I have had great problems with my work PC, which is why a few of my short essays never were sent out. They are coming now, much delayed. Sorry about that.
Fra: Wim Vader <>
Sendt: søndag 2. april 2023 17:22
Til: Willem Jan Marinus Vader <>
Emne: March in Tromsø and Odijk
I spent 3 weeks of March with my LAT partner Riet in Odijk, a large village near Utrecht in the Netherlands. When I left Tromsø on 10 March, the days there were still quite short, there was around one meter of snow on the ground and the
only probable signs of spring were the intermittant Long Calls of the Herring Gulls on the shore. Great and Blue Tits (the latter a newcomer here at 70*N) visited my feeder, but otherwise the only birds around were the ubiquitous Magpies and Hooded Crows,
and the Common Eiders and Great Black-backed Gulls on the sound, while a single Sparrow Hawk whisked past one day. I have had some mobility problems and no car in winter, so all my movements both here and in Odijk have been close to home.
Flying to Odijk on 10 March the scene changed completely, even though just that day there was a thin veneer of snow; 2 days later the temperature was +17*C! March is traditionally a very unstable month in Holland weather wise, and so it
proved to be also now, even though it rained almost every day this time.
I have written about Odijk before; it is a green village, with the Kromme Rijn (formerly the outlet of the mighty Rhine, but the last 2 millennia a quiet backwater) slinging along one side of the village, with a footpath alongside. I have
also described Riet's small garden on earlier occasions. Odijk is always full of the cozy Jackdaws (I am envious there), as well as of Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves, with European Blackbirds (Still recovering from an epidemic a few years ago) in most gardens.
Riet's small garden is surprisingly bird rich, with Blackbirds and Dunnocks nesting every year. Last year there also was a pair of European Robins; this year probably Winter Wrens, while a Chaffinch sings in front of the house. A pair of Wood Pigeons is building
their ramshackle nest in the Ivy tree.
Bird song increased during the weeks I was there, with the Blackbirds slowly getting into full song, and the Dunnocks, Wrens, Robins and Chaffinches the main voices. In the second week the Chiffchaffs arrived and became numerous, while
in the woodland along the Kromme Rijn (probably originally belonging to a stately home, with much Arum and Vinca in the undergrowth, the latter in full blue flower) there were Song Thrushes, and I heard a single Mistle Thrush, as well as a drumming Great Spotted
On the river itself Coots dominate, but there are also Moorhens, Mallards and still a few Cormorants (winter birds here), while a pair of Great Crested Grebes had already returned. Pairs of Greylag Geese float on the river, but this time
I see Egyptian Geese only once, and no Mute Swans here at all. There are also frequent skeins of geese overhead, and along the Rhine there are still large flocks of wintering White-fronted and Barnacle Geese. Grey Herons are common, and the pair of White Storks
has returned to its nest, put up by the locals. Few gulls in the village, but in the surrounding meadows there are lots of Black-headed Gulls, as well as swans, the now also common Great Egret, and (regrettably few) Lapwings. Common Buzzards are regular, and
once a Kestrel h⁰unted almost in the village.
Willows, Alders and Hazel are in flower, and many places the ground is covered with the yellow stars of the Lesser Celandine Ficaria. (When I arrived, they were not yet in flower; when I left, they twinkled everywhere.) Gardens and road
verges are full of the early crocuses, daffodils and other bulbs, and on one site along the Kromme Rijn there is a patch with the spectacular lilac flower spikes of the Butterbur Petasites.
In the village the Chaffinches dominate, but there are of course also tits, House Sparrows, Starlings and Carrion Crows. Here and there Greenfinches rasp, and twice I came across the cozy and beautiful European Goldfinches, once even in
the garden, a first. And we found the first Pied Wagtails of the year.
On the last day of March I returned home to Tromsø, where I found there is now 1.5m of snow on the ground, and thus no Coltsfoot as yet. The days are now longer than in Odijk and Greenfinches are singing also here, while the tits continue
to visit the feeder; also the odd Willow Tit
among them. Oystercatchers have returned, but I have as yet not seen any Common Gulls. Spring here is still only a promise.
Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway
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