from your antipodes

Subject: from your antipodes
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 13:52:11 +0200


Since I last reported from northern Norway, temperatures have some days
crept up to the low sixties, and we also have had a lot of rain. The forest
is now entirely green, with the trees showing all the different shades of
green that are so characteristic of spring. On the road verges dandelions
gradually take over for Coltsfoot, and everywhere where it is wet (i.e.
practically everywhere) the fields are yellow with Marsh Marigolds Caltha
                In "my" patch of birch forest one day as if by magic suddenly 
many clumps
of fragile-looking white Wood-sorrel Oxalis appeared, as well as the first
patches of White anemone Anemone nemorosa, a plant introduced long ago and
thriving on our island. On sunny places the yellow faces of the
Two-flowered Violet twinkle everywhere, and yesterday in the inland I found
several patches of both Mountain Aven Dryas octopetala and milkvetch
Astragalus in full flower.
                In the birch forest the first thrushes have fledged, and the 
parents are
protesting all around you, when you walk through; and these thrushes know
how to protest. On the shore the fist broods of Eider chicks swim with
their mothers and "aunts", and also many Mallards have a long tail of downy
chicks hurrying to keep up with the mother on the road to a safer place.

                Yesterday morning I went on a "wild-goose chase", trying to 
find a Great
Egret that has been reported from northern Troms several weeks already
(needless to say, I never found it). I took the 07 15 ferry across the
Ullsfjord. This open and fish-rich fjord often attracts sea-birds from the
large sea bird island Nordfugløy in the mouth of the fjord, but yesterday
all I saw was a few Razorbills, no Puffins this time.
                Across the Ullsfjord the peninsula between it and the Lyngen 
fjord is
most spectacular, with the steep granitic Lyngen Alps with their glaciers
rising steeply up to ca 1500 m. I stopped at the little village of
Jægervatn, and walked an hour or so on a path through the rich birch forest
(with a few spruce plantations) on the wet hillsides, along the large and
deep lake Jægervatn, where Eiders nest on a freshwater lake! The short
connecting river between this lake and the fjord (a famous fishing place,
had this morning attracted some dozens of Common Mergansers , as well as a
number of Goldeneyes, while the lake itself is too deep for much bird-life,
although the usual pair of Black-throated Loons were present and Common
Sandpipers trilled here and there along the shore.
                Several Sedge Warblers were singing with their usual surplus of
enthousiasm. They are great to hear, but they do in these soccer times
remind me of some teams, where boundless enthousiasn and great ambitions
clash with a restricted amount of talent and technique! The Bluethroats
have both technique, talent and improvisation galore, as behoves a close
relative of the nightingales; and they also look most fetching with their
red-starred (almost red-banded) blue napkins.
        Also the forest was full of bird song this early morning. Probably seven
of ten musicians are Willow Warblers, but also Bramblings, Redwings, Pied
Flycatchers and Redpolls were common, augmented in the spruce by
Greenfinches also here. Fewer Dunnocks and tits; they are probably feeding
young already. A cooing Wood pigeon was unexpected, a newcomer this far
north, and the "never-ending" song of the Garden Warbler showed that this
indeed is a rich forest (The day before I had been surprised to hear the
rich tones of a Blackcap in my local patch, an uncommon event this far
north). Cuckoos were calling on the hill-sides, the bubbling chorus of the
Black grouse could be heard from higher up, and a "running mouse" in the
ditch along the path resolved itself into a Reed Warbler female, giving a
beautiful demonstration of why this evasive behaviour near the nest has
been called the "rodent run".
                In the marshes nearby Redshanks, Greenshanks and Wood 
Sandpipers were
displaying, while on the muddy shores of the inlet tens of Shelducks were
feeding (I know there are mudsnails Hydrobia ulvae, one of their favourite
foods, galore here), together with many gulls and terns, Oystercatchers and
Curlews and a few Teal.
                The place where the egret had been seen last was the Nedrevatn 
Skibotn, only 40 km from the Finnish border. It is a very different
setting: a shallow eutrophous tarn in a setting of pine forest, and
occupied by a largish colony of Black-headed Gulls (not all that common
hereabouts), with many pairs of Horned grebe taking advantage of the
protection the gulls afford against predators. There are also lots of ducks
around, partly for the same reason I guess; this time I saw Wigeons,
Pintails, Tufted Ducks,and even a pair of Long-tailed Ducks (Oldsquaws).
Greenshanks and Redshanks were displaying also here, but no egret! Nor did
I see the pair of Whooper Swans that habitually nests here.
                Three days earlier, however, on a short afternoon visit to a 
wetland with a Belgian EBN-er visiting Tromsø, we found the local swans
well ensconced, with i.a. the first Wheatears of the year in place too.The
bogs are always late to flower, but the Bog andromeda Andromeda polifolia
was everywhere in bud, and today will probably flower---24 hrs of sunlight
makes things grow very quickly here in summer.

                As there has been some discussion on the number of bird species 
one can
expect to see on a normal excursion day, I add for once the list of birds
seen on yesterday, with the results of the two short trips in the weekend
added. Unexpectedly, compared with e.g. the daylists of Mary Beth Stowe´s
odyssey across the states, these results are in fact quite comparable; I
had expected US daylists to be much higher.

Birds seen around Tromsø 12-16 June 1998 (12 June rakkfjord, 14 June
Tisnes, in pouring rain), 16 June Ullsfjord, Skibotn)
Red-throated Diver              Gavia stellata
Black-throated diver            G. arctica
White-billed Diver              G. adamsii (One flying over, no doubt the last
                                                of this year)
Horned grebe                    Podiceps auritus
Cormorant                       Phalacrocorax c. carbo
Grey heron                      Ardea cinerea
Whooper Swan                    Cygnus cygnus
Shelduck                        Tadorna tadorna
European Wigeon         Anas penelope
Teal                            A. c. crecca
Mallard                 A. platyrhynchos
Pintail                 A. acuta
Tufted Duck                     Aythya fuligula
Eider                           Somateria mollissima
Long-tailed Duck                Clangula hyemalis
Common Scoter                   Melanitta nigra
Goldeneye                       Bucephala clangula
Red-breasted Merganser  Mergus serrator
Common Merganser                M. merganser
Merlin                          Falco columbarius
Willow Grouse                   Lagopus lagopus
Black Grouse                    Tetrao tetrix
Oystercatcher                   Haematopus ostralegus
Ringed Plover                   Charadrius hiaticula
Golden Plover                   Pluvialis apricaria
Lapwing                 Vanellus vanellus
Ruff                            Philomachus pugnax
Snipe                           Gallinago gallinago
Woodcock                        Scolopax rusticola
Whimbrel                        Numenius phaeopus
Curlew                          N. arquata
Redshank                        Tringa totanus
Greenshank                      T. nebularia
Wood Sandpiper          T. glareolus
Common Sandpiper                Actitis hypoleucos
Parasitic Jaeger                Stercorarius parasiticus
Black-headed Gull               Larus ridibundus
Common Gull                     L. canus
Herring Gull                    L. argentatus
Great Black-backed Gull L. marinus
Arctic Tern                     Sterna paradisaea
Razorbill                       Alca torda
Wood Pigeon                     Columba palumbus
Cuckoo                          Cuculus canorus
Bank Swallow (Sand Martin)      Riparia riparia
Tree pipit                      Anthus trivialis
Meadow pipit                    A. pratensis
White Wagtail                   Motacilla alba
Dunnock                 Prunella modularis
Bluethroat                      Luscinia svecica
Wheatear                        Oenanthe oenanthe
Ring Ouzel                      Turdus torquatus
Fieldfare                       T. pilaris
Redwing                 T. iliacus
Sedge Warbler                   Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Garden Warbler          Sylvia borin
Blackcap                        S. atricapilla
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
House Sparrow                   Passer domesticus
Brambling                       Fringilla montifringilla
Greenfinch                      Chloris chloris
Redpoll                 Carduelis flammea
Bullfinch                       Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Reed Bunting                    Emberiza schoeniclus

A total of 73 species, 60 of which I saw on the trip yesterday. On a trip
to the coast this would have been augmented by species as various auks,
Shag, Rock Pipit, Twite and probably White-tailed eagle, in the mountains
with Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting, Dotterel and possibly Purple Sandpipers, and
in the inland with the like of Capercaillie, Siskins, Parrot Crossbills,
and possibly Hawk Owl and Three-toed Woodpecker. So this was definitely not
a trip where I tried to maximize the numbers of species seen on one day; I
guess most day trips this time a year will yield 60-70 species of birds, a
few more if you are eager and sharp-eyed (My interest in botany makes that
I rarely notice flying raptors, for instance).

How does this compare with other areas? I remember that in Holland daylists
used to be 10-20 higher, but around Sydney it was often quite comparable
with Tromsø in summer, albeit it the year round.

Happy birding from a finally not only light, but also green Tromsø.

                                                Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                                9037 Tromsø, Norway

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