birding-aus From your antipodes

Subject: birding-aus From your antipodes
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Mon, 07 Jun 1999 12:50:01 +0200


Spring has sprung in the three weeks since I last reported from my home
area, at ca 70°N in northern Norway. The birches are green, although only
barely so at higher elevations, and the ground vegetation is "flying out of
the ground", as the most descriptive Dutch idiom has it (Het vliegt de
grond uit). The Midnight Sun helps a lot; the plants can photosynthesize
all day long, and therefore growth is much quicker here than further south,
even though temperatures have not yet been really warm (The 15°C of
yesterday was by far the warmest hitherto).
                The Tromsø palms, the giant hogwood that is so characteristic 
of this
town, has grown to 2-3 ft high in the few weeks since it started to appear,
and in my forest, Folkeparken, the ground is now completely green with the
serried ranks of pagodes of the horsetails (mostly Equisetum ramosissimum),
the elegant bishop staves of the unfurling fern fronds, the lush salad-like
leaves of the Blue Sow-thistle Cicerbita alpina (edible, too), and the
bottom-covering clones of the Wood Anemone Anemone nemoralis, that
technically has been flowering for a while already, but that hid its
flowers during the colder spell. The same was true for the older white
spring flower here, the Wood-Sorrel.

        But even in the forest this was still mostly a yellow day, as it was
everywhere else. The Coltsfeet may have had their heighday, but the Marsh
Marigolds steal the show here, as in most humid areas. On the road verges
the cozy Two-flower Violets Viola biflora twinkle everywhere now, and also
the Dandelions (Also in Norwegian called løvetann=lion's tooth, just like
your dent-de-lion, that got abraded to dandelion) are starting up. Along
the ditches the buttercups are opening, and in the fields the first Globe
Flowers Trollius europaeus show up their "egg-yolks on stalks".
        Even on the dry chalk-meadows at Tisnes yellow predominates, here with 
Alpine Cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii covering large areas; several species
of violets are to be found here, too, however, while the Purple Saxifrage
already has disappeared.

        Also bird-life has changed in these three weeks, and although my usual
Balsfjord-round once more yielded between 55 and 60 species, they were
partly different species. The wintering northern birds have left, there are
no longer large concentrations of ducks and grebes on Balsfjorden, since
much freshwater is now ice-free, and the earlier song birds have already
young to care for, and have stopped singing for a while (This must have
been the first time I drove around Balsfjord without noting a single tit,
and also the Dunnock eluded me; I bird pretty much by listening more than
watching.) Pied Flycatchers sing everywhere in the gardens and have taken
over many of the nest boxes from the tits, ofte after pitched battles. The
Willow Warbler dominates the bird chorus everywhere with its sweet and
melancholy falling cadenza, while visually Common Gulls and Fieldfares are
most conspicuous. Wood Pigeons appear now definitely to have occupied this
area; I heard several.

        And then there were the swallows (not yellow swallows, no): although all
three species of norther European swallows occur in N.Norway, only the Sand
Martin (Bank Swallow) is at all common. This sunny Sunday I found nesting
Barn Swallows in three barns, plus a small flock sitting on the road in
Malangen, probably collecting mud. Sand Martins were everywhere over the
Tisnes wetlands (and I had seen a few earlier during the day), and I came
across a quite tight flock of 30-40 House martins hunting over the shallow
fjord in the inner part of Balsfjord! So so absolutely Swallow day, as well
as yellow day; I can't remember when last I saw all three species on a
single day!

        On Sagvatnet the ice has now all gone, and the water birds were
correspondingly hard to find; many nest in the Delta where access is
prohibited. Common sandpipers whistled on most shores, and also Redshanks
and  singles of Wood sandpiper and Greenshank were present, but I never saw
a single Horned Grebe, so common here earlier when the ice is breaking up.
A Common Tern hunting over the lake was a bonus; this should rather be
called the Uncommon tern up here, where 99 of 100 are Arctic terns.
        Two coppery Bar-tailed Godwits on the mudflats near Storsteinnes were in
fact the only new year-birds of the day, definitely less than I had
expected. Well, I also saw a Dipper from the car, but that is very
different from being able to watch a bird.

        A very pleasant observation, fitting well in this period of bathing
stories in Birdchat (To which I can add that I have once watched 15 Ruffs
and a Spotted Redshank bathing in an abandoned bath-tub near Tromsø!), was
of a group of 7  impeccably dressed male Teals sporting in a river mouth
just N. of Storsteinnes, presumably bathing, although the very active
chasing, diving and splashing more looked like a rambunctious game of tag.
Afterwards they used a lot of time "shining up" their feathers again, and
this confirmed what I had suspected all along: one of the seven was an
American Green-winged Teal, already the second time I have watched this
Nearctic bird in N.Norway.

        I finished up, as usual, at our favourite wetland of Tisnes, but here
there was less activity than normal, and I counted less than 10 Ruffs on
the display field, much less than last year, while also the Arctic tern
colony remained unoccupied, and the only ducks seen were Mallards and
Wigeon. Let us hope this was just a temporary setback!!

        All in all, spring has definitely sprung at 70°N, and in fact the 1000
different colours of green of early spring are already melting together to
the less exciting "normal summer green". Two weeks away, and I've missed
the best colours! Fortunately there is always a remedy: go into the hills,
and turn the season back a few weeks!

                                                Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                                9037 Tromsø, Norway

To unsubscribe from this list, please send a message to

Include ONLY "unsubscribe birding-aus" in the message body (without the

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU