Summer in Tromsø; to the coast

To: birding-aus <>, "Birdchat " <>
Subject: Summer in Tromsø; to the coast
From: Vader Willem Jan Marinus <>
Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2013 20:40:30 +0000
                            SUMMER IN TROMSØ; TO THE COAST

As you probably know, my town Tromsø lies on an island, Tromsøya (øy is the 
Norwegian word for island). This island, or rather the sounds on each side, 
form the sill of the Balsfjord, one of the many long and deep fjords in Norway. 
The Balsfjord is deep and salty, and never freezes over in winter. It is still 
quite some distance from the open sea, though, and between Tromsø and the open 
sea lies the large and mountainous island of Kvaløya (the whale island), it is 
about 50km by road from Tromsø to the coast. Also Kvaløya has its own small 
fjords, that almost dissect the island; for example. the distance from 
Eidkjosen on the inside to the Kaldfjord coming from the oiutside is less than 
2 km!

Today was nice and sunny, with temperatures up to 17-18*C in Tromsø, and I 
decided to use the opportunity to drive to the coast. I started out in town, 
though-- I had to fetch my hearing aid from repair,and then stopped at 
Prestvannet, the small lake on top of Tromsøya, which is famous for its 
Red-throated Loons. This year this smallish and shallow lake (the path around 
is exactly one English mile) housed no less than 10 nesting pairs of 
Red-throated Loons, many of them quite accustomed to people by now. Many of 
them had young on the water now, but there still were a lot of altercations, 
much wailing and what almost looked like display. There are not so many bird 
species on Prestvannet, but there are lots of birds! Besides the loons that 
mostly nest on small unstable mud islands, we have largish colonies of Common 
Gulls and Arctic Terns, now also all with young, and many pairs of Mallards and 
Tufted Ducks, their young are already almost full size, and the parents are in 
eclipse plumage. I walked around the lake, but there was not much else to see, 
even the usual Bank swallows (Sand Martins) were absent today.

Next stop was at the airport, which I have written about recently. This time it 
was low water. The vegetation was of course the same, although Goldenrods 
Solidago virgaurea and Hedge Bedstraw Galium mollugo now were more conspicuous, 
and the Meadowsweet already has seen its best days. MPipits---many fledged 
young--- everywhere, and when I went to the   willow tree of the Sedge Warbler, 
the bird burst out in full song. Still alarming Rredshanks, Oystercatchers , 
gulls and terns, but less frenetic already, the young can mostly fly by now. A 
pair of Ringed Plovers warned ( very genteelly) on the pebble shore, and for 
the first time this summer i heard the Tju-WEET of the Spotted Redshank, a bird 
that nests further north and east, but is common on migration. Several Grey 
Herons, and now three Cormorants on the skerry.

Close to the airport is the impressive bridge to Kvaløya, where all the cruise 
ships have to pass under. I look at the little bight, where there now and then 
are shorebirds, but there is nothing now, so I continue to the coast. From 
Eidkjosen the little jump to the Kaldfjord, and where this turns north, I turn 
west, over the long pass (c 200m a s.l.) to Kattfjorden. This pass, flanked by 
steep mountains, looks much more 'alpine' than one would think, as the tree 
line here north is only a bit above 200m. So here are low birches, and 
otherwise a lot of heath with dwarf birch Betula nana and marshy areas full of 
the white flags of cotton grass Eriophorum spp. Over a considerable distance 
most of the birch trees are broken and almost splintered; last winter there was 
an enormous avalanche here, more than 100m broad and burying a parked car 5m 
deep. The Kattfjord has a side-fjord, which we have to drive all the way 
around. Here there is a fishing village of typical fjord fishing boats, Sjøtun. 
A few km after this side fjord one drives through a few dangerous curves, and 
suddenly the landscape changes almost completely, from fjord to coast. At the 
next fishing village the road used to end, but a new tunnel now makes it 
possible to continue to Brensholmen and from there through a  typical coast 
landscape of bare rocks to the long and narrow bridge to the thriving sea 
fishing village of Sommarøy. There are a lot of sandy beaches here and also 
many campervans, but of course the water never gets warmer than 14*C, so a swim 
here is really refreshing.

A smaller bridge leads from Sommarøy to the outher island Hillesøy, and it is 
here that I planned to walk, on a quite level area of heath and marsh. The 
weather here is today sadly rather different, as so often before. Warm air over 
a cold sea leads to sea fog, which the wind then may blow inland (I lived a 
year in Bodega Bay, California, where this phenomenon also was very 
conspicuous). The vegetation here is heath, with crowberries Empetrum, heather 
Calluna (just starting to flower now), low Juniperus, and various other 
Ericaceae. Also here lots of Goldenrods Solidago, Yarrow and Harebells 
Campanula rotundifolia. And lots of juicy and ripe orange -yellow Cloudberries 
Rubus chamaemorus; they are delicious. Birds are hard to see in the fog, and I 
add only a few Curlews and at long last a Rock Pipit to my day list; in the 
village itself there were a few Twites, acting almost like sparrows. The first 
mushrooms are out, but the only ones I can identify (As they are good to eat) 
are the large Leccinum species, a bolete of which I do not know the English 
name. The Leucorchis orchids that I find every year here  are already in fruit, 
but the autumnal 'soft thistle' Saussurea is in full flower now. The fog 
prevents me from seeing the usual Black Guillemots and Shags of the outer coast.

On the way back, along the old 60 km long road along the fjord, I stop as usual 
at the Tisnes wetlands. 'The usual suspects'are there: Ruffs, Golden Plovers, 
Wigeons, Redshanks, but nothing special today, and especially no Ruddy Shelduck 

The whole trip is about 120km, I should think. Distances are quite large here.

                                                        Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum

Tromsø, Norway


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