Birding The Norwegian Arctic The Land Of The Midnight Sun

Varanger in sunshine

One of our regular stops on our way north through Norway.

Crossing the border from Finland into Arctic Norway the landscape soon changes as the road runs alongside the mighty Tana River, towering cliffs rise above the river with snow-capped tundra beyond a wild and exciting vista. Our first stop was an estuary surrounded by spectacular mountains a beautiful place. Shallow pools alongside the track here were home to waders feeding before moving up on to the tundra to breed. Smart black-bellied Dunlin fed alongside Ringed Plovers and tiny Temminck’s Stints and we picked out two breeding plumaged Sanderling and a Whimbrel. Arctic Skuas swept low over the area, falcon-like, as massive White-tailed Eagles soared above. Flocks of Common Eider bobbed on the blue sea where Black Guillemots dived for fish.

We were thrilled to have Red-necked Phalaropes feeding so close.

Leaving the estuary we climbed up and up onto the tundra where a lot of snow still covered most of the ground. Amazingly there were still birds up here in this harsh habitat. On partly frozen pools we watched Long-tailed Ducks in their smart breeding dress and Golden Plover ran across the snow fields. Long-tailed Skuas floated over the tundra, so beautiful in the sunshine. We stopped to watch Tundra Bean Geese and then Red-necked Phalaropes and Red-throated Divers on small pools where Ruff displayed and Lapland Buntings scuttled around in the grass. It was so hard to make progress you could stop every few yards to look at some amazing bird!

We reached Batsfjord eventually and settled into our hotel before exploring the nearby harbour. Here more great birds came quickly with Red-throated Divers and Black-throated Divers, Long-tailed Ducks, Common Eider and many Kittiwakes. As the tide dropped flocks of Purple Sandpipers dropped in to feed along with Turnstones, Dunlin, Redshank and Ringed Plover. Arctic Skuas flew above and Arctic Terns dived for fish.

This male Ptarmigan showed off on the roadside, nice not to hike to see them!

The next day we spent exploring the road from Batsfjord to Berlevag to the North-West. Our route first took us back across the tundra where we had wonderful views of Ptarmigan on the roadside and more of the species we enjoyed yesterday also adding Shore Larks and a wonderful encounter with a lemming, this small guinea pig like rodent was so cute and allowed us amazing close views.

So lucky to this cute lemming on the snow, a new mammal for everyone.

The road then dropped down to the coast and spectacular scenery as we followed the coast to Berlevag. We stopped often to watch the many birds, White-tailed Eagles were common, lots of Long-tailed Ducks and Goosanders and plenty of Common Eider we checked in case any rarities among them. Black Guillemots were nesting on an old pier along with Arctic and Common Terns, Black-throated and Red-throated Divers all in breeding plumage were wonderful to see.

This huge adult Glaucous Gull was a nice find at Berlevag Harbour.

At Berlevag Harbour Phil picked out a fine adult Glaucous Gull which was roosting with other gulls at high tide. Nearby we found a second summer Iceland Gull on some rocks near the harbour wall, great to see these two scarce species. A singing male Ring Ouzel was a nice surprise on the way back and it was an amazing sight to see White-tailed Eagles feeding on the carcass of a minke whale washed up on the beach.

Just one of the so many White-tailed Eagles we enjoyed.

It was a beautiful evening so we headed back out up onto the tundra to walk a dirt track. Spectacular light and scenery up here at 9pm and lots to see, Golden Plover were everywhere, Temminck’s Stints were singing, Ruff displaying, super views of Lapland Bunting but one bird still eluded us, Dotterel. We had seen them in this area in the past but no amount of scanning could find one. Reluctantly we headed back towards Batsfjord and as we reach the crest of a hill Gail spotted movement on an open area surrounded by snow. We stopped and scanned, yes, two Dotterel! Wonderful and we all jumped out and enjoyed super views of these most beautiful waders in the low evening sun, magical! What a perfect end to an amazing day of Arctic birding. A huge thanks to Noreen, Tom, Alun, Phil and Gail for their great company on this amazing tour.

Come and join us in May – June 2020 to see over 200 species of birds and some very special mammals!

Amongst the many highlights of this years tour, (2019), we enjoyed the following species of birds...

Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, White-billed Diver, Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Whooper Swan, Tundra Bean Goose, Taiga Bean Goose, King Eider, Garganey, Long-tailed Duck, Smew, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard, Osprey, Merlin, Hobby, Gyr Falcon, Hazel Grouse, Willow Grouse, Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Capercaillie, Common Crane, Dotterel, Temminck's Stint, Purple Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Ruff, Jack Snipe,Woodcock, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Long-tailed Skua, Little Gull, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Caspian Tern, Brunnich's Guillemot, Puffin, European Pygmy Owl, Great grey Owl photo above, Short-eared Owl, Hawk Owl, Tengmalm's Owl, Ural Owl, Wryneck, Black Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Red-throated Pipit, Waxwing, Thrush Nightingale, Red-spotted Bluethroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, River Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Siberian Tit, Crested Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Siberian Jay, Rose-coloured Starling, Common Rosefinch, Arctic Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak, Lapland Bunting, Snow Bunting, Little Bunting, Rustic Bunting.

We also enjoyed some amazing mammals too - brown bears, moose, minke whale and lemming amongst them.

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