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Monday, 14 July 2014

Day 6 Iceland...Blue Whales!

I`d promised myself a whale watching trip whilst in Iceland,so plans were made and a 4 hr trip with `Gentle Giants` sea safaris was booked.The boat was to leave from Husavik at 1.00pm sharp at a cost of about £45.00.It was reputed to be the whale watching capital of the world with a 95% chance of seeing different species of these great mammals.They included Minke whale,Orcas,Humped backed whale and the largest mammal known to man...Blue whale!Various dolphins,mainly white beaked were also anticipated!Whilst waiting at the office prior to departure,I noticed hthat there was only myself and a youngish Dutch couple,the attendant informed us that we needed a minimum of 4 people beore the ship set sail.It was early season and the area as pretty quiet,things didn`t look at all good and the trip was looking like it would be cancelled!With less than 10 mins left, lady luck smiled down on us and up the road walked a total stranger who uttered the immortal words...is there any room on the next whale watching trip please!Well we all let out a big YES... and immediately headed for the boat.As we set sail, the young guide informed us that a couple of Blue whales were in the bay the previous day, so things looked promising!The downside was they are not known to hang about as they are only passing through!Anyway nature is nature and we`d see what happened!!

We couldn`t believe we had the whole boat to ourselves, it would have easily taken another 30 people,so it was great for photography, as I could move freely around the boat! Half an hour in and the guide spotted a lone Minke whale in the distance,I caught a quick glimpse, then it was gone! Hmm would there be others about. A few white beaked dolphins showed but too far away from the boat for any photos!Plenty time yet and sea conditions were really good, with vey little wind.We were all given a flotation suit to wear,mainly to keep warm,but also in case of any mishap...though you wouldn`t have lasted long in the icy waters if you did go in!!!Suddenly Christina shouted... Blue Whale, 11 o clock and this huge back broke surface about 800 metres away,the skipper slowly headed towards the great beast,as it spouted water from its blow hole.You could never see the total size of the whale, as only about a third of its back showed, but it was still spectacular! Suddenly another spouted much closer to the boat and the finger went hard down on the shutter button...brilliant!We slowly chugged along taking in the sights of these spectacular mammals.One whale came within 10 metres of the boat and showing very clearly its blow hole.They have a very peculiar dorsal fin,so small for such a huge animal,what purpose it serves,I don`t know.The heart of the blue whale weighs as much as a small car and the tongue weighs up to 7 tonne,incredible! A few Fulmars kept close to the boat with Kittiwake and Gannet for company.I rattled off a few shots from the trip, but they really don`t do any justice to the experience we had with these `leviathans` of the deep.They can grow to 30 metres long and feed up on the rich herring shoals that abound here!What a fantastic time we had watching the whales and it was a great way to end my adventure in Iceland, as I would be heading back down to the South and onwards to Reykjavik, later that day.I can`t recommend Iceland enough for the fantastic nature and spectacular scenery,that it has to offer.If ever you have the chance to visit,then don`t hesitate...go and enjoy,you will not regret it.....Thanks for looking in at my blog and I hope youv`e enoyed the journey!!!!
Plenty of room on the boat to manoeuvre,lets hope the whales come out to play!

Another whale watching trip sallies forth!

A sighting at last,note the very small anal fin!

Coming a little bit closer!

You could hear the rush of water coming from the blow hole!

The Fulmar wasn`t hanging about!

Now this was close,approx 10 metes from the boat...awesome encounter!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Iceland day 5 (Ducks)

So after filling my boots with the Red Necked Phalaropes,there were still plenty more birds to keep me interested, in my time around the Myvatn area!One of the finest salmon and trout rivers in the whole of Iceland runs out from the lake here, and that is the River Laxa,the fishing season would start in a few weeks time ,so the nature was relatively undisturbed.The Laxa is a wide fast flowing river with many runs and riffles,ideally suited for one of Icelands endemic species the Harlequin duck,this bird just loves the bubbling,rough fast water and plenty were visible up and down the length of the river!
This small buyont sea duck is continually at home in the rough turbulent waters,even the rapids and wateralls,its yearly cycle is comparable to that of the salmon, with the same movments into the fjords and bays,and the same lingering around river mouths, with slow upstream penetration.Even nesting areas on the rivers frequently coincide with the salmon spawning grounds!When feeding it explores the gravel stream beds at depths up to 1-2 metres against the strong flow!

The duck takes its name from Harlequin,which means a colourfully dressed charachter.It also goes by the name of Rock duck,Mountain duck,painted duck and Glacier duck all of which seem appropriate!They were quite numerous around the Rivers and lakes at this time of year,many were pairing up getting ready to breed!

A few squabbles and disputes were taking place all along the river, as males competed for the attention of the females!

A few pair of common scaup were usually to be seen in the vicinity, but they weren`t as frequent as the Harlequin!

Long Tailed ducks seemed to be about in good numbers too,the males look their best in the winter when believe it or not, they are in their breeding plummage.

Also known as `old squaw` these ducks spend most of their time under water and can dive to depths of 60 metres(200 ft)

Alot of these se duck overwinter around the coasts of Britain!

Obviously named because of their long tail streamers!

Barrows Goldeneye,another endaemic bird to Iceland,lots of these about on the lakes and rivers!
Can be mistaken for Goldeneye but a few distinguishing features can be seen,mainly the white loral crescent shape reaches above the eye,instead of the familiar round white blob.The head has a lovely purple sheen to it, unlike the green of the Goldeneye.
Most water bodies had a few flocks of the Barrows oldeneye in residence!