Thursday, July 27, 2017

Iceland: Whales and Puffins

After our city walking tour, we were scheduled for a whale-watching tour in the afternoon, but the winds were intense, with 2 to 3-meter waves, so it was an easy decision to reschedule for the following morning, inspired, as it turned out because although we woke up to rain the sea was calm.

Our whale-watching boat. Reassuringly large.

A good supply of gear, enough for everyone.

See any whales?

Apparently, we saw harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and minke whales, even some minke whale calves but, as they were in the distance, I felt lucky to just see a few splashes. So no photos of whales. But here's a whale poster. I think you must have to be very experienced to tell from a distance what kind of whale you're looking at. 

We saw this model during our lunch break

and later saw one like it in the distance.

You can see the kind of rainy weather it was, but LOOK! at the CALM SEA!!

This multi-hued glass Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre is a major landmark in the old harbour. The southern facade was designed by Icelandic-Danish artist, Olafur Eliasson, who "deployed light, colour and natural phenomena to test how physical movement, sensual engagement, and the interaction of body and brain influence our perception of our surroundings". It was proudly built to very high eco-standards.

Whale-watching was fun but I think I enjoyed the afternoon puffin tour more since we could get a little closer to our subjects. We headed toward this island in a much smaller boat than the Andrea. Still grey and showery but blissfully CALM!!

This rocky shoreline was a warren of puffin burrows.

Puffins were in abundance. Cute little guys, flapping madly about and sitting in front of their nesting burrows, gazing over the hillside.

from Instagram
You probably are already aware that puffins spend most of the year at sea, only coming onto land for nesting, so we were in the right place at the right time. 

I used binoculars instead of the camera.

Fortunately, people like UK wildlife photographer, Jack Perks, who I've mentioned before on this blog, go into the water for us. 

Puffins are popular little birds in Iceland, probably because we tourists are so enamoured. There are puffin stuffies, photos, paintings, books, key chains and figurines. You name it. A puffin economy.

However, we were both shocked by the display window below: these are actual puffins which have been stuffed. We had a quick look just to check that it was really so, then just as quickly departed, not wanting to give this store any more of our attention or business. 

We were also disturbed to find that some restaurants have puffin and also whale on the menu (and in fact other strange-to-us items such as fermented shark and roasted sheep skull, although not on any of the menus we looked at) and we declined to dine there. 

Anyway, sharing the island with the puffins were eider ducks, fulmars and Arctic terns, all beautiful.

Arctic Tern

Eider Duck


I did manage to get one photo of a curious fulmar.

On the flight home, I watched a very interesting video about eider ducks. I couldn't find exactly the same one on YouTube but found another just as good. Eider ducks are fascinating birds.

Our stop-over took place May 30 to June 3, 2017

On the blog:

Whales and Puffins