Life along Varangerfjord

My first stop after going down the mountains was in Nesseby. There, a small picturesque church stands on the isthmus, and on both sides a beach attracts birds in search of food, at low tide especially.

I was lucky to be there at the right time, and even though I was weary from my early wake-up and long drive, I didn’t hesitate to crawl in wet sand to get close to the waders that prodded the beach insistently. My first target was a very WOW bird: a Sanderling (Calidris alba) in breeding plumage. If you remember (see this article), I saw this species in Camargue last winter; but then, the birds were almost entirely white, for that’s their winter attire. Pretty, but not spectacular.

What a stunner that bird becomes on its way to the north! Look at those colors!

Sanderling (Calidris alba)

I’m particularly happy with this next shot: the low perspective is awesome, the striding pose looks great, and I’m personally very fond of the beak partly hidden in the sand.


The next bird to appear in front of my lens was a Common ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula). None of the birds there were really scared of me, but this one was extremely familiar, coming within inches of my camera and overfilling the frame. Unfortunately, focused as it was on the ground and the prey it expected to catch there, it didn’t look much up towards me.

Common ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

A funny scene happened when it started calling, in this special posture. Then, a comrade landed close-by, possibly a mate or potential mate. I managed to capture them together before they parted ways, running on the beach in opposite directions.

Common ringed plover
Common ringed plover
Common ringed plover

The last species I shot in Nesseby was the Dunlin (Calidris alpina). It was the hardest, for they never stopped digging in the sand, even when shaking their body: I didn’t manage any satisfactory shot where they would look up. Still, I have them, and again, what a change from their winter plumage 😀

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

Laying on the sand was rather comfortable, but when I rose, the wind got me, and I immediately felt very cold. I was wet, and that’s an understatement, so I was happy to have booked a room in a camping: I had plenty of space and time to dry my clothes over night.

In the morning, I went to the small harbour of Vestre Jakobselv. On the strand, I found a large group of Red knots (Calidris canutus) resting, probably on a migration halt. They flew away when they noticed me, I didn’t even get the chance to go down to the ground with my camera.

A Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres) was a more willing subject: this gorgeous bird offered me some great opportunities, but let me tell you, crawling on that rocky beach was much less confortable than the day before in Nesseby!

Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
Ruddy turnstone

Later that day, I drove to Vadsø, where I was to stay for two nights at Nils’ place, my first Couchsurfing host. It was a great experience, one I hope to replicate when I am in New-Zealand (starting this week, aaargh! When you’ll read this, I’ll probably be there already, or on the way).

Before that, I visited the island of Vadsøya: the main attraction was a host of Red-necked phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus, more on that later) and tents with photographers inside and no bird in front. I think they were waiting for lekking Ruffs (Calidris pugnax), but it was not a good time/year for that.

Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus)

I also managed to capture something I had rarely witnessed before: color on a Tufted duck’s (Aythya fuligula) cheek. Blue and green on a bird’s plumage vary with light, and on these ducks, it’s often invisible. But then, the harsh sun hit just right, and it showed on the picture!

Tufted duck (Aythya fuligula)

The day after, I spent a lot of time in Ekkerøy. First, I crawled on the beach (again…) to approach a pair of Bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica). They were shy, the male didn’t stay long, but the female offered great views! In addition, I improved my collection of White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Dunlin and Ruddy turnstone pictures.

Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica), male

Ruddy turnstone
Bar-tailed godwit, female
Bar-tailed godwit

The wind had blown sand all over my camera, and I feared for it, for every time I turned something, it sounded of sand in the cogs. I cursed myself for being so stupid, but in the end I suffered no bad consequence. Fingers crossed =)

Then I walk along the cliff, but I didn’t have really good inspiration when it came to the many Black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) that nested there.

Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
Black-legged kittiwake
Black-legged kittiwake

Instead, I focused on Parasitic jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus). These birds come in several morphs, from dark to light, and I was gifted with the sight of both dark and light birds on the peninsula. A pair of white birds sat in the heath, and then a dark bird flew around several times, in light rain.

Parasitic jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus)
Black-legged kittiwake
Great black-backed gull
Parasitic jaeger
Parasitic jaeger
Parasitic jaeger

Parasitic jaeger

I spent the next day on the edge of the Varangerhalvøya National Park, in the tundra. Stay tuned… oh, and we’ll also need to talk about New-Zealand very soon 😀

Previously in this series:

Click the links to see more!

Black-legged kittiwake


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12 thoughts on “Life along Varangerfjord

    1. A deux mois près, oui :’D
      Merci pour le compliment, c’est toujours mieux quand on est au même niveau que l’oiseau… surtout quand celui-ci est très près, et effectivement, ils sont souvent venus très proche, notamment à Nesseby.


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