Seized by winter

Winter, finally! Now that 2015 is over, we can leave behind us these warm days and dive into a world of frost and crystal-clear skies, a world of dancing snow flakes and cold Siberian air. I’ve been back to Copenhagen for only two weeks, and I’ve tasted multiples flavours of the season: I have biked under the falling snow, on the treacherous melting snow, between sheets of ice and against a biting gale, I have chased birds on a snowy, sunny beach and in the fog.

flyvestation

I have also visited a disused airport. The clouds were low, but the sub-zero temperatures dressed trees in frost. Added to the five centimeters of snow fallen two days before, this made up an enchanting white day at Flyvestation Værløse. I was looking for Short-eared owls (Asio flammeus), a bird I had already seen in Denmark. Some individuals had been reported in the area, hunting on the meadows. Sadly, I didn’t spot any during my time there; I was nonetheless gifted by the sight of a few Rough-legged buzzards (Buteo lagopus), along with their cousin Common buzzards (Buteo buteo). Both were a bit too shy for striking the pose in front of my camera, however that was not the case of a lone European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis).

European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

European goldfinch

European goldfinch

These birds usually roam in flocks, at least during winter, so I think this one was lost, somehow. It was feeding on faded grass along the track, chirping to the wind. In this white day, its bright colors shone like a jewel, and, luckily for me, it was too hungry to fly away. It just moved from one blade of grass to the other, until it finally fled, leaving me with a few (slightly) blurred pictures. I’m not completely satisfied with them, but that’s how you learn, right?

flyvestation-7

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

In a thicket, I chased a pair of elusive Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). I thought I would get my dream picture of this gorgeous bird in a patch of snow, but they were watchful and fled a bit too early. I saw them cross the field, high in the sky, to meet again in a tree sitting above an old house. I could hear their cheerful voice, taunting me from the canopy.

flyvestation-8

I carried on, crossed the airport compound, walked along the runway. The open area was mostly occupied by walkers, with the occasional cross-country skier leaving parallel traces behind him. In the bushes, a Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) stole a Blackbird’s (Turdus merula) spot. I tried to close the gap between me and buzzard sitting atop a woodpost, but to no avail, as it flew out of the area.

Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Roe deer

Roe deer

I took a few pictures of a pack of Roe-deers (Capreolus capreolus) distressed by two motorized paragliders flying over, then called it a day. It was gently snowing, but the clouds finally stood aside and let the sun rule the end of the week-end.

flyvestation-4

Common blackbird (Turdus merula)

Common blackbird (Turdus merula)

flyvestation-12

Not even a black & white picture!

The day after, a Sunday, was bright and cold. I woke up early to admire the sunrise in Staunings Ø. Unfortunately, a huge cloud blocked the view, and when the sun was finally free, it was already high over the horizon. I was still gifted by snippets of golden light, from time to time.

I walked to the end of the island. Most of the lagoon was frozen, and it was more serene than what I’m used to. In a pool of free water roamed about fifteen Little grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis) and a Whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus), with Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and Northern pintails (Anas acuta) slowly emerging from sleep. On another spot, a flock of Greylag geese (Anser anser) slept, while Mute swans (Cygnus olor) were looking for food. In the reeds, I saw a Reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus). On the ice, far away, a White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) waited, surrounded by Hooded crows (Corvus cornix).

I had planned to sit somewhere overlooking the pond and wait for birds, but it was way too cold. I moved back north, where I had met a flock of Snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis).

Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)

Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)

They were still there, nine of them. Just like the one I had met nearby weeks before, they were quite tame. On occasions, they would fly away, but never far, and they would return. I guess this spot was good for food: they were obviously delighted by what they found on yellow blades of grass, though I’m more skeptical about their taste for this icy shore. They went back and forth a few times, sometimes letting me come near, sometimes not. I had a peculiar approach technique: since it’s good to take eye-level pictures of birds, I moved on my knees, getting closer step by step.

sketch

Yes, I drew that myself. Awesome, isn’t it? I saw Jeff’s drawings, I decided I wanted the same on my own blog. Close enough :p

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Many people enjoyed this sunny day at the beach: runners, walkers, even a skier! They must have thought I was mad… but I didn’t care, I was taking good pictures and enjoying it! My only regret was following the buntings to the shore: while I was there, a female Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) flew along the dune, a few meters from where I was standing minutes ago. I was too far and not ready when I saw it approach…

I loved the show these little creatures put up for me: the grass swung beneath their weight, but they maintained their delicate balance at all time, while eating. Gorgeous.

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Near the bridge leading back to the mainland, I spotted about 15 Common snipes (Gallinago gallinago). Usually they stay hidden in the reeds, but the reeds were down because of the snow and the ice. Therefore, they stayed in plain sight. Crazy birds.
In the woods, I saw many perch birds foraging.

Great tit (Parus major)

Great tit (Parus major)

European robin (Erithacus rubecula)

European robin (Erithacus rubecula)

One of my favourite since I’ve arrived to Denmark, a hard-to-catch Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) was sticking to the ground, inspecting roots, fallen trees and leaves. I haven’t had any great picture, but this bird always makes me smile, so I’m sharing nonetheless 🙂

Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

My last treat for the day was a Turdidae mix next to the station: a Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and a female Common blackbird (Turdus merula) explored a carpet of leaves.

Common blackbird

Common blackbird

European robin

European robin

> Flyvestation Værløse on Flickr
> Staunings Ø on Flickr

Bird inventory

CARCAR

TURPIL

TURMER

ANAPLA

ANSANS

CYGOLO

CORCOR

PLENIV

GALGAL

PARMAJ

ERIRUB

TROTRO

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26 thoughts on “Seized by winter

  1. Wow! Love this post. I’ve been trying to get a decent photo of a Snow Bunting all winter, but no luck so far. Maybe they’re shyer in Montana? I liked seeing the Fieldfare as well – we had one here this winter – really rare sighting this far out of their range. Look forward to more of your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Samuel, your technique of stalking the snow buntings on your knees resulted in great shots. I like them all, but especially the 2nd one after the cartoon. Great light and composition on that one.

    I love the cartoon. Like mine, it is an expertly drawn work of art. I really enjoyed your post and look forward to reading more in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. +1 pour ton magnifique dessin, j’en reste coi 🙂 En tout cas, ta technique marche au top vu les photos que tu nous ramènes ! Par contre, dans la neige, t’es pas trop trempé à la fin de la journée ? 🙂

    Merci pour ce partage tout en fraîcheur Samuel, l’ambiance est vraiment super sympa, j’aime beaucoup 😉

    Amitiés

    Seb

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Flyvestation Værløse | Eiwawar

  5. Pingback: My Denmark: one year in a flat country | Eiwawar

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