“On the way” across the enchanting landscape of the snowy tundra …..
This week Michelle challenges us to “Share a shot of something you saw, did, or experienced on the way: a photo not of your destination, but of an interesting thing along the way. Follow the link here to discover more examples of “On the Way”.
In early March, Central Park NYC sparkled under snowy layers. As visitors we rather enjoyed the scenic beauty, but the locals with whom we talked had had enough and were keenly anticipating warmer weather. While those ubiquitous of species the Canada goose and mallards look happily adapted to the frigid conditions. I was interested to learn that the ornithologists have recorded sightings of over 250 different bird species through the seasons. “Anyday now,” said one eager bird watcher, ” spring will bring with it the migrants. Soon we will see the first warblers. ” I imagine their song will be a welcome sign of the season’s change.
It’s impressive that Iceland generates 100% of its electricity using renewable energy. 75% is derived by hydro power, and 25% is geothermal. The latter capacity grew to 951 megawatts last year from 65 megawatts in 2000, (according to data compiled by Bloomberg news). It also provides 87% of it’s demands for hot water and heating using geothermal energy. It’s dynamic, this belching landscape steaming with fumeroles venting sulpherous gas. While hot springs are dotted all over and evil-smelling mud pools hubble and bubble.
It’s fascinating to discover that in geological terms Iceland as a landmass is considered young – a mere 20 million years in the making. But, sitting on a geologic hot spot on the mid-Atlantic ridge where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are gradually drifting apart, has catastrophic effect. The tear through the crust is allowing magma to well upwards towards the surface, perculating, waiting for an opportunity to vent. One can’t help but feel that Iceland is at the mercy of some violent tempestous beast, a fiery dragon living beneath a white counterpane of ice.
For the population, (320,000) the threat of living with such natural disaster must be quite unnerving. Yet after the economic collapse of 2008 and the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010, there appears to be a wry stocism judging from this slogan ” Don’t mess with us, we may not have the cash, but we have the ash”.
The effect on the land is evident in the form of lava fields, basaltic rock, rhyolite or hyaloclastite formations of extraordinarily odd shapes. A whole different ecosystem exists specific to the lava, and hotsprings. The green algae, Cyanidum cadarium grows at a scalding temperature between 40 – 50°C and creates bright green streaks in steam vents. The ancient bacteria, Archaea is apparently the most common, and is considered to be one of five of the earth’s oldest organisms. Nature rules with an upper hand in this land.
Iceland has some three hundred recorded bird species. It’s extraordinary – some areas teem with birds – thousands of them. Whenever we stopped the car, the rush of bird calls were indicative of the high activity, the haste in getting through the breeding season. As we travelled the ring road we noticed the varying stages of nesting, and chick rearing. The seabird colonies were the most impressive, guillemots, fulls, fulmars, puffins, arctic terns.
Here are some of the stars of the show:
Greylag geese have large clutches of chicks.
The eider ducks are an iconic species.
The golden plover is a common heathland bird, a migrant whose mournful piping is eagerly awaited as the harbinger of summer.
Long legged red shank are identified by their long beaks.
The plump ptarmigans are a popular culinary bird traditionally eaten over Christmas instead of turkey.
The graceful whimbrel in flight.
Broods of eider duck are a common sight.
A whooper swan.
The honking swans pay great fanfare to greetings and hierachy displays.
The barnacle geese have the cutest of chicks.
Barnacle chicks test the water.
The Arctic terns are known for their aerial bombing, strafing interlopers in their breeding territories.
Millions of puffins come to breed in Iceland. A most endearing creature.