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Norway's Varanger Fjord

Tour Code: NOR04

A 5-day birdwatching tour to the Varanger Peninsula at the northern tip of Europe in search of Steller's and King Eiders, Gyr Falcon and other arctic birds.

5 days from £2195(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1995 SRS: £175


Varanger Fjord, at the northern extremity of mainland Europe, is the unusual destination for this exciting birdwatching holiday. Here, in a sparsely populated land of mountains, glaciers and tundra we will witness the specialised Arctic birdlife respond to the approach of spring and observe great assemblies of sea duck along the coast, including the largest concentration of Steller's Eiders in Europe. King Eiders and Gyr Falcons will be amongst other target species here, while further south in Finnish Lapland the inhabitants of the vast taiga forests will be our objective, with Three-toed Woodpecker, Siberian Tit and the confiding Siberian Jay among the avian highlights.

  • Take a rare glimpse of the Arctic in early spring
  • Enjoy large flocks of Steller's Eider, King Eiders and Gyr Falcon
  • Look for Siberian Tits and Siberian Jays in the taiga forests
  • Seabirds, including Brünnich's Guillemots on an offshore island 
  • ‘Northern Lights’ – a possibility
  • Be guided by our expert local ornithologist(s)

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Comfortable tourist hotels with private facilities.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Ivalo

Day 2/3 Varanger Fjord

Day 4 Ivalo

Day 5 Fly London

The Varanger Peninsula lies at the most northern tip of Europe, a sparsely populated land of mountains, fjords and glaciers extending out from the continent towards the icy wastes of the Arctic Circle. For much of the winter the interior of this region is a Christmas card scene of thick snow, the haunt of Willow Grouse and Snowy Owl, but thanks to the influences of the Gulf Stream, the deeply indented coastline is largely free of ice, providing sheltered havens for large rafts of sea-duck. Most of Europe’s Steller’s Eiders crowd into Varanger Fjord, sharing the open water with Common Eider, King Eider and Long-tailed Duck, to create a unique assemblage of birds that will be one of the highlights of this unusual early spring tour.

Our tour begins at Ivalo, in Finnish Lapland, amidst wonderful northern taiga forests where the likelihood is that snow will be covering the ground. Reindeer sled is a popular form of transport here, and it would almost seem appropriate for Father Christmas to suddenly appear along one of the forest roads! A surprising number of birds choose to remain in these forests throughout the harsh winter months and now, with the unmistakable signs of spring all around, the new season is celebrated by courtship displays and the beginning of song. Three-toed Woodpeckers will be one of the birds we will be hoping to find, along with Siberian Tit, Arctic Redpoll, and Common, Parrot and Two-barred Crossbills. Although perfectly adapted to survive the rigours of the climate, many of these northern birds also appreciate a helping hand from humans, and garden bird tables in the villages are as popular with the local birdlife as they are in Britain. As we continue north along the Arctic highway into Norway, we will pause at some of the roadside feeding stations and hope to obtain close-up views of the various species coming to supplement their diet at the bird tables. The handsome Siberian Jay is one of the most adaptable of the taiga inhabitants and quick to take advantage of any free meals, often becoming remarkably confiding in such situations.

The trees are gradually replaced by open tundra as we cross Varanger Peninsula to the small fishing port of Vardo where we stay for two nights. Fringed by thickets of Mountain Birch, the blue waters of Varanger Fjord and the surrounding tundra represent one of the most accessible examples of Arctic habitat on the mainland of Europe. Arriving at the shores of the fjord our initial impression will be of the sheer numbers of sea-duck bobbing offshore, a view consolidated on the following day as we scan through the rafts of Common, King and Steller’s Eiders, many of the males energetically performing their courtship displays. The crooning calls of the Common and King Eiders fill the air and mingle with the cries of nearby Long-tailed Ducks, the males resplendent in summer plumage. White-billed Divers are occasionally seen ploughing through the waves like pocket battleships, their ivory-coloured beaks gleaming in the morning sun, whilst inquisitive seals interrupt their fishing to peer at us. When we have absorbed the sights and sounds of the inshore waters, and weather permitting, we will board a small boat to visit Hornøya Island which is an important seabird breeding island in the fjord. Brünnich’s Guillemot, one of the species of most interest to British birdwatchers, is numerous here, but there are also a thousand pairs of Puffin, plus breeding Black Guillemots, Razorbills and Guillemots — five members of the auk family all found on the one island. A huge Kittiwake colony adds to the spectacle and Glaucous Gulls may be present amongst vast, noisy colonies of Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls. Returning to shore, we will look out for one of the local White-tailed Eagles soaring above the fjord and later in the evening there may be spectacular free entertainment, as the flickering lights of the Aurora Borealis illuminate the night sky, a true Arctic conclusion to our stay in this magical place.

All too soon, it will be time to return to Ivalo, but travelling through the glorious winter scenery of the peninsula there will be plenty more birdwatching opportunities as we pass roadside Ptarmigan, Willow Grouse and perhaps the occasional Snowy Owl or Arctic Fox. A long established Gyr Falcon eyrie merits a diversion along the way and the sight of these big northern falcons gliding over the tundra will be an enduring memory of our early spring visit to this fascinating region, where mainland Europe merges with the Arctic.

Pine Grosbeak (Jennifer Horn)(Jennifer Horn)Snow sculptures and carriage (Jennifer Horn)River winding through the snow (Jennifer Horn)Nutcracker (Jennifer Horn)Tracks in the snow (Jennifer Horn)Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis (Jennifer Horn)Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis (Jennifer Horn)Siberian Jay (Jennifer Horn)Pine Grosbeaks (Jennifer Horn)Kittiwake (Jennifer Horn)Steller's Eider flock (Jennifer Horn)Norwegian seaside town (Jennifer Horn)Naturetrek clients (Jennifer Horn)Barents sea whitecaps (Jennifer Horn)Common Guillemot (Jennifer Horn)Dried fish (Jennifer Horn)Nesseby Church (Jennifer Horn)Calmer sea at sunset (Jennifer Horn)Siberian Tit (Jennifer Horn)Arctic Redpoll (Jennifer Horn)Pine Grosbeak (Jennifer Horn)Snow covered forest (Jennifer Horn)Naturetrek Group at Ivalo looking for woodpeckers (Jennifer Horn)Deep snow covering (Jennifer Horn)Brunnich's Guillemot (Jari Peltomaki)Guillemot (Jari Peltomaki)King Eider (Jari Peltomaki)King Eider (Jari Peltomaki)Long-tailed Duck (Jari Peltomaki)Pine Grosbeak(Jari Peltomaki)Puffin (Jari Peltomaki)Puffin (Jari Peltomaki)Puffin (Jari Peltomaki)Purple Sandpiper (Jari Peltomaki)Steller's Eider (Jari Peltomaki)Steller's Eider (Jari Peltomaki)Pine GrosbeakPine GrosbeakCopywritten to Andrew TaylorShags and auks (Andrew Taylor)Pine Grosbeak (Andrew Taylor)Siberian Tit (Andrew Taylor)
S.W.
Nottinghamshire
Once again, a superb trip! The guide was a really first rate guide - very helpful and well-organised, and a very pleasant manner. He is an excellent birds, and made sure we all saw all the birds. I hope to do this trip again at some stage...a great way to spend a winter weekend!
J.H.
Cambridgeshire
I thoroughly enjoyed this well organised trip. Excellent food and hotels. Harri Taavetti was an excellent guide and superb driver
S.K.
Wales
Nothing was too much trouble for our 2 Finnish leaders.
S. & A.M.
Yorkshire
The trip was very good - made better by the performance of the guide and their boss, Jari, who was exceptional in both personality and effort. He was also an excellent bird spotter.
Mr & Mrs D.
Norfolk
(Good value) because the birds on this trip are inaccessible terrain and we saw them with the help of the leader!
T.R.
Wales
My wife and I have been on 6 or 7 Naturetrek holidays and have inspired many friends to do likewise... it was a truly wonderful holiday and exceeded all our expectations.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Fri 16th March 2018 - Tue 20th March 2018

7

£2195

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1995 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Norway

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Dan Free
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

Once again, a superb trip! The guide was a really first rate guide - very helpful and well-organised, and a very pleasant manner. He is an excellent birds, and made sure we all saw all the birds. I hope to do this trip again at some stage...a great way to spend a winter weekend!
S.W., Nottinghamshire