FW: SLOW, BUT SURE START OF SPRING AT 70

 

 

From: wim vader <wjm.vader@gmail.com&gt;
Sent: fredag 28. mai 2021 12:26
To: Willem Jan Marinus Vader <wim.vader@uit.no&gt;; Wim Vader <wjm.vader@gmail.com&gt;
Subject: SLOW, BUT SURE START OF SPRING AT 70

 

 

 

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ME SKAL KOME, OM IKKJE SÅ BRATT

           This Norwegian saying would fit well for spring 2021 in Tromsø at 70*N in Northern Norway. It roughly translates as : ‘We will come, but not quite so suddenly’. And that fits excellently for this spring, which is arriving in fits and starts. Today we have 5*C and rain, but last week we had a few days with temperatures of 13-14*C (I know, does not sound all that warm for most of you) and it made a lot of difference. There is nothing more wonderful than the arrival in spring in an area with as large seasonal variations in weather and light as here. I have lived in California, Sydney and Cape Town for a period, and all these places have much greater diversity and to be honest, a much easier climate, than Northern Norway. But I missed this glorious yearly rebirth of nature, that we experience up here every spring.

         Three days ago, the last snow in our garden disappeared, and it now looks as if the birches finally are leafing. The 100 000s of Coltsfoot flowers are fading close to the sea and on South-exposed slopes (Although the Siberian Primroses still are doing very well and now carpet some lawns) and a few new flowers  have appeared: Dandelions and Buttercups along the roads, Marsh Marigold Caltha in ditches and marshland, Wood Anemones Anemone nemorosa in Folkeparken , and the inconspicuous small white bells of the Arctic Bearberry Arctostaphylos alpinus on the Heath (No Cloudberry flowers as yet).

         And also the migrant birds return one after the other—and having access to my car again I can cover a somewhat wider area. Willow Warblers, our most numerous bird, were back the day after my last piece, and their pleasant, somewhat melancholy song strophes are now ubiquitous. The first Pied Flycatcher of the year was in our garden, but these last days I have seen them at a number of different places; they are now vying with the Great Tits for the many nest boxes. A return visit to the Tisnes wetlands showed the same three Ruffs still competing, but this time there was also a single Ruddy Turnstone, and 2 beautiful black Spotted Redshanks, the latter still on migration further North. And here on the island I surprised a late small flock of Purple Sandpipers; these winter here, but migrate further North or up into the hills to breed. Tisnes also yielded the first Meadow Pipit of the year, a very common bird up here.

        Day before yesterday was still nise and sunny, 13*C. I first drove to lake Prestvannet at the top of our island of Tromsøya, where we enjoy as many as 10 pairs of nesting Red-throated Loons; but this small lake was still completely ice-covered. So I continued to the outlying large island of Kvaløya, between us and the sea. The first stop, at a small bight where there often are interesting shorebirds, did not yield much: gulls, Oystercatchers, a few Redshanks, and a lone Golden Plover; as often before, there were Reindeer in the Fields behind. Then I drove the c 30 km to another favourite area: the wetlands at Rakfjord, along the Kvalsund, that divides Kvaløya from the more Northern large island of Ringvassøy. Here, as I have described before, the rocks are not chalk rich as on Tromsøya, but very hard and acid, and consequently the vegetation is completely different and  much less luxuriant, and spring often is a bit late.

Also here many Reindeer grazed, but otherwise the marshes and low hills still did not feel all that spring-like and there were few marsh birds, only the ubiquitous Common Gulls and the always larming Redshanks; no Arctic Skuas (Parasitic Jaegers)as yet, no Whimbrels or Snipe and here no Golden Plovers either. But the low-lying small lakes here were already ice free, and on one the resident pair of Arctic Loons had returned, while the same lake now also sported a pair of Whooper Swans, no doubt the pair that most years nests in a lake a bit higher up, now still frozen over.

A bit further along the road to Kvaløyvågen there is a small thicket of mostly willows and stinted birches. Here there are often Willow Grouse and I heard one cackling also now. When I got it in view, it turned out to be halfways in the change to summer plumage: head and breast already warm brown, the rest still winter-white. The same thicket hold a few small birds which I am almost sure were Redpolls—very common there in summer–, of course the Willow Warblers were singing also here, but there was also a more brilliant song, the bird the Saami call ‘the bird with a thousand voices’, my favourite small bird, the Bluethroat. This one was not quite in full song as yet, but nevertheless so full in enthousiasm, that a few times it launched itself into the air a bit, in the way of Sedge Warblers or Common Whitethroats.

On the way back I had to brake hard for a reindeer with a very young calf on the road, and I was now so excited about all the new year birds that I, in vain, tried to turn 4 Red-throated Mergansers into Common Mergansers,  and a circling ‘raptor’ into a Rough-legged Buzzard. This last one turned out to be a Northern Raven!

But this day would give a last pleasant surprise: while driving  over the bridge connecting Kaløya and Tromsøya, the first Arctic Tern of the year flew across! Year bird nr 59.

Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway

PS Let me know if this  is a surfeit of information from a faraway place. I have been criticized for this before.

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