Tuesday, 25 May 2010


A photo of a Barn Swallow that I took a few days ago at Sydvestpynten. Despite their chirpy nature and very energetic flight, Swallows always look a little sad to me. Maybe in this case it's because the Danish spring isn't quite what he thought it would be!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Marsh Warbler

Highlight this morning was a Lapland Bunting flushed from Kofoeds Enge that flew strongly north-east. Also seen were two Caspian Terns commuting back and forth along the shore at Sydvestpynten, a single small Diver (probably Black-throated), several Icterine Warblers, 4 Grasshopper Warblers along Kanalvej and a Marsh Warbler. Marsh Warblers are just arriving now, being one of the later arrivals in Denmark. The bird below has been present on Kanalvej for a couple of days and, as is typical with newly arrived birds, is quite showy. They are expert mimics and I could hear imitations of Swallow, House Martin, Great Tit, Redshank, House Sparrow, Starling, Icterine Warbler and Blackbird in its song. I am sure there are many more!

Photo: Caspian Tern
Video: Marsh Warbler

Marsh Warbler, Vestamager from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


A warm night in mid- to late-May, coupled with misty conditions at dawn, always brings expectation - and usually no birds! However, for once, today that expectation was fulfilled with a Common Rosefinch at Sydvestpynten. I was a little late out today (Libby was flying to London this morning so, like the good husband that I am, I made her breakfast and helped her get ready). So it was good to meet Ole Nyegaard almost as soon as I reached Sydvestpynten who told me that there was a Common Rosefinch singing in the gardens by the car park. We walked over and could immediately hear it singing its characteristic wolf whistle-like song. After a few seconds we could see it in a birch tree and were pleased to see it was a nice red male (often one sees the rather drab first summer males). This bird had a red head, red on the upper breast and a red rump. I would think that this means it is at least a 3rd year bird (ie born at least two years ago). It was fairly mobile within the confines of the two gardens and sang almost constantly for the time we were there. I recorded a pretty grotty video and took a few photos (see below) before moving on to the point. On the way we bumped into Morten Christensen who had seen the bird earlier and he gripped us even more with news of a 'yellow' (ie adult male) Golden Oriole that he had seen migrating east from Kofoeds Enge - nice! I didn't score with the Oriole but did see 11 Honey Buzzards, a couple of Icterine Warblers, a Thrush Nightingale, 3 rather late Common Cranes, at least 30 Yellow Wagtails and a rather uncharacteristically showy Bittern that stood out in the open at Hejresøen.

Photo: 3k+ male Common Rosefinch, Sydvestpynten

Common Rosefinch from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

More Wood Warblers

A couple more photos of the Kongelunden Wood Warblers... they put so much effort into singing, their bodies literally quiver... I hope the females arrive soon!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Thrush Nightingale

It was very warm this morning - the first time I have not needed gloves first thing! There was no sign of the Common Nightingale at the fort but there was a Thrush Nightingale singing nearby.

On the subject of Nightingales, I recorded the showy Thrush Nightingale in Kongelunden this morning. And on this video you can even see the bird! Useful to compare with the song of Common Nightingale, although this individual didn't seem to display the full repertoire of the species.

Not much else to report - most of the flycatchers and Willow Warblers from a few days ago have moved on and there was very little visible migration at the point, the highlights being a single Caspian Tern and four Honey Buzzards.

Thrush Nightingale, Kongelunden from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Invasion Begins...

Honey Buzzards are very common in Scandinavia and, during my time in Copenhagen, I have been lucky enough to see hundreds of these fantastic birds of prey. They are highly migratory, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa, and it is at migration time when they are most visible (they are very difficult to see during the breeding season). At this time of year they arrive back on their breeding grounds and my local patch of Sydvestpynten is a good place to watch them arriving on warm spring days. They do not rely completely on thermals to migrate and have no problem crossing stretches of water so, as soon as the weather warms up from mid-May, they set off. Many of the Honey Buzzards arriving at SVP have set off over the water from further south (from Stevns or Møns) and their journey across the water probably takes around 30-60 minutes depending on their starting point. Yesterday I was at Klydesøen early on a sunny morning (where, incidentally, the water levels are very high - not great for waders) and, at around 0940 I sighted 6 Honey Buzzards coming in off the sea... With the sun shining and the temperatures warming up nicely, I knew the migration was starting so I legged it down to SVP to watch them. In just over an hour (0950-1100) I counted 66 Honey Buzzards powering across the water with active flight and arriving at just a few metres height. They arrived on quite a broad front from Avedøre in the west to Dragør in the east but many came right over my head. A wonderful sight and one that tells us that summer is almost here....!

A large flock (60+) of Blue-headed (nominate flava)and the Fenno-Scandian subspecies thunbergi Yellow Wagtails in the horse fields were a nice end to the morning.

Photo: a newly arrived male Honey Buzzard

Monday, 17 May 2010

Wood Warblers

Thanks to Andreas for the comment on the "Sydlig Nattergal". With a second opinion from a respected birder, I am now confident it was a "Common" Nightingale. I hope it sticks around.

Over the last few days I have spent a little time watching the Wood Warblers in Kongelunden. I counted 6 singing males. Most of them were singing from high in the treetops but one seemed to favour the lower branches, offering superb views. I spent around an hour with this individual as it sang, oblivious to my presence... Definitely my favourite warbler!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Possible Common Nightingale, Sydvestpynten

I managed to get up early today and cycled down to Sydvestpynten to see whether the misty weather with easterly winds had caused an arrival of birds. A few Spotted Flycatchers, Garden Warblers and my first Icterine Warbler of the year was a good start. And then I heard a Nightingale sp singing. I immediately thought it could be a Common Nightingale ("Southern Nightingale in Danish) as, just a few minutes before, I had been listening to a Thrush Nightingale banging out its song as I cycled through Kongelunden. The Sydvestpynten bird sounded different - much softer and without the harsh sounds of the Thrush Nightingale. I recorded the song - see below. I am not 100 per cent sure it is a Common Nightingale (could it simply be a 'subsong' of Thrush Nightingale?) so I would welcome comments from anyone with good experience of the two.

Also seen was an incredible group of 6 Caspian Terns migrating east along the coast - possibly a site record.

Possible Southern Nightingale, Sydvestpynten from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Friday, 14 May 2010


I visited Sydvestpynten and Vestamager early this morning for the first time for a couple of weeks. Lots of new migrants now in with singing Grasshopper Warblers, Thrush Nightingales and Garden Warblers. A flock of 150+ migrating Barnacle Geese was good to see and there was a trickle of Yellow Wagtails and Tree Pipits flying overhead. Two Caspian Terns were a welcome sight - a pair of this scarce breeder has been seen now for around a week on and off at Vestamager/Kongelunden and, hopefully, they will stay to breed (probably on the nearby island of Saltholm). I bumped into Ole Nyegaard near Klydesøen and he told me he had seen a Red-breasted Flycatcher along Kanalvej at 0730 this morning. I had cycled along there at about 0545 but obviously I was still half asleep! I went back on the way home but, in 30 minutes of searching, I drew a blank. Sightings of this charming flycatcher are sadly very scarce in the Copenhagen area so it's a very good record.

One of the Grasshopper Warblers along Kanalvej was uncharacteristically showy and allowed me to video it singing from a fence right next to the cycle path - always fantastic to see and hear. If you listen carefully, as well as the Whitethroat, you may just here a Thrush Nightingale singing in the background. And at Kongelunden another Thrush Nightingale was similarly confiding whilst singing from a still largely leafless shrub - a great opportunity to study the northern cousin of the UK's Nightingale.

Photos: Caspian Tern and Thrush Nightingale

Grasshopper Warbler from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Since I have been living in Denmark I have heard so much about Skagen (the northern tip of Denmark) being a magical place in Spring for migration. It has a top class reputation and that is backed up by the records - Black-winged Kite, Bonelli's Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Greater and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Steppe Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Three-toed Woodpecker, the list goes on and on. One look at a map tells you why Skagen is so good - it is effectively the northern tip of mainland western Europe and the narrow Skagen peninsula funnels northbound birds to the point at Grenen where birders wait with anticipation.

So when Henrik Højholm offered me a place to stay for a few nights in May this year, I jumped at the chance. As with most migration points, much is weather dependent and, unfortunately, my visit coincided with an unusual weather system that has meant that the winds have been predominantly from the north with very cold overnight temperatures - not the best for Spring migration. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and saw some very good birds, too. Diver passage was a real highlight with well over 1,000 Red-throated Divers, several Black-throated and a probable White-billed which, for me at least, was just not seen well enough to clinch. We also saw a female Surf Scoter, two Dotterel and probably Denmark's last Crested Lark at the last-known breeding site in Hirtshals. A young (3 cal yr) Golden Eagle was fantastic to see attempting to migrate several times from Grenen and we found a 2nd calendar year male Montagu's Harrier (see below). A stunning male Lapland Bunting in summer plumage was a great sight coming in off the sea and despite the cold weather there were also reasonable numbers of some of the more common migrants including Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and, overhead, calling Tree Pipits and Yellow Wagtails were our constant companions. Raptor migration was disappointing (the eagle excepted) and the only falcons we saw were a couple of Kestrels (often at this time of year, especially in easterly winds, it is possible to see Hobbies and, if you are lucky, Red-footed Falcons). The stunning scenery makes Skagen all the more special and I hope I can make it back to experience it again in more favourable weather conditions.

I had fun putting together the video below - a summary of my visit to the tune of The Eels. Thanks to Henrik Højholm and Jimmy 'Skat' Hansen for their excellent company and for being my guides around this great site.

Photos: male Whinchat, Crested Lark and 2nd year male Montagu's Harrier

Birding at Skagen, Denmark from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Long-billed Dowitcher RIP

On my return to Copenhagen yesterday I read an astonishing story about Denmark's 14th ever Long-billed Dowitcher. This American wader has been present for several days at Lille Vildmose in Jutland (Jylland) and has been enjoyed by many Danish birders. Yesterday, whilst being watched by a few birders, the Long-billed Dowitcher was caught by a Sparrowhawk and eaten by a fox! A dramatic photo of the fate of the Dowitcher can be seen here.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Last morning in Norfolk

I spent three hours in the north dunes on my last morning in Norfolk before returning to Denmark tonight. Winds were in the east and migration was almost non-existent with a handful of Swallows and a few Linnets. After an hour of very little I decided to check the rocks for a late Purple Sandpiper and was rewarded with two of these smart waders feeding amongst the surf. Fantastic. The Ring Ouzel remained loyal to its small field and two Cuckoos were engaged in a territorial battle with energetic "cuckooing" and rapid chases along the dunes, again providing fantastic photo opportunities. The underwing pattern is truly stunning and something I have not noticed before..

It's been an enjoyable few days back on my old stomping ground despite the cold north-north-easterly winds which have had a dampening effect on migration. With Woodchat Shrike, Purple Sandpiper, Cuckoo and lots of common migrants, it's been an enjoyable few days.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Woodchat again

As it was my last full day in Winterton, I paid another visit to the Woodchat Shrike in the valley. It was much more active today in the sunshine, feeding well and ranging further than the impenetrable bushes it has been inhabiting over the last few days of cold and windy weather. I saw it catch at least two lizards, one of which it impaled on a thorn. Although these birds are very common in southern Europe, it really was special to see one in the area where I grew up learning my birding skills.


Another early start in much better conditions (a light north-easterly and sunny clear skies) was rewarded with much more migration today. Linnets continued to dominate the passerine migration but there were also good numbers of hirundines (mostly Swallows but also a few Sand Martins and, later, a sprinkling of Swifts and House Martins). Two Yellow Wagtails, a few Meadow Pipits, a Hobby, Common Scoter, Gannets and Guillemots provided the supporting cast. Highlight was a very confiding Cuckoo that came from the north and passed very close by along the top of the dunes. It settled on a nearby fence and called actively for several minutes before settling to feed. My first of the year.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Vis Mig

Another early start in marginally better conditions (still a fairly strong north-easterly with occasional showers) produced a higher number of migrants today. Highlights included 2 Hobbies, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Common Cranes and 392 Linnets (a heavy passage, particularly in May).

Monday, 3 May 2010


A few days in the UK with both sets of parents has given me the opportunity for a couple of days birding in my old stomping ground of Winterton-on-Sea in Norfolk. Unfortunately the weather has taken a turn for the worst with bitingly cold strong north-easterly winds and squally showers, some of which are wintry. The result has been very little migration. Luckily the weather has also meant that the star bird of the Spring so far in Winterton - a first summer male Woodchat Shrike - has stayed put, enabling me to catch up with a new bird for me for the parish.

Today I spent a few hours sheltering in the north dunes watching the few birds that were battling the winds to continue their migration north. A few Swallows seemed to enjoy the buffeting wind and 50+ Linnets chattered overhead. A single Ring Ouzel was feeding in a sheltered spot together with three Wheatears and a single Common Buzzard briefly took to the air before deciding better of it and returning to the shelter of the wood. Hopefully tomorrow will be better!

Photo: Woodchat Shrike