Iceland 2009: The East

Sunday 14th June: Dj˙pivogur - Ferry to Papey (0 km)

You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... you see a puffin

There are about 80 species of birds that breed regularly in Iceland, and a total of about 300 species that have been sighted at least once. Forest birds are not common because of the scarcity of trees but they do exist. Most days we saw golden plovers and whooper swans; we often heard snipes flying just above us. Near the coast we saw eider ducks, arctic terns and various gulls. Almost every coastal cliff was inhabited by nesting seabirds.

The largest seabird colonies tend to be in remote places and on offshore islands. Good locations for puffin spotting are the Lßtrabjarg cliffs in the West Fjords, the island of Papey near Dj˙pivogur and the island of HeimŠy off the south coast.

Putting on life jackets

Everyone must wear a life jacket on the boat trip to Papey

Papey harbour

The tiny wharf on Papey

Nesting seabirds, Papey

The sea cliffs on Papey are home to many seabirds. You will also find the salt-tolerant scurvy grass (Cochlearia)


Puffin: On the island of Papey

Church, Papey

The small wooden church on Papey

Karen's diary:

A boat trip runs every day to the nearby island of Papey. It includes opportunities to observe seals and puffins and as the weather is quite calm we decided to take the day off and go on the boat. The trip starts at 1.00pm so we had a very leisurely morning, strolling around the village and eating too much. The boat takes 22 passengers and it was full. As we filed down the wharf we were dressed in lifejackets and given a brief explanation of the tour. We set off, warmly dressed in raincoats, overpants, hats and gloves, all necessary.

We cruised out over a calm, grey sea to a small, rocky island where 6 or 8 seals were laying around - out came the cameras! Then we continued to the main island where many, many seabirds were gathered. Nesting on the cliff faces were great numbers of fulmars (similar to large seagulls) and swimming in the sea were hundreds, perhaps thousands of puffins. They are adorable birds, the size and shape of a small duck but black and white like a penguin. They have bright orange webbed feet and striped red and yellow triangular beaks. When they fly over the water, they just skim over the surface. Puffins do not nest on the cliffs but dig burrows underground, to which they return every year.

After docking at a tiny wharf we were given a walking tour of the island, about two square kilometres in area. We learned about puffins, fulmars and eider-ducks and about the lives of early settlers on the island. Living conditions looked tough to us but we were told that the island's farmers were comparatively wealthy. They had access to driftwood, birds, eggs and fish and were able to gather and sell eiderdown, a valuable commodity.

We had a calm sea back to Dj˙pivogur. It has been a nice day out.