First sun and first song at 70*N

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: First sun and first song at 70*N
From: "Willem Jan Marinus Vader" <>
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2009 13:42:23 +0100


The 21. of January is Soldagen in Tromsø, the day of the sun, i.e. the
first day we can once again see the sun on the southern horizon after two
months of absence. The day is celebrated everywhere, and also at Tromsø
Museum we get cocoa and special 'solboller' at lunch. Now, two days later,
the sun is already up for more than half an hour, and sunshine on the
surrounding hilltops for quite a bit longer.; every day daylight is c 14
min. longer than the one before.

In praxis I saw the first sun not before yesterday, but today it was
weekend, and also much less wind, so I decided to do my normal winter walk
from my house along the sound (which never freezes over) to the airport, a
walk of maybe 5 km along the shore road. My year list was until now
strangely devoid of water birds. This was partly because the absence of
daylight, partly because of the strong winds, which make it much more
difficult to see waterbirds on the sound in the half light of winter. But
today was a clear day with little wind, and not too cold (-6-7*C), so the
walk was very pleasant, and I got to see the usual ducks of winter. these
are primarily Northern Eiders, but there were also a few flocks of Velvet
Scoters Melanitta fulva and a single Long-tailed Duck, as well as here and
there Mallards close to shore; small groups of Red-breasted Mergansers
were already in spring mood, with active display. Few birds on the water,
nevertheless, compared to earlier winter walks; in addition to the ducks,
I only saw Cormorants and the two large gull species of winter.

Land birds there are few, except the ubiquitous Hooded Crows, that also
dominate the intertidal in winter. In a small group of Rowans Sorbus
aucuparia, which still had many berries, a single Fieldfare tried hard to
chase a flock of Bohemian Waxwings, but being alone against c 100
waxwings, this was an exercise in futility. Near my neighourhood shop I
finally also heard the first House Sparrows of the year.

Generally it looks as if the large flocks of waxwings and Fieldfares now
almost have succeede in eating up even the very rich bumper crop of
rowanberries of autumn 2008, and I expect them to move on before long.
Maybe it is therefore that both waxwings and thrushes seem to gather in
larger and larger flocks; I got several phone calls about that (usually
there are no Fieldfares here at all in winter), and the other day the
trees behind my house housed no less than c 500 waxwings, who later
demonstrated advanced skills in tight formation flying, reminding me
strongly of pre-roosting flight manoeuvres of starling flocks.

At one place a kjøttmeis Parus major burst out in  its sawing song 'teetu
teetu teetu'; this species is every year the first I hear in song, that it
if one discounts the mumbling subsong of the Magpies, and the bowing and
tail-spreading croaking of the Hooded Crows.

I add the birds of this walk, plus those on the feeders in my garden;
those asterisked were seen for the first time this year today.

Cormorant                Phalacrocorax carbo
*Mallard                   Anas platyrhynchos
*Northern Eider        Somateria mollissima
*Velvet Scoter          Melanitta fusca
*Long-tailed Duck    Clangula hyemalis
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
Herring Gull                 Larus argentatus
Great Bl.-backed Gull L. marinus
Feral Pigeon                Columba livia
Northern Raven           Corvus corax
Hooded Crow             C. cornix
Magpie                       Pica pica
Fieldfare                     Turdus pilaris
Bohemian Waxwing    Bombycilla garrulus
*House Sparrow        Passer domesticus
Greenfinch                  Chloris chloris
'Kjøttmeis'                  Parus major
Blue Tit                      P. caeruleus
Willow Tit                  P. montanus

Vader. Tromsø Museum

9037 Tromsø, Norway

 (NB Changed Address!)

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