snowy days in Tromsø, N. Norway

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: snowy days in Tromsø, N. Norway
From: "Vader Willem Jan Marinus" <>
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2009 20:42:04 +0100

                                 SNOWY DAYS IN TROMSØ, N. NORWAY

Outside it is snowing heavily and it has done so for almost two days now.
We welcomed the snow at first, since last weekend we had some mild days,
and this had caused the remaining snow to become very hard, and the roads
and paths almost impossibly icy, so that I constantly needed my
'grip-soles', studded soles one binds under the shoes. On Sunday we had a
grey day, but without too much wind, so I used the opportunity to go to
the airport and look out over the sound there, where there usually are
many ducks, even though numbers have been uncommonly low earlier this
year. But this time we were back to normal: large flocks of Common Eiders,
with their attending (and kleptoparasitizing) large gulls, smaller flocks
of Velvet Scoters, and  more scattered groups of Long-tailed Ducks, Black
Scoters and Red-throated Mergansers. Cormorants fished, or loafed on some
small skerries, but this time there were no Grey Herons (Somebody had seen
no less than 50 in a nearby fjord, and numbers seem still to increase in
the Tromsø area.) Two birders with telescopes had spotted a male Steller's
Eider, an uncommon bird here, but when they wanted to show it to me, they
could not find it anymore. Instead we found two Black Guillemots,
unexpectedly already in their full black summer finery. In the intertidal
there are few birds in winter and Hooded Crows usually dominate the scene,
apart from a tight flock of some 100 Purple Sandpipers swishing past;
these are usually our only wintering shorebirds. I say usually, as we also
found no less than 11 Curlews, and that is a species that more and more
often seems to venture to stay all winter here north, although these
eleven were more than we usually see.

As I said, we have had a lot of snow the last days, and the dominating
sound is that of snow blowers trying to keep the driveways free of snow;
very often, just when you have finally done that---and this is heavy snow,
as the temperature is only just below freezing--, the large snow plough
roars past at speed and fills half the driveway again. Still, people here
are quite accustomed to a lot of snow, and it disturbs daily life a lot
less than further south. We must have got at least 2 feet, maybe even 3,
of fresh snow in the last two days, yesterday with gale force winds, and
although indeed some country roads are closed, delays at the airport were
only for half an hour or so.

Also the birds seem to take the snow in their stride, and traffic at my
feeders is no larger than before the snowfall. Greenfinches are the most
common visitors, and Great and Willow Tits are regularly presnet; I have
not seen any Blue Tits, newcomers to the region, these last weeks. There
are still a few waxwings  and also Fieldfares around, and this morning, on
my way to the museum, a small flock of Crossbills flew over. And on my way
home through  the fantastic-looking  snowed-down woodland of Folkeparken,
I heard a characteristic sound, and found 4 Pine Grosbeaks in one of the
few Rowans that still have some berries, the first I have seen this
winter. Later I even saw a few more, although ii may have been the same
ones, of course.

Vader, Tromsø Museum
Tromsø, Norway

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