Birding Varanger


Vestre Jakobselv is finely situated along the north side of the Varanger fjord.This small township surrounds the outflow of the river Jakobselv. Here there is an extensive delta of brackish water which provides good conditions for waders, ducks, gulls, and terns. The birch forest is fine for those looking for passerines. From the coastline, one has a good view of seabirds on theirway into or out of the fjord.

Jakobselv is a well-known salmon river that attracts many anglers. It is also a popular place for birdwatchers. The combination of species in this area is quite unique. Here one finds typical forest birds only a short distance from seabird species.

Best time to visit

The coastline can be interesting throughout the year, but the river outflow and the forested areas are most exciting in the period from April to September. In common with most other localities in Finnmark, the period from May to July is particularly good. The lower part of the river is an important breeding and resting site.

Habitat and observation species

The lower part of the river is shallow and wide and forms a nutritious delta of brackish water. This is a fine nesting site for Arctic Terns. The population varies greatly from year to year, but in good years more than a hundred pairs can breed. This is also a potential nesting site for Little Gulls. The shore grasslands and the small islands and banks in the river are fine resting and breeding sites for waders. Common Redshank and Curlew nest here most years. The Ruff may often be seen on the banks in the upper part of the delta, where the river swings northwards. The delta attracts large numbers of gulls that rest and wash in the freshwater. Numbers of ducks and raptors are also attracted to the area.

The birch forest extends inwards into the valley and westwards towards Varangerbotn. The continuous forest ends shortly east of Vestre Jakobselv. On the way out from the fjord, this is the last site where one can find the typical forest species. This is a well-known area for the Hawk Owl. This owl is diurnal and often sits at the
top of the trees. The Three-toed Woodpecker also nests here but is often difficult to find. This is also true of the Siberian Tit, but this can often be seen at feeding sites, as also the Arctic Redpoll, which is relatively common in these areas. Here one may also find species that are relatively uncommon such as Wood Warbler and
Garden Warbler. At the mouth of the river, there is a small harbor, and a beach extends westwards. Here it is worthwhile looking for gulls and waders, especially at the western end, where a small stream runs out.

The Purple Sandpiper is common here in winter. In order to gain the best view of the sea one can go out onto Finneset which lies on the east side of the river mouth. Here it can be profitable to look for seabirds, especially when the wind is from the east. Immediately east of Vestre Jakobselv, there are several fields, where one can find resting geese and cranes. Further east there are agricultural areas along the north side of the road (Kariel). In spring one may often see foraging geese such as Grey-lag, Bean and Greater White-fronted.

The mountainous areas inland from Vestre Jakobselv are exciting. Here lies Varangerhalvøya National Park which covers the greater part of the Varanger Peninsula. About ten kilometers north-west of Vestre Jakobselv lie extensive wetlands. Here there are good populations of, for example, Long-tailed Skua, Bar-tailed Godwit,
Red-necked Phalarope, Red-throated Pipit, and Lapland Longspur. In these mountain areas, one can expect to see most of the mountain species.


Vestre Jakobselv is situated between Varangerbotn and Vadsø. From Varangerbotn follow the road E75 eastwards along the fjord. After 32 km one arrives at Vestre Jakobselv. Within the built-up area, one can drive up either side of the river in order to get a view over the delta.  In the summer one can drive 5-6 km into the valley.
To reach the national park one must continue to walk 7-8 km from the end of the western road. Remember to take with you necessary equipment such as a map and compass/GPS etc.

Further information

The lower part of the river and the delta area are important breeding and staging sites for birds. The birds are often scared away by anglers who walk along the river bank. One should study the birds from a good distance in order to avoid further disturbance.  About 2 km up the west site of the valley a bird park has been formed. Here one can pay to see and photograph several of the above-mentioned forest species.





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Brand: Visit Varanger
Company: Greater Arctic Moment AS
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