Michaela Merz

Iceland – Vigur Island and the puffins (Puffins, Ludin)

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I saw many animals on our trip. Horses, seals, a variety of fish types, polar foxes and countless birds. I particularly fell in love with the puffins.

We went on a trip to Island Vigur. It is a small island and is only around 0.6 square meters big. On the island there lives only one family, which has lived there for generations together with thousands of birds. In 1862 a goldsmith built the Viktoria house for his wife. In the past the family lived of agriculture and its cattle. The historic rowing boat on which the sheep used to be transported can still be found there.

Today the family lives off birds. The island is private property and as a result, visitors have to pay an entry fee. For this, you get the view of thousands of breeding birds. The family that lives here, provides its guests with cake with rhubarb marmalade, probably one of the very few plants that grow here. The family collects the feathers, which the nesting eider duck rips off her chest to keep her eggs warm. At the end of the breeding season, when the young leave their nest, the farmer collects the incredibly soft feathers and undertakes the dreary work of cleaning the feathers during the winter months. What confused me was the fact that during heyday, the farmer removes some of the feathers from the nests so that the eider duck has to rip some additional feathers off its chest to protect the eggs. The reason being a profit increase. That down-filled headrest cushions are incredibly expensive and take a lot of effort to produce, I needn’t explain.

I fell in love with the incredibly funny puffins. A monogamous couple digs a cave and builds its nest in it where they lay a single egg. They dig the cave with their beak and the cave can be between 0.75 and 1.5 meters long. Both parents distribute the work in a shift pattern. They breed and feed. Pure equality. What fascinated me even more was their cleanliness. They dig a ‘side cave’ into their cave, which they use as a bathroom to keep the nest clean. What an incredible strategy. If you’ve seen the puffins fly through the sky you’ll never forget them.

Their flight style is really quite funny. They are also incredibly good divers (they can dive 40-68 meters deep) but they aren’t very light, which is why they have to flap their wings several times per minute. A funny view. They look good and funny, are unique and in my opinion lead an impressive way of life. It was easy to lock them into my heart.

However, I had some troubles with the arctic tern. Those birds also breed on the island but are in constant fear of the protection of their nests. They attack supposed ‘attackers’ with an incredible level of tenacity. I belonged to those ‘attackers’ on that day. It was like a flight spectacle as they tried to hit my head in direct flight and every attempt of defense made them more aggressive-we didn’t become friends.

I found Vigur Island incredibly fascinating. Flora and Fauna were unspeakably beautiful and exciting. I could have watched them for days. After the visit of the old house with the original furniture and the vision of there being only four hours of light per day during the winter months, made it very difficult for me to imagine how it would have been to live there in the cold inhospitable winter. Respectively how challenging it still is.

Vigur Island and its birds, especially the puffins are unique. This island should not be missing on your list of Top 100 places to visit.

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