Category Archives: Animals

Reindeers in Iceland

Hreindýr – Reindeer – Rangifer tarandus

Reindeers are not native to Iceland. They were brought here in the years 1771 to 1787, in four trips, from Finnmark, North Scandinavia.The reindeers have mostly been located in Northeast Iceland and have thrived well there. In the last few decades their distribution has been increasing to the east and southeast, all the way to Glacier Lagoon (Jökulsárlón).

In autumn hunting is permitted but there are very strict regulations concerning the permits and the number of animals killed. Not everyone is content with the hunting of these majestic mammals but  it plays a part in controlling their numbers in the fragile vegetation of the Icelandic Highlands.

The pictures are of a female reindeer and probably a young stag.

Icelandic Sheep

Kind – Ovis aries – Icelandic Sheep

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.

Anna Rut in an Icelandic wool sweater “lopapeysa” – knitted by her grandmother.

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.

Fluffy white mink

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Minkur – Mink – Mustela vison

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.

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This white mink was spotted on the banks of Ölfusá River. It has probably escaped from a nearby mink farm not so long ago. It is highly unlikely that it will survive for long.

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.

Full of life again

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Killer Whales (Orca) under the Kolgrafafjörður bridge

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.

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Kolgrafafjörður

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.

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Kolgrafafjörður

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.

Grey Seal

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Útselur – Grey Seal – Halichoerus grypus

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.

Walrus in Jökulsárlón in 2013

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.

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Rostungur / romshvalur – Walrus – Odobenus rosmarus

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.

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Walruses are very seldom seen in Iceland but this animal, a male, is probably accountable for several sightings in 2013.

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Sunbathing Walrus and Kristín, a little nervous

Reykjavík Grapevine in English:
http://grapevine.is/news/2013/09/30/a-wealth-of-walruses/

Morgunblaðið in Icelandic, with a photo from ORNOSK/Örn Óskarsson:
http://www.mbl.is/frettir/innlent/2013/09/18/rostungur_flakkar_milli_faereyja_og_islands/

8 days to Christmas

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 🙂

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The Wood Mouse is a funny little creature

There are a lot of Wood Mice in Iceland. They are well adapted to the cold and live in underground holes which they dig. They gather all kinds of seeds and stuff in their holes for the winter.

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Hagamús – Wood Mouse – Apodemus sylvaticus

If it gets really cold they might try and get into your house or preferably your summerhouse and you will see their droppings next time you’re there.

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Hagamús – Wood Mouse – Apodemus sylvaticus