Várnjárga – Varanger tips

This is a short guide to Várnjárga (Varanger peninsula) birdlife. Below you will find information about easy access locations with good opportunities to observe birdlife. With good observation manners you will be able to to enjoy birdwatching with out causing disturbance and unnecessary harm for the birds.

A reminder: Northern summer is short and tough. Wind, cold weather, snow, rain, direct sunshine, heat and predatation are always a thread to unprotected eggs and chicks. Remember that Várnjárga is a popular destination among birdwatchers and nature photographers – act accordingly and respect nature.

UNJÁRGA – NESSEBY – MAP

Nesseby church is an excellent spot to see wader’s and seabirds feeding on the sand beds of the fjord. The beach next to the parking place by the church is the best spot to observe shoreline birds. To check out some stoats (Mustela erminea) wait a while by the rock fence surrounding the church.

Best time for visit: Recommended especially from late summer to autumn when birds prepare for migration, cather into flocks and tank some energy for the long flight to their winter estates.

EKKERØY BIRD CLIFF MAP

A bird cliff with an easy access. 20 000 pairs of kittywakes nest at the cliffs. Park your car at the official parking place NOT by someone’s house. You will end up with flat tires 😉 Follow the trail up the cliff and you will be just above the colony. Easy but windy – bring appropriate clothes.

A sure sign of Peregrine falcons’ and Gyrfalcons’ presence are the plucked Gulls and Kittywakes that can be found all over Ekkerøy. If you spend enough time at the bird cliffs, your changes of seeing one of these majestic falcons are high. I have left the cliff just once w/o seeing either one hunting for prey.

So instead of lurking around the few commonly known nesting sites in Várnjárga and causing disturbance and even perhaps failure in nesting for either a Peregrine or Gyrfalcon come to Ekkerøy and see the birds in action causing horror in the bird colony. And I am not just saying, some of the Gyrfalcon cliffs are now empty where they are known to a wide audience.

Best time for visit: From spring until late summer.

HORNØYA BIRD ISLAND – MAP

The best bird island / cliff in Várnjárga and quite possibly one of the best in Scandinavia. Access to the island is by a boat from Vardø harbour. Boat transfer to the island daily during summer. For further information check out tourist info located in the harbour or just arrive at the scene before 9 am to book your tickets to the first boat for the island.

The island is known for its Atlantic puffins, European shags, Razorbills, Brünnich’s Guillemots… It’s possible to spend a night at the island in the old light house but during the busiest summer weeks you have to book in advance – all the rooms are usually booked by researchers and photographers. Call the Vardø tourist info for further information.

Best time for visit: From early spring until late summer.

HAMNINGBERG – MAP

The road to Hamningberg with its moon like landscape is well documented, but Hamningberg itself is a good place to spot seabirds. The village is located in a small cape towards north on the north face of Várnjárga and thus is an ideal place to observe birds flying on to the sea fishing or patrolling along the coast line.

Hamnigberg is also a good place to spot some rare visitors. Among gulls one can observe arctic species e.g. Iceland gull as well as more rare Gavia’s e.g. Great northern loon. Northern gannets from a colony across the fjord to the west fly by Hamningberg on their way feasting for fish.

Best time for visit: Summer. Note that Hamningberg is not inhabited by winter. The road to Hamningberg runs through avalanche and storm prone landscape so the road doesn’t open until late spring / early summer.

ROAD 890 across the mountain plateau – MAP

A scenic road across the barren fell landscape.

The plateau is a good place to spot Long-tailed skuas, Snow buntings, Long-tailed ducks or Willow ptarmigans. Especially up here the animals are vulnerable to disturbance due to severe weather so keep animal security in mind while enjoying the beauty of the fell plateau!

Best time for visit: Summer.

OVERALL

Várnjárga is an excellent location for birdwatching and nature photography. Várnjárga’s location at the gates of the arctic climate zone means that the ovewhelming majority of all birdlife on the peninsula lives with in the first kilometer from the coastline towards inland. After that all fauna becomes scarce due to very barren landscape.

A good time for visit from animals’ point of view is from mid July onwards when most of the chicks have grown larger. However note that many important breeding areas are restricted from access until mid August and disturbing animals is not allowed. Most of the destinations above have good and clear instructions on birdwatching and photography.

If there was just one tip I could give out for you birdwatchers and nature photographers, it would be: bring sunlotion! Especially you Finns! It’s painful to watch skin beeing burned lobster red on a day trip to Hornøya. The sun might not climb high, but it burns you 24/7 for over two months and you’ll be spending most of that time outside.

Enjoy 😀

-Antti

Mika Linhon loistava opas Varangille Suomeksi -> TÄÄLLÄ

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