26 May 2016

Birding Northwest Iceland - May 2016




 Harlequin Duck, Blönduós May 2016


Nature destination development: Northwest Iceland

Iceland delivers some of the coolest birding in Europe. We just visited the northwestern region of Iceland, working on a destination development scheme. For 10 days we have visited, researched, measured and photographed a wide range of sites. Visiting Iceland is not "just" a birding thing: The landscape, the mammals and the people you meet are equally an important part of any visit to this cool destination. Not to mention the heitur pottur culture! Almost everywhere you go you can sink into  a relaxing hot bath, in the field, at your hotel or at any of the numerous public baths. 

The highlights of our visit are more then fits a brief blogpost, but we will be back with more from the nortwest! But: Any visit to Iceland will not be complete without great views of Harlequin Duck. Seeing the very stylish Harleys surf the fast flowing river streams of Iceland is a birding experience we wish for every birder or nature enthusiast! Another highlight was visiting the Drangey bird cliff. 300 000 Puffins, Common and Brünnich´s Guillemots, Gyrfalcon and more was on display at this amazing seabird colony. The abundance of birds like Common Snipe and Black-tailed Godwits are other highlights. A few photos following below. Click on any image for bigger slide show views...

A very big thanks to Davíð Jóhannsson of SSNV Samtök Sveitarfélaga á Norðurlandi vestra (Association of municipalities in the Northwest) for inviting us to northwest Iceland. Our visit was well prepared and in addition to a series of meetings with local nature based tourism businesses we enjoyed the company of birder Ellen Magnúsdóttir who had made a very helpfull site survey. We had best possible conditions to explore the northwest region from our nature architecture viewpoint.

We had our basecamp at the Hotel Tindastóll in Saudárkrókur. It is one of the oldest hotels in Iceland and was opened in 1884. A very charming place, complete with its own little hot bath. Perfect after a long day of exploring the land. A big thanks to Selma and Tómas for their generous hospitality during our visit! 

Now we begin the work of processing a few thousand site photos and to develop and fine tune architectural concepts for the various sites we visited in Northwest Iceland. Meanwhile we hope you enjoy some of the photos from our recent trip.


Heitur pottur birding, in Grettislaug, 25 minutes north of Saudárkrókur. The wind was chilly, the outdoor hot bath was perfectly heated and Red-necked Phalaropes swam around in nearby ponds.  



Hvitserkur. Visiting Iceland is very much a landscape experience too. 



Taking aerial panoramas is a great way of researching sites. 


The Northwest Iceland birding trail map. We have previously visited and researched the northeast. Completing north Iceland as a nature and birding destination is in good progress.



Puffin at Drangey bird cliff. A huge highlight of our visit. 



This amazing bird cliff is home to 300 000 Puffins and all the other expected seabird species (including Brünnich´s Guillemot). 



It´s a stunning bird cliff, only 20 minutes boat trip away from Grettislaug. A visit to the northeast would not be complete without visiting this beautiful place. You land in the middle of the bird colony and Viggo and Helgi who do the Drangey Tours have a long hostory at this island. Thanks Drangey Tours for great guiding and stories of both nature and culture from Drangey! And yes, we saw Gyrfalcon hunting at the cliff too. It´s regular. Awesome.


At Hvammstangi in the westernmost part of the northwest, we visited the Icelandic Seal Center and did a tour to see the seals. Great, close views! We had 3 Humpback Whales too, as a bonus. Much niceness! Thanks 



The culture of keeping eiders for harvesting eider down is widespread and have a long history in Iceland. We visited Illugastaðir where the local farm owners cares for 2300 nests of wild eiders. In return for making eider houses and protecting the eiders from disturbance they harvest the eider down. 



Common Snipe are very common. The soundscape of Iceland rings of "drumming" snipe everywhere!


One of our favourite birds are the very stylish Red-necked Pahalaropes. Another common species in Iceland. 


Icelandic earth houses. Architecture-wise Iceland has it´s unique history too. We aim to be a part of developing new architecture concepts suited to the Icelandic landscape. 

Stay tuned for more stories from the land of fire and ice and very cool birding!
Want to see more from Iceland? Check out the blog posts from our previus visits:

BIRDING ICELAND - Harlequin Ducks & more niceness along the Northeast Iceland birding trail

Birding Iceland in summer - destination development in progress


Tormod A / Biotope