Birding Varanger


Hamningberg and Sandfjorden are localities that are well known among bird watchers. Their location is the reason why these are superb areas for watching seabirds and finding rare birds. Here there are also fine areas for waders, ducks, birds of prey and passerines. The landscape on the way out to Hamningberg is spectacular, rugged and beautiful.

The old fishing village at Hamningberg became deserted in 1965, but here there are still intact wooden houses from the 19th century. This is exceptional in Finnmark where most habitations were burnt and destroyed during the Second World War.

Best time to visit

As long as the road is open one will always find exciting bird life. The road normally opens in mid-May and closes when the snow comes in autumn.

Habitats and observation species Hamningberg is a fine locality for seabird watching, especially during migration in May. Some tens, and
sometimes hundreds, of Yellow-billed Divers and Pomarine Skuas may be observed migrating eastwards. Fulmars and auks can be seen in thousands. Blackthroated and Red-throated Divers, Arctic Skuas and Long-tailed Skuas can be seen in large numbers on migration, but also during the breeding season. July and August is the time to look for rarer seabirds such as Manx Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater and Leach`s Storm Petrel. The vegetation at Hamningberg is low, and only a couple of gardens have some bushes. These form a magnet for passerines, and one should check these with a view to finding rarities. Locally rare birds such as Robin, Chiffchaff and Tree Sparrow are frequent visitors, and the Tree Sparrow has nested here in recent years.

Arctic Redpoll and Redwing are also breeding species here. On the grassy areas several pairs of Red-throated Pipits nest. From the housing area, the valley leads westwards almost a kilometre to Sjåvika. At Sjåvika, coastal fields lead down to a small pebble beach. This is a fine place for rare small waders. Among these, the White-rumped Sandpiper has been observed on a couple of occasions. When there is a strong west wind, large numbers of gulls and terns often gather. Looking westwards, one can see the great bird cliff Syltefjordstauran with its large Gannet colony. This is a species one can expect to see from Hamningberg. The mountain Hardbakken lies on the north side and protects Hamningberg from the north wind. A gravel track leads upward through the stony landscape. This is a good locality to find the Snow Bunting. On the mountain plateau that stretches southwards, one comes to an area for several montane species such as Scaup, Golden Plover, Red-necked Phalarope, Dunlin, Willow Ptarmigan, Rock Ptarmigan and Lapland Bunting. Five kilometres before Hamningberg lies the fine Sandfjorden that contrasts with the stony landscape. Here there is a long sandy beach, with wind-eroded sand dunes and an extensive delta area. Along the riverbanks, there is lush willow scrub and coastal fields. Here, Bluethroat, Mealy Redpoll, Arctic Redpoll and Temminck`s Stint all nest.

Along the river one may see resting Ruffs and Spotted Redshanks. White-tailed Eagle and Rough-legged Buzzard often hunt here. The delta area is a good place to see resting dabbling ducks and geese, while on the beach, large flocks of Kittiwakes and big gulls often gather. This is one of the best places in Finnmark to see Glaucous and Iceland Gulls in summer, and the same is true of Yellow-billed Diver and King Eider out in the fjord. Around the river outlet and out in the fjord large flocks of Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser and Long-tailed Duck gather. Finnvika is a small bay lying by the road, two kilometres east of Sandfjorden. Here, gulls and ducks often gather, and Ring Ouzels can be seen in the mountainside.  Many rare bird species have been observed in these areas, some of the most special beings Bridled Tern, Little Curlew and Laughing Gull. Hamningberg and Sandfjorden are also good localities for seeing sea mammals. If one has luck and spends time sea-watching, one may see a white whale, porpoise, killer whale and minke whale.


From highway no. E75, one turns off along road no. 341, immediately before the undersea tunnel out to Vardø. Hamningberg lies at the end of the road, 40 kilometres after this turning. Here one comes to a crossing where the roads continue about a kilometre in each direction, westwards to Sjåvika and eastwards past the houses. Five kilometres before Hamningberg one reaches Sandfjorden. After passing the river on the way outwards, the road goes to the right towards Hamningberg. If one takes to the left along a gravel road, one can follow the river five kilometres along the valley. From here one can wander into Varangerhalvøya National Park.

Further information

In summer, many tourists stop for the night in a dormobile, car or tent. In order to avoid wear and tear of the grassy fields, one should preferably use the parking site that lies by the road down to Sjåvika. Note that off-road driving is forbidden in Norway. The road from Vardø to Hamningberg is relatively narrow, winding and busy, so here one must drive carefully.





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Brand: Visit Varanger
Company: Greater Arctic Moment AS
Address: The Icehouse
Ørtangen 10A, NO-9800 Vadsø
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