19 June 2016

BIRDING RUSSIA - exploring the northwest russian tundra

Aerial view of the Kostuanoy Cape, our basecamp on the russian tundra

The Nenets State Nature Reserve is a vast tundra and wetland expanse bordering the russian Pechora sea. Biotope was recently invited by the good folks of the nature reserve to visit the reserve and to look into possibilities for creating bird hides and nature viewing architecture. It was an honor to be invited to this reserve and it has been a long time wish for us to visit and bird in Russia. We enjoy every opportunity to visit top nature destinations of the circumpolar regions. Invitations based on our birder architect skills are somthing we consider a big compliment every time. We will do our outmost to see and understand the needs of a destination and the people there and their ambitions to develop a destination. Advising on where and how to put up bird hides, wind shelters and other nature viewing facilities are the jobs we truly enjoy. In addition there are different interests to consider ranging from nature conservation issues to more nature based tourism business opportunities. Finding a balance is important. Making these interest work together is even better.

Версию нашего  отчета на русском языке смотрите ниже

05 June 2016

The Birding Varanger guide book - Arctic Norway sites & birds

"Varanger is the world´s most easily accessible Arctic birding destination. In Varanger, Arctic Norway,  you can experience the northern taiga, tundra and the Arctic coastline within a dya´s drive. Birders, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts can enjoy an amazingly rich birdlife in a sutnning landscsape. Varanger is particularily famous for its wintering population of Steller´s Eiders. However the wide variety of unique bird species have made Varanger one of the top birding destinations of the world."

With the above words we introduce Varanger in our guide book to this amazing birding destination. For us at Biotope this new 200 page guide book is the result of a continous work with developing Varanger as a birding destination since we moved to Varanger in 2009. Our aim was always to make Varanger more famous within the international birding community. This is a community of nature enthusiasts that we have shared our Varanger journey with on social media, through blogposts, through meetings both in other world birding destinations and in Varanger. Giving Varanger a voice on this international scene has been an amazingly rewarding experience. We have lost count of the numbers of emails, tweets and facebook requersts from birders about birding in Varanger. We have tried to reply to as many as possible. The past three years we have been working on combining all our knowledge, feedback and insider information into this new birding destination guide book. And the response has been overwhelming!

The ´Birding Varanger´ guide book - aka the Biotope guide to the best bird sites in Arctic Norway - was published in Decemper 2015. In 3 months we sold out the first edition of 1000 copies! The book was soon reprinted in another 1500 copies and the orders just keep coming in. Our book has now sold to 28 contries, from all over Europe to Australia, Japan and Brazil. We are extremely thankfull to all of you who have bought our book! 

The feedback we regularily get on emails, in tweets, on facebook and when meeting birders in Varanger puts a big smile on our faces. Many are labelling the guide book both inspirational and innovative. We have aimed to make this book as visual as possible. Many large maps, with detailed information are completemented by large aerial panorama photos of key sites in Varanger. 

A few quotes of feedback: 

"I have read and re-read the book and must say it is one of the very best I have seen on any area , not just Varanger." - B. Curtis

"Amazing work! I've been at Varanger since 1999 almost every year and found many new places to visit by reading the book fastly through. The maps completed with aerial photos are great!" - J.Könönen

The manufacturing is high quality, there are beautiful images and the reading ... a lot of fascinating reading ! Congratulations for this very beautiful work ! - F. Renard

"How impressive is this for a site guide? Full of maps, aerial photos & stunning bird pix - congrats @BiotopeOffice" - D. Mitchell via twitter

"Indeed the book is lavishly illustrated throughout. It is an absolute must for anyone planning a trip to what is dubbed 'the accessible arctic' and wanting to see it's rich avifauna. Tormod and his team are to be congratulated on a quite superb book." - C. Lansdell

"The Biotope vision is bold and exciting and worthy of your support. If you haven’t already been to Varanger then you must go, but read this book first and take it with you." - A. Stoddart / Rare Bird Alert

Needless to say we are humbled by all the great feedback. Thanks all! 


Below follows a few samples from the ´Birding Varanger´ guide book. 
If you plan to visit Varanger, or if you are simply curious about this amazing region we are very thankful for every single book we ship from our office in Vardø to the world!

Aerial over Vardø town in winter plumage. The famous Hornøya bird cliff to the upper right, only 5 minutes by boat from Vardø harbour. Large aerial panoramas of more then 30 key sites in Varanger is spread throughout the book, depicting Varanger during the seasons. 

In the guide book we have divided Varanger into 5 chapters, covering all the top birding sites from the taiga sites in Øvre Pasvik in the south to the harsh arctic coast of Berlevåg in the north. 

Each chapter starts with an overview map. This region map gives you an overview of all the detailed site maps in the chapter, covering in detail all the top sites you should visit. This is the overview map of the outer Varanger fjord.
Each top site is treated with its own detailed map showing you where to park, spcific birding points to visit and key bird sites. The towns of Varanger are also covered very well as these are often also great birding sites (like the fishing harbours). In these maps you will also be guided to gas stations, restaurants, hotels, etc. This map is covering the Nesseby nature reserve. 

Throughout the guide book you will also find a wide array of bird photos, showing both species and bird spectacles, like the above photo of the large King- and Common eiders rafts in Vardø, Varanger. This photos also happens to be the first ever documentation of Pacific Eider in Europa (can you spot the bird? Click on any image for bigger slide show views).

Aerial panorama over Gednje on the high tundra. These aerials makes it easier for you to see and explore the various habitats of each site.

Map over the Gednje site, with an accompanying description of which species you can expect to find, and where to look for them.

Our aim is to make your Varanger birding experience as productive and inspirational as possible! 

For more news and views about birding in Varanger:
follow us on twitter @Finnmarkbirding
and on Facebook VarangerBirding

Tormod Amundsen and the Biotope team

26 May 2016

Birding Northwest Iceland - May 2016

 Harlequin Duck, Blönduós May 2016

Nature destination development: Northwest Iceland

Iceland delivers some of the coolest birding in Europe. We just visited the northwestern region of Iceland, working on a destination development scheme. For 10 days we have visited, researched, measured and photographed a wide range of sites. Visiting Iceland is not "just" a birding thing: The landscape, the mammals and the people you meet are equally an important part of any visit to this cool destination. Not to mention the heitur pottur culture! Almost everywhere you go you can sink into  a relaxing hot bath, in the field, at your hotel or at any of the numerous public baths. 

27 March 2016

Øvre Pasvik - birding the arctic taiga - Gullfest pt.2

Hawk Owl about to strike

In the Pasvik taiga forest the arctic bird festival Gullfest turned into an Owlfest! The Pasvik section of Gullfest was an epilogue of Gullfest where we aimed to show our invited guests some of the finest birding in the arctic. The taiga forest of Pasvik is the northernmost coniferous forest in the world. The taiga forest stretches from Pasvik and all the way to the Pacific coast in the far east. The birding here is spectacular, when you where to look, that is. To maximise the niceness and chances of great experiences we teamed up with our Pasvik friends Ben Arne Sotkajærvi aka Mr.Pasvik and the good folks at Øvre Pasvik Camping.

25 March 2016

Vardø, Arctic Norway - Gullfest part 1

King Eiders in Vardø harbour during Gullfest, March 2016

Gullfest 2016 was another successfull arctic birding festival. This year we celebrated the epic Vardø harbour. In town birding in Vardø is probanly some of the coolest in the world! Where else can you enjoy great fish food, a hot sauna followed by a swim with King Eiders?!

We are currently into our video blogging, and we hope you enjoy our vlog version of Gullfest. A few photos follow below as well. There will also be another blogpost coming up soon from the Pasvik section of Gullfest 2016. Stay tuned :)

GULLFEST 2016 - the movie


14 March 2016

Gullfest 2016 - fugl & fisk /// nature destination development

The fifth arctic birding festival in Varanger is on! 17-22nd of March 2016 we celebrate the amazing bird life of the worlds coolest arctic birding destination. Gullfest 2016 is about Birding Art, Architecture, Tech and Community.

Gullfest 2016 is open and free to join for anyone in Vardø from Thursday 17th to Saturday 19th. The daytime basecamp is at Østre Molokrok (northeast harbour in Vardø) from 10.00-15.00 Friday and Saturday (Gull ringing, trips, etc) + at Vardø Hotel from 20.00hrs on Thursday and Friday (talks). Welcome!

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.

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.