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Iceland - Birding in the Land of Fire & Ice with San Diego Audubon Society


June 13, 2014 - June 22, 2014

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Home to spectacular glaciers, thermal hot springs, and hundreds of volcanoes, it’s no wonder Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice. The country’s avifauna is equally impressive, with its remote location at the junction of two oceans making for a unique mix of vagrant and migratory birds from both the east and west. Join San Diego Audubon Society travelers on this nine-day exploration of some of Iceland’s best birding spots, from Lake Mývatn to Europe’s largest bird cliff, for the chance to observe an array of species, including auks, petrels, cormorants, gannets, gulls, terns, waders, stilts, and birds of prey.

Bird Lake Mývatn and the surrounding moorlands, looking for the Tufted Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Eurasian Wigeon.

Visit two of Iceland’s most well-known cascades, Goðafoss and Dettifoss Waterfalls.

Go whale-watching in the Greenland Sea, where you may spot humpback, blue, and minke whales.

Search for White-tailed Eagles in northwest Iceland’s majestic fjords.

View the impressive Látrabjarg cliff, where thousands of birds—including auks, Common and Thick-billed Murres, Razorbills, and Atlantic Puffins—can be seen.

Ferry across Breiðafjörður Bay to Flatey Island, where the avifauna is surprisingly tame.

June 13 -

Depart US.

June 14 - Reykjavík

Upon arrival at the Keflavík International Airport, transfer to your hotel in Reykjavík. Begin exploring the city and observe Redwings and Common Redpolls. Visits to nearby ponds should yield abundant Arctic Terns that breed by the side of the road. Lesser Black-backed Gulls also gather here in good numbers. Overnight Hotel Óðinsvé (D)

June 15 - Lake Mývatn

Fly to Akureyri. The journey to Lake Mývatn includes a stop at a plantation in hopes of finding Goldcrests and a visit to the famous Goðafoss Waterfall. Later enjoy close-up views of Harlequin Ducks on the River Laxá as it flows out of Lake Mývatn. Red-necked Phalaropes often spin on the river and feed on emerging flies, while Whimbrels and Golden Plovers live in the surrounding moorlands. Also scan the lake for some of its 14 Icelandic breeding duck species, such as the Black Scoter, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, and Greater Scaup. Overnight Hotel Reynihlíð (BLD)

June 16 - Lake Mývatn

Continue exploration of Lake Mývatn area. Overnight Hotel Reynihlíð (BLD)

June 17 - Húsavik

Today visit Dettifoss Waterfall, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, before driving further northeast. The area holds good numbers of breeding Purple Sandpipers, Arctic Terns, and Snow Buntings. With some luck you might come across Rock Ptarmigan or hunting Gyrfalcon. On the way to Húsavík visit a big birch forest for the chance to encounter Eurasian Wigeons at a very close range. At another site, scan the sea from a clifftop black with Atlantic Puffins for the opportunity to see Great Skuas fly by. Overnight Hotel Rauðaskriða (BLD)

June 18 - Gauksmýri

Embark from Húsavík for a morning whale-watching tour. This site has produced both humpback and blue whales in recent years, along with the more common minke whales and white-beaked dolphins. After lunch, drive west towards Gauksmýri, looking for Pink-footed Geese, Mew Gulls, and the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit along the way. If you are willing to stay up late, you may get a chance to see the Short-eared Owl. Overnight Gauksmýri Country Lodge (BLD)

June 19 - Látrabjarg

Today is a long driving day towards the majestic seabird cliff Látrabjarg. Follow a number of fjords on the way, showing some of the highlights of the fantastic landscapes of northwest Iceland. Scattered pairs of White-tailed Eagles breed in these fjords, so that will be the target bird of the day. An evening walk around your hotel should produce Red-throated Loons and the ever-present Arctic Tern, Common Redshank, and Common Snipe. Overnight Fosshótel Vestfirðir (BLD)

June 20 - Flatey

Látrabjarg cliff is Europe’s largest bird cliff and the continent’s westernmost point. The numbers of auks flying by the cliff’s end are simply overwhelming, with a constant stream of thousands of birds. Common and Thick-billed Murres are common here, as well as the Razorbill. Atlantic Puffins nest on the edge of the clifftops and can be approached within a hand’s reach. The cliff is also filled with calling Black-legged Kittiwakes, while Northern Fulmars soar the skies along the cliffs. Snow Buntings are numerous in the moorland above the cliff, as are Common Ringed Plovers. In the afternoon take the ferry across the Breiðafjörður Bay and stop at Flatey Island for an overnight stay. Birding on the island is a once-in-a-lifetime experience because all of the birds are surprisingly tame. Species include the abundant Black Guillemots on the shoreline, Red-necked Phalaropes, Common Redshanks, Meadow Pipits, and Redwings. With luck you may even encounter the rare Red Phalarope, as Iceland is on the south edge of its breeding distribution around the Arctic. Overnight Hotel Flatey (BLD)

June 21 - Grundarfjordur

Continue birding this morning on Flatey Island before resuming the ferry crossing towards Stykkishólmur. In the afternoon take another boat trip around the islands of the Breiðafjörður Bay, allowing close-up views of the Great Cormorants and European Shags that live among thousands of Atlantic Puffins nesting in the bay. Sometimes the White-tailed Eagle can also be seen here. Overnight Hotel Framnes (BLD)

June 22 - Departure

After an early start observing Glaucous Gulls, numerous on the shores around your hotel, head towards Keflavík International Airport. Common Shelducks may be checked off the list before your early afternoon flight home. (B)



Cost does not include gratuities or round-trip international airfare, estimated at $1,680 from San Diego.

Contact Debbie Sturdivant Jordan at 866-748-6146 or email