06 August 2016

BIRDING NORTH ICELAND - Nature destination development

Biotope recently made another visit to northern Iceland. For the past two years we have made repeated trips to this amazing birding destination, as a part of a nature destination development project we are working on. In collaboration with local nature based businesses we are exploring the region with the aim of designing and building a series of bird hides, photo hides and wind shelters. 

Iceland is most certainly a place you have to visit, and it seems the entire world have just realized that too. At Biotope we are very much pro nature based tourism as it can have a very positive impact on local communities and even nature itself, if it is handled wisely. Iceland today is in a very different place then when I first visited Iceland in 2006. Everyone is well aware of the financial crisis and the global situation which massively affected Iceland in 2008. However fewer are aware of the current situation. Icelands economy is booming, but this does not come without a cost. In 2006 when visiting Iceland with a friend of mine we could enjoy Reykjavik in the company Icelanders we met in the town. When travelling near Reykjavik we met a lot of locals who willingly shared stories and info on things to do and sites to see and explore on our own. Iceland tourism was at that time still modest and counted only by the tens of thousands. However today the situation have changed dramatically. With the financial crisis of 2008 Iceland became a cheap place to visit. With the Eyafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010 Iceland became a global household name. Tourism exploded, and it still is exploding. In 2010 some 488 000 tousists visited Iceland. Today, in 2016, it is estimated that 1,73 million tourisits will visit Iceland. That is several times the total population of Iceland itself. What you have today is a crowdedness that Iceland is clearly not prepared to handle. For a lot of reasons. In short: the tourism infrastructure is not in place, and there are a lot of people in need of toilets where there are none. The implications are many. Obvioulsy the tourism is helping Iceland with an amazing recovery after the financial crisis. But at the same time there is no doubt that this mass tourism is leaving lasting scars on the landscape. This is a topic currently being debated and plans to handle this develpment is in progress. The curious thing however is this: Mass tourism is concentrated around Reykjavik, while the furthest corners of Iceland see very little of this deleopment. Declining rural communties and a struggle to make ends meet is still a reality. These places also happen to be some of the most bird rich and unique places, but they are found outside of the most travelled touristic places. It is in this context Biotope is working in the north: In an effort to plan ahead of an expected development, and rather then inviting "the world" to visit, the aim is to invite those who really understand and appreciate unspoilt nature. Nature enthusiasts, birders, nature photographers are a different kind of visitors, compared to the mass tourism scene of the "been there, done that, quick fix" tourists. Sure there are a lot of issues to look into and consider, but there are a lot of positive results coming with a sustainable development. 

On this late July 2016 visit we have met so many great people who are all working to make new things happen in their local communities. As our research visits are coming to an end we have now visited hundreds of top birding sites, met a lot of the tourism businesses in north Iceland. We are now in progress of designing a nature destination development plan. This plan includes designing a series of bird hides, photo hides, wind shelters, nature paths, habitat construction and improvement. All of this with the aim of supporting local communities while taking care of the fantastically rich bird life. 

This short blogpost and video is from our last visit. We owe a big thanks to Visit North Iceland for inviting us, and to Hermann Bardarsson for company and local fixing before and during the tour. A big thanks also to all the great people we met during our tour. A new and more thorough presentation of our work in north Iceland will be presented later this autumn. For now We hope you enjoy this brief blogpost and the following video. 

Birding Iceland July 2016 - nature destination development in progress

Akureyri river delta, and amazingly rich habitat and biggest mudflat in north Iceland.

Vopnafjordur, a place with great potential, easternmost Iceland

A few scenes from the tour. 

Grey Phalarope. Undisclosed location. 

Red-throated Diver. A very numerous and very stylish species.

A young Snow Bunting.

Scaup, female, Melrakkasletta, Northeast Iceland

Check out our blogposts from our previous visit to Iceland:

1) Birding Northwest Iceland - May 2016

Stay tuned for more nature destination development and birding architecture from Biotope at:

Best wishes, Tormod Amundsen / Biotope