jump-starting a yearlist

Subject: jump-starting a yearlist
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2001 12:46:52 +0100


Last time I wrote to Birdchat and the other adressees from winter Tromsø
(N.Norway, 69*50'N) we had just changed from a steely to a fluffy winter,
and my year list of birds stood at 22. Today, three weeks later , the
winter has changed back from fluffy to steely again. We have cold crisp
clear winter weather, with SE winds and temperatures from -10 to -15*C ,
still little snow by our standards (maybe 45cm officially and with even
bare patches near the shore), and that so rock-hard that one can walk on it
most places. And the paths have once more become  steel-ice, and only
walkable because with this cold the ice is not overly slippery (Still, my
collaborator is at home with a broken knee-cap!). My daughter maintains
that she sees a difference in the tree-buds, but that must be the optimism
of youth, much as I should like to, I can't see this as yet. In fact, the
picture in the Folkepark is still very much in black and white, with the
only patches of vivid colour being provided courtesy of the many dogs that
are aired along this path.

The main change is of course the increasing day length. No longer do I walk
in the dark. Although because of the surrounding hills the sun at the
museum is only visible as yet from 9 am to 4 30 pm, I walk to and from work
in daylight, in the afternoon often with beautiful reddish sunsets in the
west. The Greenfinches are now much more active, and apart from their
constant chattering and an almost shore-bird like callnote they also
regularly now break out in the to my ears somewhat irritated sounding rasp,
that must be the most beautiful sound in the world for the greenfinch
ladies (mirabile dictu!). The tits sing very little in this cold weather,
so the forest is still mostly quiet, apart from the Greenfinches, the
Hooded Crows and Magpies, and now and then the quiet whistles of the
Bullfinches. Overhead the long call of the Great Black-backed Gulls is
heard definitely more often. Just this morning I saw a White-tailed Eagle
circling over the sound from my office window, and that would by
rights  have been yearbird nr 23. Instead, it is now nr 95!!

Let me first explain, that my year list, as all my other lists, is just
that, MY list: I never compete with other listers, and therefore also take
the liberty of including or rejecting just what I want. For example, I log
Hooded Crows and Carrion Crows, and even the carbo and sinensis subspecies
of the Cormorant, separately, and I have also now and earlier included such
obviously feral birds as the Egyptian and Bar-headed Geese, and the
Mandarin Duck that I saw in Holland (Of course these were not in city parks
or waterbird collections, but part of the growing feral population of these
species---especially the Egyptian geese are now everywhere). I also have
included the White Stork, where the population in Holland is mixed, but
especially wintering birds can always be suspected of deriving from the
breeding efforts of the Dutch enthousiasts. And at the end of the year I
may well even add the feral pigeons to the total list, although I have not
yet done so this year. (I draw the line at farmyard chickens, however! ) In
addition, I also add heared only birds to the list for those birds, where
the sounds are absolutely characteristic; to me it seems illogical to
reject a singing Chiffchaff heard, which can not be confused with anything
else (And yes,  I  am aware of mimicking Starlings and Bluethroats), while
waiting for a visible bird, that is much worse to recognize among all its
similar congeners.

Anyway, the jump-start of my year-list coincided with a 10 days visit to
Germany and Holland, for meetings and visits to families and friends
mostly, but always with at least one eye and one ear open to the birds of
the neighbourhood. And so large is the difference in winter bird diversity
between N.Norway and west central Europe, that new year birds kept coming
in 'without really trying'.

A  2 hrs walk through suburban Hamburg, before the German Crustaceologist
Meeting , added all those birds , that everybody further south in Europe
takes for granted: Sparrow Hawk, Black-headed Gull, Pheasant,  Coot,
Gallinule, Wood Pigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Rook,
Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit,  European Blackbird,
Song Thrush, European Robin,  Winter Wren, Dunnock, and  Eurasian Tree
Sparrow. (Of these, most either do not occur at all, or are migrants to
Tromsø, but Sparrow Hawks are regular in winter, and a few Blackbirds,
Chaffinches and during the last years also Blue Tits have been found in
winter there) The blackbirds, robins, dunnocks, blue and great tits and
wrens were in full song, and the whole ambiance was of 'spring is in the
air', reenforced by the snowdrops and crocuses in parks and gardens. (Not
quite reliable, though, as by the end of the week the ground was
snow-covered both in Holland and Germany)

 Three days later further south in Germany, in Adendorf near Bonn, a
similar walk added another 13 species, now mostly birds of coniferous
forests, such as Goldcrest, Coal tit, and Green Woodpecker, of the beech
lanes (Bramblings, Redpolls) and of the open meadow and wine-country
(wintering Fieldfares, Linnets, Starlings, a Grey Heron); Buzzards and
Kestrels were common overhead, while a very early female Whinchat was the
surprise of the day.

After this, and the large Jackdaw colonies of the old churches in the
beautiful Rhine town of Kalkar, it came as a very positive surprise, that a
day of leisurely birding in the river country of the Netherlands, S of
Utrecht,  should add another 28 year birds! Many of these were waterbirds
(2 grebes, 1 swan, White Stork, 4 geese (incl. 4 Bar-headed Geese), 9
ducks, 4 shorebirds (Lapwing, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, and a single
early Redshank) and the Common Gull), while the others ranged from Stock
Dove via Short-toed Tree Creeper (the other European species I had seen in
Hamburg a few days before, but it was already on the list, as it winters
sparingly also in the park outside our museum) to  Redwing, Mistle Trush,
White Wagtail and European Goldfinch. Later walks added a few more birds,
nr 94 being a quartering Marsh Harrier seen from the train along the Weser
near Bremen, while I was enjoying a large group of Roedeer. A great
pleasure was the as melodious as melancholy song of the Woodlark, exactly
at the same spot where Riet and I discovered it two years ago, the gaudy
Mandarin Duck in the dunes near Haarlem, and the last Golden Plovers
together with the first Meadow Pipits at a newly created nature area (The
Dutch are very good at this, as long as it concerns eutrophic areas) along
the Rhine (here confusingly called Lek) near Culemborg, at the end of a
most interesting day of lectures on the effects of all the large
technological changes that are carried out all the time in the densest
populated country of Europe (large airport in the North sea, windmill parks
in the large lakes, broadening and deepening of the large rivers, etc etc).

I am very grateful to Ingrid Balzer (Hamburg), Franz Krapp (Adendorf) and
of course to Riet, Iman and Maya for sharing their winter birds with me. It
was a great joy, and it got my year-list up to European level!

                                                                Wim Vader, 
Tromsø Museum
                                                                9037 Tromsø, 

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>
  • jump-starting a yearlist, 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