First birds of the new year

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: First birds of the new year
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 17:36:10 +0100


Most subscribers to these lists know by now that I am based on Tromsø, a town 
situated at nearly 70*N in N.Norway. Tromsø is a wonderful place to live, but 
birding in midwinter here has its special challenges: there are few birds and 
they are not all that easy to see. Although winters here are not particularly 
severe, and like everywhere, are gradually becoming even less so, we still have 
snow cover most of the winter and all the freshwater is frozen solid. This 
Christmas we had basically nice winter weather, with only a few degrees of 
frost, some 10-12 inches of snow on the ground, and a somewhat chilly wind 
blowing from the inner parts of the large Balsfjord, which runs inland from 
Tromsø, and therefore locally known as 'Balsfjordvinden'. The streets and paths 
are icy and slippery, but the biggest problem is the absence of daylight: 
during our walk today at 2 pm twilight was rapidly deepening, and even so it is 
already considerable lighter than 10 days ago. We won't see the sun above the 
horizon again until the end of January.

New Year's eve is also here celebrated with a lot of fireworks, both privately 
(I heard that the 60 000 inhabitants of our town had bought for ca 1/2 million 
Euros of fireworks this december!) and a half-official fireworks from the top 
of one of the surrounding hills. Riet and I came home from our traditional 
participation in the late evening service in our parish church at about  00 45 
am, and shortly after we saw a small bird on the hanging feeder outside the 
living room window; just like last year the first bird of the year was a Willow 
Tit Parus montanus; apparently the forage also at night, in areas where 
artificial lighting makes the food sources easily accessible.

So far this story is not all that different from what all the others 
experience, I suppose. But the fact that a walk of c an hour in the middle of 
the day, through the Folkeparken---a birch forest with spruce plantations--, 
and along the shores of the sound surrounding the island of Tromsøya, on which 
our town is situated, only added four further birds, is probably less common!  
There were no birds at all to be seen or heard in the forest, apart from some 
flying Hooded Crows; even the usually also so common Magpies were not to be 
seen today. In the sound the shores were similarly empty of birds, but a single 
Great Black-backed Gull patrolled the area, while a few Cormorants 
Phalacrocorax carbo flew over.  Otherwise the water was strangely empty, and it 
even took a little time , before we located the tight group of diving and 
feeding Common Eiders, diving in a nicely synchronized manner.

And that was all; in the rapidly deepening twilight we found no other ducks or 
gulls, and I had no further viasitores to my hanging feeder either, wile I was 
looking. A yearlist of five species; much scope for growth!

A wonderful and birdy 2006 to all of you from the far north!

         Wim Vader
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