Hornøya bird cliff is the easternmost protected nature reserve in Norway. The island has one of the largest seabird colonies in Norway, including Razorbill, Atlantic puffin, European shag, Common guillemot, Brünnich's guillemot, Black-legged kittiwake, Great black-backed gull and Herring gul
Hornøya is birdwatchers paradise. This is a unique location with a population of Arctic seabirds, including several species that can only be found here. You can even take pictures of the birds up close perfect for nature photographers, birdlovers and birdwatchers! Vardø port organise 4 trips a day to Hornøya, and 2 on weekends during the season. Tickets are available at the office of Vardø port.
> Birding Varanger
Varanger is the world’s easiest accessible arctic birding destination. In Varanger you have the northern taiga, tundra and arctic coastline in one destination. Within a day’s drive, you can experience the pine grosbeaks in the taiga, and see a wide variety of spcies on the tundra of the Varanger peninsula. At the coastal bird cliffs, the arctic species Bünnichs Guillemot is accompanied by a hundred thousand seabirds. The summer is a hectic season with 24-hour daylight and birds in beautiful breeding plumage. In winter and early spring arctic seaducks concentrate in huge rafts, and a night the Aurora Borealis completes the experience.
> Europe’s northernmost nature reserves
East of Istanbul and at the same longitude as Cairo lies one of mainland Europe’s northernmost nature reserves. The Hornøya/Reinøya Nature Reserve is one of 14 seabird colonies in Finnmark that were protected in 1983, and is the easternmost locality in Norway. Hornøya and Reinøya are two islands off the town of Vardø with views across the southern Barents Sea to the west coast of the Kola Peninsula. Within an area of 2 km2, of which 1.5 km2 are land is a rich and populous seabird community and a lush vegetation, like a green oasis in an otherwise near barren Varanger landscape.
The rocks of both islands are sandstones and shales that dip southeastwards at an angle of ca 25°. The strata outcrop along the west sides of the islands along steep cliff faces and form excellent nesting ledges for seabirds. Compared to many classic seabird colonies, the cliffs are low, only 20-30 m high, and the tops of the islands are only 60-65 m a.s.l.
Reinøya is closed to the public, but visitors are allowed on Hornøya to which access is easy with a 10-minute boat trip from the harbour in Vardø. The boat ferries visitors across the sound several times a day. Once on the island, public access during the birds’ breeding season is limited to a large area under the cliffs, a path across the island to the boat houses and onwards up to the lighthouse where there is a limited area in which to roam. To avoid disturbing the nesting birds unnecessarily, movement within the remainder of the reserve is only allowed by permit holders. The best time to visit Hornøya is at the height of the breeding season in May to July.
> Key species
The seabird colony on Hornøya is very diverse with relatively large numbers of many species breeding on the island. The main cliff is dominated by black-legged kittiwakes, common guillemots and Atlantic puffins, interspersed by European shags, Brünnich’s guillemots, razorbills and a few black guillemots. All are easy to see, hear and smell(!) from the areas open to the public. On the vegetated areas below the cliff and covering the island as a whole breed large numbers of herring gulls and great black-backed gulls, plus a few common eider.
Due to the lack of tree cover and the overall exposure of the island to the elements, very few passerines breed on Hornøya. Apart from several pairs of white wagtail, rock-pipit and raven, one highlight is a small population of red-throated pipits, representatives of which willingly pose for photographs on the fence or electric wire that stretches up to the lighthouse.
Other favourites are king eiders and Steller’s eiders that are common in the late winter and of which a few stragglers are often seen throughout the summer in the bay on the southeast side of Hornøya. From the lighthouse, there are excellent opportunities for seawatching with good views of fulmars, gannets etc. and sometimes shearwaters, minke whales and seals. If you are really lucky, you might see white whales or beluga as they pass round the island in June or July.
Seabird numbers on Hornøya (and Reinøya) have fluctuated greatly through the years, with declines in some species and increases in others. Annual counts have been made since 1980, and the colony is now one of several key-sites on which annual monitoring of seabird populations and their breeding success continues, in addition to several basic seabird research projects that address what factors regulate the populations. Much of this activity is coordinated by the national SEAPOP programme, about which you can read more at www. seapop.no.
Among some of the largest changes recorded since 1980 have been a 90% collapse in the common guillemot population in 1986/87 followed by an unprecedented increase to present numbers above the pre-collapse numbers, a near doubling of the puffin population and a near halving of kittiwake numbers. The populations of the herring gull and great black-backed gull have also decreased over the years, while that of the shag has increased about 10-fold since 1990.
Welcome to Varanger Arctic Norway
In the far north and as far east as you can go in Norway, where the sky meets the sea, lies Varanger, bathed in the midnight sun and the northern lights of winter. Here the wild landscape meanders through bird-nesting cliffs, fishing villages, and rugged headlands – out to the end of the world.
Nature offers rivers teeming with fish, snow-clad plains, exotic king crabs, birds breeding in spring, leaping salmon, the shining sea, and dancing northern lights. People and traditions make Varanger an Arctic melting pot of communities and cultures. Varanger is a different experience. Scenery and settlements, the light, the colours, the lofty sky and wide horizon, exciting activities and the open people.
Read and learn more about Varanger Arctic Norway here: www.visitvaranger.no or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org