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A soggy farewell

fredag 26. oktober 2018
af James Butcher

Today was mine and Sarah’s final day at the Fuglestation. At dawn, we headed out with Helga for some seawatching with Knud at World’s End, where we did a short Facebook Live video explaining a little more about how and why we count seabirds. You can view the video on our Facebook page.

The rain set in by mid morning, and so the rest of the day was taken up with administration: cleaning the apartment, Birders’ Club and the Lab, catching up with our last pieces of data entry and finally packing our bags.

This evening (as if by magic!) Gustav appeared again, this time with his friend Kenni for a couple of days stay. Helga and Kristian cooked us a great final evening meal before Gustav of course treated us to another mind-bending magic show which involved eating cards and shooting rope. Next time Gustav I’m hoping for a balloon skægmejse…

Thanks to all the great people we've met here for making it such a memorable month, especially our fellow volunteers and all the local birders for welcoming us so warmly. We hope to see you again one day!

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People: Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Knud Pederson, Helga & Kristian Rudolf, Gustav Urth and Kenni Skjødt.

A beach full of buntings

torsdag 25. oktober 2018
af Sarah Bedford

Another windy day today so unfortunately no ringing planned. Instead, James and I went out to observe with Rolf for a few hours. James spotted a Bittern (Rørdrum) which was a bit of a surprise; they are not seen here much over the autumn/winter months and this was only the second bird seen this autumn.

After leaving Rolf, we met up with Helga and Kristian and did a tour with them along the beach to the tip and back to the observatory via the tractor track. The sun was shining, the birds were very obliging and we managed to tick off a few new species for Helga and Kristian during our walk. First stop was for Red Breasted Merganser (Toppet Skallesluger) and Purple Sandpiper (Sortgrå Ryle) on the beach and we also spotted our old friend the Knot (Islandsk Ryle) from last night! It was great to watch it feeding on the beach, whilst sporting a new and dainty little silver anklet on its right leg!

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James, Helga and Kristian looking at the ringed Knot (Islandsk Ryle) on the beach outside the lighthouse.

Up at the tip, we had a flock of 38 Snow Bunting (Snespurv) which was wonderful as Helga and Kristian had not seen them since being here and the birds came incredibly close to us. We saw a  total of 14 species were seen on our walk.

In the afternoon, James and I had an interview with Simon to talk about our experiences at the observatory and after a feast of tuna pasta and apple crumble, followed a couple of rounds of Shuffleball with Helga and Kristian, it was time for an early night before our last day tomorrow.

People: Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Rolf Christensen, Simon S. Christiansen and Helga & Kristian Rudolf

Netting a Knot

onsdag 24. oktober 2018
af James Butcher

With a lull in the winds today, expectations were high for seawatching this morning. Often after strong westerlies, seabirds that have been blown into the Kattegat can then be seen passing Grenen on their way back out into the North Sea. Sarah and I joined Knud at World’s End 3 for dawn, and he soon picked up the first Little Auk (Søkonge) of the autumn. In the meantime the wind had dropped just enough for Simon to open the Lighthouse Garden nets for a couple of hours, giving Helga and Kristian another chance to watch some ringing.

As it was our last day with Simon, we all went out for lunch and a beer at the Skagen Bryghus, where we ate some delicious fish dishes and sampled some great ales.

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Lunch at the Skagen Bryghus: Simon, Sarah, Kristian, Helga and James

This evening we went out for the final night catching opportunity for Sarah and I. Simon came with us and we decided to target the Purple Sandpipers (Sortgrå Ryle) which have been roosting along the sea defences by the Lighthouse.

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Simon and James dazzling waders

We didn’t get lucky with the Purple Sandpipers, but we did manage to net a Knot (Islandsk Ryle)! This time instead of waiting for pitch dark, we went just as dusk was falling, and it worked well as we were able to see and therefore approach the birds much more carefully. After many nights spent unsuccessfully chasing flighty Sanderling (Sandløber), it was great to end our stay with a successful catch.

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Success at last! A 1st year Knot (Islandsk Rule)

For dinner, Simon made some delicious (and enormous!) calzones, which we followed up with a movie night by watching The Big Year – fast becoming the Observatory’s signature film it seems!

Birds Rung (3): 1 Knot (Islandsk Ryle), 1 Blue Tit (Blåmejse) and 1 Rødhals (Robin).

People: Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Knud Pederson, Simon S. Christiansen and Helga & Kristian Rudolf

A breezy day

tirsdag 23. oktober 2018
af Sarah Bedford

Tuesday dawned windy and bright as expected. The wind was so strong that there was definitely no chance of ringing so James and I set out on a long observation walk - through Skagen reserve, out to Vest Fyr (West Lighthouse) and along Nordstrand (North Beach). Not a lot of passerines were brave enough to show their faces in this weather but we did see a Woodcock (Skovsneppe) the first of the season, along the path in the reserve. There were plenty of Fieldfare (Sjagger) and Redwing (Vindrossel) about too.

Sea birds on the other hand are certainly not afraid of the wind, and there were lots of things on the move out on a wild, rolling ocean. An hour's sea watching saw us count 340 migrating Common Scoter (Sortand), 125 migrating Razorbills (Alk) Velvet Scoter (Flojlsand), Fulmar (Mallemuk), Black Guillemot (Tejst), Great Skua (Storkjove) Kittiwake (Ride) and of course plenty of Gannets (Sule). A Leach's Storm Petrel (Stor Stormsvale) and Great Northern Diver (Islom) were also reported by other birdwatchers today.

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James being blown around on the beach at Nordstrand

Helga and Kristian took a walk around Elle Krattet, Nordstrand and along the Tractor Track to the tip. They saw a variety of passerines in the more sheltered areas, including Bearded Tit (Skaegmejse). After making us a delicious dinner of chicken meatballs and bulgur wheat salad, they joined us for a spot of night catching. Our sighting of woodcock earlier in the day had made Simon hungry to find one tonight. They typically like to feed on open grassy spaces, so we found ourselves running around local horse fields and football pitches in search of this enigmatic bird. A false alarm (tufts of brown grass) got the adrenaline pumping but ultimately, we came home empty handed. Hopefully Simon will have more luck later in the season when there are more to be found.

People: Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Helga & Kristian Rudolf and Simon S. Christiansen.

It's a kind of magic

mandag 22. oktober 2018
af James Butcher

This morning Simon began the day with a visit from 17 teaching assistants from University College Nordjylland. Gustav joined them for an introduction to the observatory and despite the wind, Simon also caught a few birds in the Lighthouse Garden nets to demonstrate how we ring birds.

Sarah and I were out observing with Knud again today, where the strong westerly wind had us searching for a sheltered spot in the dunes to try and keep warm and prevent ourselves from being buried under the flying sand! Our reward though was a strong easterly movement of seabirds, with the highlight being a Sooty Shearwater (Sodfarvet Skråpe) which Knud spotted within seconds of setting up his telescope. Other notable sightings were a Great Northern Diver (Islom), and 639 Razorbills (Alk) moving south east over four hours.

Helga and Kristian took a walk out to the tip this morning, seeing seals and a flock of Sanderling (Sandløber). This afternoon they joined Simon and Gustav on a successful mission to add Bearded Tit (Skægmejse) to Gustav’s list. Before he left this evening, Gustav joined us for dinner before treating us to the second impromptu magic show of the day. Although she had defeated him earlier in the day, this time even Sarah “Stone Face” Bedford succumbed to the magician’s gaze! Thanks Gustav – come back soon!

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Look into my eyes: Gustav correctly guessing the Skægmejse I had thought of

Birds Rung (3): 1 Robin (Rødhals), 1 Goldcrest (Fuglekonge), and 1 Tree Sparrow (Skovspurv).

People: Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Knud Pederson, Gustav Urth, Simon S. Christiansen and Helga & Kristian Rudolf

Data and cake

søndag 21. oktober 2018
af Sarah Bedford

With no ringers on site today, James and I agreed to meet Knud at World’s End 3 to do some sea observations.  It was a day of Gannets (Sule) and Razorbills (Alk) with large numbers of both. We observed more than 300 Gannets (Sule) resting and feeding where the waters meet in the Kattegat and more than 600 Razorbills (Alk) migrating south-east. Good numbers of Great Skua (Storkjove) , and divers (Løm) were seen and Knud also spotted a first year Caspian gull (Kaspisk Måge).

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Part way through the morning we had the lovely sight of 7 Whooper Swans (Sangsvane) flying magestically towards us from the ocean. I love these swans and they are the first to arrive here at Skagen this autumn. A real treat to see. We saw four more on the way back to the lighthouse and others reported seeing larger groups this morning too. At the end of the morning, as the tourists started arriving at the tip, we spotted a man walking a Ferret (Ilder) on a lead across the beach! It’s strange what you see through your binoculars sometimes!

After lunch, Knud came to the observatory to help us a little with data entry in DOF Basen and as with all things administrative, everything ran much more smoothly when we added in coffee and cake! It’s important that we get the data entry part of our observations right and we are grateful to Knud for patiently showing us the correct way to put the work we have done into the database.

There were a few comings and goings today – Jesper left, having seen the Pacific Diver (Stille Havslom) he came for, and also adding a Yellow-Browed Warbler (Hvidbrynet Løvsanger) to his list too! Simon returned from Aalborg, with Gustav, a one-night visitor who is keen on birds and wants to learn more about ringing. He went straight out in the last of the daylight looking for Bearded Tits (Skægmejse) and Long Tailed Tits (Halemejse) – no luck today, but there’s always tomorrow. Helga and Kristian also arrived, they will be staying in the apartment for a week and enjoying all the autumn migration action that Grenen has to offer.

After dinner, James, Gustav, Helga and I went out to the beach in the hope of a successful night catch. The conditions were good for picking up birds with plenty of wind and rain but alas, the birds were smarter and faster than we were. The night-time adventure did provide some comedy for Helga and Gustav though, as James and I fruitlessly sprinted up and down the beach after a group of Sanderlings (Sandløber) we had seen earlier in the day! Perhaps we would have been a bit quicker if we hadn’t eaten all of that cake…

People: Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Knud Pederson, Gustav Urth, Jesper Madsen, Simon Christiansen and Helga & Kristian Rudolf

Thrushes everywhere

lørdag 20. oktober 2018
af James Butcher

With Molly and Lisa departing this morning and Simon away for the weekend, the Observatory suddenly felt like a very quiet place today! Sarah and I were out at dawn for observations, and spent some time working the bushes on our way out to World’s End to count with Rolf. Thrush numbers seemed to have increased again overnight, with Redwing (Vindrossel) bursting from every bush and by far the commonest species, but there was also a noticeable increase in numbers of Fieldfare (Sjagger) and Blackbird (Solsort) compared to the past week. In the dunes we flushed 3 Water Pipits (Bjergpiber) from the water’s edge, and on the beach was a flock of 17 Snow Buntings (Snæspurv).

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A panoramic sunrise view from World's End with Rolf

After lunch we worked on data and diaries in Birders Club, giving us the chance to welcome a steady stream of visitors to the Lighthouse including an ornithologist from the USA. In the evening we hosted Jesper J. Madsen, who leads the national ringing programme in Denmark. He was on a birding tour of this part of the country and was hoping to catch up with the Pacific Diver (Stillehavslom) here this afternoon, but hadn’t had any luck and so was planning to try again tomorrow morning. It was great to talk with him over dinner and find out more about exactly how the ringing data collected here and elsewhere is used as part of national monitoring programmes.

People: James Butcher, Sarah Bedford, Rolf Christensen and Jesper J. Madsen

Bye Bye Molly

fredag 19. oktober 2018
af Sarah Bedford

After yesterday's roller-excitement, there was a bit of a "hangover" atmosphere at the observatory this morning, meaning we all got up late and perhaps found it a little difficult to get going! Molly's last day here at Skagen Fuglestation meant that the first part of the day was spent welcoming visitors to the station for coffee and cake, all dropping in to say their goodbyes. First Jørgen and Igor stopped by with delicious pastries and then Knud, Torben and Olaf also paid a visit to wish Molly farewell. Fleming also popped upstairs but not to say goodbye, instead to present Molly with a Wren (Gærdesmutte) that he had found trapped - the ringing responsibility never ends! He came back later in the day to say goodbye properly and present Molly with some gifts too!

After all of those farewells, too much coffee and some cleaning of the apartment, we eventually headed out to see if we could find some rare birds. Simon took us in his car to some parts of Skagen that we hadn't previously visited and although we didn't see anything jaw-dropping, we spent a while checking that a female Wheatear (Stenpikker) wasn't anything other than the normal Northern variety, and were also lucky to see some Crested Tits (Topmejse) - which in the UK isn't such an easy bird to find, so I enjoyed watching them for a while. On the way back, we bumped into Erik who said bye to Molly and we popped in to see Michael Ancher for another goodbye and he thanked Molly for all her help when she has been ringing with him.

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Back at the lighthouse, Simon had a night tour, to round off the events that have been held for Week 42. This one was another success, with 11 people attending and a good range of species spotted with our flashlights - hare, common seal, roe deer, various waders and ducks, including Sanderling (Sandløber), Mallard (Gråand) and Snipe (Dobbeltbekkasin) and finally a Guillemot (Lomvie) on the beach which Simon managed to catch (without a net!) and show to the group.

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Over delicious æbelskiver and Irish coffees, we spent some time saying our own goodbyes to Molly as she had a very early start on Saturday for her onward journey. Thanks so much Molly for all of the advice, help and patience when teaching us novices to extract birds and attempt to help you with ringing - you're a star - and wishing you tonnes of luck and success in your next adventures!

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People: Molly Brown, Lisa Vergin, Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Jorgen and Igor, Knud, Torpen and Olaf, Michael Ancher, Fleming, Erik Christophersen and Simon S. Christiansen.  

Rolling rolling rolling!

torsdag 18. oktober 2018
af James Butcher

After some busy ringing days earlier this week, the nets at Grenen were quiet this morning, with 18 birds caught. Back at the observatory, Simon led our second ringing tour of the week, with a Treecreeper (Trælober) being the highlight. During the morning, we heard great reports from some of the local birders who had been over to Hanstholm the day before to see the Roller (Ellekrage) which had been discovered there. With the ringing being slow and all of us keen to see this rare Danish visitor, Simon made the call that we would try for the Roller that afternoon...the twitch was on!!

And so at midday we all piled into the car and drove across to the north west coast, with Lisa’s Roller Disco playlist providing the soundtrack (although not even that could keep the three kids in the back awake!) We arrived at a forest car park, where the assembled crowd of long camera lenses suggested the bird was still present. And sure enough it was, giving a great performance as it perched on dead trees around a clearing, occasionally darting down to the ground to pick up beetles and giving amazing flashes of turquoise and vivid blue on its wings.

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Once everyone had soaked up this great bird, it was back in the car, but Simon had another couple of treats up his sleeve. First up was an ice cream stop to sample some of the area’s finest Soft Ice, complete with chocolate sprinkles - a guaranteed way to keep your volunteers quiet and happy.

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Next was a second twitching stop at Hirshals, to visit a random industrial estate and parking area which is home to Denmark’s last few Crested Larks (Toplærke). It was a little sad to see the last of a population which will surely become extinct in the near future, but nevertheless the birds themselves were great, performing down to just a few metres and even giving a few bursts of song flight.

There was only one way a day like this could get any better….yes, PIZZA! After a quick stop on the way home to pick up everyone’s favourite takeaway, we collapsed onto the sofa in a pizza coma to watch Now You See Me, a film about four magicians. Now all we need is a sprinkling of that magic to bring one of the autumn rarities currently appearing on the west coast of Denmark to Skagen...I’m sure it’s only a matter of time!

Birds Rung (18): 1 Greenfinch (Grønirisk), 6 Robins (Rødhals), 1 Wren (Gærdesmutte), 1 Dunnock (Jernspurv), 1 Blue tit (Blåmejse), 5 Goldcrests (Fuglekonge), 2 Treecreeper (Trælober) and 1 Redwing (Vindrossel).

People: Molly Brown, Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Lisa Vergin, Rolf Christensen and Simon S. Christiansen.

Open Freezer Day

onsdag 17. oktober 2018
af Lisa Vergin

Compared to yesterday, it was quite a quiet ringing day this morning at Grenen. Overall, we “just” ringed 33 birds. Again, there have been a male and female Bearded Tit (Skægmejse), which was very nice for me – I hadn`t had them in my hands before. Besides those, the most common species for today were Redwings (Vindrossel), Goldcrests (Fuglekonge) and Wrens (Gærdesmutte).
We shut down the nets at 11:00 to prepare for the dissection demonstration at the lighthouse. We had a Kestrel (Tårnfalk) and Herring Gull (Sølvmåge) to open, as well as some smaller birds like Blue Tits (Blåmejse), Redpolls (Gråsisken) and a Budgie (Undulat), on which we investigated the skulls. All in all, there were about 30 people that came by and watched the dissection. I showed James how to open a bird using the gull, and so he finally lived up to his name. ;-P
I think it`s very interesting to see the insides of an animal, and you could see them very well inside the birds, so it`s easy to understand how everything is working and connecting together, like the connection between the heart and the lungs or the gastrointestinal system.dissection

In the afternoon, Sarah, James, Molly and I cycled to Den Tilsandede Kirke to get some ice cream (it was very delicious!) and watch the Parrot Crossbills (Stor korsnæb), which I haven`t seen before. It was a very nice tour with good weather. I really missed being around these guys!

After dinner (we had gnocchi, which I had brought from Germany), we tried to catch Pygmy Owls (Glaucidium) in the lighthouse garden, but without success. I hope that we`ll be luckier during the next days!

Birds we ringed this morning: 7 Goldcrests (Fuglekonge), 7 Wrens (Gærdesmutte), 5 Redwings (Vindrossel), 4 Blackcaps (Munk), 3 Robins (Rødhals), 3 Blue Tits (Blåmejse), 2 Bearded Tits (Skægmejse), 1 Chiffchaff (Gransanger), 1 Bullfinch (Dompap)

People: Sarah Bedford, James Butcher, Molly Brown, Simon S. Christiansen, Erik Christophersen, Jørgen Kabel, Igor and Lisa Vergin


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