Sunday, 29 November 2009

We want winter!

A cycle around Vestamager/Birkedam to look for winter duck started in beautiful sunshine and ended in drizzly rain. A flock of c250 Barnacle Geese were feeding in a field on the way and a roving tit flock produced a few Goldcrests and Treecreepers. A look on the sea revealed that, as with many winter birds, the winter duck simply haven't arrived yet. I saw only one 'red-head' Smew and c25 Goosander with a few Wigeon and Goldeneye mixed in. Last year up to 180 Smew were in this area - I guess they will arrive when we have the first real cold snap. A couple of pale Common Buzzards and 2 Ravens provided the interest on the way home. Still no Waxwings..

Photos: Barnacle Geese and a Eurasian Treecreeper.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Even more Gulls..

Yesterday (Friday) saw the exciting discovery, in Århus, Jylland (Jutland) of Denmark's first Glaucous-winged Gull, a very rare visitor from North America and the Pacific. Photos can be seen here and here.

Unfortunately for the assembled crowd, it was not seen today - it was last seen flying west over Århus city centre yesterday afternoon - but if it hangs around, I will be tempted to go for it. It looks a real beast!

Feeling inspired I paid a visit to the small fishing port at the north of Copenhagen to check out the local gulls. Needless to say there was no Glaucous-winged Gull or even a Glaucous Gull of the more common variety (still rare!). But there were good numbers of Herring, Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls with the occasional Common Gull mixed in.

One of the Herrings sported a colour ring - blue with white lettering (V507) - which, on initial investigation, originates from a Danish ringing scheme. I have reported the sighting, so hopefully I will find out soon the history of this bird.

Photos: Herring Gull (ssp argentatus, note the white tip to the outer wing feather - "primary 10" - an indicator of Argentatus); a first winter Great Black-backed Gull; and a yawning Herring Gull (must have been watching Norwich City this afternoon)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

More Gulls

A brisk walk to take advantage of the "sunny interval" that was forecast this morning produced more gulls along the harbour front at Copenhagen. No sign of the Caspian today but lots of Black-headed and argentatus Herring Gulls. I took my new (well, new to me) Canon body with me to have a play (I just bought a second hand 1d MkII body at the local store) and I love it already - super fast and great focusing on birds in flight. Much better than my trusty 400D.. (sorry 400D but this older model is classy). I can tell I am going to have a lot of fun... Only problem is the sensor seems to be a bit dirty (not that you can tell on the photos below, thanks to iPhoto) but with a bit of cleaning fluid, should be as good as new...

Four of the Black-headed Gulls today were colour-ringed. White ring with black lettering on the right leg with a metal ring on the left leg. These birds are part of a ringing scheme run by Copenhagen University, so they haven't come far.. Still, it's always worth reporting them to track movements and confirm they are still alive.. you never know, one of these may have travelled 100s of miles and returned, so all reports are valuable.

The bottom bird is the regular one-legged bird that seems to be coping fine... (just takes a bit longer to steady itself when it lands and wobbles a bit if its windy...)

Photos: Black-headed Gulls.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Winter? What winter??

It was a very mild and beautifully sunny day today. Not much new around and, in fact, a real lack of winter thrushes, not a sniff of a waxwing and no sign of any Smew. We haven't had a cold snap to speak of yet, in fact we have hardly had a frost. So it's no wonder that many of the northern birds that would normally be in Denmark by now have not yet arrived. A total of 8 Fieldfare at Vestamager today was a pitiful total for this time of year. I did see 4 Hen Harriers, though, including a sub-adult male, an adult female and two first winters, plus a few Goldcrests (still scarce) and a Short-toed Treecreeper. The forecast is for more of the same over the next week or so, so maybe it will be December before we see any real influx of winter visitors..

Photo: a rather lonely Goldcrest (I only counted 6 today)


A short walk out today along the harbour at Copenhagen produced a lot of gulls.. Mostly Black-headed and Herring Gulls but amongst the group gathered around the Little Mermaid was this 1st winter gull. I had my suspicions and, after posting the photos on BirdForum, the consensus seems to be that it is a 1st winter Caspian Gull. This is my first Caspian in Denmark and, given the lack of good gull roosts in the Copenhagen area (most seem to roost on the difficult to access Saltholm), it is a good bird to pick up. I also took the opportunity to photograph a few Black-headed Gulls and an inquisitive Hooded Crow in the fantastic winter sun.

Edit: the 1st winter gull can be identified as a Caspian due to: longish, spindly, bubblegum pink legs (compared with Herring); light underwing; dark, parallel-sided bill; "four-toned" colouring, consisting of greyish/brown mantle, brown tertials and coverts and blackish primaries contrasting with whitish head and underparts; and solid tail band with lightly marked uppertail coverts.

Photos: 1st winter Caspian Gull; Black-headed Gull; and Hooded Crow

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Jackdaws over Nyhavn

In the winter, every afternoon about half an hour before dusk, a flock of Jackdaws passes my flat window on their way to their roost site on Amager. These birds obviously range quite widely during the day to feed and then, miraculously, they all gather in one large group for the journey 'home'. Numbers are difficult to estimate but I reckon there are several hundred, maybe over a thousand. Most days they pass my window at about head height. I have been thinking for some time to try to photograph them in an arty way as Nyhavn, with its colourful facades, makes an unusual backdrop.

These are my first attempts - experimenting with a very slow shutter speed of about a tenth of a second. I will try a faster shutter speed in the next few days to see what looks best..

Photo: Jackdaws over Nyhavn

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A late Chiff

Today I made it out for a few hours in the relatively still and bright (ish) weather. As usual I started at Sydvestpynten and a root around the bushes there produced a late Chiffchaff. We are used to these warblers wintering in the UK but they are much scarcer in Denmark in the winter months so I thought it could be a 'tristis' or the closely related 'abietinus' eastern subspecies. The bird called several times and the call was just right for 'tristis' - a plaintive single note call, similar to a Bullfinch. However, after watching the bird for at least half an hour I realised that it wasn't a true 'tristis'. It lacks the all-black bill and the chestnut coloration on the cheeks. So, although it looks quite pale and lacking in yellowish/greenish tones, it is obviously some other eastern race or maybe a hybrid.

Also seen today were 3 Hen Harriers (including a male, a female and a 1st winter), a Rough-legged Buzzard, a mixed flock of Long-tailed Tits (including 'northern' caudatus and 'europeaus' subspecies), a 1st winter Goshawk, 15 Woodlark, 22 Twite and a single Curlew.

Photos below: the 'eastern' Chiffchaff; Long-tailed Tit; and Hen Harrier

Thursday, 12 November 2009

More Goldcrest Action

I never tire of these little balls of feathers - they are real characters! When they look at you face on, they look quite sad but that belies their perky nature - they always zip around looking as if they are having a great time!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

350 - the magic number

With only 3 and a half weeks to the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen the pressure is building for a deal. Yet the latest commitments and pledges show that we are a long long way from where we need to be. We are currently at 390 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere and rising at 2-2.5 parts per million per year. As CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for over 100 years, the bulk of the problem has been caused by the industrialised countries.

Science is telling us that 350 parts per million is a safe level. With the policies and measures pledged so far, we are on track for 650-700 parts per million (with a best estimate of an average of 4 degs C warming this century).

So can we get to 350? Yes we can. We have the technologies available today and the policies needed are known. There are transitional costs but these costs are manageable, even in a time of economic downturn. In fact, if we don't take action, the costs of runaway climate change will be significantly higher and, importantly, the costs won't just be economic, they will be in human lives.

In case you are lacking in motivation to contact your politicians about this, watch this. If you want to see 350, you know what you have to do!

Saturday, 7 November 2009


It was a lovely day today - lots of sun with a fresh south-easterly breeze - so I decided to put my bike on the train to Store Heddinge and explore the coastal path around Stevns. This is the closest land south-west of Falsterbo, so in early autumn can be great for raptors (and views can be better than Falsterbo as the birds have lost height over the sea). Today there wasn't much chance of many raptors - it's a bit late in the season and the visibility wasn't great (I couldn't see Falsterbo due to a little mist). However, the area is also first landfall for many of the passerines migrating out of Sweden, so there is always the chance of something interesting.

I started at the lighthouse and then walked south to Højerup and back before cycling north to Mandehoved. The trees around the lighthouse have been thinned quite a bit, so there is not so much cover for the hoped for Pallas's Warbler or late Yellow-browed. The whole area was pretty quiet with the exception of a few Redpolls and Siskins that made their way along the clifftop, shortly followed by two Peregrines patrolling the coastline. A group of 5 Yellowhammers was feeding in the stubble and the odd Fieldfare and Blackbird were feeding on the berries (no sign of any Waxwings yet).

The walk south produced a flock of 25 Twite, always nice to see. Their softer, wheezier calls helping to differentiate them from their close relative, the Linnet. I watched this feeding group for around 15 minutes as they fed on the weeds. The group included several frosty adult males sporting nice pink rumps but the majority were females or first-winters. The trees at Højerup produced 5 Goldcrests (they seem to be in much lower numbers this year), a Marsh Tit, 5 Brambling and a Treecreeper in amongst the roving blue and great tit flocks.

Mandehoved produced a new bird for Denmark for me - a 1st winter Kittiwake - ok, a bit of a 'tart's tick' but, nevertheless, very welcome. I guess the fact that it has taken me this long to see a Kittiwake is a function of two things: first, the quality of sea-watching in the Copenhagen area is pretty rubbish; and second the fact that I have hardly put in any hours sea-watching at all in Denmark...

My cycle back to the train station produced 5 Grey Partridges in a stubble field just outside Mandehoved - only the second time I have seen this species here (which is declining fast in Denmark, just like the UK) - and a very dark Red Kite (and yes, it was definitely a Red Kite with a deeply forked tail and five 'fingers').

Photos: first winter Kittiwake at Mandehoved

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Northern Long-tailed Tits

After the appalling weather of the last few days (wet, windy and cold), today dawned dry and very still so I decided to go out for a couple of hours. A walk around Sydvestpynten produced a few Mealy Redpolls, several Brambling, a handful of Siskin and a few Goldcrests with a notable number of Blackbirds new in since my last visit. A flyover Black-throated Diver was nice, as was a flock of 30+ Crossbills that made at least 3 attempts to migrate south before getting scared and noisily making their way back inland. Given it was so still, I decided to walk to Vestamager to look for passerines in Pinseskov. On the way I heard some Bearded Tits high above me and, eventually, I found them in my bins very high up indeed (almost into the low cloud!) - it must have taken them ages to get to that height with those tiny wings..

In the wood I stumbled across the odd group of Goldcrests before, a few hundred metres further on, a very large mixed flock of tits and crests suddenly appeared. About 15 Long-tailed Tits included some of the northern caudatus subspecies, some of the familiar europaeus ssp and a few intermediate. They gave a great show, as they always do, calling and feeding acrobatically in the branches. They were accompanied by a few Great and Blue Tits, around 20 Goldcrests and a single Treecreeper. They hung around for at least 20 minutes allowing me to get some reasonable photos before they disappeared into the wood as fast as they appeared.

Photos: 'intermediate' Long-tailed Tit; 'caudatus' Long-tailed Tits; Goldcrest; and Common Treecreeper (note white flanks, relatively long hind-claw, buff tips to the wings and 'wedge' on wing-bar)