full spring in Tromsø

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: full spring in Tromsø
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2007 21:12:02 +0200

                           FULL SPRING IN TROMSØ, NORTHERN NORWAY

Today, 8 June, it is still dry, but the winds are northwesterly and 
temperatures have decreased till about 10*C. It may therefore be encouraging to 
write down my reminiscences of the last week, one of those weeks that make 
spring and summer here in N. Norway so special. We have had sunny days (and 
these last of course 24 hours a day, as we are now in the 2 months long 
midnight-sun period!) practically all week, and although the maximum 
temperatures probably never came much above 20*C, it feels much warmer in a 
way----we must have larger degrees than most other people!

After my travels to Holland and Hungary it was a great pleasure to drive out to 
the wetlands at Rakfjord-Riisvika along the Kvalsund last Saturday, in order to 
see how far spring had come (clearly much less far than further south in 
Europe), and to welcome back all the summer guests that had returned to the 
nesting area while I was away. Last time I was there, 4 weeks ago, there was 
still snow and ice on the wetlands, and few signs of life. Now, although there 
still were few flowers here (apart from the always pleasantly surprising small 
creeping stars of the creeping Trailing Azalea Loiseleuria), there were birds 
everywhere: pairs of Greylag Geese floated offshore or walked around on 
territory, and the local pair of Whooper Swans already had taken their nest of 
last year in use again. As always, Mallards, Red-throated Mergansers and 
Wigeons dominated among the ducks, and at least one pair of Black-throated 
Divers (Arctic Loon) had returned. Just as last year, one of the shallow small 
lakes again contained phalaropes, colourful Ruffs foraged along its edges, and 
Redshanks were nervous as always. Overhead Snipe winnowed, and---although fewer 
than I had expected--- Whimbrels and Golden Plovers provided the summer music, 
with constant cuckooing in the background. the Common Gulls were back on 
territory, and Arctic Terns fished in the shallows, although there was as yet 
only a single pair of Arctic Skuas back here.

Where there are houses along the road (the area is protected, so must be viewed 
from the road), there are trees (mostly willows and birches) and here there are 
also songbirds; on the marsh itself there are only Meadow Pipits and Starlings. 
But in the gardens Norways most numerous bird, the Willow Warbler is 
ubiquitous, and also the other common wood birds: Brambling, Redwing and 
Fieldfare can be heard regularly. In addition, the people often put out 
nestboxes, so there are Great Tits and the short optimistic song strophes of 
their great competitor for the boxes, the Pied Flycatcher. Most of the farms 
have Starlings and White Wagtails, but there are no sparrows here.

Later in the week I showed one of my favourite areas, the outlying island of 
Hillesøy, close to the open sea, to my brother and his lady, who were on a 
visit to the exotic far north. This island---at least the part that we walked-- 
is flat and covered by peat, so one almost automatically gets a spring in one 
steps, it is also full of flowers, the mnany shell-rests provide apparently 
enough chalk to yield a rich vegetation. In addition to the typical early 
spring flowers (and this year the white flowers of the cloudberry Rubus 
chamaemorus were especially many) we found already a few that rightly belong to 
summer, and then become much more dominant: Trientalis, what we call the Forest 
Star (a much nicer name than Chickweed Wintergreen, IMO) and the false flowers 
of the Swedish Cornel Cornus suecica. A few places I even saw the first white 
Mountain Aven Dryas octopetala, telling me how rich the soil is here.

Here Common, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls nest, there are a few pairs 
of Arctic Skuas also here, Curlews blow their fantastic bronze flute, and now 
and then one gets startled when a Greylag Goose ponderously flies off from 
almost underfoot. Willow Grouse cackle; they now have brown heads and necks, 
but still white bodies and of course wings. And this is one lof the few places 
where I alm almost sure to find nesting Rock Pipits, mostly I suppose because I 
tried too little at other localities, that are less easy of access. No sea 
eagles this time (we saw one later on), and sea mist prevented me to add the 
Shag to the year list, although a single Black Guillemot loomed up out of the 
fog. Common Eiders there are galore, and by now the drakes are definitely in 
the majority; most of the ducks probably are already on eggs. On the lee side 
of the island a flock of some 25 Goosanders (Common Mergansers, if your prefer) 
loafed, also those mainly drakes.

In Folkeparken, where I walk every day to and from work, these last days the 
small yellow violets Viola biflora twinkle everywhere and gradually take over 
for the white Wood Sorrel Oxalis. Here and there there are carpets of Anemone 
nemorosa. The 'wall-to-wall-carpet' of Storkbills Geranium is developing 
rapidly, but the flowers are still in bud, and the frequent clumps of  large 
ferns are still unrolling.

There is much birdsong now, although the earliest songsters, such as the Great  
and Willow Tits and the Dunnock, are already largely silent, no doubt occupied 
with nest and maybe young. But the later arrivals still sing actively; also 
here the big four: Redwing, Fieldfare (not much of a songster, although noisy 
enough), Brambling and Willow Warbler, are the mist common, but there are also 
Pied Flycatchers and  Chiffchaffs----sadly the more sensitive species , such as 
Garden Warbler and Bluethroat, are no longer here: too many kids, cats and 
dogs.And this year we have not got any of the inland birds that now and then 
come to Folkeparken; I have seen the Woodpigeon only once, and the Song Thrush 
and European Robin not at all. While the redpolls usually and for some unknown 
reason alwas first become common in mid-summer.

This is the most wonderful time of the year here, and that is high praise!

     Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
     9037 Tromsø, Norway

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