Early morning birding in Kirkenes yielded a few Common Eider, 2 Red-throated Divers and Kittiwake and then as we left town our first White-tailed Eagle and Raven.
Our main destination for the day was the large forested valley of Pasvik which extends south with Russia on one side and Finland on the other. We made several stops at a mixture of woodland and taiga sites in the morning and early afternoon. The birding was quite slow at times but with work we managed to amass a decent list and some very good sightings. Top of the pops for me was a lovely group of 3 - 4 Siberian Tits which we pursued through the snowy pine forest. While doing this I stumbled upon a singing Parrot Crossbill which allowed some point blank photos as I stood at the base of its tree. Other interesting passerines were a couple of Willow Tits, c8 Bramblings, 2 Waxwings, Reed Bunting and loads of Fieldfares and Redwings (the latter singing which was a new experience for me). At a stop by a large lake we were able to pick out 3 Whooper Swans, Goldeneye, 5 Common Cranes together with Greenshank and Spotted Redshank. Taiga Bean Geese and Red-breasted Mergansers were seen in several scattered locations. We then enjoyed an al fresco lunch of reindeer stew at Birk http://www.birkhusky.no/ before heading north again and towards the mighty Varangerfjord.
Lunch at Birk, Pasvik
Parrot Crossbill, Pasvik
Parrot Crossbill, Pasvik
Siberian Tit, Pasvic (copyright Steve Rogers)
Rough-legged Buzzard, Pasvik
Polluted Russia from Pasvik!
Our route north took us along the south shore of Munkfjord with frequent shouts for Hans to 'stop the bus' for things such as 3 Harbour Porpoises, Common Scoters, Red-throated Divers and Rough-legged Buzzards. At one scheduled stop a scan of the shallow waters and low laying island produced our only Iceland Gull of the week, several loafing Arctic Skuas, Black Guillemots and c15 Goosander. Finally we reached the head of Varangerfjord and our first views of this famous huge fjord.
Birding above Varanger
A short stop at a waterside hide at Varangerbotn added a few species to the triplist - Dunnock, Curlew, Redshank, Pintail and Shelduck before we headed to our overnight accommodation by the shore of the fjord at Nesseby http://www.varjjat.com. Here I was lucky to get a lovely twin room to myself (despite me saying there was plenty of room for someone else) and avoided one of the 2 caravans which were reportedly freezing! Dinner that night was a great BBQ and beers by a roaring fire. While eating and generally being merry Nigel bolted out of the door and within seconds had thrown himself on the grass outside. What on earth was going on?! All was revealed when he returned with a vole in his hand to show us all - impressive reflexes or what?! There was still time for Nigel to pick out a stunning summer plumaged White-billed Diver on the water and c8 Bar-tailed Godwits before we retired.
The facilities on offer at Nesseby!
Accommodation at Nesseby
BBQ dinner at Nesseby