[Birding-Aus] Spring was late this year in Tromsø, N. norway

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Subject: [Birding-Aus] Spring was late this year in Tromsø, N. norway
From: Willem Jan Marinus Vader <>
Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:47:20 +0000

                      When I returned from a wonderful birding trip to Central 
Asia 5. June, Tromsø had had an unusually cold May, even for here, and the 
returning migrants were all a few weeks later than usual.  The birches, the 
dominant trees here, were largely bare still when I returned and the 
temperature was 5*C. But the next day a wonderful period of what we call 
'Russian weather' started: SE winds, clear skies and temperatures some days 
exceeding 20*C---that may not seem all that warm to you, but in such 
circumstances there is no better place to be in the world--remember we have sun 
24 hrs per day this month. This bonanza has lasted a whole week but will now of 
course soon end; the relevant Norwegian expression is : How long was Adam in 
Paradise? Still, this week has done wonders: the birches are now fully green, 
lots of spring flowers have appeared (among them my great favorites, the yellow 
violets of Viola biflora), and--as the summer moves very fast here--, I have 
already seen the first summer flowers, Trientalis and Cornus suecica.

                             Three days ago I got my car going again; it had 
stood hidden under a load of snow all winter, and that always ends up with a 
flat battery. On Saturday I led a walk around the city lake Prestvannet, part 
of the international week, and among the 30 or so participants there were at 
least 10 nationalities, from Iceland to Zambia. On Sunday I drove my annual 
tour 'round the Balsfjord', the large fjord that stretches some 100 km inland 
and south from Tromsø, and this Monday afternoon I visited the classical marshy 
areas  at Rakfjord on Kvaløya, the island between us and the open sea. I have 
written about all these areas many times before; I am 80 now and my hearing is 
deteriorating fast, and no doubt I see and hear less than earlier, main reason 
for discontinuing my regular stories from the high north. But I decided this 
time to let you know what birds one can expect on such excursions around the  
town---I have this time not been up in the hills---full of snow still-- nor on 
the outer coast or in the forests of the inland.

                              Prestvannet, where the excursion was on Saturday 
is a small and shallow lake, partly artificial (dammed up some 200 years ago by 
monks, hence the name). It is almost in town, and many families come in the 
weekends 'to feed the ducks' (mainly Mallards, but also Tufted Ducks); in 
practice they have to work hard to avoid mainly feeding the Common Gulls , of 
which there is a large colony on marshland around the lake. There is also a 
smaller colony of terns, largely Arctic Terns, but also some Common. The main 
glory of the lake is the surprisingly large number of Red-throated Loons (or 
Divers), that nest on the mud islands in the lake and that have become quite 
accustomed to all the people; numbers have built up slowly and now we have as 
many as 10 pairs.

                            The drive 'around the Balsfjord' is some 250 km, so 
a long drive, but the landscape is wonderfully beautiful almost everywhere 
here, with the white mountains mirroring in the deep Balsfjord, and all the 
small rivers almost overfull of melt water in this warm weather and very 
lively. I start out with a walk along the secondary road through a woodland; 
there is not a very loud bird concert there this day, but gradually I hear all 
the usual suspects (those that are near and loud enough): Our most numerous 
bird, the Willow Warbler is co-dominant with the Redwing thrush, and also the 
other two of the 'big 4' are present, the Brambling and the loud and scratchy 
Fieldfares. Chaffinches and Chiffchaffs are relative newcomers from the south, 
Pied Flycatchers occupy nestboxes near the summer cabins, and the Ravens of the 
 steep mountainside keep on a constant conversation. But I hear also a very 
different yodeling sound from the fjord below: a very late Yellow-billed Loon 
(White-billed Diver), a species that winters here but breeds in Siberia.

                          My second walk is in a more open area, and I always 
park at the same farm, one of the few where every year a few Barn Swallows 
nest. To my astonishment this time they are accompanied by several pairs of 
House Martins, the very first time that I  have found this species on houses in 
Troms. Otherwise, more usual suspects slowly make the day list grow, although 
as always a few birds fail to show up: no tits here today, no Bullfinch and no 
Woodpigeon, another newcomer. But in the tree where I once saw a Sea Eagle and 
where I since then always look in vain every time, today an eagle sat in 
exactly the same spot again. Large flocks of Velvet Scoters in the fjord still, 
but only a single pair of Long-tailed Ducks, and 4 Goosanders

                   Another fixed point on this round trip is the lake 
Sagelvvatn near 'the bottom of the fjord'. Amazingly, one fifth of the lake is 
still ice-covered, and at the usual nesting place of the Slavonian (Horned) 
Grebes there is as yet no possibility to build a nest; the grebes are probably 
still on the fjord. There are several pairs of Goldeneyes and one pair of 
Common Scoters on the lake, as well as a single Black-throated Loon(Diver)

                     The coastal wetland of Tisnes is always worth visiting, 
even now after all the Red Knots have moved on. There used to be a good lek of 
Ruffs here, but there are fewer returning every year, and this time I saw only 
one. Here are also always Redshanks, various ducks, and Golden Plovers awaiting 
the disappearance of the snow from their hilly nesting places; and quite often, 
and also this time, a Short-eared Owl is hunting the area.

                             Today the wind had veered more easterly and the 
temperature had dropped to some 16*, and there was also more wind; still sun 24 
hrs and blue skies, though. So after some hours at the museum with my 
amphipods, I drove the 35 km to the Rakfjord marshes, a quite different 
environment: the rocks here are acid and hard and the area is always much later 
than the chalk-rich places in and south of Troms. The marshes still look quite 
bleak and in the heathland on the drier areas the only flowers as yet are those 
of the cloudberries Rubus chamaemorus, that later will yield the priceless 
berries. There was not all that much activity here  today, but there was some 
display by the dominant large birds here, the Whimbrels, and I saw also a 
single Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger), another species that seems to be 
steadily in decrease here. Meadow Pipits galore here, and as soon as there are 
some willow bushes, Willow Warblers sing, and Willow Grouse rumour. In a larger 
willow copse I thought I heard a Blue throat, but try as I did, I never saw 
that bird. However, first I discovered a Sedge Warbler, then a Reed Bunting, 
and in the end the great prize of these days, a Little Bunting, only the third 
time I have seen this Siberian species in Norway. The Whooper Swans had 
returned to their nesting lake, and that same lake this time also held a pair 
of Black-throated Loons (Divers).

I'll list the birds I saw during these three excursions, so you can get an idea 
what to expect during a visit to Tromsø this time a year.

Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, White-billed Diver, Great Cormorant, 
Grey Heron, Whooper Swan, greylag Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, 
Tufted Duck, Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, 
Common Goldeneye, red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser,  White.-tailed Sea 
Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Willow Grouse, Oyestercatcher, Ringed Plover, 
Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Arctic 
Skua, Black-headed Gulkl, Commn Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, 
Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Common Cuckoo,  Short-eared Owl, Barn Swallow, House 
Martin, Sand Martin (Bank Swallow), White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare, 
Redwing, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Pied Flycatcher, Great Tit, 
Magpie, Hooded Crow, Northern Raven, Common Starling (just 1), House Sparrow 
(at the petrol station), Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch, Common Redpoll, 
Little Bunting (great surprise!) and Reed Bunting.

Birds usually present but missed this time are Commn Teal, Shelduck, Northern 
Wheatear and Willow Tit. Also Blue Tit and Common Jay are slowly establishing 
themselves in our area. And the coast has various auks, Rock Pipits and often 

More than you wanted to read probably. All the best.

Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway

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