Monday, 26 March 2007

More cranes

The mild and settled weather with light winds is clearly ideal for bird migration. Another 50+ cranes flew over Nyhavn this afternoon in a characteristic "V" formation, again heading towards Sweden. Cranes are lovely birds with a trumpet-like call and an elegant posture. In late spring they can be watched performing their 'dancing' displays. This usually involves opening their wings and leaping vertically into the air with their legs dangling. Once one bird starts this, others will join in and the whole performance has even be initiated by a human pretending to be a dancing crane! Once the birds are paired off they are more likely to perform different displays involving stretching their necks vertically and trumpeting.

The Scandinavian Cranes that breed in Sweden winter mainly in Spain and Portugal, stopping off in large numbers in Germany and France. There has been a small colony of Cranes in the UK since the late 1970s. This group, beginning with around 3-4 individuals, has steadily grown through breeding and the addition of the odd vagrant to a recent maximum count of 35+. They are pretty regular in east Norfolk around Horsey and Waxham, especially at dusk when they fly in to roost and indulge in their bill-clapping.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Spring is in the air

A wonderful weekend of clear blue skies and spring-like temperatures of 14 deg C coincided with our first visitors since my arrival in Copenhagen. Four of our friends - Richard, Elise, Ali and Jeremy - arrived on Thursday and Friday and we spent the weekend doing some touristy stuff including a canal tour, dinner at the Nyhavn restaurant "Cap Horn" and a trip to "Louisiana", a modern art gallery on the coast north of the capital. Photos to come. Also, the first signs of spring migration with a Chiffchaff heard singing at Louisiana and a flock of 40+ Cranes over Nyhavn on Sunday afternoon, heading towards Sweden (total number of species seen now stands at 77!).

Sunday, 18 March 2007

There's only one John Jensen (thankfully..)

Last night Libby and I met up with a group of Danes (and a Swede) at a restaurant in Norrebro.. They were a bunch of colleagues and friends of those colleagues.. All very nice and, thankfully, spoke great English. I managed to order from the menu (and received a bonus point for successfully receiving my intended dish) but that was about as far as my Danish went.. Over dinner discussion ranged from the impenetrable accent of Swede's from Skane (an area in the south, close to Denmark) to Danish actors (apparently there are only five of them) and finally, with a guy called Thomas, to football and, in particular, John Jensen, that famous Danish export to Arsenal in the 1990s..

A few facts about John Jensen that I was reminded of (ok, actually told for the first time...) :

John Jensen was bought by Arsenal after he scored a very good goal for Denmark against Germany in the European Championship final of 1992. The story is proof that scoring a goal in an international championsip final does not mean anything at all.. As my new Danish friend told me, Jensen played 132 games for Arsenal and is chiefly remembered for the cult hero status he earned. No matter how hard Jensen tried (and, apparently, he tried exceptionally hard), he could not score a goal. The Arsenal fans came up with a song, "We'll be there when Jensen scores!" and by 1994, Jensen's search for a goal was such a cult cause that whenever he got the ball, no matter where he was on the pitch (even inside his own penalty area) the Arsenal fans would implore him to "Shooooot!".

Jensen finally scored his first goal for Arsenal after 98 matches, on a cold and wet night against Queens Park Rangers on 31 December 1994. Arsenal were losing 1-0 when Jensen picked the ball up just inside the penalty area, about 16 yards from goal. The crowd gave the obligatory "shoot!", and Jensen complied, curling a shot into the net, prompting wild celebration from the Arsenal fans. The fans sang "There's only one Johnny Jensen" for the rest of the evening. Apparently the goal is still remembered and one can still see t-shirts at Arsenal games saying "I saw John Jensen score" (I will check this with my Arsenal season ticket holder friend and report back).

I certainly didn't expect all that on a Saturday night out..!

Big skies

A work trip to London last week kept me from my blog but, back on Friday, I spent the afternoon at Vestamager. What started out as a beautiful, still, sunny and spring-like day gradually turned cold, windy and cloudy.. Denmark reminds me a little of Norfolk - it's pretty flat and exposed to winds off the sea.. The open country also means that Denmark has "big skies", another feature of Norfolk, huge panoramas with only trees to puncture the skyline... The photos here were taken just as the weather was beginning to turn. On the bird front, I managed to add four new species to my Denmark list - Curlew, Pintail, Gadwall and Peregrine. My list now stands at a whopping 74 species..!

Friday, 9 March 2007

The Fossil, the Future and a surprise Tit

Yesterday afternoon, given the good weather forecast, I decided to make my first visit to Vestamager nature reserve, just south-east of Copenhagen (about 15 minutes by Metro from our closest station, Kongens Nytorv). In my research ahead of my move to Copenhagen I had read about this area being a great place for birds all year round so I headed off with a sense of anticipation.

It took me a good 90 minutes to walk from the entrance of the reserve to the south-east tip, where the island of Amager meets the Baltic. It is clearly a very good area for birds, the habitat consisting of a mixture of flooded fields, birch woodland and, at the southern tip, a larger area of shallow fresh water with some reedbeds. At the tip there is a large viewing platform which is a great point from which to scan the freshwater area inland and the sea. On the sea there were several duck, grebe and sawbill species including Wigeon, Red-necked Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter, Goldeneye and Scaup. Inland, on the freshwater, there were Shoveler, Teal, Mallard and a few very pretty Smew, as well as good numbers of Lapwing, Shelduck, Greylag Geese, Swans and Cormorants with a few Barnacle and Brent Geese. A surprise for me was a male Bearded Tit in the reedbed which called repeatedly before briefly flying across a stretch of water from one reedbed to another. Given how vulnerable this species is to the cold, I was a little surprised to see one in Denmark in winter but maybe that is a sign of the very mild winter that Denmark, and indeed most of Scandinavia, has experienced this year.

The tip is also a great viewpoint from which to see the large coal-fired power station called Avedore. It dominates the skyline to the west and is surrounded by a number of wind turbines, seemingly living together in harmony...

Denmark is a world leader in wind technology, generating around 20 per cent of its electricity from wind.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007


There were demontsrations in central Copenhgagen yesterday evening, following the days of riots in the Danish capital. I took the opportunity to take a few photos of the demonstration, the police presence and evidence of the recent riots in the form of a burnt out car in Christiana... All pretty good natured last night but the drone of helicopters overhead was heard well into the night...

Tuesday, 6 March 2007


One early feature of my time in Copenhagen has been the flocks of waxwings that are occasionally seen around the city. It could, of course, be the same flock I see time and again but I have now seen groups of up to 50 waxwing on at least five occasions since 28 February.. Always a lovely sight and sound. This photo courtesy of Graham Catley.

Monday, 5 March 2007


A flavour of the riots in Copenhagen's northern district, Norrebro, over the last few days. Photo courtesy of AP.

Photos - really this time...


Hello, now back in Copers for good.. And just about exhausted after a weekend of unpacking our 50+ boxes of belongings... how we ever fitted all that stuff into our small London flat, I haven't quite worked out..

Anyway, my arrival seems to have coincided with Denmark's worst rioting in several decades... a complete coincidence I can assure you.. The trouble began after an anti-terror squad raided the Ungdomshuset building, which had been occupied by left-wing activists since the 1980s. The government sold the building to a Christian group in 2000, which then obtained a court order to have the squatters evicted. But the activists vowed not to leave, saying the council had no right to sell the building while it was still in use. They feared the Ungdomshuset, or Youth House, which had become an international cause celebre, would be knocked down if they were turned out. And so it turned out on Monday morning, when the demolition began.. There have been a number of incidents over the past few years as tensions between the squatters and the police have escalated. I haven't yet visited the area but the pictures on Danish TV of burning police vans and masked youths hurling bricks, and whatever else they can get their hands on, at the police reminds me of watching the news from N Ireland in the 80s as I was growing up... albeit on a smaller scale.

Still, with over 600 arrests over the past 3 days, the disturbances are not insignificant...

On a lighter note, I have at last taken a few photos of the view from our flat in Nyhavn. I will attempt to post them after writing this.. but be patient - it's my first attempt at such digital wizardry..

First Impressions

Well, at last we have taken posession of the keys to our flat and I've been over to spend a few days helping Libby settle in to what will be our home for the next three years. Scouting out the local shops, transport options and bars/restaurants is always fun in a new place, let alone a new country. I have to say that my first impressions of Denmark are very positive - great public transport, clean streets, friendly people, very little obvious poverty and evidence of the famous "hyggli" atmosphere (a Danish word with no direct english translation but closest to "cosy" and "warm"..)

I should start by describing why I am here.. My partner (soon to be wife) has been posted to work in Copenhagen for three years. I will be joining her in late February 2007 when I have wrapped up things at work. Luckily we are provided with a flat for the duration and, in our case, very luckily we are on the "quiet side" of Nyhavn (pronounced "Noo Hown"), a trendy area very close to the centre of Copenhagen and overlooking a watery inlet where some beautiful old wooden sailing boats are moored. Very nice, I hear you say. And it is.. It's a very pretty area with a real olde worlde feel about it but, although quiet at the moment, apparently in summer it is full of late-night revelry and the Danish equivalent of lager louts! I will post some photos soon which will hopefully convey, far better than I can in words, what I mean.

Obviously, being a birder, I have already started to record my sightings. First bird was a magpie seen from the train to the city centre from the aiport and, since then I have clocked up a respectable 40 species. Highlights include 80+ Waxwings in the city centre, 30+ Mealy Redpolls and around 10 Siskins near the university, plus a nice pair of Red-Breasted Merganser in the harbour at Gilleleje (a north coast fishing town).

Now I have returned to London after only four days to finish off my last three weeks at work and pack all of our stuff ready to be shipped. I will be returning at the beginning of March, so see you all then..!