After the previous days excitement it was an early start for some of us as we did another pre-breakfast walk out along the road. Pine Grosbeak, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Snow Buntings, Arctic Redpolls and Whooper Swans were all logged before another much appreciated breakfast!
We birded the local area until around 1030hrs when it was time to say goodbye and a massive thanks to Trine and her team. It had been an amazing introduction to Finmark; with experiences and memories I will cherish for the rest of my years! If you want to experience the taiga birds of Finmark properly, you have to do it Birkhusky style!
Next we made our way back Kirkenes to the Hurtigruten (Coastal Express) which was in effect a three and half hour pelagic!
From the boat we saw our first Glaucous Gulls, Long-tailed Ducks and Guillemots of the trip. Some had clocked some Steller’s Eiders earlier in the journey, but I was a bit slow off the mark and I missed them! As we approached the Hornøya Bird Cliff we could see that there were a lot of birds in the air (indicative of a predator about). Martin soon got most of us onto a Gyr Falcon causing havoc amongst the colony! This was a nice welcome into Vardø! My excitement rose even higher when I picked out my first Steller’s Eider flying past!
We soon arrived into Vardø and checked into our hotel. From my hotel window I could see Steller’s Eiders! I have dreamed of seeing Steller’s Eider since I first saw a picture of one when I was a young birder of eight years old, so to see fifteen of these stunning birds from my hotel window could only be described as emotional!
After a great evening meal at the hotel it was time to make our way to the historically significant North Pole Pub for the official launch of Gullfest 2012! It was great to see the pub so busy, not only great numbers of birders from all around the globe but also a great turn out of the residents of Vardø. Tormod gave a great introductory talk; both laying out the purpose of this event but also introducing many of the key contributors. It was fantastic to see the support Vardø had given to this unique festival, this was certainly consolidated when the Mayor gave a fantastic supportive speech. Marin Garner also gave a fantastic talk, highlighting the potential of this superb area of Finmark! Local and very talented wildlife photographer Knut-Sverre Horn showcased some of the exciting species that were common place in the Vardø - the following day would certainly be a very exciting day!