FW: Late autumn at 70*N



From: Wim Vader <wjm.vader@gmail.com&gt;
Sent: fredag 25. november 2022 12:28
To: Willem Jan Marinus Vader <wim.vader@uit.no&gt;
Subject: Late autumn at 70*N


Late autumn at 70*N


Back home in Tromsø in far northern Norway. We have no direct sunlight anymore: Mørketiden, i.e. the 2 months the sun does not rise above the horizon, literally ‘the dark times’, has started a few days ago, and we won’t see the sun again until Soldagen, ‘the day of the sun’ on 21 January 2023. ‘Mørketiden’ should not be taken all too literally here: just now we still have a few hours of daylight and even around Christmas there is still some twilight around noon. Most years we have snow cover in late November, which reflects what light there is, but autumn 2022 is special, as for more than a week now we have had clear winter weather with frost (and often spectacular Northern Lights in the evenings), but no snow at all. The fields are still white nevertheless, as there is abundant hoarfrost (I wish I could include pictures of that phenomenon).


Tromsø this time a year is definitely not the right place for bird listers, as there is little diversity. In addition, I no longer drive a car in winter, which of course lessens my action radius a lot.

The Idland of Tromsøya is for a large part suburban green, with most houses having gardens, while between my house and Tromsø Museum, still my place of work, there is a park-like woodland, Folkeparken, a 15 minutes’ walk. Few birds to be seen there and Folkeparken is mainly silent now, apart from the odd Great Tit or Greenfinch, and the ubiquitous Magpies and Hooded Crows. An assistent at the museum regularly feeds the birds, and the other day 3 Hooded Crows and some 15 Magpies gathered around her. No other birds on this walk, but in the garden there are very often feral pigeons,  now and then a Blue Tit comes to the feeder, and I was astonished 10 days ago to observe a male Blackcap in the garden. They should not be here: too far north! (But last winter I had a European Blackbird).


If I had walked along the shores of the nearby sound, there would have been Common Eiders, Great Cormorants, and Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, while elsewhere on the island there are small flocks of Purple Sandpipers, the only shorebird regularly wintering here north.


Most years there would also be flocks of Fieldfares, Redwings and Bohemian Waxwings around,  but this year our Rowans Sorbus aucuparia have produced practically no berries, after a bumper crop last year. And so the thrushes have migrated South early, and the waxwings are present in numbers in East Finnmark, where there ARE berries on the Rowans.


So few birds. But of course there are a few surprises, as every year. A Nutcracker has been seen in town, and the other day I surprised a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the garden, the 3d there in the 50 years I lived here. And day before yesterday my son in law photographed another unexpected happening: a female Sparrow Hawk had struck and sat mantling a feral pigeon in our garden!


Tromsø is extremely beautiful also in Mørketiden, but I must admit there are not too many birds here now.


Wim Vader, Tromsø  Norway


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