visit Varanger, birding varanger, travel varanger

Birds at Ekkerøy og Salttjern

Ekkerøy is a bird reserve with a very easily accessible bird cliff, best known for tens of thousands of Kittiwakes. Both the sand beaches and the tideline in the area, as well as the fjord offshore, give excellent conditions for many species of birds and sea mammals. Salttjern is a village with good habitats for ducks, waders and gulls. Here one finds sheltered bays, rich in bird life, which provide good protection in stormy weather.

Ekkerøy 

Best time to visit

e Kittiwakes come back to Ekkerøy in March, or sometimes as early as February. At this time of year the weather can change quickly between storm and rain, icicles hanging from the cli s, moonlight and the Northern lights, so these rst weeks can give really spectacular sights of nature. e species diversity, both on Ekkerøy itself and the surrounding areas, is however entirely di erent from mid-May, when most bird watchers choose to come.

Habitat and observation species

Ekkerøy has grassy plains, heather, freshwater, steep cli s, sandy beaches, tideline with rotting seaweed and sheltered sea areas. is variation leads to a rich and varied birdlife in a rather limited area. A walk over the peninsula gives a ne view over the ord, all the way to 

Russia on a ne day, and is very popular, also among visitors without any special interest in birds.

ere is a marked path through the reserve with information about plants, birds, and also about events of the last war. On both sides of the road into the reserve the sea is somewhat sheltered from stormy weather. Here Great Northern Diver and Yellow-billed Diver can be seen annually. Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Common Eider are often numerous, depending on time of year. e Steller’s Eider occurs here in winter and through most of spring, when Goosander and Red- breasted Merganser become commoner. Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver and Cormorant appear regularly in the bay on the east side. e population of Arctic Tern varies somewhat, but it sometimes nests in large numbers.

Along the beaches there are often large numbers of waders, including Little Stint. Ekkerøy is a good locality for the Sanderling in May-June. Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Red-necked Phalarope, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwit are common species, sometimes very numerous during migration. e Temminck’s Stint is less common, while the Ru , here also, is becoming steadily scarcer. e Knot rests here in May in ocks of 2000-3000 or even more.

e Red-throated Pipit and Horned Lark are among the most sought-after of the passerines. Wheatear and Meadow Pipit nest over most of the peninsula, while the Rock Pipit is scarcer.

e White-tailed Eagle can be seen regularly, and in good rodent years Rough-legged Buzzard and Short- eared Owl hunt out here. e Gyr Falcon preys on Kittiwakes in the bird cli , while the Peregrine may also be seen hunting larger waders along the shore.

In the bird cli itself the Kittiwake is completely dominant. e population was estimated at 20,000 breeding pairs in 1979, but has probably increased somewhat and then mainly decreased since then. ere is also a smaller Kittiwake colony in a western-faced cli within the inhabited area. e Black Guillemot has become established as a breeding species with a few pairs in recent years, while Guillemot and Razorbill seem to be only sporadic visitors.

e Raven nests in the immediate vicinity of the colony and regularly plunders the nests of the Kittiwakes. Early in the season, roseroot decorates the bird cli s. Towards the end of the breeding season, large amounts of sea mayweed (subspecies phaeocephalum), together with rosebay willowherb at the top of the cli s, can form a frame around the birds and provide ne subjects for the camera.

For those interested in geology, there are unusually ne ripple marks on the outermost part of Skagodden.

When on Ekkerøy, you ought to check the freshwater pools and the tideline below road E75 – from the turning to Ekkerøy and further north-eastwards towards Krampenes. Here you find many of the same species. Lillelvneset is a fine locality for the Temminck’s Stint. 

Access

e turning to Ekkerøy lies about 13 km east of Vadsø along main road E75.

Salttjern

e village of Salttjern is an underrated little pearl along E75. It is always worthwhile to check the small harbour at the west side of the village, but there are most birds in the bay with rotting seaweed on the east side, also on the nearby rocks. e bay is sheltered, and can have many birds when there are poorer conditions elsewhere. If the water level is not too low, you gain a view from all sides of the bay, and can therefore choose to stand with the sun behind you for most of the day.

Habitat and observation species

Large numbers of Knot, often several thousands, gather here in the latter half of May. A few Ru may 

also forage here, but the commonest are Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Red-necked Phalarope, Oystercatcher and Turnstone. e Little Stint can be quite common on autumn migration, the Spotted Redshank is often to be seen at the same time, and Purple Sandpiper mainly from winter to early summer. e Broad-billed Sandpiper has also been recorded here.

e ocks of gulls on the rocks should also be checked for rarer species such as Sabine’s Gull. In some years the Arctic Tern nests here.

ere are good possibilities of seeing Pintail on spring migration, and late Steller’s Eiders sometimes appear in June. In addition, Common Eider, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goosander and Red- breasted Merganser may often be seen.

House Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear and Pipits forage on small life along the tideline. On the upper side of the road, Red-throated Pipits often nest, and Twite may be seen here. Keep a lookout also for hunting Mer

Access

Salttjern village lies along road E75, about 9 km east of Vadsø and 4 km west of Ekkerøy. ere is a large parking site a couple of hundred metres east of the village.