Saturday Surprise — Puffins (& beer)

Hello friends!  Thanks for dropping by before starting your weekend!  Today is the first day of September already!  Can you believe it?  Where has this year gone?  Here in the U.S., it is a 3-day weekend, for Monday is Labour Day.  My Iraqi friends asked me last week, “What is this Labour Day”, and I had to explain that while it was once a day to honour the working people, now it is pretty much just an excuse for a beer-fest.  Then, of course, I was left to explain “beer-fest” to people for whom alcohol is forbidden.  I fall into these traps often … you’d think I would learn, yes?

I know you all have big weekend plans, but I am still taking you on a short journey today … I promise to have you back in plenty of time to carry on with all your weekend plans, but this is just the perfect weekend to make this little jaunt!  Well … actually it’s not all that perfect, because where we are going is to be rainy and the high temps only around 55° F, or 10° C.  But still … we’ll have fun, I promise.  We can pick up some light jackets along the way … apparently the heat wave missed Iceland.  Oh … didn’t I tell you?  Yes, we are traveling to Iceland!Iceland-forecastWhat do you mean, “Why on earth are we going to Iceland?”  We are going to Iceland to see … PUFFINS!!!  You know … puffins … cute little birds … look sort of like miniature penguins?  Oh, c’mon … it’ll be fun … just hope onto the Filo-mobile and let’s go!

The puffin population in Iceland has been decreasing in recent years.  Though some puffin colonies are prospering, in Iceland, where the largest population of Atlantic puffins is found, their numbers have dropped from roughly seven million individuals to about 5.4 million.  The reasons are many:  fickle prey, overfishing, pollution, and climate change, which is diminishing food supplies like the silvery sand eels, which dangle from the parents’ beaks as they bring them to their young.  In addition, since they are considered to be very tasty, they are hunted as game birds.  No, we will not be trying them!

We have arrived, so let us check out some puffins, shall we?puffin-2.gif

The puffin is not the official bird of Iceland – that would be the gyrfalcon.  But puffins get far more attention, especially from tourists.  Did you know that puffins are only on land for about four months a year?  Right … they will soon be taking themselves back out into the cold Atlantic sea, where they will spend the next eight months or so hunting for fish.  They really only return to land in the spring in order to mate and nest.

Puffins-kissing

Awwwwwwww

Puffins choose partners for life, and while on land, they even share parenting duties, but once they go back out to sea, they go their separate ways until next spring.  I’m pretty sure that is the male’s idea.

puffin-chick

Puffin chick

Puffins are great little swimmers and divers, but when it comes to flying … meh, not so great.  So, watching them take off and land is rather hilarious!

puffin-landingAnd did you know that their gorgeous, colourful beaks aren’t always so colourful?  Puffins molt during their time at sea and shed all the colourful portions of their beaks as well as the black markings around their eyes in the process.

puffin-fish-in-mouth

Lookee what I caught!!!

The joint of their beaks are notched so that the birds can hang on to their catch even while diving back in, open-mouthed for more. One little puffin can carry up to 10 fish in its muzzle at any one time!

Okay, folks … it’s getting downright chilly here, and the rain has soaked through to the skin, so I think it’s time to bid adieu to the puffins.

puffin-1puffin-2Before we head back home, though, there is one last stop I want to make.

Welcome to Akureyri, home of the giant beer can! beer-can-1.jpg

From 1915-1989, beer was banned in Iceland. Although it seems completely counter-intuitive compared to the image of the beer and mead-swilling Viking sailor, the malted beverage was outlawed for most of the 20th century. Today, Iceland has begun to embrace the drink, and a giant beer can at the Viking brewery in Akureyri marks that change.

beer-can-2.JPGStand over there … facing the beer can, to the left, near the corner of the building.  See that pipe?  No, no, no Hugh … do NOT drink what’s coming out of the pipe … they say it isn’t potable, but its sole purpose is to add a nice beer smell to the area.  Okay guys … I’m ready to head home now, where the temps should be in the high 70s and the ice in my hair can melt!20180419_141127.jpgWhew … this is better!  Okay, folks … keep safe and have a great time this weekend!

31 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — Puffins (& beer)

  1. I do not understand people’s fascination with beer. The gawdawful taste is enough to make me puke, and the smell of beer urine makes me want to pass out, and not because I drank too much. Beer has got to be one of humanity’s worst inventions, after god, gold, and government.
    Now, a nice occasional shot of dark dark rum, priceless.

    And as for the puffin, you taught me something today. My favourite birds are the penguin and the flamingo, so you would think I may have noticed the puffin/penguin similarity before, but I never did. Are they related, do you think?

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  2. Dear Jill,
    And here I was hoping that the Puffins had tasted some beer. It’s nice to know that we don’t have to travel as far as Iceland to see the Puffin birds but it is on my bucket list, anyway. I’ll even take some beer with me.
    Hugs, Gronda

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    • Your comment evokes a mental image of puffins, drunk on beer, trying to take off and land, which they don’t do very well anyway! 😀 Your bucket list is long, my friend! I hope you get to do every single thing on it! You must send me pictures!

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  3. Puffins are delightful creatures

    Clumsy footed, colourful features

    They nest on rocks

    Wear orange socks

    And enrapture us with such sweetness.

    We have Puffins off the Northern coasts of The British Isles too Jill, and are one of those iconic birds we would all hate to lose. Their main diet is sand eels and small herring which apparently are disappearing due to overfishing and ocean temperature changes. The puffins catch other things but some of the catch is not as nutritious for their young and they perish.

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  4. BEWARE, you have yet again prompted my propensity for loquacity! While Iceland is a delightful place to mingle with Puffins, opportunities abound right here in the USA. Cap’n Fish’s Puffin Cruises in Boothbay Harbor, Maine is an experience that is not to be missed. They are a family operation, now in the third generation. There are several other cruises as well, but Cap’n is our favorite. It is about a 2 hour cruise from Boothbay Harbor to Eastern Egg Rock, where the marvelous National Audubon Society reestablished a colony of Puffins. This is the southern- most nesting area in all of North America. Cruises are from Spring through August and are well worth the cost. Puffins are adorable to watch, not to eat! Interesting that beer was prohibited in Iceland from 1915-1989, that piques me as to the why! I can not even recall the last time that I tasted beer, I’m a wine sort of gal. This has been a lovely respite on a Saturday morning! Thank-you!

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    • I love it when I unleash your propensity for loquacity! The cruises sound delightful! I briefly saw that there were puffins somewhere up in your part of the country, but was determined to go to Iceland last night! I think I just wanted to get out of the U.S. for some odd reason 😉 Has Benjamin been on Cap’n Fish’s cruises? Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!

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    • This is partly why I so enjoy posting about animals … I learn something every time, and I’m always amazed how every creature on earth is made in such a way that enables it to live in its environment. Have a great weekend!!!

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    • Agreed! But I found myself wondering … they only stay on land for 4 months, part of which is spent mating, then raising their young … do they abandon their babes after only a few short months? Do they take the babes to sea with them? And since they separate at sea, which parent takes custody of the babes for the next 8 months? Yes, I have a strange mind! 😀

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