Indian summer at 70*N

Subject: Indian summer at 70*N
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 12:39:52 +0200

                                INDIAN SUMMER AT TROMSØ, N.NORWAY (70*N)

'Finally summer', people tell each other on the street here, and although
an exaggeration, there is a grain of truth in that: after a generally wet
and cool summer we have had already ten days of calm, mild autumn weather,
many days also with sun, although often with morning mist and a few days
with drizzle persisting for most of the day.  Temperatures aduring midday
are from 13-18*C, hardly balmy by your standards, but uncommonly warm for
September; and still more uncommon, many nights the temperature does not
sink below ten degrees either. (Still, and somewhat unexpectedly, some of
the tall herbs have shriveled and browned, just as if night frost had
killed them. Clearly some other processes are at work too!)

While writing this, at 11 am on Monday, the sun has broken through and
shows mainly clear skies also today, but the morning mist still lies like a
white blanket obver the fjord--- it will disappear there too, soon, I
expect and uncover the  mirror-like surface of our broad fjord---a rarity
this time a year---, with  large strange patches of yellow covering quiet
bights and eddies. These are the spores of a Rust that has attacked our
birches massively this year and also interfered with the splendour of the
fall colours; fortunately the birches are not very seriously damaged in the
long term, apart from the smallest ones, and of those there are far too
many anyway.

So the birches, although in fall colours , are a bit on the brown side and
not glowing as wonderfully as most years; fortunately there are many other
trees and herbs contributing to this annual fall colour spectacle, so a
walk through suburbia or through the natural landscape all around is still
a balm for the soul (Also here the atrocious events in the US have made
deep scars, and enjoying nature is more important than ever). But one
should rather not be a fanatic twitcher, as birding this time a year tends
to be less diverse than in most other seasons, unless one has a sharp eye
for rarities such as Yellow-breasted Warblers Phylloscopus inornatus, of
which already 6 have been caught and banded around Tromsø this month.

Most flowers have gone now even from the roadsides, although some Yarrow
Achillea millefolium still persists here and there, and at the coast the
heather has faded, and even the gentians are closing up. The berry season
has been quite unequal (though the mild weather has been kind to the
mushrooms), but there seems to be a bumper crop of Rowanberries ( Mountain
Ash, Sorbus aucuparia) ripening, so we can hope for many thrushes all
autumn, and maybe invasions of Waxwings and perhaps Pine Grosbeaks. Not
yet, though, and as my Australian visitors last week rightly remarked, our
forests now are mostly silent, with even the tits and Greenfinches little
in evidence; and it has been a while since I heard Bullfinches. What one
sees and hears, are mostly Hooded Crows and Black-billed Magpies (Both
extremely common in town), and here and there the last White Wagtails,
Willow Warblers  and Bramblings, together with small flocks of Starlings in
the intertidal. A few Common Gulls are still present in the town centre,
begging with the feral pigeons and Hooded Crows, and on the quays Herring
Gulls hang around, while usually a few eiders are present too, and
Cormorants---rapidly increasing in numbers in autumn--festoon wracks and buoys.

In the fjords small flocks of Common Mergansers, in their somewhat dingy
eclipse plumage, hang around many places, but the wintering ducks have not
yet arrived, and most of the Mallards also persist in their freshwater
habitats---we have as yet hardly have had any night frosts at all! On the
coast the Greylag Geese still are on territory, and  loose flocks of Meadow
Pipits more or less 'drown' the few pairs of Rock Pipits. Most of the
shorebirds are gone, and a drive with the Aussies last week yielded no
Oystercatchers or redshanks at all, nor any terns, and only a single Ruff.

So these days the scenery has to take over for the birds, and fortunately
the country is almost at its best now, with sharp contours on even the most
remote mountains in the  clear autumn air. By the way, I think I have never
seen so little snow on the hills around as now; in late July there was
fresh snow on all the hill tops, but now even the most persistent snow
fields have yielded to these extraordinary weeks of Indian summer. And it
still goes on!!

                                                        Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                                        9037 Tromsø, Norway

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