from your antipodes

Subject: from your antipodes
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 18:54:14 +0200


The weather forecast was right! Yesterday we woke up to several inches of
fresh snow, and last night a little more came down, so snow cover went from
almost zero back to almost 100%, albeit only temporarily: a combination of
sleet, too short sunny periods, and temperatures just on the melting side
of freezing removed much of the snow in the course of the day, and driving
carefully the summer tires were not a particular problem.

Today I was lucky, in that I enjoyed the company of my colleague amphipod
worker Jørgen, and keen young eyes boosted our day list to 56 species. I`ll
list them at the end of this message, even though they are of course mainly
the same as on earlier trips. There were many signs of rodent activity,
where the snow had disappeared, but otherwise mammal experiences were
confined to the local Harbour Porpoises, a quite piebald Snow Hare in
transition to summer pelage, and some Reindeer living dangerously close to
the main road.

Since my last Balsfjord report all ice had disappeared from the Ramfjord,
most rivers and brooks were quite swollen with melt water (and we missed
the Dippers , probably for that reason), and in the Sagvann lake there
finally were a few leads in the ice large enough to keep ducks: mainly
Red-breasted Mergansers and Tufted Ducks, both in small flocks within with
the birds were in pairs, and a few lone Goldeneyes. The two pairs of Horned
Grebes that we found were still in the fjord.
South-exposed  grassy slopes now really look green, and in the forest the
ferns are unrolling. No new flowers today, though. The colder areas were
once more completely snow-covered, and the trees are still bare.

Maybe the most surprising bird of the day was a female Capercaillie,
blithely walking on the main road in a dense snow-shower. Closeby on a mire
a Wood Sandpiper defied the weather and was displaying, and today we also
saw returned Greenshanks many places---their legs are as green as the
redshanks´ are red!

Although we for once started at 07 00am (Having put my daughter with dog
and Hawfinch on the plane to Oslo) and therefore were at the first forest
site before 08 00, the morning chorus was very puny, no doubt because of
the chilly weather and the dense snow showers.The Redwings were the
bravest, the Fieldfares (present in astonishing numbers again today) mostly
seemed interested in food, and the Bramblings kept themselves largely in
flocks and sang but little. Later on the day, in a southerly exposed area,
we heard nevertheless 2 Willow Warblers sing, only nr 2 and 3 of the year
for me of this exceedingly numerous bird.

Few ducks now on the fjords, except the very numerous Eiders, still mostly
in pairs. Small flocks of Velvet Scoters and a few Common Mergansers, and
no certain Oldsquaws (Long-tailed Ducks) and Black Scoters any more. Arctic
Terns were still concentrated in large jittery flocks on small skerries.

The primary purpose of the trip was to enjoy the impressive spectacle of
the red hordes of thousands of Red Knots Calidris canutus whirling around
in perfect air-drills.We saw none at all!! Fortunately birders are not
disappointed for long; there are always so much other things of interest to
watch! And the Knots should be there for a few more weeks!

In the following list the birds seen for the first time in the area this
year have got an asterix. A very few species seen on Tuesday on Tisnes, but
not today, have been included(marked T).

Horned (Slavonian) Grebe                Podiceps auritus
Cormorant                               Phalacrocorax carbo
Grey Heron                              Ardea cinerea
Greylag Goose                           Anser anser
Shelduck                                Tadorna tadorna
Wigeon                                  Anas penelope
Teal                                    A.  crecca
Mallard                         A.  platyrhynchos
Pintail (T)                             A.  acuta
Shoveler                                A.  clypeata
*Tufted Duck                            Aythya fuligula
Eider                                   Somateria mollissima
Velvet Scoter                           Melanitta fusca
*Goldeneye                              Bucephala clangula
Red-breasted Merganser          Mergus serrator
Common Merganser                        M.  merganser
White-tailed Eagle                      Haliaaetus albicilla
                (beautifully picturesque in a small tree on an islet)
*Merlin                         Falco columbarius
Willow Grouse                           Lagopus lagopus
*Capercaillie                           Tetrao urogallus (a resident species)
Oystercatcher                           Haematopus ostralegus
Ringed Plover                           Caradrius hiaticula
Golden Plover                           Pluvialis apricaria (a lot!)
Lapwing                         Vanellus vanellus
Dunlin (T)                              Calidris alpina
Ruff                                    Philomachus pugnax (still no fights)
Snipe                                   Gallinago gallinago
Whimbrel                                Numenius phaeopus
Curlew                                  N.  arquata
Redshank                                Tringa totanus
*Greenshank                             T. nebularia (at least 10)
*Wood Sandpiper                 T.  glareola (1, in display)
*Turnstone (T)                  Arenaria interpres
Common (Mew) Gull                       Larus canus
Lesser Black-backed Gull                L.  f. fuscus
Herring Gull                            L.  argentatus
Great Black-backed Gull         L.  marinus
Arctic Tern                             Sterna paradisaea
Wood Pigeon                             Columba palumbus
*Tree Pipit                             Anthus trivialis
Meadow Pipit                            A.  pratensis
White Wagtail                           Motacilla alba
Dunnock                         Prunella modularis
? Ring Ouzel                            Turdus torquatus (just a flash)
Fieldfare                               T.  pilaris (galore!!)
Redwing                         T.  iliacus
Chiffchaff                              Phylloscopus collybita
Willow Warbler                  Ph.  trochilus
Pied Flycatcher                 Ficedula hypoleuca
Willow Tit                              Parus montanus
Great Tit                               P.  major
Magpie                                  Pica pica
Hooded Crow                             Corvus corone cornix
Raven                                   C.  corax
Starling                                Sturnus vulgaris
Brambling                               Fringilla montifringilla (100-s)
Greenfinch                              Chloris chloris
? Twite                         Carduelis flavirostris (heard only)
Redpoll                         C.  flammea
Bullfinch                               Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Snow Bunting                            Plectrophenax nivalis (1 late one)
* Reed Bunting                  Emberiza citrinella

                                        Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                        9037 Tromsø, Norway

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