Kings of Bornholm

Soon after my escape to Skagen, I visited Bornholm. A Danish island located south of Sweden, it is home to a variety of sceneries quite different from what I’m used to around Copenhagen, including cliffs, sand dunes and dense forests. I was with my friend Alex, who invited me to spend a few days there at his family’s place (during the nights) and on the roads (during the days). Here is a map of our peregrinations.

These were mad days, as you can expect from two like-minded people fond of nature and discovery. We were lent a car by his family, but since Alex doesn’t have a driving license, I was the entitled driver all day long. Given that I hadn’t driven since January, I was really nervous at this idea, even though I knew I would do it. My nervosity increased when I saw that our coach was an old gasoline Opel sedan, quite the opposite of the small diesel Renault Clio I’m used to when I’m at home. But no worries, after short-lived hesitations for the first steps (ok, wheel turns maybe), I got quite used to it, and discovered a car very comfortable and easy to drive. At that moment, I was pretty sure we would survive this ride… (spoiler alert: we did!).

So here we were, driving east from Rønne en route to Ekkodalen. A Northern hawk owl (Surnia ulula) had elected to stay on the island for weeks, probably the young bird that was found injured and healed at the local “raptor show center”. It was sighted the day before our arrival right in front of the house in Ekkodalen, so we set sail with high spirits; alas, the bird was nowhere to be found that day. Anyway, we took a walk in the forest, enjoying the warm weather and the numerous birds swarming around: Common ravens (Corvus corax), my first European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus) in Denmark, Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius) in the pine forest, Common whitethroats (Sylvia communis) and other passerines… we tried the echo place (Ekkodalen means “the echo valley” in Danish), but weren’t convinced.

After a nap in the ruins of an old castle, we drove to the eastern coast of the island, bought some food in Nexø and walked along the sea. We saw some birds there, among those many ducklings, but soon time forced us to go back to Rønne. After a delicious dinner, we headed north. Our plan was to see the sunset from Hammeren, a rocky peninsula guarded by the castle of Hammershus. We arrived there just as the sun started to hide behind a thick layer of clouds (but the light while we drove was gorgeous!), and started to walk along the cliff. Soon, we could witness black and white shapes flying from the open water to a place hidden from view, down there. Razorbills (Alca torda) nesting in the cliff! From where we stood, it was impossible to see the eggs or the chicks, but I felt elated. I knew there would be more coming on the day after, though. Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) nested on top of the cliffs, in the grass, and a group of sheep we scared received an aggressive welcome when they arrived a bit too close to the eggs.

bornholm

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Skagen Fugle Festival

As you know, I visited Skagen a second time after my visit there with my parents. I was there between the 5th and 8th of May, for the Bird Festival that takes place every year on the first week-end of this month.

After travelling 8 hours in bus and train, I reached the top of Denmark at 5 in the afternoon. The sun was shining bright, but when I tried to go to the supermarket, I found the door closed. On Ascension Day, like on most holidays (and Danes have quite a number of those), stores are closed. At least the stores I go to (and it’s not the first time it happens to me). Anyway, this time I had anticipated, and had enough food to survive a day.

I had booked a bed in the dormitory of the hostel, to discover that I would be alone in the room for two out of my three nights there. I must confess it was difficult to choose a bed among the 12 available…
A word about the hostel: there’s no locker, and the shared facilities (bathrooms/kitchen) are very small. It was ok for me, as there were very few people when I visited, but I can’t imagine the chaos (and the fear for one’s valuables) during high season.

Gammel Skagen

Gammel Skagen

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Baby time

For a few weeks, the waters of Utterslev Mose have been teeming with younglings. The first to arrive were the Greylag goslings (Anser anser), followed by the Mallard ducklings (Anas platyrhynchos).

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

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Grønjordssøen

Before showing you Skagen, I wanted to take you to Grønjordssøen. What hides behind this barbaric name is a small lake notorious for its Black-necked grebes (Podiceps nigricollis). I went there in quest for pictures of this beautiful animal, but the pair I spotted stayed way too far. I still saw some interesting birds.

Common pochard (Aythya ferina) & Greylag goose (Anser anser)

Common pochard (Aythya ferina) & Greylag goose (Anser anser)

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To the south!

I celebrated the arrival of spring by taking a week-end off to Gedser. The southernmost point of Denmark is at the tip of a peninsula pointing down to Germany, on the island of Falster, and it’s a place I visited back in December. I had slept in the bird station there, and seen plenty of water birds, including scoters, Smews (Mergellus albellus), Long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemalis) and the lifer Greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons).

I didn’t have much time to focus on photography this week-end, hence the low quality of most pictures. I hope you can forgive me that 😉
Here is a map of my week-end.

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 5, took an early train and reached Nykøbing F (F for Falster, because there are several Nykøbing in Denmark) at 9. There, I met Hans, my guide for the day. He had had the brilliant idea to wear his binoculars around the neck in the station, therefore I spotted him immediatly!

He took me by car to the south, along the coast facing the neighbouring island of Lolland. We hoped to see the flock of Lesser white-fronted geese (Anser erythropus) that were grazing in the meadows of Roden Fed, but we were way too far. Still, the strait produced scores of Eurasian wigeons (Anas penelope), and a few Brant geese (Branta bernicla), the first ones of the year for me. I also enjoyed a familiar sight: the ondulating, noisy flight of the White wagtail (Motacilla alba). They had been in Falster for three weeks, but I hadn’t seen any in Copenhagen before today, actually, so those were also my first wagtails of the year. I saw many more in Gedser.

White wagtail (Motacilla alba)

White wagtail (Motacilla alba)

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Birds at the feeder

Winter can be rough for birds. Days are cold, nights are long and colder, and food may be hard to find. Songbirds, which usually feed on insects during spring and summer, switch to seeds when the autumn comes and the resources become scarce. That makes it way easier for us, well fed humans, to give them a hand during this bad period.

At home, we have fed birds for years, enjoying this incredible festival of claws and feathers while having breakfast or lunch, well hidden in our warm house. From my experience, pure sunflower seeds is the most appreciated food, along with peanuts and all kinds of vegetal fat preparation. If I remember well, robins like oat, and blackbirds like apples. The only time we gave them some kind of seed mix, the birds ate the sunflower and left the rest aside.

I was always told to feed birds only during winter (mid-November to mid-March in France), and that’s also what the LPO (the French bird protection association) advocates. On the other hand, the British RSPB and the American Cornell Lab of Ornithology say you can feed them all year long. Check the links for many tips and tricks about feeding birds.

I haven’t lived at home for three and a half year, but my parents have never stopped feeding birds. I was very glad to see these hords of tits, goldfinches and nuthatches roam around, either sitting at the feeder or picking a seed and them flying away to eat it, hidden in the bushes.

Twice I sat two or three meters from the main feeder, next to the hedge, to shoot the birds. I regret I couldn’t spend more time at home, because I feel like they would have grown accustomed to my presence, had I been able to stay there longer.  I also regret that these two shooting sessions happened on two cloudy days, but well…
The Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) were the boldest birds, always the first one and most numerous to come.

mangeoire-5

Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

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Birds of all sizes

On a sunny Sunday of December, I visited the southermost tip of the island of Amager, Kongelunden (the King’s Grove, if I trust Google translate and my pitiful Danish skills). It was terribly windy, and I didn’t see a lot of birds close by for most of my trip. From Vestamager, I walked south along the coast, spotting geese, gulls, swans and goldeneyes.

Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)

Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)

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Alsace in winter

As a new year is about to start, we see flashbacks on 2015 pop every there and then. I’ve just discovered that WordPress offers you a summary of your blog’s year, if you type /2015/annual-report/ after the address.

What does it tell me?

A tramway in San Francisco can transport 60 persons. My blog was visited 1500 times this year. If every visitor was to take this tramway, it would have to make 25 trips to carry everyone.

Here is the full report (might be in French). Of course that’s the summary of only half a year of blogging, as I published my first article on the 18th of June.
Nevertheless, this has been a very enlightening experience for me, I learnt a lot while writing. The most successful articles were Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard, Icy sunrise, Helsinki, beautiful city, Foggy day and Staunings Ø, but I’m sure 2016 will bring new exciting adventures!

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Stand Still, Stay Silent

The other day, I was walking in Utterslev Mose when I saw a heron fly down a canal, in the direction of the main path. When I got there, on the small bridge, I couldn’t find it! I hadn’t seen it fly away, so I was a bit surprised, but that was nothing compared to the moment when I realized it had in fact landed a mere three meters from the bridge; I was looking for it much farther! So here I was, standing on a bridge, basically on a bike lane, with a young heron hunting near the bank a few meters away. Fortunately, few people were in the vicinity, so the bird was far from frightened, and I was not at a too high risk of being trampled by a careless biker.

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)

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