From your antipodes

Subject: From your antipodes
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 15:01:40 +0200


After a generally grey and drizzly week, with temperatures in the low
forties (Fahrenheit, that is) both most of last week and now on Monday, we
were agreeably surprised yesterday by the third nice, sunny Sunday in a
row. Snow-depth in town is officially reduced to zero (you won´t believe
it, but that is very very early for here), but in my garden fortunately
half of my "sins of omission" from last years (lack of)gardening are still
mercifully covered by snow.
Sunnier gardens have already a lot of flowers (Crocus, Chionodoxa,
Primula),along the roads Coltsfoots (Cold-Feet?) are everywhere, and the
prehistoric-looking "flowers" of the Equisetum also become visible many
places. The first shoots of grass, leafs of Alchemilla etc etc give the
first green feeling here and there, and one can now also understand why the
flowerbuds of the willows are called "gåsunger" (=goslings) in Norwegian.
But all trees are still bare, and most of the fields dominated by the tans
and browns of last year`s dead vegetation. This early birds are better
indications of the spring to come than flowers!

        I took ca the same long Balsfjord trip for the third weekend in a row 
still Sagvatnet was ice-covered, with the ice-fishermen`s chairs out; on
the Ramfjord, on the other hand, the ice looked sickly, and I saw no
fishermen out there.) I started out 3-4 hours later than planned (migraine
and driving don`t mix well!), and that way lost the best of the morning
chorus. Still, even so clearly many more song birds had returned:
Fieldfares were everywhere (but less concentrated than other years, because
of the lack of snow), the Redwings are in full song, and last week`s Song
Thrush also still kept his territory. Many Bramblings, Chiffchaffs, and
Dunnocks in song now (First Dunnock in Tromsø last Wednesday),as well as
the stalwarts Great and Willow Tits and Greenfinches.
                 By following its cheerful and positive song phrases I found 
the very
first Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca of the season, characteristically
singing in front of one of the innumerable nest boxes, that have made this
species such a popular garden bird in N.Norway (They often throw out the
earlier arrived Great Tits on their return from Africa). The Dippers of the
Sagelva bridge were still present, but fished further down the river, that
had swollen even more since last week.

        On the shore the situation has not changed much, although many Common
Gulls and Oystercatchers have occupied the boxes on poles and boat-house
roofs, that people put out for them. A few Redshanks Tringa totanus have
also returned, and I heard a single Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus among the
many displaying Curlews. (The Curlews are earlier; they are shore and
low-lying fields nesters, while the Whimbrels prefer the upland heather,
and therefore have to wait a little longer for their areas to become

        This year promises to become a top year for rodents (Lemming-year, we 
but often voles outnumber the Lemmings, in fact), and that augurs well for
birds of prey and Long-tailed Jaegers (mostly an inland bird here, though).
Today I saw the first Rough-legged Buzzard (For me Buteo`s are buzzards,
and Accipiters Hawks; too old to change my ways, I suppose). And when I
finished the day at the Tisnes wetlands--still chilly wintery and not very
inviting looking)--, I had the great pleasure of finding a Short-eared Owl
Asio flammeus, that gave a great demonstration of hunting "specially for
me", and even barked at me, I fancy. There is always something special with
owls, and this species is the one that most often obliges a diurnal birder.
They work hard, and you only rarely see them catch something; but what an
elegant bird!!

Next birds to come will be the Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus of
the forests, the Ruffs and southern ducks of Tisnes, and the Arctic Terns
and Parasitic Jaegers (Arctic Skuas) of the coast. Most of this before the
trees get really green! Happy birding!

                                        Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                        9037 Tromsø, Norway

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