Friday, 28 December 2007

God Jul!

As this is our first married Christmas together we decided to spend it in Copenhagen and have a traditional Danish Christmas. This is largely the same as a Christmas in the UK but with a few small differences. The Danes enjoy their Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, when they also open their presents (which means I got to open my socks a day earlier than usual). Their traditional meal is "flaeskestegt" (pronounced "flay-ska-sty") which is roast pork (with crackling), red cabbage and caramelised potatoes. Very good, believe me. And they do amazing chocolates which nearly all contain marzipan (great if, like me, you love marzipan!).

Christmas Eve is the traditional family day when everyone stays in, generally eats too much, watches TV and plays games but Christmas Day is very social with most people venturing out for walks, ice-skating or even going to the cinema.

We went ice-skating on the main square, Kongens Nytorv (just 2 minutes walk from the flat). Predictably I was the only one who fell over.. but despite the slight bruising, it was a lot of fun. We were all put to shame by two tots who, complete with ice-hockey helmets and pads, stormed around the rink doing jigs, jumps, spins and all sorts.. show offs.

The weather has been cold but dry so unfortunately no snow.. but the forecast for New Year is very cold (with temperatures not getting above freezing) with the possibility of snow.. can't wait! It has been another relatively mild winter here so far with only a sprinkling of snow so far. Apparently in some winters it is possible to walk across the ice from Copenhagen to Sweden... but no sign of a big freeze just yet. Maybe it's all to come in January...

Wishing you all a "God Jul" and a "Glaede Nytar".

PS For those of you wondering what happened in Bali at the climate change negotiations, the outcome was an agreement to a negotiating process (involving all countries) with an end date of 2009 to agree on a post-2012 framework (when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires). This is good news but the agreement to talks was the easy bit. Now comes the real hard negotiations on what each country's share of the overall greenhouse gas reductions should be. This promises to make Bali look like a walk in the park.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Bali: climate change crossroads

Today (Wednesday) sees the beginning of the "high-level segment" of the UN climate change negotiations in Bali, Indonesia. The first week and a half have been at official level. Now the serious negotiations begin. The talks are hugely important. The Kyoto Protocol, agreed in 1997 doesn't officially start until next year (the first commitment period runs from 2008-2012) but, given the pace of international negotiations involving 189 countries, the world needs to start now to begin to negotiate what will happen after 2012. There are a few stumbling blocks. Firstly, under Kyoto there is a principle called "common but differentiated responsibility" which means that every country has a responsibility to act but that that responsibility is greater for some than for others (according to whether you are a "developed" or a "developing" country). Under this principle, developed countries took targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Kyoto's first commitment period on the understanding that developing countries would later follow suit. The problem is that, although the first commitment period hasn't yet started, many developed countries are way off track in terms of meeting their targets (for example Canada has increased its emissions by 32% against a target of -6, Japan is on +13% instead of -6% etc. And, of course, the world's biggest polluter, the US, did not ratify Kyoto in the first place (and is on +22% against a provisional target of -7). I should point out here that the UK is on track: it has a target of -12.5% and is on track for around -23% by 2012. So developing countries, quite rightly, point to the fact that the "differentiated responsibility" has yet to be reflected in actions. At the same time there is little appetite among the developed countries who have taken on targets to take on further targets if the major developing economies of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa (and developed countries such as the US) do not commit to any action.

Meanwhile, many (particularly the poorest countries) are feeling the impacts of climate change right now. Rising sea levels mean that many small island communities in the Pacific are having to leave their homes and relocate to places such as Australia, rainfall patterns are changing in Africa, causing already stressed agricultural industries to suffer even more and exacerbating crises like Darfur, and arctic ice is thinning at such an alarming rate that we could see the north pole ice-free in the summer within 5-6 years.

All this is against the backdrop of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which states that the climate is changing faster than we had anticipated, that it is "more than 95 per cent certain" that man is to blame and that global emissions must peak in the next 10-15 years and then reverse sharply if we are to avoid "abrupt and irreversible climate change".

And so to Bali. What can we expect? There is an emerging consensus that in Bali we need to launch inclusive negotiations on what happens after 2012 with a view to completing those negotiations by 2009 (to allow time for governments to ratify the agreement). So the Indonesians (hosting the Bali talks) would like to agree on a "Bali Roadmap" which sets out a timetable for the talks and the structure that those talks will take. This may not seem like much to ask as governments would simply be agreeing to talks. But, as always, the devil is in the detail and there is much disagreement about what those talks should include. On the positive side there is huge public awareness of climate change now and there are not many governments in Bali that would relish being seen as the spoilers when they return to face their public.. so it will likely require a strong coalition that countries can hide behind if the talks are to fail.

I am optimistic and I think we will get a Bali Roadmap at the end of this week which will set out a pathway for agreement on a post-2012 framework that should be agreed by 2009 (when the UN negotiations are scheduled to take place in Copenhagen). With a new US president due in late 2008, Australia having ratified the Kyoto Protocol this week (after the recent election victory for PM Rudd), and China taking a lot of action domestically to reduce its energy intensity and increase renewable energy, there are many reasons to be optimistic. We have to be - if we don't get agreement the consequences will be dire.

You can see the latest on the Bali negotiations from Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, by clicking on the link above.

Sunday, 9 December 2007


It has been pretty dark and grey here for the last couple of weeks but Saturday was a lot brighter so I went out birding for a few hours in the hope of seeing the 4th year White-tailed Eagle that has been wintering in the Klydesoen area (very close to my normal patch of Kongelunden on Amager). There was no sign of the eagle but I did catch up with a small party of Redpolls. These are superb little birds and across Europe there are three races that are found. The most common in the UK is the Lesser Redpoll that usually has a dull-brown plumage with off-white wingbars. In Scandinavia the most common race is the Common Redpoll (sometimes referred to as "Mealy Redpoll". By far the rarest is the Arctic Redpoll which, as its name suggests, breeds in Arctic Fenno-Scandinavia and Russia. The Arctic Redpoll has a much whiter plumage with a pure white rump, unstreaked white undertail coverts and a general "frosty" appearance.

The birds I saw yesterday (photos above) are of Common or "Mealy" Redpoll.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Waxwings and other randomness

This week has been cold (ish) and pretty murky but dry. It gets dark at about 4pm so a cloudy day almost feels like it doesn't quite get light. Nevertheless, this hasn't deterred your intrepid birder correspondent, although I have to admit I only made it out for two hours over the weekend. Highlight was a group of Waxwings and a pair of Hawfinches. But the major news to report, belatedly, was the relief at sighting a female BULLFINCH at Kongelunden last weekend. Yes, it is true, Bullfinches do exist in Denmark. Picked up on call (showing off now), a lone female was sitting in a bare hawthorn giving her soft whistling 'peep' call when I arrived at the fort. Unfortunately she didn't hang around long enough for me to provide photographic evidence but you all trust me, don't you?

This week I have mostly been eating rye bread with sild (pickled herring).

Friday, 16 November 2007

"Fogh" more years...

Photos: Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Opposition Leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

I know you have all been dying to know who won the Danish election and I humbly apologise for the delay in bringing the result to the followers of this blog.. (all two of you!)

Well, the result was close but not that close. The current PM, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (commonly called "Fogh", pronounced "Fow" as in "mow") of Denmark's Venstre Party has secured a third term in office thanks to his minority coalition involving the Conservatives and the Dansk Folkeparti (the Danish People's Party). Amid chants of ‘Fogh more years’, the leader of Venstre claimed outright electoral victory on Tuesday evening over the Social Democrats centre-left party led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

When all the votes cast in the general election were counted, the Venstre-Conservative-Dansk Folkeparti coalition had won a total of 89 seats in the 179-member parliament.

Rasmussen, who has been prime minister since 2001, can now use the support of either the centrist New Alliance party or one of the representatives from the Faeroe Islands to give him the 90 seats required to form a majority and continue for a third term.

Rasmussen’s Liberal Party lost one seat, but as he addressed supporters after the preliminary results had been counted up, he nevertheless called the election result ‘a good day for Denmark, and a good day for the Liberals’.

‘This is historic. It’s the first time a Liberal prime minister has been re-elected to a third term in office.’

The post-election mood of the opposition’s Social Democrats, led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt was a study in contrasts. The party chalked up its worst election result since 1906, and party leader Thorning-Schmidt was forced to acknowledge that she could not deliver on her promise that she could beat the prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Hard-line union members nevertheless joined young professionals to cheer on Thorning-Schmidt as she acknowledged defeat, but pledged to carry on the fight.

‘I promised you that I could beat Fogh,’ Thorning-Schmidt told the crowd. ‘It unfortunately didn’t happen this time. But, my friends, I want to keep my promise. We’ll do it next time.’

Helle is the daughter-in-law of former UK Labour leader, Neil Kinnock having married Stephen Kinnock, son of Neil and is something of a sex symbol, as shown by the photo below (not genuine, I think....)! :-)

Monday, 12 November 2007


Yes, it's true, yesterday (Sunday) we had our first snowfall of the winter with a light sprinkling across Copenhagen. It is currently bitterly cold (about 4 degs today) and the forecast is for -7 on Wednesday night.. Makes my previous entry entitled "Brrr..." seem a bit woossy...

Tomorrow is election day here in Denmark. The current ruling coalition of Venstre (literally meaning "left" even though they are actually right of centre (!)) and the Conservatives is tipped to hold on to power but it will be close. The major left of centre party, the Social Democrats (led by Helle Thorning Schmidt, Neil Kinnock's daughter-in-law) is taking the fight down to the wire and the polls suggest that it will be a very close run thing. Last night's live TV debate with the leaders of the major parties would have swayed any last minute undecideds and it is generally thought that the current PM, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, did enough to win. But we'll see - stranger things have happened! The 2 seats allocated to each of the Faroe Islands and Greenland could yet decide who will be the next PM!! In reality both parties are very close to the centre, so there is unlikely to be a radical change to Danish domestic policy whoever wins. The Scandinavian model of high taxes and excellent welfare system is embedded in the Danish psyche and sacrosanct, so the only major changes if a Social Democrat government get in are likely relate to foreign policy.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


A short trip out to Nordhavn this afternoon produced my first Danish Long-eared Owl (above), a Woodcock, a first-winter Hen Harrier and 20 Waxwings in off the sea from Sweden. But no sign of any Bullfinches.. I'm beginning to think they don't exist here....

Sunday, 4 November 2007

We're going to the zoo.. oo..oo..

It was a stunning autumn day in Copenhagen today - a cloudless sky set against a great backdrop of rusty, red and gold autumn leaves. So what better day for Libby and me to make our first visit to Copenhagen Zoo, located in Frederiksberg, to the west of Copenhagen centre.

Copenhagen Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Europe. It was founded by the ornithologist Niels Kjærbølling in 1859 when he was given the summer garden of "Princess Vilhelmines Have" (The garden of Princess Vilhelmine) by the chief directorate of Copenhagen to begin his collection. At that time the attractions apparently included eagles, chickens, ducks, owls, rabbits, a fox, a seal in a bathtub and a turtle in a bucket! It has come a long way since then and the range of animals and the addition of new facilities in recent years places it among the best in Europe.

We saw Giraffes, Elephants, a pair of sparring White Rhinos, a family of Amur Tigers, two Polar Bears, three Brown Bears, Otters, Common Seals, Leopards, Chimpanzees, a Red Panda, a Three-toed Sloth as well as a few less obvious animals including the secretive Mouse Deer (a sort of tiny version of our muntjack) and European Tortoises.

I couldn't help feeling very sorry for the Polar Bears. Whilst it was amazing to see these magnificent animals close up, it was very sad to see the size of the enclosure in which they are being kept. They need space and space is one thing these two do not have. It was heartbreaking to see one spending most of its time sitting next to the door from which it was fed and the other swimming in circles around its tiny pool.. I might start a petition to get them a new enclosure!

The three Brown Bears, despite not having a larger enclosure, seemed much happier and the source of their happiness was seemingly a set of blue plastic containers. Each bear had its own and was completely occupied trying to get inside... They genuinely seemed to be having a whale of a time..!

Overall a good day out but I still find myself torn over the ethics of zoos.. I can see the educational value but the quality of life for some of the animals, particularly the large mammals, concerns me deeply.


Yes, it's definitely getting a bit parky here with temperatures down to 6 degs yesterday (with the ferocious NW wind it felt like -16, believe me!). After enjoying an amazingly fast cycle ride with a strong tailwind to Kongelunden I was battered by the wind on the exposed coast and after seeing a few Snow Buntings on the shore, and a Jack Snipe on the coastal lagoon, I soon decided it was time to do some woodland birding (purely coincidence that it was sheltered, of course). Good numbers of Redwing, 40+ Waxwings in several groups, an adult male Hen Harrier, a Red Kite and a few Mealy Redpolls (sporting lovely pink breasts) meant it was a good day. But still no Bullfinch... The cycle back was a little more tricky.. I think I could have walked it quicker!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Scilly 2007

Photos (top to bottom): Isles of Scilly as viewed by NASA; Woodchat Shrike (from southern Europe); Blackpoll Warbler (American); Blyth's Pipit (from Asia); Osprey (this individual from Norway apparently); and the "twitch" of birders looking for the Blyth's Reed Warbler on Bryher

The annual birding pilgrimage to the Isles of Scilly (known by the locals as "Scilly") took place from 13-20 October with expectations high for a bumper autumn. Every year 100s of birdwatchers gather on the "Fortunate Isles" to witness the extraordinary concentration of scarce and unusual birds that congregate on Scilly at this time of year. Over the last 30 years Scilly has gained itself a reputation as THE place in Europe to see a selection of both Eastern (Siberian) and Western (North American) birds, often in the same location. The reason why such birds end up on Scilly in October is still something of a mystery but certainly its geographic location (nearly 30 miles south-west of Land's End) and the fact it's an archipeligo help to explain why Scilly has one of the largest and most diverse list of species recorded anywhere in Europe. The prevailing westerly airflows across the Atlantic, coupled with the regular storms that rush across the Atlantic at this time of year, help to explain the arrival of some American migrants but the regular appearance of vagrants from the Far East is not so easy to fathom.

Islands in general are known to act as magnets, attracting tired and hungry migrating birds that need to rest and refuel, and also weather-driven, exhausted and lost birds that simply have no other place of refuge. Given its geographic location, Scilly is well-positioned to funnel in such birds that are within visible range.

This year, the crack team of me, John Harris, Andrew Harriss (yes, that is the correct spelling), Tim Hemmings and Peter Ransome arrived on the islands on Saturday lunchtime, keen to see the American birds already present on the main island, St Mary's - two Blackpoll Warblers, a Grey-cheeked Thrush and a Wilson's Snipe. Through the week we were also lucky enough to see Blyth's Reed Warbler (a very rare visitor from Eastern Europe and Asia but skulking, brown and boring), two Little Buntings (one of which was found by Tim and me), a Pallas's Warbler (found by Andrew H), at least two Red-breasted Flycatchers, a Blyth's Pipit (extremely rare and also brown and boring) and lots of Yellow-browed Warblers (very small and active and certainly not brown and boring).

As is tradition there was a nightly "log" at the Scillonian Club at 9pm where the local bird group logs all the sightings from across the islands. Photographers, authors, artists and travel companies advertise their wares at stands in the Club and it is generally the place to be and be seen in the birding world.

The islands hold a special place in most birders hearts. The five inhabited islands of St Mary's (the largest), Tresco, Bryher, St Martin's and St Agnes are, in my view, one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles and to see such good birds concentrated in such beautiful surroundings is a stunning combination. The (almost complete) absence of cars, especially on the 'outer islands' is a pleasant change from the mainland and the islands' selection of pubs and restaurants, serving local ales and fantastic local fish dishes, make for an excellent refuge in the evening after a hard day 'in the field' where birders can exchange stories of the day's birding, including the 'ones that got away' - brief glimpses of "possibles" and "probables" that flitted away before identification could be clinched. An October on Scilly never passes without rumours of the presence of a "mega" - a bird that has only ever been recorded in the UK 5 times or less - most of which never come to anything. But the anticipation that it just might be the real thing always excites and increases the intensity with which birders search fields, hedgerows, trees and bushes just in case a "first for Britain" is lurking inside...

In the 1980s the number of birders staying on the islands reached a peak of around 1200. This year the estimate was around 350. The reason for the decline is the increase in fast information. Years ago, news of rare birds was spread via postcard or, if you were lucky enough to have a telephone, by a call. Any birder who cared about his British list based him/herself in the most likely location for vagrants - Scilly. Nowadays there are websites, mobile phones and pagers that give up-to-the-minute information about the precise location of the rare birds that are in the UK at any time. This means that many "listers" (those birders who give greatest priority to increasing their "British life list" - the number of bird species they have seen in Britain) like to stay on the mainland just in case that new bird turns up on Shetland or in Norfolk instead of Scilly. They no longer gamble by spending a week in the most likely location of rare birds. If something good does turn up on Scilly, they "day-trip" the islands, see the bird then leave.

For us, the enjoyment of a week on Scilly in Autumn seeing whatever birds are there, whether they are new "ticks" or not, is the reason we go. There is surely nowhere else in Europe where you can see such good birds in such a beautiful environment with many people who share your passion. A top, top week made all the better by the lack of crowds. Here's to Scilly 2008!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Siskin invasion

The last few days has seen an invasion of Siskins. Hundreds of the small finches are passing south every morning with thousands being logged at some sites. They are usually very vocal and have a very distinctive call, so can be identified quite easily when flying overhead. You can hear their call at:

Many are stopping for a rest around Copenhagen - the picture above was taken in a car park in the centre of the city.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

On the move..

Photos (from top to bottom): Razorbill in Nordhavn harbour and Slavonian Grebe at Kongelunden.

Autumn migration is now in full swing. This weekend, with high pressure and light winds, has seen good numbers of birds of prey, pipits, finches and hirundines being logged at coastal migration sites. I made a visit to Nordhavn on Friday afternoon and to Kongelunden on Saturday. Both resulted in new Danish birds. At Nordhavn there were three Razorbills (167) in the harbour and Saturday at Kongelunden resulted in my first Danish Kingfisher (168), a Slavonian Grebe (169) and five Merlins (170). Supporting cast included a Red Kite, several Common Buzzards, 200+ Siskin, 100+ Tree Pipits, 70+ Meadow Pipits, 4 Brambling, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Grey Wagtail.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


Photos from top to bottom: Grenen, Skagen (the point where the North and the Baltic seas meet) from afar and close up; the dunes (Winterton x10); an approaching thunderstorm; and the lighthouse.

Libby and I spent the Bank Holiday weekend (luckily it is not a Bank Holiday in Denmark so we managed to find accommodation at the last minute) at the northern tip of Denmark called Skagen (pronounced Skay-en). At its northern point is Grenen, the sand spit where the North and the Baltic Seas meet and fight for dominance (it is always rough, even in relatively calm weather). Skagen is also famed for its "northern light" and subsequently attracts artists from all over the country and further afield. Not content with these boasts, it is renowned as one of the best Spring migration points in northern Europe (recent records have included Black-shouldered Kite (twice), Bonelli's Eagle and Marmora's Warbler).

We stayed in a typically Danish hotel with minimalist rooms (no TV or wardrobe and all white furnishings) and spent two days exploring the area. To the south there are miles and miles of dunes and heathland stretching from the east to the west coasts - a sort of mega version of Winterton-on-Sea, Norfolk, where I grew up. And with hardly a human (or dog!) in sight. The working harbour is full of fishing boats, including lots of prawn fishing vessels. The restaurants mostly serve, you guessed it - fish - and are fantastic. The museums are full of local art from the last 150 years, much of which focuses on the landscapes and the local fishermen characters, including some famous lifeboatmen - needless to say the the point has seen many a wreck over the years.

We had a great time eating, walking and eating some more.. It seemed to be a very Danish place with very few foreign tourists around and hardly any development outside the town - it is really refreshing and typically Danish to be at a fantastically scenic point on a Sunday afternoon in August and only have two or three other groups of people for company.

All in all a fabulous place and one that I am sure I will revisit during the Spring with some birding mates... On what was strictly a non-birding trip, I still managed to sneak 5 new species to my Danish list including Mistle Thrush (162), Crested Tit (163), Arctic Skua (164), Gannet (165) and Woodlark (166).

Thursday, 23 August 2007

It's raining birds

Today started as a murky, overcast day with a gentle north-easterly wind. As the morning progressed it became murkier and murkier with a light drizzle and visibility fell to around half a mile. Given that migration is in swing, I took a late afternoon bicycle ride to Kongelunden on the south coast of Amager to see whether the weather had forced down any migrants. The first sign that it was going to be a good few hours came on the road down to the point where I heard several Yellow Wagtails flying overhead before circling and landing in a roadside field. Then, just a few hundred yards from the point I saw a Pied Flycatcher in a small oak. I stopped to watch and to my surprise there were 4 Pied Flycatchers in the same small oak! Every tree from that point to the coast seemed to be full of birds - mostly Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs but also good numbers of both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, a few Redstarts, Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, Common Whitethroats and even a Wood Warbler. At the point itself were 3 juvenile Red-backed Shrikes, 8 Tree Pipits, 150+ Yellow Wagtails plus several Whinchats and Wheatears. Incredibly, birds just seemed to continue to fall out of the sky as I watched with more Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits and Warblers descending on the bushes. On one occasion I looked at a small hawthorn bush and saw Willow Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Tree Pipit and Lesser Whitethroat in the same field of view!

After scanning the bushes around the point and losing count of the Willow Warblers at about 250, I decided to have a mooch around the old fort that sits just inland from the point. The fort is now a deserted patchwork of concrete structures, mounds and lakes with quite a few shrubs and trees in the surrounding area. The whole area was teeming with birds - more Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Tree Pipits and then I spotted a slightly larger bird fly up to a branch and stop just long enough for me to get my binoculars onto it - a Wryneck. It was amazing to walk around seemingly surrounded by birds calling and feeding. I have never seen such a "fall" in the UK - the sheer number of birds was incredible.

I am not sure how common these "falls" are but it leaves me looking forward to the Autumn proper in September and October! The photos above are some of today's birds that posed for me. From top to bottom: Pied Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Red-backed Shrike and a "proper" Willow Warbler!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

More from Nordhavn

Another visit to Nordhavn on Monday evening, in moderate north-easterlies, revealed a juvenile Red-backed Shrike (see top photo above), a Black Redstart, several Wheatears, a Yellow Wagtail, several Meadow Pipits (second photo) and a very unusual Willow Warbler (see third photo). The Shrike can be aged as a juvenile by the palish base to the bill and the scaling on the back. The warbler caused me some confusion. I was very struck initially by the very obvious supercilium and dark eye stripe. These features, together with the darkish upper and pale underparts made me think it was a possible GREENISH WARBLER. Having no experience of Greenish or the similar Arctic Warbler, I took several photos to examine at home. On examination, the photos didn't really fit either Arctic or Greenish (both should show a wing-bar). After consulting several friends and Danish birders, we have come to the conclusion that it is an unusual-looking juvenile Willow Warbler. You live and learn! There was also a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull, with a white ring on its right leg marked "PXY" (see last photo above). I have reported it to the BTO and hope to find out soon where and when it was ringed. Watch this space (it was probably ringed in Copenhagen but you never know!). Lots of hirundines, particularly Sand Martins, gathering now. Swifts have all but disappeared with just the occasional ones and twos seen.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Oh the glamour...

I visited a new birding site on Sunday - the industrial harbour north of Copenhagen. Not an obvious wildlife hotspot but then some of the best birding locations include rubbish dumps, sewage works and nuclear power station outfalls - very glamorous! The area is mostly made up of quays and container storage areas and in summer it hosts the seemingly never-ending procession of cruise ships as they stop off here in the Danish capital. At the northern end of the harbour is an area of rough ground, shrubs, lakes and grassland. As it projects into the Oresund (the water channel between Denmark and Sweden) it is a good area for migrants, particularly in Spring - see for a map. A bonus is that there are hardly any people around, even on a Sunday afternoon. An area like this in the UK would, I am sure, be full of dog walkers, motorbike scramblers, kite flyers and drunks (depending on the time of day!). But I saw only three fishermen in three hours. Birdwise, there were 4 juvenile Temminck's Stints (see above), 2 juvenile Red-backed Shrikes, 12 Rock Pipits, a few Wheatears, a Garden Warbler plus several Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats. Definitely worth a return visit in the autumn, me thinks...

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Scotland win the World Cup! Really...

Yes, it's true. Here in Copenhagen, Scotland have just won the "Homeless World Cup", beating Poland 9-3 in the final. With Liberia and Denmark taking 3rd and 4th place respectively, the football giants of Brazil, Italy, England and Germany were all found wanting....

The tournament, now in its 5th year, is a street soccer tournament uniting teams of homeless people from around the globe to kick off poverty. The event took place in Copenhagen from 29 July to 4 August and saw 48 teams from Afghanistan (who were excellent!) to Burundi, Brazil and Malawi.

Supported by Nike and UEFA since its inception several world-class football teams support the homeless World Cup teams. England is supported and coached by Manchester United and Spain has links with Real Madrid, Portugal with Benfica.

The Homeless World Cup is significantly transforming lives and communities around the world. The feeling of belonging, the challenge of working in a team, the process of regaining a health-oriented attitude towards life, self esteem and the experience of fun has seen significant change in players. Over 77% of players say it changes their lives forever. They move forwards to find regular employment, come off drugs and alcohol, pursue education, improve their housing, and even play for semi-professional and professional football clubs. It also changes the attitudes of the public towards homeless people who are treated as heroes during the tournament and acknowledged for their courage and determination whilst encouraged and supported in transforming their lives.

Stars including Eric Cantona (complete with a monumental beard) and Danish referee Kim Nielsen (who famously sent off David Beckham in the 1998 World Cup and was booed by the England fans here in Copenhagen!) showed their support by holding training sessions for the players.

I managed to see a few games - Afghanistan beat Italy (!) 4-2 and Holland beat England 10-8 but the most impressive was a 5-4 win by Scotland over Ghana, coming from 4-0 down!

Let's hope Scotland can take this form into the real World Cup in 2010...! (cough)

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Danish list rockets...150 up!

Moulting adult Black Tern (species 150 for me in Denmark)

Adult Arctic Tern

Waders are now passing through in large numbers with 100s of Knot and 1000s of Lapwing being logged at coastal sites. A Sunday evening visit to the lagoons at Kongelunden and Kofoeds Enge produced 17 species of wader including several new species for my Danish list. On the lagoons were 4 Avocets, 1 Whimbrel, 8 Redshank, 6 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 5 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Wood Sandpiper (144) 36 Oystercatcher, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 14 Snipe, 12 Ringed Plover, 2 Little Ringed Plover (145), 9 Dunlin, 3 Curlew Sandpiper (146), 28 Knot (147) and 1 Turnstone (148). This lot were supported by a lone Stock Dove (149), a single Black Tern (150) and several Arctic Terns, including 2 juveniles. Not a bad evening. But not as good as the Swedish birders who on 8 July logged a Yellow-nosed Albatross off Malmo harbour - a stunning record (and almost 'scopable' from Copenhagen!). You can see a photo at:

Amazingly this bird was last seen flying inland which is a bit odd but consistent with the UK sightings - in Somerset and Lincolnshire - in the days before this sighting.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Autumn is here!

Autumn is here already! On a dawn visit to Kongelunden and Klydesoen (the southern tip of Amager) today there were signs that, at least for some migrants, the summer is over and they are beginning their trip south to wintering grounds. I flushed 3 Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper at the beach and then, after a nice flock of 8 Bar-tailed Godwits (species 141) flew east, I wandered up to Klydesoen, the freshwater lagoon, where I was treated to over 20 Ruff (142), a handful of Spotted Redshank (143), 3 Greenshank and about 30+ Snipe. These are probably failed breeders that see no reason to hang around breeding grounds any more (a bit like lonely bachelors or spinsters) and begin their journey south a bit early (to secure the best spots by the pool in Africa). Also present were no less than 3 Great White Egrets! The Great White (as we call 'em) is a rare bird in Denmark and 3 together is unprecedented. Always nice to see, especially as I have never seen one in the UK (ok, I'm a dude..). Danish list now stands at 143.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Just married

After just over 3 and a half years, Libby and I were married on 30 June in Middleton, near Pickering in North Yorkshire. We had an absolutely amazing day, surrounded by close family and good friends, despite the rain that came shortly after the service and persisted all afternoon and evening. We have just returned from our honeymoon, a walking holiday in Italy's Umbria hills with a couple of days by the coast on the Portofino peninsula. Female readers will be interested to know that Libby almost dropped her breakfast on the floor when she realised we were sitting on a table next to the actor Colin Firth in a hotel in Camogli. For those of you saying "Colin who?", he starred in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and film Bridget Jones's Diary, among other things (hence the female adoration). I, of course, didn't bat an eyelid... (ahum...)

Back in Copenhagen we heard screams from our flat window yesterday afternoon when the normally jolly and touristy Nyhavn was suddenly hit by a freak thunderstorm. It came from nowhere (seemingly out of the clear blue sky) and lasted just 2-3 minutes but with very sudden and torrential rain that seemed to stop and clear just as fast as it appeared. I have never seen anything quite like it but the silver lining was that it dispersed the crowds and stopped (if only temporarily) the very dodgy band that was playing "classic Danish tunes" as part of the city's ongoing Jazz Festival... Nice...

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Cow mania

June has seen the arrival of cow mania. The latest art craze is called "Cow Parade", the world's largest public art event. It began in the late 1990s in Chicago and is spreading across the globe. London hosted a herd in 2002 and now it is the turn of Copenhagen. Cow sculptures are made for the local artists to "dress up" or paint, depicting events, cultural influences, cities or even individuals (or course there has already been an Elvis cow..). The cow parade is first and foremost a public art exhibit that is accessible to everyone.

Most importantly, Cow Parade benefits charity. At the conclusion of each event, the cows are herded up and many are auctioned, with a substantial portion of the proceeds benefiting charity. The Chicago auction raised an amazing USD 3 million for charity. The average bid price on the 140 cows in Chicago was nearly USD 25,000, with the top cow selling for USD 110,000.

Currently there are cows on display at many of the most popular places in Copenhagen including Kongens Nytorv, Nyhavn and at the site of the Little Mermaid. Amazingly, not one has been vandalised yet!

Also happening tonight (23rd June), is the annual midsummer celebration, in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day (the traditional solstice used to be on 24 June under the Julian calendar). The solstitial (great word!) celebration in Denmark is called "Sankt Hans aften" (St. John's Eve). It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people. It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. Today the water well tradition is gone. Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, although bonfires are built in many other places too (eg on the shores of lakes, parks, etc.). In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church's witchburnings from 1540 to 1693 (but unofficially witches were lynched as late as 1897). This burning sends the witch to Bloksbjerg, the mountain 'Brocken' in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day.

Libby and I have been invited by some Danish friends to one such bonfire party in Frederiksburg (west Copenhagen) but with a dodgy weather forecast the witch might yet be saved from being sent to Germany (surely the ultimate punishment). There is also a rather pathetic attempt of a bonfire developing on the inlet outside our flat in Nyhavn, on a sort of floating raft. Given the fact that most of the ships in the harbour, the harbour itself and our building (!) are wooden I hope it doesn't get out of control!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Marsh Warbler

Marsh Warblers seem to be pretty common here. During an evening stroll around Amager Fjaelled (Amager Common) last night, I came across at least 6 singing males. They look very much like washed out Reed Warblers, lacking the rufous tones of their reed-dwelling cousins. The habitat was dampish scrub - one could almost say marsh - hence the name Marsh Warbler I guess! Although one sneaky individual was pretending to be a Reed Warbler by singing from a small reedbed but I had him sussed. They have a great song - it includes mimics of many species and listening to one for a few minutes it is fun to try to count how many other birds' songs and calls are included. I counted about 15 inlcuding House Sparrow, Lapwing, Swallow, Greenfinch, Magpie and Reed Bunting - quite a mix - before I began getting eaten alive by the resident mozzies.

The evening amble also produced a few THRUSH NIGHTINGALES. Their song is very loud, like a Nightingale, but not so beautiful (more like a series of clicks and whistles). Like Nightingales they are a b***** to see but I did manage brief glimpses of one last night, enough to see the lack of warm reddish brown on the back/rump and also the spotted undertail coverts. Danish total now stands at 139.