I’ve talked about Utterslev Mose for some time now, so I guess you must be quite familiar with the place. Because it’s situated next to my apartment, I often go there to enjoy the sunset when I’m not in a traveling mood. While the birds there are usually not extravagant, you can get good sights of some common species, especially when they are fed by humans.
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.
After the snow came the sun. Often, it’s rain and warm temperatures that come and take the white cover away, but this day was to offer temperatures below zero from sunrise to sunset. That was the perfect opportunity to go out birdwatching, see the sun rise over the horizon and take pictures. Equipped with my winter jacket and my ski trousers, I was ready to brave the cold. Camera at the ready, I reached Staunings Ø minutes before sunrise, in this very special hour where everything is blue, everything but the horizon, which slowly turns orange.
Given the temperature, the ground was covered in something closer to ice than snow, and it was tricky to walk without falling. In some places, flood had occurred then frozen, offering the adventurer nothing but a path of ice to reach his destination, the sandbar separating the lagoon from the sea.
I was traveling last week, birdwatching on the windy shores of the North Sea. Before that, I went to Staunings Ø (map) with a group of birders, for a stunning morning.
I arrived early on site, and was greeted by the rising sun. Playing with the clouds, it displayed all possible shades of orange. Needless to say that I was delighted; the early wake up was worth it.
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)
This spring, while I was introducing friends of mine to birdwatching in Helsinki, I taught them the differences between the most common gull species we could observe there. Later on, I opened this blog and thought that it could be a good topic for an article, especially since gulls are generally not shy animals: they are easy to spot, and easy to shoot.
French-speaking readers: I have included French names; please make sure you don’t miss the footnote.
Common gull (Larus canus)
fr – Goéland cendré
Until the end of the year, I will have no class on Friday. Can there be a better occupation than birdwatching to start the week-end? (Homework? Nah, too mainstream…)
So yesterday I woke up at 11, and it was sunny. After Utterslev Mose, I decided to visit another birding place. Supported by the amazing website of DOF, the local bird conservation association, I settled on Vestamager. It’s a large green area located south of Copenhagen, next to the airport. Birds and planes to spot, the day promised to be good.
After an hour of biking through the city center, I reached a wide plains covered in grazing fields. In the distance, I could see a small wood, and behind it the dyke marking the end of the area.
I walked through the meadows. To my right, I observed a herd of cows followed by flocks of Common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and Western yellow wagtails (Motacilla flava).
Finnish word of the day: tiira = tern
Terns are sea birds distributed worldwide, somehow looking like gulls but with more pointy wings and indented tails. As a consequence, they have a nickname in French that could be translated as “sea swallows”.
The Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) is maybe the most formidable species of tern. Indeed, it is the animal with the longest known migration path: it breeds in the north all around the world, and takes the air as soon as it’s done to fly to Antarctica. While seeing two summers in a year, birds from the Netherlands have been shown to travel approximately 90,000 km in the course of their non-breeding period. Even more impressive, this dangerous trip doesn’t prevent some Arctic terns from reaching 30 years of age.
One close relative to the species which is very common in Europe is the Common tern (Sterna hirundo). It can be tricky to distinguish one from the other, especially from the distance. Remember, the Arctic tern has short legs and bill, and they are both completely dark red, whereas the Common tern has a black tip at the point of the bill. In Helsinki, both species are present, but it seemed to me that the Arctic tern was more common.
Bonus: in Suomenlinna (now, you should know where this is), I met this kind and quiet guy perched on a pier railing. With my friend, we decided to improvise a photoshoot. We ended up with a few pics with flash.
The guy even faced the flash… it was an accommodating model 😉
The Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is a Eurasian species of woodpecker. With the European green woodpecker (Picus viridis), it’s one of the two most common woodpeckers in France. They can both be seen frequently in gardens. In Finland, there’s no Green woodpecker, but the Great spotted woodpecker is quite a common sight.
It feeds mostly on insects and larvae, which it finds in tree trunks. When hidden by the foliage, you can hear its characteristic drumming produced by its repeated blows on the wood. When flying, the flight is undulating like a passerine.
The Great spotted woodpecker is one of the numerous species of black, white and red woodpeckers. The adult male has a red spot at the back of the head, whereas the female lacks this spot.
Similar species include Syrian woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus), White-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), Middle spotted woodpecker (Leiopicus medius) and Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dryobates minor). I saw the latter in Finland a few times. When your eye is trained, you immediatly notice the size difference between the species. Between all these species, the variations are nonetheless subtle: take a look at the color of the crown, the neck pattern or the back color.
I was walking in a wood near Herttoniemi, eastern Helsinki, when I heard unceasing chirping in the trees. Going further, I noticed several cavities in a single tree. I suspected the presence of a nest in one the holes when an adult woodpecker appeared, fed the babies and left. The nest was definitely in camera range, so I readied it and waited. I waited maybe 15 minutes, and just when I was wondering whether it was to come back, it arrived to feed the younglings once more. I got some interesting shots, and then a few others. Both times it was the male coming.
I had never witnessed this before, but I spotted two other nests in Nuuksio and one in Seurasaari, where one chick was strong enough to show up out the cavity.
In Seurasaari, I observed a bird roaming near mangers aimed at squirrels, along with tits and chaffinches (cover picture).