Varanger’s Auk Island


Friday 13th May, it was the first day without the rest of the gang. An early morning walk on Vardø Island got me a flushed Woodcock and singing Shore Lark.  Summer plumaged Purple Sandpipers and a 3rd summer Glaucous Gull were in the harbour as I began a short boat ride. I crossed large rafts containing Guillemot, Razorbill,  Brünnich’s Guillemot and Puffins (as well as all them Eider). The boat passes an island of 40,000 argentatus Herring Gulls and you reach Hornøya. The last place in NE Europe. Beyond it Russia, Siberia and the High Arctic.

I had 4 hours on the island all by myself. Wonderful, and actually not enough time! It’s only small and unlike most other seabird colonies I have seen, the birds are above you and alongside you with a constant stream of close fly-by’s. Want to learn you auks? Come here! I want to do a couple of posts on interesting plumage features of Arctic Guillemot ssp. hyperborea and my flight impressions of Brünnich’s Guillemot. For now overall impressions:

Purple Sandpiper © Steve Rogers.  Plenty to be seen on the Varanger rocky coastlines, sometimes in flocks of 100’s. Plenty in the harbour.

This Glaucous Gull waved me off on the boat journey. Dark bill marks and brownish tones in wing coverts-guess it’s about third summer.

Arriving on Hornøya I was greeted by a line of clownish-looking Shag, nest defending ‘argy’ Herring Gulls and a seabird colony viewed from Tormod’s bespoke, strategically placed hide.

I think some of these hyperborea ‘Arctic Guillemots‘ might actually be identifiable if they turn up away from their core zones- e.g. Britain in winter. There is a specific feature I noted in the field. More soon.

The Brünnich’s Guillemots liked the higher spots on the cliff face. Scandinavian Rock Pipit, a greyish Chiffchaff at the lighthouse and an Otter were very nice ‘padders’.

About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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