26 March 2014

Pacific Eider in Vardø - again!

Mega in Varanger: Gullfest 2014 strikes gold! 

The worlds northernmost bird festival, Gullfest have just ended. From the 19-24th of March we have had the pleasure of birding Varanger with a great group of new and old friends. A full blogpost on this years main birding event in the Arctic will come, but this is much more of a rush post: It has been more then a month since the first ever European (WP) record of Pacific Eider in Vardø
(Somateria mollissima v-nigrum). The bird was discovered from the Biotope office! It was also seen the following day on two occasions. But has since not been seen, despite the fact that quite a few birders have been looking for it. We have suspected the Pacific Eider to be hiding in the mega rafts of King and Common Eiders in Bussesundet, south of Vardø island. The Pacific Eider find of February the 19th was also described on Martin Garners eminent Birding Frontiers blog.

It seems Gullfest is the event for magic moments. We have had such a great event: Great talks, inspiring people, great company and amazing birding experiences from the Pasvik taiga to Hornøya bird cliff to Berlevåg and Båtsfjordin the north. The highlights are many, and a full blogpost on Gullfest 2014 will arrive this website shortly. 

On the 21st of March we arranged a Gullfest King Eider safari to Bussesundet. We all joked about how great it would be if we would see Pacific Eider again. Well aware that this extraordinary record bird might still be around I took hundreds of photos as the mega-rafts took to the air and circled our boat. Now, as the Gullfest has come to an end, and I have finally had some time to look through my photos I find this striking beauty of a Pacific Eider! That is after a couple of hours of carefully looking through hundreds of photos, with thousands of eiders. What an amazing refind!

So to my dear fellow Gullfest birders: go birding in your photos, because we had a Pacific Eider on our boat trip! In addition we had approx 25 000 King- and Common Eiders. And to all birders in Varanger or possibly on their way to Varanger: The mega rafts are still present...

Of several hundred eider photos this was the only one with a sharp Pacific Eider present. The Pacific Eider made it into three photos (the other two was unsharp, but one is all it takes..). What a find. What a bird!

Gullfest 2014 team on the King Eider Vortex safari

The King Eider Vortex - name given by Tristan Reid on Gullfest 2013

We first saw the mega rafts of eiders from the Coatsl Express, as we approached Vardø. We all enjoyed spectacular views of the rafts. 

The mega eider rafts seen from the Coastal Express - they colour the sea! 

Beautiful Vardø. Photo taken on the Gullfest 2014 Coastal Express trip fro Kikrenes to Vardø. I think we can safely call Vardø the Eider capitol of the world. By the way - the Biotope office is the white house by the shore two thirds to the right in the above photo. We still see the mega raft from our office. Anyone care to take a trip north?!

And one more look at the orange-billed beauty. 

Mega thanks to the Gullfest 2014 team (first Gullfest post)

Let us know if you plan a Vardø trip - or follow the Biotope facebook page for updates on eiders in Varanger! 

Tormod A. / Biotope