One thing all my research into Iceland never prepared me for was the Great Skua and their dislike of cyclists. In fact I was not even aware of their existence until one flew right at my head not long after leaving Skaftefell National park on my way to H÷fn.

By the end of the day I may not have known what their name, but I knew they had some serious 'issues'.

On reaching H÷fn, I asked at the Tourist office for the name of the birds that were trying to kill me; the assistant replied "Ah yes, that will be the Great Skua. I do not like these birds they are not nice!" which I thought was a bit of an understatement, but she then elaborated "If you go to the Glacial Museum in the town they have two of them stuffed and that is the only way I like them!" which I thought was a bit harsh but I could see her point.

However, it did mean that a visit the Glacial Museum for some photographic evidence was in order. I also had to enlist the help of a passer by, so I could provide some scale to the pictures, otherwise it might look like I was recounting the tale of being harassed by something the size of a Sparrow!

A plaque on the wall pointed out that these birds may become fierce and aggressive during the nesting period and that the sands south of Vatnaj÷kull are among the world's largest Great Skua nesting areas!  Funny how you only ever see the sign after the event.

Seriously though, if you see two of these things together and there is no traffic around wait for some to come along, because if they see you, you could be in trouble!

In an astonishing act of parental negligence both birds will leave the nest in order to confront you, but they will spilt up and swoop from different directions making it difficult to track them. (note to Skua egg poachers: take a cyclist with you for an easy life)

I don't know what the proper way to deal with one of these attacks is, I can tell you that when I stopped, made myself as big as possible and acted like I was going to hit the next one that dived at me (something I was absolutely ready to do) they seemed to loose interest.  However, this advice comes with no warranty and I will be very interested to hear the results of anyone else who follows it!

In fairness this only happened three times in the whole day and, while some attacks came very close, there was no actual contact; maybe the Skua is simply being extremely threatening.

Maybe it helps to see this from the Skua's point of view; I think I might be angry and aggressive if I was forced to live in a house made of sand and held together by my own er 'waste product.'

In such a salubrious abode I guess that an Internet connection is fairly low on Mr and Mrs Skua's list of wants (sorry that should of course be Skuason and Skuadottir) and thus your average Skua is unlikely to read this.

So, with the Skua is unable to benefit from my wisdom, perhaps the Alping could instigate some form of anger management seminar for Skuas' where they could be practiced in such things as building a nest sufficiently far from the road as to not feel intimidated.  As a minimum, social services should encourage one parent to stay at home while the other is out bullying the tourists.

While on the subject the Icelandic Gulls are also pretty aggravating as well!  They delight in flocking to anything they can fly faster than, in order to hone their 'crap on the moving target' skills.  The gulls should sub-contract this out as a service; several Skua dwellings could have been constructed from the muck on my jacket!

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Great Skua - Much bigger than a Sparrow honestly! Are you looking at my bird? Wise after the event.