As was now becoming normal for me; I was up and out the door a good few hours before breakfast time. If it’s light, you gotta be out birding! I decided to have an explore around the harbour! It was strange that the two commonest birds were Purple Sandpiper and Snow Bunting! One of the most fantastic sites was a small colony of Kittiwakes on the side of a house!
Steller’s Eider and Long-tailed Ducks showed very well in the harbour!
I met up with Murray whilst watching these birds; he was another early riser enjoying birding before breakfast. Neither of us could believe how lucky we were to be watching such amazing birds!
Breakfast was consumed and were all made our way down to the quayside for our trip across to the Hornøya Bird Cliff!
Approaching the bird cliff we could see masses of auks on the sea and even more on the cliffs; today was going to be epic! Once we landed I got my first good views of the (for me) mythical Brünnich’s Guillemot. This species was scattered sparsely amongst the large numbers of Arctic Guillemots and and a few Arctic Razorbills. The cliffs were plastered in Auks, Shags and Kittiwakes; only one word describes this site….WOW!
We had the absolute pleasure of spending the majority of the day birding this fantastic site. We enjoyed views of the aforementioned Auks as well as Puffins, Black Guillemots, Shags, Glaucous Gulls, Scandinavian Herring Gulls, Scandinavian Rock Pipits and Snow Buntings! Not only were the birds amazing, but the scenery was stunning!
We arrived back at Vardø for mid afternoon and made our way to the base camp. Here most enjoyed Reindeer Soup (and for a couple of us Reindeer-less Soup) in the very warm Sami Tent and then enjoyed watching the masses of gulls attracted in my the fish being laid down for them. It was great to see so much local involvement with this festival; the residents of Vardø really seemed to be embracing the amazing wildlife on their very doorstep!
It was soon time to head off to the Hotel for the first of the evening talks. Tormod gave a passionate presentation showing the journey from first seeing Vardø to realising Gullfest! I found his talk very inspiring; both Tormod and Elin’s passion, vision and philosophy gave me much food for thought! Martin gave another inspiring talk; giving us great anticipation about what was possible if only we looked! Next it was a very nervous me giving my talk about the biodiversity issues effecting turkey and why I am covered in tattoos! The talks seemed to be well received…..
After a fantastic seafood (or seafoodless in my case) spread for our evening meal Daniel López Velasco gave an excellent presentation of the gulls of Japan. This was both fascinating, educational and very scary! It was great to get a chance to talk to Daniel; not only is he incredibly knowledgeable but he is an absolute gent!
Tomorrow we would be heading out into the Barents Sea looking for Blue Fulmar……….