After arriving in Paris at the end of then P to P, Julie and I rested in Paris and the UK before flying to Iceland last Saturday for a quick Puffin trip.
We visited Iceland late August, September last year but missed seeing the Puffins.
Atlantic Puffins only come to land from June to mid August to breed and a large percentage nest in Iceland, with the biggest concentration breeding on a group of islands to the south of Iceland called the Westman Islands. 20% of the worlds 8 to 10 million Atlantic puffins are breeding here on the Westman Islands.
Sunday’s weather heading down to catch the ferry to the Westman Island was overcast with the odd bits of mist but not enough to really wet us. Straight off the ferry we dropped our bags in the guesthouse before heading down to the southern part of the island in search of Puffins.
We found our first Puffins in no time at all then spent the next couple hours slowly walking around the headland taking photos and watching these cute little birds going about the job of collecting food and feeding their chicks which are in burrows about 3 feet deep all over the headlands wherever the soil and rock gives easy digging.
Monday weather was a different thing all together with showers rolling through all morning as I walked and climbed in the cloud around the highest hills to the west of town.
That afternoon we braved the elements to take a Circle Cruise around the Island with Viking tours. The weather cleared up to just overcast and almost no wind for this spectacular cruise. We saw even more puffins both on the cliffs and floating on the surface while resting between diving trips for Sand Eels. Our trip also took us into 4 huge sea caves that the large boat we were on not only fitted inside of but was able to turnaround as well. One cave had a roof covered with electrifyingly vivid iridescent green algae.
Tuesday we woke to the most glorious day for Iceland with high clouds and brilliant sunshine and a maximum of 18o C – and 19.1 is the record high here. Julie and I have spent in total about 25 days in Iceland and it’s the first day that we have ever seen with such brilliant weather. At lunchtime the locals were commenting on the heat and how uncomfortable it was.
We headed down to the southern headland early and the morning is a very busy time in a Puffins life with the whole place a hive of activity with everyone either going or coming from a fishing trip. Watching Puffins fly and going about their chores is fun on its own, because they spend 10 months of the year at sea their land skills aren’t the best – with some take-off’s and landings being very ungracious at times with regular crash landings. I even saw 2 trip over each other trying to take off and both rolling down the hill a metre before getting organised and flying out to sea.
During this walk around the cliff tops we were lucky enough to see some Fin whales cruising past.
We finished Tuesday off with a soak in the geo-thermal baths at Laugarvatn on the trip back to the airport. We both fly to the UK on Wednesday with Julie continuing on to home and I’m staying in the UK for a week or so to get Penny ready for our next trip to the Amazon later this year in October.