FW: Full spring in Tromsø

To: Vader Willem Jan Marinus <>,
Subject: FW: Full spring in Tromsø
From: Sonja Ross <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2013 13:54:18 +1000
Hi Wim,,

Thanks for the update on  how it is in Northern Norway.   It is always 
interesting to read your posts, partly to just enjoy them, and partly to remind 
me of trips to the northern part of Europe/Scandinavia and partly to remind me 
of the time I lived in Norway.

Do keep sending them!

Takk for det.


On 10/06/2013, at 4:58 PM, Vader Willem Jan Marinus wrote:

> From: Vader Willem Jan Marinus
> Sent: 9. juni 2013 17:12
> To: birdchat
> Cc: 
> Subject: Full spring in Tromsø
> After the dismal summer of 2012 here in Tromsø (if you overslept one day, you 
> might have missed that summer) the winter 2012-2013 was also a bit peculiar 
> (as seems to become the norm these days): for a long time we had frost 
> without much snow, and then in March-April 2013 we suddenly got a whole load 
> of snow, up to 1.5m on the ground in mid April. But from then on our luck 
> turned, as first much of the snow melted slowly and regularly, thus avoiding 
> severe flooding (Contrary to S. Norway, and now also Central Europe), and 
> then May became wonderfully warm and dry, the best May I can remember in the 
> 40 years I have lived in Tromsø. So in the end the trees became green at the 
> normal time after all (around 20 May) and although the first migrant birds 
> were 2 weeks late, the later ones arrived more or less 'on time'. 'Hot May 
> weather' in Tromsø is 19-21*C in the afternoon, and I know this won't impress 
> you much, but together with calm weather and sun 24 hrs a day (21 May to 21 
> July) I can assure you that there is no better place to be than in N. Norway 
> in spring. Now of course this could not last for ever, and just now we have 
> one of those changes that are so typical for our area. Yesterday sun and 
> 22*C, today partly cloudy and 12*C, and tomorrow rain, northerly winds and a 
> maximum of 6*C.
> I had my elder sister (80) and her daughter on a visit just when the weather 
> was nicest, and we profited by sitting in the garden till late in the evening 
> (there were not even midges as yet!) and visiting several of my old haunts, 
> that I have written so often about. Here I'll write a little about two of 
> these areas, both wetlands of sorts, and both ca 35 km from Tromsø town by 
> road. One, the Rakfjord area, is situated on the northern part of the large 
> and mountainous island of Kvaløya,  which is situated between Tromsø and the 
> open ocean. The rocks there are hard and acidic, so the vegetation is much 
> less luxuriant than further south, where there is much chalk in the ground. 
> The hills are covered with heath, often with small birch and willow scrubs 
> here and there; the ground vegetation is of a variety of berry-bearing dwarf 
> scrubs, as well as heather Calluna vulgaris. A few weeks ago the only flowers 
> here were the white Cloudberry flowers, that later hopefully will develop in 
> the yellow berries, that Norwegians are so fond of. There are also quite 
> early the small pink stars of Loiseleuria , the creeping Azalea, and now the 
> white-pink globes of another heath, Andromeda serpyllifolia. This is the 
> favourite area of the Whimbrels and one now hears everywhere their stuttering 
> alarm calls, and their beautiful 'song', ending in a characteristic trill. 
> The other day, a pair of these Whimbrels saw off a hunting Short-eared Owl, a 
> bird which I don't see many years, but this year already 5 times. Also Golden 
> Plovers are common here in the beginning of the season, but by now many have 
> moved to higher ground. The common smaller birds here are Meadow Pipits and 
> Northern Wheatears, while also here the ubiquitous Common Gulls nest; they 
> really live up to their name in the Tromsø area, nesting from downtown Tromsø 
> to the most remote valleys. As soon as there are some scrubs, one hears the 
> beautiful, but somewhat melancholy song-strophes of the Willow Warbler, the 
> most numerous bird in Norway.
> The Rakfjord elva  (elv=river) runs out here, through a series of marshes and 
> lakes and into a very shallow, mostly tidal bay (tidal amplitude here is ca 
> 3m). Here there are always ducks and geese: the geese are Greylags, of which 
> we seem to get more and more, while the most common duck here is probably the 
> fish-eating Red-throated Merganser. But also Mallards (One with pulli today), 
> Wigeons and Tufted Ducks are common here, and two of the lakes hold a pair of 
> loons, Red-throated loons in one, Arctic Loons in the other (What I call the 
> swan lake, as a pair of Whooping Swans has nested there for years. They 
> returned also this spring, but must have moved to one of the more remote 
> lakes.) Also here there are lots of Common Gulls, and this year also Arctic 
> Terns, as well as a few Parasitic Jaegers (Only 2 pairs this year, normally 
> there are more). Close to the road there is a shallow round small lake, now 
> fringed with a broad belt of the beautiful white chandelier flower-stands of 
> the Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata. These, and the sedges and Equisetum belts, 
> provide excellent cover for the two pairs of phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus 
> that nest here, and try as I might, half of the time I can't find them at 
> all, even if they are not at all shy. Also the Ruffs usually disappear 
> completely as soon as they alight, while the Redshanks are so nervous and 
> loud that one can't overlook them. Snipe there are here too, but as the area 
> is protected so one cannot walk into the marsh, one only notes the snipes 
> when they 'bleat' overhead, or sit somewhere calling their monotonous ground 
> display call. On the shores of the sound here there are lots of Eider ducks 
> and Oystercatchers, also Curlews and the larger gulls, Herring and Great 
> Black-backed.
> The other wetland, Tisnes, is on the south coast of Kvaløya, in the chalk 
> rich area, and it is a low-lying moraine sticking out into the fjord. It is 
> fully agricultural, with several farms, and all the ground is in use as 
> grassland; one farm has been taken in use for horses, and that has ruined a 
> wonderful chalk meadow, but also provided two new ponds, that are very 
> popular with the birds and also close to the road, so that one can watch 
> using the car as a blind. Several of the fields here are extremely marshy, 
> and now yellow with Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris, a very common spring 
> flower in the Tromsø area, later several species of Cotton Grass Eriophorum 
> will dominate the scenery here. Tisnes traditionally is famous for its Ruffs, 
> their numbers have been decreasing steadily these last decades, but this year 
> there are quite many, with maybe 10 spectacular males, and almost as many 
> females around. Otherwise Tisnes is a place for ducks, and we often have rare 
> ducks (for us) here; as these are species that are much more common further 
> south, other birders are not always much impressed by our Shovelers, 
> Gadwalls, and Garganeys; they rather come for the wintering King Eiders and 
> Yellow-billed Loons (now long gone). But last year we also had a few Avocets, 
> and this spring no less than 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, and later a Lesser 
> Yellowlegs, so it is always worth to check Tisnes. Today there were no 
> specialties, just Mallards, Wigeons, Teal and a single male Pintail. Also 
> Lapwings nest here still, another species in steady decrease in our area.
> On the way back I stopped for a while at a bight close to Kvaløysletta, where 
> the bridge from Kvaløya to Tromsøya is. No special birds here today, but when 
> I sat for a while reading the Sunday paper, I was suddenly surrounded by no 
> less than 14 Reindeer, not noticing me at all. What a pity then, that I have 
> stopped taking pictures!
> I have the feeling that I have written roughly similar stories several times 
> before over the years. Let me know if you are still interested in the 
> occasional story from Tromsø.
> Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
> 9037 Tromsø, Norway
> <>
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