Birdwatching in Nesseby and Varangerbotn

For many, birdwatching in Varanger is like a dream. The area is renowned worldwide for species like King Eider, Steller’s Eider, Rough-legged Hawk, Gyrfalcon, Peregrine Falcon, White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Willow Ptarmigan, Rock Ptarmigan, Common Loon, Yellow-billed Loon, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Phalarope, Red Phalarope, Eurasian Dotterel, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Little Stint, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Snowy Owl, Horned Lark, Red-throated Pipit, Bluethroat, Siberian Tit, Hoary Redpoll, and many other exciting birds. No wonder Varanger attracts thousands of birdwatchers from all over the world every year, and for many of them, their Varanger journey starts in the innermost part of Varangerfjorden.


Map over Nesseby

2Nesseby church

Nesseby Nature Reserve has many different biotopes, making the variety of species very diverse. This is probably the locality in Finnmark where you’ll encounter the largest number of different species. Seabirds, ducks, waders, birds of prey, and passerines are all found here. Of the waders, it is worth mentioning that Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Dunlin, and Common Ringed Plover appear in flocks of hundreds of individuals during the migration. Additionally, smaller flocks of Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, and Ruddy Turnstone is not an uncommon sight. In the shallow water areas by the stream outlets, large flocks of geese, ducks, and gulls are often found. White-tailed Eagle is common here, and your chances of seeing a Gyrfalcon or Short-eared Owl looking for food are quite good.

Another good tip is to look for passerines in the soft moor and forest terrain on the southern side of the highway E75. Among others, Bluethroat, Sedge Warbler, and Red-throated Pipit breeds here. And during the migration, you might find Lapland Longspur, Hoary Redpoll, and Western Yellow Wagtail. Moreover, you should know that Nesseby harbour is an excellent place to look for Steller’s Eider. From December through May, smaller flocks of this popular species could be seen.

Seabird Scouting around Nesseby
One of the great highlights around Nesseby is seabird scouting. When the east wind is strong, sea birds are forced deeper into Varangerfjorden, and they tend to fly around Nesseby a few times before leaving. Far out on the foreland you can find shelter while watching pretty close up everything that passes by. Common sights are gulls, Northern Fulmars, auks, Northern Gannet, skuas, jaegers, and loons. And actually, an occasional Leach’s Storm Petrel, a species very rarely seen on the mainland, can be seen here.

Manx Shearwater, European Storm Petrel, Little Gull, and Sabine’s Gull have also been seen many times, so you better prepare for anything when you go here. Even a Soft-plumaged Petrel showed up on 6th June 2009.

Map over Varangerbotn and Meskelv

1Bird hide at Suaneset
2Vesterelva river outlet

Around Varangerbotn, the mudflats are so vast that at low tide, they can be difficult to assess. For that reason, you want to go to this area when the water isn’t at its lowest, but rather when the birds are forced closer to land when the water starts to rise.

There are two wheelchair accessible bird hides here. One of them provides a view over Meskfjorden, while the other over a small river delta. Throughout this area, huge flocks of Eurasian Wigeons, Eurasian Teals, Nortern Pintails, and Common Shelducks will gather. Other common species are Spotted Redshank and Temminck’s Stint. While passing through the birch forest on your way to these bird hides, you’ll see breeding birds like European Pied Flycatchers and Bluethroats. If you are lucky, you might even get to see a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker or Three-toed Woodpecker.

To get an overview over the rest of Varangerbotn Nature Reserve, you need to visit several suitable viewpoints (see the PDF map). Further out into the fjord, you’ll find ducks, loons, and other seabirds. Be aware that large parts of the inner fjord are covered with ice during the winter. Some examples of rare guests seen in or near Varangerbotn are Ruddy Shelduck, American Wigeon, Surf Scoter, Terek Sandpiper, Pied Avocet, Great Egret, Sandwich Tern, and Harlequin Duck.

Meskelv is located 4 kilometres east of Varangerbotn. At the point where the river runs out, oftentimes many waders and ducks are found breeding. Dunlin, Little Stint, and Curlew Sandpiper are typical species here. At the fjord’s narrowest point, by Bunes, try to look for loons and ducks. The ice in the inner part of Varangerfjorden usually reaches this point, and typically, you’ll find many birds along the edge of the ice. Lanceolated Warbler has been seen near Meskelv.

Map over Karlebotn

2Karlebotn school (closed)

Karlebotn is a bay located in the innermost part of Varangerfjorden, just south of Varangerbotn. Birdlife here can be even more rich than in Varangerbotn, and the variety of seabirds and smaller waders is often bigger here. In this bay, you’ll find a long, wide beach. And outside of the beach, there are large rocky mudflats. These rocks serve as perfect staging areas for birds at high tide. The southernmost part of the beach is the most exciting. Here, you can find dabbling ducks and typically also Red-necked Phalarope. Among the buildings, you’ll also find many passerines. And if the east wind is strong, many gulls might gather in inner Karlebotn, including Little Gulls. Both Sandwich Tern and Terek Sandpiper have been seen in Karlebotn.

Helpful Information

Biotope:Wetlands and harbour environment.
Best time to visit:All year.
Bird towers:Bird hide in Varangerbotn.
Local association:NOF Varanger
Shoes:Water proof hiking boots.
Food:Recommended, although supermarkets are close.
Clothes:Casual clothes or hiking wear.
Warm and wind proof if you are scouting for seabirds.



Birdingbed cooperates with long-time experienced guides in customizing personalized birdwatching experiences like…

  • excursions to see owls, woodpeckers, birds of prey and more.
  • Black Grouse lek, Capercaillie lek, bird cliffs, among other things
  • photography trips.
  • finding specific species.

For guided excursions in this area, contact Anders Faugstad Mæland through the web page Birdwatching Norway

Did you know …

… that you can find the Siberian Tit on bird tables and in the forest around Nesseby?

… that a European Roller was caught alive in 1868 in Nyborg, Varangerbotn?

… that around Nesseby and Varangerbotn, species like Ruddy Shelduck, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Great Egret, Pectoral Sandpiper, Red Phalarope, Terek Sandpiper, Black Tern, and Sandwich Tern have all been seen?

Bird Species Seen in the Area

Some of the Birds in the Area

Key Map
Helpful Links
(also in english)