The Varanger Fjord is great for ducks and seabirds as it is a shallow and relatively sheltered fjord. It is Norways only eastern facing fjord. It is far north, well within the arctic circle, but it is kept ice free by the warmth of the Gulf Stream. Since food is fairly easily available for birds that prefer the arctic climate, the Varanger Fjord is simply an amazing place to winter for several bird species. The rafts of Arctic seaducks is undoubtedly a highlight of any winter to early spring trip to Varanger. 10,000s of Arctic seaducks are found along the coast in Varanger during winter.

The main species of ducks that will occur in Varanger when you go birding in winter will be Common Eider and King Eider, but the world rarity, Steller´s Eider, winter in numbers up to 4000 individuals. Long-tailed Ducks can also be seen in thousands here during winter and spring. They are found all around the coast of the Varanger peninsula from Varangerbotn and Nesseby up to Kongsfjord and Berlevåg.

 

Every winter in the area around Vardø, massive rafts of King Eiders and Common Eiders can be seen, especially in Bussesundet (between mainland Vardø and Vardø island). In general the waters of outer Varanger fjord tend to be the best place to look for seaducks.

King and Steller‘s Eider stay until mid May in Varanger, before they migrate back to Siberia where they spend the summer. However, a few birds of both species stay in Varanger all year. Note that Steller´s Eiders are becoming increasingly rare and have almost entirely disappeared from Varanger as a summering species. In other words: if seeing Steller´s Eiders are why you want to visit Varanger, be sure to visit before mid may, as you have to count yourselves very lucky to find one in summer.

A Biotope video blog about swimming with eiders, February 2016. A rather cold experience, but the photography opportunities made it well worth the chill. More photos in this Biotope blogpost