Of fjords and the midnight sun


In the backdrop of some radio noise about a virus breakout in Wuhan, we booked our flights to Kirkenes in March 2020 believing that this will be over by May. Little did we know that CoV-19 would ground us for a while.

This was also the time when business ethics were put to test and Norwegian airlines displayed immense resilience by refunding us the entire ticket cost that was purchased as “non-refundable” without us even asking for the refund. This talks highly about Norwegian airlines and the Norwegian government. Thank you Norway!!

Our plan finally took shape in 2023 when we contacted Anders and he informed that a group tour was planned in 3 weeks. With Norway being an expensive country to travel and we having no time to plan an independent trip, we agreed to this option and lost no time to book our flights and apply for the Schengen visa. The Norwegian efficiency was again at display as we got our visa within 2 weeks.

Birding with Anders: Anders is great company with immense knowledge about the birds and the Nordic lifestyle and we shared very similar opinion about the socio-political system of today.

Our group consisted of four participants, a nature loving American professor, a diehard Portuguese ebirder and us. Anders managed each one of us with ease and worked very hard to show us every bird possible from the region.

Seabird watching was new for tropical birders like us and Anders was great in explaining the life of these sea birds and was always on his scope finding that one important bird.

Contact details: http://birdwatchingnorway.net/


Birding in the midnight sun was an experience in itself as was the breathtaking landscapes that we traversed through. We spent a day walking the bustling streets of Oslo, drove with Anders around the boreal forests of the Pasvik valley and across the spectacular fjords of the Varanger Peninsula; a short layover gave us a few precious hours to explore the beautiful city of Tromsø as well.

English was widely spoken, locals were friendly, transactions were mostly by credit card and airport check-in, baggage drop etc were all automated.

No tricky/endemic birds to track down meant a relaxed trip for us with enough time to appreciate the strong Norwegian cultural roots, the architecture and soaking in the Scandinavian way of life.

Travel Dates: 10 June 2023 – 23 June 2023


We wanted to combine this trip with birding Finland as well, however dropped the idea due to time constraints and only spent time around the Pasvik valley, driving along the Varanger coastline reaching all the way to Hornøya in the east, Båtsfjord and Kongsfjord to the north.

The bird list in the day-to-day account is mostly when we got the best views of the bird and is not a complete checklist for the day.

Day (-) 2: 10 June 2023 (Delhi – Istanbul – Oslo)

We flew Turkish Airlines, starting from Delhi at 0655 Hrs and after a 3 hour layover at Istanbul, reached Oslo at 1800 Hrs. From the airport, we walked a short distance to the Radisson Red for an overnight stay.

Day (-) 1: 11 June 2023 (Exploring Oslo)

Woke up early morning, walked back to the airport, purchased a Ruter day pass from the airport sales counter and took a train going towards Kongsberg and got off at the Nationaltheatret stasjon.

The morning was spent walking the Karl Johans street and visiting key attractions like the National Theatre, Rettspolitisk Forening, The Royal Palace, Norwegian Parliament, Trinity Church and then having lunch at Mathallen Oslo.

Post lunch, we took a bus to the Vigeland Park before moving back to the Sentrum and exploring more of the area visiting the Nobel Peace Center and the under renovation Akershus Fortress and finally taking a train back to Oslo Lufthavn for another night at the Radisson Red.

Day 0: 12 June 2023 (Oslo – Kirkenes)

We took the Norwegian airlines 0815 Hr flight reaching Kirkenes at 1130 Hrs. Going through the earlier trip reports, we knew that connections between Kirkenes and the city centre were erratic, but were happy to see a bus waiting for the passengers. However as soon as we collected our checked in baggage, the bus departed in front of us 🙁

Per the timetable, the next bus was at 1630 hrs and with no radio cabs around, we were kind of stuck. Looking around we noticed a minibus driver loading suitcases and we tried our luck by requesting him to drop us to the city. The driver turned out to be a Russian who was here to pick up Russians to drive them across the border. He happily helped us and dropped us at the city with a big smile. This was our first instance of witnessing the close ties between the people of Kirkenes and Russians.

We then walked down to the Hotell Kirkenes and waited for over an hour for the owner to appear and check us in. The rooms were not that bad and after dumping our luggage we explored the town, the shoreline and checked out the Soviet Liberation Monument along the way, had a late lunch at Surf & Turf before jet lag kicked in and we slept early. We woke at midnight to realize that the sun was still shining bright and took this opportunity to explore the town a bit more. There was no way to tell if it was 12 noon or 12 midnight and it was fun.

Overnight at Hotell Kirkenes.

Day 1: 13 June 2023 (Kirkenes – Pasvik valley)

After an amazingly delicious breakfast at Johnny’s Lunch Bar, we checked out and soon Anders came and we drove down to the Pasvik valley after picking up other birders from the airport. We briefly stopped on the outskirts of the village Bjørnevatn to pick up an Arctic Warbler.

We reached NIBIO Svanhovd research station in the Pasvik valley by noon, checked into our rooms and spent the afternoon birding the botanical gardens and the nearby Pasvik river channel picking up birds like the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Chaffinch, Bohemian Waxwing and European Golden Plover.

After dinner, we made a quick round of the Skrøytnes watchtower picking up birds like the Common Goldeneye, Northern Pintail, Smew, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl while the surrounding marshland produced a Common Snipe, Eurasian Woodcock and a herd of Moose.

Wood Sandpiper, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallard, Eurasian Magpie, Great Tit, White Wagtail, Sedge Warbler, Fieldfare were some of the other birds seen during the sunny night.

Overnight at NIBIO Svanhovd

Day 2: 14 June 2023 (Pasvik Valley)

After a filling breakfast and packing our lunch out of the breakfast spread, we spent the entire day birding along the Pasvik river all the while our phone signals kept confusing us if we had entered the Russian space. A known spot of Anders produced a Common Reed Bunting, Spotted Redshank, Redwing and a quick visit to the Birk B&B got us excellent views of European Greenfinch, Pine Grosbeak, Brambling and European Pied Flycatcher.

Anders also picked up a call and on checking, we stumbled upon a Rustic Bunting pair.

Other birds seen during the day were the Great Tit, Siberian Tit, Tree Pipit, Eurasian Skylark, Temminck’s Stint and a curious Red Fox.

Overnight at NIBIO Svanhovd

Day 3: 15 June 2023 (Pasvik Valley – Vestre Jakobselv)

We left the Pasvik valley heading towards the Varanger peninsula driving around the Varangerfjord birding en route and also stopping by at the John Savio monumnet at Bugøyfjord. Some birds seen along the way were the Great Black-backed Gull, Northern Raven, Common Gull, Common Ringed Plover, Black-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Northern Great Diver and Eurasian Oystercatcher.

We then stopped for some fuel and coffee at Esso followed by packed lunch at the nearby Varangerbotn naturreservat and then continued driving till roadworks made us take a quick birding break which produced nice sightings of Surf Scoter and an Arctic Redpoll just before entering Nesseby.

We finished our day watching seabirds at the fantastic, scenic and very windy Nesseby kirke adding birds like the Common Shelduck, Common Redshank, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Stint, Arctic Tern, Red-breasted Merganser, Dunlin, Parasitic Jaeger, Common Merganser and Bar-tailed Godwit. The high winds made birding a bit tricky but it was sure a surreal experience.

We spent the night at the very comfortable Varanger Tunet (www.varangertunet.no) with the lovely hosts serving us a delicious dinner.

Day 4: 16 June 2023 (Vardø – Hornøya Cliff)

A quick look at the feeders during breakfast produced a Common Redpoll, Eurasian Bullfinch and Eurasian Siskin.

We then visited the Hornøya cliff crossing the subsea Vardo tunnel by road and then taking a shuttle boat to the cliff from the Vardø Havn (Harbor). The tickets were purchased from the nearby information desk where we also had some coffee while waiting for the boat and opportunity to take pictures of the commoners like Black-legged Kittiwake and European Herring Gull.

We had been to a seabird colony in Seychelles but this cliff was nothing to be compared with, it was massive with thousands and thousands of birds calling so loud that we had to shout to communicate and the smell was intense. It was only when we crossed to the other side of the island that things got a little calmer. A very unique experience indeed!!

Some of the highlights were the Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Common Guillemot, Greylag Goose, Red-throated Pipit, Barnacle Goose, Common Eider, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Northern Fulmar, European Shag, European Rock Pipit, Bluethroat and the Meadow Pipit.

Other birds like the Velvet Scoter, Sanderling, Northern Wheatear, White-tailed Eagle, Pink-footed Goose and Steller’s Eider were seen while taking short birding stops along the way.

Overnight at Varanger Tunet

Day 5: 17 June 2023 (Vardø coastline)

We spent the day in mostly the same areas as yesterday, birded Vadsøya, Ekkerøy, Vardøhus Fortress and had our packed lunch besides the massive Drakkar Leviathan sculpture before getting back to Varanger Tunet for the night.

Some of the birds seen during the day were Red-necked Phalarope, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Hooded Crow, Lapland Longspur, Long-tailed Duck, Willow Warbler, Rough-legged Buzzard, Red-throated Diver, Greater Scaup and luckily the King Eider.

We also got to see a Least Weasel and Reindeers along the way.

Day 6: 18 June 2023 (Vestre Jakobselv – Kongsfjord – Båtsfjord – Vestre Jakobselv)

Another exciting day as we drove north towards the fishing villages of Kongsfjord & Båtsfjord. The entire day was spent driving and birding en route.

Key birds for the day were the Long-tailed Jaeger, Horned Lark, Snow Bunting, Eurasian Dotterel, Rock Ptarmigan, Whooper Swan, Black Guillemot, Common Tern, Northern Hawk-Owl, Gyrfalcon and several breeding Ruff.

Day 7: 19 June 2023 (Vestre Jakobselv – Pasvik valley)

Today we traced our way back to the Pasvik valley but not before early morning birding near Vestre Jakobslv producing a Common Redstart and a couple of hours of birding at Nesseby Kirke with a close flyby of Northern Gannet as a highlight.

Other interesting birds for the day were the Spotted Flycatcher, Common Cuckoo and Willow Tit.

Overnight at BIRK bed & birds, Pasvik Valley

Day 8: 20 June 2023 (Pasvik Valley – Kirkenes)

After a bit of early morning birding, Anders dropped us at Kirkenes where we checked back at Hotell Kirkenes, had an amazing pizza at Ritz, cinnamon rolls at Johnny’s Lunch Bar and just strolled around the town even trying some nice Chinese vegetarian food at the Aj Matbutikk kiosk.

Day 9: 21 June 2023 (Kirkenes – Tromsø – Oslo)

After yet another delicious breakfast at Johnny’s Lunch Bar, we flew Oslo via Tromsø and utilized the layover for a quick city tour. We purchased a 6 hour pass and checked out the Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø Cathedral, Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden, strolled around the university campus and then took a bus back to the airport finally reaching Oslo by night.

Please feel free to contact us for any information on the sites visited.

Bird list can be found here.

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