This fledgling thrush last summer was, like all thrushes, social and curious. I had one at Skriðuklaustur that perched on the window daily: a small house god, eating insects that came to the glass and knock knock knock knocking on the pane. It’s best to consider thrushes, like trees, as magical creatures from the world of the Huldúfolk, visiting his with messages. Their bodies are doorways. In this case, the bird was caught between fear, and defensive freezing, and curiosity.
Intriguingly, its mother was nearby, keeping an eye out. Like its relative, the American Robin, these little guys get to spend some time alone with the world. I had a robin nest in my apricot tree here in Canada for about five years. Every year, when her hatchlings got too big for the nest and fell out, she would leave them for an entire day and night, and only if they survived that would she return to feed them.
I hiked once out to the Easter Cave in Neskaupstaðir, with a thrush leading the way along the path. Thrushes make good guides. The Earth is strong in them. When you meet one, pay attention. They come with a message.
Trolls, whose eggs are green (just look!) do it like this:
Gulls, whose eggs are also green, by gosh, do it like this:
This greening of the land is a thing to be admired. I’m all for more of it.
A New, Partially-Formed Iceland Egg Greening Up Nicely in the East Fjords
Look, when the weather’s good, make the most of it, I say.
You know those arctic terns that dive at your head and make you run, run, run? Sweet things, really. Very aggressive, though.
Well, watch where you step. Here’s their nest.
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.
Sure, a ptarmigan on the Selá, Christmas dinner, easy to identify.
And an elf bird in its nest in the hraun, not Christmas dinner, easy enough.
But a cairn in the Villingadalur, that looks like an elvish bird, tricky.
Yet, it’s by it that you find your way through elf country to Christmas dinner.
If you’re feeling alone, you’re not. As long as there’s a bit of a scrap of a birch shrub within a few hundred metres, a thrush will be watching you.
It will even sing you the news.
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.
But the skua gets out of the pile.
It kicks across the water…
…and is off..
… 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.
And alive with Eiðar ducks and their ducklings.
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.
On the Lower Stapavik Trail, the ptarmigan like to hang out right on the trail edge, right on the edge of the river, among the logs, where the sun gets warm and life is good.
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.”