Tuesday, 29 September 2009


The hunt for a Yellow-browed Warbler did not take long. Today I saw my first in Denmark but it wasn't me who found it - thanks go to Thomas Hellesen, one of Copenhagen's top birders. He found the YBW at lunchtime at Stubben (a piece of waste ground near the industrial north harbour of Copenhagen). It's a good site (the place where I found a Red-breasted Flycatcher last year) and is good for watching migration, too, as it juts out into the strait between Denmark and Sweden. Unfortunately in two hours on site I only had two brief glimpses of the bird, in total about 5 seconds long. Not the best views I have ever had but enough to clinch the identification and put it on my Danish 'list' as species number 228. Fortunately Thomas managed a couple of photos of the bird and you can see them here.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The hunt for a Yellow-browed Warbler

I am on a mission this autumn to find a Yellow-browed Warbler on my patch. Surprisingly (perhaps) there are fewer records of these Siberian waifs in Denmark than in the UK but they must pass through in reasonable numbers undetected. A handful of records each year from the western tip of Denmark (Blåvand) and the odd one scattered elsewhere are all that turn up in the average year. My patch has some potential YBW habitat so I was out checking it this morning. Sadly no luck this time but highlights were a Merlin, several 'eastern chiffchaffs' giving the two-tone downward inflected call, a couple of Crossbills, a few Goldcrest, a late Pied Flycatcher and a good passage of Meadow Pipits moving south-west. Bit cooler today - almost needed gloves for the first time this autumn...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Kite and a Kingfisher

A couple of hours late afternoon at Sydvestpynten produced a single Red Kite (which, after Falsterbo, I almost struggled to get excited about!) and, more interestingly, a Kingfisher. Kingfishers are pretty scarce here and it's the first time I have seen one on the patch. Despite checking the local sallows there was no sign of the hoped-for Yellow-browed Warbler or Red-breasted Flycatcher..

Photo: Red Kite being mobbed by a Hooded Crow

Sunday, 20 September 2009


An early morning visit to Sydvestpynten in glorious autumn weather with a very gentle south-easterly breeze turned up a few migrants. First bird I saw was a merlin that flew strongly south out to sea. It was obvious soon after that finches had started to move in good numbers. The first real numbers of Siskin (136 in 2 hours) were migrating south-west, together with even greater numbers (200+) of Chaffinches, with the odd Brambling mixed in. Jays were also very visible with 10+ in the trees around the point and 3 flying out to sea towards Falsterbo. The bushes held Common Redstart, 2 Garden Warblers, 14 Blackcaps, 8 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrest (my first on the patch this autumn) and two migrant Dunnocks. A walk with Libby through Dyrehavn (the old royal hunting grounds just north of Copenhagen) produced a fantastic immature White-tailed Eagle that came from the north, circled over our heads then flew back north.... nice!

Saturday, 19 September 2009


With Don "Ray Mears" Petrie spending a couple of days in Copenhagen before returning to Southend, we spent the morning at Vestamager to look for migrants. A juvenile Sedge Warbler was a good find (only my second ever in Denmark - remarkably scarce in the Copenhagen area) and 8 Bearded Tits put on a splendid show as we walked up to the hide at Sydmøllevej. Here, whilst looking at the waders (Dunlin, Ruff, Curlew, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank), a small pipit flew up and over our heads. It called once before dropping into some vegetation to the west of the hide, unfortunately out of view. The call was unmistakeable, though - Red-throated! My second of the autumn and in exactly the same spot as two seen by local birder, Thomas Hellesen, the previous day. What chances Don picking one up in flight over Southend in the next few days with the north-east winds...?

We also came across several Chiffchaffs with a two-tone Greenish-type call. Despite checking them closely, they were definite Chiffs.. I have heard similar Chiffs in the past at this time of year on the east coast of the UK - on plumage tones, they are not abietinus or tristis, so maybe another eastern race or possibly young birds?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Falsterbo - raptor heaven

As trailed in my last post, I spent a long weekend in Falsterbo with some friends from East Anglia. Mid-September is prime time at Falsterbo - arguably the best site in Europe for raptor migration. We hired a self-catering "cottage" (I would have called a hut) at the campsite, literally just across the road from the prime raptor watchpoint - Ljungen (The Heath). The normal routine is to go to Nabben (the southern point of the peninsula) for dawn for the passerine migration and then, as the thermals kick in mid-morning, relocate to Ljungen to sit back in the deckchairs, relax and watch as the raptors stream through overhead, some at very close range. When the raptor migration slows in the afternoon it's an opportunity to explore local sites for waders, woodland species etc

I have to say, we had a fab time. This is one top birding location and everything is so civilised (the Scandinavians really have got it all worked out).

Although raptors are on the move from first light (in particular Sparrowhawks, falcons, harriers, ospreys and a few Honey Buzzards), the real action normally starts around 1100 with the peak between 1200 and 1400. This is the time for the majority of the kites, buzzards and, if you are lucky, eagles.

The best overall viewing point is Ljungen but wind direction can influence the trajectory of the birds as they traverse the peninsula. Best winds are said to be south-westerlies but even on days of strong northerlies (as we had on sunday), birds do move through. Kanalen (the canal - the narrowest point) can be good as the birds usually come over here low (before they find the thermals on the heath) but, due to the surrounding trees, views are shorter. Nabben can be good for raptors, too, but they are generally very high at this point having circled on the thermals in preparation for the 45 minute soar to Denmark.

We opted to do Nabben early morning and then move to the heath with visits to local wader and woodland sites in the late afternoons. In between Nabben and Ljungen, we fitted in visits to the lighthouse shop or the local bakery (excellent!) to devour some pastries and coffee before beginning the 4 or 5 hour vigil at the Heath. Sitting there in a chair with a coffee in your cup holder and pastry in hand whilst watching birds of prey overhead was a very pleasant experience indeed...

Watching the various techniques of the Swedes was an education. Many had homemade 'sights' on their 'scopes to aid picking up the raptors using the angled eyepieces. Remarkably Rob was the only birder present with a 'straight-through' telescope - everyone else had angled scopes with the eyepieces at 45 degrees. The angled 'scopes are undoubtedly better for viewing raptors in the sky as you don't have to contort yourself into a ridiculous position to get a view of an eagle passing straight overhead. Rob's scope prompted banter about Rob being the 'only straight guy' at Falsterbo which was mildly amusing for about 2 and a half minutes.

Star bird was the Short-toed Eagle that came through on Saturday in the company of Honey and Common Buzzards. Also seen were 2 Black Kites, around 10 White-tailed Eagles, 100s of Red Kites, Buzzards and Honey Buzzards (mostly juveniles), 1000s of Sparrowhawks (they were everywhere), at least 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Hen Harriers, Peregrine, Hobby, Merlin and Kestrel. A Black Woodpecker at a local woodland was also a highlight, especially for Rob (the tart). But it was the raptors that we were there to see and the period between 1100 and 1300 on Saturday will stick in the memory for a very long time - the sky was full of raptors with Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, White-tailed Eagle, 10s of Red Kites, Osprey and 100s of Buzzards on view at the same time. Absolutely stunning and an unforgettable sight. The locals said it was "an ok day"... (are they spoilt or what?) :-)

Phil 'Bastad' Benstead, our friendly local resident, joined us on Saturday night and Sunday but unfortunately the wind had swung to the north and the passage slowed significantly. We still saw a very confiding Rough-legged Buzzard, lots of Red Kites and White-tailed Eagles and what we lost in term of birds was made up for by the improved quality of the banter.. It was also very good to see the gang from the Copenhagen branch of the Dansk Ornitologisk Forening (DOF) including Sanne Busk, Stefan Stürup, Thomas Hellesen and David Collinge.

For any raptor fans, Falsterbo is a must - it is a real education to see the variability in Common and Honey Buzzard plus it is an opportunity to see scarce and rare raptors like eagles, black kites etc. Unfortunately we did miss a couple of biggies - a Lesser Spotted Eagle was reported briefly about the same time as the Short-toed Eagle and we missed Pallid Harrier and White Stork, too (the former seen from the bakery!). Missing a few is inevitable in a large area with several different routes that the birds can take and so it is important to just enjoy what you see and forget what you missed. Of course, missing good birds is also a good excuse to return! In the words of the California Governor - I'll be back.

Don was inexplicably staying on for a few days without a tent, 'Ray Mears style', apparently eating bugs and worms to survive, so I gave JP and Rob a lift back to Copenhagen airport. After making good time, I gave them a quick tour of my local patch before dropping them at the airport. We jammed a Caspian Tern and a Merlin before the light faded and check-in opened - a great end to a top trip.

STOP PRESS: news from Don - a juvenile Pallid Harrier from the Heath this morning and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Nabben

Photos: White-tailed Eagle; Common Buzzard; Rough-legged Buzzard; Red Kite; Honey Buzzard with Sparrowhawk; Sparrowhawk; Kestrel; Short-toed Eagle; raptor watching at Ljungen; and the team (from left to right: Don Petrie, representing Essex; Jonathan Price, Cambs; and Rob Holmes from Suffolk).

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Falsterbo calling

Tomorrow morning (Friday) I will fulfill an ambition - to visit Falsterbo in the autumn to watch the bird of prey migration. At around 1000 I will be collecting a few English friends from Copenhagen airport and taking the short journey across the Øresund bridge to Sweden and then south to the Falsterbo peninsula. Should be watching Honey Buzzards by late lunchtime! Recent days have seen good numbers of these raptors passing through - many at low altitude - as they make their way south for the winter. Most of the adults have already left and the last week has seen the percentage of juveniles increase. Today a Black Kite was seen, along with several Red Kites, the first real movement of Common Buzzards, a White-tailed Eagle, several Hobbies, Merlins, Peregrines and a good number of Marsh Harriers. The forecast is for pretty good weather but north-west or north-east winds. Not the best (light to moderate south-westerlies are best for raptors at Falsterbo) but, nevertheless, we should be in for a treat... Will report back on Monday!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Red-throated Pipit

An early morning at Sydvestpynten was rewarded with a good couple of hours of migration. Highlight was a RED-THROATED PIPIT that flew from east to west, circled, called twice and then dropped into a wet field. My first in Denmark. Other highlights included 3 Caspian Terns, 4 Honey Buzzards, 42 Tree Pipits, 60 Yellow Wagtails, 26 White Wagtails, 18 Crossbills, 4 Spotted Flycatchers and another Red-backed Shrike.

Photos below: Juvenile Red-backed Shrike and Spotted Flycatcher

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


An early morning stint at Sydvestpynten proved that migration is still flowing fast. Again the flyovers were dominated by Tree Pipits (24) and Yellow Wagtails (88) but the supporting cast included my first migrating Fieldfare of the autumn, 8 Shoveler and 15 Sand Martins, as well as good numbers of birds in the bushes. I counted 4 Spotted Flycatchers, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Common Redstart, 7 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Common Whitethroats, 3 Blackcaps, singles of Robin and Song Thrush, a Red-backed Shrike, 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers, 1 Ruff and 16 Lapwing. Strangely I didn't see a single phyllosc...

Photo: one of the young Yellow Wagtails that stopped briefly in a field of horses before continuing west.