Friday, 3 September 2010

The new blog!

Terry has now moved to Beijing, China. His new blog - Birding Beijing - can be read here.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Tak og vi ses!

The Danish telecommunications company, TDC, today cut off my phone and internet connection a day early (grr..) so I am writing this from Mojo coffee shop on Gothersgade in central Copenhagen. I have checked us in for the BA flight, via London, to Beijing tomorrow and we are just about packed. We plan to spend our last evening in Copenhagen with a take away and a beer on the harbour at Nyhavn.

With our packing surprisingly (and uncharacteristically) ahead of schedule, I couldn't resist a final visit to my favourite patch at Sydvestpynten this morning. There was a distinctly autumnal feel to the air with a cool, fresh south-westerly breeze and the air full of migrants - mostly Tree Pipits and Yellow Wagtails but also a few waders including Ruff, Golden and Grey Plovers. Along the sheltered hedgerow a Spotted Flycatcher competed with two Pied Flycatchers for the small swarms of flying insects that danced in the lee of the hedge and a moulting adult male Common Redstart claimed the lower ground, preferring to catch insects on the ground from a low perch. A lone Swift made me realise that I hadn't heard these brief summer visitors for a few days now - they always seem to disappear all at once - and it mingled with a mixed group of hirundines including adult and juvenile Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins. The bushes were alive with Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Lesser and Common Whitethroats. It was a good reminder of just how good this patch has been for migration - the numbers of birds passing through has eclipsed anything I have seen in the UK. On a clear October day, especially after the first frost further north in Scandinavia, the sky can be full of finches - mostly Chaffinches and Bramblings - larks and buntings and it is a spectacle I will miss this year.

The hoped for rarity on my last full day in Denmark did not materialise but that did not take away the joy of a typically rich morning's birding at this special site. With my bike already packed and on its way back to London for storage, I caught the bus back to the city with a heavy heart. I hope I will be back one day!

Thanks to everyone who has read this blog over the last 3 years - your comments and support have made it a lot of fun and it is also a great record for me of my time here in Copenhagen.

As soon as I can I will post details of my new blog from Beijing - it promises to be a different, but I am sure just as bird-rich, experience!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Red-necked Phal: the video

As promised... a short video of the Red-necked Phalarope during one of its more energetic spells.. the shutter you can here in the background is Eigil's. A fantastic bird.

Meanwhile, my contact in Beijing tells me that he has just seen the first returning Arctic Warbler in a local park. That certainly whets the appetite for the coming autumn!

Red-necked Phalarope from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Red-necked Phalarope

Amazingly, on the very same puddle that the juvenile Broad-billed Sandpiper enjoyed so much at Køge, an equally confiding juvenile Red-necked Phalarope has now taken up residence! I made an early start to spend a couple of hours there this morning before work and enjoyed a fabulous close encounter with this stunning wader in the company of top Danish photographer Eigil Ødegaard. Several times it walked right up to us and, on occasion, it was too close for our lenses to focus!

It's going to be hard to leave Danish birding!

Click to big up the photos. Video to follow.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Broad-billed Sandpiper pt2

A video (handheld) of the Broad-billed Sandpiper at Køge Sydstrand on 20th August.

Broad-billed Sandpiper from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Broad-billed Sandpiper

This juvenile Broad-billed Sandpiper was exceptionally confiding today on Køge Sydstrand, about 40 minutes south of Copenhagen. It favoured some small pools along the beach about 300 metres south of the quay and fed actively in the company of some White Wagtails. I carefully stalked it to within 5 metres without too much trouble and then, as I got down on my stomach to begin photographing it, it began walking towards me! At one point the bird can't have been more than 3 metres away and appeared completely unfazed by my presence. Having a 400mm lens, this distance was perfectly adequate to get some pleasing images. As usual, they are best viewed at full size, so click to big 'em up!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Caspian Gull juvenile

This juvenile Caspian Gull was one of two present at Damhussøen on Sunday afternoon. It was quite a large bird, so presumably a male, and showed pretty well in flight, on the water and on land. Note the typical tertial pattern, the longish all-dark bill, whitish head, pale underwing and relatively long, thin legs. Always a delight to see!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Farewell Denmark

Libby and I decided that for our summer holiday this year we would stay local and take advantage of the time we had left in Denmark. So we hired a car, packed our tent and headed to the west coast of Jutland. We had already visited many of Denmark's prime spots including the islands of Bornholm, Langeland and Aerø plus Skagen, Fyn and most of Sjaelland, so it seemed fitting that our last trip in Denmark should be the west coast of Jutland, an area of outstanding natural beauty that we had not visited before (with the added bonus of the locals speaking Danish much clearer and slower than their compatriots in Copenhagen!).

We started by driving to Blåvand where we camped one night and explored the local area, including the famous birding hotspot of Blåvands Huk.. We enjoyed a walk on the expansive sandy beach and watched huge flocks of starlings wheeling in the air like a swarm of bees.. and a lone Honey Buzzard that seemed determined to head out over the sea towards the UK but got the willies about a kilometre out and turned back. The holiday homes here are lovely, nestled in the dunes, many with huge glass windows overlooking the sea... would be a lovely place to stay in October when all the tourists are gone and it's just you and the birds (plus probably several hundred birders!). Apparently they don't sell them to foreigners (sigh).

Next day we visited magnificent Ribe, the old capital of Denmark, a beautiful town with a real 'olde worlde' feel to it. Narrow cobbled streets, 16th century houses that were obviously built before spirit levels were invented and traditional wooden sailing boats in the harbour all make this town very 'hyggelig' as they say in these parts...

From there we took the coast road north past Esbjerg (not much here - it's an industrial town - but I will always remember it as the site of my only Danish Ross's Gull!), taking in a day trip to the island of Fanø, a gorgeous island with a couple of picturesque villages and wonderfully wild salt marshes and dunes..

From Fanø we worked our way north all the way to Thyborøn with an overnight stop in the underwhelming Hotel Ringkøbing in the fjord town of the same name. The stop did allow me to sneak away for a couple of hours to visit Vest Stadil Fjord where a juvenile White-winged Black Tern had been in residence for the previous few days. On arriving at the site, a couple of birders (Karl Erik Kristensen and Eigil Thomasen) were already looking and, before too long, we picked up the target bird among several juvenile Black Terns (the latter breed here, one of the few remaining sites for breeding Black Tern in Denmark). A few Little Gulls, a couple of Whimbrel, some Golden Plover and a quartering Marsh Harrier provided the support act, along with the good company of the two local birders.

At Thyborøn I failed in a brief attempt to see the Short-toed Lark that had been present for some time at Harboøre Tang and, instead of catching the ferry north and exploring further, we decided to head back via the lake district around Silkeborg given that the weather forecast was a bit iffy... This proved to be a good decision as we stumbled across a fantastic camp site near the village of Ry where, on arrival, a majestic White-tailed Eagle powered directly over us heading south-west. We were able to pitch our tent, on the eve of my 40th birthday (gulp) right by the lake side on a site that was simply excellent. It had the cleanest showers and toilets I have ever seen on a camp site, a great little shop at which one could place orders from the local bakery, canoe and kayak hire plus great walking on trails around the lake.. marvellous! It was a great pleasure to wake from my deep sleep on my 40th birthday to a breakfast of bread, cheese, pastries and freshly brewed coffee, all served just outside our tent on a picnic bench, in the sun, overlooking the lake.. better than any hotel and a fraction of the cost!

The journey home was uneventful and, within a few hours, it was raining, vindicating our decision to head back. A top trip and a great way to end our time in Denmark. In just two weeks time we'll be unpacking in Beijing and beginning a new adventure.

Photos: Blåvand lighthouse; a typical house on Fanø; part of the large flock of Starlings around Blåvand; and a house in Ribe, the old Danish capital

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Caspian Gulls

A few images of an almost adult (note slight dark marks in the wing coverts visible in the third image below) and juvenile Caspian Gulls taken in the Copenhagen area at the weekend. Final image is of the Caspian in the midst of a feeding frenzy - the gull at the top left looks scary!

Monday, 2 August 2010


Whilst searching for the Baltic Gull (see previous post), I was captivated by the behaviour of a young Great Crested Grebe. The young bird was begging mercilessly from its parents, even though it was almost the same size. On several occasions it hid its body under the water with just the head protruding, begging loudly. It almost looked as if this adolescent grebe was pretending to be very small so that its mother would still feed it..! I don't know if this is the scientific explanation of the behaviour I saw but, nevertheless, it made me smile...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Baltic Gull

For almost a week now there has been a 2nd year 'Baltic Gull', the eastern Scandinavian race of Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus), in the Copenhagen area. I finally caught up with it at Utterslev Mose, just north of Copenhagen, on Saturday afternoon. This subspecies is very difficult to identify for certain in most age groups due to the overlap between fuscus and the very similar intermedius. However, an advanced second year bird, as shown below, exhibits several features that make this bird a fuscus. First, the moult is more advanced than on most intermedius with nearly all of the feather groups being changed. It has a very pale head and underparts, advanced moult in the wings, and even has some blackish adult-type feathers on the wing coverts. The bill is also classic fuscus with two-toned colouring including a blackish tip. Finally, the size of this bird was more reminiscent of Common Gull than Herring Gull, another good indicator. A good opportunity to get to grips with a now uncommon bird in Denmark.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpipers are one of the most common waders on Vestamager at the moment. There must be at least 50 of these attractive waders spread over the reserve. Occasionally one or two feed close to the hide at Sydmøllevej, offering fantastic photo opportunities, especially in the early morning light. This morning, after checking the waders on the scrapes (19 species - Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Bar and Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper), I popped into the hide to see if there were any waders close by. This Wood Sandpiper fed quite happily at very close range - a fantastic bird!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Yet another YLG

This afternoon I visited the large gull gathering at the Vattenfall Power Station near Christianshavn on Amager. Of course I was hoping to find my own Caspian or Yellow-legged Gull and I got lucky. Below are some (poor) photos of a juvenile michahellis but they show all the distinguishing features - dark face mask with lighter hindneck and forehead, dark tail band with whitish uppertail, lack of prominent pale window in inner primaries, whitish belly contrasting with dark underwing coverts etc. I had a niggling doubt about this bird due to its relatively small size but a quick email exchange with gull legend KMO reassured me that it was, indeed, a michahellis. Apparently some birds from the mid and eastern range can be quite small.

Always nice to find your own birds!

Another YLG

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls are beginning to arrive in small numbers. At least the third individual in the Copenhagen area was found on Utterslev Mose, just north of Copenhagen. With the promise of a mostly dry forecast with the possibility of very light occasional shower, I went to have a look yesterday afternoon... Needless to say, given the proficiency of the Danish forecasting, I arrived to an absolute deluge and got a real good soaking in a heavy shower that lasted at least an hour..! Still, after sifting through the large gulls, I found this beauty... Apparently there is also a juvenile Caspian Gull around but I wasn't lucky enough to see that. Note the prominent black tail band with narrow white edge, the white uppertail and coverts, the longish dark wings without the prominent pale panel on the inner primaries (cf Herring Gull), the dark 'mask', dark bill, whitish belly and darkish underwing.

Yellow-legged Gull (juvenile) from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Local Patch

Thanks to Brian Edwards for these aerial photos of Sydvestpynten (SVP) and Vestamager reserve, taken from aircraft either just arriving at, or departing from, Copenhagen airport. The first is a good reminder of the severity of the 2009-10 winter when SVP was in a state of almost permafrost. The second shows the lagoons and wetland area that act as a magnet for migrating waders. These adjacent sites are just a few miles south of Copenhagen city centre, on the island of Amager, and show the areas where I have spent many a happy hour during my time here in Denmark.

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtails are still fairly common breeders in this part of Denmark and a few pairs breed on Vestamager. This juvenile is learning the ropes around the pools on Klydesøen, Vestamager. Won't be long before he/she begins the journey south to Africa.