The local Røst choir is a wonderful amateur choir directed by “øy-musikant” – “island-musician” Mikke Rönneberg. Due to corona, we had to cancel the heart warming Yuletide concert 2 years in a row now. As a little “plaster på såret” (plaster on the wound), I post our 2019 concert here. Some of the 2019 soloists included Hildegunn Pettersen and Chris Evjen and “toast master” was Gøran Greger.

What exactly is the Juletide bird in Nordland?

The stately red dompap, or the stylish and colorful yellow sparrow, which likes Juletide aswell? 
I just as often think of another species around Juletide time. The young leave the nest around Juletide amongst this species. 
The idea that right now they are sitting in their nest caves and are ready to leave the nest, in the middle of the dark-times,
is quite fantastic.
And it is happening just in these darkest of days in the Northern World, on rocky, grassy and windswept islands on the Nordland coast. 
This year's Storm Petrel chicks are about to leave their nests, to move out onto the sea and fly south into the Atlantic Ocean. 
Some of them fly far south of the equator, to the coast of South Africa.

What could be the reason why these breed so late in the year? The Storm Petrel is a rather small bird, it normally weighs 
20-30 gramsas an adult. That is, it weighs less than a dompap, but has much longer wings. Although they are very skilled pilots 
out on the open sea, they are vulnerable and completely defenseless on land. They simply cannot fly to and from the nest in daylight 
without exposing themselves to the great danger of being caught by hungry seagulls and other predators. Therefore, they have to 
wait to nest until the nights start to get so dark that they can fly to and from the nest without being seen.

The nest is usually located under stone slabs, inside rock piles, or in nest passages of Puffins. 
The Storm Petrel lays 1 egg there, it is often laid in August here in Nordland. It takes 40-50 days before it hatches, and the chick 
needs 56-86 days before it leave the nest, so it can be late December before they fly out!

The first days after hatching, the chicks get food almost daily, but gradually it takes longer between each time.
It can quickly become 4-5 days towards the end of the breeding, and then finally it can take 7 days from the last feeding until 
the chicks leave the nest, most likely on their own.

Maybe just right now there are some young Storm Petrels sitting in nests somewhere on the coast of Nordland and waiting 
until a little later in the evening before they leave their safe nest for the very first time. They will instinctively seek out the 
open seas where they will spend most of their adult lives, only comeing ashore to nest.  A Real little juletide miracle! 

Some fun facts:
The Storm Petrel egg weighs approx. 25% of the female birds's weight! It is in the same class with the Kiwi's egg, which is known to 
have the largest egg in relation to the mother of all birds.

They always lay only 1 egg.

The egg can withstand exceptionally well to be cooled, which is crucial for them to be able to nest so far to the north so late 
in the year. However, this means that it takes longer from the time the egg is laid until it hatches.

The young lay down quickly, and can weigh almost twice as much as the parent birds for a while, but then they have to slim down 
considerably towards the end of the nesting period to become airworthy. See a picture of a 7-day-old cub here - it was photographed 
by researchers studying the pups' ability to regulate heat.

The Storm Petrel is a numerous breeding bird in Great Britain, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and along the Norwegian/Sámi coast, 
more numerous in the Mediterranean and in the Canary Islands. It is estimated that there are up to 10,000 pairs,
breedinig in Norway/Sápmi.

Although the Storm Petrel is quite small, it can become quite old. The oldest known Storm Petrel here in Norway/Sápmi,
was just over 29 years old. But a bird which was over 33 years old, has been found on the British Isles. 

They begin to nest at the age of four or five.

(Complete text and photo by Atle Ivar Olsen here (BirdLife Nordland)




The northern tip of Hernyken nature reserve is looking towards the Trenyken. In between the two islands seabirds gather on the sea in large numbers. A quiet flow of sounds from thousand upon thousands of birds rafting out on the water is what this soundscape intended to capture. The birds socialize, clean their feathers, some take off and some are landing. The waves are hitting the rocky shore with resonating crevices, and various birds and insects are in the air.

 

Since this soundscape was recorded in 2010-2011, the decline in the seabird population on Røst has escalated. During the summer of 2020 the bird mountain of Vedøya, including the Kittiwakes breeding in the Vishellern cave, were gone.

Here is a small excerpt of a recording I did overnight at the bottom of the cave in 2010 or 2011. The sonic sensation of a flock of Kittiwakes flying out of the cave and over you is one of the strongest and most mesmerizing sound memories I carry with me.

Statistically speaking there are no more Kittiwakes and Guillemot breeding on Vedøya. In 1980 there were approximately 1.5 million pairs of Puffins breeding in all of the Røst archipelago and on Vedøya only, 12000 pairs of Guillemots and 25.000 pairs of Kittiwakes. Nowadays, the overall Puffin population is down to around 200.000 pairs and the few Guillemots left are hiding in small caves and crevices. The last Kittwakes of Røst are now clinging on in Kårøya and Gjellfruvær. If the decline continues, there will be no Puffins left in Røst by 204o.

 Vedøy is the most famous of the bird mountains in the Røst arhipelago. No more than thirty years ago there were more than 20000 pairs of Kittiwakes nesting in the steep cliffs of Vedøy. The soundscape was so loud it could be heard on the neighboring islands. In late March of 2010, I experienced a vague shadow of what it must have sounded like back then when a white cloud of elegant kittiwakes vocalized and moved in and out of the bird cliffs simultaneously. Today there are only a few thousand of Kittiwake pairs left, and they are listed as critically threatened on the Norwegian red list.

Photo: Querinifest 2019 – Concert by Vishellarn – Avisa Nordland

 

I love how the the gak gak´s, the ho-ho -ing of The Eider and the churps of Eider chicks resonate in the narrow harbor, Keila on Skommvær.

They find shelter in the Wedge of Keila and dive to fish for scallops and small crustaceans.

In the past decades, there has been a decline in the population of Eiders all along the coast of NO/Sápmi. The

You can read more about why here:

A warmer ocean is bad news for Eiders

The common eider is a large diving duck that can be found along the entire coast of Norway, but its numbers are decreasing. Researchers have registered declining eider populations over several years without being able to point to any specific explanation for the decline. They know that introduced American mink and birds of prey pose an increasing threat to adult eiders and that egg-predators, such as crows and large gulls, may have negative impacts on reproduction. Now, researchers have discovered that ocean warming is a direct cause of population decline in this species.” (SEAPOP)

 

Photo by Kåre Hansen


 

What does it sound like when one of Northern Europes most epic and famous bird mountains loses its voice?

To all of our discontent and shock; Vedøya (Røst) became silent in the summer of 2020,

I recently composed the first verse or episodes you could say, in a series of sound works lamenting the loss of Vedøya as a sea bird mountain.

The work wishes to speak to Vedøyas origins and life until this day, from a variety of voices.

The work’s narrative is based on a script I have been writing using many years of research into archives, my own deepening friendship with – and getting to know the island as well as conversations with local people and neighbors, bird scientists, and ornithologists who have been working on Vedøya throughout time.

I am sharing with you the newly translated script. The translation was done by the poet and writer Annabelle Despard.

 

////o v o////

 

I’m lying here resting

with my mountain sisters

 

the sun warms me

the winds and rain

wash

us

lichen and moss-skin

protect us

 

we listen to

eternity

the waves

waves

clumps of seaweed

on the shore

are stirred

by cycles

 

below us

we feel

the power

magma

the origin of Utrøstryggen

 

we are the elders

born in the world’s infancy

yet still rising

through millennia

under heavy massed ice

the ice

melting

the winds

the water

the currents

insisting

shaping and honing

 

landslides at times

shapes changing

new spaces made

 

cliff faces

are open invitations

 

I call them my winged. children

one springwinter they came flying

in over the hills

different voices

have

come

gone

come

gone

 

 

long gone

 

every spring

we are woken

and we no longer crave for company

in the long summer nights

 

eggs

are laid

lain on

fed

hatched

squeaking

chattering

squabbling

calling

answering

 

then they fly off

in August

in twilight days

 

It’s light tonight

but all I want is to sleep

everything is changed

I don’t know where I am

without

the screeching

the blare

the sheen of the silver mantel

 

a pair of ravens

are searching in vain

for life

their shrieks echo in Visheller´n

 

////

 

One springwinter long long ago

our forebirds came flying

 

Our time is old

it is hard to say when we came

but we remember

an ancient mineral giant

born from Utrøstryggens

300 million years

 

Were you expecting company?

 

we found rocky ledges

for white and turquoise eggs

rock nests

and hollows

such lovely song

in the steep rock face

 

///

I look at you

from different angles

daily

try to store

your outline

your

shape

in me

changing

with the wind

the weather

kinds of light

 

you are stoical today

seen from the north

I cannot see the sea

between you and Røst

you rise straight up out of the ground

a support

supporting

here we stand

glaring at each other

 

///

Today I came back to Vedøya

I walked up the sheep track along Bunes Bay

to the old Swiss hut for bird research

 

Two people

sitting on the step

tying their shoelaces

ready to investigate the auk

It is the summer of 1965

harvest

shouting and children’s laughter

sheep and lambs bleating

coffeepots rattling

a pipe is lit

 

But where are the kittiwakes?

///////

Nothing is as it was

we get used to the land

all over again

but everything feels strange

the choir no longer sings in unison

few or nobody

is at home

as they were

not very long ago

 

one auk

or a single

guillemot

dives off the cliff face

lonely arrows

vibrating in the air

 

In the light time

the wren sings

her solo

 

Birds are at home

floating weightlessly

strangely eternal

if only the sea was not so empty

birds, sheep, people, guano

plants proliferating

under the mountain’s towering

being

 

asleep

 

hunting island

gathering fodder

summer pastures

 

Photo by EMØV

Archival image, Vedøya, 1.6.1963 by Paul Andreas Røstad

 

One of the Puffin’s social activities is called wheeling. This is a cyclic group activity that happens in intervals throughout the day, the week, and the season. The Puffins move together in an elliptic circle flying against the wind up towards their particular nest sites. There will be several circles around the different parts of the colony, in several vertical layers. Part of the circle is over the seabird raft out on the waterfront and part is over the colony. I wanted to capture sounds of swarming and wheeling, both from the inside-, as well as from the outside of a skree. This is what it sounds like on a summer night in early July 2011.