We had already had a theoretical normal half day in by the time we had finished breakfast, we'd been up 6 hours ! Mike wanted to check out the Phalaropes so having shown him which pond I'd found them on I left him to it.
I headed out towards an area of moorland that had apparently proved quite successful to him earlier on. As the day warmed up there appeared to be less birds simply sat around but I did manage to capture this calling Golden Plover, albeit with the sun at the wrong angle.
Mike had asked for an hour so in due course I wandered back to the lodge, seen here with our car a Renault something or other parked outside.
Initially the car was a bit alien to both of us in as much as it had a push button starting device instead of a key and the handbrake was a tiny electronic lever, and of course it was a left hand drive. There were certain driving techniques that were more difficult to undertake, or at least we never mastered the ability to do so. Turning the engine off and coasting to a stop or simply opening a window without starting the engine were both challenges I failed in. Most people wouldn't need to be able to do this anyway but for us, and our bird on a stick challenge, it was quite necessary!
Anyway, reunited with Mike we decided to head off to Lake Myvatn and see what we could find, both of us having agreed the lake had to be priority number one.
As I have previously mentioned the roads in Iceland are a joy to drive as there is very little traffic, however, as they are raised up from the surrounding countryside to allow snow to be pushed off the road in winter it can make off road parking spots difficult to find. It seems it's frowned on parking on the road even if it hardly presents an obstacle (provided the line of vision for other road users is clear) as the chances of meeting another car as you pull out to pass isn't that high. However, we did get locals honking their horns on the occasions we did so. The other thing we tried to avoid was following traffic behind us because if we saw a roadside bird we wanted to be able to stop. Slowing down and indicating right ( remember we are driving on the right!) didn't seem to pass the message to following traffic to overtake, instead they seem to slow down too. A following bus, being driven by a professional, didn't have a problem and shot past but the car behind just didn't get the idea and slowed down to a crawl giving us a hostile look when they finally decided to pass. Still, with them gone we could carry on our games!
Bird on a stick !
An Artic Tern to add to the collection. Mike and I both prefer to do our own thing and go our separate ways once we arrive at our given location but inevitably we do sometimes get to take the same shots.
On your own you are not treading on anyone's toes, spooking their bird,etc,etc but most importantly, not simply duplicating shots. I always look forward to seeing what Mike had found in his spots when we return home. It's like living the same holiday all over again but with an alternative plan.
Anyway, when we eventually found a river alongside the road and spotted a pair of Barrow's Goldeneye's swimming on it, we simply abandoned the car on the road and shot off together to take photos of the same birds. We thought we had dropped lucky finding a pair so easily but in fact they turned out to be quite numerous and there were better opportunities down the road where we could park up safely and split up.
and female of the pair.
This little side tributary for the main river was an ideal spot for getting close ups of the birds but they weren't doing a lot! They had obviously paired off and they would both gaze upwards if any other of the same species flew overhead. He looking to defend his mate, she perhaps thinking of a change of partner!
On the main river there was much more activity. A single female was the centre of attention but it was her who seems to be defending her male partner, but there again, I might be wrong and it's actiually a juvenile not a female as they are very similar.
One thing was certain, there wasn't a shortage of the species!
My only problem was trying to get the exposure right in bright sunlight. It's near impossible to see the screen on the back of the camera so the best plan is to check the histogram but that can be misleading too. Mike takes the very sensible option of returning to a shaded space like the car and checking out the results before deciding to continue. He spent a lot of time "chimping" as it's known and it's probably the reason he gets better shots than I do on the whole!
I was aware of the possibility of burn out on the whites though so changing settings when you get the time and opportunity, as well as looking for the shot where a bit more breast is covered all help!
Having tried for some action shots
both in the air and on water
it was time to push on a bit. A short distance along the road we came across a bridge crossing the river and this!
Oh dear ! Fortunately nobody had been injured but it could have been a totally different story. As you can see the coach is well and truly beached, it's back wheels were suspended in mid air as it has slid off the road and ended up with the middle of the vehicle resting on the embankment. What caused the vehicle to end up like this we will never know but it was instantly recognisable as the coach that had passed us earlier and who's driver I had seen as professional compared to the following car.
Talking of accidents though, we had stumbled across the well known spot to find both Barrow's Goldeneye and Harlequin Ducks. Despite the fact there was a coach load of people wandering around the birds seemed undisturbed by their presence.
Harlequins love fast moving water but this pair were located in a side eddy and offered cracking views.
and the female.
Once again, with the bird on the water shot in the bag it was time to look for something a bit more interesting,
I spotted this one in the middle of the river emerging from the rapids.
With amazing strength or technique is manages to launch itself out of the river and in to flight.
I think it possibly gets pushed to the surface where it simply runs over the water to take off.
On another little quiet corner just off the fast flowing mainstream I discovered a pair of Long-tailed Ducks showing brilliantly.
The trouble was they were too close for my 600mm lens ! I went back to the car to try my newly acquired 100-400mm zoom and having re-located Mike there too, he came back with me anxious to get some shots of the species he'd missed on the golden pond earlier in the morning.
To be honest the 100-400 felt a bit odd mounted on a lightweight 5D when I'm more used to using both a heavyweight lens and camera body but the advantage of a zoom lens is obvious.
A whole duck! Well, the long tail hanging a bit flat until it dived.
We had filled our cards with images of the three duck species we most wanted to capture so we decided to move on to see what else was about. It was all a bit too easy really, we thought we would have had to have a lot more patience but that wasn't the case. We were well on our way to completing our goals and it wasn't even lunch time yet.
What would the afternoon hold ?