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Bird Island Runde

  1. Location and arrival
  2. Accommodation
  3. The island
  4. Atlantic puffin
  5. The equipment
  6. Conclusion

Location and arrival

Bird Island Runde is located on the west coast of Norway and belongs to the municipality of Herøy.

overview map of Runde
For better orientation, I have marked the location of the island on the overview map (for more details, please click on the link to the map). The beautiful city of Ålesund is located 25 kilometers northeast of Runde and is also well worth a visit.
The island of Runde can be reached completely without a ferry from the mainland, as the 7765m long Eiksund Tunnel (the deepest road tunnel in the world) connects the mainland from the municipality of Volda to the island of Hareidlandet. After passing several bridges, one finally reaches the island of Runde from the neighboring island of Remøya via a 428m long, single-lane bridge (the Rundebrua).
For those who want to arrive by plane, Ålesund Airport is available, located on the island of Vigra near the city of Ålesund. The airport cannot be reached directly from Germany, so a stopover in Norway (e.g. Bergen, Trondheim or Oslo) is required. Rental cars can be booked at Ålesund Airport. Alternatively, there are also bus connections from the airport to Ålesund, followed by a ship and another bus connection to reach the island of Runde.
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On Runde, there are some private accommodations, a hotel, vacation homes, a youth hostel, and a campsite. At the campsite, in addition to pitches, you can also rent various smaller wooden cabins (2-4 people). An additional accommodation option is offered by "Kafé Runde," which is located directly at the harbor of Runde. According to the operator, guests can book single or double rooms in addition to being served food and drinks. The guests have access to spacious common areas, a kitchen, and two bathrooms (shower/toilet).
Now, here are my first two tips for you. Take your time on the island and stay for a few days, as there is plenty to see and discover. Also, make sure to book your accommodation in advance, as it could be difficult to find available lodging on weekends and during peak travel times. Personally, I would always prefer the campsite again because it provides the shortest way to get to the mountain and also eliminates the need to search for a parking spot.
Another destination is the new environmental center (Runde Miljøsenter), which was completed in October 2009. At the time of my trip (June 2009), the environmental center was still under construction, and now the tourist information, which was previously housed in a small supermarket, is also available to visitors there. However, accommodations at the Runde Miljøsenter are only intended for guest researchers, but you can certainly get further tips on accommodations at the tourist information center.
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The island

The island is practically only visited by bird enthusiasts. If you're not interested in the bird world, you won't discover much else on the island. However, the bird life on Runde is exceptionally diverse. You can see almost all species of gulls, as well as a variety of puffins, guillemots, gannets, fulmars, some sea eagles, and of course, the stars of the island, the puffins, but more on that later. Most of the birds also breed on the island.

map of Runde
First, a few words about the small island that houses about 100 residents. For a better overview, I have attached a map. The island consists of two towns, Runde and Goksøyr. The total circumference of the island is about 20km, and the highest point is over 330m. The largest breeding colonies of birds are located in the steep cliffs in the west of the island. There is an opportunity to book a two-hour island tour with a fishing boat. These trips are offered daily from May to August, but unfortunately, they do not always take place. This can be due to the weather conditions and, also, to low participation. Unfortunately, we were unlucky, and during our 3-4 day stay, no trip took place. However, I would certainly make up for the boat trip on my next visit since only with the boat you can get a beautiful view of the up to 300m high cliffs and have the opportunity to see many birds. Speaking of times, the best time to travel is undoubtedly from May to July, during which you can observe most of the birds on the island. By the way, the puffins are no longer found on the island at the end of summer.

The climate on the island is relatively mild for Norwegian standards, but cold temperatures and unfriendly weather can be encountered throughout the year. Fortunately, we had 3 days of sunny weather, but it is still advisable to have warm and, above all, windproof clothing with you. Especially for the hike up to the rock, one should expect a very strong and cool wind.

click for larger view
Although there are plenty of birds to observe in the lowlands, most of the time you will go to the mountain. The ascent begins near the camping site, is very steep at the beginning and then continues with less steepness. The path consists of gravel, grassy areas and occasionally some wooden planks provide a firmer step. In any case, very good footwear should be included in the planning. If the path should lead directly to the first puffins, one should plan about 30 minutes for the walk.
Many more useful information about the bird island Runde can be found on the website by Thomas Michael Müller.
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Atlantic puffin

As I mentioned at the beginning, the bird cliff offers a variety of different birds. However, the actual stars and also the landmark of the bird island are the puffins. There are two locations on top of the mountain where they are best seen. If you hike up the trail, you will first reach Kaldekloven (see also map), where the puffins are distributed on the small rock plates and in the small caves which they also use for breeding. If you hike about 5 minutes further southeast from Kaldekloven, you will reach the place called Lundeura. At Lundeura, there is a small, steep staircase to descend in order to get very close to the birds. From a photographic perspective, you have a higher chance of getting flight shots at Lundeura than at Kaldekloven, as you can observe the flight path longer and the birds land above you on the cliff wall.

click for larger view
The most important tip for seeing the puffins, however, is that the birds are only visible in the evening. Although you may see the occasional puffin during the day, the birds are usually out on the Atlantic Ocean. When I say "evening," I mean after 8 p.m. (often later), but don't worry, in the summer months the sun doesn't really set at the 62nd parallel, so you can still take good photos even at 11 p.m. So it's worth waiting, although unfortunately direct sunlight disappears behind the rocks around 9:30 p.m. in June. The late arrival of the puffins is also the reason why day trippers to the island have little joy and why overnight stays should be planned!
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The equipment

The puffins on Runde are quite trusting and curious. I mostly sat down somewhere quietly and waited for the birds to return to the island from the Atlantic one by one in the evening. If you behave calmly, you won't need much focal length for photography. All of my puffin photos were taken with a 300mm/2.8 lens and a tripod. It would have been possible with a little less focal length, but with the 300mm lens, I had the advantage of being able to take very nice portraits with the help of teleconverters.

click for larger view
Another advantage of the fast and bright telephoto lens was that it increased my chances of getting good shots of the birds in flight. The puffins are extremely fast flyers and they shoot like an arrow into their burrows or land quickly on small rock ledges. The number of failed flight shots was enormous. It is also equally difficult to capture a puffin taking off from the island, as the jump from the rock ledge is almost seamless. A small challenge is the correct exposure of the puffins, as the bird with its black and white plumage offers maximum contrast and it is easy for there to be no detail in either the white or black areas of the plumage. Here, I recommend a slight underexposure in digital photography and then a slight lifting of the dark areas in post-processing.

Some areas of the island are protected and should not be entered, especially in spring and summer. However, it is still possible to get close to the puffins for photography. Additionally, during my photography sessions of the puffins, I was able to observe several sea eagles circling around the island. To capture sea eagles photographically, at least a 600mm focal length would be required.
On the island, there are several water holes (see also map) where birds gather from time to time. Therefore, there are enough birds to discover, but I admit that during my first stay, I mostly focused on the fascinating puffins.
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As a conclusion, I would like to say that the bird island of Runde is a very worthwhile destination, especially for nature photographers, but also for all other nature lovers. For me, it certainly won't be the last visit to the island. It's just a shame that the island is relatively difficult to reach from Germany, but since Norway is a beautiful travel destination overall, Runde can be easily incorporated into a trip to Norway.
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written: Januar 2010, (author: Olaf Juergens)

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