Thursday, 29 April 2010


I spent another couple of hours at Sydvestpynten this evening on a lovely warm spring day. A Hobby in off the sea flashed past and headed north-east and there were two Redstarts hanging out in the hedge. My first Common Whitethroat of the year bellowed out its scratchy 'song' from a blackthorn bush and there were at least two Lesser Whitethroats 'rattling' from the undergrowth. But the highlight was not one but two female Ring Ouzels in the horse fields. Not an easy bird to catch up with in the Copenhagen area so, after the single yesterday in the same place, to see two was a bonus. Video below.

Ring Ouzel, Sydvestpynten 28 April 2010 from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


A mooch around Sydvestpynten this evening produced a female Ring Ouzel, two Common Redstarts, two Lesser Whitethroats and good numbers of Willow Warblers. A group of 20 Barnacle Geese were at Kofoeds Enge, loosely associating with my record count of Greylag Geese at this site - 120. A search through Kongelunden to look for an early Wood Warbler proved fruitless and the Firecrest seems to have moved on. But a Bittern booming by the pumphouse at Hejresøen was proof that not all Danish Bitterns were killed off by the harsh winter...

Monday, 26 April 2010

Visible Migration

With the weather forecast predicting a sunny day and south-east winds, many of Sjaelland's birders were at Gilbjerg Hoved (the northern tip of Sjaelland) on Sunday to witness the visible migration. This hot-spot is an excellent place to witness spring migration and when Henrik Højholm offered me a lift, I couldn't say no..

We arrived on site at dawn (around 0515) with a frost on the ground and a light south-easterly breeze. Immediately, around 20 Song Thrushes flew out of the bushes, gained height and began to head east.. a good sign. Birds began to pass in numbers beginning with Tree Pipits, Chaffinches, Bramblings and Siskins. As the morning began to warm up these were joined by Redwings, Fieldfares, a single Ring Ouzel, White Wagtails, Crossbills, Redpolls and the first raptors of the day - Sparrowhawks. As the morning drew on, a single Goshawk powered by, my first Yellow Wagtail of the year flew east calling and a Black-throated Diver passed just out to sea.

A few birders began to search the bushes around the headland for migrants and it wasn't long before the first of two Wrynecks was reported and the year's first Wood Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. A couple of Whinchats, a Common Redstart and at least two Pied Flycatchers were also found close by.

By now the day was warming up and the stream of birds passing by included the first hirundines - Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins all in evidence - and a single Waxwing reminded us that it wasn't summer just yet.

As the wind wasn't too strong, many people moved to a small hill, just inland, from where the views are more expansive (not recommended in windy weather - it is very exposed). From here the first Red Kites and Common Buzzards were seen and, later, the year's first Hobby, an Osprey and 2 Merlins flashed by.

By now I had managed to miss both Wrynecks, the Hobby and a Black Woodpecker that migrated east - all good birds - and a reminder that you can't be in all the good places at the same time!

We left the site at around 1430 as the migration slowed to a trickle. The afternoons can be good for the larger raptors and, after we left, at least 2 White-tailed Eagles were seen. Even though we missed these magnificent birds, we enjoyed a very good day of visible migration. Some of the Danes were a little disappointed (!), citing the previous cold night as the reason it wasn't an even better day. But, in my view, this was an excellent day of migration and one that would be very hard to match in the UK. Thanks to Henrik, Morten, Jan and Andreas for their company on the day.

Photos: one of the early Pied Flycatchers at Gilbjerg Hoved

Visible Migration at Gilbjerg Hoved, 25 April 2010 from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Friday, 23 April 2010

More Penduline Tits

Another hour after work at Grønjordssøen was rewarded with fantastic views of the pair of Penduline Tits as they fed close to the path. With the evening sun behind me, the light was perfect for photography. The male was very vocal this evening, calling frequently and often bursting into song.. at one point he even collected some nest material.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Penduline Tits again

I visited Grønjordssøen this evening after work and was lucky to immediately latch on to a Penduline Tit feeding in the reeds on the west side of the lake. It was calling frequently and soon I could hear a second bird calling to the south. Almost immediately the second bird came into view and started to feed close to the first, enabling views of both birds and clearly a pair. The male is ringed but I could not see a ring on the female. They continued to feed and, all around, there were singing Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, the latter only really arriving in numbers this week. It's been cold and blustery over the last couple of days (it even tried to snow yesterday!) but the window of evening sun, combined with the shelter provided by the scrub, meant it almost felt like spring!

Photos: Penduline Tit (first three), Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Great Snipe - the final cut

And so, with negative news yesterday and no sign this morning, it seems that the Vestamager Great Snipe has probably moved on. However, us birders can't be too upset as it performed pretty well for four evenings and I reckon over 100 birders connected. It was never seen very well - the grass was just a bit too long - but it was seen 'hopping' and moving through the grass. But it wasn't the views that will stay with me - it is the sound it made. The 'song' is truly weird and like nothing I have experienced before... And so, as a tribute, I put together this short video to the backing of The Cure. Hope you like it. I should point out that the footage of the Great Snipe at the end is not the Vestamager bird - I wish - it is taken from a video recorded on the Great Snipe's Norwegian breeding grounds.

Great Snipe, Vestamager, 16-19 April 2010 from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Great Snipe

What an amazing bird. Tonight, in the company of about 30 Danish birders (the second biggest 'twitch' I have attended after the Glaucous-winged Gull), I was fortunate enough to hear and (briefly) see the Great Snipe at Vestamager.

I arrived on site at about 2000 with the sun almost down and with a brisk westerly wind. Fortunately the cloud had broken quite a bit (apparently overcast conditions reduce the likelihood of Great Snipe lekking). About 20 people were there already and, slowly, the numbers built to 30 plus. At about 2050 the Great Snipe was heard and, over the next 20-25 minutes it displayed around 15-20 times at around 50-75 metres distance. The display is a bizarre series of clicks - some liken it to a bouncing table tennis ball - during which time it puffs out its chest and flashes its white tail feathers. A few minutes after it began displaying, despite the failing light, someone managed to find the bird on the ground in a telescope. The views were poor - mostly just a shape in the grass - but it was clearly the bird. I managed to find it in my telescope and watched it briefly move through the 10-15cm high grass with only the neck and head of the bird visible. At about 2115 it fell silent and, after a short unsuccessful wait to see if it would restart, I left the site at 2130. Brilliant - my first Great Snipe. Big thanks to Stefan for finding it.

Video below of the anticipating crowd at around 2030 (unfortunately it was too dark, and views too distant, to video the bird itself!).

EDIT: this evening (Sunday) I visited the site again and, this time, Franck Ishøj (he must have telescopic eyes) found the Great Snipe on the ground whilst it was still light and we watched it feed and move through the grass for around an hour before it began to display. Amazingly, we saw it leap into the air several times - almost like a flea - and flash its wings. Absolutely stunning.

Great Snipe 'twitch', Vestamager, 17 April 2010 from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Red-necked Grebes

The Danish avifauna is broadly similar to that of the UK with one or two notable exceptions - for example, in Denmark, breeders include Black Woodpecker, Icterine Warbler, Marsh Warbler (very common), Greenish Warbler (now rare) and, at least in the Copenhagen area, Red-necked is the most common Grebe. I have been meaning to try to take some record shots of Red-necked for some time but, as with many things right on our doorstep, there has never been any hurry - "Oh, I can do that any time" is the common thought. Today I stumbled across a confiding pair in a drainage ditch near Klydesøen, Vestamager. It was a bit windy and the light wasn't ideal but I managed to take a few photographs of these stunning birds. At one point they even began to display, albeit half-heartedly.

Tonight I am going to have a second go at seeing a displaying Great Snipe that was discovered yesterday close to Copenhagen. It was found by Stefan Stürup at 2055 last night whilst touring Vestamager to listen for Spotted Crakes! (he is having a good few days having found the Penduline Tit a couple of days ago). Amazingly, it was around 10 metres from the track and Stefan saw and heard it giving its unique display several times until leaving the site at around 2120. He put the news out and, by 2200 I was on site but sadly there was no sign in an hour's vigil. I wondered whether I should return for dawn but decided against as Great Snipe are 'supposed' to display all night so, my thinking went, if it wasn't there at 2200 it had probably moved on. Imagine my frustration when I awoke this morning to a text message saying that it was heard displaying between 0445-0515! Hopefully it will still be there tonight but, with a fresh westerly wind and cloud cover, will it be up to strutting it's stuff?? You can see a taster of the lengths these bizarre birds go to to attract a mate here. Wish me luck!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Penduline Tit

This evening I spent an hour at Grøndjordssøen, a small reed-fringed lake just south of Copenhagen. The reason was the return of the Penduline Tit. This site is probably the most reliable site for this scarce breeder in the Copenhagen area and today saw the first sighting of the year - found by Stefan Stürup. As usual with this species, it proved elusive and, after hearing it a couple of times, I eventually got reasonable views, albeit brief. The photo below illustrates the sort of views that were on offer - through branches and leaves that were swaying in the fresh north-easterly breeze (that's my excuse for the quality of the photo, anyway!). You can see that the bird was sporting a metal ring. Views were not good enough to view the details but, if it is the same bird as last year, it is a Danish ringed bird.

Photo: Penduline Tit, Grøndjordssøen

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Spotted Crakes

Last night I visited a small marsh called Råmose, just outside Copenhagen. The reason was that 2 Spotted Crakes had been heard 'singing' here for the last two nights, potetially a new species for me in Denmark. I arrived on site, courtesy of train and bicycle, at 2030 and, at about 2040, I heard one call briefly. Then, at about 2047 a Spotted Crake started calling frequently and, at 2105, it was joined by a second. To add to the atmosphere a Bittern was 'booming'. I was amazed that, in such a small marsh surrounded by urban development, there could be 2 Spotted Crakes and a Bittern!

I took a short video of the site and, if you turn up your volume and put your ear to the speaker, you might just hear the Spotted Crakes. Apologies to the Danes for murdering the pronunciation of the site....! And even more apologies to all for the David Bellamy impression at the beginning! :-)

This morning I spent an hour at Vestamager where the flock of Lesser White-fronted Geese is down to 9. I saw them much better than on Monday evening and could see that none of them was ringed. Two Peregrines (one adult and one 2nd year), 321 Barnacle Geese and my first Tree Pipit of the year flying north provided the supporting cast.

Spotted Crakes from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Lesser White-fronted Geese

An astonishing 60+ Lesser White-fronted Geese were discovered this morning on Vestamager, just south of Copenhagen, by Tim Andersen. This is, I believe, the biggest number seen in Denmark for many a year. They are almost certainly from the Swedish re-introduction scheme and are on their way back to Sweden after wintering in more southerly climes. I managed to shoot down there after work and, after a 45-minute cycle ride on a glorious sunny evening, I arrived at Vestamager to find heavy mist rolling in from the sea... The geese were said to be distant - about 400 metres away - and when I arrived visibility was down to around 100m. Luckily, after about 20 minutes, the mist gradually cleared to reveal these diminutive geese feeding avidly on a grassy spit in the middle of the wetland area. Fantastic. A very small goose with a darkish neck, very round head and a prominent white patch above the bill, positively dwarfed by the larger Greylag Geese with which they were associating.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Grib Skov

Libby and I packed a picnic this morning and enjoyed a long walk around Grib Skov (a large forest just north of Hillerød, about 45 minutes on the train from Copenhagen) on another fantastic Spring day. Highlights included displaying Black and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, a giant anthill and a close encounter with a (Wood?) mouse.

Amazingly, we ended the day having seen Black and Lesser Spotted but no Great Spotted Woodpeckers (although we did hear the latter). Both Black and Lesser Spot were displaying. I had never seen the display flight of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker before - a spectacular butterfly-like performance complete with fanned tail.. it must have looked very impressive to the attendant female as they soon both flew off together to a remoter part of the forest..! The Black Woodpecker was also very vocal and flighty and we were extremely lucky to stumble across it and for it to fly almost over our heads just as I had retrieved my camera from my bag.

The anthill was one of the largest I have seen - a very impressive sight and a real hive of activity with literally thousands of workers busying themselves. The mound was made out of thousands of pine needles and must have taken months if not years to reach this size..

Photos: Wood? Mouse, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker and a giant anthill

Saturday, 10 April 2010


A cracking Spring day today with a light, increasing to moderate, NW wind. The cycle down to Sydvestpynten produced Woodcock (flushed from the cycle path), Great Grey Shrike at the usual site west of Kanalvej and an Osprey in off the sea. I cycled to the point via Kongelunden and heard a Firecrest singing in the usual area. Then, at the point, I was joined by Ole Nygaard and we saw 2 Marsh Harriers, an adult male Hen Harrier and another Osprey come in off the sea from the south plus good numbers of migrating White Wagtails, Linnets, a few Meadow Pipits and a couple of Carrion Crows (quite scarce here).

When the migration slowed down we headed back to Kongelunden to see the Firecrests and, after a frustrating hour and a half where we heard it (them) singing only, we finally enjoyed a brief view of a male Firecrest seemingly displaying to a Goldcrest.. Not sure if these two hybridise, or what the result may look like, but it'll be interesting to monitor this bird over the next few weeks to see what happens!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Willow Warbler

An early Willow Warbler was singing constantly in a small birch wood near Hejresøen today.. my first of the year and great to hear among the cacophony of the now common Chiffchaffs. A check on the Firecrest(s) in Kongelunden revealed almost certainly two singing males, although both proved very difficult to see in the canopy. An updated map can be found here.

The Tawny Owl was still at her regular roost and I finally caught up with the local Great Grey Shrike on Vestamager.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


An early morning visit to Kongelunden revealed almost certainly 2 singing male Firecrests (2 singing at different locations within a few minutes of each other). For anyone in the area interested in seeing it (them), you can find a google map here.

Also seen was a pair of Treecreepers nest-building next to the path.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Firecrest again

Today I found another Firecrest, this time in potential breeding habitat at Kongelunden. It was singing constantly and very active, mostly in the tops of the larch and spruce trees. Also seen today were a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver, 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Common Scoter, a Nuthatch attempting to migrate (very scarce on the island of Amager) and, most surprising of all, a Camberwell Beauty butterfly that accompanied me briefly along a track before flying off powerfully north - a real surprise!