After our stopover in the far north, we took the road to the south again, back to the shores of the Varangerfjord. Instead of going back to Kirkenes, we followed the other side of the inlet, in the direction of Vardø. On our way, we had a few stops planned in scenic places and birding spots (which often coincided).
The first one was Nesseby, and its lovely church planted at the beginning of a small peninsula. The building itself was closed, but we walked a bit around, in the snow or on the beach, we watched the waves, and the mountains further away.
During the whole trip, from Kirkenes to Kirkenes, one constant for us was solitude. There seemed to be many vehicles on the road, including public buses and large trucks, but when we stopped, the only persons we met were birdwatchers, often scanning the sea in search of a White-billed diver (Gavia adamsii). This emptiness, added to the immense majesty of the landscapes we crossed, reminded me of my visit to Iceland.
At some point, while Marci was driving, I noticed a dark spot in the sky, almost right over the road. I asked my personal driver to stop, and he kindly obliged as he immediately found a parking spot on the side. It turned out that this dark spot was a young White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), therefore without the white tail, but still massive, and as it faced the wind, it stayed absolutely stationary up there. Needless to say, it was a great sighting for us both.
After Nesseby, I was happy to get some rest in Vadsø. On the morning after, we continued further east, and paused in Ekkerøy. It used to be an island, but a sandbar formed over time, linking it to the mainland. Behind the village is a 50-meter high cliff, home to thousands of Black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), which can be spotted from afar, long before seeing the cliff itself.
If you follow the path, you can walk along the edge of the cliff, and see the birds from above. Up there, like everywhere else, we spotted a few Purple sandpipers (Calidris maritima).
The gulls’ ballet over the sea was mesmerizing: once away from the cliff, showing us their whites bellies, then back, displaying their grey mantle. All in unison. Beautiful.
This next picture was taken by my friend Marci, and I love it! I often feel like my bird photos lack an artistic vision, but this shot definitely has it. Well done 😉 Follow him on Facebook, and take a look at his blog, http://martonandras.format.com/mpicsblog (click the links!)
On the road again, we stopped a few times, just to wander around and enjoy the view… and take pictures of course. In Kiberg, I walked along the breakwater. I hoped to get some more pictures of Steller’s eider (Polysticta stelleri), but the birds stayed too distant. There was a seal in the harbour, though!
While we followed the fjord’s shore, I was amused by the fact that, sometimes, localities’ names were displayed in Sámi as well as Norwegian, and in rarer cases, also in Finnish! That reminded me that, even though it felt we had come a long way, Finland was not that far, and that Varanger was and still is a place of convergence for many people.
See more about our adventure (click the links!):