Birding Varanger


Prestøya in Kirkenes is a fine locality for visiting bird watchers who have limited time, or who do not have a car at their disposal. The island lies at walking distance from both Kirkenes centre and the terminal of the shipping line Hurtigruta. Here one can gain a first acquaintance with several of the characteristic species of the area. A nature trail has been laid out with information posters along the whole of the south side of the island. 

The small island, Prestøya, is about two kilometres east of the centre of Kirkenes. During the Second World War a landfill was made over the shallow sound to Prestøya. Later a large shallow area on both sides was filled in and taken into use as a harbour, shopping and industrial area. The Hurtigruta ships stop here daily before setting course southwards towards Bergen. Prestøya is about one kilometre long and 400 metres wide. The central parts of the island are occupied by a housing estate. The Kirkenes hospital, Prestøya old people’s home and two kindergartens are also situated on the island. Even though there are many who live and work on Prestøya, the area can also offer a rich and varied diversity of birds and mammals. The southern part of the island consists of birch woods with rich herb
vegetation. Furthest north, behind the hospital, there
is a 50 metre high cliff with lichen and cloudberries.
During the last war there was a German cannon battery
on top of the cliff. In the bay Prestebukta and on the south side of
Prestøya the fjord is shallow, and at low tide extensive
mudflats are uncovered. This is an important stopover
site for ducks and waders on migration in spring and
autumn. Here there are also fine beaches and small grass
meadows. From Fugleneset in the south-east a shallow
threshold stretches right across the fjord to Svartaksla by Jakobsnes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The local currents make this a particularly
important foraging area both for fish and seabirds.

Habitat and observation species 

A total of 120 bird species have been recorded on
Prestøya. Most species visit the island on migration in
spring and autumn, but there are also some species that
forage in the fjord in winter.
Among the commonest species in the area are
Red-throated Diver, Cormorant, Mallard, Common
Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter, Goldeneye,
Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Oystercatcher,
Ringed Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Bar-tailed
Godwit, Redshank, Arctic Skua, Black-headed Gull,
Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull,
Arctic Tern, Domestic Pigeon, White Wagtail, Willow
Warbler, Great Tit, Magpie, Hooded Crow, Raven,
House Sparrow and Mealy Redpoll.
The King Eider can usually be seen at Prestøya from
the end of December to the end of April. Up to 345 have
been seen in the area. In winter the King Eiders prefer
to stay out in the middle of the fjord between Prestøya
and Jakobsnes, or in the area between Stangskjæret and
Svartaksla – either together with Common Eiders or
in dense flocks of only their own species. They forage
mainly on sea urchins, mussels, crevice brittlestar, crabs
and common starfish which they find at depths of 20-
40 metres.
The Steller’s Eider is mainly seen at Prestøya on
spring migration in April-May. Up to 250 have been
recorded in the area, but in recent years the species has
unfortunately become scarcer.
A few pairs of Kittiwakes still nest in Kjerringstupet
immediately west of Prestøya. Glaucous and Iceland
Gull appear from time to time in winter.
A large colony of Arctic Terns nested until a few years
ago on the landfill area, but development and increased
traffic has reduced the population to a minimum. Of
more uncommon species that have been recorded on
Prestøya may be mentioned Great Northern Diver,
Bar-headed Goose, Garganey, Surf Scoter, Black-tailed
Godwit, Snowy Owl, Hawk Owl and Long-tailed Tit.


Prestøya is an easily accessed area that can offer
a diversity of birds throughout most of the year,
especially from January until August. The locality is
particularly convenient for visitors who have newly
arrived at Kirkenes by air or by Hurtigruta. Many of the
commonest species can be seen here, and rarer species
may appear from time to time. Follow the sign from Kirkenes centre to Prestøya
(about two kilometres). On arrival one can park at
the hospital or along one of the roads in the area. One
has the best view of the shallow areas by parking in
Strandveien and walking cautiously through the birch
woods down to the shore. A telescope is recommended.
There is a nature trail along the whole of the south side
of the island. The inner parts of the bay Prestebukta can best be
seen from Prestøyveien in the north. It is also possible
to climb up onto the crag north of the hospital.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               From here one has a good view northwards to Sabelskjæret
and eastwards to Jakobsnes.

Further information 

Five species of seal have been recorded in the inner
part of Bøkfjorden: grey seal and common seal appear
regularly in the fjord, while bearded seal, ringed seal and
harp seal occur more sporadically. Walrus was observed 
for the first time in Bøkfjorden in March 2013. Red fox
and hare are seen regularly on the island, and domestic
reindeer can appear during the summer.
In common with the rest of the Kirkenes peninsula,
all animal and birdlife on Prestøya is protected.  






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Company: Greater Arctic Moment AS
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