No, this is not the title of a new campaign from the local far-right political party. Let me explain.
Saturday, 5.30am. The alarm clock rung. Damn, five hours of sleep was definitely not enough. But it was birdwatching day, and the weather promised to be good. Let’s go!
I swallowed a quick breakfast, made my sandwiches and headed out. While riding to Hellerup station, I enjoyed the sunrise and the empty streets, strange reminiscence of a morning in Helsinki, when I went to see the sun rise over the harbour before going to bed. Since the day I arrived, one month ago, I had never seen Copenhagen so quiet.
Adventure n°1: taking my bike to the train
Since I needed my bike to reach the meeting point for the birding tour, I took it with me on the train to Helsingør. I knew bikes were allowed in every train in Denmark. The agent came, and I showed him my travel card:
- What about the bike?
- What, what about the bike?
- You have to pay for it.
- Ok, how do I do that?
- At the station…
- Oh… (Oops)
To be honest, I knew on some trains one has to pay for bringing a bike, but I had completely forgotten about it at the moment. One should note that the journey planner had miserably failed to mention that, even though I had told him I wanted to take my bike with me. So the agent told me to send a text message to some number, to pay with my phone. Alas, it did not work, apparently my operator doesn’t support that. Generous, the agent told me again not to forget that next time, but he didn’t fine me:
- So it’s ok for today?
- It’s Saturday, it’s sunny…
- Thank you!
This occupied almost half of the 40 minutes needed to reach Snekkersten Station. From there, I biked up the hills to Hellebæk Alvsgårg, a farm with a parking spot. There I met birders from DOF (the Danish birding society), including our tour leader Frands, for an excursion. Hellebæk is a hot spot for spotting migrating birds, especially cranes and raptors, in both spring and autumn.
Here is a map of the area. I first walked around the parking (P), then went to the sea to the north, all the way to Helsingør.
Adventure n°2: birdwatching in the forest
We met at 9. The sun was shining, a few clouds were roaming overhead but nothing threatening. However, the skies were almost empty. Sure there were a few Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) here and there, but nothing close to the endless stream of birds coming from the north I expected. Is winter really coming? I can think of two explanations. When I was watching the migration in Col du Fau, south of Grenoble, many years ago, I learnt that, the higher the clouds, the higher birds fly. Therefore, a sunny day like yesterday is not a tremendous setting if you expect to see a lot of birds. However, it’s good for pictures!
The second explanation comes from the wind. I was explained that, depending on wind conditions, some spots are good, and some are not. Our spot, on the hills, was good for south-easterly winds, but the wind came from the nort-west. Too bad. On the other hand, I went to the coast later that day, to spots supposedly more favorable spots in north-westerly winds, and did not see anything really interesting. Maybe migration hasn’t really started; one week ago, in Utterslev Mose, there was no migrant either.
Anyway, the day would not be lost, as the woods surrounding the area were rustling with life. First, we walked by a colony of Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo), and were constantly flewn over by these birds, which have thrived in Denmark for the last 30 years.
The appearance of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) wreaked havoc in the colony, but calm (for cormorant standards, that is) resumed quickly. After surveying a pond populated by at least 8 Grey herons (Ardea cinerea), we entered the forest. There we met lots of passerines, including 4 species of tits, goldcrests, nuthatches and chaffinches, and also a sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). In the distance, Common ravens (Corvus corax) communicated loudly. The area was pretty humid, and mushrooms teemed along the path.
When we went back to the open area, we were greeted by three Common buzzards (Buteo buteo). The plumage of this species can substantially vary from one individual to the other, and, after seeing a bird almost completely black in Vestamager few weeks ago, there it was a surprisingly light individual. Seconds later, a young White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) darted over us to the north, and another Osprey circled above a pond in the distance, offering a great sight with the birding scope.
We ate our lunch on a small hill, disturbing a Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis) and attracting the attention of a Northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), but still no migration occured.
Adventure n°3: down to the sound
We parted ways after finishing our meal. Frands and his wife kindly offered me to put the bike in their car and drive me home, but I declined, for I had other plans in mind.
I rode down to the village of Hellebæk, located by the Øresund sound… and was surprised to see Sweden so close!
Gulls, ducks (including a few eiders) and cormorants were feeding along the coast, so I headed for the short beach, in quest of pictures. Sadly, half the gulls took off as I reached it, and I felt the other half ready to leave, should I get too close. This is maybe the most striking thing here in Denmark, for someone coming from Finland: birds are shy. Gulls, crows, jackdaws, even in the heart of the city where they should be used to human presence, they all flee when you stop by. Sure, you can ride a few centimetres from them, but should you stop, they will immediatly retreat. That makes bird photography much harder than it was in Helsinki.
Anyway, I noticed a White wagtail (Motacilla alba) hunting insects in the mountain of algae the sea had brought to the shore. Patiently, I tried to draw closer, and eventually it was in shooting range. As long as I did not move too much, the bird was basically oblivious to my presence, and it let me admire its hunting ballet.
Further down the shore, a metallic pier welcome a host of gulls and cormorants, some drying their plumage, some resting, some heckling with each other. It was a great opportunity for pictures, so I stayed for some time. Still, the skies were empty.
Stay tuned, adventures n°4 and 5 coming soon!
> Hellebæk gallery (will be updated)