07 February 2016

Steller´s Eiders & snow caves - living the Arctic life


Incoming Steller´s Eiders in Kiberg harbour. Photographed from water level, dressed in a drysuit, swimming in the harbour. The Steller´s Eider photos and the video was shot, yesterday, Saturday the 6th of February. The weather was just too nice not to go for a swim in the harbour. 

Kiberg harbour in outer Varanger Fjord is one of the best places in the world to get close to this iconic arctic seaduck. We are currently working on a Steller´s Eider photo hide so some research needs to be done. We like everything about our jobs, but this kind of fieldwork is on top of the ´love it´ list. So without further ado: here are a few Steller´s Eider photos and a 2 minute video of the experience. We hope you enjoy (click on any image for full screen view, for desktop)

              
A day in Kiberg, swimming with Steller´s Eiders.


Steller´s Eider. Male.


Incoming Steller´s Eider

Steller´s Eider, close up, water level.

Getting comfortable with snow caves and wind shelters

Winter in Varanger can be a chilling experience. In Vardø we typically get a couple of weeks with 15-20 freezing celcius. Then add everything from a gentle breeze to full gale force winds, and you have yourselves a proper arctic winter. How to handle it? Get out and enjoy it! 

Connecting people and nature is our aim as architects. When we are not in the office we enjoy being outdoors. Biotope started as a small family business of myself, Elin and our daughter Lila (today we are a 5 man office). We still take every opportunity to explore Varanger, or other destinations. We enjoy birding and being outdoors. It fuels our passion for making more pro nature things happen! This January myself and junior-partner at Biotope, Lila, enjoyed some arctic style outdoor living. Check out our 2 minute movie below:

           
Snow cave living

Arctic architecture

Vardø with a proper winter frost bite is absolutely stunning. Everything goes white. The walls of every building looks like they are covered in white sprayed on concrete. Below are a couple of photos of the Hasselnes bird hide / wind shelter. The hide sits at the very exposed north point, Hasselnes, in Vardø. Hornøya is seen in the distance in the below photo. In January Arctic seaducks from Siberia arrive our shores, and Hasselnes is one of the places they are first recorded from every year. Throughout the whole winter the waters around Hornøya always seem to have good numbers of King Eiders. This hide was opened last March, just in time for the annual bird festival Gullfest.

Hasselnes bird hide / wind shelter. Hornøya in the distance.


Hasselnes bird hide / wind shelter with a frost bite.

The Hasselnes bird hide / wind shelter by late evening. Vardø town in the background. 

This year we aim to get more serious with video. Or perhaps less serious. Meaning: a few fast-to-make productions will arrive the interwebs regularily. We hope you will enjoy our weekly (that the ambition, at least!) video blogs, or vlogs. Some of them will eventually find their way to this blog (like above), but  follow us on www.facebook.com/biotope.no for box fresh video updates. We store them on Youtube too (but not much interaction is happening there. Sorry. Can´t be everywhere. Not enough time). Say hi on Twitter @BiotopeOffice...

Thanks for tuning in!

Tormod A / Biotope

22 December 2015

Wallcreeper action at Chateau des Baux


Wallcreeper - a name that puts a dreamy face on every birder. It is after all one of the most iconic bird species in Europe. The non-birding reader of this blog should note that this is an alpine species that is often tricky to find, unless you know exactly where to look. It is a bird unlike any other species in Europe. Being northern birders we have an affinity for extreme species which seem capable of thriving in the harshest conditions.

03 December 2015

Avitourism - Birding in Norway (fugleturisme i Norge)




An introduction to of the world of birding and avitourism and its potential in Norway

© Biotope & Innovasjon Norge / 2015 

This report was written and researched by Tormod Amundsen and Jonnie Fisk of Biotope. Biotope is the world´s first and only architecture office specialising in birding. We combine more then 25 years of experience as dedicated birders with the field of architecture. Biotope specialise in nature destination development, from designing bird hides to destination schemes to advising tourism businesses on how to operate and engage in the birding niché.

We would like to thank Innovation Norway for asking us to make this report. Our gratitude also goes to all the keen birders and nature enthusiasts who helped us with information and opinions. We hope this report will give the reader a better undestanding of a niché or culture that millions of people worldwide feel connected to, but perhaps is not so well known in a mainstream setting. Birding is on the rise and this will change. We hope this report is one helpfull step forward. Thanks for reading and engaging.

20 August 2015

Birding Varanger in summer


The arctic summer in Varanger: The midnight sun seems to energize all living creatures and spectacular birding can be enjoyed 24/7. Displaying waders in their full breeding plumage, passerines singing and bird cliffs teeming with life is an experience of a lifetime. We hope the following blogpost provides you with both inspiration and information for your next arctic adventure. 

The flamboyant gentlemen of the tundra. 

21 July 2015

Birding Iceland in summer - destination development in progress



Iceland is known throughout the world as the land of fire and ice. Large parts are covered by glaciers while others steam of boiling water from the ground. There are few countries where nature has such a strong presence. Then there are the birds. Rich wetlands, rivers and coastal sites are filled with amazing birdlife. A dream destination. We recently visited Iceland, invited by the good people of the Northeast Iceland Birding Trail. Together with a group of nature based tourism businesses and local communities we aim to put northeast Iceland on the map, and to develop better infrastructure for visitors and local communities. In October last year we spent 2 weeks visiting people and seeing sites. Our recent 2 week July trip was a great follow up, looking into a few new places, analysing potential of previously visited sites and, as always, meeting people who are into making new things happen!

03 June 2015

Birding Nome, Alaska - spring in the US Arctic


This May we set out on a 4 week adventure to explore some of the top birding destinations of the North American Arctic. Birding the Alaskan tundra of the Seward Peninsula is strangely familiar to our own region, the Varanger Peninsula. The landscape, the birds and even the architecture is similar in many ways. The following is the last of a trio of blogposts from our recent Biotope Alaska birding trip. We arrived Nome on May 17th and spent 4 days birding the Seward Peninsula before we flew to Gambell, St.Lawrence island on the 21st of May. We spent 4 days on Gambell before returning to Nome where we spent our last 3 days of our Alaska adventure. The timing was brilliant as we got to experience the sudden arrival of spring. In just a few days Nome and the surrounding areas exploded with life. Nome´s Safety Sound instantly became our favourite hotspot for birding. The wetlands was packed with birds as this was one of few productive places with open water.

The below Biotope aerials are taken just 5 days apart! What an amazing speed of melting. The intensity of birdlife in the sound as ´spring breaks´ was unbelievable. Duck, geese, divers,  waders and passerines in thousands foraged in the melting wetlands. 

Safety Sound on May 20th

30 May 2015

Gambell, St.Lawrence island - Alaska spring birding




Gambell is the westernmost point in USA, with Russia seen in the horizon, surrounded by the Bering Sea. It is one of the most remote places to bird in the US, and some exceptionally cool arctic birding can be enjoyed here. On our recent Alaska adventure we spent 4 days on Gambell. This is a small Yupik (eskimo) community of approx 650 people living on the northernmost point on St.Lawrence island. They are mostly hunter gatherers, but every year a few birders find their way to this remote place and as such makes a little contribution to the local economy. 

19 May 2015

Birding Alaska in spring - Homer & Seward




The name Alaska rings of wilderness and grand nature. At Biotope we have a thing for the northern birding. Which is why we live and bird in Varanger, Arctic Norway. However, we allways need a bit of inspiration and fresh ideas to fuel our birding passion. Since moving to Varanger a few years ago we have started a project to visit top nature destinations around the northern hemisphere.

26 March 2015

Hasselnes Wind Shelter - Watching Auroras in Varanger

Aurora-watching from the new Hasselnes bird hide and wind shelter. To left in the distance is Hornøya bird cliff.

  

Hornøya bird cliff is one of the key attractions in Varanger. We are currently working on a project aiming at improving the fascilities on Hornøya, and to connect Hornøya more with Vardø island. At Hasselnes, northeasternmost Vardø island, you have great views of Hornøya bird cliff. Hasselnes used to be the town dump. With the new bird hide and windshelter we aim to make Hasselnes an attractive place to visit. It is already a key place for birders and all visitors to Vardø, but fasilities and information have been absent. During our recent bird festival Gullfest 2015 we opened the Hasselnes wind shelter.

22 March 2015

Ivory Gull in Varanger - the great white



Ivory Gull. The name itself rings of exclusiveness. This is the great white of the Arctic. A dream bird rarely seen unless you travel to the high arctic.