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Birding Besseggen, Norway

Related Links:
Birding Norway Hardangervidda Oslo Arctic Ducks Engerdal

Besseggen is one of Norway's most famous hikes with a reported 30-50,000 visitors per year. As such it is not the kind of place where I would normally go birding...
However, with Norway "closed" due to COVID-19 the number of people in the mountains in mid June 2020 was much smaller than normal - so we took the opportunity to do this hike

We did the walk the "normal" way - taking the boat from Gjendesheim to Memurubu and doing the ridge in the uphill direction. It is absolutely possible to do the walk in the opposite direction. We chose to hang back and let the main crowd get ahead with the hope of being able to have the place to ourselves as much as possible.

A variety of the expected upland bird species were seen along the route with most birds in the area around the tree line just up from Memurubu. Bluethroat, Ring Ousels Cuckoos, Kestrel, Yellow Wagtails and more were seen here. Higher up the number and variety of birds dropped significantly but Wheatear, Ring Ousel, Raven and Common Gulls were seen right up to the highest point.

There were not many good photo opportunities for birds during the hike itself but a male Ptarmigan gave absolutely cracking views as he protected his mate who scuttled quickly off into what vegetation there was.


Rock Ptarmigan, Besseggen, Norway, June 2020
 Male Ptarmigan on Besseggen, June 2020

The surrounding area can be very productive and the drive to Gjendesheim may give at least as many birds as the hike itself. Rough-legged Buzzard, divers, various wildfowl and waders can all be seen from the road. Besseggen is not far from the well known Valdresflye where most of the southern Norwegian alpine species can be found.

Besseggen, June 2020
View from the hike up from Memurubu, June 2020
Both Bluethoat and Ring Ousel were seen where this picture was taken.

Besseggen, June 2020
Looking down towards Memurubu - the runoff from the mountains can be seen entering the green waters of Gjende lake.

This is the map of the area that I have used

Besseggen, June 2020
More spectacular scenery along the hike, June 2020

Besseggen, June 2020
Some places with good birding potential can be seen from Besseggen - I'm sure that delta area would be worth checking!

Overnight accomodation:
There is a variety of accomodation available in the area - most notably at Beitostølen.
However, Beitostølen was pretty much closed during our visit and we stayed at Hindsæter.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl are a possibility in the area around Besseggen
This photo was taken in Engerdal, July 2014

Publications, information and books

Besseggen, June 2020
A view of the Besseggen ridge itself

Besseggen, June 2020
A landscape shot taken with my telephoto lens from the boat trip - heavy snow melt gave raging torrents

Links to a couple of blog posts related to birding in the area:
June 2020 here
July 2017 (from a guiding trip) here

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