24 March 2013

Gullfest 2013 - in the King Eider vortex

A brief update from the outer Varanger Fjord

Gullfest 2013 is turning into an Eiderfest. We arrived Vardø island by the Coastal express / Hurtigruten two days ago. It has been a a couple very eventfull days. After the rather calm (but cold) taiga adventure in Pasvik, we are now in a completely different climate: Vardø town and the outer Varanger Fjord is showing us all what an arctic winter is. We have gale force winds, snow blizzards, the occasional calm, but mostly weather that in many places would be described as mayhem. We call it fresh. 

Due to large amounts of Capelin in the sea the Gulls in Vardø seems to be well fed, and are not very cooperative. The ringing is slow, but the birding is not. We are taking to the sea. For the visiting birders this will be the Eiderfest of 2013. In Bussesundet south of Vardø island more about 8500 King Eiders and 12 500 Common Eiders have gathered in massive rafts. A true wildlife spactacle of breathtaking proportions! 

We set out with the Vardø Havn KFs boat and where soon surrounded by a whirlwind of eiders. Tristan - the Inked naturalist - came up with the term ´The King Eider Vortex´. It certainly reflects the experience of being in the middle of Europes largest concentration of King Eiders. 

 Martin Garner and Ian Lewington enjoying the spectacle

Eiders in thousands: Vardø town seen from south Bussesundet. The King Eiders favoured European wintering grounds. At Vardø southernmost point, Steilnes we have a bird hide / wind shelter. Find it in the centre of the left photo. The Biotope office is the white house in the centre of the right photo. Great views! 

Gullfest niceness
This year we are very fortunate to have artists of various kinds with us. From Tor Emil the chef at Vardø Hotel, who runs the base camp cafe in the Lavvo,  to Darren Woodhead who is painting and exhibiting during Gullfest. World class!

The Hotel is the evening base camp and this is where Gullfest artsists Ian Lewington and Darren Woodhead is exhibiting, in addition to young Varanger-photographer Skjalg-Helmer Vian. We are also enjoying a series of very interesting talks, by people who are doing groundbreaking work within the world of birding. From Cornell Lab of Ornithology´s innovative crowd sourcing birding software, presented by Jessie Barrie, to Cornelius Schlawes cutting edge thinking and analisys of Gull evolution. A wide spectre of talks. And there is more to come...

Gullfest is about birding, but great birding is made possible by great people: The good will and efforts of both local and visiting people is making this Gullfest a very enjoyable event. A true arctic adventure.

More to come from Gullfest soon! Hope you enjoy the speedy update from the Gullfest birds and people vortex! 

 Mixed Eider raft

King Eider males, 1 Common Eider female.

We still have much birding to do in Vardø before we set of to do the rest of the Varanger Fjord on monday and tuesday. More elaborate articles from Gullfest will appear later on. Thanks for tuning in to our Gullfest updates.. To be continued

Tormod A. / Biotope