Wednesday 20th - Wednesday 27th June 2018ICELAND – LAND OF FIRE AND ICE
Landscaped by fire and ice, this dramatic country of volcanoes, lava fields, glaciers and geysers is home to some of the most sought-after bird species in the Western Palearctic.
The extensive seabird cliffs hold good numbers of Brunnich’s Guillemots whilst the mighty Gyr Falcon patrols the area in search of prey. Iceland’s rivers and wetland habitats are home to Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye and the dazzling Red-necked Phalarope which is common.
With a supporting cast of species such as Rock Ptarmigan, Red Phalarope, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, Horned Grebe, Snow Bunting, White-tailed Eagle, Purple Sandpiper, Whooper Swan, Whimbrel and Black-tailed Godwit.
Our tour also includes two boat trips and Cetaceans are the order of the day with Orca, Humpback and Minke Whales regularly seen, along with White-beaked Dolphin and the chance of Blue Whale! Another mammal we may see is the Arctic Fox which occurs on the open plains.
Tour Leaders: Godfried Schreur & Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 14
We take our early morning flight from London Gatwick and head northwards to Keflavik, Iceland’s international airport and on arrival begin the drive towards Snaelfellness Peninsular. Roadside birds may include Red-throated Diver, Snow Bunting, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Phalarope, Arctic Tern, White-tailed Eagle and Golden Plover amongst others.
We arrive in the attractive coastal village of Arnarstapi, the location of our base for the next three nights.
After a good breakfast we explore the Snaelfellness Peninsular and visit the volcano of Snæfellsjökull which provided the setting for Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. It is famous as one of Iceland’s most noteworthy geological sights.
The vast seabird colony situated at the western tip of Snaellfelness holds thousands of Kittiwakes, plus Atlantic Puffins, Black Guillemots, Common Guillemots, Razorbills and of course, Brunnich’s Guillemots which nest on the cliffs. The surrounding area offers a good chance to see the elusive Arctic Fox and Orca, which has been seen just offshore!
After lunch we will spend time at Rif where shallow pools attract large numbers of gulls, terns and waders and we will scan through the flocks of Glaucous and Herring Gulls in the hope of finding the scarcer Iceland Gull. Arctic Terns are numerous here and photographic opportunities will be superb as they hover above us. A visit here wouldn’t be complete without seeing the tame Red-necked Phalaropes as they spin around feeding at our feet!
At late afternoon we make our way back to our hotel where a good home-cooked meal awaits us.
Today we drive to the coastal town of Stykkisholmur and take the ferry to Flatey Island. During the 90 minute crossing we can expect to see Great Skua, Arctic Tern, Arctic Skua and White-tailed Eagles with the chance of a cetacean or two!
Flatey Island is the best place to find Red Phalarope amongst the many Red-necked Phalaropes, both of which will be in their bright summer garb. We will also have fantastic opportunities to watch Black Guillemot, Snow Bunting, Arctic Tern, Common Eider, Common Redshank and Common Snipe at close range before heading back to the mainland to visit Grundarfjordur Bay, one of the best sites for White-tailed Eagle which can often be seen roosting on rocks close to shore.
Glaucous Gulls nest around the picturesque harbour and Greater Scaup can be found loafing offshore with Common Eiders. Scanning through them might reveal a White-winged Scoter or King Eider!
After breakfast we leave the Snaelfellness area and make the long drive towards Lake Myvatn. Although we are travelling eastwards, we will make several stops along the way to look for Gyr Falcon. There are around 300 pairs in Iceland and we will travel through several of their territories.
Pink-footed Geese nesting in the shallow valleys should have goslings which may attract Arctic Foxes for a quick meal! We arrive on the edge of Lake Myvatn early evening and settle in after a long day.
Overnight: Lake Myvatn
Lake Mývatn or ‘Lake of Midges’ is one of the Europe’s best birding sites, warranting a whole day of exploration. This shallow lake is incredibly rich in invertebrates which in turn attracts large numbers of wildfowl. Red-breasted Merganser, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall and Tufted Duck are all common along with Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck and Common Scoter. With luck we may pick out an American Wigeon or Ring-necked Duck which have been found in recent years.
The darker and larger Icelandic race of Merlin (subaesalonor) can be found sitting on lava fields as they look for Common Redpolls and Redwings to feed their young.
However, the real highlight of the day will be to search for Barrow’s Goldeneye and the mythical Gyr Falcon, with the former at one of their only Western Palearctic breeding sites. Several pairs of the mighty Gyr Falcon occur at the lake, no doubt drawn to the large numbers of ducks which provide ideal food. The fast-flowing Laxa River is a great area for Harlequin Ducks as they swim through the white water offering great views.
A visit to this area would not be complete without seeing the Hverarond geo-thermal site with its stunning scenery. It has bubbling mud and sulphur pools, lava fields and an explosion crater which are all an indication of the island’s volcanic nature.
Overnight: Lake Myvatn
Today we head north before arriving in the coastal town of Husavik. Nestled on the edge of Shaky Bay, the town of Húsavík is globally recognised as one of the best locations in the world to head out on a boat to watch cetaceans.
In Iceland waters there have been 23 species of whale recorded and the most regular in Skjálfandi Bay are Humpback, Minke and Blue Whales along with Atlantic White-sided Dolphins. Watching any of these creatures in the wild is truly a breath-taking sight!
After an exhilarating three hour boat trip we head southwards towards Lake Myvatn passing nesting Common Scoter, Great Northern Divers and Common Eider along the way before arriving at our hotel.
Overnight: Lake Myvatn
Our last full day in Iceland begins with a visit to the Goðafoss Waterfall or ‘Waterfall of the Gods’ which is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. The water of the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 metres over a 30 metre width and rock formations around the waterfall make it one of the greatest natural wonders in Iceland.
Although most of the day will be taken up with the long drive back south to Keflavík, we will have time for birding along the way looking for species such as Rock Ptarmigan, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper and Whooper Swan.
After a hearty breakfast, we make the short transfer to Keflavik Airport for our early morning flight back to London Gatwick after what will have been a great tour!
Flights from London Gatwick to Keflavik
Full board accommodation for 7 nights
All ground transport in Iceland
Ferry to Flatey Island
Whale watching boat trip
Full guiding services
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on day one
Relaxed, one to two miles walking per day
Expect between 70 and 80 species
Ground Price: £2750
*Air Price: £150
Total Tour Price: £2900
Single Supplement: £320
*Please see our tours page regarding flight costs