Sigurgeirs Bird Museum in Iceland

October 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Surrounded by volcanic landforms and wetlands, Lake Mývatn, located near the Krafla volcano in the north of Iceland, is home to a wide range of birdlife, particularly waterfowl. Its rich biodiversity and intriguing geology continues to attract biologists, naturalists, geologists and bird watchers from around the world. It was in these beautiful surroundings that Sigurgeir Stefánsson was raised, and his love for birds became evident. The results of his life-long interest in birds can be viewed in the fascinating Sigurgeirs Bird Museum where his collection of more than 300 birds, representing around 180 species, is displayed.

Sigurgeir Stefánsson was born and raised on the Ytri-Neslönd farm, and spent his youth exploring his surroundings and collecting birds’ eggs. Soon he had specimens of all the indigenous Icelandic birds’ eggs, which he used to create a small natural history museum. At the age of 14 years, Stefánsson was given a bird that had been preserved by the process of taxidermy. This was the beginning of his bird collection, and any dead birds he, or his friends and neighbors found, were taken to the taxidermist for preservation.

Stefánsson’s collection grew until it had taken over his family’s house. It was later moved to a nearby shack and continued to grow, with other bird-lovers showing an interest in his work. While focusing on creating a complete collection of the birds of Iceland, Stefánsson also communicated and traded with ornithologists in other parts of the world, and his collection includes some exotic birds. He was often consulted by visiting researchers, as he had an intimate knowledge of the area and its feathered residents. He had expressed the desire to build a museum to properly display his collection for others to enjoy, but had no funds to make his dream a reality.

Tragically, in 1999 during a storm Stefánsson and his two companions drowned in Lake Mývatn as they attempted to repair an underwater cable – he was only 37 years old. To honor his memory and his accomplishments in the field of ornithology, the Aurora Charity Fund, together with members of his family, established the Sigurgeirs Bird Museum, which opened on 17 August 2008. In addition to viewing the extensive collection of birds on display in the museum, visitors can make use of the binoculars provided to spot local birds in the surroundings and on the lake, which is known for having the most species of duck to be found in one location.

Explore the Birds of Vermont Museum

August 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Through its displays of superb wood-carvings, representing close to 500 birds from 258 species, the Birds of Vermont Museum offers visitors the opportunity to discover the diverse birdlife of the State of Vermont. The life-like carvings are displayed in settings closely resembling the habitats each species would favor in its natural surroundings. As a non-profit organization, the museum is dedicated to educating the public, while encouraging an appreciation of the environment and the wildlife, particularly of the feathered kind, that depends on the environment remaining intact.

Most of the museum’s birds have been carved by Robert Spear, Jr., a local naturalist and author who founded the museum to pursue his goal of using biologically and anatomically accurate wood carvings to teach both children and adults about the essential role birds play in the ecosystem. The museum’s collection is arranged in four major groups in accordance with their habitat – Wetlands in Spring and Fall; Endangered and Extinct; Special Exhibit; and Nesting Birds and Raptors.

The Wetlands in Spring and Fall category features a loon family, spring and autumn migration scenes, and two wetland dioramas. The Endangered and Extinct category features a range of birds, as well as an Archaeopteryx – a genus of theropod dinosaur controversially believed to have been the oldest known bird. The intricately carved California condor is one of the largest of Bob Spear’s works and took him more than 500 hours to complete. The Special Exhibit located near the Autumn Migration Diorama consists of a Turkey which took the meticulous artist two years to complete. The Nesting Birds and Raptors display is in the main gallery and features all the nesting birds of Vermont in their respective nests displayed in more than 120 glass cases, while raptors in flight hang from the ceiling overhead. A Winter Diorama displays birds that only visit the area during the wintertime, and then only if their food supplies have run out in their northern habitats. The balcony off the main gallery features hawks and their prey, as well as a magnificent Bald Eagle.

The Birds of Vermont Museum is located in a 100-acre nature conservation area, and in addition to viewing the wood-carved birds, visitors can stroll along the various trails and participate in early morning Bird Monitoring walks, and students can sign up as volunteers to assist with various projects. This unique and fascinating museum is an enduring testament to the efforts of a group of people dedicated to sharing nature’s wonders with others.