whirl-winter at 70*N

Subject: whirl-winter at 70*N
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Sat, 03 Nov 2001 13:43:12 +0100

                                WHIRL-WINTER IN TROMSØ, N.NORWAY (69*50'N)

Global warming is hard to prove scientifically----the normal annual
variations in weather being so large, especially in our Atlantic climate,
that it takes very large changes indeed before they become statistically
significant---, but the phenomenon is easy to believe in, sitting in my
office today with rain pishing the windows once more, early in November.
This is just a parenthesis, though, the last days we have had snow storms,
and tomorrow we are apparently in for another blizzard, when the wind will
once more veer to the NW and later North, and polar air penetrates along
the Norwegian coasts. But this morning the temperature was plus 4*C, and
the wind had abated to force 6 or so.

But I want to write about yesterday and the days before that when we had a
lot of weather (Although our weather forecast denigratingly describes force
9 winds as 'liten storm' (small storm); we rarely get up to full storm(10)
or strong storm(11) here behind the coastal islands; for that you need to
be on the open coast, where a bus blew off the road day before yesterday,
and a fisherman was killed in the wreck of his boat). Still, as I looked
out into my garden at home yesterday, also force 9 is still a lot of
weather: snow, mixed with the last leaves of autumn and quite some twigs
and smaller branches, whirls around and now and then forms perfect small
willy-willies, the sea in the sound looks formidable  with large white
breakers, that today turn out to have deposited a lot of wrack on the
shore, and many of the garbage containers in the gardens lie flat, felled
by the gusty winds.  There is still not all that much snow on the ground,
maybe 5-6 inches, but the whole ambience is now one of winter; the  streets
show the characteristic tracks of the chains of the city buses, as well as
the paralell tracks of the traditional push-sledge of Norway, the spark,
that many elderly people now use to get around quicker and to have a better
holdfast on slippery roads. And the path through Folkeparken shows many
ski-tracks, in addition to the off-road bicycles, for the first time this

Snow is not the only thing whirling around in my garden. There is these
days a constant va et vient of flocks of Fieldfares, feasting in the Rowan
bushes with their this fall so very abundant crop of berries. At any given
moment there are at least a hundred in my garden, and they are flighty and
jittery, so that whenever you look out, there are thrushes whirling in the
air, seemingly not bothered at all by the storm, but always ready to take
flight at the slightest provocation. Unexpectedly, I do not find a single
Redwing among them, and it is some days since I saw any of these smaller of
our common thrushes, that often occurs in mixed thrush flocks in autumn.
Nor have I seen any Waxwings in the garden as yet; there are a few around
in town, but clearly not a sizeable invasion.

We do get some other birds from the east, though. Great Spotted Woodpeckers
are observed many places in town, there are small flocks of Long-tailed
Tits (always a great pleasure), I saw a lone Treecreeper in Folkeparken,
and also heard the hoarse call notes of a Siberian Tit; they always sound
like a Willow Tit with a strong cold.

In my garden I have recommenced feeding sunflower seeds, and it took only a
few hours before the Great and Willow Tits discovered the feeder. Now there
are at least ten Great Tits and almost as many Willow Tits, and they empty
the feeder at a very rapid rate. Especially the Willow Tits are clearly
hoarding; they fly off and on with their seeds, not always, like they
usually do, pausing in the 'feeder-tree' to hammer them into more
manageable pieces. I have not seen any Bullfinches in the garden as yet,
but the numbers of Greenfinches is slowly building up, I notice. The
resident magpies adore the storms , as they are normally unable to feed
from the hanging feeder, but the storm leads to spillage, so they can feed
from the ground beneath. (I have never seen 'my' Hooded Crows feeding
there, but they are still more crafty and rarely sit in the garden while I
stand at the window.)

The White-tailed Sea Eagle also has reappeared here in the southern part of
our island, and I can, if I dare, add it to my garden list, as I regularly
see it fly over (as also from my office window); it will probably stay
around all winter, just as the Ravens that are now also almost daily
visitors in the Tromsø Museum area. On the coast very few Common Gulls
still linger, and the first Glaucous and Iceland Gulls have already been
seen.  While the only shorebirds let are the tame flocks of purple
Sandpipers, that will be us all winter.  And the hours of daylight get
fewer every day; only three weeks until the sun disappears for the rest of
the year!

                                                        Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                                        9037 Tromsø, Norway

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