The first sheep were brought to Iceland by the settlers way back around the year 800 and as a breed it is unique. Its purity has been protected for centuries in the isolation of the island way out in the North Atlantic Ocean.
The Icelandic sheep are short-tailed and quite different from sheep in other countries, at least the ones we have visited. The Icelandic word for the tail is “dindill”, – such a funny word.
The Icelandic sheep are used to a harsh climate. They graze in the mountains in the summer time and are very efficient herbivores.
The wool that the sheep produce has no counterpart anywhere in the world. The fleece is dual-coated. The long outer coat is called “tog” and the fine inner coat “þel”. The outer and inner coats are separated and used for different woolen garments. The Icelandic lopapeysa is essential for camping in the summer time when nights are bright and no one wants to go to sleep.
Minks were first imported to Iceland in the autumn of 1931. The first two mink farms were in Grímsnes and in Selfoss, South Iceland. Early on some escaped from their cages and took up permanent residence in the Icelandic nature. Now they can be found all over the country.
The first minks were imported from Norway but were of North American origin. The mink is usually dark brown with white patches on the lower part of the jaw and neck.
Later minks of different colour variations were imported; black, grey and white. These are the ones that are now bred in Iceland but they are not as tough and rarely survive in the Icelandic nature like the ones first imported.
After a collapse in the biota, Kolgrafafjörður is again teeming with life. The silver darlings have returned to the fjord. Kolgrafafjörður is a shallow fjord on the northern side of Snæfellsnes. It is known for being a good food source for birds and sea mammals. In 2004 a road was constructed and a bridge built on the outer side of the fjord resulting in less renewal of seawater inside the fjord.
Once in a while huge amounts of herring used to come into the fjord during the winter months and the bridge did not change that. A lot of birds and small sea mammals followed the herring. This created a sensational spectacle by the bridge when the tide went in and out as Gulls, Northern Gannets and Great Cormorants fought to catch the herring. Harbour Seals, Grey Seals and Killer Whales were also a common sight by the bridge.
In 2011 – 2014 huge amounts of herring gathered in the fjord inside the bridge. In the winter of 2012 – 13 the herring died probably from lack of oxigen. It is estimated that around 50,000 tons of herring died this winter. This resulted in the collapse of the biota. Now the herring is back and Kolgrafafjörður is again full of life, – an attraction for bird watchers and nature lovers.
Two kinds of seals can be found around Iceland, the Harbour Seal and the Grey Seal. This is the Grey Seal. It is not as common as the Harbour Seal and also much bigger and not as cute. We came across this one by the bridge in Kolgrafarfjörður Fjord in Snæfellsnes, Iceland, March 2013.
We saw the first Bumblebee in the garden yesterday, April 19. The first ones are usually spotted in April but they do not become noticable until May when the nights become warmer or frost-free.
The photo is an old one.
In 2013 we took a trip to the South East of the country. One of the most interesting places there is Jökulsárlón, Glacier Lagoon. When we got there we spotted a small group of people near the shore. They had gathered around a Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus). We were so surprised, we had never seen a Walrus before.
This huge animal just lay there enjoying the rest, flipping over every once in a while. Some tourist asked us if it was common to see a Walrus in Iceland and we could tell them that this was a first for us.
Walruses are very seldom seen in Iceland but this animal, a male, is probably accountable for several sightings in 2013.
Today when it’s only 8 days to Christmas we bring you this little wood mouse that we have seen several times this year. The beautiful little thing has some different colour variations than the ordinary ones. – Here it is in the snow in the food set out for the birds at the family summerhouse, and the birds are glad to share 🙂