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A Report from

More Beans Anyone? A whistle-stop tour of Northern Scandinavia 26/5/02 to 4/6/02,

Lee Nixon



It all started innocently enough.  One member of our crew has a relative in Trondheim who offered us free accommodation, so it seemed reasonable that we should forgo our annual trip to France in favour of a trip to Norway.  Just central Norway, of course.  Just for 7 or 8 days.

Then things got silly.  It was probably my fault; I was the one who pointed out that the Arctic Circle was no more than a cock-stride to the North.  Wouldn't it be great to say we had been to the Arctic?  We all thought it would.

Then I bought a copy of Where to Watch Birds in Europe and Russia by Nigel Wheatley and read the chapter on Varanger.  I passed it on to my friends.  Just for curiosity you understand.  We couldn't really consider it.  Could we?

It didn't look too far (F. Jeremy Roberts rightly points out that it is further north than the North Slope of Alaska and further east than Istanbul, but the only map we had was on a scale of one inch to several million miles, apparently).

Childishly, we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the idea of seeing Steller's Eider, Gyrfalcon, White-billed Diver and Brunnich's Guillemot.  Stupidly, we allowed the seduction to keep its grip even when we worked out the true distances involved (a round trip of 3600 miles from Bergen).  Recklessly, we neglected to increase the duration of the trip.

But the decision was made and an almost impossible and somewhat sketchy plan was drawn up.  It went like this:

26/5/02 - Ferry from Newcastle to Bergen (arrive late evening 27/5/02)
4/6/02 - Ferry from Bergen to Newcastle (depart early morning)
In the intervening 7 days, go to Varanger!

We knew of a few sites we wanted to visit en route, but we also thought we had to play it a little by ear.  It was going to be hard to cover the required distance and we didn't know how much time we could spare if we were going to reach the Arctic Ocean.  As the day of reckoning approached, I think we were all getting nervous that we had bitten off more than we could chew.

Speaking of us all, I realise I have been remiss.  Allow me to introduce the crew; Gavin - purveyor of free petrol, thanks to his employer and also with the aforementioned relative in Trondheim; Dave - purveyor and cooker of cheap tins of french food (stockpiled in preparation for our trip - apologies to the Norwegian economy, but needs must); Nick - Dave's son, speaker of fluent Swedish and key additional driver, and me - note-taker general, printer of bird lists and probably the only one who really cared whether or not we saw an argentatus Herring Gull.

Anyway, we were nervous.  One of the biggest concerns was the speed limits in Scandinavia generally and in Norway in particular. "Why on earth, in a country 2.5 times the size of England and with a population of only 4.5 million, is the speed limit only 50mph?" Gavin asked a young member of a Norwegian stag party on board the outward ferry.  "Perhaps we want to keep the population at 4.5 million," came the reply.  Smart lot these Norwegians, even at 2am when they are drunk.

But the speed limits are a problem.  If you want to cover the vast distances in anything less than an entire lifetime, there is a temptation to assume a certain flexibility of the rules, particularly when you're driving through hundred's of miles of forest and haven't seen another car for hours.

But be warned!  To go too fast is to risk your own welfare and the welfare of the local wildlife.  Moose stand very tall and they tend to do it in the middle of the road.  Apparently, you don't run them over.  You don't even knock them down.  You actually take the legs out from under them and, before the rest of this huge animal has time to fall, it turns your nice Volvo estate into a cabriolet.  Luckily I am not speaking from experience but for this reason if for no other (and lets face it there's lots of others) please do allow yourself more time than we did if you decide to visit the far north.

Anyway, we decided to travel in Sweden rather than Norway where possible, as the speed limit is slightly higher and the roads generally better. The roads in Norway are pants. We stopped several times to check if we had a puncture, but it was just the wandering grooves in the road. No punctures perhaps, but Gavin did have to replace all four tyres on our return, even though they were nearly new when we set out!

There is more technical detail at the back of this report, but for now I'll move on to a blow by blow account of our journey.


26/5/02 - We boarded the ferry at around 17.30, having picked up Whiskered Tern on the way at Pennington Flash in Lancashire and having dipped out on Skuas at Bowness.  We didn't see much that evening on the English side other than Common and Sandwich Terns and a few Northern Gannets, so we allowed the rather dank and inauspicious weather to drive us in to the bar.

27/5/02 - Dawned overcast but dry (some time before Gavin and I got back to our cabins) and we were still far from land.  For several hours, we saw nothing more than Black-legged Kittiwakes and Great Black-backed Gulls.  More notable than the birds were the jellyfish; millions upon millions of them crowded the surface of the North Sea for as far as the eye could see.  Hardly a cubic foot was free of an amorphous blob and this situation continued over hundreds of miles, all the way in to the coast and along it from Stavanger to Bergen. 

In and around Stavanger Port (the ferry's first stop) we saw large rafts of Common Eider, lots of Arctic Terns and a Hooded Crow.  Compared to British ports, Stavanger is a delightful place - we were constantly scanning the gorgeous scenery in the hope of a White-tailed Eagle, but without success.  Between Stavanger and Haugesund (the ferry's second stop) we saw our first definite argentatus Herring Gull (hooray!).  We docked in Bergen at 1930hrs and set off in the general direction of Trondheim.  We were staying there the next night so there was no real rush, but we wanted to take in some birding spots on the way so we drove through the night to be in the right area by dawn. The driving was stressful on the narrow roads in gathering darkness with snow showers and with Wagons coming the other way missing us by inches. I was lucky enough to miss most of this as I was asleep. This was the last time we would drive in the dark for many days and it was the last time I would consider myself lucky to miss something by being asleep, as you will see...

Our route took us through the incredible 25km road tunnel which takes the E16 under a range of mountains.  The unlined stone walls and sparse lighting combine to create the impression that you are driving through an eldritch forest of Tolkienesque proportions.  I half expected to see weird beasts leap across the road in the distance.  Look out for the strangely illuminated rest points.  I regret we didn't partake, but getting out of your car and having a picnic in the heart of a mountain must be a strange experience.

28/7/02 - At around two in the morning, we stopped for a comfort break alongside a lake on the E51.  It was still quite dark, but birds were singing everywhere and we couldn't recognise a thing.  With hindsight, I know that there were Redwing and Fieldfare, Bluethroat and Temmink's Stint.  In the gloom we did manage to make out Green Sandpiper and our first Willow Grouse.  Further on, as we joined the E257, we saw our first Moose - huge but antlerless - standing on the verge and shortly afterwards we also ticked fox.

We were entering some of Norway's most spectacular scenery with mountains rising to 5,000 feet.

The day did not dawn brightly.  At 5.00am we were sat in the car at Fokstumyra at the southern end of the Dovrefjell National Park.  It was 6 degrees centigrade and raining.  We thought it was too early to access the reserve itself (some reports state that a permit is required - we discovered on our return visit that this is not so - visitors must simply sign a visitors' book), so took a track that struck north from the main road not far to the northeast of the reserve.  We bagged Bluethroat, Wood Sandpiper, Brambling and Meally Redpoll, Black-throated Diver and Goosander before returning to the car for a couple of hours sleep, then pushing on.

Some hours later, in brilliant sunshine and with the temperature hitting 23 degrees centigrade, we were exploring the Bratsberg area immediately south of Trondheim.  There is a small lake which can be driven around and in doing so we saw Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, White Wagtail, Siskin, Goosander, Common Sandpiper, Yellowhammer and Tree Pipit.  In the afternoon, we took the ferry from Trondheim to Leksvik and met Gavin's relative, Richard, who took us for a walk around the local woods and farmland.  We saw hundreds of Fieldfares - a dominant species in this region - and had fine views of a Goshawk. 

That night we stayed at Richard and Camilla's.  It would be our last decent sleep for a while and would be the last sunset for a while too.  It never really went dark and it was 02.00am before we retired from the patio.  I must thank Richard and Camilla for their hospitality - the drink and the jokes - most of which cannot be repeated in an open publication such as this (but if we ever meet face to face, ask me to tell you the one about the moose-hunter...).

Richard and Camilla thought it was madness to attempt what we were attempting. Camilla - a native Norwegian - had never been near Varanger. It was almost as exotic an idea to her, I think, as it was to us. Of course, what Camilla didn't realise is that there was a reason we were undertaking such a mad journey. The reason being that we were all stark, raving mad.

29/5/02 - At 0930hrs we began the push for the north in earnest.  It was fine and warm and as we drove north it actually got warmer.  On the E74 near Sandnes, we spotted 6 Cranes high up and on a small lake just south of Wilhelmina got good views of Black-throated Diver.  In a small clearing in the vast forest, about 15km north of Wilhelmina we bagged borealis Willow Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Meally Redpoll, Arctic Terns and nesting Whooper Swans.  Near Blattniksele we saw 2 Red-throated Divers and Cuckoo.

We crossed the Arctic Circle at 1800hrs, on the E45.  The temperature was 26 degrees centigrade.  Little did we know at the time, but we had chosen to visit in the hottest Arctic spring for some years.

Later in the evening, we stopped at an extensive bog about 23km north of Vittangi, which we believe to be the site referred to elsewhere as Sappisaasi, although we could find no confirming signage.  With the sun still up and the temperature still high, we had some of the tinned food (full of beans and lentils and I'll leave you to work out for yourselves what part this diet would play over the coming days) and spent a couple of hours bog-trotting.  There were birds everywhere.  We bagged Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, 3 Red-necked Phalarope, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Teal, Arctic Tern, Goldeneye, Grey-headed Wagtail, Whinchat and Short-eared Owl.  With hindsight I suspect we also flushed Broad-billed Sandpiper, but at that point we were unfamiliar with the call.  We continued on our way, racing to keep the sun above the horizon.

We succeeded and, around midnight, in the barn-country between Nedro Soppero and Ovre Soppero, Gavin spotted an owl and we screeched to a halt.  It turned out to be another Short-eared, but as we watched it another bird flew up from the trees and mobbed it.  It was a Hawk Owl!  It proved elusive at first, but eventually flew towards the road and perched on telegraph wires.  It was lit nicely by the low sun and I was able to get within 50 metres from where I got some reasonable photos (well, you can see what it is anyway!).  While we watched it, we could hear Pygmy Owls calling, but we couldn't see them.  This spot looks very promising and deserving of more time than we were able to give.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were Great Grey's in the vicinity as well.  We drove on, rotating drivers rather than stopping to sleep. We passed from Sweden into Finland and into Norway in quick succession. Gavin kept stirring from sleep to ask where we were and was told a different country every time. I suspect his dreams took on a disturbingly surreal quality as a result.

30/5/02 - At 0200hrs we stopped on the E93 by some pools about 11km south of Suossjavrl.  Here we saw 2 Long-tailed Skuas, lekking Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Horned Lark,  Grey-headed Wagtail, Grey Plover, Red-necked Phalaropes, Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Willow Grouse and Bluethroat.  The temperature had dropped significantly and dropped further as we continued north.

East of Jerggul on the E92 we saw our first Rough-legged Buzzard, a bird we had expected to be more common.  Then, on the E6/75 we came upon a Great Snipe which took off from the side of the road.  I was asleep and by the time I woke it was too late.  My notebook records it in brackets, accompanied by numerous swear words.

0600hrs.  Nyborg.  We had done it.  We were in Varanger.  It was 4 degrees centigrade.  We had already had a good day, but it was about to get better.  It would be one of the two longest, most tiring, yet most rewarding days of my birding life (see tomorrow for the other one).

As soon as the road reached Varangerfjorden we bagged Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Arctic Skua, 76 Goosander, Long-tailed Skua, 2 male and 1 female Steller's Eider, 6 White-tailed Eagles (perched on rocks on the opposite hillside and shore) and fuscus Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Further east at Nesseby we got 14 male Steller's Eider, a cracking argentatus Herring Gull with hardly any black in its wings, 2 Lapland Longspur, Black-tailed Godwit,  Great Skua, Velvet Scoter and a distant pod of Killer Wales.  We met two English birders here who had sensibly allowed themselves two weeks to reach Varanger and they looked at us as if we were either lying or totally mad when we admitted that we had charged up in under 3 days.

We stopped off in Vestre Jakobselv to book a cabin for the 'night' then continued east.  Before we reached Vadso, we got Red-throated Pipit at the side of the road, Arctic Skuas and another Rough-legged Buzzard.  Just west of Ekkeroy we got another Red-throated Pipit and on the Ekkeroy penninsula itself we got 300 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Lapland Longspur, 2 more Red-throated Pipits, 2 Horned Larks, Arctic Terns, Long-tailed and Arctic Skuas and around 100 Long-tailed Duck.

Between Ekkeroy and Vardo we saw 8 Rough-legged Buzzards and 7 White-tailed Eagles, spread out in ones and twos, along with lots of Arctic and Long-tailed Skuas.  We also caught an intriguing glimpse of Arctic Russia across the Barent Sea to the southeast.  It looked a wild and forbidding place.

At Vardo, we got Puffins and Black Guillemot and a real bonus - a Brunnich's Guillemot in the harbour itself!  It is a sign of how tiring this all was that Dave and Nick could not be prised from the car to walk 50 metres to see this bird!  I had to admit that I too had had enough now and Gavin gave up his ambition to continue to Hamningberg.  We turned west and retraced our steps, picking up 19 Rough-legged Buzzards and 1 White-tailed Eagle on route.

We got to the campsite in Vestre Jakobselv at about 1700hrs and met two Hungarian birders who told us that Gyrfalcon and Snowy Owl had recently been visiting the Kittiwake colony on Ekkeroy and Arctic Redpoll had been seen in the local harbour.  We had a couple of beers and slept from 1800hrs to 2330hrs.

31/5/02 - Midnight start.  Still cold at 4 degrees.  We went to Vestre Jakobselv harbour first and got Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Arctic and Long-tailed Skua and Arctic Tern, but failed on Arctic Redpoll.  The sea rose and fell in smooth curves, made pink by the midnight sun - it really was a wonderful scene.  But we left it and headed east once more.

Just east of Ekkeroy, we watched numerous Arctic Skuas chasing various victims - in fact we heard them pass with a "whoosh", they were so close. But the weather was closing in, with thick fog rolling in off the sea, so we turned west again, picking up another Short-eared Owl at the roadside.

We went to Tana Bru and turned north, aiming for the road over the plateau to Batsfjord.  In much improved conditions, we stopped 30km north of Tana Bru and looked for Gyrfalcon, but the best we could do was a Peregrine and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

On the plateau itself, the temperature held at around 4 degrees and the sun shone brilliantly, dazzling us as it reflected off the snowfields.  This road is fantastic.  Between 0230hrs and about 0600hrs we got wonderful views of Red-throated Divers,  Arctic and Long-tailed Skuas, 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, numerous Willow Grouse and Ptarmigan, displaying pairs of Temminck's Stint,  several Arctic and Meally Redpolls, Lapland Longspur, Horned Lark, Bluethroat, Snow Bunting, Whimbrel and other more common stuff - including a singing Willow Warbler, here, on an Arctic plateau!  Less surprising perhaps, but more exotic, were the herds of Reindeer wandering across the snow fields.

In Batsfjord itself, we got Glaucous Gull and Long-tailed Duck, but had to resign ourselves to dipping on White-billed Diver on this trip; we were about to turn our backs on Varanger.

Before we did, however, we stopped again 30km north of Tana Bru and, in the incidental company of a 20-strong birding tour, we put right our earlier failure and got excellent views of a Gyrfalcon as it swung around the cliffs above our heads.  We added White-tailed Eagle, Pied Flycatcher, Meally Redpoll and Redstart before getting in the car and heading south.  The trip was far from over, however.  We were going to Finland.

On the E75, between Mieraslompolo and Kaamanen, we picked up 4 Red-necked Phalarope, a single Crane, a pair of Long-tailed Duck, Rough-legged Buzzard and a Wheatear.  In woodland just south of Inari, with the temperature back up to 26 degrees centigrade, Gavin saw a Pygmy Owl and he and Dave also got Siberian Tit.  Nick and I missed both!  This led to more adult language being added to my notebook. Dave and Gavin also got Smew on a woodland pool.

We took a slight deviation to the junction of the E969 and the E91, took some photos next to the sign for Murmansk and bagged Smew, Little Gull, Temminck's Stint and Waxwing in the vicinity of the small lake.

Back on the E75, near Vuotso I was asleep once more as a Tengmalm's Owl flew in front of the car.  I'm sure it was still in view when I woke, but I could not get on it.  We had not had chance to arrange local contacts before leaving, so our chances of seeing another Tengmalm's were slim.  My notebook came in for a not too literary assault once more.

However, when we arrived at our intended camp site at Peurasuvanto, the owner said he could give us directions to a local site where Tengmalm's had been breeding!  We got Northern Bullfinch on the site birdtable and a Pied Flycatcher in the adjacent tree before setting out to Petkula Marsh to the south, planning to get the Tengmalm's on our return.

At Petkula the midges were horrendous, but they didn't bite even when you inhaled a few hundred, which was nice.  In spite of them, we got Whimbrel, Rough-legged Buzzard, Cuckoo, Ruff, Wood Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank and 3 Broad-billed Sandpipers - all from the road, which is worth knowing if the midges are buzzing around the walkway across the bog.  If you're not familiar with Broad-billed Sandpipers, listen out for calls like a Sand Martin and scan high in the air for displaying birds.

We returned to Peurasuvento and tried to follow the directions we had been given to the Tengmalm's site.  We failed.  When we got back to the camp site, the owner reminded us of a small part of the directions we had forgotten.  Ah well.  We'd try again in the morning.  In the meantime we relaxed with a beer, watched a first summer male Scarlet Rosefinch on the site bird table and chatted to the owner.  When asked "What do you do in the long winters?" he replied "In the summer we fish, we eat and we love.  In the winter we fish a little less and we eat a little less..."  We had some more beer, made use of our cabin's en-suite sauna, ate and turned in for the 'night'.  The sun set for the first time in 4 days, but none of us were awake to see it.

1/6/02 - Awoke later than intended at 0930hrs and set out again for the Tengmalm's Site.  We failed again, even with the added piece of information.  We gave up, frustrated, and headed south

We stopped at the ski centre in Luosto off the E962 and followed a nature trail up onto the mountain, but we cut it short due to the lack of birds and decended a snowless piste.  The best we had were Whimbrel, Wheatear, Redstart, Tree Pipit and Pied Flycatcher. The view from the top was worth the walk however. It was overwhelming to look across hundreds of square miles and see nothing but forest - for as far as the eye could see an all directions.

With the temperature stable at 26 degrees, we paid a visit to Pyhatunturi National Park also off the E962 (the visitor centre is closed at weekends, would you believe).  Here we all heard Siberian Tits again, but failed to see them, got plenty of Grey-headed Wagtails, 2 Hazelhen, Spotted Redshanks, Wood Sandpipers and a party of Siberian Jays which flew literally around our heads for several minutes, being mobbed by a plucky little Brambling.  This was another spot that would almost certainly reward more patient study, but we had to get moving.

We drove on to the Baltic and, after some difficulty managed to secure a cabin for the night.  It was in Boden, which was off our intended route, but all the others in the region appeared to be closed for the weekend (!) and the caretakers' phone numbers displayed in the office windows were all but useless.  Actually, the site in Boden was also closed and we had to meet the caretaker in town and he led us to the site - very strange indeed!  I can understand that the Scandinavians like their weekend and don't want to be disturbed, but what do they do when all the amenities we normally associate with recreation are closed? Walk a little less and camp a little less, maybe... 

Anyway, we got singing Sedge Warbler, Little Gulls and Arctic Terns on the adjoining lake, which was nice.

2/6/02 - In the morning, we visited the Gammelstadviken Reserve.  Don't be fooled by the signs on the west side of the main E4 - the reserve proper lies to the East of that road.  At the lake, we got Red-necked Grebe, Little Gulls, Marsh Harrier, Long-tailed Skua, Spotted Flycatcher and our first Canada Goose and Coot of the trip! Oh, and a few million mosquitos. We then got down to some more serious motoring and by evening had reached Ann, on the border between Sweden and Norway, just to the east of Trondheim.

We booked a cabin at a local site, visited the cafe on the main road for food and beer and set out into the evening sunlight to explore Annsjon, the lake and marsh which extends south from the road.  This really is a lovely spot.  We got 4 Black-throated Divers (singing!), 2 Red-throated Divers, 4 Slavonian Grebes, 4 Red-necked Phalaropes, Common Crane, 2 Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Little Gull and Whimbrel.  Nick didn't feel well, so he and Dave returned to the Camp Site, leaving Gavin and I to continue exploring.  The site looked great for owls, but we watched till sunset and nothing appeared, so we headed towards camp.

On the way, we saw 2 or 3 Woodcock and 2 Cuckoos which were calling even at this late hour.  We also heard Pygmy Owl, but couldn't get on it.  When we got to the cabin it was around midnight, but Nick was there to greet us.  He still didn't look too well, but he smiled as he told us of the Pygmy Owl he and his Dad had seen from the back of the cabin!  That was it.  Beer in hand, I spent the next hour watching for them, eventually being rewarded when Gavin joined me and we did a quick tour of the camp site.  There were at least 2 birds calling, but we had only a fleeting glimpse of one.  Still, it was another lifer in the bag.  Now I could sleep.

3/6/02 - The day was cooler than we had been used to as we walked along a woodland track to the west of Annsjon.  We added Goldcrest to the trip list and heard 2 Icterine Warblers singing, but had no luck with Woodpeckers which had been our main target.  The mosquitoes were vicious apparently.  I tend not to be too troubled by them, but Dave is a different matter.  He carries some kind of label which says, in mosquito, "Consume within seconds of opening." And, sadly for him, each bite takes a terrible toll, with massive swelling and much pain.  Here, they were biting him through his hair, until he took refuge under the midge hat he had bought at the cafe the night before.  Nick was probably happy that he had stayed in bed.

We stopped again at Fokstemyra, this time going into the reserve, but it was quiet, with only Bluethroat, Wood Sandpiper, Golden Plover and Reed Bunting.

Our journey on down the E51 delivered Goshawk near Bessheim, Golden Eagle displaying near Tjornhalstinden and another near the Bithorn.

We were prevented from entering the "Mirkwood" tunnel for some time as the entrance was blocked by four lorries parked across the road.  It was some time before we realised they were roadcleaners and they were posing with their lorries for a photo - presumably to commemorate their first cleansing of the tunnel - quite sweet really.

We found a handy picnic area on the E6 about 100km east of Bergen before nightfall and were able to pitch our tent on the shore of a lake - an idyllic setting for our last night in Scandinavia.  Yet more bean-based french food and a night cap of Vodka and then we slept, the discomfort of the cold, hard ground overtaken by the exhaustion that finally embraced us.  The only surprise is that it hadn't embraced us sooner.

4/6/02 - The first day of the return journey was fairly uneventful and we spent most of the time in bed or in the bar. We had a pleasant chat with an independent lady of advancing years who regularly travelled around the world on her own - inspiring! And we also met the group of snowboarders who had accompanied us on our outward crossing.  They updated us on their trip. Apparently, two of their group had been sent straight back to Blighty on arrival in Norway because of a "misunderstanding" about some resin or other. However, on the return journey, they won a significant prize playing on-board bingo  and were able to buy new ferry tickets for the next crossing, whereupon they rejoined their friends! On the subject of bingo, is it just me that thinks it unfair to call the numbers in Norwegian first before translating into a kind of English ("Two leetle Dooks")?

5/6/02 - Before we reached Newcastle, we had the bonus of a British tick - a Great Skua.  And that was it.  We arrived back in Newcastle in a blaze of anticlimax.  We had done it.  We had spent an amazing few days in one of the most beautiful regions in Europe and now we were in Newcastle.  Sorry Geordies, but I wanted to turn around and go straight back.  Never before have I felt the same sense of loss and depression on returning from a trip.  I needed something to cheer me up, something to look forward to.  I remembered how intrigued I was by my glimpse of Russia and felt the seeds of a ridiculous plan germinate somewhere in the dark and reckless recesses of my mind.  We couldn't possibly.  Could we?  It didn't look that forbidding...

Systematic List

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
2 from plateau road to Batsfjord, 2 nr Blattniksele, 2 at Annsjon.

Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica
1 at Fokstumyra, 1 S of Wilelmina, 4 at Annsjon (singing).

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Several at Gammelstadviken.

Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
1 at Gammelstadviken

Horned Grebe Podiceps auritas
4 at Annsjon.

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
Frequent on North Sea.

Gannet Morus bassanus
Several on North Sea.

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Common on coasts.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Common on coasts.

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus
Nesting pair on lake 15km north of Wilhelmina.

Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus
1 from ferry between Stavanger and Bergen.

Greylag Goose Anser anser
Several from ferry between Stavanger and Bergen.

Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Only seen at Gammelstadviken.

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Fairly common on coast

Wigeon Anas penelope
Small numbers at Fokstumyra.

Teal Anas crecca
Fairly frequent on inland waters

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Common on coasts.

Pintail Ana acuta
1 at Sappisaasi

Shoveler Anas clypeata
Small numbers at Gammelstadviken.

Pochard Aythya ferina
Small numbers at Gammelstadviken.

Tufted Duck Athya fuligula
Several at Gammelstadvikken

Eider Somateria mollissima
Common on coasts.

Steller's Eider Polysticta stelleri
2 Female 1 Male Nyborg, 14 Female Nesseby

Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis
1 Female Nyborg, around 100 Ekkeroy (mostly Female), several at Batsfjord, 2 near Kaamaren

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
Several at Nyborg and inland at Annsjon

Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
Several at Nesseby, 2 on Annsjon.

Goldeneye Bucephala clangula

Smew Mergellus albellus
Pair on river S of Inari and on lake at E91/E969 junction

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 

Goosander Mergus merganser
26 at Nyborg, 2 at Bratsberg

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
Common on Varanger between Nyborg and Vardo - at least 14 birds seen.

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
1 from E51 nr Tjornhalstinden and 1 from E51 at S end of high mountains (Bithorn?)

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
1 at Gammelstadviken.

Goshawk Accipter gentilis
1 Male at Leksvik and 1 from E51 nr Bessheim

Sparrowhawk Accipter nisus
Fairly scarce

Rough-leged Buzzard Buteo lagopus
Common on Varanger - 19 seen between Vardo and Ekkeroy.  2 from road to Batsfjord. 1 NE of Jerggul.  1 N of Fokstumyra, 1 nr Kaamanen, 1 nr Petkula

Kestrel Falco tinunculus

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
1 at Gyrfalcon site, 30km N of Tana Bru.

Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolis
1 seen 30km N of Tana Bru.

Willow Grouse Lagopus lagopus       
Fairly common in mountains and tundra

Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus
Several seen from road to Batsfjord.

Hazel Grouse Bonasa bonasia
2 seen in Pyhatuntori National Park.

Coot Fulica atra
Several at Gammelstedviken

Common Crane Grus grus
6 near Sandnes, 1 nr Kaamanen and 1 at Annsjon.

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Common on coasts

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Occasional sightings on coasts and on Varanger plateau

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
2 S of Suossjavrl

Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria
Small numbers at Annsjon

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Purple Sandpiper Caladris maritima
300+ at Ekkeroy

Little Stint Calidris minutus
2 in Vestre Jakobselv harbour.

Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii
Several from road to Batsfjord. 1 from E51 south of its junction with E257

Dunlin Calidris alpina
Several SW of Suossjavrl

Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Several at Suossjavrl, common in N

Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus
At least 1 at Sappisaasi

Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Several at Sappisaasi

Great Snipe Gallinago media
1 on E6/E75 E of Jerggul

Woodcock Scolopax rusticola
2 or 3 at Annsjon

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Several at Nesseby

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Several in N

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
1 on Batsfjord plateau, 1 at Luosto, 1 at Petkula, Annsjon

Curlew Numenius arquata

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
1 at Sappisaasi, 1 S of Suossjavrl, 1 at Vestre Jakobselv, 1 at Petkula

Redshank Tringa totanus

Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Common on bogs

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
1 fromE51 near junction with E257, 1 S of Suossjavrl

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common on bogs

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
2 at Bratsberg

Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus
Possible at Sappisaasi, 3 at Petkula

Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Common on coasts

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
3 at Sappisaasi, several S of Suossjavrl, common on Varanger, 4 near Kaamanen

Great Skua Stercorarius skua
Several at Nesseby

Parasitic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus
Several on Varanger coast and plateau

Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus
2 on pools S of Suossjavrl, common in N

Little Gull Larus minutus
Several at junction of E91/E969, several at Gammelstadviken, 1 at Annsjon

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Common on coasts

Common Gull Larus canus

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Common on Varanger

Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Common on coasts

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus
1 at Batsfjord

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Common on coasts

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Several on N Sea

Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Several on N Sea

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea
Common on coasts and Northern pools

Guillemot Uria aalge
Several in Vardo harbour

Brunnich's Guillemot Uria lomvia
1 in Vardo harbour

Razorbill Alca torda
Common in N Sea

Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle
Several in Vardo harbour

Puffin Fratercula arctica
Hundreds from Vardo

Woodpigeon Columba palumbus
Common in S

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
2 in Trondheim

Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
1 nr Blattniksele, 1 at Petkula, 2 at Annsjon

Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum
At least 2 nr Nedro Soppero, 1 nr Inari, 2 at Annsjon campsite

Tengmalm's Owl Aegolius funereus
1 nr Vuotso

Hawk Owl Surnia ulula
1 nr Nedro Soppero

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus
1 at Sappisaasi, 1 near Nedro Soppero, several on Varanger

Tawny Owl Strix aluco
1 heard at Leksvik

Swift Apus apus
Several at Stavanger

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major
1 N of Tana Bru

Skylark Alauda arvensis

Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
2 S of Suossjavrl, 2 on Ekkeroy

Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Colony SE of Trondheim

Swallow Hirundo rustica

House Martin Delichon urbica

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
1 at Bratsberg, 1 at Luosto

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis

Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Common on Varanger

Grey-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava thumbergi
Fairly common in N

White Wagtail Motacilla alba
1 at Bratsberg

Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus
1 at junction of E91/E969

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Common throughout

Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
1 N of Tana Bru, 1 at Luosto

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
1 at Sappisaasi

Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
1 nr Kaamanen, 1 at Luosto

Blackbird Turdus merula
Few in S

Ring Ousel Turdus torquatus
1 in Fokstumyra

Fieldfare Turdus pilaris
Common in Central Norway, frequent elswhere

Redwing Turdus iliacus
Common in S Norway, frequent elsewhere

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
1 nr Bergen

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
1 at Trondheim

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
1 S of Trondheim

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
1 at Fokstumyra

Whitethroat Sylvia communis
1 from ferry between Stavanger and Haugesund

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
1 Boden Campsite

Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina
2 singing at Annsjon

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Common throughout

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita (probably abietinus)
1 from ferry between Stavanger and Haugesund, 1 SE of Tronheim

Goldcrest Regulus regulus
1 at Annsjon

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
1 at Bratsberg, 1 at Gammelstadviken

Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
1 at Bratsberg, 1 N of Wilhelmina, 1 N of Tana Bru, 1 at Peurasuvanto, 1 at Lusto

Siberian Tit Parus cinctus
Several nr Inari, several Pyhatunturi

Willow Tit Parus montanus borealis
1 N of Wilhelmina

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus
Common in S

Great Tit Parus major
Common in S

Coal Tit Parus ater
Common in S and C

Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
1 S of Trondheim

Jay Garrulus glandarius
2 S of Trondheim

Siberian Jay Perisoreus infaustus
5 in Pyhatunturi

Magpie Pica pica
Few in S

Jackdaw Corvus mondeula
Few in S

Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix
1 at Stavanger

Raven Corvus corax
Regular throughout

Starling Sturnis vulgaris

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Common as far N as Batsfjord

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Brambling Fringilla montifringilla

Greenfinch Carduelis carduelis

Siskin Carduelis spinus
Several at Bratsberg

Meally Redpoll Carduelis flammea
Several at Dovrefjell, 2 on E74 nr Wilhelmina, several Batsfjord plateau

Arctic Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni
Several Batsfjord plateau

Scarlet Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
1 1st year male at Peurasuvanto campsite

Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
1 at Peurasuvanto campsite

Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus
2 at Nesseby, 4 at Ekkeroy, 2 on Batsfjord plateau

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis
Several on Batsfjord plateau

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
Several at Bratsberg

Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus
Several at Annsjon

Total 157

Notable dips

No White-billed Diver, King Eider, Capercaillie, Dotterel, Woodpeckers generally.  We were too early for Arctic Warbler, though the 'Tengmalm man' gave us directions to a regular site.


Rabbit, Hare, Fox (Red), Reindeer, Moose, Atlantic Grey Seal, Killer Whale. Route

I'm not going to attempt to draw a map, so I'm afraid you'll have to make do with a road-by-road description.

Bergen - Fokstumyra via the E16, E51, E257 and E6
Fokstumyra - Trondheim via the E6
Trondheim - Kaaresuuanto via the E755, E761, E6, E74, E342 and E45
Kaaresuuanto to Utsjoki via the E21 and E93
Utsjoki to Varanger via the E6 (E98 to Vardo and E891 to Batsfjord
Varanger to Umea via the E6, E75 and E4
Umea to Annsjon and Trondheim via the E12, E92, E45 and E14
Return from Trondheim to Bergen by reversing the outward route

Technical Data

Ferry - Fjordline 0191 296 1313
Mileage - round trip Bergen to Bergen 3,600 miles
Average speed 52mph
Petrol consumption 30mpg
Tyre consumption - 1 full set per trip


Where to Watch Birds in Europe and Russia - Wheatley 2000
A Guide to Bird Watching in Europe - Ferguson-Lees et al 1975
Lonely Planet guide to Norway


Norway, Sweden and Finland 1992 - Greg Baker
A report on a Trip to Finland 1994 - Chris Bradshaw
Northern Finland, Varangerfjord and a little bit of Sweden 2000 - Simon Woolley and Julia Casson
Goteborg to Vardo - Scandinavia 1996 - F.Jeremy Roberts
Northern Scandinavia 1998 - Gruff Dodd
Norway Roadmap -Philip's 1:1 000 000


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