Winter Bird Count Complete
The most recent annual winter bird count was completed in January. Bird count during winter have been conducted in Iceland since 1952, and are therefore among the oldest continuous monitoring programs in Iceland. Náttúrufræðistofnun, the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, oversees the project in cooperation with the nature research centres around the country, but the counting is mostly done by volunteer bird enthusiasts.
The Icelandic Institute of Natural History gathers the results from all around the country and publishes them on this website: https://www.ni.is/greinar/vetrarfuglatalningar-nidurstodur The volunteers that counted in the Westfjords this year were Hilmar Pálsson, Guðbjörg Skarphéðinsdóttir, Matthías Sævar Lýðsson, and Hafdís Sturlaugsdóttir. We want to thank them for their important work. Around 20 thousand birds were counted in the Westfjords this year. The highest number of birds were found in Skutulsfjörður and Dýrafjörður, where 2000 birds were seen in each fjord. As in previous years, the common eider was by far the most common species, with 9000 sightings.
The second most common species was the snow bunting, with about 2000 sightings. Most sightings were of species that are commonly found in the Westfjords during winter. Among our surprising sightings this winter was a ring-billed gull, a vagrant from North America, in the Suðureyri harbor (picture 2).
This was the first ever recorded sighting of this species in the Westfjords! Two turnstones were seen near Hvammur in Dýrafjörður. Ruddy turnstones stop in Iceland during autumn and spring on their migrations, with a few hundred wintering in southwest Iceland, but they are uncommon in the Westfjords.
Two greylag geese were seen in Suðureyri and one in Súðavík. Two king eiders were seen in Hvítanes and one in Dýrafjörður. 39 common blackbirds and 119 starlings were also seen, but sightings of these two species in the Westfjords have increased in recent years.
Annual countings are useful for estimating size and distribution of specific population. Below we have gathered data from countings in Westfjords over 12 year period for two species as an example, the long-tailed duck and the common rave.
According to the winter countings the long-tailed duck is generally most common in Súgandafjörður. Between 2015-2016 the population declined and has been steady since then.
The number of common raven is generally highest in Skutulsfjörður and Bolungarvík. The population seems to be rather steady, there are no signs of a continuous decline or increase.