15 March 2013

Gullfest 2013 - the worlds northernmost bird festival

Exhibition, program & talks

One more week now and the arctic birding highlight of the year is upon us! We have got talks, exhibitons and lots of niceness happening. If you are into birding well above the arctic circle, and dont mind a little snow and the occasional wind chill, this is your event! Gulls, eiders and alcids are invited in thousands. The pristine, snow white landscape of Varanger is in its finest winter plumage. We are ready to bird Gullfest style!

Hawk Owl, by Gullfest exhibitor Ian Lewington (copyright)

Vardø harbour - a premium birding site in Varanger. Hornøya bird cliff in the background. Views from the Gullfest evening base camp: the Vardø Hotel. 

Some people move to rural places to live calm lives. We did not. Living in Varanger has connected us with the international birding community. And we are as busy as ever! Varanger is where birders from around the world meet for some very cool arctic birding. Now we are looking very much forward to the second ever Gullfest in Varanger. This year we are expanding the niceness with more talks, a bird art exhibition and a serioulsy good ringing scheme. Our base camp at Vardøs Hasselnes will feature the coolest king size Lavvo ever (grand thnx to the Nature Warden / SNO), and we are very much looking forward to meeting birders and and locals over a few good northern argentatus and other arctic birds!

Busy at the Biotope office with Gullfest prepping. The Hasselnes base camp is soon in place and the local fishery is helping out with festival food - for the gulls.

We have a 12 man ringing scheme team this year! We are making gull traps and boxes for this essential part of the festival. Wing-tip pattern studies are open to all. We are also making a couple of photo hides and an exhibition.

In short: Gullfest preparations is going on at warp speed. This year we are very fortunate to have both help and funding to make the event as good as possible! We got great people like the local fishermen to carpenters, the hotel and many more taking part in the making of this arctic birding event. 

Gullfest is approaching fast, and we finally have the program settled. In daytime we will enjoy the Hasselneset base camp, with views of the bird rich Reinøysundet. Here we will have the ringing scheme, and we will serve great local food. Great birding, ringing and good company in one place. We have arranged a few lunch talks in the Lavvo. In the evenings Vardø hotel is the base camp with the Gullfest exhibition and a series of enlightening and inspirational talks. Check out the program (to be handed out to all participants, with much more additional information)

Gullfest day by day, with taiga prologue:

Program scheme (will be available in Vardø)

Birding is very much about people. We are aiming at an event that will both enlighten and inspire. We are very fortunate to have a group of very dedicated and skilled birders contributing to Gullfest 2013. 

This year we are expanding with a bird art exhibition. If you call yourselves a birder you have surely heard of Ian Lewington. His bird art is known all over the birding world, and we are very happy and honoured to have Ian Lewington joining and exhibiting at the Gullfest 2013! 

At the Rutland Birdfair we (Tormod & Elin / Biotope) met nature / wildlife artist Darren Woodhead. The Birdfair is a massive event hosting a wide variety of artists and everything else bird related. We where both struck by Darrens exceptional watercolour paintings. The way he portrayed birds in the landscape was unique. It was almost like a blend of ancient Japanese painting but with a deep understanding of the birds portrayed. The way landscape and birds blend in his paintings is almost magic! We are now very thrilled that Darren could join the Gullfest as an invited artist. He will both bring some of his artwork, and make new art while he is in Varanger. We cant wait to see his take on the arctic birdlife and landscape! 

We are very happy to say that we will exhibit some of the finest bird art available! We are also proudly presenting Varangers own local bird photographer Skjalg-Helmer Vian, a 13 year old talented bird photographer. A great mix of local talent and world renowned artistry! These two poster are announcing the Gullfest exhibition at various shops and cafes in Varanger right now. World class exhibitors in a world class birding destiantion!

The Gullfest exhibition posters (click image for slide show view / larger image)

The Gull ringing scheme is at the centre of the Gullfest, and with 6 ringers from Norway and 6 ringers from the UK we have a great feeling about this. Lets hope the Gulls will collaborate too. Our ringing guests from both the UK and Norway will give talks and run the base camp ringing scheme. Join us and work on your P9-5s!

In the evening we have talks from some of the finest birders we know of. We will have ideas, thinking and birding projects presented that are at the frontiers of birding. In a true pushing the boundaries spirit we have talks by Gull specialists Morten Helberg, Arild Breitstøl and Paul Roper. Martin Garner and Tristan Reid will present innovative thinking and projects and from Cornell Lab of Ornithology Jessie Barry will present their cutting edge work. And we got much more lined up: have a look a the evening talks program: 


Gullfest 2013 will be an event that you can follow online. I guess birders are very much outdoorsy people - but there is little doubt that birding is very much an online crowd eneterprise! For us living in Varanger this is a huge assett - the resources available is simply amazing. At the Gullfest we aim to make our adventure available too. We will tweet, blog, post on facebook and share this birding adventure with you. So if you are interested in more info on Gullfest stay tuned to our facebook page, or our twitter feed or this website / blog or the tweets and FBposts from the participants. 

If you are on site / in Varanger between 21st - 25th of March please feel free to drop by the Gullfest base camp, either at the hotel or at Hasselneset. You are most welcome!

During my recent tour in the UK with Martin Garner, I heard a quote by American birder and author Kenn Kaufmann. It was strikingly good, and well worth repeating. I feel it is very much in line with the Gullfest spirit:

"Birding is something we do for enjoyment. If you enjoy it, you are a good birder. If you enjoy it a lot, you´re a great birder"

At Gullfest we aim to make all participants great birders! Weather you are deeply interested in northern argentatus Herring Gull wing tip patterns or more interested in enjoying the spectacle of an arctic bird cliff, you are most welcome to join the Gullfest 2013!

If you have any questions feel free to contact any of the Gullfest organisers:

Event Qs: Tormod Amundsen / Biotope: tormod@biotope.no
Event Qs: Elin Taranger / Biotope: elin@biotope.no
Travel logistic Qs: Alonza Garbett / Biotope: alonza@biotope.no
Travel logistic Qs: Kate Utsi / Destination Varanger: kate@varanger.com / www.varanger.com
Hotel / accomodation: Gullfest tickets: post@vardohotel.no 

or simply state your opinion and feel free to ask Qs in the comments field of this post (click on the article URL to get to the comments field)!

Thank you & stay tuned for more Gullfest 2013 news

 Tormod A. / Biotope