Greetings from a small white world

One of the first pieces I sent in to the bird lists, in 1997 (time flies), was called "snow snow snow". That winter we had the great snow winter in northern Norway, and I wrote my first contributions as a reaction on the many spring stories on the lists. This winter we have a lot of snow again, albeit as yet not quite as much as in 1997— just now there is around 180 cm of snow on the ground; but this weekend the weather is changing , so that we get days of plus temperatures, very icy roads, and here and there flooding problems.
Much has changed since 1997. I have sold the house to my daughter and family, and now live in the basement apartment, where just now I have serious problems looking over the heaps of snow; the small window in my office is completely covered.. Also, I no longer drive my car in winter and, at 83, am also extra careful walking when the streets and paths are very slippery; I walk anyway always with ‘brodder’ under my shoes in winter. And now, of course, my world has got smaller still: After having visited my partner Riet in Holland late in February (where my bird year list jumped from 12 to 44, without really trying!) I had to go in quarantaine for 2 weeks because of the corona virus epidemy, and after that I was strongly advised to stay and keep at home, as I am in the high risk group. I am lucky, as my daughter can do the shopping for me, but it also means that i am very little outside these days and my year list has definitely stalled again.
I have a feeder in the garden with sunflower seeds, but this has this winter almost completely been neglected by the local birds. Only now and then a small flock of Great Tits comes to visit, with the occasional Blue Tit, a newcomer here, with them. At a house some 50 m down the street, where people also feed the birds in a garden with many bushes, there is almost almost a small flock of House Sparrows, but I have as yet never them seen here in the garden; they are extremely sedentary. The other birds in the garden are the ubiquitous European Magpies and Hooded Crows, and in the air above I regularly see Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, a small flock of feral pigeons, and occasionally a Raven. Once a White-tailed Sea Eagle flew over, not your usual garden bird! And yesterday I thought I saw a Common Gull overhead; these will in summer be very common house and garden birds here in Tromsø, but they migrate and return late March. My local newspaper yesterday had a picture of another returned migrant , the Oystercatcher.
There are of course some signs of the coming spring, if you look carefully. The most important  is daylight:  The sun has been back only six weeks, but yesterday was spring equinox and from today off we have longer days than all of you, culminating in midnight sun from 21 May. Another welcome sign of spring is the frequently heard melodious Long Call of the Herring Gulls; you never hear that in winter. And just this week the Greenfinches have started singing; also most welcome, even though one has probably to be a Greenfinch to really appreciate the quality of the song. The only other bird singing as yet is the Great Tit, but that one starts already in February. With almost 2 m of snow on the ground we can’t hope to find the first flowering Coltsfoot Tussilago as yet, but after a few days of thaw these yellow stars will probably peep up some place where the snow has run off; they often pop up through the snow even.
Sadly we live in the ll-famous ‘interesting times’ this year, and life is suddenly much more complicated than last year. But there is a lot of solace in nature, even the smallest bits of life around the house. I wish you all good contact with nature around you, even though for many of us the world has shrunk a lot.
Best greetings and wishes from the far north!
Wim Vader, Tromsø,  N. Norway

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