Eric Dinerstein William C. Young
Iceland, 20-25 August 2016
Day 1: Sunday, 21 August, part 3/5
Reykjanes Peninsula: Through Hafnír to Reykjavík
We left the lighthouse after spending an hour there, and not far away the car flushed a flock of 19 Rock Ptarmigan that had been right next to the road - an exciting moment of the trip for a couple of birders hoping to see them, and, as it turned out, our only sighting of these birds. Their camouflage was so excellent that I suspect we may have passed plenty in our travels without seeing them. Even watching these fly, they were difficult to pick out once they landed, scattered in the rocks with their own mottled brown patterning. We stopped right in the road to watch and photograph them, as there was nowhere to pull over. It speaks to the lack of traffic that we were able to stay there long enough to get our fill before a car finally appeared in the rearview mirror, forcing us onward.
— eBird checklist (with map location)
We proceeded down the western side of the peninsula, looking unsuccessfully for places to stop. Somewhere along the west coast we saw these horses and I had to stop in the road to take pictures.
We made it to Hafnír before giving up and cutting back east across the peninsula. As a birder, I'm used to being able to just pull off the road near a coastline or field to look from the shoulder of the road, but that often wasn't possible here. The road has no shoulders, and there aren't many places to pull off without feeling like we might be trespassing on someone's private drive. The experience was the same throughout the trip. There were even a few times when I headed specifically for an eBird hotspot marked on the map, but when I got there, there was no shoulder, no turnoff, no parking lot, no nothing. I don't know how people get to those places other than parking lord-knows-where and walking, or biking.
We stopped north of Keflavík Harbor on a small point next to an old abandoned-looking building in an industrial area from 1:45 - 2:20, simply because after driving for a while with nowhere to stop, the sight of grassy gravel off the road, overlooking the water, was an invitation. From here we watched Common Eiders, gulls, wheatears, starlings, and wagtails. A couple black-and-white oystercatchers flashed by together in flight.
— eBird checklist
This concluded our circuit of the peninsula. We'd have liked to explore further, but had a timeline and a reservation up north, so forced ourselves on. While passing through town, we decided to go ahead and hit the city lake we'd read about now rather than leaving it for the return trip, so set the GPS for Tjörnin and headed in. This was really the only exposure we got to the internals of Reykjavík, and I did get to see Hallgrímskirkja, the church I've seen photos of, in the distance as I drove. It's a cute city, with more character than many American cities. I like all the colors of the buildings, and there are lots of colorful roofs on houses. We passed large holding tanks outside of town that were painted in yellow, brick red, and brown. I wonder if, with so much mist, fog, and clouds, they feel the need to bring color in via their buildings.▲