Still Easter weather in Tromsø

To: "birdchat" <>
Subject: Still Easter weather in Tromsø
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 10:21:47 +0200


About ten days ago I told about the fantastic weather we had in Tromsø, 
N.Norway, but also how my trips to the coast and along the Balsfjord yielded 
very few birds, especially small birds. Since then the weather, amazingly, has 
continued nice and sunny. These days there are a few degrees frost at night, 
and a few degrees above freezing during the day, and of course every day is 
nearly ten minutes longer than the day before. The snow glitters in millions of 
small diamonds underfoot, and the whole atmosphere is the way we always wish 
for at Easter, when large segments of the population go skiing in the mountains 
(Here in the north you don't even need to go to the mountains, but can start ca 
from your door!)

Last Friday I had the pleasure to guide around birding-aussers Ross and Kathy 
from Brisbane, who were on a private visit to Tromsø. As their host planned to 
take them out to the coast on Saturday, we chose the Balsfjord option on the 
Friday, even though there was just that day a brisk and quite cold easterly 
wind, the infamous Balsfjord-wind, blowing out the fjord from the cold inland. 
Before starting our trip, we visited the little shore area near Langnes airport 
outside town, where we found the first of innumerable small flocks of Snow 
Buntings. These cheer up the winter landscape enormously, with their cheerful 
trilling calls and their snowflake-like whirling flight. Ross said they 
reminded him strongly of White-winged Trillers in winter. There were also the 
normal Eiders, oystercatchers and large gulls, a small flock of Purple 
Sandpipers (they stay here all winter) and a lone Lapwing, probably just 
returned from winter around the North Sea. (Just like the Common Gulls that we 
also would encounter here and there, although still far from at full strength)

Afterwards we drove the same route as the week before, around the ice-bound 
Ramfjord, where a large flock of Hooded Crows and Northern Ravens had gathered 
on the ice where ice fishermen had been active, and where Ross found out the 
hard way that our ice-covered roads indeed can be dangerously slippery. At 
Andersdalen an adult White-tailed Eagle sat in a roadside tree and let itself 
be admired at leisure. We parked the car at Storneset, as I always do, and 
could add House Sparrows to our daily list here (this species is of quite 
patchy distribution here). Our walk here was a cold affair, because of the 
wind, but it yielded not only Great Tits and Greenfinches in some numbers, but 
also very good views of a pair of Bullfinches (these birds are nearly always in 
pairs) near a house where they are fed all winter. These bullfinches were 
probably the Bird of the Day for our guests, and they ARE really quietly 
beautifully attired, also they somehow spread a feeling of calm and 
restfullness around them.

The wind made the fjord far from calm,however, and maybe it was that that 
prevented us to see the flocks of ducks which I had been bragging about. I had 
promised coffee 'at the next flock of ducks', but we saw none at all, neither 
along the Kantornes shores, or later along 'the bottom of the fjord' or even 
near Tennes church, where we had to turn around. So we drank the coffee there 
anyway, and admired another White-tailed Sea Eagle cruising around, followed 
and harassed by crows, like tugboats around an ocean steamer.

We then started on the road back. I decided to take the old road from 
Nordkjosbotn, as this goes closer to the fjord, and that turned out to be a 
smart decision, as it was there that the ducks hung out. So I could demonstrate 
the flocks of smartly dressed Velvet Scoters, with a few somewhat more somberly 
attired Black Scoters, and we even ended up by finding a Horned Grebe, the 
first of the season. Sadly it was still in winter dress, otherwise it might 
well have competed with the bullfinches as bird of the day. All in all we found 
23 bird species, not many but a great improvement on the week before, and I 
think Kathy and Ross were quite content with the day in a landscape quite 
different from their native Brisbane.

In Folkeparken, the birch forest I walk through to work, the number of 
greenfinches is growing by the day (and they finally also come back to the 
feeder in my garden), and their irritated-sounded rasping song is once more a 
dominant sound. The Great Tits are also in full song, and the first thrushes 
may return any day now. These last days I have repeatedly also heard the hasty 
trilling winter song of the Willow Tit, so completely different from its spring 
song (which I have not yet heard). Winter lasts a long time here,though, and 
spring won't really come before the end of May. So I'll escape to Spain later 
this week, for a 2 weeks birding trip.

Vader, Tromsø Museum
Tromsø, Norway

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