Birds, birding, and birdwatching trips with Martin Berg
Martin Berg is a marine biologist and expedition leader from Stockholm, and his love of birds runs deep. This austral summer, he will join us on some of our most bird-focused trips – including our Atlantic Odyssey voyage, about which he has much to say.
A naturalist by calling, Martin once worked in the Amazon rainforest, making conservation assessments and bird surveys for BirdLife International. This led him to earn an Honours Degree in Biology at Lund University, followed by an MSc Degree in Marine Biology, during which he divided his time between Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in Canada and Lund University in Sweden.
Martin has been involved in several research projects emphasizing seabird ecology and conservation in the North Atlantic, Southern Ocean, and around New Zealand. He began working in Antarctica in 2015, when he first went there as a researcher, and became an expedition guide in 2017.
Due to his extensive qualifications in the world of birding, we asked his opinion about what our Arctic and Antarctic trips offer both experienced birders and casual hobbyists.
Watching a bird from the Zodiac © Andrew Peacock - Oceanwide Expeditions
You’ve spoken highly of the birding opportunities on our Atlantic Odyssey voyage. What is it that makes this trip so special for bird watchers?
In my opinion, the Atlantic Odyssey trip is one of the best wildlife expeditions currently going, especially for birders. You can see numerous seabirds on this voyage, some of which you can’t find anywhere else.
Actually, a few of the seabird species you might see aren’t even mentioned in the itinerary, since there is no way we can promise we will see them. But this rule applies for most species and landing sites. There are no guarantees with expedition travel. Nature makes the final plan.
Northern rockhopper penguins at Tristan da Cunha © Erwin Vermeulen - Oceanwide Expeditions
But this trip does provide the possibility of seeing rare seabirds?
Yes, the trip has a great concept. The islands you visit on this cruise are some of the best spots on the planet for seeing endemic seabirds. The Tristan albatross, Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, northern rockhopper penguin, and spectacled petrel are good examples.
So even though it’s true we cannot promise anything specific, the Atlantic Odyssey trip provides some of the highest probabilities for seabird sightings based on our past experience. It’s unlikely that even expert birders will be disappointed.
Yellow-nosed albatross © Erwin Vermeulen - Oceanwide Expeditions
Will casual bird watchers be as rewarded as seabird experts?
They will. Other than the sheer number of birds you can see on the Atlantic Odyssey voyage, what stands out is the fact that you’re visiting some of these really remote islands that have completely endemic bird life. That’s really exciting.
Going to Tristan da Cunha and having all these albatrosses and petrels and shearwaters around the ship is incredible. This trip would attract anyone who likes birds. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a university professor or a newcomer.
Great shearwater © Troels Jacobsen - Oceanwide Expeditions
What about the other voyages? How is their birding?
The Arctic and Antarctic regions are almost impossible to compare, but trips to either place will offer people the chance to see great bird life in their endemic areas.
In Svalbard during the months of May and June, for example, the bird watching is fantastic. You can see puffins, ivory gulls, king eiders, and many other beautiful birds of the high Arctic. And in the southern Atlantic Ocean, South Georgia is an amazing destination that supports species of penguin, petrel, and albatross in the thousands.
Ivory gull © Sara Jenner - Oceanwide Expeditions
So since you’ve worked for a few other polar travel operators, what do you think most distinguishes Oceanwide’s bird-watching programs?
I would say the focus on outdoor engagement. Oceanwide trips are really good at attracting active travelers, people who don’t want to simply stand on the deck and observe but who really want to get off the ship and into the environment as much as possible.
This is achieved through outdoor activities that immerse travelers in the polar environment: kayaking, mountaineering, hiking, snowshoeing, camping, diving. These are all fun things to do on their own, but they also put you into immediate contact with the polar world.
That active exploratory philosophy combines well with the great birding opportunities that are present in many of the places Oceanwide visits.
Svalbard birding video
Our expedition leader Martin Berg is one of our top birding experts, and in this brief but info-filled video he discusses some of the most common and coveted seabirds encountered on our Svalbard cruises.
Antarctic and sub-Antarctic birds video
To complement the above video about Arctic birds, here is a video (also by bird expert Martin Berg) about the birds we see in our more southerly cruise spots – specifically Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands, some of the best regions on the planet for viewing exotic birds and seabirds. Most people associate penguins with these regions, but in fact there are many more incredible species to enjoy there.