Whos keeping an eye on me....

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Finland \ Norway 2013 Pt 4 - Varangafjord

The last part of this series covers our one day stay in Norway.
 
We stayed in Vadso but did most of our birding in the Vardo area. Vardo in the far east of Varanger, is Norway's most easterly town, located at 31°E, which is even further east than Istanbul.
 
Unfortunately we didn't have long enough in these locations and if we had planned this trip again we would have added another day here. We dipped a few species and spent a while looking for them, but hey ho if you don't try you don't get. Still some stunning birds on show...
 
Our first main stop was at Nesseby. Famous for its old white church.
 
 
and already sea watching
 
 
we did manage Ringed Plover, Dunlin amongst others
 
 
and a Short Eared Owl sat on the sand in the bay
 
 
but on the pool behind the church we were too early (or maybe they were late) for the Red Necked Phalaropes. We tried the day after and again we missed them.
 
Although we were confident that we had located Bean Goose in Finland it was nice to nail a few positive IDs and some images here.
 


 
then .......

 
As we neared our base town of Vadso we quickly pulled over as we passed the harbour when we located one of our main target species.... Stellers Eider. We kind of parked the car on the kerbside, we were on a mission, this was one of the reasons for making this huge trek to Norway, no way were we going to give up this chance to get stunning views of the species. I remember counting them but didn't make a note..... I recall 60-70, what a start! A real pity the light was right at us, we couldn't move to the right side.... it didn't matter, this was amazing.
 


 

 
and with the ladies
 
 
I couldn't believe how small they are....
Common Eider Vs Stellers Eider comparison
 
 
we could have stayed longer with the Stellers but we had time constraints. We needed to book into the hotel and get out on the road again, which is what we did.... straight off to Ekkeroy Island.
 
Looking from Ekkeroy and towards Vardo
 
 
We headed straight to the Kittiwake colony.... what a fantastic place, standing underneath the edge of the cliff face.
 
c20,000 pairs.....
 
 

 

 
Purple Sandpipers braved the waves on the rocky foreshore. Ekkeroy has some diverse habitats so from here we went in search of species such as Lapland Bunting, Red Throated Pipit, Shorelark and any Skuas species.....  On the moorland we searched in Vein for the Bunts and Pipits but found Waxwings..... I have never seen Waxwings in a moorland habitat before today.
 
 
A pair foraged on the moorland berries and returned to the fence posts.

 
A single Swallow was seen here, surprising find??? anyway after mulling the whys and wherefores of such a northern Swallow we soon found the Shorelark, a pair.... very active on a long rocky plateau, after watching them for a few minutes we were just about to aim our camera sights when overhead passed our first Skua.....  a quick look up at the Skua and the chance was lost the Shorelarks had flown to the other side of the rocky outcrop, a quick fire shot of the Long Tailed Skua more than made up for the lost opportunity. We were to see good numbers of LTSs later in the afternoon as we drove further east.
 
 
a quick stop to try to locate a single White Billed Diver proved fruitless for myself, although Jeff had a possible sighting, trying to relocate it in the 100s of other birds a long distance off shore proved to be fruitless, although I got a nice life bird in this location with Long Tailed Duck in their 100s
 
 
 
We continued east towards Vardo, the landscape became more baron and unforgiving.. but the lagoons and pools that were viewable from the road were littered with Divers, a few Black Throated  but Mainly Red Throated Divers.
 
 
of course this is perfect Skua landscape and we were now seeing plenty, Mainly Arctic Skuas
 
 
 
we would see a single Great Skua a little later but still we had time to see plenty of other species including Golden Plover
 
 
Snipe
 
 
after some seriously intense scanning of the Guillemot colony at Hornoya eventually we were able to add Brunnich's Guillemot.... Great work here by Jeff.
Puffins were also seen in the water along with more Stellers and Common Eider
 
White Tailed Eagles were seen in the area in very good numbers, possibly eight individuals



 


 
and not to be out done was an incredible scene when we witnessed 4 Rough Legged Buzzards follow each other across the landscape in front of us, we did our best to locate 2 calling Willow Grouse but they kept their heads well and truly down, plenty of other species on the water including 100s of Tufted Ducks, again with more time we may have been able to sneak a Scaup or two, of the Scoter species we were only able to find Common Scoter, a few rafts of these giving counts into the 100s also.
 

 
We missed more than a few species whilst here but according to a local birder only a single pair of King Eider were seen in the area and that had been 4 days previous, he had also not seen any Lapland Buntings or Red Throated Pipits, so it looks like we were looking in vein anyway add the Red Necked Phalarope that had not yet arrived and the possible (probable) sighting that Jeff got of the White Billed Diver we didn't do too bad. I wouldn't revisit Finland due to the miles already covered, however I would like to revisit Varangarfjord, possibly flying all the way to Vadso allowing more time in the area....... only thing to do is decide to go a little earlier for the King Eider or a little later for the later migrants...... decisions, decisions!

23 comments:

HansHB said...

Great photos, Finmark and Varanger is a perfect place to visit if one wants to take photos!

Gary said...

Great series Dave. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Cannada.

HOOTIN ANNI said...

Excellent images...beautiful country and wonderful birding shares.

Karen said...

Great shots, the eagle is awesome!

Andrew Fulton said...

Looks like a fantastic place to visit Dave... wonderful images.

eileeninmd said...

Wow, what a great outing. The birds are awesome. The two Eider species together is cool. So many wonderful birds and photos.

mick said...

A great series of photos and good to see and photograph so many of your target birds.

NatureFootstep said...

so many gorgeous birds and a great landscape. Loved the shots o the little eider. :)

Brian King said...

Nice shots and a fantastic variety! I like the Eiders...I've never seen one. Very handsome ducks! The eagles are amazing!

TexWisGirl said...

what a great bunch of birds! the eiders are cool - so is that owl!

Carole M. said...

an interesting tour and scenery but I was most surprised to see the owl out on the sandbank like that; would it pick up fish?

Gunilla Bäck said...

Awesome birds. I love the scenery. I've never been up that far north in Norway.

Stewart M said...

Wow! That looks like sone day. The eider are great.

The silver eye is in the same genus as the white-eye.

Cheers - and thanks for linking to WBW - Stewart M - Melbourne

Phil said...

Looks like a wonderful, magical trip dave. Like you I am amazed at the size of Steller's Eider!, not to mention Waxwings on the moorland.

Arija said...

My, oh my, what an exciting trip with so very many birds. A wonderful collection indeed, thank you for sharing the experience.

Ken Schneider said...

What a great day! You captured not only the birds but their habitat very effectively. The eiders were a really nice find.

Carletta said...

Hi Dave,
A lovely framed shot of the church! Excellent in the B&W.
Wonderful bird shots but I'm really impressed with your eagle shots. :)

Mary Howell Cromer said...

How pretty!

Pat said...

The old white church is beautiful. How exciting to see that huge Kittiwake colony!

Liz said...

WOW!! So many gorgeous images of wildlife and landscapes!!

EG CameraGirl said...

What a lovely trip to see all thee birds. Looks like the weather was cooperating too!

Steve Borichevsky said...

I'm glad I stopped by. You have a great photo blog. I love that Siberian Jay. Cheers!

Rambling Woods said...

What wonderful birding you had and captured so beautifully...Michelle