BIRDS AT BÅTSFJORD
Båtsfjord town is one of the most important fishing harbours in Finnmark, and has long been known as the place in Europe where one can take the best photos of the two eider species, Steller`s Eider and King Eider. For exceptional bird observations, winter is therefore the best time.
Båtsfjord harbour is an industrial fishing harbour, and here there is great activity during the fishing season. Båtsfjord town lies on the north side of the Varanger peninsula. The town has a harsh climate with much wind, though this does not hinder people and birds from having a fine life here. The attractive diving ducks, Steller`s Eider and King Eider, are easy to observe in large numbers, together with Common Eider and Long-tailed Duck.
Best time to visit
The Steller`s Eiders and King Eiders arrive at Båtsfjord during the polar night. The King Eiders stay until late April, while the Steller`s Eiders can be seen until the middle of May. The best time for good observation conditions is from February until mid-April. In December and January it is too dark for photography. However, Båtsfjord is exciting also in spring and summer, and can well be combined with a visit to Syltefjord.
Habitat and observation
species In winter the harbour is the most exciting place to see birds. Steller’s Eiders, King Eiders, Common Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks are usually present in hundreds in the inner harbour. Flocks and single birds come right to the quaysides in order to search for fish offal from the fishing companies. Flocks of ducks may also remain some way out in the fjord, or rest on the ice edge near the stream outlet behind the petrol station (Statoil). A search with a binocular will show you where the birds are now gathered. Previously it was normal to photograph these fine ducks from the quays, but during the last few years a commercial attraction has become established in the form of a floating photo hide. Here one can pay a fee in order to get good photos of King Eiders and Steller’s Eiders. After a stay in the photo hide, one is taken on a boat trip around the harbour to see the flocks of ducks.
Some of the best winter photos that have been taken of King Eider, Common Eider, Steller’s Eider and Longtailed Duck have been taken from this floating hide. Gulls are common the whole year, and Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull can be seen throughout the winter. Sometimes these two species are also common in summer, though in smaller numbers. Common Terns nest on the tussocks of grass along the quays. In spring and summer in Båtsfjord, you will see all the species of ducks that are normally to be seen in Varanger. Shortly before reaching Båtsfjord you have the lake Straumsnesvatnet on the right. When the lake is not icecovered, there are often ducks to be seen here. With a car or cycle it is easy to move around the whole harbour to look for seabirds. Kittiwakes nest on buildings at several places in Båtsfjord. In both spring and summer it can be worthwhile to take a trip to the lush willow forest where the river Båtsfjordelva flows out into Straumsnesvatnet.
When you pass Straumsnesvatnet in the direction of Båtsfjord, you turn right when you come down to the fjord. After 200 metres you turn right towards the riding centre. From there you can go into the willow forest. In such northerly lush forests, in an otherwise treeless landscape, one can find several exciting and scarce species. The commonest are Arctic Redpoll, Brambling and Bluethroat. In autumn 2013, Long-tailed Tits appeared at many places in Finnmark, including this willow forest. Among the housing areas, willow, birch and rowan have been planted. Waxwings and Fieldfares can be seen throughout the winter, feeding on rowanberries. Many people feed the birds. Tree Sparrows sometimes appear among the flocks of House Sparrows. The Snow Bunting can be seen on migration in autumn (October) and spring (April).
There are three alternatives for coming to Båtsfjord. Those who are bird-watching on Varanger usually come by car northwards along Tanadalen on road no. 890. In the centre of Varangerhalvøya one continues straight on at the Gednje road junction along road no. 891, which ends in Båtsfjord town. You can also turn off to Syltefjord some kilometres before arriving at Båtsfjord town. In winter one must reckon that the road may be periodically closed due to bad weather. During such conditions, cars drive in columns, several times daily. This is an unusual and exciting experience for those who have never previously driven a car under such conditions. For those who live here this is quite normal. The shipping line “Hurtigruten” calls into Båtsfjord daily while on route both southwards and northwards, and takes passengers both with and without cars. If Båtsfjord is your destination for the trip, you can also arrive by plane, which calls in daily. Hired cars are available.
When you drive or walk around in Båtsfjord while birdwatching, show consideration for the local inhabitants. You will often be moving on private property.
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