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


RSN said...

Hello Terry

Have a pleasant stay in China. It has been very entertaining to follow ypur blog.

Best wishes, Rune from Århusbirder

Terry said...

Hi Rune,

Thanks. And thanks too for finding the Glaucous-winged Gull - the birding highlight of my stay in Denmark...! Maybe it will return this winter? In any case I will continue to follow the exploits the Århus gang while I am in China (censorship rules permitting).

Good birding, Terry