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The Birds of Pasvic

An Inspirational Birds Festival on the Norwegian-Russian Border

Photo from Pasvik State Nature Reserve's Site

We hosted quite an unusual festival on one of the most distant islands in Russia, located a few hundred meters from the Norwegian border.

Truth be told, it’s hard to say what was more unusual about it — whether it was the fact that it was on the hardly reachable island or the fact that a wooden terrace of a cottage served as the stage and visitors walked on the yellow-green pasture instead of shiny tile floors. This was a 100 percent outdoor event and the first ornithological festival surrounded by white and black birches, which are so typical of the Russian nature. The festival was themed “The birds of Pasvic,” and this was also chosen in relation to the nature. 

Paz River

For those who don’t know, Pasvic is an extensive 16 640-hectare reserve of nature located on the territory of two countries — Russia and Norway along the Paz River. This reserve features rich flora and fauna and is one of the main tourist attractions in this part of the world.

A challenging arrival

It’s quite an interesting challenge to visit the Varlama Island from either the Russian or Norwegian side. The right shore of Paz river belongs to Russia and the left to Norway, whereas the island is located in the middle. 

Non-Russians coming from Norway need to get through customs control first, which is located 100km away from the island. However, even Russians need to get through the customs control because this location is beyond the border, despite the fact that it is officially Russian territory. Consequently, we can call all visitors of this unusual festival heroes.

Luckily, there are times where strict custom controllers make exceptions. This time was a lucky time for all festival participants and Ulf Geran Matissen, the chief inspector of the Norwegian customs control was invited to the event too. According to him, the festival was definitely worth granting customs control pass organized from both countries. Furthermore, Mr. Matissen is glad that the Pasvic’s governing entity is cooperating with the Norwegian Svanhovd center. During the event, he also enjoyed fruitful international networking and discussions.

One of the festival’s purposes was the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Pasvic nature resort. This is one of the reasons why scientists are one of the frequent visitors of the Murmansk region. Paul Erick Aspkholm also brought his students to the event too. For the Norwegian students, it was a remarkable and important educational activity. They enjoyed not only the nature and the variety of birds living on the island, but also gained real multicultural experience.

How an Idea was Born

The first “Birds of Pasvic” festival was attended by approximately 50 international guests. Due to safety measures, a larger number of participants would not be possible to accommodate. Despite being one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region, Pasvic is still a preserved territory.

The central location of the festival was organized around a reconstructed house of the first Norwegian ornithologist, who studies birds living along the Paz River. 

The first stone of the festival was laid on Varlama island in a form of informational stands with images of local birds.

Yet, the festival can be considered as a result of conscious and ecology-oriented behavior of the local people, supported by Nornickel. Considering that Nornickel is a mining company, its management has made an executive decision to counter balance its business by supporting all ecological activities and incorporating eco-friendly methods of production.

A new motto which states that “safety of our nature depends on every individual” has motivated a lot of people to become more responsible and organize activities aiming to save the natural treasures of the region.

Why Birds?

The original purpose of the Pasvic nature reserve is to preserve birds. It’s also interesting to add that Norwegian and Russian scientists regularly meet twice a year for watching birds and studying. They usually do that by drifting down the river. The festival has offered this opportunity for visitors in more convenient conditions — from the island. 

The festival demonstrated to Norwegian students and Russian teachers how watching birds need to be conducted. This knowledge will help them to understand the biology at its core. Watching birds’ behavior at different stages of their lives, such as caring about chicks, matching seasons and so on, can be truly captivating.

A variety of birds found in this region includes over 230 species. However, during the festival, the Norwegian team recorded 19 species, while the Russians recorded just six, but they also found three nests and met a fox. According to Natalia Polikarpova, Deputy Director of Pasvic Nature Reserve, observations discovered there today can be also be quite interesting to scientists.

Generally speaking, the atmosphere of the festival was very warm and full of enthusiasm and curiosity. Hopefully, the festival will be repeated in the following years and more people will have a chance to experience the peace, wealth, and wilderness of the Polar nature.

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