sign of life from 70*N

To: "" <>, "" <>, "" <>
Subject: sign of life from 70*N
From: Vader Willem Jan Marinus <>
Date: Sun, 14 Aug 2016 16:14:13 +0000


I am still alive and living in Tromsø, even though I have fallen silent on the 
bird lists.

Yesterday morning my lawn in Tromsø, N.Norway (69*50'N) was suddenly full of 
birds, where there usually is nothing more than the usual magpies and hooded 
crows, and our 'house gulls', the Common Gull. But now, when I looked out (I 
have the basement apartment) the lawn was full of thrushes, most of them 
Fieldfares, but with also quite a number of Redwings among them, mostly keeping 
to less open places. There were also a couple of White Wagtails, a few 
Redpolls, and in the trees young Willow Warblers. All this is preparatory to 
the autumn migration; many birds are leaving their territories and flocking 

Summer 2016 here in Tromsø has not been (as we say here) 'to shout Hurrah for': 
too many days and weeks with grey, wet weather and temperatures around 10-12 
*C. But today, although not much warmer, we had a sunny quiet day and I decided 
to go and check some of my usual haunts, mostly to look for shorebirds, usually 
the first birds migrating through here. It is late summer here; most of our 
luxuriant forbs have almost stopped flowering, only the Fireweed Chamaenerion 
colours some large patches vividly violet, while today I also found a very rich 
stand of the beautiful late-summer flowers of Felwort Gentianella. The very 
common and enormous 'Tromsø palms' Heracleum are already yellowing, another 
sign of the end of summer.

I started out at the Langnes area near the airport, about which I have written 
several times before (I feel I have written several times before about almost 
every area here, main reason I stopped writing). It is  a small low peninsula 
between a main road and the sea, where many people walk their dogs, and park 
their cars when they fly (to avoid parking fees; I counted some 40 parked cars 
in the area today)); there are willow copses, large areas covered with tall 
forbs, and extensive tidal areas. A skerry just offshore (you can walk there 
when the water is low enough, we have a 3.5m tidal amplitude) is always used by 
Cormorants, except in the nesting season, when they move elsewhere; today there 
were already 5 cormorants there, another sign of the near end of summer. There 
is a sandy beach, where always Ringed Plovers breed, and where in summer you 
have to be very careful not to be hit by angry Arctic Terns. Now the plovers 
were still alarming, but the young could fly; also a few young terns flew 
around, and the parents still attacked me half-heartedly; but most of the 
ternshere  had gone, and I found a large flock elsewhere. The sandy beach and 
stony mudflat before it also held quite large groups of sandpipers, today 
mostly Purple Sandpipers, but also Dunlins, Turnstones and as a surprise a 
single Red Knot. In addition a snall flock of 6 Lapwings flew up and away when 
I arrived; this is a species that nests here, but decreases alarmingly in the 
area; several territories where I always found the birds earlier are now no 
longer in use. There were also a few Golden Plovers, but I saw no Redshanks nor 
any other Tringa, and no Ruffs either, usually the most common shorebird on 
autumn migration here. Lots of wagtails and Meadow Pipits on the beach and this 
time also many young Northern Wheatears. As usual, several Eiders with young 
are present, and of course also Oystercatchers and various gulls.

The wetland of Tisnes, som 30 km from Tromsø on the island of Kvaløya, is 
another place I have written about many times. It is a peninsula of low-lying 
agricultural wetlands, now sadly for a quite large part taken over by a horse 
farm; the horses have trampled and largely destroyed a wonderful chalk meadow 
and its very diverse flower vegetation. Most of the fields have  now been mowed 
and most places the  glittering white 'tractor eggs' with hay still lie around 
in the fields (A lone whimbrel was foraging in one of these fields); elsewhere 
they have already been gathered and lie in neat rows near the barns. Very few 
shorebirds today at Tisnes: where I saw some 50 Ruffs a week ago, I now saw 
only a single one. Surprisingly, Barn Swallows were still criss-crossing the 
area in some numbers, just as last week; this is not at all a common bird so 
far North and one rarely sees tens together , as is the case here. (The nearby 
colony of Bank Swallows is deserted now). A few Golden Plovers, a single 
Lapwing and the unavoidable Oystercatchers were all I could find today. But 
there was something else: at least 100 Greylag Geese, with quite a number of 
youngsters, sat close together in one of the Fields; another species flocking 
preparatory to the autumn migration.

But as you can see; it is largely business as usual here at 70*N.

Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway

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