seen on 7 days with the most being 12 on the sea at Dyrhólaey on 8th

Great Northern Diver 5 on 9th at þingvallavatn, then there were 2 on 12th at Hrútafjörður and then on 13th we saw 2 single birds and then on Myvatn there were 2 pairs each with a single chick

Slavonian (Horned) Grebe At least 15 seen on and around Myvatn on 13th and this included a pair nest building and a couple of pairs with small young

Northern Fulmar Seen every day with the closest views occurring during the boat trip on 14th

Manx Shearwater 2 seen by those on the whale watching trip on 10th

Northern Gannet Seen on 8th from Vík Beach and from Dyrhólaey and then seen on 10th from one or two places on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Great Cormorant About a dozen seen during the boat trip to Flatey on 11th

European Shag At least 7 seen around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on 10th and a fair number were seen the following day during the trip to Flatey

Whooper Swan Seen every day. Many pairs had young. The largest number was about 350 on 12th on Alftafjörður (Swan Fjord)

Pink-footed Goose 80 - 90 seen on 12th and at least 61 seen on 15th both times on the river flood plain near Vermalíð

Greylag Goose Seen every day except 10thand 11th

Common Shelduck Just seen on 9th at Borgarnes where there were 4 adults and a few young

Eurasian Wigeon 2 on 6th near the Icelandic President's residence

Gadwall At least 10 seen at Myvatn on 13th

Common Teal Noted on 5 days in small numbers including a female with young on 11th on Flatey

Mallard Seen every day except 15th

Tufted Duck Noted on 6 days including on the lake in Reykjavik on 16th

Greater Scaup 2 on 10th near Ólafsvík were the first then seen on a further 4 days including good numbers at Myvatn on 13th

Common Eider Commonly seen every day except 7th which was an inland day

Harlequin Duck The first was a female on 9th near þingvellir and then there were at least 22 individuals seen on the Laxa River on13th and a further 2 females on 14th along the river near Ongulsstaðir

Long-tailed Duck At least 5 seen at Myvatn on 13th with another single bird near Ongulsstaðir later the same day

Common Scoter About 10 seen on or near Myvatn on 13th

Barrow's Goldeneye A good number were seen on Myvatn on 13th as expected

Red-breasted Merganser Seen on 6 days including a female with 9 young ducklings on 7th seen on the way back from Stöng

White-tailed Eagle Just a single distant bird seen from the ferry on the way back from Flatey on 11th

Merlin There was a very brief view of a departing female near Myvatn on 13th but Andy had stumbled on her nest and we were able to cautiously see three well grown chicks

Gyr Falcon A superb pale male was well seen, thanks to Marion, close to Myvatn on 13th

Rock Ptarmigan Heard on the roof at 1.50 a.m. at Skálholt on 8th, a female was seen close to þingvallavatn on 9th, another female, this time with 7 chicks, was at Öndverðarnes on 10th and during a solo evening stroll the following day, Val found the only male of the tour close to Grundarfjörður

Eurasian Oystercatcher Common; seen every day

European Golden Plover Common; seen every day

Greater Ringed Plover Seen on 8 days including two pairs with chicks at Munkaþverá on 14th

Black-tailed Godwit Seen every day except 10th and 11th. The Icelandic race looks superb in its bright brick-red breeding plumage

Whimbrel Common; seen every day

Common Redshank Common; seen every day

Ruddy Turnstone At least 3 seen as we arrived at Grundarfjörður on 9th and then we saw a couple on Flatey on 11th

Red-necked Phalarope Seen on 8 days with the most being at least 300 at Rif on 10th

Grey Phalarope On 11th just a few of the group managed to see one on a small pool on Flatey a few minutes before the ferry was due to take us back to the mainland

Common Snipe Common; seen every day

Red Knot About 15 were in a small bay near Berserkjahavn on 12th as we left the Snæfefellsnes Peninsula

Purple Sandpiper 8 on 9th at Grundarfjörður, a good number were on Flatey on 11th and the following day there were about 40 the following day near Berserkjahavn

Dunlin Seen on 6 days and most were in their fine summer plumage

Sanderling Just a single individual seen on 10th at Rif

Great Skua First seen on 8th sear Seljaland with further individuals later that day and also on 10th, 11th & 14th

Arctic Skua By far the most common of the two skuas with sightings every day

Common Gull Just seen in the north of Iceland close to Akureyri from 12th to 15th

Herring Gull Noted on 5 days

Lesser Black-backed Gull Seen every day

Great Black-backed Gull Noted in smaller numbers than the previous species. Seen on 7 consecutive days from 8th

Glaucous Gull Just seen on 4 days on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula with at least 200 on 10th

Iceland Gull Just a single confirmed sighting of one at Rif on 10th

Black-headed Gull Seen every day

Black-legged Kittiwake Common around coastal areas; seen on 6 days

Little Gull One seen on a pool at Rif on 10th; the first sighting for a Travelling Naturalist group in Iceland.

Arctic Tern Seen every day in a wide variety of habitats

Common Guillemot Seen on 8th along the southern coast and on 10th around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Brünnich's Guillemot About 30 seen at Lóndrangar on 10th though the strong wind made viewing very difficult

Razorbill 4 at Dyrhólaey on 8th and then numerous around Snæfellsnes on 10th

Black Guillemot 2 on Hvalfjörður on 9th, at least 50 during the ferry to and from Flatey on 11th and also a fair number seen during the boat trip on 14th

Atlantic Puffin Thousands seen at two colonies on 8th with smaller numbers seen on the next 3 days and finally 3 or 4 seen during the boat trip on 14th

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Just seen on the final day in Reykjavik

Short-eared Owl A search for two seen by one of the group near Godafoss on 13th failed to produce a repeat sighting but as we left the falls, one flew across the road just half a mile further on. We also saw one the following morning on the road to Hauganes

White Wagtail Seen every day except 6th

Meadow Pipit Widespread; seen every day

Winter Wren 3 seen and another heard at Seljalandsfoss on 8th and 2 seen near þingvellir the following day

Redwing Common and widespread; seen every day

Northern Wheatear At least 6 seen on the day we went to Stöng (7th) and also seen on 5 other days of the tour

Common Raven Seen every day, except 11th, in small numbers

Common (European) Starling Noted on 7 days

Snow Bunting Seen on 5 days in varying numbers including a nest with 3 eggs near Myvatn on 13th

Common (Mealy) Redpoll Seen on 6th near Reykjavik and then not seen again until 11th on the way back from Flatey. We then saw the species for the next 4 days

MAMMALS

American Mink One seen on the way back from Stöng on 7th

Common Seal At least 15 seen during the ferry ride to Flatey on 11th

Grey Seal One seen from the cliffs at Dyrhólaey on 8th

Orca (Killer Whale) About 15 individuals seen very closely by those on the whale watching trip on 10th and the same individuals were seen more distantly from the shore by the rest of the group

Minke Whale A single individual and then probably 2 different ones seen during the boat trip on Eyjafjörður on 14th.

Plants

Many thanks indeed to Richard Surry for the following plant list - one of the most comprehensive we've produced in a trip report!

The plants are listed in taxonomic order. The number on the left of each species refers to its number in the book "A Guide to the Flowering Plants & Ferns of Iceland" by Hordur Kristinsson. Nomenclature follows that used in Kristinsson's book.

Species were widely distributed and seen frequently during the trip unless indicated otherwise.

269 Fir Clubmoss Huperzia selago ssp. arctica Saxholl

270 Alpine Clubmoss Diphazium alpinum near Grenivik

272 Lesser Clubmoss Selaginella selaginoides

217 Water Horsetail Equisetum fluviatile

218 Marsh Horsetail Equisetum palustre

219 Field Horsetail Equisetum arvense very common

220 Shady Horsetail Equisetum pratense

223 Rough Horsetail Equisetum hyemale Solheimajokull

229 Common Moonwort Botrychium lunaria

224 Common Polypody Polypodium vulgare Seljalandsfoss, Pingvellir

238 Beech Fern Thelypteris phegopteris Þingvellir, Storaga (Myvatn)

239 Oak Fern Gymnocarpium dryopteris Storaga (Myvatn)

233 Brittle Bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis

267 Juniper Juniperus communis

156 Marsh-marigold Caltha palustris

159 Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris

160 Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens

175 Arctic Buttercup Ranunculus hyperboreus Hrutey

167 Creeping Spearwort Ranunculus reptans Solheimajokull

29 Alpine Meadow-rue Thalictrum alpinum

162 Arctic Poppy Papaver radicatum Berserkjahraun

241 Dwarf Birch Betula nana

242 Downy Birch Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii

252 Babington's Orache Atriplex glabriuscula Vik

141 Blinks Montia fontana

100 Arctic Sandwort Arenaria norvegica Solheimajokull

101 Sea Sandwort Honckenya peploides Vik, Ondverdarnes

91 Lesser Stitchwort Stellaria graminea Ongulsstadir

107 Common Chickweed Stellaria media

82 Alpine Mouse-ear Cerastium alpinum

83 Arctic Mouse-ear Cerastium arcticum Solheimajokull

98 Common Mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum ssp. scandicum

106 Knotted Pearlwort Sagina nodosa

140 Snow Pearlwort Sagina nivalis Solheimajokull

193 Procumbent Pearlwort Sagina procumbens

99 Corn Spurrey Spergula arvensis Geysir

40 Alpine Catchfly Lychnis alpina Krafla snowbeds, Kjolur

40a Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi Seljalandsfoss

60 Moss Campion Silene acaulis

81 Sea Campion Silene uniflora

112 Alpine Bistort Bistorta vivipara very common

113 Knotgrass Polygonum aviculare

253 Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa

254 Sheep's Sorrel Rumex acetosella

255 Northern Dock Rumex longifolius

256 Mountain Sorrel Oxyria digyna

61 Thrift Armeria maritima

114 Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia near Grenivik

20 Heath Dog-violet Viola canina

22 Alpine Marsh Violet Viola palustris

21 Wild Pansy Viola tricolor Stykkisholmur, Hrutey

243 Dwarf Willow Salix herbacea

244 Woolly Willow Salix lanata

245 Bluish Willow Salix callicarpaea

246 Tea-leaved Willow Salix phylicifolia

171 Hawkweed-leaved Treacle-mustard Erysimum hieraciifolium near Akureyri, Myvatn

62 Lady's Smock Cardamine nymanii

129 Northern Rock-cress Cardaminopsis petraea very common

130 Hoary Whitlow-grass Draba incana

136 Common Scurvy-grass Cochlearia officinalis

133 Shepherd's Purse Capsella bursa-pastoris

128 Sea Rocket Cakile arctica Budir

268 Crowberry Empetrum nigrum very common

148 Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

59 Ling Calluna vulgaris

147 Cassiope Cassiope hypnoides Krafla snowbeds

68 Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus Saxholl, Myvatn

69 Bog Bilberry Vaccinium uliginosum

149 Common Wintergreen Pyrola minor Storaga (Myvatn), near Grenivik

174 Roseroot Rhodiola rosea

58 Hairy Stonecrop Sedum villosum

165 Biting Stonecrop Sedum acre

36 Purple Saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia

87 Mossy Saxifrage Saxifraga hypnoides

89 Tufted Saxifrage Saxifraga caespitosa

90 Starry Saxifrage Saxifraga stellaris

97 Alpine Snow Saxifrage Saxifraga nivalis Seljalandsfoss

161 Marsh Saxifrage Saxifraga hirculus Seljalandsfoss, Kjolur

78 Grass of Parnassus Parnassia palustris

117 Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria

116 Stone Bramble Rubus saxatilis

51 Marsh Cinquefoil Potentilla palustris

157 Alpine Cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii

158 Silverweed Potentilla anserina

169 Creeping Sibbaldia Sibbaldia procumbens Krafla snowbeds, Kjolur

79 Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca Gullfoss

56 Water Avens Geum rivale

76 Mountain Avens Dryas octopetala

190 Alpine Lady's-mantle Alchemilla alpina

191 Common Lady's-mantle Alchemilla vulgaris agg.

118 Rowan Sorbus aucuparia Þingvellir, Myvatn

3 Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca

35 Sea Pea Lathyrus japonicus Hjalparfoss, near Dyrholaey

57 Red Clover Trifolium pratense around Akureyri only

155 White Clover Trifolium repens

5 Nootka Lupin Lupinus nootkatensis

43 Rosebay Willowherb Epilobium angustifolium Reykjavik

44 Arctic Riverbeauty Epilobium latifolium

45 Chickweed Willowherb Epilobium alsinifolium

46 Hornemann's Willowherb Epilobium hornemanni near Grenivik

47 American Willowherb Epilobium watsonii Skalholt

48 Cliff Willowherb Epilobium collinum Hjalparfoss

49 Marsh Willowherb Epilobium palustre

80 Dwarf Cornel Cornus suecica Grundarfjordur

108 Fairy Flax Linum catharticum

30 Wood Crane's-bill Geranium sylvaticum

124 Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris around Akureyri

123 Sweet Cicely Myrrhis odorata Seljalandsfoss, Vik

122 Caraway Carum carvi Skalholt and vicinity

121 Scots Lovage Ligusticum scoticum Vik

119 Garden Angelica Angelia archangelica

120 Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris

11 Slender Gentian Gentianella tenella Krafla snowbeds

32 Field Gentian Gentianella campestris

33 Northern Gentian Gentianella aurea Skutasstadir (Myvatn)

10 Alpine Gentian Gentiana nivalis

86 Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata

15 Oysterplant Mertensia maritima near Dyrholaey, Budir

13 Field Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis

28 Selfheal Prunella vulgaris Geysir

41 Wild Thyme Thymus praecox ssp. arcticus very common

216 Mare's-tail Hippuris vulgaris

248 Greater Plantain Plantago major Geysir

250 Sea Plantain Plantago maritima

6 Rock Speedwell Veronica fruticans Storaga (Myvatn), Krafla snowbeds

7 Alpine Speedwell Veronica alpina Krafla snowbeds

8 Thyme-leaved Speedwell Veronica serpyllifolia

25 Heath Speedwell Veronica officinalis

153 Cold Eyebright Euphrasia frigida around Myvatn

18 Alpine Bartsia Bartsia alpina

180 Yellow-rattle Rhinanthus minor

179 Upright Lousewort Pedicularis flammea Kjolur

24 Common Butterwort Pinguicula vulgaris

143 Northern Bedstraw Galium boreale

144 Slender Bedstraw Galium normanii ssp. islandicum very common

176 Lady's Bedstraw Galium verum

17 Devil's-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis Stong

38 Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense Reykjavik

186 Autumn Hawkbit Leontodon autumnalis

182 Dandelion Taraxacum spp.

185 Icelandic Hawkweed Pilosella islandica

183 Hawkweed Hieracium spp.

264 Dwarf Cudweed Omalotheca supina Krafla snowbeds

265 Marsh Cudweed Filaginella uliginosa Geysir

70 Alpine Fleabane Erigeron borealis

125 Yarrow Achillea millefolium

189 Pineappleweed Chamomilla suaveolens

74 Sea Mayweed Matricaria maritima

188 Groundsel Senecio vulgaris

309 Marsh Arrowgrass Triglochin palustris

358 Alpine Rush Juncus alpinus

359 Jointed Rush Juncus articulatus

360 Toad Rush Juncus bufonius Skalholt

361 Frog Rush Juncus ranarius Hrutey

362 Three-leaved Rush Juncus trifidus

365 Iceland Rush Juncus arcticus ssp. intermedius

355 Spiked Wood-rush Luzula spicata

356 Heath Wood-rush Luzula multiflora

311 Scheuchzer's Cottongrass Eriophorum scheuchzeri

338 Common Cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium

316 Deergrass Trichophorum caespitosum

314 Common Spike-rush Eleocharis palustris

312 Bellard's Kobresia Kobresia myosuroides

324 Capitate Sedge Carex capitata Myvatn

327 String Sedge Carex chordorrhiza

334 Star Sedge Carex echinata near Grenivik

341 Carnation Sedge Carex panicea

345 Common Bog-sedge Carex limosa

348 Lyngbye's Sedge Carex lyngbyei

351 Common Sedge Carex nigra

352 Stiff Sedge Carex bigelowii

292 Arctic Fescue Festuca richardsonii

293 Viviparous Fescue Festuca vivipara

286 Smooth Meadow-grass Poa pratensis

287 Alpine Meadow-grass Poa alpina

289 Glaucous Meadow-grass Poa glauca

290 Annual Meadow-grass Poa annua

297 Spiked Oatgrass Trisetum spicatum

274 Tufted Hair-grass Deschampsia caespitosa

276 Wavy Hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa

296 Sweet Vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum ssp. alpinum

277 Common Bent Agrostis capillaris

278 Velvet Bent Agrostis vinealis

279 Creeping Bent Agrostis stolonifera

299 Meadow Foxtail Alopecurus pratensis

300 Marsh Foxtail Alopecurus geniculatus Skalholt

301 Orange Foxtail Alopecurus aequalis Flatey, Hrutey

302 Timothy Phleum pratense

303 Alpine Cat's-tail Phleum alpinum Myvatn, Krafla snowbeds

307 Common Couch Elymus repens Budir

306 Lyme-grass Elymus arenarius

142 Scottish Asphodel Tofieldia pusilla Gaukshofdi, Myvatn, Krafla snowbeds

196 Herb-Paris Paris quadrifolia Storaga (Myvatn)

194 Northern Green Orchid Platanthera hyperborea

195 Small-white Orchid Pseudorchis albida

257 Frog Orchid Coeloglossum viride

37 Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata a particularly impressive show at Saxholl

The following species, not listed in Kristinsson's book, were also seen as

escapes or introductions:

Red Campion Silene dioica Grundarfjordur, wood near Stykkisholmur

Melancholy Thistle Cirsium heterophyllum Vatnskot (Pingvellir)

Knapweed Centaurea sp. Ongulsstadir

Fox and Cubs Pilosella aurantiaca Vatnskot (Pingvellir)

I make that a total of 197 species (so I don't get my anorak!), plus 4 introduced species.

Richard Surry

Well what a tour Andy treated us to. His broad knowledge of Iceland's birds, plants, and mammals was exceeded by his knowledge of the geology of a most remarkable island. His explanation of customs and the sagas was rounded off by a fine sense of humour that ensured everyone had a thoroughly good tour.

And as for the wildlife sightings, we saw 70 species of birds (though feral pigeon was the 70th! ..... How sad are we?) The Orcas and the Minke Whales were super and the plant list just kept growing and growing thanks to Richard and his able assistant Ruth (among others of course).

The weather was a little less than kind to us with bitingly cold or very strong winds on a few days. Thankfully, the weather cleared somewhat for the drive back across the middle of Iceland and we were treated to some fine views to the glaciers.

And you, the clients? Well, what can I say that will not lead to a lawsuit? Of course, I can tell the truth; you were superb and it was a great pleasure to have such good company. I look forward to the pleasure of your company on some future Travelling Naturalist tour.

Mike Read

July 2003
© The Travelling Naturalist 2003