Such a difficult choice! Allthough I have seen them in thousands over and over again, both Stellers´and King Eiders are simply breathtaking birds. I feel really spoiled when seeing the clusters of Stellers Eider from my office window. Then there is the rarities that keep showing up, with a stunning Harlequin drake as my personal favourite this year. A birding highlight this year was the Gullfest event. Seeing how hard core birders could meet with locals in Varanger and talk birds and simply enjoying each others company was fantastic. It was a true birding-to-the-people event. Gullfest changed the way locals see and appreciate their own nature and birdlife. When thinking of all my bird encounters of this year, there is still one that stands out. I guess it is one of those moments that only happens after you spend a lot of time at a place, and eventually you will be rewarded with something extraordinary. I have seen Gyrfalcon a hundred of times in Varanger, but mostly it is a speedy fly-by. This spring I spend a couple of weeks in total on Hornøya bird cliff, and my reward was spectacular views of a Gyrfalcon that hunted Kittiwakes and Puffins on the island. At one point the Gyrfalcon flew right over my head as a Raven came by and foolishly decided to harass the Gyrfalcon. Unexpectedly the Gyrfalcon started attacking the Raven which had no choice but letting itself fall to the ground to escape the attack. I got a couple of photos of too. It really was being at the exact right spot at the right time. Birding is grand!
Best wishes from the arctic