Sunday, 27 January 2008


Sunday 27th January started out mild, wet and windy but gradually brightened up into a glorious winter's day with clear skies and a gentle cold northerly breeze. I had planned to go to Dyrhavn to look for woodpeckers and try my luck along the stream at the northern end for the Black-bellied Dippers that have been reported recently. Given the poor weather in the morning I struggled to see much at all. Two drumming Great-spotted Woodpeckers, a few Nuthatches and a Mistle Thrush (not very common here at all in winter) were the highlights of the morning. But the afternoon picked up when I immediately saw one of the Dippers as soon as I reached the stream. For about 15 minutes it fed in the slow moving water, consistently finding light-coloured grubs that seemed to be hiding in leaves at the bottom of the water. Several times,after a short dive, it came to the surface with a rotting leaf which it shook violently to reveal a small grub. It was eventually spooked by a dog which ran to the edge of the stream and flew upstream calling. The Dipper sub-species in Scandinavia is the "Black-bellied" variety, occasionally seen in the east of England, particularly in hard winters. In Denmark, given the lack of uplands and fast-moving streams (the Dipper's favoured breeding habitat), it is almost exclusively a winter visitor, presumably from Norway or Sweden. The UK's version of the Dipper is more reddish-brown below rather than dark brown.

After the Dipper zoomed upstream I wandered to the coast at Charlottenlund to look for gulls. Only a few Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls loafed on the water but a few hundred yards south a Common Seal was hauled out on a wooden jetty at the local sailing club. It caused quite a lot of interest among the locals and posed very accommodatingly for photographs. Common Seal is, as its name suggests, the most common seal in these parts and it is not unusual for them to be found in small harbours, particularly in winter.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Winter fayre

Photos: Waxwings (first two) and Smew in flight

Although we are in the middle of winter, it really doesn't feel like it. With temperatures consistently a good 5 to 6 degs C above the seasonal average, it feels almost Spring-like at the moment. And certainly not the sort of temperature or weather that I was expecting during my first Scandinavian winter. It means that there are few scarce winter visitors here that you would expect in a hard winter (eg Nutcrackers, Hawk Owls, Pygmy Owls, Tengmalm's Owls etc) but there is still plenty to keep me interested. Yesterday I cycled around the west coast of Amager to view the freshwater reedy pools on the Vestamager Reserve and also the strait of sea between the islands of Amager and Sjaelland. Tufted Duck were in huge numbers - I lost count at about 1,500 on the main lake - with a good number of Scaup in amongst them. On the sea were a few Great Crested Grebes, a few Wigeon, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Cormorants and 50+ Smew. It is great to see so many of these gorgeous black and white ducks together in one place. I can remember getting excited at seeing my first Smew on Martham Broad in Norfolk many years ago and they continue to be a scarce winter visitor to the UK.

A bit further around the track at Kongelunden, on the south coast of Amager, I stumbled across a mixed finch flock, including good numbers of Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a single Hawfinch. Then, as I was watching the finches, a flock of 20+ Waxwings alighted in the berry bushes nearby and I was able to take a few photos in the lovely low sun. There are very good numbers around at the moment and I seem to see at least 100+ on each outing.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Arctic visitor

I couldn't resist travelling to see the first-winter ROSS'S GULL that was found just before Christmas in Esbjerg Harbour, western Jylland. Ross's Gull is a very rare visitor from the Arctic sea ice with only 9 previous records in Denmark (there are around 90+ records in the UK where it is almost annual, although very difficult to connect with on the mainland). With a fair weather forecast I caught the train from Copenhagen at 0630 to ensure I was there just after first light and the bird did not disappoint. No doubt lured by my lunch of rye bread and cheese, this bird was unbelievably tame and in the company of a maximum of 10 birders at any one time (how refreshing). It favoured a small fresh water puddle on one of the quays and, apart from the odd show-flight around the harbour, spent the best part of 4 hours in this small area, often walking to within a few feet of enchanted birders and photographers. Several times it called a sort of tern-like "eek". It is a small gull (about Little Gull size) but with longer wings, an elongated tail and a clear white trailing edge to the wing (lacking the dark secondary bar of first winter Little Gulls). It really is the holy grail of gulls for most European birders. Number 181.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

One hundred and eiiiiggghty!

We welcomed in the New Year in Copenhagen with friends from London (Richard, Elise and Alice). We consumed more flaeskestegt, champagne and partook in some party games before heading off to Kongens Nytorv a few minutes before midnight. Health and safety doesn't seem to be an issue here in Denmark as hundreds of people took their own fireworks and set them off from empty beer or champagne bottles.. The highlight was a group of young people in a car driving around the main square while launching rockets from their sunroof! Unbelievable. One of our Danish friends told us that she never goes out on New Year's Eve without goggles! We thought she was just weird but after experiencing it for ourselves, I can see why!

To wipe away the cobwebs on 2 Jan I caught the train up to Nivå (about 25 minutes north of Copenhagen) to see the Black-throated Thrush that has been present for the last few days. Incredibly there was one in exactly the same spot last winter, prompting speculation that it is the same bird returning for its second winter in Daneland. It showed pretty well, despite the poor light, and takes me up to 180 species for Denmark..