Iceland is a place of great physical beauty, with a tumultuous history to match its sublime geography--the violent, elegant sagas of the Vikings seem of a piece with the abundance of active volcanoes, great glaciers, and shining fjords. The island brims with bird life. The fluting songs of Icelandic Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) (mix with the mournful notes of European Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) to provide unforgettable accompaniment to a landscape that was the last home of the Great Auk, a landscape that seems to have been built by giants.
Towering seabird cliffs, as at Látrabjarg, the westernmost point of the island, are breathtaking in scope and hold hundreds of thousands of alcids : Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), Common Guillemot (Uria aalge) and Thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia), Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle), and Razorbill (Alca torda) hold court on the cliffs next to fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), with Great Skuas (Stercorarius skua) and Parasitic Jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus) patrolling above.
Great numbers of waterfowl, of some sixteen species, nest on and around the Myvatn, a lake unrivaled in Europe.
Seventy Northern nesting species can be watched in Summer, some mostly Palearctic in distribution, such as White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Redwing (Turdus iliacus), Common Redshank (Tringa totanus), European Golden Plover, Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus), while others reach the eastern limit of their Nearctic range here: Common Loon (Gavia arctica), Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), and Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus). To see these birds with newly hatched young is a peerless experience.
The national bird is the Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), known locally as falki or valur, and pale birds are relatively widespread in the North.
Iceland's endemics, several of which are being considered for status as separate species, include taxa of Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa islandica), Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammae islandica), Merlin (Falco columbarius islandica), and Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes islandica).
For those interested, birers can also visit famed waterfalls, churches, museums. Iceland is virtually pollution-free and has a friendly population, outstanding cuisine, and modern infrastructure.
André Boussard, with three others birders, have visited the island between the 11th of June and the 2nd of July 2003, and he sent to us a report of his trip.