signs of spring around the Balsfjord, N.Norway

To: Vader Willem Jan Marinus <>
Subject: signs of spring around the Balsfjord, N.Norway
From: David Richardson <>
Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2011 10:20:49 +1000
As a birder who has Norwegian family and hopes one day to visit that country
I would like to add my thanks to those of Graham and share his
sentiments.Thank-you Wim.

David Richardson

On Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 4:34 AM, Vader Willem Jan Marinus

> Today, Easter Sunday, Tromsø enjoyed a this year until now rare sunny day,
> and I decided to drive down the Balsfjord, the large and deep fjord that
> cuts far inland southwards from the island of Tromsøya, in fact, the island
> and the not very deep sounds around it form the sill of this fjord. I make
> this trip a few times every year, and in fact have reported to the bird
> lists so many times about this by now, that I fear little new can be said
> about it anymore.
> My car had been snowed in for a few months, and when we now got it loose,
> the battery was empty. But we got it recharged, so once more I can move a
> bit further away from the home base. Day before yesterday i already visited
> the Tisnes wetlands on Kvaløya: no flowering Saxifraga---my official start
> of spring--- here as yet, but a very nice flock of some 50 Snow Buntings,
> also busily recharging before embarking on the arduous flight across the
> Atlantic to E. Greenland. The wetlands on the other side of Kvaløya, at
> Rakfjord, are still mostly snow covered and the only birds there Hooded
> Crows; but some ten reindeer already found something to graze on on the bare
> patches. In a shallow bight of the sound some 10 Red-breasted Mergansers
> displayed furiously, a lot of fun to watch for a while.
> But today I started out as usual, making up a bird list as I drive along
> the main road from Tromsø across the bridge to the mainland, and along the
> Balsfjord to its much colder sidefjord, the Ramfjord, of which the innermost
> 10-15 km are still frozen. But the ice looks unhealthy and I saw no ice
> fishermen today anymore. At the bottom of the Ramfjord, I leave the main
> road, and choose a narrower sideroad along the other, southern shore of the
> Ramfjord, narrow enough to need most of my attention to the driving---our
> roads usually suffer quite a bit from snow, ice and frost during the winter.
> Still the fact that 15 km on, in Andersdalen, at the mouth of the Ramfjord
> again, but now on the other side, my list still only counts six bird
> species: Common and Herring Gulls, Magpie, Hooded Crow, Red-breasted
> Merganser and Mallard, is not only the result of inattention from my
> side---there ARE few birds here, especially before the migrants are back.
> The first stop at Andersdalen, where a smaller river flows out into the
> Balsfjord, adds a few 'usual suspect': Oystercatcher, Curlew, Great
> Black-backed Gull and one more unexpected bird, a lone Goosander  (Common
> Merganser for the Americans) drake in a small flock with Red-breasted
> Mergansers, the latter OUR common merganser species.  My usual walk along
> the road through a hill forest dominated by alder and birch at first yields
> no birds whatsoever: the only sound is that of the meltwater, coming down
> the steep slopes, often in tunnels under the snow, gurgling everywhere. A
> lone Great Tit crosses the road, the only one I see all day; amazingly, also
> this day passes without a single Greenfinch, nowadays probably our most
> numerous small bird this time a year. On the way back I finally hear
> birdsong; two far-away strophes sound to my ears like Redwings (their song
> varies a lot from place to place and also from year to year), while a closer
> bird is unmistakably and exuberantly a Chaffinch.
> I next park my car, where I have parked it now in some 20 years (In fact, a
> local asks me:; Are the birds on schedule this year?), at a large farm
> surrounded by meadows---in one of them some ten Fieldfares forage, my first
> for the year. The farm often has House Sparrows and Starlings, but not this
> time, nor do I see the resident pair of Shelducks (they were back on Tisnes
> on Friday). But there is always something to enjoy anyway; this time a
> Woodpigeon starts up his 'Doe de deur dicht, zoete lief', the dutch version
> of its song, from a tight stand of planted spruce. This is a newcomer to the
> area (and a returning migrant); earlier one had to go to the inland to see
> them. Otherwise there is little spring here as yet, although many fields are
> partially or even wholly snow-free: this area is south-exposed, which is why
> we often get the first returning migrants here. The only flowers are still
> the yellow stars of Coltsfoot, but there are now many more than a week ago.
> The Balsfjord enjoys local populations of both herring and capelin, both
> demersal spring spawners, and their eggs are much sought after by various
> diving ducks, maybe especially the scoters. This time they were all Velvet
> Scoters, viewed in beautiful light with the sun behind me 'at the bottom of
> the fjord'. Fewer ducks than usual, though, and no grebes at all. But a pair
> of Red-throated Loons were again the first of the year; this is the species
> that has become a town bird in Tromsø, with many pairs nesting on the small
> lake Prestvannet on the island (still completely ice-bound).
> In shallower areas 'in the inner corner', near the village of Storsteinnes,
> I found some dabbling ducks: Mallards, Wigeons, and Teal, and also a small
> flock of Tufted Duck, more common on freshwater here. And near the end of
> the road, the beautifully situated church of Tennes, I glimpsed a
> well-remembered way of flying; and yes, a pert White Wagtail sat on the roof
> of an outhouse, also just back no doubt. From there I drove straight back
> home (c 100km), as our narrow window of nice weather was already closing
> again. At the end of the trip I had a list of exactly 20 bird species, which
> will probably not impress any of you. We don't have all that many birds, and
> the weather is often also so-so, but the scenery is truly wonderful. Sadly,
> I can't show that to you!
>                                                                        Wim
> Vader, Tromsø Museum
>                                                                        9037
> Tromsø, Norway
> <>
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