RED PHALAROPES IN ICELAND

Red Phalarope (female), Flatey June 2017

RED PHALAROPE IS ONE OF ICELAND'S RAREST BREEDING BIRDS and is therefore high on everyone's wish list. It breeds at scattered locations around the coast, including two Flateys ('Flat Island'). One in the north and one in the southwest. I was lucky to spend three weeks in Iceland this summer and visited Flatey in Breiðafjörður twice with Wild Imaged and then Birdquest, including staying overnight on this delightful island. I enjoyed numerous sightings of Red Phalaropes but all either brief, in flight, distant or during rain showers until almost an hour before we were due to leave the island when a gorgeous female dropped in to a small area of seaweed where a group of the much more numerous Red-necked Phalaropes was feeding. Luckily the big red stayed long enough for me to wade through the seaweed and get a bit closer to it. Although it has a massive worldwide population and is classified as being of 'least concern' by BirdLife International the breeding grounds of this circumpolar High Arctic breeder are mostly very remote. Iceland is one of only a handful of accessible places where western birders can catch up with it in its red breeding plumage.

A couple of days later, strong northerly gales and snow brought another Red Phalarope to Húsavík in northern Iceland and I was able to see that one as well, although it was strange twitching just before midnight. This bird stayed for a couple of days, feeding in the surf just off a black volcanic sand beach below the cliffs south of the town, a genuine WP hotspot, where my friend Gaukur Hjartason had found a Franklin's Gull a couple of weeks earlier. I was able to approach this bird as well but it did involve getting my feet wet and scurrying up the beach every now and then when there was a bigger wave. A wonderful location on the shore of Skjalfandi ('shaky') Bay.

Red Phalarope (female), Húsavík June 2017

Footsteps on the beach at Húsavík, on the trail of the Red Phalarope.

Footsteps on the beach at Húsavík, on the trail of the Red Phalarope.