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Birding Øygarden
White-tailed Eagle hunting gulls - THE bird of Øygarden

Specialities Other activities in Øygarden Accomodation in Øygarden Øygarden animals  Latest Bird News from Øygarden Øygarden Species List Hernar Øygarden Landscapes



Øygarden is one of the best places for birdng in the "fylke" (county) of Hordaland; just about anything can turn up here. Skogsøy and Tjeldstø are the areas I personally cover the most but there are many more places worth a visit. The locations listed below are by no means exhaustive and it is easy to find areas that have not been covered. Visiting birders may find that they have the place to themselves most of the time.


Øygarden consisits of many islands and skerries of various sizes; heaths, bogs and juniper scrub cover the majority of the area. There are many fresh water lakes, though few have much in the way of vegetation, and lots of coniferous woodland, some which is natural and some planted sitka spruce. The farming is largely pastoral and based mainly of sheep - these graze the heaths and most of the fields are used to grow grass for winter feed for these animals. There are several flocks of "wild" sheep which graze out on the heaths and on some of the many islands all year round.

There is something to see whatever the time of year, although May is  the best month for a number of species such as White-billed Diver, Pomarine Skua and Long-tailed Skua. Renting a boat , kayak or taking a boat trip is an excellent way of exploring the islands - whatever the time of year. For details when to see some of these species during seawatches see this page









Arctic Tern Long-tailed Duck
Arctic Tern / Rødnebbterne, Tjeldstø, August 2007 Long-tailed Duck / Havelle, Øygarden, January 2008

There are few birders that cover Øygarden with any degree of regularity and most of the area goes completely uncovered. During spring and autumn there is more birding activity, largely centred around scanning gardens for migrants. The birding potential is greater than the number of observations would indicate, and if one is prepared to search off the beaten track the rewards could be worthwhile.



Juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls fighting over mackerell Common Gull chick and blueberries - a typical summer sight in Øygarden
Young Great Black-backed Gulls / Svartbak fighting over mackerell Common Gull chick and blueberries - a typical summer sight in Øygarden

White-tailed Eagle and seabirds are the speciality birds and Eagle Owl are resident. Peregrine is the most numerous falcon for most of the year and is especially regular in winter - scanning the tops of the skerries is the best way to find this species. Although barely annual Gyr Falcon are another possibility during the winter.  Great Northern Diver and Red-necked Grebe are regular features during the winter months, with the former species being the commoner of the two; both are more regular after New Year.


Greylags - grågås
Greylag geese fleeing from White-tailed Eagle

The increasing numbers of Greylag geese are often the subject of attention from the local predators - and flocks of panicking geese are often the first sign that an eagle, Goshawk or Peregrine is nearby.

White-tailed Eagle - one of Øygarden's speciality birds Eagle Owl
White-tailed Eagle / Havørn, Øygarden, January 2008 Eagle Owl/ Hubro, Øygarden, March 2009




Surrounded by so much sea it is hardly surprising that Øygarden is a magnet for seaduck, large numbers of Common Eider and Long-tailed Duck are the mainstay, with other species such as Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter and Common Goldeneye also very common. Velvet Scoter is also regular but during the winter months tends to require a little more luck to find.



Common Eider / Ærfugl Purple Sandpiper
Common Eider / Ærfugl, September 2008 Purple Sandpipers / Fjæreplytt,are a common winter visitor in Øygarden



Auks of various species can be seen all year round, of these Black Guillemot is perhaps the species of most interest to visiting birders. This species is especially easy to see during the winter months.

Other more numerous winter visitors include Little Auk and Long-tailed Duck. Eider breed in the area and numbers are swelled in winter, though where these birds come from is uncertain - traditionally it was thought that the Eiders wintering in Øygarden came from further north but there are some indications that populations from the south may be invloved.

Fish eating birds are very numerous in Øygarden, huge numbers of gulls can be present and large flocks of roosting Great Cormorant and Eurasian Shag can be seen on the offshore islands for much of the year. There are a number of heronries and numbers are further swelled during the winter: there are several Grey Heron roosts which number 30 birds or more. In the summer both Common and Arctic Terns are common, often giving suberb views as they hunt small fish.

Iceland Gull / Grønlandsmåke Grey Heron / Gråhegre
Iceland Gull / Grønlandsmåke, Tjeldstø, February 2008 Grey Heron / Gråhegre, Tjeldstø, March 2008


The main habitat is nutrient poor heathland, bogs and shallow pools. Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Northern Wheatear, Oystercatcher, Great Black-backed Gull and Common Gull breed over much of the area.  Raven are a typical bird of the area, often seen out on the islands.

Northern Fulmar - havhest Barnacle Goose
A true seabird the Fulmar / Havhest is a regular species in Øygarden Barnacle Geese / Hvitkingås, Herdlevær, October 2003




Linnet are one of the commonest finches during the summers months; Twite probably still breed in small numbers and are generally more abundant from late summer through autumn. The numerous woods are full of Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Redpoll, Chaffinch, Crested Tit and Coal Tit. Crossbills are regular and can turn up in large numbers pretty much at any time of year - both Common and Parrot Crossbills can be seen, although the latter is considerably less regular.


Raven, one of the typical Øygarden birds Black Grouse
Raven / Ravn, Skogsøy, May 2006 Black Grouse / Orrfugl, Svellingen, January 2004


Black Grouse breed in small numbers but are more often seen in the winter months when it is possible that birds come over from the mainland. Tree Sparrow is a relatively scarce species in Hordaland but in Øygarden there are a number of localities where the species is very regular.

Other passerines that are reasonably regular during the appropriate seasons are Grey-headed Woodpecker (especially autumn), Lapland Bunting, Snow Bunting and Twite. Goldfinch are a hard bird to find in Hordaland but are seen relatively often in Øygarden during late autumn and winter.

Lapland Longspur
Meadow Pipit
Lapland Longspur /Lappspurv, Hernar, September 2008 Meadow Pipit / Heipiplerke, Solberg, June 2006

Other wildlife seen during birding trips include the prolific Porpoise, occasional Pilot Whales and Orcas and, very rarely, Minke Whale. Mink, Red Deer and a species of vole are the most often encountered land mammals whereas Otter are less regularly seen. See the Øygarden animal page for more details.


Herdlevær
This locality is one of the better places to find rarities in Øygarden and deserves a page for itself: click here

Yellow-browed Warbler
One of the Herdlevær autumn specialites - Yellow-browed Warbler

Breivik
Breivik is an area of farmland just north of Herdlevær. The fields here can attract waders, geese and flocks of thrushes; these fields are worth checking regularly especially during the winter and early spring when they seem to be most productive. Winter geese are often "good" geese such as White-fronts or Bean Geese.

In March these fields regularly produce Mistle Thrush among flocks of the commoner Fieldfare. Stonechat has also been recorded here.

Fields at Breivik "Sedge Warbler" pond, Breivik
Fields at Breivik "Sedge Warbler" pond (picture taken 04:40, early July)

Eagle Owl Bean Goose
Eagle Owl / hubro, September 2009 Bean Goose / Sædgås, January 2006


Following the road north one passes a small pond surrounded by reeds, this is probably the best place to see Sedge Warbler in Øygarden. During the spring and summer Eurasian Woodcock can be seen "roding" here. It also seems a very promising locality for Water Rail and should be worth checking regularly during the late autumn.

Solberg


Oystercatcher - Tjeld
Solberg, on a crisp January day


Solberg is an ideal winter birding spot to scan the sea for seaduck, it is also a easily accessible spot to check if there is any activity out at sea. Good numbers of Eider and Long-tailed Duck are usually present, Common and Velvet Scoters are also regular, although usually in smaller numbers. Divers and any of the other typical Øygarden species can also be seen here. It is also excellent for White-tailed Eagle and other raptors such as Peregrine Falcon. Even Gyrfalcon are a possibility here during the late autumn and winter. Waders are thin on the ground in winter but at Solberg both Purple Sandpiper and Eurasian Curlew are regular at this time.

Gyrfalcon
gGyrfalcon / Jaktfalk are a possibility during the late autumn and winter


During the late spring and early summer this area is favoured by terns, and these in turn can attract Arctic Skua.

From late summer and throughout the autumn waders can turn up on the islands right in front of the lookout point. The commonest are Ringed Plover and Dunlin, but just about anything can turn up.

Solberg can be reached by turning left immediately north of Tjeldstø, signposted Alvheim. Follow the road for approximately 1km and turn left immediately after passing the school on the right. Follow the road without tuning off until it ends with a boom blocking the track. Park here and follow the track about 50m before turning off to the left on a narrow gravel path before the main area of summer houses is reached.

Solberg, Øygarden

Dåvøy
Dåvøy is another island in the vicinity of Solberg, here good views can be obtained of Red-breasted Merganser and Common Goldeneye feeding very close to the road. Grey Herons roost there in large numbers at times and it is one of the most regular spots to find wintering Little Grebe. One does not even have to get out of the car at this locality!

Dåvøy Red-throated Diver
Roadside view at Dåvøy Red-throated Diver / Smålom.
A common migrant in Øygarden but winter birds such as the one above are harder to find.





Alvheim
Again this locality excels in winter, although it is worth a visit at any time of year. There is a superb lookout point to the north of the harbour overlooking a number of islands.

Scan the tops of the islands for White-tailed Eagle and other the raptors and the sea for duck, divers and the occasional Red-necked Grebe. Waders can be seen on any of the islands, although views are generally distant.

Crested Tit - toppmeis Red-breasted Merganser, Herdlevær
Crested Tit / Toppmeis, Tjeldstø, June 2008 Red-breasted Merganser / Siland, Tjeldstø, February 2008


Alvheim is signposted well from the main road and there is ample parking down by the harbour - it is only a very short walk to the lookout point from the car-park. Little grebe has occasioanlly turned up in the harbour itself.

Resting Shags - a typical sight in Øygarden
Resting Shags / Toppskarv - a typical sight in Øygarden



Little Grebe Black Guillemot - Teist - Cepphus grylle
Little Grebe / Dvergdykker , Sæle, October 2007 Black Guillemot / Teist, Herdlevær, August 2008


Sæle
This is a good place to visit to look for passerines in the gardens and hedgerows. There are a number of places to park and then one can stroll along the roads checking the fields and hedgerows for birds. Keep an eye on the sky too - White-tailed Eagle and other raptors regularly fly over here.

Following the road down to the sea offers views of most of the usual seaduck and the offshore islands.






View at Sæle, June

Northern Wheatear, Breivik, Øygarden Common Guillemot, Tjeldstø
Northern Wheatear / Steinskvett, Breivik, October 2008 Common Guillemot / Lomvi, Tjeldstø, September 2008

 
Hellesøy
At the very northern end of Øygarden Hellesøy can attract good numbers of migrants. It is also a good place to scan the sea for seaduck, auks and divers - one can cover both the east and west sides of the islands from here. Parking is easy and the island is easy to cover on foot.

Rong / Oni
The only "shopping centre" in Øygarden. Driving down the road signposted "Rong kai" and following the road until it ends leads to a good walk to "Ono". Here there are plenty of paths to explore, they lead out to the coast where dramatic views of the islands can be had. The sheltered bays should be checked for seaduck - good numbers of both Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye can be found here in addition to the usual selection of scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Eider. Any of the small islands can hold waders in season. Keep an eye on the clifftops and look out posts where raptors can be seen. Most of the Øygarden specialities can be found here including Crested Tit, Grey-headed Woodpecker (in season) and others. Black Grouse frequent the heaths in small numbers.

There is a very interesting looking area of reeds which will be worth checking anytime from spring to autumn.

One of the many bays at Ono, Rong Reedbeds at Ono, near Rong


Svellingen
This site is a good spot for seawatching, although views of some species may be more distant than at Skogsøy it is a lot easier to get to and a wide variety of species may be seen here. One of the main advantages of this locality is that it is easy to change between looking for passerines and seawatching should conditions change.

Svellingen is a good site for Grey-headed Woopecker if they are around, Snow Bunting are reasonably regular from late autumn to early spring and it is one of the best places to see Black Guillemot.

View from Svellingen
View from Svellingen

Snow Bunting Twite, Hernar, Øygarden
Snow Bunting / Snøspurv, Svellingen, November 2005 Twite / Bergirisk, Hernar, May 2009


Hjelme
Hjelme is situated on the east side of Øygarden and although little visited by birders it certainly has potential. In late autumn and winter Woodcock and Water Rail may be seen here along with a variety of other "woodland" species. Views of the fjord can be obtained here and passage of auks, ducks or other species can be observed - especially during strong south westerly winds which can push seabirds into the fjords.

In summer Lesser Whitethroat has been reasonably regular here in recent years.

Hjelme, typical Øygarden scenery View of fjord at Hjelme

"Hjelme West" / Hjelmo
A superb site on the west side of Øygarden this site has excellent potential. It is nearer the offshore islands than Svellingen, the lookout over the sea is higher and the views better. A 10 minute walk through natural woodland brings one out to the coast. The woods are full of Crested Tit, among other things.

The usual range of species can be seen here - it is a prime spot for White-tailed Eagle, Peregrine and the usual selection of seaduck. Waders are often present on the islands. The woods and surrounding area look good for a range of species and a "round trip" is recommended.

Finding the site is quite straightforward, although not immediately obvious. Directions are given below:


Park here Walk along this path.... Pass this inlet on the way...
Drive past Hjelme church and park on the left immediately after the cemetry. Follow the path that goes along the back of the graveyard, turn off to the right almost immediately You pass this inlet on the way out to the coast....
Turøy
Turøy is not actually in Øygarden but is immediately south of it. There used to be a bird observatory where ringing was carried out on a regular basis. The results from Turøy indicate the potential of the area for rarities.

Other locations worth a try
The following locations are barely visited but look promising for a variety of species.

Hernar - Link to Hernar page here

The island of Hernar can be reached by passenger boat from Hellesøy. The birding potential of this island is very good indeed, there are plenty of gardens and small fields which undoubtedly attract migrants. This locality is even more underwatched and underexplored than the rest of Øygarden and deserves a lot more attention. During autumn 2008 a few visits turned up Yellow-browed Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Water Rail and plenty more....The first visit of autumn 2009 produced a cracking Greenish Warbler, the next a Red-backed Shrike and the next a Common Rosefinch proving that this island has what it takes.

Greenish Warbler
Greenish Warbler, Hernar, August 2009

Spring visits have been even fewer than autumn ones but have shown that things like Icterine Warbler turn up.

The boat trip is very short and reasonably priced; unfortunately, as of autumn 2008, the first bus from Bergen arrives at Hellesøy 10 minutes after the boat leaves for Hernar on weekdays. As of summer 2008 there is no cafe or accomodation on the island, although there is still a general store which is open regularly.

Link to boat timetable Hellesøy to Hernar


The boat to Hernar The "village" at Hernar Hernar
Click on the above picture for the timetable Hellesøy to Hernar View over part of the settlement on Hernar





Toftøy

The lake at Toftøy often holds the usual selection of gulls and ducks; it would probably give results if covered more regularly. Also here (and just visible from the main road) is a reedbed that looks very promising for warblers and Water Rail in season. Part of the "Nordsjøløypa" trail goes through this area and there a number of restored buildings here. The hill known as Vikåsen looks excellent as a visible migration viewpoint.

Path leading to reedbed area The reedbeds Restored building
Path leading to the reedbeds and "Nordsjøløypa" (Coastal trail) The reedbeds, June 2006 One of the restored buildings along the coastal trail



Blomvåg
One of the most promising areas near Blomvåg is an area of marsh which looks as if it should attract a variety of waders. Definitely worth keeping an eye on....


Marsh at Blomvåg Marsh at Blomvåg







Getting to Øygarden

Øygarden and Bergen
Location of Skogsøy and Tjeldstø relative to Bergen. Pictures from Google Earth





The first stop is Bergen, easily reached by air or by ferry from either Denmark or Newcastle, England.

 

Once in Bergen city centre or at Flesland airport Øygarden is easily reached either by car or by bus.

A car can be useful if one wishes to cover a number of localities in one day, and is necessary if one wishes to make a very early start.

Busses go from the city centre and also from Bergen (Flesland) airport. All of the localities described on this page are easy to reach by bus, being only a short walk from bus stops.

Bus Timetable


Staying in Øygarden
There is a variety of accomodation including camping sites, cabins and hotels in Øygarden itself, or one can make it a day trip from if you are staying in Bergen and have plans to visit other places in the area. Hire Cars are available both in the city centre and at the airport.

Trollvatn Camping












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