Thursday, 30 April 2009

Danish bird news for April

A summary of Danish bird news for April, courtesy of Rolf Christensen based in Skagen (the northerly tip of Denmark and one of the best spring migration sites in Europe).

Hereby April 2009 Danish Bird News,

The 4th Bonaparte's Gull for Denmark (a first summer) - and the first away from Nordjylland harbours - was claimed flying past four observers at Rørvig, Vestsjælland on 21st. An adult drake Black Scooter was photographed
off Danzigmand, Læsø, Nordjylland on 11th-12th and 16th (perhaps the 2007 individual there, and therefore the 3rd Danish record?). An Alpine Accentor was photographed and supsequently twitched at Spodsbjerg, Nordsjælland on
12th. Amazingly, during April-March up to about 10 each of Great Nothern Diver and White-billed Divers were seen from a ship off the island of Anholt in the sea of Kattegat. A very unseasonal Balearic Shearwater flew past
Hirtshals, Nordjylland on 24th (the is just one earlier spring record, from May, and all other records are from July-October) . A record 29 Shags were at three Nordjylland sites during April including 27 past Skagen (probably
flying from Sweden to Norway) with flocks up to 10 (following two flocks of 13 in March). An adult Purple Heron was photographed at Værnengene, Vestjylland on 25th. A Short-toed Eagle flew past Aborrebjerg, Møn on
29th. A 2nd cal Spotted Eagle attempted to migrate out to sea towards Sweden at Skagen, Nordjylland on 25th. A 2nd cal Steppe Eagle was claimed near Haslev, Sydsjællad on 27th. The 2nd cal female Snowy Owl (regarded as
the Dutch bird) was still at Nordjylland at no less than four sites during 3rd-18th up to 200 km. apart, and on 23rd April a 2nd or 3rd cal male was photographed at Skagen, Nordjylland before migrating out to sea towards
Sweden in the evening (it was by some identified as the Belgian bird from this winter). A Black-winged Stilt was at Vest Stadil Fjord, Vestjylland on 17th-20th. A Short-toed Lark was at Korsør, Vestsjælland 26th, and a record
19 Firecrests were ringed during March-April at Gedser Fyr, Falster.

Other April birds include six Yellow-billed Divers, three Great Northern Divers, a new Danish record 325 Black-throated Divers past Hyllekrog, Lolland on 20th, an unseasonal Sooty Shearwater past Sydlangeland, Fyn (in
the Baltic Sea) on 27th, a record 18 Great White Egrets, four Little Egrets, just four Black Storks, two Lesser White-fronted Geese, two Black Brants, two Red-breasted Geese, a drake American Wigeon at Tipperne during
31st March to 6th April, Vestjylland, five drake Green-winged Teal, a drake Ferruginous Duck, ten Red-crested Pochards, a drake Ruddy Duck, a near record 13 Pallid Harriers, two Lesser Spotted Eagles, three 2nd cal Gyr
Falcons, the earliest ever spring Grey Phalarope past Skagen, Nordjylland on 27th, five 2nd cal Iceland Gulls, two Caspian Terns, four Gull-billed Terns including two near the former breeding site at Fanø, Vestjylland, six
Hoopoes, two Bee-eaters, the sole remaining Crested Lark in Denmark still at Hirtshals, Nordjylland during 1st-24th, a very early Tawny Pipit on 15th past Rørvig, Vestsjælland, five Red-rumped Swallows, eleven singing male
Savi's Warblers, a perhaps record early 2nd cal Collared Flycatcher at Gribskov, Nordsjælland on 19th-23rd, six Nutcrackers, a late Coue's Arctic Redpoll ringed at Blåvand, Vestjylland on 13th and just two Ortolan Buntings.


best regards,
Rolf Christensen/ Skagen Fuglestation

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Mist opportunities

I wanted to share a few photographs of Winterton dunes, taken last Sunday morning before I began my journey back to Copenhagen. It was a very still morning and, at dawn, there was a blanket of mist covering the dunes and pasture. The silence was deafening. Unfortunately this scene only lasted an hour or so. The photos were taken at around 0620 and, by 0800, it was sunny and clear... can be seen from the photo of 2 Egyptian Geese (a scarce bird in Winterton) flying past a short time later.

It was interesting to note that migration was very thin on the ground in the still weather.. there was noticeably less movement both overland and out to sea than the previous few days of moderate south-eaterlies. The few birds that were moving were also generally moving at a much higher altitude. It would be interesting to know if this a well-known phenomenon at vis-mig sites...

Photos: Horsey Mill from Winterton dunes at dawn; Winterton village; and two Egyptian Geese

Monday, 27 April 2009

Red-rumped Swallow part deux

Unbelievably, we saw a second Red-rumped Swallow on Saturday morning almost exactly 24 hours after the first... this time at 0925 in the morning rather than 0915 on Friday.. Again, it zoomed through going south in the company of Swallows. The sense from the few observers that saw both (3 I think) was that it was a different bird, slightly duller. Photos below for comparison. Other highlights included 4 Little Egrets and another batch of Bar-tailed Godwits, a Ring Ouzel, 2 Hen Harriers and a White Wagtail. The keen southerly wind meant that most birds passed low against the dunes providing me with the chance to get some pleasing photos of Marsh Harrier and Oystercatcher - both fairly common in this part of the world but difficult to photograph.

Needless to say, this morning (Sunday) we were expecting queues of birders on the dunes between 0900 and 0930 waiting for the hat-trick but sadly it never happened.. Nevertheless, an unforgettable weekend!

Photos: the second Red-rumped Swallow; a female Marsh Harrier; and an Oystercatcher

Friday, 24 April 2009

Red-rumped Swallow

An 0530 start this morning in Winterton north dunes with fellow spotter, Tim Hemmings, was rewarded with the sighting of a rare RED-RUMPED SWALLOW that flew south along the dunes in the company of a couple of its more common relative, the Barn Swallow. Big thanks to Andrew Grieve who was watching visible migration at Horsey, about a kilometre to the north of Tim and me, when he spotted the swallow and radioed through to us. This enabled us to pick it up and get a couple of record shots of the bird as it zoomed through... Most of the birds today were flying south, into a moderate south/south-easterly wind, a common feature of bird migration in Spring and seemingly at odds with the view that they should all be flying north for the summer. The day was also notable for the passage of Bar-tailed Godwits. I had my record day count of these waders, totalling 78 by 1130am. I decided to count everything today to get a sense of the numbers of birds passing through and I ended up with 178 Linnets, 40 Goldfinches, 99 Barn Swallows and 21 Whimbrels (all going south!).

With Red Kite and Red-rumped Swallow, clearly it is going to be a "Red" few days... Dare I hope for a Red-footed Falcon tomorrow....??

Photos: Red-rumped Swallow at Winterton north dunes; and one of the groups of Bar-tailed Godwit that passed along the shore today

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Red Kite

A work trip to London allowed me to tag on a few days to travel up to Norfolk to see my folks (nothing to do with the fact that this is prime bird migration time at all, honest....). A couple of hours of visible migration on my first day back saw me connect with a bird I have long wanted to see in Winterton - Red Kite. It is a bird that, at times, I have thought I was destined never to see in Winterton. I have missed them by a few minutes, been called when out of town to be told that one was circling over my house, looked the wrong way when one slid past and out of sight behind some trees etc etc... Of course, the status of Red Kite has changed dramatically in recent years. When I was growing up it was a mega rarity in the UK outside its traditional toe-hold in Wales but, in the last few years, these magnificant birds have benefited from a re-introduction scheme whereby young birds from continental Europe have been released in many parts of the UK (the Chilterns, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and Scotland, to name a few places). Now, the Red Kite is a reasonably frequent migrant and occasional breeder in Norfolk and most years (particularly in Spring) several are seen along the east coast. It is a very distinctive bird with a long, rufous-coloured forked tail, a grey head and, as is typical of kites in general, has a lazy flight.

The supporting cast was a couple of 'ring-tail' Hen Harriers, 2 Common Buzzards (still scarce in east Norfolk, a hangover from the persecution by gamekeepers), a Grasshopper Warbler and a sunbathing adder.

The weather here is very good with clear sunny skies tempered slightly by a pretty cool south-westerly wind. The forecast is not so good for Saturday and Sunday but hopefully the Kite won't be the only highlight of my trip back..

Photos: My first Winterton Red Kite being mobbed by a Herring Gull; the Adder (male) sunning himself in the early morning sun; and an EXTREME close-up showing the reddish eye

Saturday, 18 April 2009

More migrants

Saturday morning was spent at Sydvestpynten, Kongelunden hoping for some visible migration. The weather has been very good here and settled for the last few days so there isn't a mass of birds flowing through as would be expected if there had been a period of bad weather. A few rainy days can lead to a build up of migrants to the south and then, on the first good day, good numbers can be seen flowing through. Alas, with the past week or so of fine weather, there is no big build up and the migration is more of a trickle. Nevertheless, it was a good morning with the highlight being a second calendar year White-tailed Eagle. The supporting cast wasn't bad including an adult male Merlin, my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year, my first two Little Terns, 8 Arctic Terns, a single male Common Scoter, a Tree Pipit, several Willow Warblers, a few Common Buzzards and a drake Garganey. There were good numbers of Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers offshore with a single Goosander and 8 Common Eider amongst them. Avocets and Redshank are back and the local Bearded Tits are getting restless, with several small groups making forays out to sea before realising that actually the reedbed they just left is quite attractive after all.. (their wings are so small, they look like wind up toys with their very weak flight on whirring wings). The weather is forecast to stay fine and settled for the next few days which isn't so good for seeing numbers of migrants but is great for the tourists. Nyhavn is now well into summer mode with tables and chairs outside and swarms of people sitting on the wooden harbour sipping the cans of beer they bought from the local Netto store (at about one fifth of the price of the Nyhavn bars). As I write I can hear Michael Jackson blasting out from a small boat full of revellers... Get down... yeah... Ow!

Photos: Bearded Tits; a flock of sinensis Cormorants (don't ask); and a spring male Linnet (a much underrated bird!)

Thursday, 16 April 2009


A 2-hour tour of the coastal scrub at Kongelunden this afternoon brought my first Swallows of the year (7 in total) plus a singing Willow Warbler, several singing Chiffchaffs, a single Tree Pipit and a handful of Blackcaps. The weather is still very clear with easterly/north-easterly winds. We just need a shower or two to ground some of the migrants so that they stop instead of passing straight through...!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

La France

Libby and I have just returned from a walking trip in the south of France. Over 5 days we walked from La Brigue in the French Alps to Menton, a lovely old seaside town on the Mediterranean coast just east of Monaco. We booked through a company called Inntravel. They arrange for luggage to be taken from one hotel/auberge to the next and send detailed maps and directions for the walks, including options to extend or shorten the walks, depending on your mood and the state of your legs! The route that we chose - "The Alps to the Mediterranean" - was fantastic with some of the best walking we have experienced, especially the stretch between Sospel and Menton. Stunning snow-capped mountains, sheer-sided gorges and magical forests made the walk a real pleasure. As always in France the food and wine were fantastic too. Everything just tastes so much better when you have been outdoors all day. Although not a birding trip I did manage to see quite a few good birds. The trip started well when I saw around 15 Alpine Swifts hawking around a road bridge just outside Nice airport. And when I opened the curtains on our first morning in La Brigue, I was greeted by the sight of 4 Short-toed Eagles hunting along the ridge opposite our hotel. Fantastic. The stream below produced Grey Wagtail, a few Black Redstarts were feeding in the local gardens and a Wryneck was a nice surprise in the park. Over the 5 days the walks produced Golden Eagle (3), Crag Martin (lots), Western Bonelli's Warbler (4-5), Rock Bunting (3), Firecrest (many), Black Woodpecker (at least 3 heard), Common Redstart and Cuckoo as well as the seemingly omni-present Serin.

On the coast at Menton, visible migration was in full-swing with Swallows streaming through in an almost constant procession with a supporting cast of Common and Alpine Swifts, a few House Martins and the occasional Sparrowhawk or White Stork.

Our visit to Menton coincided with a women's football international tournament. We stumbled across a match involving Denmark and Russia on an artificial pitch near our hotel. Despite us swelling the crowds cheering on our adopted homeland (I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that we doubled the Danish support), the Danes went down 2-0 to a very competent Russia team. A post-match tour of the old town and the seafront, sampling the local cuisine was a very pleasant end to our stay in France and a welcome rest for our weary muscles.

Photos: a house at La Brigue, our starting point on the walk; a street in Saorge, one of the pretty mountain villages in the Maritime-Alps; a view of Tende from the hills above La Brigue; some of the violet-coloured flowers that adorned our route (are these violets?); and Libby working out our route.

Saturday, 4 April 2009


The promise of a warm, sunny spring day meant I was up at 5am and, by dawn, I was on my bike and well on my way to Kongelunden, on the southern tip of Amager. I counted around 15 Chiffchaffs singing during the journey and, on arrival at Sydvestpynten (Southwest point) I was greeted with a flat calm sea and a degree or two of frost.

During a 2-hour vigil on the point I saw: 1 Grey Wagtail, several flocks of migrating Great and Blue Tits (I still can't get used to seeing flocks of tits coming in off the sea - seems weird!), 3 White-fronted Geese, 12 Barnacle Geese, 1 Skylark, 20 Starlings, 6 Red-necked Grebes, 9 Sandwich Terns, 4 Reed Buntings, 2 Pintail, 11 Wigeon, 7 Shoveler, 1 Smew, 14 Red-breasted Mergansers, 18 Eider, 6 Tufted Duck, 45 Goldeneye, 3 Sparrowhawks in off, 1 Curlew and a singing Redwing in the bushes just inland.

I then decided to search the woods, hoping for some woodpeckers and, possibly, a Nutracker or two. I missed the Nutcrackers but I did see 8+ Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Nuthatches, 2 Hawfinches, 8 Brambling and a Woodcock. The Woodpeckers were busy preparing nestholes (see below) and the Bramblings were looking resplendent in their jet black hoods. I also came across this amazing root system, belonging to a storm-blown spruce...

Danish news from yesterday included a Spotted Eagle sp a few miles north of Copenhagen. Seen twice and identified by the first observer as a Greater Spotted and by the second as a Lesser Spotted! It is very early for a Lesser Spotted (a summer visitor to northern Europe, usually arriving mid- late May) but Greater Spotted have been known to winter in southern Sweden (there were at least two sighted this winter just across the bridge) so it is more likely to be a Greater. Hopefully it will get seen again today and identified with certainty.... either way it's a magnificent bird to see!

Photos: an uprooted spruce; Great Spotted Woodpecker holes; and the regular roosting Tawny Owl