A Blackbird in the garden

To: Birding-Aus <>, "Birdchat " <>, sabirdnet <>
Subject: A Blackbird in the garden
From: Willem Jan Marinus Vader <>
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2018 09:56:12 +0000
A blackbird in the garden; global warming?

In Tromsø, N. Norway (c 70*N) we have been very lucky with the weather these 
last weeks. While S. Norway groans under a series of winter storms and a 
surfeit of snow, we up here have enjoyed weeks of clear winter weather (now 
-11*C), without the now all too usual interruptions with  western depressions 
with rain and icy roads. We also had a bumper crop of rowanberries (Sorbus, 
Mountain Ash) in 2017, and this has caused our most common thrush, the 
Fieldfare to delay their autumn migration and feast on the berries, together 
with our usual winter berry-eaters, the Bohemian Waxwings and Pine Grosbeaks; 
even a few Redwings have remained until January. Now the berries are nearly 
finished at last and most of the Fieldfares are gone; I saw a late one 
yesterday, the first in 10 days or so. There are still some waxwings around, 

But today a male Blackbird (a black thrush, nothing to do with  your American 
blackbirds!) stayed for a long time in my garden and fed on the sunflower seeds 
that had fallen down from my tube feeder, not very common blackbird fare, I 
should think. I have seen this bird several times already since my first 
observation on New Year's day and it is no doubt trying to winter.

That is a new development, something from the last years. European Blackbirds 
started out as shy denizens of the forests, but very many places in Europe they 
are now among the most numerous garden birds, and in spite of a somewhat 
quarrelsome disposition, much beloved because of their wonderful song. When I 
moved from Bergen--where blackbirds are common-- to Tromsø in 1973, I sadly 
lost my blackbirds for many years. But the last ten years or so I again have 
heard the song now and then, interestingly enough again in the forest, and the 
birds themselves were shy and hard to see. And now in the last winters 
observations of blackbirds, always adult males, in winter in town are getting 
more and more regular. But they have not yet become a garden bird here; that 
may be the next step.

The gradual penetration northwards of birds with a more southerly distribution 
has been most interesting to follow in the 45 years that I have lived in 
Tromsø. When I first arrived here in 1973, there were no Greenfinches as yet, 
while now it is probably the most common garden bird here in winter; here 
different other factors may have played a role; many more people feed the birds 
in winter than before, and there is also more greenery in the gardens, offering 
nesting possibilities.

But since then we have had a stream of 'southern' birds succeeding in 
establishing themselves here. The Chiffchaff arrived in the seventies and is 
now common, there are more and more Chaffinches among our native Bramblings, 
and in the last decade Blue Tits have become quite regular garden birds here, 
while also the Jay has been noted here several times and will probaby establish 
itself soon.  All this most probably is mainly a result of the gradual warming 
trend; in addition the spring migrants arrive almost 2 weeks earlier than 30 
years ago, as shown by my colleague Rob Barrett.

We are also losing some birds: there are no longer Lapwings or Song Larks at 
the airport, and the numbers of lekking Ruffs are decreasing steadily from year 
to year. But here the causes are much less clearcut. The growth of the town 
(from 40 000 in 1970 to 75 000 now)  has of course  had a negative 
influence---I no longer hear Bluethroats singing in town, even though they are 
still common enough in the surroundings

Just some thoughts, on seeing a blackbird in the garden.

Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway
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