autumn to winter at 70*N

Subject: autumn to winter at 70*N
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Sat, 28 Oct 2000 15:48:11 +0200

                AUTUMN TO WINTER IN TROMSØ, N.NORWAY (69*50'N)

Still no snow on the ground on our island of Tromsøya, winter is late also
this year  (global warming?Tthis october will probably turn out to be the
mildest since observations started in 1816!). But clearly King Winter is
just around the corner: all the higher hills around our island are
white-powdered down to ca 300m, and on the island itself hoar-frost has
brought silvery lawns, and innumerable twinkling ice-crystals on sidewalk
and asphalt. The sun is also clearly getting lower down in the sky for
every day, and even at noon my shadow is now twenty feet tall.

Today is a calm, clear, partly cloudy day with little wind and temperatures
a bit below freezing at night and maybe just above during the day, and I
walked one of my customary rounds along the sound and through suburbia to
and around the shallow lake Prestvannet (just one mile around) on top of
the island. The island of Tromsøya has the shape of an oblong  Brazil nut,
with a none to sharp ridge on top and some flat areas along the sounds that
surround the island. The long axis is about north-south, I live in the SW
and the town centre itself is on the eastern side, opposite the mainland.
Long bridges, ca. 1 mile long, connect the island to the mainland and to
the large and very hilly outlying island of Kvaløya, between us and the
open Norwegian Sea. And we are in northern Norway, which I assume most
people know by now, after years of this.

The night-frost of the last nights has finished off the last leaves of the
season, and also my large (by Tromsø standards, that is) maple tree is
today shedding leaves is such a tempo, that I think I see birds move all
the time. There ARE birds in the garden; my daughter Marit kindly climbed
into the tree last weekend and retrieved my hanging feeder, that had been
places high up when we had 2 m of snow last spring, and that now was out of
my reach. And it has not taken long for the Great Tits, the Willow Tits and
the Greenfinches to rediscover the supply of sun-flower seed, while my
magpies---who do not know how to cope with a hanging feeder, have to
content themselves with the overspill on the ground underneath. (NB My
magpies DO take sunflower seeds!).

I start my walk downhill, with my local forest patch Folkeparken at one
side and suburbia at the other. In the morning one has to walk carefully,
as the twinkling ice-crystals on the road make it quite slippery. I am
tall, on the heavy side, and definitely no longer light on my feet, and
have learned by experience not to underestimate these problems. But this
time all goeswell, and I arrive at the shore of the sound, here ca 1 mile
broad, and with a wonderful view of the hills of Kvaløya. In the yards many
people are busy switching to winter-wheels---here everybody has two sets of
wheels on his/her car, one with summer tires and the other with 'winter
tires', here mostly studded tires. Changing wheels is must easier and
quicker than changing tires.

 Quite a number of water birds dapple the sound; looking south one sees
only silhouettes, but in the other direction the colours are wonderfully
clear in the crisp autumn air, and the usual suspects appear. Flocks of now
once more immaculately dressed Common Eiders dominate, the male now and
then half-heartedly half-rising out of the water and cooing the mellow
eider-courtship call, the females seemingly uninterested. There are also
small flocks of Long-tailed Ducks (What a pity that Oldsquaw has to
rejected as racist and sexist, it was such a fun name), diving for their
food as all these ducks do, but still silent. Sedate small plucks of
Scoters, isolated Red-breasted Mergansers and shore-hugging Mallards
complete the duck-picture, but there are also large gulls, a ca 60-40 Great
Black-backed and Herring Gull mixture, and here and there a lone hunting
Cormorant---these birds roost together here, but hunt on their own.  All
the shorebirds have left: no Common Gulls anymore, no Oystercatchers, today
no Starlings either, while I  somehow miss the local flock of Purple
Sandpipers. Hooded Crows are the most common shorebirds here in winter, but
they are common everywhere on the island, and dominate the picture,
together with the magpies.

When I leave the shore and climb along a path through rough fields (where I
surprise a large flock of our feral pigeons still searching for seeds)
and  low birchwood, there are far fewer birds. Basically only crows,
magpies and tits, mostly Great Tits here. This autumn there seem to be
fewer Greenfinches than in earlier years, and the invasion of Long-tailed
Tits keeps mostly to the coniferous plantations, as do the Goldcrests that
also are more common than normal this autumn. Bullfinches I do not see or
hear all day.

The little lake Prestvannet on top of the island is toi my surprise already
95% ice-covered; this must have happened in the last night or two. No gulls
here either, and in the last bit of open water only some 80 Mallards, that
soon will nip over to the always open fjord-shores. The Tufted Ducks and
Teals that lingered here still last week, are all gone, as are the Common
Gulls that usually scavenge from the many people that come here to feed the
ducks. Several pairs of Red-throated Loons nest on this lake inside a
town---a sign that the Tromsø-people behave sensibly with their popular
sundaywalk lake---, but they have left on migration weeks ago.

On the way back to the museum I  look straight into the low sun; but in
fact I hear nothing else than crows, magpies and Great Tits, with here and
there some House Sparrows, that are very patchy in Tromsø. This time of
year the town and its surroundings are as beautiful as ever, but the
diversity of its birdlife is at an ebb.

                                                Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                                9037 Tromsø, Norway

Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • autumn to winter at 70*N, Wim Vader <=

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