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ICELAND

Saturday 10th June - Sunday 18th June 2017

MIKE WATSON

The long-staying drake American White-winged Scoter at Sandgerdi was a highlight of this tour (Mike Watson).

The long-staying drake American White-winged Scoter at Sandgerdi was a highlight of this tour (Mike Watson).

Back after only a four years gap this time we had what was probably our most successful visit to Iceland to date in terms of quality of sightings and number of species seen, with a new record 80. There were many birding highlights in a stunning volcanic landscape including: three Gyrfalcons; a pair of White-tailed Eagles; 25 Harlequin Ducks; 344(!) Barrow’s Goldeneyes; four Red and countless Red-necked Phalaropes on the delightful islet of Flatey and elsewhere; three Long-tailed Jaegers (or Skuas) at their only breeding site in Iceland as well as another in the Northwest Fjords, hundreds of km away and Thick-billed Murres (or Brünnich’s Guillemots) on their breeding cliffs. Other northern specialities included Rock Ptarmigan, two adult drake King Eiders, Barnacle and Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Common Loon (or Great Northern Diver), Horned (or Slavonian) Grebe, Purple Sandpiper at its nest, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls. ‘Land bird’ species were few, in fact we only just made it into double figures, but again this included an Icelandic rarity, in the form of Brambling. We also saw a couple of other rarities Little Gulls, Black Tern as well as Iceland’s first Black-winged Stilt.

Mammals were also few and only one of them on dry land - Arctic Fox. The maritime mammals included nine fantastic Humpback Whales and five each of Minke Whale and Orca. We also diverted from the birding trail several times to visit non-avian wonders of this incredible island including: Godafoss (‘Falls of God’); Dettifoss (Europe’s most powerful waterfall by volume of water); Gulfoss (or the ‘golden falls’); Geysir (the site of the origin of the word of geyser, where the impressive ‘Strokkur’ was blowing regularly during our visit) and finally Þingvellir (the site of Iceland’s first parliament, set in a natural amphitheatre right on Mid-Atlantic ridge). Did I mention the delicious seafood and wonderful people?

A Long-tailed Skua in the Northwest Fjords was a surprise find (Mike Watson).

A Long-tailed Skua in the Northwest Fjords was a surprise find (Mike Watson).