Slavonian Grebes at Lake Mývatn

slavonian grebe with two chicks on water

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The campsite at Reykjahlíð slopes gently down to the shoreline of Lake Mývatn. There are geese and ducks floating in the late afternoon sunlight in the sheltered inlets of the wind exposed lake. However, tucked away in the reeds away from the main raft and general bustle of the lake are two Slavonian grebes (Podiceps auritus) and their striped youngsters (are they chicks or ducklings?!).

Lake Myvatn with a grey sky and red boats on the lake

The Slavonian Grebe is a small diving water bird which feeds on larvae, small fish and aquatic invertebrates.  In the breeding season it has distinctive golden horns of feathers and deep brown cheeks and lighter reddish head and neck.  In the U.K. it is only found on a few lochs in Scotland and is on the red list of conservation concern, but here is Iceland it is more common. 

Their shrill call echoes across the lake as they attempt to control their demanding offspring. The adults leave the young hidden in the reeds returning a short while later before diving for insect larvae and small fish. While it wasn’t the red-necked phalarope I had wanted they were still a superb treat!

Slavonian grebe and chick in green reeds
Slavonian grebe with chick

Slavonian grebe with two chicks asleep
slavonian grebe with chick

Photography Notes

These grebes were photographed in the early evening just as the harsh sunlight of the day was softening. The grebes were very cautious and time had to be spent sitting under a tree just watching them. As soon as anyone approached they would dart back into the reeds on the far shore.
These photographs were taken with a 400mm lens without a tripod. Multiple exposures were made in burst mode so that the best in a series could be captured. As they were moving with the waves and currents it was impossible o get every photograph perfect so handheld and burst mode was essential.

Getting to Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn is located in the far north of Iceland off Ring Road 1. The nearest town is Reykjahlíð which has a small supermarket and fuel as well as campsites and other accommodation. Ring Road 1 runs around the north shore of the lake while the smaller road 848 skirts around the southern shores. Near to or on the lake are the pseudo-craters at Skútustaðagígar, the huge volcano at Hverfjall, weird lava formations known as Dimmuborgir and the hot spring cave at Grjótagjá

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