06 November 2011

PASVIK - one autumn day in the taiga

All photos by Tormod Amundsen and Elin Taranger of Biotope / copyright. 

Photos below: 
Siberian Tit - a perfect match and a compliment to its environment 
Old house in Pasvik 
Pasvik river scene. 

Birds, architecture and landscape of the northeastern taiga: A study in all shades of brown and green.

We are working on a project where we assist approximately 30 tourism businesses in Central and Eastern Finnmark with expertise and advice on arrangements and fascilities for birds and birders. We have for more then two years initiated and contributed to several bird projects in Finnmark. The aim is to promote birds, nature conservation and nature-based tourism. This goes very well together. Both tourism and conservation has much to gain from a focused initiative and close collaboration. This work involves everything from giving advice about feeding stations to attract birds, to bird-watching facilities at strategic locations. Varanger Fjord is an already well-known birding destination in the world. Here you can experience the tundra and the Arctic coast and all the bird species that belong to this environment. In Scandinavia Pasvik is well known among birders. Internationally, however, this is a better kept secret. We aim to change this. The combination Varanger and Pasvik is actually quite unique. Here you find taiga, tundra and arctic coastline within a days drive. It takes less than 4 hours to drive from Vardo / outer Varanger Fjord to Nyrud, deep in the Pasvik taiga forest.

Conseptual map: Biotope - architecture & nature

The old army watch-point, 96-høyden ("the 96-height"), with views of the Norwegian/Russian border, and the vast taigaforest and marshlands of Pasvik. This is allways a good place to stop and look for birds. Photo below is of the Russian mining town Nikel. Photo taken with a 300mm, from 96-høyden.

October 31 we went on a one-day visit to Pasvik. We had previously agreed to meet the County Governor in Finnmark´s Environmental  Department, the new national park manager and a local tourism company, Birkhusky, in the southern end of the Pasvik road. We were on an inspection of Pasvik river to find a suitable location for a new bird tower. There are many very good bird sites along the river, and we will now make some of them more easily accesible through the construction of various bird-watching fascilities. This comes in addition to companies like Birkhusky who are setting up feeding stations and owl boxes. Pasvik is already a fantastic place, with endless taiga forest, and intact nature. The following photos is from our day in Pasvik. The numbers speak for themselves: in one short day (the sun rises at 09.00 and sets at 14.30) we had approx 25 Siberian Jays, 35 Siberian Tits, two Hawk Owls, two Black Grouse and a few other species as well. 

We stayed at Birkhusky for one night. A great place in the taiga, with bird feeders, and views of the Pasvik river (and only 30 min from the regional airport in Kirkenes). Photo above of the B&B house we stayed in (they have cabins too). We woke up to Siberian Jays playing around the house. Very nice.

We soon set of to look at Birkhuskys new feeder and cabins at Myrbekkoia (30 min drive from the B&B). On our way we had great views of a resting Hawk Owl. It has been a very good year for Owls in Finnmark, with lemmings and mice everywhere.

The feeder proved to be very popular, with more then 15 Siberian tits and 10 Siberian Jays, several Great Tits, Willow Tits and a few Bullfinches. And the birds were all very confiding! A fantastic place to be if taiga bird photography is on the menu. Telephoto lenses are good, but you should perhaps bring a macro lens aswell. Photo above and below by Elin Taranger.

The Siberian Jay are very lively and curious birds. They will come up very close to check you out.

If family and birding is your thing, then this is the right place. Close encounters is allways exiting - whatever the age.

After a great, but much to short time at the feeders we went to meet Rolf the National Park Manager, Trine from Birkhusky and Bjørnar from the County Governor in Finnmark. 

We have done a couple of trips to Pasvik, and had a few places sorted out that we wanted to have a closer look at. The above is a photo from the gravel road at the southern end of Pasvik. 

Photo above is from the Pasvik river, close to our chosen site for a bird tower, with great views of the river. Russia is on the other side of the river.

On our way back we stopped at Noatun. The earth-dwelling above is where Norwegian pioneer ornithologist Hans Thomas Lange Schaaning stayed for several years.  He came to Pasvik in year 1900 and for twelve years he made his living from hunting and collecting birds’ eggs and other natural history material in Pasvik. Schaaning made the area well known in the scientific community. Photo below is the view from his earth-house. What a place to live! Whooper Swans gathering before migration. 

Photos below are of Siberian Tits Poecile cinctus, taken at the Birkhusky feeder. A fantastic little taiga bird: adapted to surviving the total darkenss of the arctic winter-months, with temperatures dropping to minus 35 degrees celius! We are already looking forward to our next Pasvik trip...