Looking for signs of spring

To: Birding-Aus <>, Birdchat <>, sabirdnet <>
Subject: Looking for signs of spring
From: Willem Jan Marinus Vader <>
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2018 14:50:04 +0000
Mid April, but few signs of spring as yet in Tromsø

We have c. 1 m of snow on the ground in Tromsø now, but the last few days there 
has been a change in the weather, and now we still have night frost, but during 
the days the temperature 'soars' all the way up to 4-5*C. Also, the days are 
getting longer fast now, and the sun does not set before around 9 pm, so that , 
especially close to the sounds there is a considerable snow melt already and 
here and there small areas of brownish grass peek up; no Coltsfoot as yet seen, 

Still no returning migrants heard in Folkeparken, the area between my house and 
the museum; the only songsters there are the irrepressible Greenfinches and the 
Great Tits and they have been here all winter. But, as I mentioned before, the 
Herring Gulls feel the spring coming and their melodious long call is heard 
more and more often; some pairs will nest on houses also in my neighbourhood, 
although most town gulls prefer the taller flat-roofed buildings in the town 
center. The last week I have also regularly seen Grey Herons fly in over the 
island, and i suspect they also have started visiting their nest trees.

Yesterday I walked around the south end of our island of Tromsøya, mostly in 
the vain hope of finding the first Snow Buntings of the year---they will fly on 
soon to East Greenland and arctic Canada. Now there were some 10 Common Gulls 
(very well named here, as they are really very common indeed all over the town) 
on the shore and also the first pair of Oystercatchers, while hundreds of 
Eiders are feeding in a tight flock on the sound. Four Long-tailed Ducks were 
the first this year; this species used to be common here in winter, but has 
decreased a lot. The path was slippery and icy (melt during the day, frost at 
night), so I  was glad I had my 'brodder' under my shoes still.

But today I planned the longish walk (6 km) to the airport, and as this is most 
of the time low along the shore, and on a foot-and bicycle-path along a main 
road, I ventured out for the first time in months without the brodder (a clear 
sign of spring) and that went quite well; the main problem were the large 
puddles of melt water here and there. The road paralells the sound all the way 
and there was a clear difference from yesterday: both Common Gulls and 
Oystercatchers were back in force today. The gulls were mostly still in 
sizeable flocks, but the oystercatchers were already paired off and occupied 
their territories---this is a very common bird here along the stony shores. No 
Snow Buntings here either, though, and no other returned shorebirds. I did see 
a Purple Sandpiper near the airport, but that is the only shorebird that 
winters here in any numbers.

A final sign of coming spring  probably were the pair of Magpies flying with 
sticks. Although they always remind me of the letter from a colleague in 
Newfoundland many years ago, who wrote: "The magpies fly with sticks, 
mistakenly thinking it will be spring soon. They are fools!!"

Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway
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