Late winter at 70*N

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Late winter at 70*N
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007 21:36:43 +0200
                                        LATE WINTER IN TROMSØ, N.NORWAY

In Norway almost half the population goes out skiing in the Easter week, where 
the Thursday and Friday before easter, as well as the two Easter days, are all 
official holidays. So we always yearn for 'Easter weather': calm, sunny 
weather, with frost during the night, and plus degrees during the day. Of 
course, that happens not all too often exactly at the right time, although 
every winter has a few such periods. This time the southern half of Norway was 
lucky during the first half of the Easter vacation, while we in the north got a 
surfeit of weather: a long succession of Lows coming in from the Atlantic 
bringing first SW and rain, and then NW and snow, and a lot of wind, force 8-9. 
This was our first half, while from Good Friday this changed into blizzards, 
and maybe two feet of fresh snow on top of the 2 feet that were there before. 
For the diehards the skiing was great--as always with fresh snow---, but for 
people of my ilk and age most of the Easter was spent indoors, looking out at 
the snow storms.

This had its nice sides too, though, as all the snow clearly made it harder for 
the birds to find natural food, and there were many more birds around my 
hanging feeder than normally. The number of Greenfinches, nowadays the absolute 
dominant bird here in suburbia, grew from maybe 10 to up to 30-40, there were 
more Kjøttmeis Parus major, and definitely more Granmeis P. montanus than there 
had been in a while, and we got single House Sparrows and Bullfinches. And 
then, halfway through the Easter, more and more Redpolls showed up, until there 
were as many as 20, with even on one day two Arctic Redpolls, as well as a 
Siskin. In addition there are as always Magpies and Hooded Crows around.

Other people also had the first Snow Buntings of the year. They are an 
interesting story, as these are birds that winter in the Russian steppes, and 
stay a few weeks, often in large flocks, here in N.Norway to fatten up, after 
which they embark on the very arduous and dangerous Atlantic crossing to E. 
Greenland and even Arctic Canada. Some years they are everywhere and my garden 
may be full of them for a week or so, but most years they stay on open fields 
etc outside the town; I think it mostly depends on the snow situation. This 
year I have not yet seen them in my garden.

Otherwise it still feels like full winter, but it will change soon now, as the 
weather forecast is for milder weather and a lot of rain the coming days. Today 
I saw the first Common Gull from my office window, and somebody had noted 
displaying Woodcocks. So spring will come, although we may have many setbacks 
yet (Our absolute snow record is from 29 April 1997, with 2.4m on the ground!)

                   Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
                   9037 Tromsø, Norway

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