Arctic Norway, Day 4, 9 May 2011 - Varangerfjord (Ekkerøy - Vardø) & Hornøya

After a DIY breakfast at our cabin at Ekkerøy we made our way further east along the fjord birding as we went. Frequent stops along the road were very productive. Top marks to Hans for several sudden stops and hasty reverses! Over 30 White-tailed Eagles in the same small area (concentrated on what must have been a carcass of some sort) was some sight as they wheeled over the road, nearby ridge and foreshore. Another sudden screech to a halt as I called Willow Grouse and we went on to enjoy 3 of these great birds by the roadside (2 females and and fantastic male). Other roadside birds included several Tundra Bean Geese, c6 Arctic Skuas and on the water 8 Steller's Eiders, 1 Velvet Scoter, 3 Common Scoters, 7 Tufted Duck, c10 Long-tailed Ducks and scattered Common Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers. No wonder it took us ages to get to Vardø!    

Pink-footed and Tundra Bean Geese, Varangerfjord

Tundra Bean Geese, Varangerfjord

White-tailed Eagle, Varangerfjord

Willow Grouse, Varangerfjord

Birding the Varangerfjord tundra

Before reaching Vardø we called in at the small village of Skallelv where some feeders in a roadside garden were certainly drawing in some hungry birds. We spent an extremely enjoyable hour here watching and photographing an Arctic Redpoll, c6 Mealy Redpolls, c10 Snow Buntings and a stonking male Brambling. Also in the area were a number of Greenfinches, a solitary Northern Wheatear and a small group of Steller's Eiders looking good on an floating ice flow.

Arctic Redpoll, Skallelv

Arctic Redpoll, Skallelv

Brambling, Skallelv

Mealy Redpoll, Skallelv

Mealy Redpoll, Skallelv


Snow Bunting, Skallelv

Reaching Vardø (as far east as Istanbul apparantly!) we checked into the Vardo Hotel early and had some lunch. From the hotel we clocked up c8 Black Guillemots, Glaucous Gull, 2 White-tailed Eagles and several Purple Sandpipers in the harbour before boarding the boat which would take us on the short trip to the island of Hornøya and its famous seabird cliffs. We'd only just got off the boat when Tormod found our only King Eider of the trip, a 2nd summer drake. The next 3 hours on the island were a complete auk-fest in a squally snow blizzard! Simply thousands of Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills and top of the wanted list Brunnich's Guillemots whizzed around with huge numbers of Kittiwakes. A White-tailed Eagle fliew in and demonstrated how it hunted Kittiwake chicks (flapping its wings by the cliff ledges to blow the poor chicks off!).  A couple of Ravens cruised menacingly by as did a 1yr Glaucous Gull. Then a 2nd Orca was spotted by Ruud, this time closer and even breaching - wow!

'bridled' Guillemot, Hornøya 

Brunnich's Guillemot, Hornøya 

Brunnich's Guillemot, Hornøya

Glaucous Gull, Hornøya

Great Black-backed Gull, Hornøya

Kittiwake, Hornøya

Puffin, Hornøya

Puffin, Hornøya

Raven, Hornøya

Razorbill, Hornøya

Shag, Hornøya

Shag, Hornøya

White-tailed Eagle, Hornøya

Here is a Youtube video by Han Ueli showing some of our adventures around  Hornøya and Vadso

After a rather rough boat crossing back we just had enough time to wander to the edge of town for some evening birding by Vardø Fortress (the most northerly fortress in the world) where 4 Glaucous Gulls loafed on the tideline and we added Skylark and Shorelark to the triplist.

Dinner at the hotel that night was accompanied by a pint of the local beer - Mack. But at £9 a pint it would be the only one I had!    

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