Wednesday, 29 July 2009

New York

Staying a few days with a friend in New York. Fantastic flat on W 22nd Street with a lovely roof terrace (including views of the Empire State Building). Whilst enjoying breakfast 'al fresco' over the last few days, we have seen Chimney Swift, Ring-billed Gull, Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow, European Starling, American Kestrel, American Robin, Great Blue Heron and Common Grackle.... Central Park has also produced Catbird, Green Heron, Mockingbird, Baltimore Oriole, Black-capped Chickadee (I think), Black Duck, Hooded Merganser and Double-crested Cormorant. It's easy to see the potential for New World warblers in Spring - a cracking oasis of habitat in the Big Apple.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Jingle Bells..

Of course it's a difficult time of year for Santas around the world - no snow, lack of festive spirit etc.. so every year in July they gather for the annual Santa Claus convention.. this year it was in Copenhagen (where it all began)..

This was how it was reported in the local press..

"The annual World Santa Claus Congress kicked off another year in Copenhagen, bringing the spirit of Christmas to Scandinavia a little early. Even though it’s a decidedly local event, people still come from around the globe to enjoy the festivities.

This will be the 51st year for the meeting of Santas from around the world. The congress got its start in 1957 as a small quirky Danish event. But this year, 136 festively-attired delegates are scheduled to attend the three-day affair, which is being held in a popular Danish amusement park. The majority of these bearded men come from Scandinavia, but there are also Santas from the United States, Russia, UK and even Japan.

The action will take place in Copenhagen’s Bakken amusement park, and feature activities such as Hula Hoop dancing, a bicycle parade, and a cool dip in Copenhagen’s harbour. A pointed seminar on the struggles facing modern Santa Clauses (including how to deal with chimneys with electric heaters at the bottom and the increasing levels of obesity among Santas) is also on the agenda, as is a more serious visit with children at a local hospital."

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

More noctilucents

Last night (21 July) saw another magnificent display of noctilucent clouds over Copenhagen. These shots were taken at around 2245. There was obviously something religiously significant taking place through the upper right window on the first shot....!

Sunday, 19 July 2009


Saturday afternoon was spent at Klydesøen, the wetland area at the southern tip of Amager. There are two observation hides on site (a relic of the time when the whole area was a military training ground and the towers were used for assessing the impact of artillery explosions!). Whatever the history, the towers provide a great vista of the shallow lagoons, albeit from a distance. This is where the 20-60x zoom eyepiece on my telescope comes in handy....

Highlight was an adult CASPIAN TERN that spent over an hour patrolling the lagoons and loafing on one of the small islands. A pair or two breed on the nearby island of Saltholm (between Denmark and Sweden), so this bird is almost certainly one of those and has been ranging the local area for a couple of weeks. There was also a good selection of waders on site - I counted 24 Wood Sandpiper, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, an Avocet, 5 Spotted Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 14 Ringed Plover, a Redshank, 2 Whimbrel, 8 Curlew, a Green Sandpiper, 10 Ruff, 7 Oystercatcher, 5 Dunlin and a Snipe. Also present were Water Rail, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern and a family party of 4 Raven.

A young FOX made its way along the path by the tower and made several unsuccessful attempts to pounce on small rodents before disappearing into the long grass.

Apparently, just 5 minutes after I left, 3 Broad-billed Sandpipers flew in and began feeding close to the main observation tower - hopefully they will hang around...

As I write, England are enjoying the upper hand in the second Ashes Test Match at Lord's. England talisman, Freddie Flintoff. has just taken the first two wickets in Australia's second innings with Australia still 484 runs behind. Both wickets were, apparently, not out - the first should have been a no-ball and there is doubt that the ball carried to Strauss at slip for the second. Will England lose any sleep about that? I doubt it...

Photos: Red Fox

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


CLOUD UPDATE: apparently the cloud formation in this photo (see previous post from 26 June) is known as a 'noctilucent'. The following description of this cloud is taken from the Cloud Appreciation Society.

"As darkness falls on anything but the brightest of nights, those clouds still awake will appear dark in the night sky as they are cast in the Earth’s shadow. But one rather mysterious cloud refuses to go to bed with the others. ‘Noctilucent’ clouds form so high up in the atmosphere that sun catches them even in the dead of night.

Most clouds form in the lower region of the atmosphere, from the ground to around 8-10 miles up, known as the troposphere. Noctilucent clouds, however, form at altitudes of between 30 and 50 miles, where temperatures can be as low as -125°C. This is a region called the mesosphere – the one above the stratosphere – and is extremely dry, making the appearance of the Noctilucent cloud’s ice crystals somewhat of a mystery. The clouds have a bluish white colour, with a rippled or undulating appearance, as can be seen in the handsome specimen above. They are most readily observed in the higher-latitude regions of the world – those above 50° – within a month or so of mid-summer.

There have been an increasing number and extent of Noctilucent cloud observations over the last 100 years. Some scientists think that this is an indication of man’s contribution to global warning. Increases in the amounts of greenhouse gases in the stratosphere will not only warm the atmosphere below, but will also cool those regions above. Colder temperatures in the mesosphere would be expected to encourage the formation of Noctilucent clouds. Could the increasing observation of this insomniac cloud be the writing across the night sky of our role in changing the climate?"

Cool, huh..?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Wet wet wet

An evening visit to Klydesøen was rewarding with single Caspian Tern and Broad-billed Sandpiper plus 4 Black-tailed Godwits, 40+ Wood Sandpipers, a Temminck's Stint, a handful of Spotted Redshank and a Bittern. There was also an unidentified duck sp (almost certainly exotic). It was slightly smaller than the Mallards with which it was associating, fed by up-ending, had yellow sides to the bill, pale clean flanks and turtle dove-like patterning on the upper mantle. Unfortunately, just when I was thinking what a great evening it had been, I was absolutely drenched by a thunderstorm that sneaked up on me while I was looking at the birds.. And of course, as it has been so hot and sunny, I didn't have any waterproofs with me... but at least the shorts meant I dried off quickly!

EDIT: the mystery duck is almost certainly a SPECKLED TEAL which hails from South America. A photo of one, looking very similar to last night's bird, can be found here.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Blue Grosbeak

Latest news on the Danish birding scene is the discovery of a 2cy male Blue Grosbeak at Stenbjerg, Thy (Jylland). The bird is an American species and has never knowingly been recorded in a wild state in Europe. There are a few records from the UK, Norway, Finland and elsewhere but they are presumed to relate to escaped captive birds. The bird is quite striking - you can see a photo of the Danish individual here. They are kept in captivity but captive birds SHOULD sport a ring on one of the legs to indicate from where it originates. This bird is ring-free, leading some to claim it as a wild bird. I think the chances of it being accepted are very slim...

Friday, 3 July 2009

Greenish Delight

As trailed in my last post, I spent last night birding from dusk til dawn (and a little bit after). I was very fortunate to be able to borrow Libby's parents' car and I was determined to use it to get to some places that would be very awkward to reach via my usual mode of transport - cycle and train. It was a fantastically warm and still night with temperatures no lower than about 14 degs and not a breath of wind. I began by visiting Melby Overdrev on the north coast of Sjaelland. This is the most reliable spot to see and hear Nightjar (in Danish, 'Natravn' - literally translated "Night Raven"), a bird that was on my doorstep at Winterton when I was growing up but scarce here in Denmark. As soon as I reached the car park at around 2230 and opened my door I could hear the characteristic 'churring' of a male and the clap of wings of its display flight. A few minutes later a female flew around making the familiar 'chip' call. In the semi-light of dusk it is always special to see these crepuscular bird. I spent a good hour there before the light faded to the extent that I could just see silhouettes. A great start.

Next stop was the small village of Mønge just a few kilometres to the south-east where a Quail (Danish name "Vagtel") had been reported singing in a grassy field. On arrival there were two people on site who hadn't heard it in half an hour. As we wandered up the road on foot we heard a family of Long-eared Owls ("Skovhornugle", literally translated as "Forest Horned Owl") in a small copse and, a bit further on, we heard just a single "whip whiip whip" - Quail! In the next 30 minutes we heard it another 9 or 10 times. Excellent. On the way back to the car it transpired that one of the guys was the finder of the River Warbler I enjoyed just a few days ago... top man.

Third stop was the first of three Corncrake ("Engsnarre", literally "Meadow Fool") sites. Half an hour of waiting in the car by the side of the road drew a blank so I decided to cut my losses and drive south to another Corncrake site. All the time I had an eye on being at Møns Klint (a good 80 miles south) at dawn - around 4am - to try for the Greenish Warbler. The second Corncrake site was also silent so I moved on a bit further south to a place called Fensmark, near Naestved. This was super habitat - fields of tall, wet grass with a narrow lane right through the middle - perfect for being able to hear all around. Immediately I could hear a Corncrake, then another. Then another. I counted at least 7 calling males along a stretch of about 500 metres. Brilliant. Also recorded here were at least 3 Grasshopper Warblers. What a great site.

By now it was 3am so I made my way to Møns Klint - a beautiful bit of coastline with the highest cliffs in Denmark. Ok, just about the ONLY cliffs in Denmark, lined by a lovely mature deciduous woodland. Finding a single Greenish Warbler ("Lundsanger", literal translation "Grove Singer") in a woodland about 5km by 2km was never going to be easy but the positive thing about searching for Greenish in July is that most of the other woodland birds have stopped singing by now, so there were only a few Chaffinches, the odd Wren and a few Garden Warblers singing. After about 45 minutes I heard something that I thought was Greenish and, after a bit of patient investigation I got onto it in the canopy. It was pretty lively and gave good views at times as it made several tours of a circuit. Bizarrely, this bird had two songs. One was typical Greenish. The second was almost a perfect, albeit partial, imitation of a Wren. I thought there must be a wren accompanying it in the canopy at first but, as I watched the bird over an hour and a half, it was clear that the Greenish was giving this wren-like song with regularity. I heard the bird sing about 40 times and almost half were of the wren imitation. I have no idea if this is normal as I have never heard Greenish singing before but it certainly came as a surprise.

With the sun rising above the sea to the east a very enjoyable night and early morning's birding came to an end but with one final offering. A young Tawny Owl flew onto a branch just a few metres from me, looked at me intently and then flew off again back to its siblings that were calling in a dense area of beech. A fitting finale.

I'll be back on my bike at the weekend...

Photos: Greenish Warbler and the local church (typically Danish) at Elmelunde, shortly after dawn.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Danish bird news for June 2009

A summary of Danish bird news for June 2009, courtesy of Rolf Christensen at Skagen.

A drake Blue-winged Teal was at Hylteholme, Sydsjælland during 9th-10th and 20th. A Thick-knee was near Voerså, Nordjylland on 7th. A female type Black-winged Stilt was again at Firtalsstrand, Fyn on 9th-12th. A very unseasonal 2nd cal male Snowy Owl was at three Nordjylland coastal sites during 8th-19th. A singing male Blyth's Reed Wabler was ringed at Skagen, Nordjylland on 8th, and a Paddyfield Warbler was there on 21st (9th record). A male Lesser Grey Shrike was near Karup, Vestjylland on 8th. A male Black-Headed Bunting was at a garden feeding platform far inland near Krejbjerg Plantage, Østjylland during 29th May to 5th June.

Other June records include two Manx Shearwaters, two Shags - again past Skagen, Nordjylland, just three Black Storks, a very late/escape Red-breasted Goose in the Wadden Sea, five Red-crested Pochards, three Ruddy Ducks, a 3rd cal or older male Pallid Harrier at Ballum Enge, Sønderjylland during 25th-26th, one Pectoral Sandpiper, one Glaucous Gull, five Gull-billed Terns - but still no breeding attempts, a surprise 10 White-winged Black Terns past Margrethe Kog, Sønderjylland on 25th, one Hoopoe, 23 Bee-eaters including one flock of 18 past Gedser, Falster on 6th, the single and only remaining singing male Crested Lark still at Hirtshals, Nordjylland during 4th-28th, just two singing male Tawny Pipits during 5th-6th at the sole breeding site, at the island of Anholt, Østjylland, one Red-throated Pipit, six River Warblers, five Savi's Warblers, just one Great Reed Warbler, a female Barred Warbler ringed on 9th at Gedser, Falster - the year's only record so far following following a severe decline in recents years, eight Greenish Warblers, ten Red-breasted Flycatchers, three Nutcrackers and just one Rose-colored Starling.

Source: and

Tonight, to take advantage of the still, warm weather, I am planning a night of birding - targets include Nightjar, Corncrake, Quail, Spotted Crake and then, at dawn, Greenish Warbler at Møns. Wish me luck!