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The Barent's Sea

My first trips were connected in some way or another with Statoil's at times controversial Snøhvit development. My first trip was in the spring of 2003 and I have since been up there on a number of occasions. Invariably good numbers of seabirds - even in the middle of winter when the sun doesn't even rise over the horizon there is plenty to be seen (with a little artificial lighting....).

Vessels tend to sail either from the ports of Hammerfest or Tromsø for Snøhvit - both places worth visiting both in their own right and for the birds.  For developments further east Kirkenes may be used.

Looking back towards Melkøya

Hammerfest Weather - We provide weather reports for Hammerfest.

Route Survey 31 March - 08 May 2003
Worked from Melkøya all the way out to the Snøhvit field.  Close inshore small numbers of Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck and up to 6 Black Guillemot observed along with Great Cormorants and Shags.

Out at sea it was a different story with often thousands of Northern Fulmar - at least half of which were either intermediate or full "blue" phase. Flocks of up to 200 Glaucous Gulls congregated around the vessel, especially during periods of stronger winds. The most numerous gull though, was Kittiwake. There were plenty of auks to be seen too, largely just off the coast with over 50 Atlantic Puffin often seen along with smaller numbers of Razorbills and Guillemots. Several Brunniche's Guillemots were observed on at least a couple of occasions but there could have been many more. Very few Northern Gannet.

In a shallower area offshore a flock of around 30 King Eider were noted between 07-09 April, othwerwise just small numbers of this species.

On 23 April the first Pomarine Skua were seen heading east and by early May they were daily. Up to 17 in an hour were logged on at least two occasions.  Occasional Red-throated and White-billed Diver began turning up at this time.

Glaucous Gull
The commonest large gull in the area - here an Adult Glaucous Gull, Barent's Sea, October 2010

Blue Fulmar, Barent's sea
Another of the typical species - Blue phase Northern Fulmar, Barent's Sea, April 2003

Hurtigruten terminal at Kirkenes
The Hurtigruten terminal at Kirkenes - the tourist's gateway to the Barent's Sea

December 2004
A surprising amount of birdlife in the centre of Tromsø despite only a couple of hours of murky greyness in the middle of the day. A flock of at least 20 King Eider fed alongside the much more numerous Common Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks. Some Mallard, a few Cormorant and a White-tailed Eagle were among the other birds noted.

Out at the Snøhvit field on 13 December it was correspondingly darker - but despite this 10 Kittiwake, 2 adult Glaucous Gull and a couple of Northern Fulmar noted around the vessel. Goodness knows how they find enough food during the permanent winter night.

Heading into Hammerfest to escape some bad weather a good flock of gulls built up around the vessel with 40 Kittiwake, a minimum of 20 Glaucous, 30 Herring and 10 Great Black-backed Gulls.

August 2005
Managed to get ashore and went up the hill above the airport; it seemed most birds had already left but a Northern Wheatear and a family party of Artic Skua remained. Ruff (9) and Spotted Redshank (5) were the best birds around the lake immediately outside the airport building.

We gradually moved from Melkøya out of the fjords. Arctic Skua very regular, a Black Guillemot near Melkøya, 1000's of Herring Gull and Kittiwake, 100's of Northern Fulmar (some of which were intermediate phase) but only one Northern Gannet the entire trip. Sooty Shearwater were noted daily from 17 - 28 August with up to 5 seen simultaneously.

The only landbird noted was a Merlin on 17 August.

Spotted Redshank, Hammerfest 2005 Pool over the road from Hammerfest airport Arctic Skua, Hammerfest, August 2005
Spotted Redshank swallowing fish, Hammerfest, Finnmark. August 2005 A pool with potential, outside Hammerfest Airport. Arctic Skua, Hammerfest, August 2005

September - October 2010 - Shtokman
This trip to the Shtokman field was so productive it deserves its own page. A truly memorable experience. Click here for further details.

Arctic Redpoll
Arctic Redpoll resting onboard offshore in the Barent's Sea

Migrating Little Auks
Little Auk are one of the typical Barent's Sea species  - often in much smaller numbers than one might expect.


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