midwinter at 70*N

To: "birdchat" <>
Subject: midwinter at 70*N
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 10:57:24 +0100

                                MIDWINTER IN TROMSØ, NORTHERN NORWAY (FEW 

It is now mid February, and in Tromsø day length increases rapidly and the sun 
is up from 9 am to 3 pm, with every day about ten minutes more daylight than 
the day before. After a series of 'easy' winters this one is an old-fashioned 
snow-winter. We have had three periods of heavy snowfall this last month and 
there is now around 1 1/2 meter of snow on the ground. The last snow days were 
this weekend.

Here in Tromsø we are used to make fun of the people further south in Europe, 
where everything stops up as soon as they have a few inches of snow. But this 
time we were somewhat overwhelmed ourselves, the airport was closed for several 
hours both Friday and Sunday, and at least five outlying villages were isolated 
for a day or two because of avalanches covering   the sole entrance roads. But 
today the sun shines from almost clear skies, the temperature is 8-10*C below 
zero, and all the roads are open again. After I fell heavily two weeks ago and 
injured my wrist, I am diligent in using my grip soles every day nowadays, even 
though on days as cold as today the roads are not especially slippery. But once 
bitten, twice shy!

There are very few land birds around these days. All the Rowan Sorbus aucuparia 
have been picked clean of their abundant berries by now, and both the 
Fieldfares and the large flocks of Bohemian Waxwings  have moved on. A few lone 
Pine Grosbeaks Pinicola enucleator still linger on, and they are as tame as 
always. In the gardens Magpies and tits once more reign supreme, while Hooded 
Crows visit when nobody is looking, and there seem to be fewer Greenfinches 
about than normal this winter. This morning I finally saw my first Bullfinch 
Pyrrhula pyrrhula of the year (they seem to avoid my garden, now that many 
trees have gone and the neighbours have expanded thier house a lot), and a few 
people have also reported small flocks of Redpolls Acanthis flammea visiting 
their feeders. A colleague here o the island had as many as four Blue Tits 
Parus caeruleus in his garden and he has vowed to prepare a nestbox for them as 
soon as possible.

On the coast the situation is about unchanged from my last communication, but 
these days I have for the first time this winter heard complete Long Calls from 
the wintering Herring Gulls, an early promise of spring to come!

Vader, Tromsø Museum
Tromsø, Norway

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