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Dunlin Oyster catcher Redshank Snipe Whimbrel

Iceland’s vast wetlands and moorlands are ideal nesting grounds for wading birds. They gather in huge numbers. All are migrants. Oyster catchers (haematopus ostralegus) are amongst the first to arrive and the red necked phalarope (phalaropus lobatus) the last, often not arriving at its breeding grounds until mid-May.

Red necked phalarope

The arrival of the golden plover (pluvialis apricaria) in April has long been regarded by Icelanders as a sign that Spring has arrived. With few exceptions, the waders are seen in such numbers that they are easily found throughout the country. Snipes (gallinago gallinago) and redshanks (tringa totanus) survey their territories from fence-posts and black tailed godwits (limosa limosa), with their long slender beaks, probe the mud with little concern for the observer.

Black tailed Godwit

Whimbrels (numenius phaeopus) hover over their nest sites and flocks of dunlin (calidris alpina) swirl over the mud-flats. The ringed plover (charadrius hiaticula), smallest of the plovers, scuttles across the tundra and purple sandpipers (calidris maritima) peck through the seaweed on the beaches. In addition to the nesting birds, several passage migrants pass through on their way to Greenland and beyond - the red knot (calidris canutus), turnstone (arenaria interpres) and sanderling (calidris alba) are the most common.

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