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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Iceland Day 4 and Day 5


Church next to our Hotel at dawn

        Our fourth day started by walking around the hotel area. We were directly across from a harbor which today was smooth as glass. There were a few Glaucous Gulls flying around and I spotted a Common Murre inside the harbor area.


Common Murre in Harbor


We found this heart near the hotel

          Today we headed back to Thingvellir National Park for some snorkeling in the Silfra fissure. Chris and Max were heading into the 34 degree waters in a lake that supposedly has the clearest water in the world. In the Florida keys you have an underwater viewing distance of about forty or fifty feet. In this lake the view is an astounding 300 feet.


Almost Ready


All set to go

     While snorkeling they were between the tectonic plates and able to touch both continents, Europe and North America at the same time underwater. 


Max touching the continents

Chris doing the same

         After a successful snorkeling tour we headed into the capital city of Reykjavik.  Our first stop was the celebrated Hallsgrimskirkja. This is a Lutheran church in Reykjavík. At 244 ft tall, it is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in the country. It is known for its distinctively curved spire and side wings and was completed in 1986. The first time we tried to enter the church we were denied access because there was a funeral in progress so we had to return later.



        Once inside we paid to go to the top of the tower where we could view the entire city of Reykjavik. 

View of inside the church

Bell Tower

View from tower of Rainbow Road

Reykjavik from church tower

Rainbow road from street level

          Before getting to Iceland we had this crazy idea of learning a few words in Icelandic. Well as you can see from the street names above this was a lot more difficult than we had planned.

         Setting out to our next stop was just a short ride to the ocean. We stopped to see the Sun Voyager which was a stainless steel sculpture of a Viking boat and then drove past the Reykjavik Concert Hall, Harpa, which was a nice modern building with honeycomb windows.


Max at the Sculpture of a Viking boat named the Sun Voyager

Harpa Concert Hall

            The following stop was the one I was waiting for in the city. We went to Tjornin Lake located near city hall and several museums. But my interest was on the lake itself. Waterfowl! I wanted to get some close-up photos of the swans and other ducks. So we took a walk around the lake and I started snapping pictures.

Eurasian Wigeon

Whooper Swan

Glaucous x Herring Gull

Black-headed Gull

President of Iceland's Office

Graylag Goose

Tufted Duck

Interesting Sculpture

Distant photo of Common Gull - lower center bird with yellowish legs

         After this we headed back to the hotel for dinner and after dark we went to the Blue Lagoon, a popular spa destination featuring an outdoor lagoon with mineral-rich waters in a lava field. What's so special about the Blue Lagoon in Iceland? It's most famous for its steamy mineral-rich water and soft white silica mud, both of which have healing effects on the skin. Locals and visitors have long enjoyed the benefits of bathing in the Blue Lagoon and spreading silica mud on their skin, and scientists have even studied its curative powers.
The Blue Lagoon is a bit of a tourist trap and will make a hole in your budget but I really enjoyed it.


Blue Lagoon Spa

         The water is warm but not hot like a hot tub. You must shower before you enter the water and then you can enter by going outside in the cold air or by a tunnel that leads directly into the warm water. I was the only one stupid enough to take the freezing cold outside route but the spa quickly brought me back to consciousness. With the paid admission you get a drink while in the spa and a silica facial mask. The water was so nice we stayed in for about 2 1/2 hours looking for the northern lights again and enjoying the warmth. Sharon and Chris closed the placed down.

Enjoying the spa

Silica face mask

Party Time - camera kept fogging over

        Our last day we headed back to the Keflavik peninsula, which is where the airport was located and we stopped at the Kvika foot bath. It was a natural pool but the water was so hot I couldn't stick my foot in, so I went birding along the shoreline.


Great Cormorant

Black Guillemot

        Down at the lighthouse I was able to get a couple more life birds. There was a large flock of Eurasian Golden Plovers and a Common Redshank. The other life bird I found was a European Shag (Cormorant) which I was unsuccessful at getting a photograph.

Eurasian Golden Plover

Common Redshank

Ruddy Turnstone

Any guesses?

Common Redshank again

Grotta Island Lighthouse at end of Keflavik Peninsula

         Out flight home left at 4:30PM and we got to Denver at 6:30PM. The time zones were very helpful and in our favor. The actual flight took about 7 1/2 hours.

        The mystery bird above is a Purple Sandpiper. 

        It was a short but wonderful trip. Would I go back again. Yes indeed, but I have other places to go first. So, maybe someday.


Hermit Warbler makes an appearance in Delaware County

Brian Quindlen's Photo of Hermit Warbler

                On November 25, 2022  Eric Gulson and Teresa Pegan from Michigan were visiting family in Upper Chichester for Thanksgiving when they happened to look out the living room window and discovered a small bird flitting around the tree out front. Upon further investigation they would discover the bird to be a Hermit Warbler. This is a bird of the Pacific Coast and should be in Mexico at this time of year. 

            They posted the sighting on eBird and fortunately people saw the posting. I was just getting home from birding at the Commodore Barry bridge when Sara Busch calls and asked if I saw the alert. I told her no I hadn't because I had been driving and just sat down at the kitchen table. She asked if I knew the observers and could I contact them. I didn't know them but I was able to get their email address and ask if they were accepting visitors to their home. They quickly responded that they were allowing visitors and I got the message out. Within 15 minutes I was there and Rob Fergus had somehow managed to get there before I did.

            Within an hour's time I would guess there were about 20 birders roaming the neighborhood in search of the warbler. I stayed for about 2 1/2 hours and finally gave up after not seeing the bird. People were making plans already to come the next morning, me included, figuring the bird would stay put in the area. 

            Saturday morning I arrived back at their house at 7:15 am and Dave Wilton walked past me as I was sitting in the car. We started chatting and then a van pulled up with Shannon Thompson in it and she reported the bird was found at the Chichester Baptist Church (now an eBird hotspot "Stakeout Hermit Warbler, Cherry Tree Rd) around the corner and down the road a block or two. We headed over to the church parking lot and who was there looking at the bird but Jason Horn and Ross Gallardy with his newborn baby Roger. A little later Brian Quindlin showed up with his newborn son Adam. Birders these days seem to be starting out younger and younger.


Great frontal shot (Josh Graham)

Just part of the crowd ( Photo by Sara Busch)

Another crowd shot (photo by Chad Hutchinson)

             The bird was flitting around in a row of white pines but was exceedingly difficult to get a good look. John Zygmunt showed up and then the bird popped up in view and everyone got a glimpse of the bird except yours truly. Eventually, dozens of folks started showing up and the more eyes the better. I was finally able to get a satisfying look but couldn't get a good picture. When I left at 9am there were at least 30 birders there and I heard that the warbler wasn't seen again after 9:30.

            Needless to say, I was thrilled to get a new life bird for Delaware County and for Pennsylvania. Chad Kauffman asked me how many warblers I have seen in Pennsylvania counting this warbler. I never thought about this, so I counted them and came up with 40 species seen in PA. 

            I believe this is a first state record of Hermit Warbler. It was quite the challenge to get a decent view and also great to see the many birding friends that were made from past birding expeditions. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Iceland Day 3

A stark but beautiful countryside

        Our third day in Iceland commenced at the Skogafoss waterfalls. I'm probably being redundant with adding the word waterfalls since in Icelandic the "foss" on the end of the word means falls. Anyway, Skogafoss is one of Iceland's biggest and most beautiful waterfalls with an astounding width of 82 feet and a drop of 197 feet. Due to the amount of spray the cascade produces, at least one rainbow is present any time the sun emerges from behind the clouds.

Rainbow next to falls

Skogafoss with Chris and Max

         Journeying onward, we initiated our traveling inland and venturing to a higher elevation by climbing the mountains formed by volcanoes. We visited the Kerid Crater, which has a lake inside similar to Crater Lake in Oregon. The volcanic crater is approximately 3000 year old and you are encouraged to walk around the rim. 

Sharon just before she fell into the lake. Only kidding.

Walking the rim around the crater.

        A little ways farther up the hillside was the Strokkur Geysir (Geyser in English). It would regularly erupt approximately every five to ten minutes.

Strokkur Geysir

        Outside of the geothermal area we would see many flocks of Graylag Geese and another life bird for me, the Whooper Swans. If you miss either one of these birds you must have your eyes shut.

Whooper Swans and Graylag Geese

Icelandic Horses


        We rambled on to our next stop at Gullfoss. To me this was the ultimate waterfall resembling Niagara Falls. Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and part of the Golden Circle tour. I would consider the falls one of the most beautiful in Iceland. The water cascades down in two stages for a total drop of 105' and then enters a long crevass.

        Neighboring the Gullfoss was Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellir (or, in Icelandic, Þingvellir) is the only place in the world where you can stand between two continents, North America and Europe. You can see the deep fissures in the land that actually separate the continents. And of course there are waterfalls.

One portion of the long fissure separating the continents


        Although birds weren't very plentiful in Iceland, I only had 32 species, the Redwing was quite common. Large flocks were throughout this area because of all the berries on the trees. Although this might seem like a life bird it wasn't. I was fortunate enough to see the one that was found at Peace Valley Nature Center years ago. I believe that one was the first or second one found in the United States.


Redwing (Tardus illicus)


        Mixed in with the Redwing flock were Common Redpolls


Common Redpoll


        After leaving the national park we headed to Hafnarfjordur, near Reykjavik, and our stay at the Viking Hotel. We also enjoyed dinner at Fjorukrain, with a strolling Icelandic folk singer.

Our Hotel
Small cottages at hotel

Nothing like good old fashioned Pizza

Strolling Singer

         More to come tomorrow.