All images by Staffan Widstrand
Arctic spring-winter bird feast in Varanger
King Eider, Steller’s Eider, Gyrfalcon and sea-bird cliffs
Tour dates 2020: 18 -24 March
Tour dates 2021: Coming soon
Length: 7 days
Tour leader: Staffan Widstrand
Number of participants: 6
Price: 2 990 € (Euro) (Registration fee 598 €)*
Last date to register: 31st January 2020
Share in twin room and meals according to itinerary. All cost for hides, all boat safaris, photo workshops, local transports (4 wheel drive cars), transfer to and from Kirkenes airport.
Single room fee: 400 €
Price does not include
Flights in and out of Kirkenes airport, insurance, cancellation insurance, beverages, meals that are not specified in itinerary, phone and internet charges, personal items.
Kirkenes airport, Norway. The tour starts and ends here.
How does the tour look like.
Some highlights of the tour:
Floating hides for King Eider and Steller’s Eider
The bird island of Hornøya, one of Europe’s finest and most accessible sea-bird cliff colonies
A chance to photograph Gyrfalcons
Arctic Redpoll, Siberian Tit, Pine Grosbeak and Siberian Jay at feeding stations
The tour guide will show you all the best spots, and give photographic advice, in a small group.
We promote conservation by economically supporting Birdlife.
A unique week where we have selected the best bird photo sites on the Norwegian Varanger peninsula, where the taiga forests meet the tundra and Arctic Sea. We photograph the amazingly elegant arctic ducks King Eider, Steller’s Eider, Common Eider and Long-Tailed Duck from custom-built floating hides, at birds-eye level on the water. We visit the sea-bird cliffs on Hornøya with its easily accessible Brünnich’s Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Cormorants, Shags and Razorbills, just when the Puffins are arriving for spring. There will probably be a Gyrfalcon or White-tailed Sea Eagle out hunting among the sea-bird colonies. Later on in the week we will also photograph at a couple of feeding sites for Red Grouse and Ptarmigan, Stoats and small birds, such as Arctic Redpolls, Siberian Tit, Pine Grosbeak, Siberian Jay and maybe even Hawk Owls.
The world-famous floating hides for King Eider and Steller’s Eider give us exceptional opportunities to get close to these beautiful high-arctic ducks, so we will spend two days with them. The bird island of Hornøya, with its grand lighthouse and charismatic setting is one of Europe’s finest and most accessible sea-bird colonies. Sea-Eagles and Gyrfalcons often pass and try to snatch one of the 80 000 pairs of Puffins, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Gulls and Razorbills for a meal. The snow-clad arctic tundra shows us the relatively undisturbed wilderness. In Pasvik we encounter the taiga forest and it’s winter birds. This is quite simply an unusually complete spring-winter tour to one of Europe’s finest natural areas, and to close encounters with several of the continents most spectacular bird species.
At this time of year, we will be in a wintery snowy landscape, at freezing temperatures, in arctic lighting with strong pastel tones and long shadows, or dramatic snowfall. During some evenings, the tour leader will show pictures, hold lectures and discuss camera technique with some special tricks for nature photographers. This could be anything from how best to approach wild animals to which camera functions to use, or how to interpret your histogram for the best exposure. The group is small, so there will be plenty of time to discuss photography with the tour leader.
Day 1 (18/3) (Dinner)
Arrival at Kirkenes, depart by minibus to Vadsø. Dinner and accommodation at hotel.
Day 2 (19/3) (Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner)
Early breakfast at the hotel, then leave for a private feeding site, that attracts a broad spectrum of arctic birds and animals, that we will see at close range. We will also take a short snowmobile trip up the mountain side. Red Grouse, Ptarmigan and Stoat are some of the species we may see, as well as Arctic Redpolls. We will have a lunch parcel from the hotel. Journey to Vardø. Dinner and accommodation at a hotel.
Day 3 (20/3) (Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner)
An early breakfast at the hotel, before departing for Hornøya, a small treeless island with a lighthouse and an amazing sea-bird colony with about 80000 pair of Kittiwakes, Shags, Puffins, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Razorbills and Cormorants. The island receives daily visits by Gyrfalcons and Sea-Eagles. This is one of the finest sea-bird cliffs on the Norwegian coast. We will have a lunch parcel from the hotel. In the afternoon we head back to Vardø and on to the fishing village of Båtsfjord. Dinner and accommodation at a hotel.
Day 4 (21/3) (Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner)
We set off before dawn to the well-placed floating hides at Båtsfjord. Close encounters with arctic ducks in their finest breeding plumage, such as King Eider, Steller’s Eider, Common Eider and Long-tailed Duck. We will have a brunch parcel from the hotel. We spend half a day in the hides and then go on a boat trip among the many ducks and gulls in the fiord. Dinner and accommodation at a hotel.
Day 5 (22/3) (Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner)
We set off before dawn to the well-placed floating hides at Båtsfjord. We will have a brunch parcel from the hotel. We spend half a day in the hides and then head by minibus to the taiga forest at Pasvik National Park. Dinner and accommodation at a guesthouse in Pasvik.
Day 6 (23/3) (Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner)
Early breakfast at the guesthouse, then off to a private bird-feeding site in the lovely taiga forest. The site often attracts Pine Grosbeaks, Siberian Tits, Siberian Jays and sometimes Hawk Owls.
Day 7 (24/3) (Breakfast)
Breakfast at the guesthouse, then minibus back to Kirkenes airport.
A wide range of subjects will be available to us, from landscapes to mammals and birds. Therefore it is good to bring everything from wide-angle to telephoto lenses. For some of the species we will photograph during the tour we will be able to get really close. This makes wide-angle zooms a perfect lens even for wildlife. Lenses from 70-200 mm up to 500 mm are excellent for the wildlife that we will encounter. To increase focal length you can use a teleconverter. Snow or rainfall are likely during the tour so bring some protections for your cameras and lenses. If you have two camera bodies, bring both in order not to have to change lenses as much. Tripods will be useful for photographing the birdlife and for while shooting landscapes.
The temperature in the parts of Norway in March can vary from some degrees above freezing to well below (approx +5 – -20 degrees Celsius). You need proper winter clothing and winter boots.
Group and language
Our tours are open to all nationalities, so the group may be international. Our tour leaders speak Swedish and English.
*Terms of payment
Registration fee to be paid on registration. Remaining fees to be paid latest 60 days before the tour starts.
Contact your insurance company about insurance, including cancellation insurance. Contact your doctor about vaccination requirements.