©Wolfgang Kaehler

Iceland 2017 Photo Tour, Day 5 & 6

By Michelle Alten

Unnamed waterfall near Djupivogur

Day 5 – This morning we leave behind the quiet village of Djupivogur where red, blue and yellow fishing boats bob in the harbor.  We head in our little yellow bus along a gravel road through the highlands, passing more waterfalls that rush down the mountainsides.  Even on this remote stretch, sheep huddle on steep slopes.  The rain is driving down and the fog has settled in–I wonder how Helge even sees his way along the winding mountain pass.  But he does.  We arrive at Bakkagerdi, a tiny hamlet on the Northeastern shore.  Eider ducks bob in the raucous surf across from our inn, unconcerned with the rain.  There is no choice but to wait until the weather clears, so we can go photograph the puffins.  At Alfheimer, or the Elf Home, we gather in the dining room for a meal of salt cod topped with a dash of a Mediterranean tomato sauce, accented with a few olives, and served on a bed of barley—delicious.  Better yet, a chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream tastes like a day in Vienna.

Black-legged kittiwakes


Northern fulmars pair bonding


The rain is subsiding and the fog lifting, so we prepare to go find the puffins.  Arriving at the Borgarfjordur eystri, we pull up to a bluff where a puffin peers out at us from its grassy perch then pokes into its burrow.  We walk up a stairway, fighting the ripping wind, and find a colony of puffins nesting on the hillside. They come and go, returning from sea with beaks dripping with silvery sand eel.  On the other side of the rocky promontory, Kittiwakes sit on their chimney-like nests, sheltering their chicks from the punishing gusts.  In the sea below, eider ducks fight nasty waves then fumble onto the rocks, dripping with seaweed.  With the weather still a challenge, we will come back in the morning to spend more time with the birds.

Day 5 Birds – Red-throated loons, parasitic jaegers, eider ducks, black-legged kittiwakes, puffins,  Northern fulmar.

Day 6 – After an early breakfast, we return to the birding spot above Borgarfjord Bay.  This morning the rain has stopped, the wind has died down, and the kittiwakes are no longer huddling over their chicks.  On a nearby nest, two fuzzy silvery grey youngsters with ebony eyes reach toward their parent who gently caresses them with its beak.  This moment of tenderness is a treat to observe.   A fulmar returns from the sea to join its partner on the nest.  Quickly it passes food to its mate.  The two elegant white seabirds chatter –reconnecting after some time apart—then huddle close together.  The puffins of course are irresistible—their beaks with bands of color give them the appearance of a guest at a masquerade.  A red-throated loon, followed by two chicks, paddles in a pond near the road.

Red-throated loon


At lunch we arrive at Fiallakaffi—Mountain Cafe. Tucked in a wooden house roofed with thick layers of sod, the restaurant serves up Arctic char.   On the way out, we step over a groggy goat who has decided to have a siesta in the doorway.Driving to Dettifoss waterfall, we pass families of pink footed geese, with up to six goslings scampering behind their parents.

Turf houses of Hjardarhagi




At Namafjall we walk amidst gurgling mud pots and hissing fumeroles


We continue on to see more of Iceland’s physical beauty.  Our main stop for today is Dettifoss, a giant waterfall that reminds me of childhood visits to Niagara Falls.  The volume of water here seems to dwarf the many other cascades we have seen.  At Namafjall we walk amidst gurgling mud pots and hissing fumeroles revealing the energy percolating beneath the surface of this volcanic region.   Finally we arrive at our inn at Lake Myvatn.  The sun has chased away any remaining clouds and is now bathing the grasslands in a golden glow.

Day 6 Birds – Fulmars, puffins, kittiwakes, great skua, greylag geese, red-throated loons, eider ducks, black-headed gull, pink footed goose, black murre, Whooper swans,

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