09 June 2012

Varanger Golden Oriole, etc. - Birding by the people

Birding in Varanger is on the rise - and the locals are the new bird finders! Rare bird finding have so far been the domain of visiting birders. However with the recent years focus on birds and the unique birdlife of Varanger, locals have become very much more aware of our avian friends. 

Golden Oriole (Pirol, Oriolus oriolus) Komagvær May 2012, photo: Roland Strige

Pallid Harrier (steppehauk, Circus macrourus) Vardø May 2012, photo: Erling Slettvold.

I keep getting phone calls, sms´ and mails with questions about birds and requests to help with species identification of birds observed and photographed in Varanger by locals. Often it is common birds, or odd-looking birds. It is fairly straight forward, and mostly the hard-to-id-birds are for example moulting Long-tailed Ducks. But sometimes it is something extraordinary. Recently, just within a few days, I recieved a picture of a Golden Oriole (pirol) and a Pallid Harrier. The Oriole was photographed by Roland Strige in Vardo (photo below). He found this rarity dead on the porch of his cabin in Komagvær. Why it lay dead on the terrace of his is not known (probably crashed into a window), but one thing is certain - it is far from where it is supposed to be. The Pallid Harrier was seen flying by and luckily the sharp observer Erling Slettvold from Vardo managed to take this photo of a beautiful adult male. An excellent documentation of this eastern vagrant. As with the Oriole this species is only seen a few times in Finnmark. A few days later me and Elin headed out towards Hamningberg, outer Varanger fjord. Here we had a European Bee-eater flying by. What a bird! An explosion of colours in the otherwise earth-coloured arctic tundra landscape. Such an exotic trio of rare birds of course made it to the regional newspaper Finnmarken.

It is during the summer season most rare birds are found. This is when birders from around the world visit this region. The logic is simple: the more birders, the more exiting birds are found. Last year two new species for Norway was found in Varanger: an Asian White-winged Scoter (Knoppsjøorre, Melanitta fusca stejnegeri) from Siberia were found in Persfjorden and the rare Glaucous-winged Gull (gråvingemåke Larus Glaucescens) was discovered in Kiberg. Both are extremely rare, even in a European context. Now we are well underway for this season with the observations of both Golden Oriole, Bee-eater and Pallid Harrier. We have now been working with local development projects and birding in Varanger since 2009, and the great thing is that the birdfinders are now the people of Varanger. 

Birding to the people 
We recently completed a destination development study, outlining the possibilities in birding. Varanger is a birding destination in the making. Visiting birders have a very positive effect in Varanger, not just economically speaking, but the fact that people from around the world travel to Varanger to study birds is a huge compliment to the regions birdlife. Locally this undoubtedly raises the local awareness and appriciation of the regions birdlife. People in Varanger have a birdlife and nature to be proud of, and now it seems the locals are turning in to quite the bird finders!

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p 25/123 - local bird projects: ringing, nesting boxes, bird guiding, etc

The destination development study is a documentation of the past three years pro nature / pro bird work we have engaged with in Varanger. In fact - it is more about people then birds. 

Below is the last page of the regional newspaper Finnmarken: the last page allways features photos sent to the paper by its readers. Increasingly bird photos feature this page with allmost daily one or more bird photos. And when the Pallid Harriers and Golden Orioles are found and identified by locals its is no doubt Varanger is a birding destination!

Local birders visiting Ekkerøy, 08.06.2012
We are doing quite a bit of bird guiding in Varanger. Below with teacher Tord Skardal and his students from Vestre Jakobselv birding Ekkerøy, Varanger fjord.

Who knows - maybe one of these guys will find the next Golden Oriole or some other rare bird.

The summer season is just beginning in Varanger, and it is not given that visiting birders will be the only finders of rarities this year...

A 2011 highlight: Galucous-winged Gull. What will the 2012 Varanger highlight be?
More photos in previous article: Varanger harbour life - northern and eastern gulls

stay tuned.. 

Tormod A. / Biotope