Subject: END OF SUMMER AT 70*N
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2001 13:40:59 +0200

                        END OF AUGUST, END OF SUMMER IN TROMSØ, N.NORWAY (70*N)

This summer I was in Australia for a month. There it was midwinter, but
still the forests and fields were full of bird sounds, some very wonderful
and/or weird indeed. In comparison, our own woods are strangely silent now
in late summer; when I walk to work through the birch forest and fir
plantations of Folkeparken, I often hear no birds at all, or at best the
Hooded Crows and Magpies, and maybe some few young Willow Warblers or
Redpolls .

It somehow feels so absolutely like autumn (fall, if you prefer), even
though the weather has been mild and in part reasonably nice the last few
weeks and we have as yet had no night frost at all. But still the forest is
clearly 'turning'! There are golden birch leaves on the muddy paths (every
day a few more) and also in the crowns of the trees there are increasingly
yellow patches. In the undergrowth most flowers are gone and the  thick
carpet of  faded cranebill Geranium sylvaticum is rapidly yellowing. Some
high forbs are still in flower: in the forest Blue Sow-Thistle Cicerbita
alpina (often taller than me, and I am > 6 ft) and Meadow-Sweet Filipendula
ulmaria, and here and there a valerian Valeriana officinalis, a Melancholy
Thistle Cirsium heterophyllum or the strangely named Jack-jump-about
Angelica sylvestris, every year the last to flower.
In the drier parts tall Hawksweeds still give yellow accents here and
there, but the Goldenrods Solidago virgaurea are mostly  faded already. On
the grassy verges of the path the last few harebells Campanula and the last
yellow flowers of the very common "moneygrass" Rhinanthus compete with the
white stars of the Grass of Parnassus Parnassia palustris. Along the roads
clumps of fireweed Epilobium still glow many places, but they too are 'over
the top', and the 'Tromsø Palms', the giant Hogwood Heracleum are yellowing
very rapidly, with one and one leaf turning yellow while others on the same
plant are still quite green. As these leaves are several feet long, one
yellow leaf is already very noticeable. On the outer islands the heath
Calluna vulgaris is still in full flower, and the dark blue Gentianella
here and there

The Rowans (Mountains Ash, Sorbus aucuparia) seem to go towards a good
berry season this year, and are rapidly colouring red now. The berries in
the undergrowth (Vaccinium spp, Rubus, Empetrum, also the inedible red
berries of Cornus suecica) are all ripe now, and there are also many
mushrooms around, enforcing the autumn atmosphere in spite of mild weather
(temp. 10-15*C) and still long days.

Birds there are few, as I said. The forest is silent, and in open
areas  small flocks of Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails and here and there
also Twite search for food. Small flocks of Starlings are everywhere,
mostly immatures and no doubt the local nesting crop. Grassy areas often
support Ruffs and near the shore also various Tringa species, while on the
fjord the number of terns is rapidly decreasing, while there are more and
more cormorants around. The Eiders are in eclipse and have gathered in
large flocks, and here and there one can also find  smallish flocks (10's
rather than 100's) of Common Mergansers (Goosanders), probably birds that
have moulted in the Tana mouth area in Finnmark, a region that attracts
many of NW Europe's Goosanders as a moulting area.

The last two days we have had our yearly museum's outing, this time to the
outer islands of Kvaløya west of here. Although our attention was mostly on
Stone Age grave mounds, old farm implements and  the restauration of a 200
yr old farm-house, I  always look around for birds, and it struck me
forcibly again, how common White-tailed Sea Eagles are in this area. Most
of the islands have a resident pair or at least some immatures hanging
around; the only time you can't find them is when you want to show them to
visitors! Northern Ravens are still much more common, and it is absolutely
no rarity to see ten at a time, even in these areas without garbage dumps,
fish factories or other 'natural' attractants.

                                                                Wim Vader, 
Tromsø Museum
                                                                9037 Tromsø, 

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