A little about the Bustards…

We love birds and wildlife! But even more than that we love making sure you see it, experience it and have a fantastic time to boot.  Between us we have over 40 years experience in nature conservation, ecology, tour leading and the hospitality industry, and we’ll use it to bring you fantastic wildlife spectacles alongside chilled-out birding and local culture and food. Here’s who we are…

Niki Williamson

Niki was given a YOC (Young Ornithologist Club) membership for her 6th birthday, and has loved nature ever since.  Somehow, Niki has managed to remain a member of the RSPB Wildlife Explorers under 9’s to this day, and has found her intellectual level in the Rookie cartoons.

Describing herself as a professional tree-hugger, Niki worked and volunteered for the RSPB for 12 years, managing habitats, brandishing chainsaws with varying levels of threat to limbs (her own and others) and honing her birding skills in some of the best wetland, upland and coastal habitats in the UK.

In recent years she had the pleasure of working with nature-friendly farmers to make the countryside a better place for wildlife.  Latterly she headed up RSPB’s Eastern England farmland advisory team which, together with the other partners in Operation Turtle Dove, is working to ensure a future for this iconic bird.

Niki is one of the original members of #teampeanut – a crack troop of A-team style conservationists looking at ways in which West African peanut growers can not only provide peanuts for your birdfood but also provide habitats for struggling migratory species including Turtle Doves through Fair to Nature accreditation.

While in The Gambia Niki was involved in an unfortunate but amusing incident involving a Pel’s Fishing Owl, a boat and a wheelbarrow, which will no doubt often be recounted on Inglorious Bustards trips…

Seeing first hand the challenges faced by journeying birds all across the flyway has given Niki a deep passion for the epic spectacle of migration.  This, and her love of international adventure makes her an eager addition to the Bustards’ motley line-up and a now permanent resident in centre of Bird migration at the Straits of Gibraltar.

Simon Tonkin

fullsizeoutput_22c3Simon was raised in Plymouth and his early Birding habitats were rubbish tips, sewage outfalls and fish factories. It all started when, at nine years old, his enthralment with the natural world led him to sneak out with his father’s massive binoculars at first light, returning home many hours after dark covered in estuarine mud and other indescribable detritus, to face the music!

Fulfilling a boyhood dream, Simon worked for the RSPB full-time for fifteen years; the first projects he was involved in were to protect breeding Hen Harriers and Bee-eaters in the North of England. Simon has lectured in ornithology, specialising in a variety of subjects including bird ethology, migration and bird populations. He has worked in farmland bird conservation for the most of his RSPB career and recently worked at the RSPB’s headquarters in Sandy, he and Niki launched the first landscape scale farmland bird initiative The Thorney Farmland Bird Friendly Zone.

Simon has conducted research on Corn Bunting crop nest site selection and on the seed palatability of farmland granivores. He also co-launched Operation Turtle Dove, co-ordinating efforts in the UK and internationally to save the species from extirpation. Simon has worked as the Conservation Manager for Conservation Grade, working on ground-breaking and exciting conservation projects in Spain, Portugal, Central America, Morocco, Senegal and the Gambia and is widely travelled in these countries, being particularly familiar with their avifauna, lepidoptera and mammalian species. Simon now lives in the epi-centre of migration at The Straits of Gibraltar as one of the Inglorious Bustards working on a variety of conservation projects, and tour leading.

Once being described by an eminent public figure as having no discernible talents apart from hanging out at sewage outfalls looking at gulls!

Niki and Simon monitoring seabird migration with friends and conservation partners from Migres


Read our independent reviews on BlueSky Wildlife here

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“Being guided by Niki and Simon aka Inglorious Bustards is like taking a leisurely stroll to watch wildlife with a couple of great mates who really care about you. They love what they do and love who they do it for. After my tour of Tarifa and Morocco, in which I witnessed the most amazing migration of raptors and storks heading south over the Straits, I wanted to move in with them…” – David Lindo – Wildlife television presenter, writer and tour operator.

“This tour, led by Nicky and Simon to the coastal region of mid Morocco was not only successful for birds but also very enjoyable. The atmosphere was relaxed, hotels super, (two of which were ‘riads’ with ancient towns walls) and easy walking. The highlight for me were the Eleanora’s Falcons. Seeing 20+ preening in a dead tree just after bathing in the river was amazing. Other special birds included Moussier’s Redstarts, Pratincoles, Coursers, Barbary Partridges and a Royal Tern. I would highly recommend touring with Inglorious Bustards” – Tony Mills, Photographer and Artist.

“A fantastic Wildlife experience led by enthusiastic, knowledgeable leaders Simon and Niki. The pace of the holiday was relaxed but we missed nothing. Simon and Niki knew exactly where the birds were and were extremely adaptable reacting to changes in the weather as necessary. Accommodation and food were excellent enhancing the experience of birding on two Continents” – Lynne Dale 

“Absolutely brilliant. Simon and Niki were great in every department – very knowledgeable guides both for the wildlife and the best places too see it, great hosts and excellent company. The accommodation on the trip was well up to standard and the food, particularly the picnics was excellent. A great trip where we had some memorable experiences, saw some great birds and cetaceans and made some good friends” – Peter Dale

“We had an amazing time with Simon and Niki – they are so knowledgeable and never tire of answering questions. Although they cram so much into one day it never seems rushed, there is time available to see not only the wildlife but also the fabulous landscapes. Picnics are great fun – a variety of food to suit everyone, the only problem is, when birds are soaring overhead do you eat or just stare at the sky in awe ? Looking forward to doing it all over again next year – we loved being Inglorious Bustards xx” – Joan & John Hart

“Don’t be fooled by the relaxed approach. Inglorious Bustards know exactly how to get the best from every destination, while giving their clients stress free, but well organised days. Simon and Niki’s passion for birding, conservation, and for Southern Spain and The Straits is the driving force, while at the same time having fun. As a wildlife tour leader myself of some thirty years experience, I have been fortunate to work with Simon on many occasions as joint tour leaders in several locations across Spain and France. I have always been impressed by how committed he is in sharing his wide wealth of knowledge, not only of birds, but of local wildlife and of the area’s culture and history, while never losing sight of ensuring everyone has a good time” – Tom McJanet experienced tour leader, U.K.

Some of the best birding I’ve had. I honestly mean it when I say I had some of the most enjoyable birding with the bustards. The guides are not only fantastic birders but also fantastic people. Saw all the birds I wanted to see but also really enjoyed myself. All round a fantastic place and would throughly recommend them to anyone” – Jake Gearty, U.K.

“Birds and fun touring together! The best tour I’ve ever had! Experienced leaders, stunning places, wonderful picnic and an overwhelming amount of birds I could never forget. They probably have the best combination of knowledge and people skills to show you one of the most beautiful and biodiverse places in Spain” – Maria Aguilar, Spain.

They are!!! That means to say they’re the complete package; the 5-stars says it all…..passionate, knowledgeable and above all FUN – Mr Mitchell, France.

“Amazing birds, people, location, food and atmosphere. Well worth going on any tour with these folk; can’t express in words how good they are” – Daniel McGibbon, U.K.

“I strongly endorse the service Simon and Niki provide, further I shall not just be an anonymous name on a web site they have my permission in the very unlikely event you will require further assurance that this service is the best I have ever experienced on a birding trip they can supply my email to you  – Be prepared for some excellent days birding with these great hosts” – David U.K.

“Simon and Niki have made my birding experiences memorable delivering on all I asked of them. They provided a bespoke trip, that far exceeded expectations. I was wearing a smile  that swallowed my ears!”

“They provided outstanding accommodation, I was meet at the airport, taken for lunch,, settled in, briefed on the anticipated plans for the next few days all making me feel relaxed and most welcome”

“Both guides’ enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself having a wider appreciation of things in which I previously only had a passing interest, such as wild flowers and invertebrates. Both were very approachable and knowledgeable, and took time to ensure no one missed a thing”

“They were superb with their knowledge of species and patience with our many questions. They showed enthusiasm and good humour throughout the holiday”

“Our tour leaders performed beyond the call of duty to ensure the smooth running of the trip. Driving skills ensured a safe comfortable journey. Picnic preparation was excellent and then led a birdwatching excursion with no break! Their enthusiasm and knowledge was greatly appreciated as a very inexperienced birdwatcher whilst also working long hours, always with a smile”

“Simon is an exceptionally good trip leader. His encyclopaedic knowledge and relaxed style made the trip really enjoyable and memorable”