Inside the Circle Day 3 Part 1 -Following the Coast
I never sleep well in a different bed on the first night. The odds were against a good sleep on that first night in Norway with the perpetual light pouring through the thin curtain and a Willow Warbler outside the window deciding that 2am was time for a dawn chorus of incessantly descending plaintive notes. The mobile phone alarm rattled in to life at 6-30am and I woke from a brief sleep to overcast skies and limited light. Not idea for photography but at least the biting icy wind of the previous night had subsided. After breakfast it was time to head out and the day was to be taken up by travelling the road that follows the north shore of Varangerfjord. This first day proved to be productive so I will split it over two Blog posts.
My first stop was to be a small nature reserve on the small island reached by bridge from Vadso known as Vadsoya Kultureparc. From some pre-trip research I knew there to be a small pond there that usually held good numbers of Red-necked Phalarope. The UK population of this bird is probably around 30 breeding pairs most of which reside on the Shetland Isles. It was a wonderful sight on reaching the pond in my chest waders to see about 80 birds frantically feeding. If you have not seen phalarope feeding they tend to do so by spinning around in tight circles which can mean many wasted photos, particularly in low light and given the fact they are such tiny birds. Fortunately they are completely oblivious to human presence. Firstly a male bird which in this species are less colourful than the females.
and the bolder marking of a female for comparison
I think the birds were mainly feeding on midge larvae that they were picking out from the surface layers of the pond.
I will not inundate you will Phalarope photos as there will be more to come later in this journey but liked this photograph of the pair that decided to mate at close range right in front of me.
Before leaving the small nature reserve I decided to take a quick walk around to see what else was on offer for a return trip later in the week. At the far western end of the island I was greeted by the familiar calls from a large colony of Arctic Terns, which were being harassed out at sea by pursuing Arctic Skua. Below were rafts of Common Eider gently rocking in the small swell. Walking back through the reserve apart from the omnipresent Willow Warblers, I caught fleeting glimpses of Red-throated Pipit and thought I heard a brief burst of Bluethroat song.
Just by the nature reserve car park there is access down to a small area of beach which I though worthy of brief visit before leaving. A calling Oystercatcher soon started circling an obvious sign of its ground nest nearby so I quickly moved along and watched my step.
Further along the beach another small group of Red-necked Phalarope were encountered and a couple of birds were stepping out of the water and picking their way through the seaweed.
It was time to move on and as I travelled up the coast road, admiring the occasional distant sea eagle or skua on my journey, when I came to a sign pointing to Ekkeroy which I decided to follow as I knew there were some cliffs there with a large colony of Kittiwake.
The weather was turning decidedly damp as I made my way along the footpath at the base of the cliff and large numbers of birds circled overhead. It never fails to amaze the assault of the sensors created by a seabird colony in terms of sight, sound and smell.
I took a few photographs of the Kittiwakes but was distracted by an potential photo opportunity I had passed on the way.
A bird coming in to land on its narrow ledge with its progress under the scrutiny of its neighbours.
I made my way back along the base of the cliff to the Ravens nest I had spotted previously that was built on a ledge close to the base of the cliff. I love Ravens due to their size, apparent intelligence and the beautiful blue sheen to their feathers but actually have very few photographs of what is a very wary bird. There were three well grown young in the nest.
Slightly higher on the cliff face the adult birds were looking for a easy chick snack to pluck from a Kittiwake nest. Every time one of the Ravens took flight you could sense the panic flooding through the Kittiwake colony as the volume of calls rose.
Beautiful birds and a very welcome and unexpected encounter.
I think that is probably enough for this post but the rest of day was to get a good deal more colourful in terms of the birds encountered as I will reveal soon in the next installment.