sign of life

Sorry about the escaped start of a message!
Towards the end of a bird poor year
          12.30 in Tromsø on 16 November, grey and drizzly and daylight is already fading; in a week’s time we’ll enter the ‘mørketida’, the 2 months that the sun does not rise above the horizon. Tromsø is, as is most of the world this year, in the grip of the corona pandemic and even though Norway is among the least heavily stricken nations in Europe, we still live with many restrictions and are i.a. asked to stay at home as much as possible. And from home there are very few birds to enjoy. Virtually all the migrants have ‘come to their senses and flown south’ (as a popular song has it) and the crop of Rowan Sorbus berries was not a good one this year, so all the thrushes have left, and I have as yet seen neither Bohemian Waxwings or Pine Grosbeaks the only regular guests in our garden are the ubiquitous Magpies and Hooded Crows, and now and then a roving flock of Great Tits. In the air there are Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls and when one is very lucky, may be a Grey Heron, and when I train my field glasses on the sound below, some 500 m away, I now and then can see some Common Eiders and a cormorant flying low over the water. There should be also some other sea ducks there, such as scoters, Long-tailed Duck and Red-breasted Merganser, but the sound is too far away to be sure.  Winter is late this year here: we have had some days with snowfall, the last time up to 20 cm, but it has all melted away again, and left the paths in Folkeparken, my local woodland, very muddy.
       My year list of birds, which I have kept for the last 50 years or so, stops this year at 107, probably a number many of you can see on a good days excursion. The main reason is again the pandemic, although I have also had some health problems, that did not help either. But I have been unable to visit my LAT partner of 30 years Riet in the Netherlands, apart from short visits in February and October, so this has been a year without owls, swifts, cuckoos, nightingales or Sylvia warblers, to mention only a few of the many missing. Nor have I been able to conduct any other travels (I normally do 2 bird tours a year, and travel also in connection with my amphipod studies), apart from a short visit to my daughter and family on Svalbard in September, when most birds had already left this high arctic island.
           The second wave of the pandemic has also come to Norway, although with 291 deaths in total we have done much better than many other countries. And just now we wait anxiously to see if the recent restrictions will have a positive effect. The first signs are promising, fortunately. But for now, we’ll have to stay inside for most of the time still, as it has been almost this entire year. But every cloud has a silver lining: I have got published 5 amphipod papers this year, almost a record for me!
           All the best to you all, and may normal times return sooner rather than later.
          Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway

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