Tjörnes and Kelduhverfi

From Húsavík, the trail continues along road 85 north to Tjörnes peninsula. The first stop could be at the shore of Bakkakrókur (13) just north of Húsavík. Take the first left turn towards the sea after road 85 has almost reached the bottom of the first hill away from Húsavík and before it comes to a long stretch of flat land. Bakkakrókur is often teeming with waders like Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Red Knot and Ruddy Turnstone, particularly in spring (May through early June) and autumn. Tjörnes is known for its particularly dense population of Rock Ptarmigan, but unfortunately they can be hard to find after mid June due to their secretive behaviour. Look for Great Cormorant on the skerries in the northernmost inlet of Tjörnes called Breiðavík. A 15 minute hike to the outermost tip of Tjörnes called Voladalstorfa might result in close and good views of Puffins at a nesting colony. Look also for Black Guillemot beneath the cliffs as they are relatively common there. Another good stop at Tjörnes is where the road passes very close to the sea at the cliffs near Skeiðsöxl. Park in the parking lot and walk towards the cliffs. There is a large Puffin colony beneath the long stretch of cliffs.

Continuing from Tjörnes into Kelduhverfi, the first birding stop could be at the lagoon named Lón (14). Interesting birds, mostly waders and gulls, can often be found just east of the bridge crossing the river from the lagoon. Also look at the ducks and gulls near the farm also named Lón, as well as the flocks of birds surrounding the fish farm out on the lagoon, by taking a short detour west on the southern side of the lake. King Eider is sometimes found with the Common Eider and in winter Goosander, Barrow’s Goldeneye and the scarcer Common Goldeneye are often found near the farm. A mandatory stop for birdwatchers is the unique Víkingavatn (15), “the lake of the Vikings.” It is one of the richest wetlands found in Iceland, matched only by areas at lake Mývatn. A large proportion of the Icelandic population of Slavonian Grebe nests by the lake and in calm weather the lake simply seems full of ducks.

Scarcer ducks are often found among the numerous common ducks. Red-necked Phalarope is easy to find at Víkingavatn. Another rich wetland is at Skjálftavatn (16), a large lake formed by a series of earthquakes in January 1976. A good way to approach Skjálftavatn is to take the short road from road 85 towards a single little house by a sheep fence and then to walk a short distance towards the lake.

Yet another interesting place in Kelduhverfi is Ásbyrgi (17) in the Vatnajökull National Park. Ásbyrgi is a deep gorge formed by massive flooding of the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum after the last Ice Age. Park in the parking lot near the end of the gorge and then walk to a small pond by the cliffs and you should see Winter Wren and Common Redpoll. It is also a good site for vagrant passerines.