Day Nine: Friday 16th August
Location: Myvatn, Iceland
On Friday while Lyonel was attempting to study Icelandic sagas (an activity which unfortunately was disrupted by a baby shrieking back at the hostel) I decided to bike the 10 km to Sigurgeirs Bird Museum. The lake Myvatn is a famous haven for birds and apparently you can see more different species of duck around the lake than anywhere else in the world!
The bike ride alone made the visit well worth it. The green marshlands were a nice change from the barren lava bed where our hostel was located. Biking on Icelandic roads can be a bit scary however, since they are very loose and have soft shoulders that you need to watch out for.
The bird museum is a funny little building tucked away on a small peninsula, a bit out of the way of the regular tourist paths. The collection of taxidermy birds and eggs belonged to the avid local bird-watcher Sigurgeir Stefansson and is the largest private bird collection in Iceland. Unfortunately Sigurgeir died in 1999 in a boating accident. Sigurgeir’s family decided to honor him by building the museum which opened in 2008.
The collection is very impressive; seven glass cases are filled with birds and three with eggs. By pushing buttons next to the names small lights indicate which bird in the case is which. You could also see where the bird spends its summers and winters, which are native to Iceland and which aren’t. It always feels a bit morbid to stare at taxidermy animals, especially young chicks which they had several of, but it was still interesting to find out more about the birds of Myvatn.
Besides the collection there were binocular tubes you could borrow to check out some of the many birds swimming along the shore outside the museum building. I managed to spy a family of whooping swans!
In addition the museum also featured an exhibition on traditional life in Myvatn in the 1900s and some information about Lake Balls (or Marimo), the strange algae balls which only grow in a very limited amount of lakes in Iceland, Scotland, Japan and Estonia.
This was a nice calm place to visit and I would definitely recommend it to anyone passing through Myvatn.