Friday, 30 September 2011

More from Copenhagen

It was a warm and sunny day here in Copenhagen - probably the first time I can remember taking my sweater off.

After classes finished I made my way downtown to look for a Red-throated Pipit that has been hanging around all week.
On my way I passed through the 'Deerpark' - the park right next to my house which is apparently famous for deer - someone told me that people all over Europe come here to photograph the deer during the rutting season over the next month.

Anyway, I only made it five minutes before I stopped for a Little Grebe that was diving for fish in a small pond. I tried photographing it without much success - after sinking almost half a meter in some well disguised bog and then wading in some water and coming dangerously close to losing my camera in the water.

juvenile Little Grebe:

juvenile Mute Swan in the same pond:

Deer running around as usual:

The real excitement started shortly after that. I was back on the trail towards Nordhavn when I came across a birder staring at something in a tree. I stopped to ask him if he was seeing anything interesting - as you would.
He looked at me with a smile and said that he was looking at some owls!
He pointed them out for me and sure enough there were 2 Tawny Owls:


Apparently they are always there which is quite convenient because it is very close to my house! I'll certainly be back for another visit.
After that I asked him where I could find Tree Creepers and Eurasian Jays in the park. He pointed me towards a patch of woods not far away. And sure enough I found exactly what I was looking for. 3 new birds for me within 5 minutes and within 10 minutes of my house!

I eventually made it to Nordhavn where the Red-throated Pipit was all week - the only Pipits I found were the usual Meadow Pipits:





Another good bird just as I was leaving the area was a Common Murre. I haven't heard about any sightings for this species in the region since coming here so it was unexpected. Here is a distant shot showing the distinctive long and thin bill:


Monday, 26 September 2011

More birding!

3 days of birding in a row. Doesn't get much better than that when I'm supposed to be studying!

And today was probably the best of the three. I went back to my favourite CPH (Copenhagen) area - Olsemagle Revle - still don't know how to properly spell it...

Within ten minutes of arriving I had found a lifer and new EU bird! A distant Eurasian Moorhen was swimming in the marshy area and hid among the reeds after giving me just enough time to see the diagnostic white line along the sides and the jerky head movement. And then soon after that a flock of about 30 Brent Geese were flying a couple kilometers off shore.
Eventually I saw several Brent Geese including a pair that flew right above my head.
Migration is awesome !



There was a noticeable decrease in shorebird (aka waders in EU) diversity with 'only' 12 species today. But the large Geese concentrations made up for that. Mostly Greylags (about 1000) plus one flock of Barnacle Geese and a total of ~250 Brents.

Barnacles:

Brents:

The Golden Plovers were very flighty today:


Can you find the Bar-tailed Godwit:


You can really see why they are called Golden plovers when they roost in large flocks:


A large flock of Greenfinches was surprisingly tame:

And after an hour of patient sneaking I managed a few distant photos of a few Green-winged Teals:


Another great day!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Nordhavn

That's the spot where 3 Yellow-browed Warblers were seen yesterday. 3 out of 6 that have ever been seen there... all in one day!

This morning I found myself walking around the area searching for migrants and mostly for Yellow-browed Warblers. I only came across the usuals:

Meadow Pipits, Northern Wheatears, 1 Eurasian Wren and 2 Chiffchaffs.

After coming home I checked the online sightings for Denmark only to see that someone had seen a Yellow-browed Warbler at the same time I was there!
I clicked on the 'comment' that was written for the sighting and with the help of Google Translate it turns out that the guy only heard the warbler do a chip note and never actually saw it... right on.
There's always tomorrow!

Anyway, Common Eiders in this part of the universe are surprisingly tame:

And Black-headed Gulls are very common as expected:

I'm putting together an article of Meadow Pipit vs. American Pipit. I (and apparently many other NL birders) think that Meadow Pipit is long overdue for North America so I think the post could come in handy!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Vis Mig!

Before coming here I heard rumours about the much sought after "vis mig"... it took me a while to figure out what that meant and until today to really appreciate and believe in it!

It stands for 'visible migration' and today (from my limited experience) was pretty good!

I was out in the field this morning just after sunset. It began with a flat tire which clearly wasn't a good start especially because Vestamager is an expansive area and I wanted to get to all the good spots. That wasn't going to happen - but in the end it wasn't so bad because there were many birds.

Right from the beginning there were constant streams of flocks of small passerines passing overhead. 10 - 300 at a time.... on flock after another. They rarely stopped to let me ID them but from what I had read and heard from other birders I expected they were mostly Chaffinches, Bramblings, Tree Pipits and Meadow Pipits.
I don't think I've seen a 'vis mig' like this in North America (NA) before and I don't thing that it even occurs for most passerines. Blue Jays migrating along the north shore of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie comes to mind but even that doesn't compare. Most NA passerines migrate at night (resulting in awesome radar images) and one can often listen to the calls at night to help ID them. But nothing beats actually seeing the birds passing overhead during the day.

Eventually I did come across a few flocks of each of those species resting or feeding.

Meadow Pipit:
Note the white eye-ring and thick streaking on the sides to distinguish it from other pipits.

This Northern Wheatear landed right above my head:

Later down the trail I came across several large flocks of warblers which made me feel right at home. Except that these warblers don't let you get good looks, they're much more difficult to differentiate (they're all pretty bland) and I only know of a handful of species that I should expect to see. Nevertheless I eventually found 3 Blackcaps which was a lifer for me.

Around noon the vis mig was pretty well finished and I headed for the lookout:



From there I saw several thousand Barnacle Geese staging, along with several Greylag Geese and a family group of Greater White-fronted Geese which is pretty early for that species!

Greylags:

White-fronts (a different sub-species from the one seen in western/central North America):

And despite it being difficult to get a look at the warblers let alone take a picture I managed this one of a Chiffchaff:


It seems that there was an influx of Yellow-browed Warblers in the region today. With at least 5 individuals seen today whereas in most years there are only 1-3 seen in the autumn.
Three were seen today at the Copenhagen harbour which happens to be about a 30 minute bike ride away - so perhaps I will make my way over there tomorrow morning.

Friday, 23 September 2011

My other passion

I think this video from Norway sums up my second passion quite well:

Trolltunga

Throwing rocks off cliffs or into the ocean... for some reason it's something that has to be done every time I come across one of those.

Anyway, today I'm off to do some birding at Vestamager (a large meadowy area next to the ocean - hopefully with a ton of new birds).

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Back from Norway

Despite being unprepared for the cold mountain weather, speeding cars on narrow streets and roundabouts in tunnels (!?) the four days of hiking in the fjords leaves me wanting more!

On our first day we stopped pretty much at every lake, fjord and bridge we could see and thought that they were so cool:





But by the end of the weekend those first stops seemed pretty uneventful compared to these ones from the mountain tops:



And finally a photo of a bird in Europe - a Chaffinch:


Both those photos are super-grainy because it was surprisingly dark...

Anyway, as expected I didn't see many birds out there. Maybe about 20 species - highlights were a few flocks of Redpolls on the mountains... and that's about it.

An overdue Willow Tit was a welcome lifer and European Shags (a cormorant species) along the ocean were pretty boring despite being lifers as well!
Bringing my EU list to 130 and my EU lifers to 89 - not far from my goals of 152 & 103... or something like that. 3 months to go!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Norway

As the title suggests I am off to Norway this weekend. I don't know what to expect really in terms of birds but mountains and fjords are first on the agenda this weekend!

Naturally I had a look through my field guide to see what I might be able to see. At the top of the list ... well I couldn't figure out which bird was better. Gyrflacon or Eagle Owl? Both would be new for me. Eagle Owl is probably easier to see in Denmark than Gyrfalcon but there's a good chance that I'll eventually see a Gyrfalcon in Newfoundland!
So which one would I rather? Both! But I'm not going to expect either one.

Some other interesting possibilities include Black Grouse and Capercaillie. As well as Willow Ptarmigan and Rock Ptarmigan.

And of course there's a good chance I'll be seeing some Arctic finches such as Crossbills, Snow Bunting, Bullfinch and Redpolls!

Anyway, I probably won't get the chance to post until mid/late next week. So don't get too impatient!
Not that I expect anyone will.

It's getting cold here already... I don't think that camping on the mountains will help much... brrrrrr

Monday, 12 September 2011

├ślsemagle Revle

I think I change the spelling of that place every time I write it.

We decided to walk the whole beach on Saturday - a 9.15 km hike according to Google Maps! It was worth it despite our heavy packs - we were able to cash in on the plum trees and we came across all of the shorebird and duck flocks along the way. Most people limit themselves by only walking one third of the beach a day.

The walk began with a dock out on the ocean. For me I can hardly believe the water is actually sea water because there are barely any waves and the water is very shallow:



Soon enough we were enjoying great looks at the thousands of roosting Golden Plovers:


Afterwards we made the treacherous 10 meter crossing through ankle-deep water:



This time I took a video of the roosting shorebirds - there's actually 14 species of shorebirds in this video alone!:


And...

Check out this article:


Next weekend we're off to the mountains in search of Gyrfalcons! To be honest, I don't think we'll see many birds - but the ones we do see should be exciting!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

10 000 birds

Two friends from my University in Canada who also happen to be in Europe this autumn came to Copenhagen (CPH) for the weekend. I dragged them out to do some birding today at the sand spit south of CPH.
I promised them 10 000 individual birds and an unlimited supply of free plums - I don't think they were disappointed! For the most part we saw the same birds (or at least same species) that I had seen 2 weeks ago - but we found a few new ones including more land-birds (i.e. warblers).

Anyway, I'll post some photos (and videos!) soon...ish

Todays highlights:
5 tern species, 15 shorebird species and 58 species in total.

Lifers:
Reed Warbler
Curlew Sandpiper
Black-tailed Godwit - I thought I wasn't going to get this one!
Whitethroat
Sky Lark

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Deerpark

Conveniently there is a large park within 100 metres from my house - it is about 70% mature forest with a large field near the centre and several small ponds throughout. I expected the park to be full of birds when I first began exploring the area - on the first day I had found at least 3 gatherings of migrant land-birds within 30 minutes. But since then I have found only 1 other gathering despite several visits.

I've also gone several times with the mindset that I will take some decent bird photos (finally) but every time I get discouraged by how skittish the birds are and end up simply looking at the birds or trying to find more.

Anyway, I have taken some distant shots over the past week:

White Wagtail:

Grey Heron:

Little Grebe with chick:

some sort of water lilly:

And of course it's not called a deer park for no reason! :


The rutting season should be climaxing soon so I will try and get out there regularly (shouldn't be too difficult with my track record so far!) and hopefully get some better shots of the action.
Not too sure where the blood came from on this guy:

And, as usual, the rain clouds were never very far away:

Recently the trailer for "The Big Year" was released:
Big Year
I'm not usually excited about movies but this one has been on my mind for a while for obvious reasons!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Falsterbo, Sweden

The birding just keeps getting better and better!
Yesterday I joined two birders for a day trip to Southern Sweden - our main destination was Falsterbo which is famous (among birders) for being one of, if not, the best raptor migration spot in all of Europe!
In the one day our group had 12 species of raptors, 19 species of shorebirds and ~95 species of birds in total!! That alone was more than satisfying but combined with the fact that 19 of those birds were lifers for me makes for an amazing day!

Falsterbo is very similar to Point Pelee (for any Canadian birders that are still reading this blog) - it is a point towards which the raptors are funneled before making the dreaded 25 km flight across the ocean to Southern Denmark. Not only that, the shorebirding is amazing.

A view of the point (can't really see much):

But these people can see some things:

And a glimpse of the birds:


After a good bit of shorebirding we drove to the main raptor migration spot - although we had already seen several raptors begin the crossing to Denmark.

Sparrowhawk:

Ready for battle:

At least 200 people sitting and waiting around for some megas to pass by! Not long after this a Pallid Harrier and Black Kite passed by - which are pretty rare birds for this part.

It was also nice to see several young birders and Klaus Olsen (a birding celebrity :p) casually hanging out.

The most common raptors were Sparrowhawks and Buzzards:



Stats:
Favourite bird of the day: Bar-tailed Godwit
82 lifers in the past 2 weeks. My end goal = 103
118 birds in Europe. My end goal = 152
Admittedly it will only get harder from now, but I am pretty confident I will reach those numbers even if  I don't do much traveling outside of Scandinavia.

Some of the lifers from Sweden:
Eurasian Siskin (didn't realize this was a different species from the one in North America), Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Kite, Black Kite, Pallid Harrier, Eurasian Hobby, White-tailed Eagle, Common Cuckoo, Common Scoter (similar to our Black Scoter in Canada), Gray Wagtail, Common Crane, European Robin and Fieldfare.