the near things around us

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: the near things around us
From: Vader Willem Jan Marinus <>
Date: Sat, 30 Jul 2011 12:26:37 +0000
Dear friends

There is an old Chinese curse, that says: 'May you live in interesting times!' 
Here in Norway we have all experienced this last week the force of this curse, 
after the country was hit by a double act of terror: a very heavy bomb in 
central Oslo followed by an utterly callous massacre of 69 youngsters in a 
political summercamp on a nearby island. After the first shocks, the country 
and people of Norway have reacted in a beautiful manner, IMO, with solidarity, 
flowers and the firm conviction not to let ourselves be swayed by these 
tragedies into giving up our open society, with small distance between those 
who govern and the governed. (As you know, I am originally Dutch, and still am, 
in spite of my 46 years in Norway, so I am not praising myself here). But it 
has taken almost all our energy and time this last week, and for people like 
us, it is then extra good to flee to the near things in nature around us.

  The nearest is of course the garden, where I still fill my tube-feeders with 
sunflower seeds. Amazingly, they are now much more popular than in the winter, 
and the birds empty the two feeders almost in a day. There are lots of feral 
pigeons on the lawn (Northernmost in the world,, as so many things here), that 
look for spillage, but on the feeders themselves the absolutely dominating bird 
species is the Greenfinch. There may be as many as 20-25 birds at the same time 
jostling for the sticks. A lot of them are stripey youngsters, some apparently 
only just fledged (I don't think Greenfinches nest in my garden, but they must 
do so close by) and still begging from their parents. They are clumsy and 
unwary, and I have already twice seen one caught and killed by the resident 
pair of Hooded Crows!. There are a few other birds on the feeders:  Bramblings 
and Chaffinches (mostly 1-2 weeks earlier), Siskins, a few House Sparrows, a 
family of young Great Tits, and the odd Redpoll, Twite and Willow Tit. A whole 
family of Magpies also frequents the area---also here the young still beg, 
although I don't think the parents feed them anymore as a rule)---but they do 
not manage the tubular feeders. Common Gulls and Fieldfares feed on the lawn , 
but ignore the feeders.

In the neighbourhood the vegetation now has gone into summermodus, the carpet 
of pink Cranesbills in the Folkeparken has disappeared and has been replaced by 
the offwhite sweetsmelling flowers of Meadowsweet Filipendula  and by the large 
violet patches of Rosebay (Fireweed) Chamenerion, so conspicuous that one can 
se them from the air on flying in to our airport. Along the roads the enormous 
'Tromsø-palms' Heracleum are now a beautiful sight---and Tromsø is full of 
them, campaigns to get rid of these aliens have not helped anything as yet--, 
and the late summer flowers are also out by now: Goldenrods Solidago, the 
Melancholy Thistle Cirsium heterophyllum (in which I fail to see anything 
melancholy at all), and Sneezewort Achillea ptarmica now joining the Yarrow, 
that flowers all summer, as do the clovers and buttercups.

This morning I walked for a while in the area near the airport at Langnes, 
about which I have written before. There is a lot of rough grassland there, or 
rather maybe forb-land, full of Cow Parsley Anthriscus, now all in seed, 
nettles, dock and again Meadowsweet, but here in the open these are already 
fading fast. There are also small copses of various species of willow, with 
some birches and alders, and there are birds everywhere today. The majority 
seem to be Meadow Pipits, but there are also many Greenfinches and Redpoll, and 
i also see a few Twite, and lots of young Wagtails. The tide is halfway out, 
and to my surprise there are quite a number of small birds in the intertidal. 
For .the Rock Pipits this is of course normal, but I had not expected so many 
Willow Warblers here. They fly like small helicopters over the rockpools and 
Ascophyllum clumps, and probably feed on the Clunio midges that live there.

There is a broad stretch of foreshore here, partly muddy, partly stony. Close 
to the waterline there is a large flock of Arctic terns and of course the usual 
gulls: Common, Herring and Great Black-backed. Grey Herons stand with cat-like 
patience  here and there along the shore,and there is a sprinkling of 
Oystercatchers and Redshanks; I also see a small flock of Ruffs, some small 
Calidris sandpipers too far away to identify, and I hear the unmistakable 
tju-WEET of a Spotted Redshank. On the other side of the peninsula there is a 
small sandy beach and here the Ringed Plovers still warn and the terns 
half-heartedly divebomb me. Along the coast eider mothers swim with young of 
various ages, and farther out large flocks of males are ready for moulting. 
Here and there a Cormorant fishes. All very normal indeed, but a most welcome 
relief from the TV pictures with their long lists of photographs of laughing 
youngsters, all killed by this misguided loner.

On the way back home a small surprise: two Collared Doves along the road. These 
arrived in Tromsø as early as the late sixties, and have kept a precarious 
toehold ever since with just a few pairs, partly thanks to an old lady who 
feeds them all winter. But I had never seen them on my side of the island.

I am most grateful for those of you who have mailed me this last week.

                                                                    Wim Vader, 
Tromsø Museum

Tromsø, Norway



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