Seabird migration from a boat in Nordkyn/ Norway

PapageitaucherIt is hard to believe, but also on the northern edge of the WP (Western Palearctic) seabirds are living and migrating. To see them, managed a trip in the beginning of May to the northern tip of Norway, to the Nordkyn peninsula. This is the best location to spot the migration out to the Barents Sea. The Nordkyn is the next peninsula west of Varanger, which might be more known.

After trips to the western edge of the WP to see and photograph migrating pelagic birds, now migrating seabirds with a strictly northern circle of migration could be observed from the land but also on an off-shore boat trip with Vidar Karlstad.

I went out on his boat to the excellent migrating grounds north of Slettnes. A great experience. Thus for the keen birdwatcher of western palearctic birds, these arctic species do not need to stay on status “highly thought-after mega birds”, but are able to observe as well.

You have already an excellent vantage point from the lighthouse of Slettnes near the little village of Gamvik. And many birders go here in the middle of May to observe and count the birds migrating through. But for close looks of birds like Red-throated Loons (Gavia stellata), Yellow-billed Loons (Gavia adamsii), Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), European Storm-Petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus), Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus ), King Eiders (Somateria spectabilis), Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis), Common Scoters (Melanitta nigra), Great Skuas (Catharacta skua), Pomarine Jaegers (Stercorarius pomarinus), Parasitic Jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus), Long-tailed Jaegers (Stercorarius longicaudus ), European Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), Glaucous Gulls (Larus hyperboreus), Iceland Gulls (Larus glaucoides), Razorbills (Alca torda), Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) or Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) in their element, then a off-shore trip is a must!

It is obvious for this special kind of migration along the Barents Sea that it is advisable to go for locations on the northern edge of the Norway and book one of the off-shore trips – preferable with a reliable skipper like Vidar is. Nordkyn Nordic Safari is specialized in adventure trips in the wild nature by the seaside of the Arctic Ocean around Mehamn Norway, the northernmost fishing village of the world. Besides birding and photo expeditions the company offers deep sea fishing, Bird rock watching, For several years now, Nordkyn Nordic Safari offers boat trips where you can watch animals and feel the magic of arctic nature. Vidar, the owner, is very noticeable in his many years of experience and he offers a professional service. Vidar explained, that it is no problem with the sea birds, but that is tricky to see the real pelagic birds like European Storm-Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) or Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa). But, we should give it a try.

After I had observed and photographed the sea birds from from the lighthouse of Slettnes already, I also wanted to take pictures from the other perspective, from sea and from eye-level. The yield is noticeable. The trip was very productive – as you can see in the gallery for that day trip in front of Slettnes ligthouse.

It had taken some days, until we were finally able to venture out to this great photo experience. Now that the storm of the previous day was in fact only a wind, that did rock the waves in the sheltered fjord not too much. However, wind is an important factor- not only from the photographic point of view. Especially wind from the right direction is a must. The other important factor is the exposure to light. Now, in early spring you do not have much of a choice. But after the heavy storms of the previous days the light that lighted from a clear blue sky on a chilly morning was breathtaking. The colours were just amazing. On that morning at 08:00 I showed-up on the Adventure Camp Mehamn office, made the payment and shortly after we took the boat out on the water. Soon after we left the fishing port of Mehamn, the first gulls approached the boat. It did not take long, before the first ducks were visible. Rafts of King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) mixed with Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) could be approached with the boat on a good distance. The Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) normally stayed for themselves (often only male or female) and were less cooperative. After half an hour, the coast of the lighthouse of Slettnes was visible. We then cruised in front of the coast of the lighthouse of Slettnes on the next hours, combining close-coast cruising with more off-shore cruising partly following the fishing vessels which were all in action; thus attaining the interests of many sea birds including the elegant flying Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) and some Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus). Nice shots of Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) could be counted on the photo list as well. It turned out, that the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), which you hardly see from the coast line, is very common further out. A boat trip is almost the only chance of getting images of the swimming Puffins.

The close-coast cruises in front of the lighthouse of Slettnes resulted in very nice images of flying Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus), European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus), Razorbill (Alca torda), Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle) and Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata). The absolute highlight but, was a Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii), which was swimming on the water right at the time when we already decided to leave the area. From land you often see him swimming – but only for a moment, as it dives in a fast sequence in pursuit of prey (Mostly fish, including Sculpin (Cottidae), Tomcod (Microgadus proximus) and Cod (Gadus morhua)), which is caught underwater. Thus, approaching the swimming Loon, let the heart beat faster. How long will the bird still swim and when do the bird start foraging by diving and swimming underwater. We were very lucky, the Yellow-billed Diver was still swimming along the surface with its head partly submerged, when we came in shooting distance. The Yellow-billed Loon was peering about underwater, watching for prey before it started to dive. I could not believe, but the distance was less than 15 meters before with a splash the bird started its underwater hunting.

Wow, what a final. This was all not so easy . But Vidar and his colleagues of Nordkyn Nordic Safari are true professionals and – let the weather decide, which they cannot control – and do the right thing right. This day tour lasted about four hours. A complete success: During these hours, more than 20 species of sea birds could be seen and photographed. For accommodation you might use the so-called Adventure Camp Mehamn, which contains of a hostel with 5 rooms with total13 beds, 5 fishermen huts and 18 separate located parking places for camping cars. The site of the Adventure Camp is located on an island in the center of Mehamn, the Northernmost fishing village at the European mainland, 71° 01′ 55″ northern latitude.

To see more pelagic birds like (more) Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus), Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), European Storm-Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus), Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) you might need more time, maybe another season (fall?) and a real excursion for the Barents Sea. But for migrating seabirds, this trip was perfect.

There are lots of pelagic bird species with a great range of sizes and ranges. In the – gallery of pelagic birds you will find different species of these off-shore birds found in the western Palearctic.

In order to meet the growing demand for top shots of the rare species of the Palearctic, Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic.

Trips to many sites which can contribute to a WP-portfolio of birds were visited. Already several trips included excursions to remote places like the coastal mountains of Northern Norway. Trips with Nordkyn Nordic Safari AS to observe migrating arctic seabirds in the Barents Sea or with Seabirding off-shore Hatteras, North Carolina to explore the dynamic ecosystem formed by the combination of the continental shelf edge and the Gulf Stream Current, to capture images of rare birds were very successful. The nice images you find in the gallery are only a first impression of what you will find in the gallery in the “Pictures Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if I could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

1 comment

  1. Guten Morgen,

    ich schreibe einfach mal an den Administrator dieser Seite, da ich den Kontakt von letzem Jahr zu den Uhus in Bad Soden leider nicht mehr namentlich benennen kann 🙁

    Ich hätte 1-2 Fragen, die Sie mir vielleicht beantworten können:

    Brüten die Uhus wieder in Bad Soden und falls ja wann wäre die beste Beobachtungszeit?
    Ich war am vergagenen Samstag am Max-Eyth-See von ca. 16:00 – 21:30 und leider ohne Erfolg was eine Nachtreiher-Sichtung angeht. Wurden dieses Jahr schon welche beobachtet oder was habe ich falsch gemacht ?
    Wo gibt es im erweiterten Umfeld von FFM oder Hessen gesicherte Möglichkeiten Beutelmeisen und ggf. Turteltauben zu sehen ?

    Über eine positive Rückmeldung würde ich mich sehr freuen.

    Vielen Dank vorab und Gruß
    Thomas PLentz

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