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Monitoring Projects

The Research Centre works in monitoring bird populations, either independently or in collaboration with partners. These projects are all based on annual counts which provide index numbers for the species in question.

Eider ducklings since 2007

Since 2007, eider ducklings have been counted twice over the summer at counting sites off Flatey and from Brjánslækur west towards Reykhólar, as well as the islands around Stykkishólmur. There are always two counts, one at the end of June when the female eider ducks have just returned to the sea with their ducklings and then again at the end of July when the ducklings are at least one or two months old. Eider ducklings fledge when they are between two and two and a half months old.

The ratio of ducklings to adult female (the number of ducklings divided by the number of females) gives an index for the total nesting success of the eider ducks at the counting sites.

Common shelduck

The common shelduck has regularly nested in Iceland since 1992. One of the largest nesting sites is the mudflat at Andakílsós in Borgarfjörður, where several hundreds of the birds can be seen in late summer, pairs with ducklings as well as groups of adult birds who have not nested that year. 

In July each year, 15-20 pairs have been spotted with a total of 50-70 ducklings. In August the numbers of common shelduck have often risen to 400-500, with ducklings making up 40-47% of the birds counted.

There is one count in late summer to calculate the ratio of ducklings to adults. Broods of ducklings are large; there may be 1-2 per pair or 11-16 in one clutch.

Whooper swans

Álftafjörður (Whooper Swan Fjord) on the north side of Snæfellsnes peninsula gets its name from the large numbers of whooper swans living there in the summer. Large stretches of eelgrass can be found in Álftafjörður, which serve as food for whooper swans and brent geese which travel around Breiðafjörður in the spring and autumn.

In milder winters, there are many examples of whooper swans staying all winter in Álftafjörður or nearby Vigrafjörður or Nesvogur near Stykkishólmur. In 2007, regular counts of the number of whooper swans began in these three places. Counts took place twice a month over the summer and once a month over the winter 2007-2014. They have occasionally been repeated, generally around the start of the new year and in late summer.

Monitoring of cliff nesting birds in Iceland

Cliff nesting birds in Iceland are monitored at many sites across the country by nature research centres. The project began in its current form in 2016, managed by the Northeast Iceland Nature Research Centre and funded by the Icelandic hunter’s licence fund.  

The West Iceland Nature Research Center and the Snæfellsnes Research Centre work together on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to monitor cliff nesting birds at Hvítabjarnarey, Vallnabjarg, Svörtuloft (Hvalrauf and Skálasnagi), Þúfubjarg and Arnarstapi. A count is conducted at these sites twice a year, with the number of nests counted at the end of June and nesting success evaluated at the end of July. A counting method established by Arnþór Garðarsson 2006-2009 is used, except at Hvítabjarnarey where transects were established independently in 2007. 

Waterfowl since 2011

The Snæfellsnes Research Centre and the West Iceland Nature Research Centre collaborate to monitor waterfowl on Snæfellsnes peninsula. The inspiration for this project came in 2011, when there was a project developing bird observation sites on Snæfellsnes peninsula, which were built in part on older counting stations from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History on the south side of Snæfellsnes (Staðarsveit and vicinity) as well as lakes on Þórsnes on the north side. The first ten years of data were presented at the Icelandic Biology Conference in 2019.