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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!


India Birding Tours

Joining a birding tour in India, a vast country twice the size of South Africa, should be on any birder’s wish list! The country shares borders with Pakistan to the west, China and Nepal to the north, Bhutan  to the northeast, and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east.  Sri Lanka lies to the south, the Maldives to the southwest, and Indonesia to the southeast of India in the Indian Ocean. India is the seventh-largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people, is second only to China in population, although its much higher birthrate makes it likely to reach pole position in less than ten years. It is an extremely diverse country, with vast differences in geography, climate, culture, language, and ethnicity across its expanse, and prides itself on being the largest democracy on Earth.

 

Birding Tour India - Lesser Adjutant

Birding Tour India: Bhutan Extension - Assam April 2018

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 6
Date Start: April 13, 2018
Date End: April 20, 2018
Tour Start:: Guwahati, India
Tour End:: Guwahati, India
Price: US$2970 per person sharing
Summary: This extension to our 20-day Bhutan tour will lead to the Indian province of Assam, home to two magnificent national parks for us to visit: Kaziranga NP and Nameri NP. Either of these parks may allow ̵...

See full tour detail
Lesser Adjutant

Birding Tour India: Bhutan Extension - Assam November 2018

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 6
Date Start: November 15, 2018
Date End: November 22, 2018
Tour Start:: Guwahati, India
Tour End:: Guwahati, India
Price: US$3,015 per person sharing
Summary: This extension to our Birding Tour Bhutan: The Himalayas of Bhutan in November will lead to the Indian state of Assam, home to two magnificent national parks for us to visit. In fact, the floodplains of th...

See full tour detail
Malabar Whistling Thrush by Jason Boyce

Birding Tour India: The South - Western Ghats and Nilgiri Endemics 2019

Duration: 14 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: January 13, 2019
Date End: January 26, 2019
Tour Start:: Bengaluru (Bangalore)
Tour End:: Kochi (Cochin)
Price: US$5,665 per person sharing
Summary: This two-week tour will focus on the many specialties that southern India has to offer. The tour commences at the city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), the capital of the state of Karnataka, and finishes...

See full tour detail
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch - Martin Benadie

Birding Tour India: The North - Tigers and Birds January/February 2019

Duration: 17 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: January 28, 2019
Date End: February 13, 2019
Tour Start:: New Delhi International Airport, New Delhi
Tour End:: New Delhi International Airport, New Delhi
Price: US$6,075 per person sharing (cost based on 4-8 participants)
Summary: India, with its fabulous scenery, incredible wildlife, fascinating culture, and wonderful monuments must truly be on any world-birder’s and traveler’s wish list! The tour will visit world famou...

See full tour detail
Painted Sandgrouse by Andy Walker

Birding Tour India: The Northwest – Lions and Desert Birding in Gujarat 2019

Duration: 15 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: February 14, 2019
Date End: February 27, 2019
Tour Start:: Ahmedabad
Tour End:: Ahmedabad
Price: US$5,180 per person sharing
Summary: This tour focuses on the amazing birds and wildlife in the deserts of Gujarat in northwestern India. We have the opportunity to see some very exciting and Critically Endangered (IUCN), rare, localized, and...

See full tour detail
Temminck's Tragopan

Birding Tour India: The Northeast - Birds and Mammals of Eaglenest, Nameri and Kaziranga 2019

Duration: 14 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: March 02, 2019
Date End: March 15, 2019
Tour Start:: New Delhi
Tour End:: New Delhi
Price: US$5510 per person sharing
Summary: This northeastern India tour visits some spectacular scenery in the eastern Himalayas and the floodplain of the mighty (and extremely lengthy) Brahmaputra River long before it joins the River Ganges in Ban...

See full tour detail
Birding Tour India - Lesser Adjutant

Birding Tour India: Bhutan Extension - Assam April 2019

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: April 15, 2019
Date End: April 22, 2019
Tour Start:: Guwahati, India
Tour End:: Guwahati, India
Price: US$3,015 per person sharing
Summary: This extension to our Birding Tour Bhutan: The Himalayas of Bhutan in November will lead to the Indian state of Assam, home to two magnificent national parks for us to visit. In fact, the floodplains of th...

See full tour detail
Lesser Adjutant

Birding Tour India: Bhutan Extension - Assam November 2019

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 15, 2019
Date End: November 22, 2019
Tour Start:: Guwahati, India
Tour End:: Guwahati, India
Price: US$3,320 per person sharing
Summary: This extension to our Birding Tour Bhutan: The Himalayas of Bhutan in November will lead to the Indian state of Assam, home to two magnificent national parks for us to visit. In fact, the floodplains of th...

See full tour detail
Malabar Whistling Thrush by Jason Boyce

Birding Tour India: The South - Western Ghats and Nilgiri Endemics 2020

Duration: 14 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: January 12, 2020
Date End: January 25, 2020
Tour Start:: Bengaluru (Bangalore)
Tour End:: Kochi (Cochin)
Price: US$6,230 per person sharing
Summary: This two-week tour will focus on the many specialties that southern India has to offer. The tour commences at the city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), the capital of the state of Karnataka, and finishes...

See full tour detail
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch - Martin Benadie

Birding Tour India: The North - Tigers and Birds January/February 2020

Duration: 17 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: January 27, 2020
Date End: February 12, 2020
Tour Start:: New Delhi International Airport, New Delhi
Tour End:: New Delhi International Airport, New Delhi
Price: US$6,680 per person sharing (cost based on 4-8 participants)
Summary: India, with its fabulous scenery, incredible wildlife, fascinating culture, and wonderful monuments must truly be on any world-birder’s and traveler’s wish list! The tour will visit world famou...

See full tour detail
Painted Sandgrouse by Andy Walker

Birding Tour India: The Northwest – Lions and Desert Birding in Gujarat 2020

Duration: 15 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: February 13, 2020
Date End: February 26, 2020
Tour Start:: Ahmedabad
Tour End:: Ahmedabad
Price: US$5,700 per person sharing
Summary: This tour focuses on the amazing birds and wildlife in the deserts of Gujarat in northwestern India. We have the opportunity to see some very exciting and Critically Endangered (IUCN), rare, localized, and...

See full tour detail
Temminck's Tragopan

Birding Tour India: The Northeast - Birds and Mammals of Eaglenest, Nameri and Kaziranga 2020

Duration: 14 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: March 01, 2020
Date End: March 14, 2020
Tour Start:: New Delhi
Tour End:: New Delhi
Price: US$6,060 per person sharing
Summary: This northeastern India tour visits some spectacular scenery in the eastern Himalayas and the floodplain of the mighty (and extremely lengthy) Brahmaputra River long before it joins the River Ganges in Ban...

See full tour detail
Birding Tour India - Lesser Adjutant

Birding Tour India: Bhutan Extension - Assam April 2020

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: April 18, 2020
Date End: April 25, 2020
Tour Start:: Guwahati, India
Tour End:: Guwahati, India
Price: US$3,320 per person sharing
Summary: This extension to our Birding Tour Bhutan: The Himalayas of Bhutan in November will lead to the Indian state of Assam, home to two magnificent national parks for us to visit. In fact, the floodplains of th...

See full tour detail
Lesser Adjutant

Birding Tour India: Bhutan Extension - Assam November 2020

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 13, 2020
Date End: November 20, 2020
Tour Start:: Guwahati, India
Tour End:: Guwahati, India
Price: US$3,650 per person sharing
Summary: This extension to our Birding Tour Bhutan: The Himalayas of Bhutan in November will lead to the Indian state of Assam, home to two magnificent national parks for us to visit. In fact, the floodplains of th...

See full tour detail
Asian Barred Owlet

Owls of India: Forest Owlet and More

Tour Start:: India
Tour End:: India
Summary: The vast subcontinent of India has a fantastic array of Owls, from the Himalayan foothills, where the forested slopes hold species like Mountain and Collared Scops Owl as well as Grey Nightjar, to the lowe...

See full tour detail

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Dear Chris, After a great and exciting tour with John Tinkler, I would like to thank you for appointing him as my guide for the trip. Even though John (and others) said that I was unlucky with the weather, I didn’t mind at all. We saw >190 species, granting me most of my ‘special’ targets. John managed to give me spectacular views of many species from his special vehicle resulting in id and better shots of about 50% of the birds found. I have started to sort out my >1000 pictures and will post a few of what I rate as iconic SA birds as a preview. Next to the birds, John gave me a very special but cold experience in the Tankwa Karoo. It was a trip I’ll never forget and I definitely recommend John as a superb guide.

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09/18/2012



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