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 http://www.dofbasen.dk/googlemap.php?loknr=101222 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)