14 December 2012

Architecture & nature - the Steilnes bird hide / wind shelter

Birding in Varanger just got a little more comfortable:
We have been very fortunate to collaborate with so many great people in Varanger. The result is an increasingly better birding destination - for birds and for people, visitors and locals. As the first King Eiders now arrive Varanger we cut the red ribbon on a brand new bird hide / wind shelter in Vardø, at Varanger and Norways easternmost point.

Varanger can easily be reached within a day from most well connected places in Europe, although in the arctic. Even in summer birding can be a chilly experience. Increasing numbers of birders from around the world are now discovering Varanger, and our aim is to make birders feel welcome. Being birders ourselves we know how to value a good bird hide and wind shelter. And of course we love to see how the regions unique birdlife is becoming more and more popular with the locals. A well thought through project can deliver for both the most hard core birders and the local birders. The latter being known as ´titting-titter´ (which is ´bird-wathcer´ in Varanger-speak, and most species fit into the category of ´titting´). I think it can be called generous, all-inclusive concept! 

The new bird hide and wind shelter in Varanger - open for all.

One of the finest ´tittings´ in Varanger: the King Eider. This photo is of King Eiders, one of the winter residents in Bussesundet, between Steilnes and mainland Domen. The sea surrounding Vardø island is where the large rafts of eiders from Siberia spend their winter.

The new bird hide (fuglekikkerskjul in norwegian) has been strategically situated on the southern tip of Steilnes, facing south towards Russia and and west towards mainland Vardø. The key concept is making a wall in the centre of the hide / wind shelter, giving you choice of where to sit according to where birds are and from which direction the winds blows.
Opening day - birding to the people

At the opening we where very happy to see so many residents turn up. The 5th-graders in Vardø cut the ribbon,  while Vardøs mayor Lasse Haghom gave a brief speech about the nature destination Vardø and how the youngsters will be next in charge. Fascilities like this hide no doubt makes nature more easily accessible to a greater crowd.

As this year is coming to an end we are very much looking forward to the lighter season. Already in early February the days are longer and the birding is no less then spectacular. Above is photo from mid february 2012. This is from Steilnes looking south: Tight rafts of eiders use the shallow waters around Vardø as their main feeding grounds. These rafts can count more then 5000 King Eiders and 7000 Common Eiders. And then there is the occasional 100s strong rafts of Stellers Eider passing by. Not a bad place to be birding! And now this can be done more comfortably.

The King Eider - a Varanger favourite. 
However if you are a bird photographer, we will recommend a trip to Båtsfjord, on the northern side of the Varanger peninsula. Here you will find another bird hide, of a very different kind. An article on Ørjan Hansens floating photo hide will be out on Biotope.no soon. In any case - these birds are almost to good to be true. For now check out the prototyping from winter 2012

Opening day mini seminar

Thanks to the collaboration with Nasjonale Turistveger (National Tourist Routes) and the Nature Heritage program VVV-project, funded by the Direktoratet for naturforvaltning (the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management), the Steilnes hide is now a reality. With Svein Harald Holmen from the nature heritage project and Arne Moen from National Tourist Routes, we invited people in Varanger to join a mini seminar following the opening of the new bird hide. 

Opening day poster - featuring talks by the involved parties and a homage to the pro nature partners in Varanger.

Short talks where given by Svein Harald Holmen - about nature awareness and the qualities in Varanger. Kate Utsi from Destination Varanger spoke of the increasing interest in Varangers birdlife. Tor Emil from Vardø hotel gave his perspective on birding in Varanger. At the opening Arne Moen of NT officially handed the building over to the people of Vardø. Ingela Mästerbo of Varanger Næringssenter shared her thoughts on how Varanger is in a very positive drive, and how nature based tourism is an important part of this. Tormod of Biotope talked about how and why the hide was designed, while Vardøs good carpenters shared their thoughts on the whole building prosess. It is great to see how such relatively small projects can have great impact. 

At Vardøs south-western tip is the new hide. Situated according to already established plans. Varanger is a birding destination in the making - for locals and visitors. 

At this otherwise very exposed place you will now find a sheltering hide with views of some of Varangers most bird rich areas. 

While summer will bring a wide range of bird species, we local birders have to enjoy the few but endlessly fascinating species like this little feather ball, a Purple Sandpiper. When all other sandpiper head south during winter this one stays during the dark and icy winter months. 

Grand thanks to all involved in the Steilnes project!

Tormod A. / Biotope