To: "birdchat" <>
Subject: yearbirds
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Tue, 30 May 2006 20:45:46 +0200

                                            EXPECTED AND UNEXPECTED YEARBIRDS

As so many birders, I too keep a year list every year; I feel that it keeps my 
interest also in the more common birds alive. I have done this now during many 
years, and at the start of every year the situation is very similar indeed. 
Here in Tromsø there are not all that many birds in midwinter, nor is there 
much daylight, so that every January and early February I have more or less the 
same 20-25 bird species on my list. Of course there are small variations; this 
year I have somehow missed both the Yellow-billed Loon and the King Eider, and 
species like the Goshawk or the Waxwing I do not see every winter either. But 
the net total is quite constant until mid February, then I travel to Holland 
for a week or so to meet up with Riet, and the first full day in Holland the 
year list more than doubles, which shows all too clearly how much greater  bird 
diversity is in Holland, maybe especially in winter.

This year the yearlist is much larger than most years, as I had the wonderful 
trip to the Galapagos and Sacha Lodge in February, and also a most successful 
Sunbird trip to Spain in April. The former added c 175 species to my year list, 
the latter ---if one includes my day trip around London on Good Friday--, 
another  175..

When I came back from Spain, I had a few species that I was quite sure to be 
able to add here in and around Tromsø: common species around here, but not in 
Spain. Examples were Snipe and Pink-foot Goose at the Tisnes wetland on 4 May. 
The former nest locally, but the Pinkfeet are on their way to Svalbard. A 
Glaucous Gull two days later had its timing wrong , and should also already 
have been on its way back to the Arctic. That same day I met with returning 
Red-throated and Black-throated Loons---the former nest on Prestvannet here on 
the island, the latter every year in the same lake near Rakfjord on Kvaløya. 
There also the first Meadow Pipit was back that same day. I already wrote 
earlier on the trip with our research vessel to Finnmark and the birds we met 
there. After my return, and just before I left for Holland again, I heard the 
first Pied Flycatcher in Folkeparken. These birds are among the most familiar 
birds in villages and towns here, as they readily use nestboxes and many people 
put those out in their garden; if you miss that on your yearlist, you should 
choose a different hobby.

Then I flew again to Holland and a week of rain and wind, but also a lot of 
good birding in between the worst showers. Around the cabin Common Terns flew 
past every few minutes, a most expected year bird! The same goes for the Common 
Whitethroats that sang in the bushes close by, and in a way also for the 
Barnacle Geese that nest in numbers now in the inundated Jan Durks polder, in 
front of the bird hide there. Of course Barnacle Geese ought not to nest in 
Holland, but there are more every year, and this time there were at least 25-30 
young present. (The next day we saw also a flock of Brent Geese on the dike of 
the Waddensea, later than I had thought they would linger here before the 
spring migration.) A little bit less expected, but always extremely welcome, 
was the Spotvogel (litterally the mocking bird, but this is the Dutch name for 
the Icterine Warbler, a bird that puts lots of mimicking in its exuberant song) 
that sang close to Anja's cabin. First only sotto voce, but the third day, when 
the wind had abated a bit, it sang its full song.

Two much less expected surprises we met on the Sunday when we visited the 
Lauwersmeer, what is left of the former Lauwerszee between the provinces of 
Friesland and Groningen. after it was dammed up some decades ago. It now has 
become a wonderful nature area, with several bird walks and nature hides. The 
first hide we never found, in fact, but we were still very content to have 
stopped there, as we succeeded in both listening to and watching two songbirds, 
that often keep in hiding, the Marsh Warbler---as good a mimic as the 
Spotvogel--, and the Lesser Whitethroat with its simpler rattle-song. At the 
next area , the Ballastplaat, we walked the so-called 'observatory walk', and 
that yielded, besides still another new sonster, the garden Warbler, the two 
big surprises! Fist Iman spotted a hunting Short-eared Owl, by no means a very 
common bird anymore in the Netherlands and we were able to study that bird at 
leisure while it quartered the open  rough terrain. And a bit later, while we 
had climbed an observation tower---where the wind was really fierce, by the 
way--- a beautiful and stylish male Hen Harrier passed close by over the 
saltmarsh. Here there is also a hide built close to a Sand martin (Bank 
Swallow) colony, allowing one to view these birds in close-up.

On the Sunday there was much less wind and only intermittent rain, so we 
finally could use our bicycles. We cycled to Eernewoude---listening to a 
wonderful Nightingale concerto on the way (Not a year bird, as Spain was chock 
full of them, so much that I did not know what to reply when a elderly lady 
came to me one day and asked if there might be a chance to perhaps hear a 
nightingale in this country!)---, and walked afterwards for hours in one of the 
many well organized nature areas in Holland, here a very wet marshland. 
Bitterns boomed now and then (year bird), and Savi's warblers were quite 
common. I had heard those also in Spain, but the Grasshopper Warbler's endless 
reel yielded still another year bird for me. No Bluethroat this day, but that  
manco was filled up the next day, when we stopped over during the drive home at 
still another beautiful marshland, De Auken; here a Purple Heron flew up, and a 
white -starred Bluethroat scolded and let us hear fragments of song.

Since coming home in Tromsø, I have added two most expected yearbirds, the 
Arctic Tern and the Ruff, and also had the great good fortune to hear and watch 
our local red-starred Bluethroat. The next year bird may be the Little Gull; 
rumour has it that there are a few at Prestvannet, the place on top of the 
island where the loons nest.

This coming month is the finest time of the year here. First all the birds 
return, and then the flowers come out in force. Nothing surpasses the Tromsø 
area then!! Even though today the maximum temperature was +6*C, with grey 
skies, low clouds and intermittent rain showers!

                                                   Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                                                   9037 Tromsø, Norway

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