Balwyn Meeting Member’s Topic: Lake Mývatn, Iceland

May 2015

Speaker: Bill Ramsay

Last July, Bill and Shirley spent eight nights in Iceland and visited Lake Mývatn, and Bill talked about some of the birds they saw less than 100km from the Arctic Circle. They found the scenery spectacular, with lots of geothermal activity and a couple of geothermal power stations. There were lava flows, volcanos and many trapped steam vents and thermal springs. Two thousand three hundred years ago a fissure eruption over a lake caused evaporation of the water beneath the lava and the formation of pseudo craters.

Photo 1

The lake is shallow and 37 square kilometres in size with an average depth of 2.5m and maximum depth of 4.5m. Black sand and rocky beaches border the lake, with plenty of vegetation for good nesting sites. And good food too. There were innumerable midges which, thankfully for Shirley, did not bite. The birds there were a mix of Northern Eurasian and American migrant species including the Great Northern Diver and Horned Grebe. The lake is the source of a fast river and they watched a Harlequin Duck chick surfing on fast water, apparently quite unperturbed by the adventure.

Photo 2

There is plenty of accommodation nearby but the lake and rivers are preserved, although there is a camping ground on the shore. Volcanos erupt about once in every five years. So the vulcanologists are continually having to come up with new names. Some of the names are so strange it seems they have simply placed a cat on a keyboard to come up with the next one.

Food for thought at the end of Bill’s talk: ‘Why do birds always stand on white rocks?’

Contributor: Ron Garrett

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