Winter this winter in Tromsø

We have real winter this year in Tromsø

Tromsø, N. Norway, is far north (almost 70*N), but it is also close to the coast and the ‘warm’ North Atlantic Current, and especially in later years our winters have been characterized by regular influxes of mild Atlantic air, bringing rain, and often extremely slippery roads. We had a few days like that in early January, but since then the weather has been uncommonly stable, with often clear days and frost (but sadly no more snow; we still have to do with the c 2 ft we got in the Christmas holidays). Ten days ago we also got the sun back, and now we have sunlight already for c 3 hrs–longer on the mountain tops around.

Today it is again clear, with hardly a cloud in the skies, and the temperature is -11*C. I decided to walk to the shop (I no longer drive my car in winter) via the coastal path, but it turned out that there was a very icy Balsfjordwind ( a wind coming through the long Balsfjord from inland Troms, where it is at least 10* C colder than here) there, and the waters of the sound were almost too choppy to see many birds—in fact I did not see a single Eider duck today. Also, the path turned out to be almost an ice rink, so that the ice cleats under my shoes were absolutely necessary. Besides the always present Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls there were only some Great Cormorants, a common winter bird here. And a small surprise: high in the sky an immature White-tailed Sea Eagle circled. This is not a rare bird here, but you usually don’t see them in the middle of town. Just outside the shop two small flocks of Bohemian Waxwings flew over; yesterday I had as many as 150 in my garden for a short time. They have feasted on the this year superabundant rowan (mountain ash) berries, but now there are not so many berries left on the trees, and I have not seen any Fieldfares for over a week. But last week there was a single Redwing in my garden, and yesterday the wintering European Blackbird showed again in the neighbourhood.

My year list has climbed all the way to 20 bird species. I’ll list them in the order in whch I found them: Great Black-backed Gull, Magpie, Pine Grosbeak, Hooded Crow, Fieldfare, Greenfinch, Great Tit, European Blackbird, Redwing, Common Eider, Feral Pigeon, Herring Gull, Bohemian Waxwing, Blue Tit, Northern Raven, House Sparrow, Willow Tit, Siskin, Great Cormorant and White-tailed Sea Eagle.

I think I also saw far away Grey Heron and Sparrow Hawk, and it is strange that I have somehow missed all the wintering sea ducks until now. There are also wintering Purple Sandpipers here, but somehow never in my corner of the island.

Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway

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