Grain Farmer Fights Off Swan Invasion with Falcon-Shaped Kites

A farmer in South Iceland is resorting to a unique method to combat a unique threat to his grain crops. RÚV reports that Björgvín Þór Harðarson, a pig and grain farmer in Laxárdalur, is using falcon-shaped kites to scare away the whooper swans that are consuming and causing significant damage to his crops.

Swans are a major threat to grain crops in Iceland but are generally unfazed by farmers’ attempts to ward them off. Björgvín Þór said the birds are definitely the most difficult pests for him to deal with on the farm—and probably the most prolific. When the swans’ numbers are at their peak, he may find as many as 500 swans occupying his fields.

‘When they arrive, it’s just total destruction’

“When they arrive, it’s just total destruction,” he lamented. “If they arrive in a fully mature field in the fall, they’ll walk all over it and eat it and trample all the straw and everything.”

Björgvín Þór has tried many deterrents—including scarecrows and acoustic warning devices, or pingers—but to no avail.

“I was fighting with this swan that was attacking both my barley in the fall and wheat in the spring,” he explained. “Then I tried one of these kites that I’d been told about, and it worked like a charm.”

Falcon Crop Protection, FB

Kites mimic the flight of birds of prey

The kites that Björgvín Þór uses are shaped like falcons and designed to glide in a pattern that mimics the flight of birds of prey. They are used widely within the wine industry as an environmentally friendly and effective form of “bird abatement.” They can also be used on fish farms and to drive away unwanted gulls and crows in urban areas, among other uses.

But as well as the kites work, Björgvín Þór is still careful to use them only sparingly so the swans will not grow accustomed to them or eventually see through the ruse.

He first used the kites in the spring when his wheat crops were growing but has now taken them down because there’s no need at the moment. He’ll fly them again in the fall, during the harvest, and hopes they’ll be enough to keep his voracious whooper nemeses at bay.

Björk’s Swan Dress Part of Met Museum’s Camp Exhibition

The famous “swan dress” that Björk wore to the 2001 Academy Awards is included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” exhibition, which will open on Thursday, following the New York institution’s annual Met Gala, often referred to as “the Oscars of Fashion.” RÚV reports that the famous frock will be exhibited alongside such iconic garments as the oyster dress that rapper Cardi B wore to the Grammy’s this year, Burberry’s rainbow cloak, and Balenciaga’s platform take on the Crocs clog, among others.

Björk wore the swan dress to the 2001 Academy Awards. That year, her song “I’ve Seen It All” from Lars von Trier’s film “Dancer in the Dark” was nominated for Best Original Song. Björk, who starred in the film, co-wrote the song with Icelandic author Sjón and recorded it with Radiohead singer Thom Yorke.

The swan dress was created by Macedonian fashion designer Marjan Pejoski. At the time, it was widely mocked. Journalist Jay Carr of The Boston Globe memorably remarked, for instance, that the “wraparound swan frock…made her look like a refugee from the more dog-eared precincts of provincial ballet.” It’s stood the test of time, however: Valentino debuted its own version of the dress as part of its Spring 2014 couture collection.

The theme of this year’s Met Gala and the related exhibit takes its inspiration from Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp.” The exhibition will be open to the public from May 9 to September 8 in New York City.

 

Birds of a Different Feather Seen Flocking Together

Geese and swans were observed flying together in V-formation over Vík í Mýrdal in South Iceland on Thursday, RÚV reports. While it’s unusual to see two different species flocking together, according to a local ornithologist it is not unheard of.

Birna Viðarsdóttir posted the picture to a Facebook group dedicated to Icelandic bird life and it quickly garnered a great deal of attention, as well as a fair amount of skepticism – particularly since the photo was taken on April 1, April Fools’ Day. “A number of people have asked whether it’s been photoshopped,” she told RÚV, “but it wasn’t.”

Ornithologist Arnór Þórir Sigfússon says that it’s uncommon to see different kinds of birds flying together in V-formation, but it has been known to happen. Although swans and geese both migrate to Iceland from Great Britain around this time of year, Arnór Þór thinks it’s unlikely that this particular group of birds did so together the whole way, mostly because geese and swans fly at different speeds. He said he thought it more likely that the swans in Birna’s picture had joined a group of geese, rather than vice versa.

Arnór Þór also noted that different types of geese, such as graylags and pink-footed geese, are known to fly in formation together sometimes, but this is harder for an observer on the ground to see.

Swan is Saved After Getting Bill Stuck in Can

A swan that had been residing on Urriðakot lake in the municipality of Garðabær was saved from certain death earlier today, Morgunblaðið reports. The swan had managed to get his bill stuck in half a can of Red Bull at least two weeks ago, preventing the swan from feeding. Today, a team from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History finally captured the bird and removed the can. The swan is now convalescing at Reykjavík’s Fjölskyldu- og Húsdýragarðurinn Park and Zoo.

According to reports, people living close to the lake had spotted the troubled bird, but had no luck in trying to capture or assist the animal. According to Ólafur Nielsen of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, the swan was close to death when he and his team managed to capture the bird today and swiftly remove the can. “The bird was exhausted and dying on the lake,” Ólafur says. “That’s why we were quick to capture it.”

The swan’s bruised bill has been disinfected and the bird has been moved to Fjölskyldu- og Húsdýragarðurinn Park and Zoo while it recuperates. Ólafur is hopeful that the swan will regain its former strength. “The bird was pretty stocky,” he says, adding that he’s confident the zoo will take good care of it.

Ólafur says that the swan’s case is sadly not an isolated one, with the Icelandic Institute of Natural History regularly dealing with birds that have gotten stuck in plastic or other garbage.

Fjölskyldu- og Húsdýragarðurinn Park and Zoo has already posted about the unlucky swan on their Facebook site, saying that after being tended to, the swan has already started eating and will stay at the zoo for as long as it

Record Number of Bird Species This Winter

Kristinn Haukur Skarphéðinsson, animal ecologist for The Icelandic Institute of Natural History says that a record number of bird species have chosen to make Iceland their winter dwelling place, RÚV reports. Over 90 species have been reported by birdwatchers this winter, an increase Kristinn and colleagues relate to climate change. At the same time there is a noticeable decrease in numbers within known bird species, and some are on the endangered species list, including the Atlantic puffin.

The institute has been keeping a tally of winter birds in Iceland as a part of a special long-running project started in 1952. Recruiting amateur birdwatchers to help keep watch, the institute started the project as a bit of a hobby for Iceland’s bird watching community, but its success means it is now considered a valuable indicator of change in Iceland’s fauna.

Over 50 species of birds are considered winter regulars in Iceland, but according to Kristinn, new species have begun settling here, including some rare ones. “This years tally has revealed 90 species, which is a record high for Iceland,” Kristinn says.

Climate change can drastically change the behaviour of birds, for example there has been a noticeable increase in swans, Eurasian wigeons and greylag geese over the last few years. Furthermore, bird species that prefer colder climates have moved on. “The bird we relate to snow, the snow bunting, has been noticeably scarcer here in the past years,” Kristinn says. “They seem to be yielding to environmental changes that have happened over the last 10 to 20 years.”

Iceland’s increasingly mild winters affect many different species in myriad of ways. The rock ptarmigan, for example, whose plumage changes in winter from brown to white, becomes easy pray for gyrfalcons and human hunters alike when snow is sparse. In 2017, little to no snow fell, making the snow white rock ptarmigans stick out. “You could say it was like shooting fish in a barrel during the first few days of ptarmigan hunting season.”

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History has made a list of endangered species of birds, following guidelines by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Many known bird species feature on the list, including the Atlantic puffin, Eurasian curlew, the great skua and many others.