15 October 2011

The Hornøya wind shelter and birdhide

The birdcliffs of Hornøya is one of Varangers main attractions. This is the easiest accessible birdcliff in Norway. From the harbour of Vardø it takes no more then 10 minutes by boat to reach this truly spectacular place. The nature reserve is home to 150 000 seabirds. Unlike most birdcliff reserves you can walk around it, under and above it. The birds are extraordinarily confiding, and even those armed with no more then a mobile phone with a camera will go home with decent bird pictures. Hornøya is visited every year by roughly 3000 birdwatchers and photographers, and this number is increasing. We aim to make this a good as possible experience for all the visitors, at the same time it is important not to disturb the birds. This is after all their home, allmost like a city for birds - truly an ecological community. Biotope designed a wind shelter / birdhide at the entrancepoint of the reserve. Its design and location makes it a natural place to be for birders and photographers. It gives shelter from the arctic winds, and at the same time you have perfect views of the birdcliff. All photos by Tormod Amundsen / Biotope - copyright 2011. 


Razorbills - one of many seabird species on Hornøya.

Brünnichs Guillemots - one of the most sought after species of Hornøya. A high arctic breeder.

Alcids coming in from the Barents sea. Outer Varangerfjord holds enormous amounts of seabirds all year. A true wildlife spectacle. This is intact nature at its best!

09 October 2011

The surfbirds of Vardø


About knowing the sites and times to visit



Vardø in Varanger is well known for its very rich birdlife. We will make a post later that will cover many of the key sites. Many of these sites are visited by thousands of birders every year, like the birdcliffs of Hornøya. This is a spectacular birdcliff with more then 100 000 seabirds in a very easily accessible place. If you leave Hornøya without great photos of a wide variety of seabirds, then the camera is not to blame. 

Then there are the smaller sites or microhabitats, that are often overlooked. Sandvika in Vardø is such a place. It is a very small beach not pointed out on any map or given a sign in Vardø, but this is actually a very birdrich little place. The beach faces north, and a massive belt of kelp often cover the beach. The rotting kelp and upswirled sea makes this a perfect feeding place for waders. During spring and autumn migration this is a place all birders should have a look at. The beach can hold pretty good numbers of birds for such a small place. For bird photographers it is important to know very precisely where and when to visit a site, and what to look for. This is a tip for birders / birdphotographers that plan an autumn visit to Varanger: It seems that every year during the two first weeks in August this beach is the favored place in outer Varangerfjord for young Red-necked Phalaropes. The phalaropes ´play´ around in the surf and pick of food from the sea. Watching the birds so effortlessly finding food and surfing the waves is quite a spectacular performance - and a great photo opportunity. When planning a trip it is important to know about the possibilities of a place, so this is one that deserves some attention. The birds are very confiding, and on the best days I have counted more then 600 phalaropes (mid August) around the beach and the nearby breakwater (molo). It is a great little place and always worth a visit (remember to ignore the ´driving prohibited´-sign at the turn-off road to the beach. It is there by old habit, and no-one minds..). It is also one of the best places for close up views of Purple Sandpipers in early spring. A map of Vardø with Sandvika is added. The following photos are the result of a few hours spent at the beach this august. All photos are taken with a nikon d300s + 300mm F4. 


Sandvika, Vardø. On the photo you see Hornøya birdcliff in the background (high, in centre of picture)

Red-necked Phalaropes finding food in the surf

06 October 2011

Biotope - architecture & nature

Biotope are architects & birders Tormod Amundsen, Elin Taranger and Alonza Garbett.

We engage in pro nature projects 

Biotope is Norways first and only architectural office with special expertise on birds and birdwatching (birding). We combine the field of architecture with over 25 years of experience in field ornithology. Our architectural solutions are built on both understanding and care for nature. Our hides and shelters carefully balance the need for visibility in order to attract and concentrate human activities, the practical requirements of the birders and sensitivity to the needs of the birds. 

We design bird hides, outdoor wind shelters, birdwatching towers, photo hides, information boards and exhibitions, nature trails, open-air amphitheaters and much more. Our designs are adapted to different types of habitats and purposes. We have developed methods to handle important issues such as vibration in constructions, wind handling, view- and sight lines. We have the necessary specialist knowledge to create meaningfull projects.

Our clients range from private businesses to public environment authorities. We work both on commission and we initiate projects where we see potential. We do not wait for things to happen. We make them happen. 


A biotope is a biological community - an ecological space. Bios is life, topos is place


Architecture is a tool to protect & promote birds, wildlife and nature.



Bird hides & wind shelters

We have developed a series of unique hides and wind shelters catering to both birders and nature enthusiasts.  One of them is the Hornøya birdcliff birdhide and wind shelter.
The bird cliff Hornøya in Varanger is a fantastic place. This is home to 100 000 birds, of a wide variety of species. It is one of Varangers most popular places to visit for birders and bird photographers. Here Biotope designed a bird hide that gives shelter from the arctic winds. The character of the site and insight in wind directions and sightlines informed the design of the hide. Our hides and shelters carefully balance the need for visibility in order to attract and concentrate human activities, the practical requirements of the visitors and sensitivity to the needs of the birds. 



Bird hide / wind shelter - the Steilnes bird hide
More on the Hornøya bird hide

Photo hides

At Biotope we love bird and nature photography. When we are not inthe office designing new projects we are out in hte field birding or photographing birds. We chase the ultimate wildlife experience! Photo hides let you approach birds without scaring them. We design nature photo hides that are carefully adapted to the requirements of birders and nature photographers. We create prototypes and research new possibilities, always with the intentions of bringing nature closer. Feel free to contact us if you need a new hide built, or perhaps you just need a set of drawings in order to build one yourselves. 



Check out Arctic Tourists Floating photo hide

Outdoors amphi theaters

We create niché-architecture, but we are also well aware that the architecture we design should be beneficial to local communities and the general public. Grandefjæra outdoor amphitheater and bird tower is a good example of a multipurpose facility. Here a ramp leads up to the tower section. Underneath we have designed a small amphitheater with enough space for a school class. It has great views of a tidal landscape and its rich bird life. The roof is transparent and create a bright open space. This is birding to the people.


Read more about the Bird tower / outdoor amphitheater in Ørland

Nature Destinatination Development & PR

We are involved in several regional projects in Norway that focus on birding / birdwatching as a tourist attraction. In these projects we make large-scale analyses of a region by mapping all the best birdsites and develop architectural consepts for the various sites. We also take much care in working with local companies and nature based businesses. 

Some of our key work is in Varanger / Arctic Norway. This region is now being recognized as one of the finest birding destinations in the world. Within a few years birding has become a key part in Varangers economy and even an important part of the regions identity. This does not happen by chance. Firstly you need the natural qualities of the destination to be able to sustain a very rich and unique birdlife. Few places do. Then you need to present this to the a very specialized crowd of people worldwide: the birdwatchers - or birders as is the preferred term. 

Biotope also make maps and design products, exhibitions and much more. If it involves promoting birds and nature, or any great nature destination we are in.

Within the world of birders - the nature enthusiasts and professionals, there are far more biologists and naturalists then there are designers and architects. This is where the Biotope office have found a niché.




Om Biotope / about Biotope (in Norwegian)

Biotope AS består av arkitekter og fuglekikkere Tormod Amundsen, Elin Taranger og Alonza Garbett. Biotope er basert i Vardø / Varanger, men utfører oppdrag over hele landet. Biotope jobber innen den relativt smale arkitektur-nisjen natur- og fugleopplevelser. 

Biotope er Norges første og eneste " fuglekikker-arkitektkontor". Vi tegner fuglekikkerskjul, fugletårn, fotoskjul, utendørs amfiteatre, vindskjul, moderne gapahuker og andre typer naturtilrettelegging. 

I tillegg til å designe arkitektur for naturopplevelser jobber vi i Biotope med helhetlig destinasjonsutvikling. Biotope er basert i Varanger, og vi har siden 2009 jobbet målrettet med å etablere Varanger som verdens fremste arktiske fugledestinasjon. Dette arbeidet innebærer oppføring av arkitektur dedikert fugle- og naturopplevelser. Vi tenker hele tiden helhet og lager også PR-materiell for både destinasjoner og reiselivsaktører. Dette er eksempelvis fuglekart, infofoldere, blogg-artikler, foredragsturneer, utstillinger og mye annet. I Varanger samarbeider vi tett med lokale og regionale reiselivsaktører. Resultatet er en destinasjon som har hatt en markant vekst i reiselivsnæringen de siste årene. Dette tillegges i stor grad besøkende fuglekikkere fra mange ulike land. I dag jobber Biotope med naturtilrettelegging og destinasjonsutvikling flere steder i Norge, fra Lista i sør til Smøla og Ørlandet i midt-Norge til Varanger i nord.

Vi kan levere tegninger og ferdige fuglekikkerskjul. Trenger du et fuglekikkerskjul, et fugletårn, et fotoskjul eller en annen form for naturtilrettelegging er du velkommen til å kontakte oss. Vi kan bistå med alt fra konseptutvikling til tegningssett for fuglekikkerskjul og videre til helhetlige destinasjonsplaner. 



Please feel free contact us if you have questions, or need a birder architect on a project. 




Tormod Amundsen, daglig leder / ceo

Email: tormod@biotope.no  

mobile: 0047 99 33 49 82




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