Lapland - July 2007

Published by Sander Bot (sanderbot AT

Participants: Janne, Femkje, Michiel, Sander


This summer Michiel van Ettinger, Femkje Sierdsma, Janne Ouwehand and Sander Bot decided to go to Scandinavia. We took three weeks so we didn’t have to hurry. We drove from Holland to Lapland by a diesel rental car, a Ford Focus. We camped in the wild and only took a camping when we and our clothes were too dirty. Weather was not too bad: first days clear skies, at Pasvik rain, but afterwards overcast with sun now and then. At Varanger the temperature was low, around 10ºC, but at the other sites usually between 15 and 20 ºC.

15th July

We departed the 14th and today we drove the whole day as well. In the afternoon we had a stop between Bygdea and Umea, Sweden. From the E4 we took a dirt road into the forest. We did not see many birds there, but Michiel was lucky enough to see a Wolverine. We also caught some butterflies, see the species list at the end of the report. During the long drive we saw an Osprey, some Cranes and a Moose. At the end of the day we ended up in Finland, 30 km. north of Rovaniemi. We camped at a very nice spot, around a beautiful lake: along the E75, 5 km north of Vikajarvi, we took a dirt road to the left, named Ylilampi. After one kilometre this road ends at the lake. Alongside this dirt road we saw a male Capercaillie, a good start of the trip! We found a few Hazel Grouse in the thick bush near the lake.

16th July

When we woke up, we heard tits calling, a good moment to get out of the tent. The tits were indeed what we hoped for: 3 Siberian Tits! Damn, three target species within 24h. In the lake we saw some Common Goldeneyes. After packing the tents we drove back to Vikajarvi, to the junction of the E75 and the 82. Near that junction is a car park from where some trails start. We took the 4km one. The walk was fairly birdless, the only birds we saw were Bramblings, Tree Pipits, a Spotted Flycatcher and Common Swifts. The latter were two birds flying in and out a hole in a pine, never seen that behaviour in Holland. The rest of the day was spend driving further north along the E75. We camped alongside the dirt road to Kankiniementie, 14 km. south of Inari. Here we saw our first Rough-legged Buzzard, a Great Grey Shrike, Common Greenshank and a Whimbrel.

17th July

Before leaving the camping site we saw Whimbrel and Rough-legged Buzzard again as well as some groups of Redpolls. After packing the tents we drove gradually north. Along the E75, between Inari and Utsjoki we saw a Peregrine, 2 Whooper Swans, Yellow Wagtail, Wood Sandpiper and a female Velvet Scoter with 13 chicks. At Utsjoki we climbed the mountain just east of the village, next to the Utsjoki River. We could not find a path and thus just climbed the mountain. This resulted only in a Bluethroat, Peregrine and Rough-legged Buzzard, though catching a lemming with bare hands was funny. After crossing the border to Norway at Utsjoki we drove to the Varanger Fjord. After finally arriving at the fjord, near Nyborg, we scanned the first sea we saw and saw 4 Red-necked Phalaropes and 4 Black-throated Loons. We heard that Steller’s Eider had become increasingly rare during summer time and the only birds seen in Varanger last month were in the harbour of Vadsø. A short scan in the harbour fortunately immediately resulted in 9 Steller’s Eiders, 1 female and 8 males in eclipse. Nice to see this duck, though I have to come back in spring to see adult males in better plumage….After seeing this lifer we drove further to the east, to Vardø. At Vardø we camped on the northern part of the island with views of the Barents Sea. To get to that place we took the dirt road from the village to the north and camped near a pick nick table. It is pretty cold in this part of Norway, but at least we had a blue sky all day. From this place we got our first impression of the seabird colony and we saw our first Black Guillemots, Puffins, Razorbills and Arctic Skuas.

18th July

Today we relaxed a little after the long driving last days. We walked around the northern, uninhabited part of Vardø island and saw Bluethroat, Redwing, Common Raven, Wheatear, Red-throated Pipit, male Snow Bunting, Arctic Tern, White-tailed Eagle and Rock Pipit. A sea watch resulted, besides the breeding birds of the bird colony nearby, in a winter plumage Little Auk. In the evening we drove a part of the road to Hamningberg and saw a Mountain Hare, Razorbills, Long-tailed Ducks, a Red-throated and a Black-throated Loon.

19th July

Time to visit the island with the seabird colony which we can see from our tents. The boat departs several times per day from the harbour of Vardø, NOK 200 per person. Detailed information can be obtained from the Vardø Hotel, in the harbour as well. We took the 9AM boat and were picked up at 2PM. It is a must to visit the island. The cliffs are packed with Black-legged Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Puffins and Shags. The Brünnich’s Guillemots were easily picked out between the Guillemots. In flight, the unstreaked flanks were a good character to separate the Brünnich’s from its common relative. After checking the main cliff we walked the path around the island. On the other side of the island we had views of a smaller island were we saw some adult summer Black Guillemots. The black Guillemots were not present on the main cliff. A White tailed Eagle and Arctic Skuas flew around the island and Red-throated Pipits and Rock Pipits perched on the wires. After this great experience we drove back to Vadsø. On the way we saw 53 Arctic Skuas, 2 Long-tailed Skuas, 1 White-tailed Eagle, many Eiders, 4 Lapland Longspurs and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits. In Vadsø we couldn’t find the Steller’s Eiders, and the Kittiwake colony at Ekkerøy only produced Kittiwakes. We camped at the camping of Vestre Jacobselv, just west of Vadsø. The boiler just ran out of warm water, so still no hot shower.

20th July

First we visited the nature reserve behind the church of Nesseby. Behind the church is a small pool, well known for its Red-necked Phalaropes. Even in this small pool it took us some time to find them, they sometimes hide well in the vegetation at the edges of the lake. We found a fresh juvenile, 2 adult males and 2 small chicks. This is maybe the first summer that there are no Steller´s Eiders around at this classic spot, at sea we spotted only a Black Guillemot. Just before leaving the fjord, we checked the sea one more time at Nyborg, seeing some Black-throated Divers and 1 male Velvet Scoter. At Tana we took the road to Båtsfjord. Along the Tana river we drove under some nice cliffs, which we felt could be good for Gyr Falcon. So we randomly stopped under one of the cliffs for checking the area. Just a few seconds later an adult Gyr Falcon flew past! What a great bird, it isn’t just a big Peregrine, the posture is very different. The bird was clearly an adult: a light breast and worn primaries. We followed the road further to the north, into the mountains and stopped near the mountain Hangalačaerre. We walked around on the bare slopes and saw 6 Long-tailed Skuas, 1 Arctic Skua and some Golden Plovers. We drove all the way to Båtsfjord and checked the fjord and harbours. We did not see many birds, only a Black Guillemot is worth mentioning.

So we drove back, into the mountains and stopped at lake alongside the road. Some scanning here resulted in 9 Long-tailed Ducks, Long-tailed Skuas, Arctic Skuas, 5 Turnstones, 1 Lapland Longspur, 2 males Red-necked Phalaropes and Golden Plovers. A stop at a more swampy part gave a female Ruff, juvenile Dunlin and a fresh juvenile Horned Lark. We camped near Mount Hangalačaerre.

21st July

In the morning we had a walk around our camping place near mount Hangalačaerre. Walking on the bare slopes and near a small stream produced 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Temminck´s Stints, 1 male Red-necked Phalarope, 2 Lapland Longspurs and 1 Red-throated Pipit. Golden Plover and Long-tailed Skua are the most common birds in these habitats, you hear and see them whenever you go out of your car. After the walk we drove to the Pasvik Valley, south of Kirkeness. Between Varangerboth and Neiden we saw twice a Short-eared Owl.

In the evening we arrived in Kirkenes and after some shopping we drove south, into the Pasvik valley. We first visited the visitor centre near Svanvik to get a proper map of Pasvik NP, which is essential for exploring the area. Driving further south we saw a female Capercaillie crossing the road and a Great Grey Owl flew over the road! Unfortunately we couldn’t locate the owl where it flew in. The road ends in Nyrud, some 100 kilometres south of Kirkenes. About 10km before Nyrud there is a dirt road to the right signposted as: ‘P natsjonalpark 9’. We took that road and 9km further we arrived on the car park of the National Park. We decided to make a mid night walk to one of the free cabins in the National Park. We took a 4km track to the cabin ‘Ellenvannskoia’, in the hope to see owls or grouses on the way to the cabin. The forest was very quiet and we only saw Whimbrel and Common Redstart, but no owls or grouses. The cabin appeared to be a very clean house with beds, a fireplace and a kitchen, very nice!

22nd July

After spending the night in cabin Ellenvannskoia we walked back to the car park in the afternoon. The same walk produced way more birds now. First we spotted a group of 4 to 5 Siberian Jays. They were quietly foraging through the forest. We also saw an Osprey, 5 Siberian Tits and a group of 8-10 Parrot Crossbills. It was hard to obtain good views of the crossbills, but I saw at least one juvenile good enough to be sure of the identification: size, bill, thick neck and call all where positive.

Back at the car park we drove the 9 km. back to the main road and went right to Nyrud. About two kilometre before Nyrud there is a small parking-lot on the left signposted as Fuglebu. A short path leads to a hide with nice views of the Pasvik River and Russia. We saw a female Smew with 5 chicks here. By the way, Nyrud is only one farm and all other places in the valley are also very small, so there are no shops let alone petrol stations in the valley. Thus make sure you arrive with a full tank and plenty of food if you want to stay a few days (which is highly recommended). Anyway, the next three nights we camped on the parking-lot of this hide. In the evening Janne and me made a walk around our camping spot. During the walk we found the high light of the vacantion: a Brown Bear!! We had great views for such a long time that even Femkje and Michiel made it to see the bear, they were in the hide when we found the bear. They were exited too, because they just saw a Great Grey Owl flying past the hide! Pasvik is great!

23rd July

We had breakfast at our camp site (parking-lot fuglebu), while seeing 3 Siberian Tits and 1 Siberian Jay, a good start. Today we split, Janne and Sander went to the three nations pile. To get there, take the dirt road to the right, two kilometres before Nyrud. After following this road for 20km, you have to walk the last 5km to the pile. During the drive we saw many groups of Brambling and 5 Siberian Tits, of which one landed on our car. Siberian Tits are curious, they approached us sometimes to up to two metres. The walk to the three nations pile is very nice. It leads you through good peat bogs, take your boots with you. During the walk to the pile up and down we saw 20 Siberian Tits, groups of 4, 6 ,7 and 3 birds! We also saw 2 Siberian Jays (in Russia!), 1 tame juvenile Great Grey Shrike, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a pair Yellow Wagtails. The three nations pile is guarded by two friendly young Norwegian soldiers who are very bored, sitting the whole day near the pile. Michiel and Femkje took a walk from the camp site today and saw 25 Siberian Tits and 4 Siberian Jays. In the evening we hoped to see the Great Grey Owl at the hide. This was very successful, between 9 and 9:15PM we saw 2 Great Grey Owls flying up and down the river!!! Pasvik rulezzz.

24th July

Today we took a walk near Nyrud. We took a dirt road to the right, 0.8km before Nyrud. Here the habitat is marsh, peat, birch and pine. Although it rained we saw 6 Great Grey Shrikes, 1 Osprey, many Bohemian Waxwings, 1 Black-throated Diver, 13 Siberian Tits, 3 Marsh Tits, Chaffinch, Yellow Wagtail and 5 Willow Grouses. The grouses were 2 females with 3 chicks, afterwards our only sighting of this species this vacation. Cause the road is close to the Russian border the Norwegian army uses the road frequently, making this not a very quiet walk. Back at the camp site in the afternoon we saw 4 Siberian Jays, 2 Siberian Tits and a Mountain Hare, and a walk around the camp site at 7PM produced a Great Grey Owl again, flying past quite high with prey in the direction of the Pasvik River. In the evening we walked again in the same area near Nyrud, seeing 1 Siberian Jay, the same Osprey as in the morning and again twice a Great Gray Owl!!! Incredible, we are seeing Great Grey Owls for three days in a row on different locations! They nearly always are flying in straight flight to the north or south, so I think one or two pairs are flying up and down with prey for their young.

25th July

After 3 great days Pasvik we decided to leave today and drove all the way to Kilpisjärvi, Finland. This took us a whole day. During the long drive we did not see much: some Cranes, a Long-tailed Skua, and a road kill female Capercaillie near Enontekiö. We camped at the camping under Mt. Saana. This is a good camp site, finally a hot shower!

26th July

Rain all day. We climbed the Saana mountain who was covered in clouds. Some bird watching at the fjells produced Bluethroat, Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Skua, Lapland Longspur, Merlin and Golden Plover, but no Ptarmigan or Dotterel.

27th July

Finally nice weather, sun shining all day! Cause I’m interested in insects too, this meant I spend most of the day catching butterflies, dragonflies and hoverflies. Only birds of interest I saw during the day were 2 Siberian Tits and a male Merlin. Femkje and Michiel went to the coast, near Narvik. At Storfjorden they saw 2 adult Slavonian Grebes and about 65 Common Scoters and near Oteren 4 adults and 2 juvenile Slavonian Grebes. In the evening we drove to the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, just North-east of Muonio. Only one paved road goes through the National park. We arrived very late there. On the middle of the paved road we blinded a juvenile Spotted Flycatccher with our car lights, so I could easily pick it up from the road, funny. We found out it was not allowed to camp in the wild in the park, so we found a place just outside the national park: after leaving the park on the east side (direction of Raatama) we camped along the first dirt road to the left. While trying to fall asleep I heard a Siberian Jay.

28th July

Today we split. Janne and me walked the dirt road up and down along which we are camping. We saw some good dragonflies (see the species list at the end of the report), 3 Siberian Jays and found feathers of Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse. Michiel and Femje walked another path: after leaving the NP on the main road to the east, the first path to the right. here they had very nice views of 2 Three-toed Woodpeckers, a male and a juvenile! They saw 3 Siberian Tits and a Treecreeper as well.

29th July

The Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park has a visitor centre, a 6 km. road from the main road leads to this centre. Femkje and Michiel took a walk from the visitor centre to the mountain Pallastunturi in the hope to see ptarmigan, but no luck. Janne and me walked a little from the small car park between the visitor centre and the main road. We saw 2 Siberian Jays and were very lucky to find a female type Pine Grosbeak in a group Bramblings! The bird was very quiet, though we got some good views of this weird bird. Back at the camp site we found a male Capercaillie in the pine forest behind the tent. During a mid night walk we saw flying dragonflies at 00:45, probably Moorland Hawkers! Kestrels and Merlins were still active as well.


Woke up, 2 Siberian Jays near the tent, packed our stuff and drove back to the south, ending in Sweden at a camp site in Rörbäck. We had seen most of our target species and had seen much of Lapland, so we spend the last days of our holidays playing mini golf on the camping and shopping in Stockholm, not seeing any interesting birds.

Species Lists

Red-throated Diver
18: 1 Between Vardø and Hamningberg.
20 and 21: Some birds at Båtsfjord.

Black-throated Diver
17, 18, 19: Common at Varanger Fjord.
Seen on different other locations.

Slavonian Grebe
27: 8 birds near Narvik.

Northern Gannet
19: A few birds over the sea, seen from the sea bird colony.

Whooper Swan
17: 2 Birds between Inari and Utsjoki.

Very common at Varanger Fjord.

Steller’s Eider
17: 9 ind. at Vadsø harbour, 1 female, 8 males eclipse.

Velvet Scoter
17: Female with chicks between Inari and Utsjoki.
20: Male at Nyborg.

Long-tailed Duck
Fairly common on lakes.

Rough-Legged Buzzard

Only a few sightings.

Only a few sightings.

Gyr Falcon
20: 1 Adult near Tana River.

Willow Grouse
24: 5 birds near Nyrud, 3 females, 2 chicks.

15: 5Male, 5 km north of Vikajärvi.
21: Female crossing the road at Pasvik Valley.
25: Female, road pizza near Enontekiö.
29: Male, between Pallastunturi and Raattama.

Hazel Grouse
15: few birds, 5 km north of Vikajärvi.


Golden Plover
Common on Fjells.

20: Juvenile at Båtsfjord fells.

Temminck’s Stint
20, 21: 2 birds at Båtsfjord fells.

Wood Sandpiper
At some places in Pasvik NP.

Fairly common.

Bar-tailed Godwit
19: A pair between Vardø and Vadsø.


Red-necked Phalarope
17: Nyborg, 4 ind.
20: Nesseby church, 5 ind.
A few birds on small lakes on other places during the holidays.

19: Female Båtsfjord fells.

Arctic Skua
Common at Varanger Fjord, specially near the sea bird colony.

Long-tailed Skua
Common on Fjells of the Varanger peninsula, once at the Saama Fjells on the 26th.

Black-legged Kittiwake
Colony at Vardø and near Ekkeroy.

Little Auk
18: 1 ind. in winter plumage flying past at Vardø.

Atlantic Puffin
18, 19: Many birds at the sea bird colony near Vardø.

Black Guillemot
Seen daily in small numbers at Varanger Peninsula. Small numbers at the sea bird clony near Vardø.

18, 19: Many birds at the sea bird colony near Vardø.

Brünnich’s Guillemot
19: Many birds at the sea bird colony near Vardø.

18, 19: Many birds at the sea bird colony near Vardø.

Great Grey Owl
21: Flying past in Pasvik Valley.
22, 23, 24: Flying up and down the Pasvik River, at different locations near the fuglebu, Pasvik naturreservat, see text for more info.

Short-eared Owl
21: 2 birds between Varangerboth and Neiden.

Three-toed Woodpecker
28: Male and juvenile between Pallastunturi and Raattama.

Little Spotted Woodpecker
23: Pasvik NP, near Russian border.

Horned Lark
19: 1 fresh juvenile at Båtsfjord fells.

Red-throated Pipit
18, 19: Common near Vardø.
20: 1 bird at Båtsfjord fells.
26: adult at Saama fjells.

Fairly common

Siberian Tit
Surprisingly common! Specially in Pasvik: 75 birds in 3 days.
Seen at all other locations in small numbers, except Varanger.

Great Grey Shrike
Fairly common.

Siberian Jay
Easy, seen on all locations in small numbers, except Varanger.

Abundant, large groups in pine forests.

Pine Grosbeak
29: Female type at Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Common Crossbill
Fairly common.

Parrot Crossbill
22: Group of 8-10 ind. at Pasvik NP.

Snow Bunting
18: male on Vardø island gathering food for young.

Lapland Longspur
Fairly common at fjells of Varanger and Saama.


Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis
17: Near our camping spot along the road to Kankiniementie.

Azure Hawker Aeshna caerulea
27: about 5 near Kilpisjärvi.
28: common along road as described in main text, near Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.
29: Male at Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

Moorland Hawker Aeshna juncea
17: Near Utsjoki
28: Common along road as described in main text, near Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Bog Hawker Aeshna subarctica
28: 1, caught and photographed along road as described in main text, near Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

Northern Emerald Somatochlora arctica
27: 1 female near Kilpisjärvi.
28: 1 male, 1 female along road as described in main text, near Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

Alpine Emerald Somatochlora alpestris
27: 1 male and 1 female near Kilpisjärvi.

Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica
16: Above the lake where we camped near Vikajarvi.
17: Near our camping spot along the road to Kankiniementie.
27: several near Kilpisjärvi.

Small Whiteface Leucorrhinia dubia
17: A few males near our camping spot along the road to Kankiniementie.


Moorland Clouded Yellow Colias palaeno
16: On the car park near Vikajarvi.
27: Males and females near Kilpisjärvi.

Cranberry Blue Plebeius optilete
Common, seen on many places.

Idas Blue Plebeius idas
28: About 10 along road as described in main text, near Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

Cranberry Fritillary Boloria aquilonaris
Common, seen on many places.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary Boloria euphrosyne
15: 1, Between Bygdea and Umea.

Dewy Ringlet Erebia pandrose
20: 1 near Mount Hangalačaerre.

Any questions:
Sander Bot