Edward's Birding Diary
|21 December 2005|
Winter solstice and perlerorneq
It's been a while since I wrote anything, partly due to an unplanned visit back to the motherland, and partly due to the lack of any real birding to report on. Today is winter solstice, the shortest day in the northern hemisphere and up here at 64°N, daylight is in short supply in December and January. Sunrise today is around 11:20 a.m. and sunset at 3:30 p.m., but the sun remains so low when it emerges from its sloth, just creeping along the tops of the low volcanic hills to the south, that shadows remain long all day. Shadows, that is, if there is no cloud cover, but as it's been overcast and mild all week, then it's distinctly gloomy all day. There's no sign of us having a white Christmas in Reykjavík this year, which is a shame as snow really brightens things up.
December is undoubtedly the slowest time for birding in Iceland, obviously because of the short hours of daylight and also because people are busy getting ready for Christmas. We have almost gone into a short period of hibernation. Birding is possible, and Icelandic specialities such as Harlequin, Gyr Falcon and Barrow's Goldeneye can easily be found in December if you make the effort. It's just that the dark certainly makes me more sluggish and apathetic, and I think I'm experiencing a touch of perlerorneq, what the Inuit call the midwinter blues, the weight of winter. It's a good job I'm going to Kenya in two weeks. But I'm becoming soft, complaining about the winter in my bright warm flat surrounded by books and with a fridge full of beer. I think I need to reread Jean Malaurie's marvellous The Last Kings of Thule, which is his account of his time living amongst the Polar Inuit at 80°N in NW Greenland in the 1950s. They really knew what perlerorneq was all about.