birds at Elvenes and storskog
At Elvenes in Sør-Varanger Norway is at its narrowest. From the bridge innermost in Bøkfjorden it is barely 1600 metres as the crow flies to the Russian border. This border area has a varied nature and is an area worth stopping at for bird-watchers who are on their way between Kirkenes and Grense Jakobselv. The best places are Skafferhullet, Elvenes bridge and the birch woods between Storskog and Jarfjordbotn.
The lush forest areas on the east side of the river at Elvenes were discovered by forestry administrator Arthur Klerck about 100 years ago. He secured right of ownership and formed a whole small park consisting of several hundred kinds of trees that normally should not be found so far north. Siberian larch and several different kinds of spruce still characterize this area which is called Elvenes Park. Skafferhullet by Boris Gleb was originally a sand and gravel quarry, where there previously was a border crossing to the Soviet Union. Today the border crossing has been moved to Storskog some kilometres further east.
Best time to visit
Elvenes-Storskog has most to offer bird-watchers during the summer period (April-September). The Arctic Warbler is a possibility from mid-June to mid-July.
Habitat and observation species
The area between Elvenes and Jarfjordbotn offers small lakes, bogs and various mountain ridges. Most interesting, however, are the areas of lush birch forest, where one can find species such as Woodcock, Dunnock, Wren, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Arctic Warbler and Chiffchaff. The mouth of Pasvikelva and the inner part of Bøkfjorden are locally important sites for resting duck species. Flocks of up to 380 Goosanders have been recorded here in August-September. The Red-throated Diver uses the area as a fishing site, and here one can also see Black-headed Gull and Little Gull.
Follow the roads E6/E105 eastwards from Kirkenes/ Hesseng towards Elvenes. Check the small lakes along the way (Abborvatnet, Ternevatnet and Rundvatnet) for nesting Red-throated Diver and Arctic Tern. Take to the right towards Skafferhullet just past Rundvatnet. A gravel road leads to the south-east past Elvenes border station, a gravel quarry and a small motor-cross track. The Little Bunting has been found nesting by this road. At the fence at the Russian border (after 2 km) one has a good view of the Boris Gleb hydroelectric station and the lower part of the Pasvik river. Check the sandbanks for ducks, waders and resting common seals. Rough-legged Buzzard and Kestrel are often seen here. Other possible species are Little Gull, Woodcock, Sand Martin, Bluethroat, Arctic Redpoll and Little Bunting. A telescope is recommended. At Elvenes bridge it is worthwhile checking both the sea side and the river side for resting birds. Red-throated Diver, Common Eider, Velvet Scoter, Goldeneye, Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser are all common here. King Eider and Smew may appear, and Surf Scoter has once been seen in the summer. Of mammals, Common Seal, Grey Seal and Bearded Seal have been recorded. Parking is easiest on the north side of the bridge. From here one can follow a path along the river bank southward through Elvenes Park. This is a fertile area that can have passerine species such as Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Pied Wagtail and Greenfinch. Both Little Bunting and Red-flanked Bluetail have also been reported in this area. Remember to check bird feeding sites in the housing areas for uncommon species in winter and spring. At Storskog border station road no. 886 turns off eastward towards Grense Jakobselv. For the first 500 metres the road goes slightly upwards with lush bird forest on both sides. In recent years this has been one of the best localities for singing Arctic Warblers in SørVaranger. A good strategy can be to park at the top of the hill and walk down again. The species has also been heard singing by Jarfjordbotn and Myrstad (nearer Elvenes).
In winter it may be worthwhile to make a detour northwards from Elvenes to Jakobsnes, Ropelv and Reinøysund (20 km). The road runs along the east side of Bøkfjorden and gives possibilities of observing ducks and other seabirds that rest in the fjord. The King Eider occurs regularly. Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard and Gyr Falcon can in some years nest in the area.