Note: I have included cards from the bird inventory I’m building, with a picture and names in different languages for each bird species. See the end of the article, and tell me what you think of that :p
Witnessing the sun rise over the horizon, Greenfinches and Twites feed in bushes, Horned larks walk along the beach and a White-tailed eagle scare scores of geese was not enough for me this morning, especially since I was not able to reach the southernmost tip of Staunings Ø. I had planned to go home around noon, to study a bit, but well… I took the sight of two Bearded tits (Panurus biarmicus) flying overhead as a good omen, and decided to go south. I knew the next sandbar, Ølsemagle Revle, was also good for birds, but I had no idea of the distance I would have to walk.
Nevermind, let’s go! I departed along the inner shoreline, increasing my count of perch birds with Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and a flock of Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus) noisily enjoying free food from a man-made feeding station. Unfortunately, the path ended, and I had no other option than to walk along the road. Tricky thing, with the snow and the ice, but I eventually reached my target after what seemed hours of clumsy peregrinations on a deserted bike lane.
As I entered the area, I was greeted by a flight of Mute swans (Cygnus olor). Too bad, I could have done with a close-up on the few Whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) that had arrived with winter.
When I arrived on the sandbar, I turned north and began walking on the dune, overlooking both the sea and the lagoon. I scared a few Common snipes (Gallinago gallinago) on the way, but did not get any outstanding observation. Then I walked on the beach, looking for Snow buntings, for I knew these Nordic birds come to Denmark when the cold seizes their land. At some point, eventually reaching the area where the sandbar becomes wider (I walked around 15 km this day), I stopped, and turned back. There, from the top of the ridge, a white shape took off: a Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), finally!
I have been waiting for it, I had read on DOF’s website (click if you want to see a map of Ølsemagle Revle) that the bird was wintering in this area. It is partly diurnal and lives in open areas (unlike its close relative, the Long-eared owl (Asio otus)). Remember, I saw two of them in Kammerslusen.
So, back to my story. I was quite excited, as you might guess, but the bird had disappeared behind the dune: nevermind, let’s climb it! I say ‘climb’, but that was something like a meter or two eh… but well, as soon as I stood there, no less than 4 other ghosts left the ground heath to take the air. Four more owls, that means five at the same time! At some point, I had three of them in the frame of my camera, although I didn’t click fast enough. It’s obvious I disturbed their day rest. They flew around the place at length before settling for new resting spots, hidden in the yellow grass. Their upper plumage is perfect in this regard, as it is very tough to spot them if you haven’t seen where they landed. I tried, but miserably failed: never did I manage to observe one before take off.
This camo jacket offers a singular contrast with the belly and under wings of the owl, which are almost pristine white. Ghosts, yes.
In the middle of my quest, I was distracted by a wonderful Rough-legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus, another bird from the north) perched on the only tree I could see in this direction; I tried to get closer, but it flew away without striking the pose for me… rude bird! It then displayed its characteristic hovering flight, like a kestrel (except the buzzard is a way larger raptor), and let me see the white on its upper tail feathers. Rude but beautiful.
After that, I chased a Robin (Erithacus rubecula) from bush to shrub, and took a rest. I hadn’t planned to go out for the whole day, so I only had biscuits with me (fortunately, I had a lot of them!), and it didn’t take me long to head south again, on my way home.
I was walking along the beach, quite inattentive, when a small bird flew away. I remembered I was looking for Snow buntings, so I sharpened my eye and closed-on slowly. It was in fact a Snow bunting, a stunning male in its winter yellow-and-white livery. And unlike the Horned larks earlier, it didn’t flee me. Oh yes, it was mindful of my presence, in fact it looked at me many times (which makes for nice pictures, see this article), but it was not afraid, so I could get nice pics. It felt a lot like meeting this Northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) in Suomenlinna, last year.
This kind of encounter is what I like in birdwatching.
As if the day hadn’t been perfect already, I spotted a young Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) and another Bearded tit, the first one I could see really well. It was gorgeous, with its grey head and orange mantle. Oh, and I had an almost normal conversation in Danish with an old guy who happened to be passing by when I was leaving. Incredible.