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.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Water Rail

This Water Rail was very active and uncharacteristically showy this morning from the hide south of Sydmøllevej at Vestamager. There were at least 4 of these skulkers in the reedbeds around the hide but this individual was the boldest of them all...

Friday, 23 July 2010


In the UK I am used to seeing the graellsi form of Lesser Black-backed Gull (LBBG). This is the palest race of LBBG which breeds in the UK, Ireland and the Faeroes. Then there is the slightly darker intermedius form which breeds in western Europe (this is the main race breeding in Denmark). Further east there is the darkest of them all - fuscus - which breeds in eastern Sweden, Finland and possibly on the northern coast along the Norwegain/Russian border.

Yesterday at Damhussøen, in between watching the Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, I noticed the few intermedius LBBGs on site. I took three photos, only seconds apart so in the same light and with the same camera settings, illustrating the subtle variation in this species. The first is at the paler end of 'intermedius', similar to a 'graellsi' LBBG, the second a classic 'intermedius' and the third is at the darker end of 'intermedius', close to the tone of 'fuscus'. Note also the difference in the size of the white 'mirrors' on the primary tips. (I recommend clicking on the photos to big them up..).

The darker bird was wearing a Swedish metal ring. I managed to read the number and have reported it, so hopefully I'll soon know the history and origin of this bird.

Caspian Gull video

A short video of the 5th calendar year Caspian Gull at Damhussøen on 22 July. It is almost in adult plumage but still has dark marks on the outer flight feathers and central tail feathers.

Caspian Gull from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


Today I was mostly watching gulls... What? In summer?? Yes, well I guess it's a sign that winter is on its way.. This afternoon I cycled to Damhussøen, a large lake on the outskirts of Copenhagen, to look for a 5th calendar year Caspian Gull (Larus Cachinnans) that has just returned for it's 5th consecutive 'winter' at this inland lake. It is a colour-ringed bird (blue ring V483), so very easy to pick out. I arrived around 1430 and found the Caspian Gull immediately in the south-west corner of the lake, taking advantage of the bread being offered by local children. It was a beast of a gull, bulky with a prominent chest, longish straight bill, a dark eye and yellowish legs. The mantle was very similar in shade to the local argentatus Herring Gulls but note the reddish orbital ring around the eye and the bill/head shape which, together with the bulky chest and 'lanky' legs, give Caspian its distinctive jizz.

When I arrived I noticed a birder taking photographs of another bird and I thought he was probably just practicing taking shots of the local swans, ducks and Herring Gulls. However, within a few minutes a couple of other birders turned up, including Jørgen Christiansen, and it soon became apparent that the Caspian Gull was not the only attraction. There was also an early juvenile Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) on site. Bonus! Unfortunately, as soon as I got on it, it flew into the middle of the lake and settled on the water. I managed a few flight shots showing the striking tail band and the wings (showing a lack of a prominent pale patch on the inner primaries cf Herring Gull) and out on the lake it stayed until I had to leave at 5pm (I had an appointment at 5.30 to have my rabies jab ahead of moving to China!).

Another colour-ringed gull, a yellow-ringed Herring Gull (C6S08), is a bird from the Finnish ringing scheme (I saw the same bird at the same place in February this year), another sign that some birds are heading for their winter quarters already.. When it's 25 degrees C and sunny, it's hard to believe...

Photos: juvenile Yellow-legged Gull and 5th calendar year Caspian Gull

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Ancient Danish custom

Our flat overlooking Nyhavn has provided much entertainment over the last 3 years.. we have seen singing, dancing, police arrests, fire-eating, naked swimming competitions and seen Danish fans experiencing the agony and ecstasy (mostly agony) of the World Cup. But tonight we saw something that tops the lot! This poor guy was dressed by his 'mates' in pink armbands, a floppy hat and set adrift in a children's dinghy on a Saturday night in Nyhavn.. needless to say he provided some great entertainment for the assembled masses before eventually being allowed back onto dry land... An ancient Danish custom? I think a 'stag-do' is more likely...

Those crazy Danes.... from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.


A video showing the typically frenzied feeding technique of the Greenshank. Taken from the hide south of Sydmøllevej on Vestamager.

Greenshank from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Pectoral Sandpiper

A Pectoral Sandpiper was discovered at Klydesøen by Sebastian Klein on Thursday. Saturday morning was the first opportunity I had to go, so I was up very early and on site by 0600. I found it at about 0615 and was joined shortly afterwards by Mathias Vogdrup-Schmidt. We enjoyed pretty good views of the Pec Sand before, at about 0700, a fox caused havoc with the waders by slowly wandering onto the mud. Luckily, the Pec Sand did not end up as the fox's breakfast (unlike a poor Long-billed Dowitcher at LilleVildmose earlier this year) and we were soon enjoying further views as it favoured the muddy fringes of the scrape. This was only my second ever Pectoral Sandpiper and I took the opportunity to study it closely. It reminded me of a small Ruff with a similar pattern to the upperparts and similarly proportioned bill. Its legs were a yellowish green (versus orange on Ruff) and the bill was dark with a slightly paler base (only seen in good light and from relatively close distance). There was a strong demarcation between the breast streaking and the white belly and, from front on, the streaking lowered to a point on the centre of the breast. I did not see obvious 'V' markings on the back, formed by the scapulars but I believe this feature is more prominent on fresh juveniles. When it flew a short distance the rather plainish wings could be seen with a faint wing-bar. It tended to favour the muddier areas and I did not see it enter the water at all..

The light was beautiful and there were good numbers of waders around - we counted 19 species in all. The two Spoonbills were still on site and a single Caspian Tern was fishing at the back of the reserve. After a couple of hours I popped into the hide at Sydmøllevej and enjoyed close views of a Greenshank, a Wood Sandpiper and the resident Swallows... before cycling back for breakfast at 1000..

Photos: Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Barn Swallow

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Bumble Bees

A couple of close-up images of Bumble Bees (I believe they are a Red-tailed Bumble-bee and a Buff-tailed Bumble-bee respectively).

Queen of Spain Fritillary

I believe that the photos below of a fritillary sp butterfly show a Queen of Spain Fritillary (Isoria lathonia). If anyone can confirm, please let me know. Although quite rare in the UK (and restricted to the south-east of England), these lovely butterflies are relatively common in Scandinavia, apparently. I took these images this morning at around 0730 near Jersie Strand as it was basking in the early morning sun. This is the first time I have knowingly seen a QoS Fritillary (an indication that I haven't given butterflies enough attention over the years!).

Monday, 12 July 2010

Waders galore

Anticipating that at least the first half of the World Cup final would be excruciatingly bland, I spent yesterday evening at Vestamager, primarily looking for waders but also with a sneaky eye on the huge flocks of Starlings now congregating on the open land, just in case a Rose-coloured has slipped in unnoticed. I didn't see a pink bird among the thousands of Common Starlings but I did see 21 species of wader at Klydesøen and managed to dodge the thunderstorms by diving into the hide at Sydmøllevej! Highlights were 2 Broad-billed Sandpipers, a single summer-plumaged Little Stint and two Temminck's Stints. And the Spoonbill is still on site.

Wader species seen:

Little Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover
Golden Plover
Little Stint
Temminck's Stint
Curlew Sandpiper
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Common Snipe
Bar-tailed Godwit
Spotted Redshank
Common Redshank
Green Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper

Photos: Spoonbill and Wood Sandpiper

Lightning over Vestamager, Copenhagen from Terry Townshend on Vimeo.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


A work visit back to London allowed me to tag on a flying visit to my folks in Winterton as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary (gulp). After a top meal, the balmy evening tempted me to dust off my moth trap that has been stored at my parents' place since I left for Denmark. It was worth the effort with an impressive haul that included 5 species of Hawkmoth!

Totals (not including several that were left unidentified):

7 Elephant Hawkmoths
1 Privet Hawkmoth
1 Poplar Hawkmoth
1 Eyed Hawkmoth (laid eggs in the trap!)
1 Hummingbird Hawkmoth (at dusk, before the light trap was activated)
5 Swallowtail Moths
2 Setaceous Hebrew Characters
2 Dark Arches
4 Buff Ermine
1 Garden Tiger (very impressive beast!)
1 Large Yellow Underwing
1 Brown-tail
1 Pebble Prominent

Plus 2 Cockchafers, 4 Harlequin Ladybirds and, at dawn, a Hedgehog sniffing around the outside!

Monday, 5 July 2010

MEGA: White-throated Sparrow!

The third big rarity in as many weeks has just been disovered in Jylland (Jutland). A male American White-throated Sparrow is singing and showing well on and off in a garden in Skørping. Photos can be seen here.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


Over the last few months I have almost forgotten that I have a 100mm macro lens in my camera bag.. but it's at this time of year, when insects are at their most active, that a good macro lens offers some great photographic opportunities. On a cycle tour around Vestamager today, the strong sun and relative lack of wind meant that there were plenty of dragonflies, beetles and flies of various sorts on the wing, but noticeably few butterflies. The damselflies around a pond in Kongelunden were very active, foraging, defending territories and mating. If anyone knows the species in these images, please let me know (I think the third and fourth are Common Blue Damselfies)..

Thursday, 1 July 2010

STOP PRESS: White-crowned Black Wheatear

Hot on the heels of the Pacific Swift comes another first for Denmark - a White-crowned Black Wheatear! The bird, a second calendar year male, was discovered on 30 June in a private area at Saltbæk Vig, near Kalundborg in north-west Sjælland (about 60-90 minutes from Copenhagen). There is a guided tour this afternoon to see the bird at 1500. However, it is unclear whether the bird can be seen from public areas after a report this morning saying that it was seen on poles at a distance of 12 metres.

Pictures of the bird can be seen here.

It is a very rare bird outside its normal range. As far as I am aware there are only two records from northern Europe - one from the UK (Kessingland, Suffolk, 1-5 June 1982) and one from Germany (9-13 August 1986 in Eichstatt) plus records from southern Europe including single records from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Malta and 7 from Turkey.

There is now a video of the bird by Rasmus Strack here.