A sunflower feeder in the garden in Tromsø

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Subject: A sunflower feeder in the garden in Tromsø
From: Willem Jan Marinus Vader <>
Date: Tue, 7 Jul 2020 13:04:06 +0000
Short range birding in Tromsø; a sunflower seed feeder in the garden in Tromsø

These last weeks I have been much at home: the weather has largely been 'typical Tromsø summer', i.e. cool and damp, and there was still something wrong with my old car (Hopefully largely mended today), and also with my old body. Also, Tromsø Museum, where I still have a desk in the 'pensioners room' in the basement, has been closed (Coid-19) until a week ago. So I have had to stay much more at home than usually, but also this cloud had a narrow silver lining: I now could watch my sunflower tube feeder, quite close to my window, more regularly than earlier. I feed the bird practically year round (It may snow in every month of the year in Tromsø), but for the first 5 months of the year there were practically no takers at all. I filled 2. January and it was still half full in early June! The feeder is in a little somewhat crippled birch and there is also a maple tree  in the middle of the lawn. The house owners prefer a view (which is indeed great) to green, and they have removed a number of trees and bushes, which i.a. have prevented the Goldfinches, earlier regular visitors, to come and feed nowadays. So these first months all that came was the odd Great Tit, and more rarely the newcomer Blue Tit; these tits fly in, extract a sunflower seed and find a branch to hack  it up.
Then suddenly, somewhere in June, the colony of House Sparrows, that had spent the winter  'three houses down the road', where they were also regularly fed and where they have great cover, discovered my feeder---I had not seen any all year previously. House Sparrows occur very patchily here in Tromsø, and they are usually extremely resident. But now up to 10 sparrows, males , females and recently fledged young, stayed in the garden for much of the day, and they knew everything about tube feeders. They largely disappeared again 3-4 days later, but still I  see the odd House Sparrow in the garden now and then.
 At about the same time, unfortunately, the local feral Rock Pigeons (northernmost in the world, as so much here at 70*N) also discovered the feeder, and they are here still, three weeks later. I wish they would not be here, but that does not help any. Most of the time they concentrate on the lawn below the feeder, where they always seem to find something at the surface, but one, or maybe a few, of them also try to feed directly from the hanging feeder. This is hard to do for them, and needs so much wing flapping, that I wonder whether it is worth their while energy wise. But it probably shakes loose seeds that fall on the ground. 
The other regular larger birds at the feeder is our resident pair of Magpies (Pica). They also feed below the feeder a lot, but they hack in the ground most of the time, probably finding earlier frozen seeds. One of the pair also flies up to the feeder and has learned to cling elegantly to it, while feeding, without any wing flapping. The local Hooded Crows come and look, when all is quiet, but they always stay on the ground.. Our 'house' Common Gulls are not interested at all. While the Fieldfares fly back and forth across the garden, usually with food for their youngsters in Folkeparken.
But, possibly in a reaction to the House Sparrows, also other seed eaters have now discovered the feeder, and I need to refill almost every other day. The most common are, as always, the Greenfinches, a species that did not occur here at all when I first came to Tromsø in 1973, but which is now probably our most numerous winter bird in town. They flock in winter, and are maybe in family groups now in summer; they come seldom alone, and there are both nicely green adults and much more greyish youngsters They are a bit of a bully at the feeder, in that they stay and sit there for long periods 'until they get hungry again', thus preventing others from feeding. This has no worked very well this summer, as this time I also get a lot of Bramblings, the males already slowly losing their beautiful black caps, and these are just a tad bigger and not afraid of the Greenfinches. But they don't usually stay very long---and also fed quite a bit on the ground (All of these seedeaters do; the Greenfinches snip the seeds of the Dandelions)--; curiously, the Bramblings seem to need to flap their wings when feeding from the short side-sticks of the feeder, the only one of these seed eaters to do so. The Greenfinches don't have this problem, nor have the Chaffinches---also becoming more common in later years, but still less numerous than the Bramblings. A single Siskin, a splendid male, turned up one day, but I haven's seen any Twites this year---they now and then turn up on migration, but do nest closer to the coast. Very pleasant and regular customers this summer are the cozy Redpolls; they are much smaller than the other species, but are very good at sneaking in and taking a seed.
I hope this is still acceptable for the lists and not 'too short range'. 
Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway  
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