Friday, 3 September 2010

The new blog!

Terry has now moved to Beijing, China. His new blog - Birding Beijing - can be read here.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Tak og vi ses!

The Danish telecommunications company, TDC, today cut off my phone and internet connection a day early (grr..) so I am writing this from Mojo coffee shop on Gothersgade in central Copenhagen. I have checked us in for the BA flight, via London, to Beijing tomorrow and we are just about packed. We plan to spend our last evening in Copenhagen with a take away and a beer on the harbour at Nyhavn.

With our packing surprisingly (and uncharacteristically) ahead of schedule, I couldn't resist a final visit to my favourite patch at Sydvestpynten this morning. There was a distinctly autumnal feel to the air with a cool, fresh south-westerly breeze and the air full of migrants - mostly Tree Pipits and Yellow Wagtails but also a few waders including Ruff, Golden and Grey Plovers. Along the sheltered hedgerow a Spotted Flycatcher competed with two Pied Flycatchers for the small swarms of flying insects that danced in the lee of the hedge and a moulting adult male Common Redstart claimed the lower ground, preferring to catch insects on the ground from a low perch. A lone Swift made me realise that I hadn't heard these brief summer visitors for a few days now - they always seem to disappear all at once - and it mingled with a mixed group of hirundines including adult and juvenile Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins. The bushes were alive with Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Lesser and Common Whitethroats. It was a good reminder of just how good this patch has been for migration - the numbers of birds passing through has eclipsed anything I have seen in the UK. On a clear October day, especially after the first frost further north in Scandinavia, the sky can be full of finches - mostly Chaffinches and Bramblings - larks and buntings and it is a spectacle I will miss this year.

The hoped for rarity on my last full day in Denmark did not materialise but that did not take away the joy of a typically rich morning's birding at this special site. With my bike already packed and on its way back to London for storage, I caught the bus back to the city with a heavy heart. I hope I will be back one day!

Thanks to everyone who has read this blog over the last 3 years - your comments and support have made it a lot of fun and it is also a great record for me of my time here in Copenhagen.

As soon as I can I will post details of my new blog from Beijing - it promises to be a different, but I am sure just as bird-rich, experience!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Red-necked Phal: the video

As promised... a short video of the Red-necked Phalarope during one of its more energetic spells.. the shutter you can here in the background is Eigil's. A fantastic bird.

Meanwhile, my contact in Beijing tells me that he has just seen the first returning Arctic Warbler in a local park. That certainly whets the appetite for the coming autumn!

Red-necked Phalarope from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Red-necked Phalarope

Amazingly, on the very same puddle that the juvenile Broad-billed Sandpiper enjoyed so much at Køge, an equally confiding juvenile Red-necked Phalarope has now taken up residence! I made an early start to spend a couple of hours there this morning before work and enjoyed a fabulous close encounter with this stunning wader in the company of top Danish photographer Eigil Ødegaard. Several times it walked right up to us and, on occasion, it was too close for our lenses to focus!

It's going to be hard to leave Danish birding!

Click to big up the photos. Video to follow.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Broad-billed Sandpiper pt2

A video (handheld) of the Broad-billed Sandpiper at Køge Sydstrand on 20th August.

Broad-billed Sandpiper from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Broad-billed Sandpiper

This juvenile Broad-billed Sandpiper was exceptionally confiding today on Køge Sydstrand, about 40 minutes south of Copenhagen. It favoured some small pools along the beach about 300 metres south of the quay and fed actively in the company of some White Wagtails. I carefully stalked it to within 5 metres without too much trouble and then, as I got down on my stomach to begin photographing it, it began walking towards me! At one point the bird can't have been more than 3 metres away and appeared completely unfazed by my presence. Having a 400mm lens, this distance was perfectly adequate to get some pleasing images. As usual, they are best viewed at full size, so click to big 'em up!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Caspian Gull juvenile

This juvenile Caspian Gull was one of two present at Damhussøen on Sunday afternoon. It was quite a large bird, so presumably a male, and showed pretty well in flight, on the water and on land. Note the typical tertial pattern, the longish all-dark bill, whitish head, pale underwing and relatively long, thin legs. Always a delight to see!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Farewell Denmark

Libby and I decided that for our summer holiday this year we would stay local and take advantage of the time we had left in Denmark. So we hired a car, packed our tent and headed to the west coast of Jutland. We had already visited many of Denmark's prime spots including the islands of Bornholm, Langeland and Aerø plus Skagen, Fyn and most of Sjaelland, so it seemed fitting that our last trip in Denmark should be the west coast of Jutland, an area of outstanding natural beauty that we had not visited before (with the added bonus of the locals speaking Danish much clearer and slower than their compatriots in Copenhagen!).

We started by driving to Blåvand where we camped one night and explored the local area, including the famous birding hotspot of Blåvands Huk.. We enjoyed a walk on the expansive sandy beach and watched huge flocks of starlings wheeling in the air like a swarm of bees.. and a lone Honey Buzzard that seemed determined to head out over the sea towards the UK but got the willies about a kilometre out and turned back. The holiday homes here are lovely, nestled in the dunes, many with huge glass windows overlooking the sea... would be a lovely place to stay in October when all the tourists are gone and it's just you and the birds (plus probably several hundred birders!). Apparently they don't sell them to foreigners (sigh).

Next day we visited magnificent Ribe, the old capital of Denmark, a beautiful town with a real 'olde worlde' feel to it. Narrow cobbled streets, 16th century houses that were obviously built before spirit levels were invented and traditional wooden sailing boats in the harbour all make this town very 'hyggelig' as they say in these parts...

From there we took the coast road north past Esbjerg (not much here - it's an industrial town - but I will always remember it as the site of my only Danish Ross's Gull!), taking in a day trip to the island of Fanø, a gorgeous island with a couple of picturesque villages and wonderfully wild salt marshes and dunes..

From Fanø we worked our way north all the way to Thyborøn with an overnight stop in the underwhelming Hotel Ringkøbing in the fjord town of the same name. The stop did allow me to sneak away for a couple of hours to visit Vest Stadil Fjord where a juvenile White-winged Black Tern had been in residence for the previous few days. On arriving at the site, a couple of birders (Karl Erik Kristensen and Eigil Thomasen) were already looking and, before too long, we picked up the target bird among several juvenile Black Terns (the latter breed here, one of the few remaining sites for breeding Black Tern in Denmark). A few Little Gulls, a couple of Whimbrel, some Golden Plover and a quartering Marsh Harrier provided the support act, along with the good company of the two local birders.

At Thyborøn I failed in a brief attempt to see the Short-toed Lark that had been present for some time at Harboøre Tang and, instead of catching the ferry north and exploring further, we decided to head back via the lake district around Silkeborg given that the weather forecast was a bit iffy... This proved to be a good decision as we stumbled across a fantastic camp site near the village of Ry where, on arrival, a majestic White-tailed Eagle powered directly over us heading south-west. We were able to pitch our tent, on the eve of my 40th birthday (gulp) right by the lake side on a site that was simply excellent. It had the cleanest showers and toilets I have ever seen on a camp site, a great little shop at which one could place orders from the local bakery, canoe and kayak hire plus great walking on trails around the lake.. marvellous! It was a great pleasure to wake from my deep sleep on my 40th birthday to a breakfast of bread, cheese, pastries and freshly brewed coffee, all served just outside our tent on a picnic bench, in the sun, overlooking the lake.. better than any hotel and a fraction of the cost!

The journey home was uneventful and, within a few hours, it was raining, vindicating our decision to head back. A top trip and a great way to end our time in Denmark. In just two weeks time we'll be unpacking in Beijing and beginning a new adventure.

Photos: Blåvand lighthouse; a typical house on Fanø; part of the large flock of Starlings around Blåvand; and a house in Ribe, the old Danish capital