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Worldwide Birding Tours - Birding Ecotours
Ross's Turaco by Masa Wang - Uganda birding tour





This June Andy Walker made a scouting trip to Iceland to have a look at some of the areas we’ll be visiting on the Birding Ecotours 2018 Iceland Tour https://birdingecotours.com/tours/destination/country/iceland. Here’s a summary of some of the highlight birds he found, and some he managed to photograph.

 

Passerines:

 

There are not a huge number of passerines in Iceland, but some special ones, and they are so plentiful and in-your-face that you can’t fail to get great views. Redwing, for example, is an abundant breeding species in Iceland and is found almost everywhere. Other species likely to be encountered that I had no trouble locating included Northern Wheatear, the Icelandic form of Common Redpoll (rostrate), which also occurs in Greenland and Canada, White Wagtail, Snow Bunting, Northern Raven, and the endemic subspecies (and surely a potential future split) of Eurasian Wren, which is much darker than western European subspecies, with a longer bill too.

Redwing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redwing taking some food back to its nest.

Raptors:

 

Gyrfalcon is the big draw here, and it’s not surprising. It is a mega falcon – HUGE! I saw a couple of birds during the week. An immature female was hunting close to Lake Mývatn and flew right in front of my car! Luckily I could pull off the road and watch it hunting, or, more exactly, getting chased off by dozens of locally breeding shorebirds. I also had a couple of sightings of a male in a similar area, likely to belong to a breeding pair. An immature male Merlin was also busy putting the fear of God into the locally breeding Meadow Pipit population. It’s always an exhilarating moment when one of these raptors dashes into view.

 

Seabirds (gulls, terns, auks, etc.):

 

Iceland is well known on the European birding scene for having an excellent breeding seabird population. Top draw is Thick-billed Murre (Brunnich’s Guillemot), which has a very limited breeding distribution in Europe. When you add in Common Murre (Common Guillemot), Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin, Northern Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwake, European Shag, and Northern Gannet, the cliffs come alive with a range of interesting sights, sounds, and smells. While I was at these sea cliffs, as well as enjoying great close-up views of all the above species, I also saw locally breeding European Storm Petrel and Manx Shearwater as they foraged out at sea. Great Skua was frequently observed trying to steal food from returning nesting seabirds, or just to take the young seabird nestlings themselves.

Northern Fulmar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Fulmar with a snow-capped mountain in the background.

Several species of gull breed in Iceland. Black-headed, Common, European Herring, Lesser Black-backed, and Great Black-backed Gills can probably be considered to be Europe’s commonest and most widespread species, but Glaucous Gull also breeds here, and Iceland Gull, although just a non-breeding visitor to Iceland, can usually be found year-round in low numbers. As well as observing many gulls breeding across Iceland, as is usual with gulls, I found some interesting aggregations of non-breeding birds of various ages and variable plumages in several small coastal fishing villages, with Glaucous Gull and Iceland Gull being the pick for me, having been out of the UK for the winter.

Arctic Terns are EVERYWHERE! Breeding colonies are dotted around in every conceivable place, along the coast in cliff-top vegetation, or flying along fast-flowing mountain rivers, around lakes and marshes, and even hawking for insects along roads. Fantastic views of these species are guaranteed, every day! But do not assume that every ‘tern-like’ bird you see flying around is actually an Arctic Tern, because Parasitic Jaegers (Arctic Skuas) breed on the island and are often found chasing terns and raiding nests for food. It was great to see both pale- and dark-phase birds over the course of the week.

Arctic Tern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arctic Tern foraging oblivious to my presence a few metres from it!

Shorebirds:

 

Iceland is stacked out with breeding shorebirds. You can hear and see Common Snipe and Common Redshank literally 24 hours of the day. The Icelandic subspecies of Black-tailed Godwit, which is stunningly beautiful, is common, as are Whimbrel, European Golden Plover, and Dunlin. However, there are one or two breeding shorebirds that are the real draw to Iceland, and Red-necked Phalarope is one of those. The females are the more brightly colored of the pair, as it is the males that raise the young. On certain wetlands they can be super-abundant and often very confiding. With a bit of luck and some careful placement (watching for the angle of the sun and making sure you don’t end up in the water yourself) you can get some great photos of these dainty shorebirds. The sight of lots of baby shorebirds is a real joy to behold, and the cuteness ratings go off the scale!

Black-tailed Godwit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-tailed Godwit starting to moult into its non-breeding plumage (phone-scoped with IPhone 7 and Swarovski ATX95 scoped)

Red-necked Phalarope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-necked Phalarope – a female off feeding, she plays no part in raising her young after laying the eggs. The male (who is more drably plumaged) does all of that.

Wildfowl (divers and ducks):

 

Two species of loons (divers) breed in Iceland, Common Loon (Great Northern Diver) and Red-throated Loon (Red-throated Diver). Both species were fairly frequently recorded, and both species were looking spectacular in full breeding plumage, even more so when they had tiny babies either in tow or riding on their backs. The sound of Common Loon echoing around the mountains was spine-tingling.

Common Loon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Loon (Great Northern Diver) was found on several large water bodies and out on the sea. Take a look at Birding Ecotours You Tube for a video of this bird and its mate with their tiny baby.

A few species of geese breed in Iceland. Greylag Goose is common, and once you get into certain areas you start finding Pink-footed Goose and Barnacle Goose too, which were nice to see.

Another of the big draws for birders, especially European birders, is the breeding duck population with several key species present. Top of the list is Harlequin Duck, closely followed by Barrow’s Goldeneye. The former is scarcer than the latter, with Harlequin Ducks generally found on fast-flowing rivers and Barrow’s Goldeneye out on larger lakes. I had fantastic views of both during the week, Barrow’s Goldeneye chicks being my favorites of all chicks observed, Iceland also gives the rare chance to see breeding Long-tailed Ducks in Europe. This species is probably more frequently seen in their largely white-necked and white-headed non-breeding plumage with a grayish back, but during the breeding season they moult into a glorious black neck head with a striking long tail and a dark back.

Harlequin Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harlequin Duck was one of the highlights of this Iceland trip. By late June most of the males have left the females behind at the nest sites and have gone back out to sea. Most of the time I was in suitable Harlequin Duck habitat I was just finding females, then right at the end of my trip I spotted a pair along a river with this stunning drake present. One spectacular bird!

Several other ducks occur, and good views are practically guaranteed of the following species: Common Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser (Goosander), Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, and Common Scoter. Indeed, to see most of these species with young was highlight enough for me. Lake Mývatn was literally covered in baby ducks while I was there, as were many of the small waterbodies I visited or drove past. During my week there I even found a couple of American rarities in the form of drakes of both American Wigeon and Ring-necked Duck. There are great possibilities for finding other interesting species such as King Eider, Surf Scoter, and Velvet Scoter, but you’ve got to leave something for the next time, right?

 

Summary

 

In addition to all the great views and photo opportunities of the incredible birds found in Iceland, the landscape views were seriously spectacular: huge sea cliffs, giant crags, roaring rivers crashing through waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, glaciers, volcanoes of all shapes, sizes, and activity, numerous waterbodies, lava fields, boulder fields, stunted forest, heathland, and 24 hours of daylight! And although I didn’t have time to do it on this trip, the whale watching off northern Iceland is considered some of the best in the world, with a good chance of Blue Whale. All of this combines to a really great place to visit, and I can’t wait to get back in June 2018!


Australia Birding Tours

Australia is a natural wonderland of beautiful beaches, crystal blue waters, amazing ancient rock formations, and pristine rainforests. Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world and has the lowest population density per square kilometer. Australia has 16 world heritage-listed properties, with its historic townships, bustling cities, vivid landscapes, and exotic flora and fauna all adding to its unique appeal. Much of Australia’s exotic flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and the lifestyle is one second to none.

Plains-wanderer by Andy Walker

Birding Tour Australia: From the Wet Tropics to the Outback 2018

Duration: 17 days
Limit (Group Size): 3 - 8
Spaces Available:: 0
Date Start: October 04, 2018
Date End: October 20, 2018
Tour Start:: Cairns
Tour End:: Melbourne
Price: AU$9,154 per person sharing (7-8 people); AU$11,090 per person sharing (5-6 people); AU$12,440 per person sharing (3-4 people)
Summary: This tour is fully booked. Please consider our Birding Tour Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics 2018. Australia, the island continent, is a remote landmass that drifted away from Antarctica te...

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Orange-bellied Parrot by Andy Walker

Birding Tour Australia: Tasmania and the Orange-bellied Parrot Pre-tour 2018

Duration: 6 days
Limit (Group Size): 3 - 8
Spaces Available:: 5
Date Start: October 22, 2018
Date End: October 27, 2018
Tour Start:: Hobart
Tour End:: Hobart
Price: AU$2,752 per person sharing (7-8 participants), AU$2,995 per person sharing (5-6 participants), AU$3,458 per person sharing (3-4 participants)
Summary: Adjoined to the mainland until the end of the last glacial period about ten thousand years ago, Tasmania is both geographically and genetically isolated from Australia. Through the millennia this island ha...

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Plains-wanderer by Andy Walker

Birding Tour Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics 2018

Duration: 17 days
Limit (Group Size): 3 - 8
Spaces Available:: 5
Date Start: October 28, 2018
Date End: November 12, 2018
Tour Start:: Melbourne
Tour End:: Cairns
Price: AU$9,154 per person sharing (7-8 participants), AU$11,090 per person sharing (5-6 participants), AU$12,440 (3-4 participants)
Summary: Australia, the island continent, is a remote landmass that drifted away from Antarctica tens of millions of years ago. Without significant volcanic activity and other mountain-building forces, it is also t...

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Gouldian Finch by Andy Walker

Birding Tour Australia: Top End Birding Specialties 2018

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 3 - 8
Date Start: November 13, 2018
Date End: November 21, 2018
Tour Start:: Darwin
Tour End:: Darwin
Price: AU$ 7,137 per person sharing (7-8 participants), AU$ 8,470 per person sharing (5-6 participants), AU$ 12,155 per person sharing (3-4 participants)
Summary: The ‘Top End Birding Specialties’ Tour provides fantastic chances of viewing many of Australia’s Top End specialty bird species during November, including Rainbow Pitta, Black-banded Fruit Dove (ende...

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Varied Sittella by Andy Walker - Australia birding tour

Birding Tour Australia: the Southwest 2018

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 3 - 8
Date Start: November 29, 2018
Date End: December 07, 2018
Tour Start:: Perth
Tour End:: Perth
Price: AU$ 2,110 per person sharing (7-8 participants), AU$ 3,164 per person sharing (5-6 participants), AU$ 4,218 per person sharing (3-4 participants)
Summary: Due to geographic isolation and diverse habitats, the south of Western Australia boasts several endemic species and subspecies. This nine-day Birding Tour Australia: the Southwest Extension will focus on f...

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Gang-gang Cockatoo by Andy Walker

Birding Tour Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics 2019

Duration: 17 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 06, 2019
Date End: November 22, 2019
Tour Start:: Melbourne, Victoria
Tour End:: Cairns, Queensland
Price: AU$10,560 per person sharing (4-8 participants)
Summary: Australia, the island continent, is a remote landmass that drifted away from Antarctica tens of millions of years ago. Without significant volcanic activity and other mountain-building forces it is also th...

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Orange-bellied Parrot

Birding Tour Australia: Tasmania and the Orange-bellied Parrot 2019

Duration: 6 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 23, 2019
Date End: November 28, 2019
Tour Start:: Hobart
Tour End:: Hobart
Price: AU$3,790 per person sharing (4-8 participants)
Summary: Adjoined to the mainland until the end of the last glacial period about ten thousand years ago, Tasmania is both geographically and genetically isolated from Australia. Through the millennia this island ha...

See full tour detail
Gouldian Finch by Andy Walker

Birding Tour Australia: Top End Birding 2019

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 29, 2019
Date End: December 07, 2019
Tour Start:: Darwin, Northern Territory
Tour End:: Darwin, Northern Territory
Price: AU$10,820 per person sharing (4-8 participants)
Summary: The ‘Top End Birding’ tour provides fantastic chances of viewing many of the Northern Territory’s specialty bird species during November and December, including Rainbow Pitta, Banded Fruit Dove, ...

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Varied Sittella by Andy Walker - Australia birding tour

Birding Tour Australia: Southwest Specialties 2019

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: December 08, 2019
Date End: December 16, 2019
Tour Start:: Perth, Western Australia
Tour End:: Perth, Western Australia
Price: AU$4,490 per person sharing (4-8 participants)
Summary: Due to geographic isolation and diverse habitats, the southwest of the state of Western Australia boasts several endemic species and subspecies. This nine-day tour will focus on finding as many of these en...

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Orange-bellied Parrot

Birding Tour Australia: Tasmania and the Orange-bellied Parrot 2020

Duration: 6 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: October 24, 2020
Date End: October 29, 2020
Tour Start:: Hobart, Tasmania
Tour End:: Hobart, Tasmania
Price: AU$4,170 per person sharing (4-8 participants)
Summary: Adjoined to the mainland until the end of the last glacial period about ten thousand years ago, Tasmania is both geographically and genetically isolated from Australia. Through the millennia this island ha...

See full tour detail
Gang-gang Cockatoo by Andy Walker

Birding Tour Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics 2020

Duration: 17 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: October 30, 2020
Date End: November 15, 2020
Tour Start:: Melbourne, Victoria
Tour End:: Cairns, Queensland
Price: AU$11,615 per person sharing (4-8 participants)
Summary: Australia, the island continent, is a remote landmass that drifted away from Antarctica tens of millions of years ago. Without significant volcanic activity and other mountain-building forces it is also th...

See full tour detail
Gouldian Finch by Andy Walker

Birding Tour Australia: Top End Birding 2020

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 16, 2020
Date End: November 24, 2020
Tour Start:: Darwin, Northern Territory
Tour End:: Darwin, Northern Territory
Price: AU$11,900 per person sharing (4-8 participants)
Summary: The ‘Top End Birding’ tour provides fantastic chances of viewing many of the Northern Territory’s specialty bird species during November and December, including Rainbow Pitta, Banded Fruit Dove, ...

See full tour detail
Varied Sittella by Andy Walker - Australia birding tour

Birding Tour Australia: Southwest Specialties 2020

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 25, 2020
Date End: December 03, 2020
Tour Start:: Perth, Western Australia
Tour End:: Perth, Western Australia
Price: AU$4,940 per person sharing (4-8 participants)
Summary: Due to geographic isolation and diverse habitats, the southwest of the state of Western Australia boasts several endemic species and subspecies. This nine-day tour will focus on finding as many of these en...

See full tour detail

Featured Guide - Andy Walker

Senior Tour Leader and UK Office Manager Andrew (Andy) Walker is Birding Ecotours’ UK representative and runs the Birding Ecotours UK office from his home in York, North Yorkshire, England. Andy h ...

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What our clients say

Hi Chris, I wanted to let you know that we were delighted with David as our guide on the 26th. We – myself and my birding friends from Belgium – found him to be extremely knowledgeable, and ever so dedicated to trying to make sure we saw as much as possible. His bird calls were amazing, and on several occasions helped to bring the birds into view. The whole day his enthusiasm never flagged, and he went above and beyond to try and make our day as successful as possible. We will certainly take pleasure in always recommending him to anyone who may be interested. Kind regards,

Pat van der Byl, Dassenberg, Western Cape, South Africa



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