September 2012 and MAY 2013
Like many people I am fascinated by ice and fire. The fact that birds could accommodate and nest in such extreme conditions was a real surprise. I joined two small Naturetrek groups, because I was interested in habitat and the environment. I have no experience of regular bird watching or photographing them. I took small sketchbooks on both occasions. The company was good, and with a sympathetic leader I was able to achieve the first part of my exploration. We travelled by small mini bus, stopping at significant bird, geological, and historical sites. My sketchbooks had to be small and usable in all weather conditions and capable of inspiring further work and investigation.
The highlights of the September visit to Southern Iceland were the excellent weather, viewing the northern lights on four different nights and seeing a new country as it unfolded in autumn colour. Birds were an integral part of this experience as they have been for thousands of years. They were migrating.
The following May I booked again – with the same experienced leader but a different group, and flew to Northern Iceland where the geology is even more significant. This time the weather was very cold and spring was late as in the UK but this did not deter the birds or animals. The sounds of bird calls was overwhelming. Nest sites were very imaginative, utilising the edges of shallow lakes to gain warmth from sun and thermal activity. The larval landscape provided shelter in the form of natural and artificial walls, the latter made with holes to break the force of the wind for young lambs. Rivers, fast flowing and still, provided food and sport for a large variety of ducks and small birds.
Godafoss North Iceland
This time the weather varied from strong sparkling sunlight to horizontal rain, strong winds and snow showers. Some bird flocks, just balls of feathers landed and sat in pools of sunshine in the most sheltered places they could find.
This time the highlights were of a geological landscape seen in stunning contrasting colours and varied weather conditions as our trip progressed west, then south to some areas we had seen in September, this was in contrast to the autumnal plant colour.
Tourism had barely started and the birds seemed oblivious of humans and got on with courting and nesting; waterfalls with their spectacular energy, the underlying thermal activity erupting, and huge power stations sited in the lava fields. Strange and dream like, this landscape seemed on the one hand very primeval and strong, and on the other like eggshell, very fragile. Myths, legends and the twenty first century all collide.
My two visits showed an island full of contrasts. I hope this is captured in my sketchbooks and subsequent acrylics.