You know those arctic terns that dive at your head and make you run, run, run? Sweet things, really. Very aggressive, though.
Don’t see it? That’s why you have to watch your step! Here you go:
And that’s why they dive at your head!
Yesterday I showed an image of a couple of puffin philosophers in Borgarfjörður Eystri. Now a glimpse of some of their concerns. Because puffins erode their hillsides (and have to move on), the community has laid down netting to prevent them from digging just a wee bit too much. The result is a near perfect mathematical placement, likely related to the reach of a human’s arms.
A puffin could complain, but the alternative is to be gobbled up by invasive minks, also brought by humans. The project is financed by people donating to this benevolent intervention. Not that that will stop the puffins from deliberating over it for years, of course.
The nasty piece of work called the skua comes to the Eiðars skirting the rip rap on the Jökulsá.
At first, they get out of the way.
The Skua keeps at it. When I witnessed this scene two weeks ago, I’d already been harassed by a skua myself, on the selfljót. It wanted my grey hat. Or me. I don’t know which. Yikes.
It’s the ducklings it really wants, though.
The eiðar defense entails a lot of splashing.
And then the eiðars attack the skua.
And jump on the murderous intruder’s wings.
And try to drown that sucker.
It kicks across the water…
… with a duckling (flapping its little wings) for a catch.
And that’s why eiðars have so many ducklings.
Out in the nature reserve in Neskaupstaðir (just go right to the end of town), the beach below the trail is gorgeous.
Surfing. Scrabbling in the backwash for good things to eat.
In a good wave, the ducklings get tossed a metre into the air, tumbled head to heels, then dragged a metre under water again, only to pop back out.
This is beautiful to watch. For the ducklings, it’s survival. When a skua comes to take one, the whole flock of ducks imitates this scramble. It’s life or death.
I’ll show you that scramble tomorrow.
And then they burst up in front of you, from like 20 cm away, and are gone. The trick to disappearing is to remain absolutely still. It didn’t quite work for the one above, which tried to sneak between the cover of two rocks and wound up freezing on the shore grass beside the trail. The one below got it right, though. Safe among the lava lumps.
It’s the joyful hoped-for unexpectedness of the encounters that is so alluring. Like most things in Iceland, “you just never know.”