A rare sunny Sunday at 70*M

To: "birdchat" <>
Subject: A rare sunny Sunday at 70*M
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2006 13:07:30 +0200

                                        A RARE SUNNY SUNDAY IN TROMSØ, N.NORWAY

June 2006 has been the dullest June month in history here in Tromsø, measured 
by the number of sun-hours. Here we start out with an intrinsic large 
advantage, as the whole month of June we have the midnight sun up here, so in 
theory June could have 24x30= 720 sun hours. That of course never happens here, 
with our basically Atlantic climate. The best we have done, in 1953 (before my 
time here), was c 400 hours, still more than 11 sun hours every day. The worst 
until now was 1975, --and I remember that well, as I was in the field for much 
of the month--, with 116 hours of sunshine. But this year we beat that record 
with a vengeance, and the new one is somewhere between 95 and 100 hours, I 
don't have the exact number (30th of June was a sunny day, and almost spoiled 
the record). And not only was it dull, it was often also chilly and windy, and 
last week there was fresh snow on the top of 1270m high Tromsdalstinden, the 
highest hill around, for a few days

But, as I mentioned, Friday 30 June was already a much better day, amd this 
weekend was really summery, with on Sunday a temperature of c 24*C, little 
wind, and almost too great a difference so suddenly after the 8*C maximum of a 
few days before. But, as the Norwegian proverb asks: 'How long was Adam in 
Paradise?'. Today, Monday, the temp. is back at 13*C, and rain drips from 
low-hanging clouds; still little wind, though.

The people in Tromsø are very quick to profit from any summer day (we need to: 
summer may be missed, if you oversleep one day!) and so yesterday, when I did 
'my usual winter walk' to the airport along the coastal road, the road was full 
of people walking and cycling, and in the intertidal there were people 'in 
extreme summer dress' picnicking and sunning----swimming is a very quick affair 
here, as the water temperature is still below 10*C! The island is full of 
flowers now
in midsummer; in the forest the storkbills Geranium  form a violet carpet, 
while in the less nutritious areas the white Chickweed Wintergreen Trientalis 
and the white 'false flowers' of Cornus suecica take over. The fields are also 
white, with Cow Parsley Anthriscus, and along the road verges Buttercups 
Ranunculus have taken over the yellow relay-pin from the dandelions. Here and 
there stately orchids Dactylorchis appear in some numbers, most are beautifully 
violet, but I found one immaculately white one among them. The air is full of 
insects, although few obnoxious ones as yet (Tromsø is not badly bothered with 
mosquitoes , usually), and also with flying white plumed seeds; a few are no 
doubt dandelion d\seeds, but most come from the willoes that have flowered 
abundantly earlier in the season. The trees flowering now are the Rowans 
(Mountain Ash) Sorbus aucuparia, the flower extra abundantly this year---this 
means something according to prevalent folk belief, but there are two schools; 
those who say this predicts a severe winter, and those who say it predicts 
little snow. We'll see who is rigt this time. here and there there are already 
'late summer flowers': Cow-wheat Melampyrum, valerian and euebright Euphrasia; 
I even found the first Grass of Parnassus Parnassia in flower already.

My walk is mostly through suburbia, and therefore there are no spectacular 
birds to see. Also, since I came to live here 30 years ago, and especially in 
the last ten years, hundreds of new houses have been built in this area, and 
e.g. the curlew that always nested here, and kept watch from a light pole, is 
no longer present. Somewhat surprisingly, Redshanks seem as yet better able to 
maintain themselves close to people, and on my walk I regularly hear scolding 
parents. Of course there are also Common Gulls, a numerous and loud townbird 
here, and everywhere along the shore and on the open fields of the agricultural 
field station, there are nesting Oystercatchers. Little bird song these 
days---but I walked in the early afternoon, early morning would no doubt show 
more of a chorus--- and those I heard the usual suspects: Fieldfare, Redwing, 
Brambling and Willow Warbler, the four most numerous birds of our birch 
forests; the Willow Warbler is in fact Norway's most numerous bird. As every 
year, now in midsummer the Redpolls are back in force, after having been 
unaccountably absent in spring; I wonder if they have a first brood somewhere 
else. Hooded Crows and Magpies have recently fledged young, and in the fields 
the ubiquitous Meadow Pipits sit scolding, with beaks full of food, as soon as 
a crow appears close by.

This summer has been a bad one for many seabirds. A lot of the large gulls have 
either not laid eggs at all this year, or the young have starved early. The 
Arctic terns have nested , we think, in much smaller numbers than usual, and 
now I see that also the Eiders must have had a bad season. Most females have no 
young at all, but I see a few with one or two young, and only one with three, 
which is much less than in a normal summer. The problem is certainly not the 
dull weather (that is unfortunately common enough up here, so the birds are 
accustomed to that), but rather lack of food. There is little fish in the sea, 
and therefore little fishing activity and much less to scavenge for the large 
gulls than in normal years. The eiders should not be bothered by that, but 
hungry large gulls are a deadly danger for the small young, and I surmise that 
maybe predation may have been much heavier than normal. We are still awaiting 
the situation for the primary seabirds; our people are still out in the field.

Nothing special at all to report therefore today, just the run-of-the-mill town 
and suburbia birds here in Tromsø in midsummer. I'll add a list of birds 
seen--I diod not visit Prestvannet, so the water birds there are not on this 

Grey Heron                      Ardea cinerea
Mallard                 Anas platyrhynchos
Common Eider            Somateria mollissima
Oystercatcher           Haematopus ostralegus
Redshank                        Tringa totanus
Curlew                  Numenius arquata
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Herring Gull            L. argentatus
Common Gull                     L. canus
Arctic Tern                     Sterna paradisaea
Feral Pigeon            Columba livia
White Wagtail           Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit            Anthus pratensis
Tree Pipit                      A. trivialis
Common Starling         Sturnus vulgaris
Eurasian Magpie         Pica pica
Hooded Crow                     Corvus cornix
Willow Warbler          Phylloscopus trochilus
Fieldfare                       Turdus pilaris
Redwing                 T. iliacus
Kjøttmeis                       Parus major
House Sparrow           Passer domesticus
Brambling                       Fringilla montifringilla
Greenfinch                      Chloris chloris
Redpoll                 Carduelis flammea

                                                                Wim Vader, 
Tromsø Museum
                                                                9037 Tromsø, 

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