Friday, 12 February 2016

Iceland 2.30: Ingólfshöfði 2

Puffins weren't the only birds at Ingólfshöfði, of course, and plenty of gulls were also in evidence: mainly great black-backed and fulmars, but we also saw the occasional kittiwake.

Ingólfshöfði is usually a safe breeding area for ground-nesting species: especially great skuas (bonxies) which have a large colony there.  The sheer scale of the sandur separating the rock from the mainland means that predators, such as arctic foxes, are kept well away.  This was certainly the case in 2013, and we had to be careful not to tread on bonxie nests while, at the same time, suffering an aerial bombardment from the chicks' parents.

In 2015 a pair of arctic foxes managed to make the crossing, and this spelt disaster for the bonxies.  Their first brood was totally wiped out, as the foxes used the plentiful supply of food to raise a large litter of pups.  They then attempted a second brood, but this too was also completely obliterated.  Not one chick survived, and the parents didn't try a third time.  As a result, all the adult bonxies were - effectively - standing around, twiddling their thumbs.  They had no young to feed and no nests to protect, meaning that the usual aggressive  behaviour was completely absent.  All desperately sad, although I'm sure the family of arctic foxes (now, thankfully, removed) didn't see it that way.

There were precious few seabirds on the cliffs, so we eventually walked back to the escarpment past the sheep hut.  It looked very dramatic with Vatnajökull as a backdrop.

Going down the sand slope was significantly easier than going up it, and then it was all aboard the tractor for the ride back to base.  As with our previous trip, the visit to Ingólfshöfði was definitely one of the highlights of the holiday, and it really should be on the itinerary of anyone who is visiting this part of Iceland.