Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Insects in Spain

Naturally I encountered some insects along the way in Spain. However, I made no effort to identify them so I'll just show you some photos and hope you enjoy them during these increasingly cold insect-less days!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Alcids on the move

A big wind storm moved through yesterday evening. It was mostly winds from the South-west so I wasn't expecting any birds to move around but I was wrong.

While checking the bird sightings I noticed that hundreds of Alcids (including all 4 regular species) were being seen along the Northern shores of Zealand this morning (usually around 10-30 are seen) along with a Northern Fulmar, 3 Skuas and many Gannets! So clearly seabirds were on the move and I couldn't resist the temptation to have a look myself.

Unfortunately, the movement was all but over by the afternoon. I expected that but I was hoping for some Alcids on the water at the least. I could only turn up 3 Razorbills though.
But the good news (as you probably already see) is that one of them was very close to shore:

I seem to be rather lucky with photographing Alcids. Usually it's tough to get close looks at them in their winter plumages but I've been able to get decent photos of Black Guillemot and Common Murre during the winter.

This is a 1st winter bird - probably explaining why it was so tame.

The sea was back to being very calm today:

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Northern Zealand

Thanks to a generous local birder I had the opportunity to explore a bit of Northern Zealand.

Considering that half my readers are still in Canada - to be honest I thought you would have all left by now (thanks for staying)! - I think it might be a good idea to show you where that is. Not many people in NAmerica really 'know' where Denmark is on the map let alone Zealand. To be honest I didn't either until about a month before coming here.

So, here's the geography lesson:

Denmark is in Northern Europe, directly North of Germany and right next to South Western Sweden - within 4 km at one point):

Now find Copenhagen. It's on the central east coast of the island in the center - that island happens to be called Zealand (Sjaelland in Danish):

A closer look at the island and the place marker shows you where I was:

And in real life:

Finally some real ocean, not that wimpy calm stuff that I've had to put up with for the last 3 months around Copenhagen!

Anyway, maybe I've got you excited for some new great birds? Well you're out of luck today. It was a bit of a slow day but great company and exploring new areas compensated for the lack of birds.

Nevertheless, the bird highlights included several Goldcrests (the equivalent to Kinglets in NA), some heard only Common Crossbills (aka Red Crossbills - my first for Denmark) and 9 adult Gannets which I thought was late but apparently some of them actually winter in the Baltic Sea (that's the sea next to Denmark - I can see some Danes shaking their heads right now)!

And in the other direction of the Gannets was this small house where the setting of Hamlet took place:

What do you think the next two photos have in common?

Answer to come another day...

An article about the effects of global warming on bird migration. Something that many people have trouble seeing the direct effects of but for birders it can be painfully obvious.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Lowdown

Soooo apparently the Mediterranean Gull from last weekend is not an adult as I so confidently claimed. It's actually a second year bird! And here's why:

Pictures of the bird first:

Originally I had thought it was an adult based on the all white flight-feathers. And that usually results in the correct aging of the bird and no need to take a closer look.
But thanks to the leg band I found out that the bird was banded last December as a 1st year bird in the same area. Thus making it a second year bird now and not an adult.

I was understandably confused and while researching it I came across a forum where someone had presented the exact same problem of the exact same bird! In fact he was confused from my photos because he had seen the same bird last year as a 1st year bird at the same location.

After a closer read of my field guide (unfortunately I left my gull book at home in Canada so I don't have much else to read) I noted that the "2nd year bird looks like the adult but has variable black markings on wing tip". I would interpret that as: there are black markings on the wing but they aren't consistently patterned. But it seems that occasionally the black markings sometimes do not even exist!

Maybe this bird is a bit mature for its age?! :p

There is one hint for aging the bird though. And that is the bill colour. Check out the dull red on the base of the bill. Thanks Morten for pointing that out.

Now compare that bill to this bird I photographed in October of this year in Spain:

And a closer look at the bill - it is scarlet red instead of dull red at the base, thus confirming that it in fact is an adult and not a 'premature' 2nd year bird:

If it weren't for the leg band and the fact that the bird is over-wintering in the same location as last year then I suspect that most people would have incorrectly aged this gull! Gulls are notoriously variable but I think that most people would have confidently aged this Med Gull as an adult. It just goes to show that one can never be 100% confident when it comes to bird identification and especially gulls, and it's always worthwhile to be critical of ones own identification.

Never a dull day! ... unless you need to study for exams...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Mediterranean Gull

Thanks to my alarm clock for deciding not to wake me up this morning. I woke up late, fresh and ready to study some gulls!
I made my way to Vedbaek Harbour which is one of the better places for gulls in the region. An adult Mediterranean Gull was the highlight - my first for DK:

It's rather easy to pick out from the Black-headed Gulls because of the white wings.

Other distinctive features are the shorter, thicker bill with a black band, and the dark colouring around the eye.

The leg band was JO1 I think. I'll send it in to see where it came from (where do I do that?)... it's probably a local though.

It's easy to pick out from a distance when in flight. Almost Ivory Gull-like if you didn't see the face!

A small flock of Bullfinches was a long awaited lifer. I was rummaging through my bag looking for gloves when I noticed some passerines flying into a nearby tree that looked too large to be Tits and too small to be Thrushes. It's valuable to be familiar with the common birds ;)

 On my way home there were crowds of onlookers enjoying the long staying Pygmy Owl:

I counted over 50 people looking at the bird today, of which about 20 took advantage of my scope :) I'm happy about that because when I was a young one and didn't have a scope I was often disappointed that the other birders didn't share their scopes! So I make the effort to make people feel welcome to look through mine.

And a short video of the highlights today. Starting with a Common Murre that has been hanging around Vedbaek Harbour for over 2 weeks (presumably).

Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Competing commitments

Salsa dancing is really taking a toll on my birding lately! No more early rises and rarely a full day of birding and exams will begin soon and as you may have guessed I've not been studying course material as maybe I should have been!
So all that means that the next 4 weeks will be a little slower on the blog...

Despite that I dragged a friend out to the Deer park today to show him the owls and other birds.

Here's a quick video of the White-throated Dipper and a Eurasian Blackbird (juvenile):

And some deer taking a mud bath:

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Back to the deer park in the morning. Only the usual birds today but finally some of my own photos of the Pygmy Owl!

But first another one of the Tawny Owl who I've neglected for over a week now:

And some random photos along the way - the frost is setting in nowadays:

 Hunting season has begun for the deer so they like to keep their distance a little more than usual:

And the Pygmy Owl - finally had a good look at it today and was able to age it as an adult:

 The white spots on top of its head indicate an adult and the barring along the flanks (not very noticeable here) is another feature of adults.

Wing stretch:

The Pygmy photos were taken with my landscape lens through the scope... in case you were wondering! ;)

And a video of it hanging out and scratching itself (very fascinating stuff right!) - click on the Youtube symbol to see it in Youtube:

Monday, 14 November 2011

Spoon-billed Sandpipers

How can you not love them with a photo like this:

You may know that a team of conservationists had collected eggs from the breeding grounds in Siberia this past summer and finally today they've arrived in Britain where they'll be raised and bred in captivity to eventually (and hopefully) be released in to the wild. Read more here.

If you want to give away your fortunes projects such as this deserve your support unlike many of todays well known charities that more often than one might expect are rather corrupt! The idea of supporting local organizations or directly supporting a cause couldn't be any better, in my opinion, in the case of charities.

Anyway, you probably don't want to read my rant so I'll end this hear and promise bird news another day ;)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

False predictions

I started the morning with the usual greeting to my roommate who was just getting home as I was leaving. Todays plan was to bike to Vedbaek for Gulls but that quickly changed when my bike broke down forcing me to walk back where I wandered around the Deer park once again. Perhaps I should be thankful my bike broke down because I found 3 new birds for Denmark today!

I began with a search for the Pygmy Owl that has been seen throughout the week. It called at 7:30am and was quickly joined by another one! I'm pretty confident that there were two individuals but I can't rule out the possibility that someone was playing a recording - seems to be more accepted here than in Canada.
We weren't able to see the owls though so I moved on for a sea watch. Along the way I found a White-throated Dipper next to the ocean (this photo was actually taken earlier this week):

Amazingly before even beginning to scan the ocean I had a Loon in the distance flying right for me! I had been losing hope that I'd ever see one in Denmark after many failed searches! It was a Red-throated Loon and flew quite close to shore allowing satisfying looks. And less than 10 minutes later I had another one on the water - it eventually also flew South. My 200th bird in Europe!

On my way home I stopped by the Owl spot to see if anyone else had found it yet. I was surprised to see over 20 people in the area and thought that they must have it. Unfortunately no one had heard or seen it since the early morning. There were a lot of photographers sitting around not really knowing what to do!

Venturing on I came across a Marsh Tit. A species I should have seen by now in Denmark but simply haven't...
And then a Goshawk flew in and began to preen across a small pond even allowing me to take a few photos with my camera through the scope:

A beautiful adult male!

So, just one day after my predictions of what the next 8 birds will be I've already got two wrong with the loon being the only correct one!

Another one from earlier this week - a dipper doing what it does best:

Friday, 11 November 2011

8 to go!

Recently I set a new goal of seeing 150 birds in Denmark before I leave. I was at 132 at the time and thought that it was attainable but still would need a bit of work.

So when I started writing this post it was titled "18 to go!"

Now just over a week later it's down to 8... so surely that's a good sign that it'll be successful.

So here are the next 9 birds I expect I will see:

Hen Harrier (Lifer)
Long-tailed Duck
Mediterranean Gull
Rock Pipit (Lifer)
RT Loon
Grey Wagtail

There are many species I could feasibly see but I think those ones are the most likely.
Here's a few more that I wouldn't be surprised if I see or that I really do want to see (i.e. if it shows up somewhere I will pursue it!)

Goshawk - I should really have this one by now as others have seen them in my patch! I just can't seem to connect...
Water Pipit (Lifer)
Black-throated Diver/Loon - Been desperate for one on my seawatches but they simply don't materialize!
Caspian Gull (Lifer)
Little Gull
Purple Sandpiper
Short-eared Owl
Eurasian Woodcock (lifer) - I'd be surprised if I do find one
Jack Snipe (lifer)
Black Woodpecker (lifer)
Long-tailed Tit
Bullfinch (Lifer)
Snow Bunting

Well... the more I think about it the more realistic birds I can think of...

Anyway, it's fun to make lists like this and compare them to what you actually find/see! It gives you an indication of how well you can predict migration as well as your ability to predict where and when a species can be found.

In other news:

Check out this Duck that was flying past the speed limit (old article).

And a cool BBC video - I'm happy the guy didn't kill the Vulture. I feel as though most people would kill the bird in that situation!

And How Woodpeckers Avoid Head Injury

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Views from Coll de Pal

The last (or one of the last) installments from Spain!
You may remember Coll de Pal is where I saw the Lammergeiers but they weren't the only cool thing I saw up there on the mountain tops!

This is my view from the hawk watch spot:

On the way up I diverted my route to get a closer look at this guy:
 After a quick search on Wikipedia I believe it's a Pyrenean Chamois...

The drive up the mountain was mostly through deciduous forests. With the setting sun and golden  leaves everything was glowing:

An early morning rise to see the sunrise was well worth it:

More mountains:

 Mountains everywhere!

I thought this picture was cool with the big sloping mountains in the foreground with more in the distance:

A typical view:

 From the very top!

And that's one reason why I love birds! I would certainly not have been there if it weren't for the birds.