birding-aus from your antipodes

Subject: birding-aus from your antipodes
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 12:54:41 +0200


This morning, walking through the Folkeparken remnant birch wood, I heard
the first Redwing of this spring sing its ascending wirri wirri wirri,
showing that it is a local bird (Redwings are dialect singers, with
considerable differences in song pattern between even closeby sreas). More
and more brown ground and last year's ferns are visible every day, but the
path itself is still completely covered with snow trampled almost into ice,
and there are no signs of new growth anywhere here. But a Willow Tit sang
also this morning, and it won't be long before new voices are heard in the
morning chorus, besides the Great Tits and Greenfinches.

Last week was mostly quite chilly, with pouring rain one day, but otherwise
nice calm weather , with night frost and long days of sunshine. So on
Saturday I ventured out on the traditional ca 270 km long loop "around the
Balsfjord", the Balsfjord being the long fjord running south from Tromsø
for about 100 km inland. It started out as a calm day, one of these days
that the fjord surface is only just sufficiently ruffled for the mirror
images of the surrounding white snowy hills to dissolve into some kind of
supermarket stripe-code, you must have noticed that phenomenon. Later the
wind steadily increased, and in the innermost basin of the Balsfjord white
horses (well, white ponies maybe rather)  made it difficult to find the
flocks of ducks (I am old-fashioned, and have no scope, always only use my
10x Swarovski).
                I planned "to do a Mary Beth Stowe" and write up the birds I 
saw in the
order I found them, but that is not really my way, so I abandoned the idea
soon. (But the list at the end of this snapshot still is in the order in
which I first saw the birds.). The first part is mostly "transport", and as
I did not take the detour along the old road at Berg, I lost King Eiders
and Oldsquaws from my day list.
                The Ramfjord was iced over still, with the ice-fishermen 
already present,
but the banks increasingly free of snow. A young White-tailed Sea Eagle
sailed majestically (but not very elegantly) along the hillside, and the
Black Grouse could be heard burbling up in the hills.
                At the Andersdalen river mouth the delta upstreams from the 
bridge was
completely glazed over with fresh ice, but in the fjord off the bridge a
summer-plumaged Yellow-billed Loon swam, with its head jauntily tilted
upwards and its bill (Ivory rather than yellow) gleaming in the sun.
                The alder forest walk still was silent, although the alders now
definitely are budding. The next walk at Stornes, however,gave a wonderful
surprise, as soon as I arrived at this large, now completely snow-free
meadow on a promontory into the fjord. A mixed flock of thrushes,
apparently just arrived (They usually unmix quite quickly after arrival)
dotted the meadow, with maybe 60% Fieldfares and 40% the smaller and
daintier Redwings. Every year this is one of the highlights of early
spring, and this time I could watch the birds in beautiful sunlight, and at
a short distance. This was the only flock I saw all day (apart from a
single Redwing later on), but that will change soon enough.
                The Wood Pigeons of last week had moved on, but the Blue Tits 
were still
there; I heard the first one by its what the dutch call "silver laughter"
(het zilveren lachje); great to hear that sound now also in Tromsø! Another
southern bird here was a male Chaffinch, completing a nice suite of
finches: Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Redpoll, and Twite, but no Bramblings as yet.
                The Starlings were looking wonderful in their oily spring 
finery with
green highlights, and were indulging in their irrepressible potpourri of
chuckles, creaks , drawn-out whistles, and mimicry. I know you all detest
Starlings, but that should not close your eyes for the many interesting
treats of their behaviour, nor for their beauty. (Probably more easy to
admire in 10 Starlings than in 1000!).
                The Lapwings were stunt-flying for full, and the Curlews also 
showed off
their display flight and their musical prowess, but there still were no
other shorebirds as yet, and we are getting impatient for them.
                As every year, I include the loop around lake Sagvatn too early 
in the
year. Here winter reigns almost supreme still, the ice-fishermen (here
after trout and char) leave their chairs out on the ice, and there is
virtually no open water at all. Nor did I see the Dippers, that afforded so
much pleasure last spring at the little bridge, where the river runs out of
this shallow, productive lake; the only birds here now were three pairs of

                The innermost part of the Balsfjord is famous for its 
waterbirds in early
spring, when many birds wait here until the freshwater lakes become
ice-free. But the wind made it hard to see well, and I had to be content
with the two drakes Common Merganser and some flocks of White-winged
Scoters, clearly with spring on their minds and much sedate than usually.
On a sand spit a pair of Shelducks kept company with many Wigeons, a few
Green-winged Teals and a drake Shoveler, but I did not see any grebes as yet.

                The next fjord south, Malangen (There is no road all the way 
along the
west shore of Balsfjord, so one has to cross over to Malangen and back
again to Balsfjord further north), yielded Greylag Geese as usual, but not
much else. Back along the Balsfjord I finally came across the Snow
Buntings, that I had missed all day---it looked like they all had
concentrated in one large flock of 500-1000 birds, swirling along over the
fields, and then miraculously all landing in a row of willows! Snow
Buntings are definitely not tree-loving birds, so this was a very strange
sight indeed.
                 I soon discovered a small raptor on the scene, but to my big 
this was not the expected merlin, the common small falcon here, but a
Kestrel! The bird, a large female (Our European kestrel is much larger than
either the American or the Australian) varied between hovering above the
trees lading with Snow Buntings, and direct attacks in the merlin manner;
but as far as I could see, he never got a bunting.

                On the way to the ferry I screeched to a halt (Well no, that 
does not
describe my driving style well: let us say I suddenly stopped), when I
glimpsed a small shorebird poking along in the drift-wrack. And sure
enough, the first Ringed plover of the year! But neither here nor at the
wetlands in Tisnes (where people disturbed the birds a lot, so I may have
missed things) I found any Ruff, Redshank, Turnstone, Dunlin, Golden Plover
or Whimbrel. Nor was the Saxifraga in flower as yet. The march towards
spring may be inexorable, it sometimes is painfully slow!

Birds observed while driving around Balsfjord 1 May 1999, "in order of

Hooded Crow                     Corvus corone cornix
Magpie                          Pica pica
Common gull                     Larus canus
Common Eider                    Somateria mollissima
Mallard                 Anas platyrhynchos
Herring Gull                    Larus argentatus
Great Black-backed Gull L. marinus
Raven                           Corvus corax
Glaucous Gull                   L. glaucoides (1 adult)
White-tailed Sea Eagle  Haliaaetus albicilla (1 imm.)
Oystercatcher                   Haematopus ostralegus
Curlew                          Numenius arquata
Black Grouse                    Tetrao tetrix
Yellow-billed Loon              Gavia adamsii (1)
Cormorant                       Phalacrocorax c. carbo
Great Tit                       Parus major
Northern Lapwing                Vanellus vanellus
Starling                        Sturnus vulgaris
*Fieldfare                      Turdus pilaris
*Redwing                        T.  iliacus
White Wagtail                   Motacilla alba
Greenfinch                      Chloris chloris
Bullfinch                       Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Willow Tit                      Parus montanus
Blue Tit                        P.  caeruleus
Red-throated Merganser  Mergus serrator
*Chaffinch                      Fringilla coelebs
Twite                           Acanthis flavirostris
Dunnock                 Prunella modularis
White-winged Scoter             Melanitta fusca
Redpoll                 Acanthis flammea
* Common Merganser              Mergus merganser
European Wigeon         Anas penelope
Common Scoter                   Melanitta nigra
Shelduck                        Tadorna tadorna
Green-winged Teal               Anas crecca
*Shoveler                       A. clypeata
Snow Bunting                    Plectrophenax nivalis
*Eur. Kestrel                   Falco tinnunculus
Greylag Goose                   Anser anser
*Ringed Plover          Charadrius hiaticula
House Sparrow                   Passer domesticus

                                Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                9037 Tromsø, Norway

To unsubscribe from this list, please send a message to

Include ONLY "unsubscribe birding-aus" in the message body (without the

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU