Great walk, few birds in Tromsø

To: "birding-aus" <>, <>, <>, "birdchat" <>
Subject: Great walk, few birds in Tromsø
From: "Vader Willem Jan Marinus" <>
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 2010 15:32:25 +0100

                          A GREAT WALK, BUT FEW BIRDS IN TROMSØ, N.NORWAY

The last week we are back in 'continental winter  mode' here in N .Norway:
a strong high over the Kola peninsula directs easterly winds and very cold
air towards our region, and consequently we now again have blue skies,sun,
easterly winds and quite low temperatures, by our standards. There is,
after the snowfall of last week, about one meter of snow on the ground,
and when you walk, snow crystals twinkle like thousands of small diamonds
all around you.

This morning I got a mail, reporting a small flock of Snow Buntings at
Sorgenfri ('Without a care'), the name of the area along the sound close
to my house (which lies at 45 m a.s l.), so I decided to take the
opportunity and do my usual winter walk, along the sound to the airport, a
walk of c 5 km. Azure skies, sun, temperature around -15*C, but because
there was very little wind, it was quite pleasant outside. The footpath
that follows the road along the sound all the way to the airport, is, in
spite of the copious gravel scattered over it, still quite slippery and
icy, so we need to walk with  'brodder', the studded extra soles under
your shoes that are so practical here in winter. Lots and lots of people
about; a Sunday stroll is very much a tradition here. Many people with
dogs and/or prams, many joggers, andeven  a few diehards on bicycle (also
those with studded winter tires!). Today no doubt also has been a very
busy day in the various skiing areas and 'løyper', but my skiing days are
over, and I now keep mostly to the paths in winter

The scenery is wonderful, with the backdrop of the white hils all around;
it is amazing how many colour nuances of white there are visible in this
panorama. On the sound a few kajaks, as always, but again very few birds,
even though with little wind it was easier today to see the birds that are
present---these sounds are 1-2 km wide. The path also skirts some
woodlands, mostly Birch and Rowan, but I did not see any small birds at
all during the entire walk (I missed out on the Snow Buntings); the only
passerines were the Magpies and the ubiquitous Hooded Crows, the common
shorebird here in winter. On the sound the Common Eider is the most common
bird; the small flocks often are accompanied by a Herring or Great
Black-backed Gull, always eager to steal the food morcels the diving ducks
bring to the surface. There are also a few small flocks of Long-tailed
Ducks and Velvet Scoters, and here and there a solitary, fishing
Red-breasted Merganser. There used to be quite a number of Mallards also
here in winter, but they have largely disappeared since waste-water
treatment has been much improved a few years ago, and today I saw only a
single pair. And that is about all I saw, except a single Cormorant. No
Grey Herons at all; I fear they have a hard winter this year, with the
long periods of severe frost. Near the airport the areas of mudflat are
completely ice covered, and there were hardly any birds there at all; I
missed out on the small flock of Curlews that the last winters stays there
all winter, nor did I see any Purple Sandpipers (easy to overlook).
My 2010 yearlist has climbed to the dizzying heights of 17 species,
besides the ducks today also a majestic White-tailed Sea Eagle circling
over my house the other day, has found a place there. But no Waxwings at
all this year, and no thrushes either---far too few Rowanberries.

Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum

9037 Tromsø, Norway

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