Landsvirkjun monitors birdlife in all the affected areas of its power stations. Monitoring includes observing and counting of certain bird species, bird pairs, young, eggs and nests. The objective is to assess if and how Landsvirkjun’s operations affect bird numbers and their distribution.
Duck species populations in the affected areas of the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station
Water was channelled from Jökulsá á Dal into Lagarfljót when the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station began operations in 2007. The environmental impact assessment and experts at the East Iceland Natural History Institute in the eastern part of Iceland advised Landsvirkjun to focus initially on monitoring the Long-tailed duck species in Lagarfljót. Data collected by the East Iceland Natural History Institute (since 1989) on other bird species proved useful in explaining the variances in the Long-tailed duck population. Landsvirkjun extended monitoring to other duck species in the area to gain more insight into the development of birdlife in the area.
The affected area of the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station
The main research results from 2012 and 2013 were as follows:
- The Long-tailed duck population decreased in Lagarfljót between 2005 and 2012 but increased in 2013.
- Numbers recorded in Lagarfljót in the last few years indicate that similar trends can be seen in the Tufted duck and the Mallard. However, the variance between years and species is extensive. Variances with regard to the Long-tailed duck in Lagarfljót could be connected to an increase in turbidity and changing conditions for food sourcing by the ocean and heathland lakes. Monitoring stations were therefore increased in the Fljótsdalsheiði area in 2011.
Fluctuations in the number of birds have been evident in Lagarfljót. The decrease between years (2005 and 2012) seems to be unusually prolonged. Increased turbidity in Lagarfljót is believed to diminish feeding conditions in the river. Ongoing monitoring on birdlife in the area is therefore important.
The Long-tailed duck in Lagarfljót
Developments in the Long-tailed duck population in Lagarfljót between 2005 and 2013. Numbers are recorded four to six times during the summer period.
The Long-tailed duck, the Tufted duck and the Mallard in Lagarfljót
Changes to the largest population of Long-tailed duck and Tufted duck in the spring period and to the Mallard during the winter period in Lagarfljót.
Great skua monitoring in the affected areas of the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station
Landsvirkjun has monitored the possible effects of water transport from Jökulsá á Dal to Lagarfljót on the density of Great skua nests in the area. The main nesting area for the bird species in the eastern part of Iceland is in Úthérað. Monitoring on the Great skua was conducted in 2012 and 2013 and the main results were as follows:
- 520 Great skua were seen in the area in 2013 which is a similar number to that recorded in 2000. However, there have been fluctuations in numbers in the past; the lowest number recorded in 2011 when 236 birds were seen in the area.
- Islands and river banks in the Jökulsá á Dal river channel are the most important nesting areas for the Great skua. Approx. 86% of the birds nested in this area (which is more than numbers recorded in the downturn in numbers in 2011).
- There was a decrease in other nesting areas but the overall density of birds was more in 2013 than in 2011. These developments indicate that the birds have migrated within the area.
- Developments in the area do not seem to have negatively affected the overall density of the Great skua.
Great Skua population in Úthérað
Total number of Great skua in the Úthérað area between 2000 and 2013. Counts were not conducted 2001-2004 or 2010-2012.
Great skua population in the Jökulsár á Dal River channel
Great skua population in the Jökulsár á Dal River channel 2000 – 2013. Counts were not conducted 2001-2004, 2010 and 2012.
Monitoring on the Pink-footed goose
Landsvirkjun monitors the affected area of the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station to assess if and how operations affect the Pink-footed goose population. Bird numbers are recorded, as well as the number of eggs and nests. The Pink-footed goose population has increased rapidly in the last decade.
Monitoring on the Pink-footed goose was conducted in 2012 and 2013 and the results were as follows:
- There is an ongoing increase in the Pink-footed goose population in the area and in the entire country.
- Breeding in the Pink-footed goose population, in the Vesturöræfi wilderness, in 2013 was successful. The density of nests was low in the Hálsinn area to the east of Hálslón but increased significantly in 2013. The low density of nests could be connected to the close proximity of the nesting area to the Hálslón road. The road disturbs nesting birds and eggs are left unprotected.
- Nesting areas in the Vesturöræfi wilderness were diminished in 2011 as a result of weather conditions. The density of nests has otherwise increased consistently and increased in 2012, when compared with previous years.
- Aerial monitoring on numbers of Pink-footed goose in the area under Fell (undir Fellum), in the Vesturöræfi wilderness and Brúaröræfi wilderness between 2011 and 2013 showed a somewhat variable rate of percentages of young chicks. These variables can be traced to the period when counting took place. Most Pink-footed goose pairs hatched 2-3 chicks which is consistent with previous monitoring results in the affected area.
The count area, according to the Centre of Natural History (in the eastern part of Iceland)
Pink-footed goose population in Vesturöræfi, Hafrahvammar and Hrafnkelsdalur
Hafrakvammar, Hrafnkelsdalur and the surrounding valleys were researched between 1981 and 2010 but data from Vesturöræfi is from 1981-2013.
Flying with the Pink-footed goose
Two Pink-footed geese were caught in the summer of 2013 in the vicinity of Hálslón and small electric tags were attached to them. The location devices are powered by solar batteries and researchers can check their location at any given time.
The geese were given the names Hörður and Úlfar and they left their nests in the nesting area by Hálslón during a sleet storm during the autumn, beginning their long flight to the British Isles. The geese have been monitored since then and they returned to Iceland in April, after spending the winter in England and Scotland.
The objective of the research is to assess the migration patterns of the Pink-footed goose. The project is funded by Landsvirkjun, Scottish National Heritage, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), the Centre of Natural History in the eastern part of Iceland, the Vatnajökull National Park and Toyota in Iceland. More information on Hörður and Úlfar’s travels can be accessed at: telemetry.wikispaces.com/pinkfeet.