Record Summer for White-Tailed Eagle Nestlings

This summer was a record summer for eagle nestlings since measurements on the white-tailed eagle began. There are two nestlings in unusually many nests. This can most likely be traced to decent weather conditions according to an animal ecologist.

At one point in time, the white-tailed eagle was in danger of extinction, but the population has steadily grown over the last half-century. It is believed that the population will continue to grow in coming decades, spreading to all parts of the country.

Around 87 different areas are occupied by eagles this summer, with around 300 total birds in the population. The white-tailed eagle only lives in West Iceland and the Westfjords while they laid eggs all around the country in the past.

Kristinn Haukur Skarphéðinsson from The Icelandic Institute of Natural History says that egg-laying has gone very well this summer and that a record number of eagle nestlings have managed to fly from their nests since measurements started. The prerequisites for a good egg-laying is that the weather conditions stay stable from the time the egg-laying starts in April until June and July.

“There were eggs in 65 nests this spring, but for some reason, there are always a few that are miscarried,” Kristinn said. Scientists know now of 59 nestlings in 39 nests. The eagle normally lays 2-3 eggs but only one nestling makes it most of the time. There can be a number of reasons for this. The eggs can be sterile, the nestlings can die young, or all of the nestlings might not make it if there is a dearth of food. According to Kristinn, the weather has played its part as the eagles seem to have an abundance of food.

From extinction to repopulation

At one point in time, the white-tailed eagle population was in danger of extinction as it numbered only 20 pairs. The bird was officially protected in 1913 and has grown slowly but steadily for the last half-century or so. Kristinn says that many ancient eagle nest areas are deserted but that the eagles will slowly start to repopulate areas which they lived in. Eventually, if the birds are let be, they will repopulate the whole of the country. However, Kristinn believes that nature sets a cap for around 200-300 pairs.

Impending Mike Pence Visit Criticized by LGBTQ Organization

The impending visit of USA Vice President Mike Pence has been criticized by the director of LGBTQ organization Samtökin 78. Samtökin 78 president Þorbjörg Þorvaldsdóttir penned an op-ed in online news outlet Vísir.is titled “Not a chance, Mike Pence”, in which she criticized Mike Pence’s history of hate speech and actions against LGBTQ people. Þorbjörg called for Icelandic authorities to reconsider their stance on Pence’s visit, as it is disrespectful towards LGBTQ people in Iceland.

USA-Iceland relationship strengthens
The White House has confirmed that Mike Pence will arrive in Iceland on September 3 for an official visit, before heading to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Pence’s visit will focus on the geographical importance of Iceland in regards to the Arctic. Pence will also place emphasis on NATO operations to quell Russian activity in the area, as well as fostering and strengthening the business and investment relationship between Iceland and the USA.

It was revealed recently that the United States Air Force will increase their activities significantly in Iceland, investing in facilities at Keflavík airport for around ISK 7 billion (€50m, $56m). The construction means that the US Air Force has facilities to operate two fighter squadrons at all times, ensuring that there are 18 to 24 fighter jets ready for operation. It is believed that this is to increase submarine surveillance in the North Atlantic and the Arctic. Along with this, Icelandic authorities will invest ISK 300 million (€2.1m, $2.4m) for maintenance of NATO facilities at Keflavík airport. Iceland was a founding member of NATO in 1949.

A VP against queers?
Samtökin 78 have taken a clear stance against the official visit. According to Þorbjörg, Pence has more or less spent his whole political career working against queer rights. “Mike Pence is against our marriages. He was so wholeheartedly against them that in 2013, he signed laws as the governor of Indiana which made it a criminal offence to apply for a marriage certificate.” Þorbjörg also mentions actions such as Pence having signed a law in 2015 which allowed for discrimination of LGBTQ people based on religious opinions, criticizing laws intended to protect LGBTQ people from hate-crimes, as well publishing articles as editor of Indiana Policy Review encouraging businesses to not hire LGBTQ people. Furthermore, Mike Pence sat on the board of the Indiana Family Institute which recommends de-gaying. “Now the government of Iceland intends to receive Mike Pence, and talk courteously with him about business alliances and in doing so strengthening the alliance with USA. All such plans are disrespectful to the LBTQ people in Iceland. We will not sit quietly over the fact that he is invited to the country. Not a chance,” the article ended. The whole of Þorbjörg’s op-ed can be found here: https://www.visir.is/g/2019190819906

Previously, queer figure skater Adam Rippon criticized the fact that Mike Pence was to represent American authorities in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeochang. Currently, the 20th anniversary of Reykjavík Pride festival is taking place, ending on August 17.