31 March, but few signs of Spring in Tromsø

31 March, but few signs of spring as yet in Tromsø, N. Norway
This has been a quite special winter in Tromsø (Aren’t they all, in fact?). February was cold and dry, with 3.4 mm precipitation in the whole month the driest February ever (Not quite true, there was one even drier some 60 years ago). But nature has clearly planned to make up for this deficiency and in the last week it has snowed every day, and we have got 1 m of fresh snow (pity I can’t send pictures). And this last week was Easter week, the one week in the year that all of Norway takes free and goes skiing. For most of the country, c up to the Polar Circle this Easter has been a ‘dream Easter’, with lots of sun and lots of snow on the ground. But here north the situation is quite different: 20 of the main roads are closed because of avalanches, many villages are isolated, one person killed by an avalanche, and to get to Finnmark from the rest of Norway you now need to drive a 720km detour through Finland!
This morning, the only day in the Easter holidays the shops are open a few hours (closed Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday) I walked to the shop via a path along the sound; only a few people had ventured out there this morning, so one had to wade through the fresh snow. The backs of the banks that the town has placed here and there, were just visible above the snow, and our first spring flowers, the Coltsfoot, have as yet no chance at all to penetrate the thick layers of snow. I had hoped that I might find the first returning migrants today: Common Gull, Oystercatchers, and also the Snow Buntings that stay here for a few weeks before crossing the Atlantic to Greenland and N. Canada. But there were none of the above; the intertidal still was dominated by the Hooded Crows. On the sound large rafts of Eiders, but no display as yet to be heard there either. In the town streets themselves the magpies dominated the scene, as usual. But I saw still a single Bohemian Waxwing, in the cold morning ‘a ball with a crest’. Greenfinches dominate the scene here and in Folkeparken, and there are also Great Tits, although strangely quiet this morning.
Are there no signs of spring at all then as yet?. Well, of course our days are already longer than yours, and they get 10 minutes longer every day. And there is one other sign, no doubt overlooked by many: the Herring Gulls, that here often nest on roofs in town, have started to use the triumphant long call of spring!
Happy Easter all, with more birds than we have here now.
Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway



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