Tromsø in early June, cold spring island

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Tromsø in early June, cold spring island
From: "Vader Willem Jan Marinus" <>
Date: Sun, 6 Jun 2010 15:30:19 +0200

                                         TROMSØ IN EARLY JUNE, COLD SPRING

The weather here in N.Norway is nothing if not unpredictable, it may rain
in every month of the year, but it may also snow in every month of the
year! After unprecedentedly beautiful weather on our National Day 17. May
(when I was abroad), the weather had changed radically towards my return
and these last days we have had chilly and wet weather: strong NW winds,
rain and sleet showers, and temp. of +3-4*C! But, virtually all snow is
gone in town (the hills received a fresh load of snow these last days),
all the trees are green by now, and in theory we have sun 24 hrs a day (In
practice we have seen little of the sun these last days)

Just now, on 5. June, I had promised a visiting Australian, Rob Masson
from Tasmania, to try to show him some birds, and on the same afternoon I
had a English-language bird walk around Prestvannet, the little lake on
top of our island Tromsøya. I picked up Rob from his hotel in the morning,
and we made our way to my two favourite localities on Kvaløya, Rakfjord on
the north side, and Tisnes on the south side of this large island, between
us and the open sea. We mostly birded from the car: an attempt to walk an
area had to be interrupted, as the showers became too fierce. Rakfjord is
in the area with hard acid rock, and spring had come very short here, just
a few Coltsfoot Tussilago and the always very early heath Andromeda
serpyllifolia were in flower. But as always, birdlife here is very nice
and symptomatic, in my eyes, for the Tromsø area. The wet fields and
marshes hold many Golden Plovers, all in immaculate summer plumage, and
Whimbrels supply the spring music with their thrill-song. Also, there are
always a few pairs of Arctic Skuas  (Parasitic Jaegers) here, and the
small lakes have Wigeons, Red-throated Mergansers, Tufted Ducks, and a
pair of Red-throated Loons. There are lots of nesting Common Gulls here
too, and a crossing Raven was given a hard time of it. There are pairs of
Greylag Geese scattered over the area, but we somehow missed the Whooper
Swans, that always nest here too. Few smaller  birds in the cold: even the
inevitable Meadow Pipits did not sing, and otherwise we only saw White
Wagtails and a pair of Reed Buntings. I had just told Rob, that a year ago
I had watched a hunting Short-eared Owl here, when lo and behold, there
was the owl again!!

Afterwards we just had time for a short visit to the wet fields at Tisnes,
where we once more were in luck: there were more Ruffs than usual these
last years, and some of them were lekking quite close to the road. This is
one of my favourite nature displays to show to guests, and it never fails
to make an impression. Otherwise we added Redshanks, Teal, Cormorant, Bank
Martins and Barn Swallows to the daylist, while a passing couple told us
they had met several Willow Grouse, while straying from the road in to the

The afternoon walk drew some 15 people from 4 countries, in spite of the
awful weather. Prestvannet is primarily famous for its nesting
Red-throated Loons, which one here can watch from close by. Last year
there were 5 nesting pairs, and this year there may be even more. They
still showed occasional bouts of display, always fun to watch. Otherwise
the birdlife here is very predictable: Mallards, Tufted Ducks (as tame as
the mallards), Common Gulls and Arctic terns, all nesting here, and large
numbers of Sand Martins, with a few Barn Swallows thrown in, foraging
close over the water surface. Once again, no bird song, apart from a
single Willow Warbler, and virtually no flowers as yet.

This morning a lone Blue Tit visited my feeder (2 years since I saw this
species here for the first time, but now almost a regular already), and
later my granddaughters alerted me to strange small birds in the garden;
to my real surprise I found a young Treecreeper clinging to a dry wall, so
confused that I could pick it ujp, although it afterwards flew strongly
enough. This is an inland species that I only see in my garden
occasionally in winter, but these must have bred nearby.

Just now I combined the buying of the Sunday papers with a short walk in
the area around the airport, where i was glad to see that there were many
Sand Martins around; they used to nest here, but their nesting area was
destroyed by roadworks. They must have found a new suitable nesting area
nearby. On the little beach there were as always breeding Oystercatchers,
Ringed Plovers and Turnstones----I did not see the Temminck's Stints , but
Rob who visited the area a few days ago, had found them displaying, so
they must probably nest also this summer.

In contradistinction to Prestvannet, at about 50m a.s.l., here at sea
level and in the very chalk-rich ground, there were already many flowers,
and part of the Coltsfoot was already in seed. There were many Dandelions
and Buttercups, the always early Alpine Cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii,
with its red-dotted yellow petals, the first Alchemilla and Melandrium,
and my personal favourites, the elegant small primrose Primula
finmarchica, a true harbinger of spring for me every year. With the
midnight sun, everything grows very fast here, so summer will have come
(and gone) almost too soon!

                                                           Wim Vader,
Tromsø Museum

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