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Road Trip!

onsdag 21. februar 2024
af James Wareing

After nearly a month of being here in Skagen, today was the first day that I ventured out further than a few kilometres. Having arrived in Denmark at night, I did not know what to expect from the rest of the country. Would it be just like Skagen or a land of febrile Vikings? But more of that later.

The day started with another beautiful full blue sky and so I decided to do a seawatch. The birds though, did not seem to have received the invitation and it was incredibly quiet. So I decided to change my plan and go for a walk instead. On my fourth attempt of trying to find the Common Kingfisher (Isfugl) that we ringed 10 days ago, I was still unsuccessful and with the slightly warmer weather it may have decided to move on. I look forward with hope to finding out where she goes next. 

There was a nice surprise of seeing two Common Cranes (Trane), potentially the pair that breed here. This, big movements of Jackdaws (Allike) and a seeming increase in the number of Common Blackbirds (Solsort), was definitely a sign of the seasons changing. There were also quite a few Crested Tits (Topmejse), which I always enjoy seeing. If ever a bird rock band was formed they would be one of the first names on the list. Either that or they look like me after I take my hat off after a long walk. 

crane

amsel

crested

In the afternoon Simon and I ventured out of Skagen. The primary reason was to see if we could find some 110 Ruddy Turnstones (Stenvender) that had been reported at Jerup Strand, but I also enjoyed to see more of the landscape here. We saw 5 (and no Vikings)....but it turned into a productive scouting mission for a potential future visit for catching and ringing birds. Snow Buntings (Snespurv), Common Ringed Plovers (Stor præstekrave) and Sanderlings (Sandløber) were also present so it may prove to be a productive spot. 

mrchristiansen

On the way back, we stopped off at the lovely Ålbæk harbour. This unfortunately produced nothing to report home on in terms of the birds and my vain attempts to find a Purple Sandpiper (Sortgrå ryle) are growing increasingly frustrating, leaving me only 11 days...Noting how short the time is left here is rather sad but I will endeavour to make the most of it before I am forced to move on. 

albaek

On that note, good night from Det Grå Fyr.

goodnight

People: James Wareing, Simon S.Christiansen

Link to today's observations from observers in the area

No such thing as bad weather

mandag 19. februar 2024
af James Wareing

I had the pleasure of being joined today by Ib Krag Petersen from Aarhus University for my Fulmar (Mallemuk) walk. Ib brought wonderful company but unfortunately no luck in finding fulmars. We did however find three more Common Guillemots (Lomvie) to collect for Ib to take back with him to the university for analysis. Again, Ib was aware of the rule that guests must bring the luck of new/exciting birds and, while not spectacular, we did see the Fuglestation's first Common Ringed Plover (Stor præstekrave) of the year.

The hunt still continues for a new left shoe for Simon S.Christiansen. I found the third right shoe in a row (perhaps the container was for a one-legged shoe shop...). The hunt is like a sequel to Cinderella, we know the person the shoe fits, we just need to find the shoe. I am not sure Disney will buy this script...

We did though find quite a few dead seals on the beach, including this blind one. Interestingly, research has shown that that seagulls target the eyeballs of baby seals to blind them and make them more vulnerable to further attacks. It could also be that it is a soft entrance point to get to the meat inside the body. 

blindseal

A 5 hour walk also provided the opportunity for a lot of conversation (like a sugar rush to my system after the recent isolation). The expected topics came up between two birders from England and Denmark: exciting birds, conservation and Brexit. 

For once, Brexit talk did not sour the mood and we must have been having so much fun as we decided to walk back to the lighthouse after our 10km beach walk. This is where the adventure began as we took a cross-country route back home. Google Maps told us that there was a path, or maybe there once was a path, or maybe it just looked like a path...but it was not a path. There is no such thing as bad weather or conditions though, just the wrong clothing. I had the wrong clothing. As you can see from the photos below, it got a little wet. Ib resorted in the end to taking his shoes off and I resigned myself to some very cold feet. Regardless of the discomfort, we felt like heroic intrepid explorers and arrived back home having conquered the moor looking soaked and not so heroic.  

explorer

Link to today's observations from observers in the area

People: James Wareing, Ib Krag Petersen and Michael Anker

Michael Anker continued his ringing efforts with the results below:

Ringing (Nordstjernevej):

Nordlig Gråsisken (Common Redpoll) - 9

Grønirisk (Greenfinch) - 3

Gulspurv (Yellowhammer) - 3

Total: 15

 

Spring is here!

lørdag 17. februar 2024
af James Wareing

Saturday may have been sandwiched between two days of rain and wind, but I am optimistically declaring the start of spring. Birds were signing, I saw my first bee, and there was even a small flock of 20 Mistle Thrushes (Misteldrossel) flying south. 

sunrise

drossel

biene

It was a day of Skagen at its best with its beautiful renowned light and blue skies a constant accompaniment as I spent nearly the entire day outside. I began with a Fulmar survey walking 10km along the beach from the lighthouse to Gammel Skagen. I had the pleasure of being joined by Alfred (he who brought us the waxwings). Alfred had very kindly made me a memento from this day (which you can compare (favourably) to my artwork below). Thank you, Alfred. 

art

Alfred's english was very impressive but at times communication was a slight hurdle. It was reassuring though to know that in most languages it seems that 'ah' and a finger point is well-understood as 'there is an exciting bird in that direction.' Occasionally though even finger pointing did not work so, inspired by my trip to Skagen Art Museum last week, I decided to draw on the sand to show Alfred where a Snow Bunting (Snespurv) was. Alfred took one look at my 'artwork', look even more confused and just found the bird himself.

art2

The walk was for me a 'half-success'; we did not find any Fulmars (Mallemuk) but did instead find 4 Common Guillemots (Lomvie). We also found a right shoe in Simon Christiansen's size so the hunt is now on for the left one. For Alfred the day was an unqualified success with two new birds for him. If there is something more satisfying than finding a new bird yourself it may well be finding one for somebody else. We added to Alfred's already very impressive list with Black-legged Kittiwake (Ride) and Brant Goose (Knortegås). 

youngandold

Birders young and old

In the afternoon, I took advantage of the lovely weather for another leisurely walk. There were not too many birds about, but I did see some Bullfinches (Dompap) rather close and there were 106 Greater White-fronted Geese (Blisgås) flying over.

gimpel2

Bulllfinch (Dompap)

swan

Mute Swan (Knopsvane)

Just as I was nearing home I heard the squealing of a baby pig. Instinct told me that reedbeds were not the habitat of farmyard animals and that could only mean one thing, Water Rails (Vandrikse). This sound is as comical as they are hard to find, so I enjoyed 20 minutes scanning the reeds to catch a glimpse of them. In my excitement at a movement from a reed I inched forward a step too far and the water crept into both my walking boots. Despite me declaring it spring, the water has not warmed since my swim last weekend, but birding is not about glamour but the glory of finding exciting birds. Unfortunately, I left without either glamour or glory....

leuchturm

Whether returning back with glamour, glory or neither, it does not matter when you can call here home

Link to today's observations from observers in the area

People: James Wareing, Alfred Godsk Geckler and Michael Anker

Michael Anker also continued his ringing efforts with the results below:

Ringing (Jennes Sø):

Lille Gråsisken (Lesser Redpoll) - 1

Nordlig Gråsisken (Common Redpoll) - 12

Ringing (Nordstjernevej):

Nordlig Gråsisken (Common Redpoll) - 15

Grønirisk (Greenfinch) - 3

Kvækerfinke (Brambling) - 1

Total: 32

Alfred the Great

torsdag 15. februar 2024
af James Wareing

The day started with a rather quiet seawatch. The fog was persistent on the horizon and did its best to hide whatever was out there. I could only let my imagination conjure up Albatrosses, Shearwaters and Eagles, but for the checklists they apparently do not count. Alas, instead I was left with a few Common Guillemots (Lomvie), Common Scoters (Sortand) and Common Eiders (Ederfugl). 

Fogfog

Redflag

This was perhaps the first red flag that it may not be the best day for birding

We had the pleasure of another visitor to the station today, with 11 year-old Alfred joining Simon and me to go and feed the gulls. Birding is usually the domain of the slightly greyer haired (I am allowed to say that with my own silver streaks multiplying by the day), so to have someone as young as Alfred to keen was a pleasure. The gulls came eagerly to the food but none of them unfortunately had a ring. A desperate search of every corner of the harbour to find something to impress Alfred with could only yield a Little Grebe (Lille lappedykker). They are a nice little bird but not one to write home (or a blog post) about. 

Alfred though was clearly well aware of the tradition that new visitors bring special birds and he left his surprise until the end. Skagen town centre is not usually the place where you are on the highest alert for birds, especially not outside Lidl, but fortunately a birder's eyes are never at rest. In a non-descript tree by the side of the road were 36 Bohemian Waxwings (Silkehale). I have already called a few birds cool, so have not left myself much room for literary manoeuvre, but these birds are really cool.

WAX1

WAX2

WAX3

I have only seen them once before, as they only make it to the south of England (where I am from) every ten years or so. They tend to come in big groups, raiding fruit trees for a few days/weeks and then moving on. What I particularly like about them, aside from their appearance, is that they can turn up in the most random locations. You rarely need to go to a nature reserve or a field in the middle of nowhere to see Waxwings. Instead they are quite happy turning up in car parks, city centres and front gardens. We were delighted and spent a pleasurable 15 minutes watching them feed before they flew away in the direction of the cemetry.   

Alfred

One very happy young birder

Alfred2

A birder photographing a birder, who is photographing a birder, who is photographing a bird

Alfred continued to make us feel old, by documenting our sightings on his Instagram page. Meanwhile, I am sitting here in the analogue age, writing a blog post that may or may not be read by my mum and a few Skagen Fuglestation diehards. Anyway, as I often tell my dad, there are few things worse than an old man trying too hard to be young, so I shall stay loyal to my blog. 

Michael Anker gave an effort in ringing birds in the misty weather.

Link to todays observations from observers in the area

People: James Waering, Alfred Godsk Geckler and Simon S. Christiansen, Michael Anker

Ringing (Jennes Sø):

Musvit  (Great Tit) - 1

Ringing (Nordstjernevej):

Grønirisk (Greenfinch) - 6

Bogfinke (Chaffinch) - 1

Stor Gråsisken (Mealy Redpoll) - 2

Total: 10

 

Valentine's Day in Skagen

onsdag 14. februar 2024
af James Wareing

Could there be anything more romantic on Valentine's Day than going birding before coming back home to a candlelit dinner? When I add that this is all alone, I struggle to think of an alternative and I am sure my partner would agree...I have been kept company over the past two days instead by the birdies of Skagen, who were starting to come out in higher numbers as the snow melts away. 

detgragyr

I started the day with a seawatch, overlooking what seemed like more of a pond than a winter sea. This certainly makes for more pleasurable birdwatching as birds do not appear for a second before disappearing behind a wave for the following 15 seconds. The only observation of note was a Long-tailed Duck (Havlit), which was 'showing well' in the parlance of birders. Fittingly for today there was also a Red-breasted Merganser (Toppet skallesluger) couple who wondered close to shore. They rarely stuck together though and often dived at different times, perhaps not yet in the spirit of the day. 

merganser

Mr Merganser, questioning his life choices

The weather brightened up yesterday afternoon showing Skagen in its full glory. I took advantage my going for a walk looking for some non-seabirds for a change. There were some nice finds, including a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Spurvehøg) and some Bullfinches (Dompap) who teasingly came close enough for photographs but insisted on a mesh of twigs in the foreground to blur them (perhaps they had artistic effect in mind). 

sparrowhawk

Mrs Sparrowhawk, alone this Valentine's Day

gimpel

Mr Bullfinch, dressed for the occassion 

I also managed to get a photo of a bird that I very rarely do. This has nothing to do with it being rare, in fact the opposite, it is too common to often think it worth closely observing. There is also someone I know who will always appreciate a photo of a Common Woodpigeon (Ringdue) happy Valentine's Day....

ringeltaube

Link to todays observations from observers in the area

People: James Wareing

Ice

søndag 11. februar 2024
af James Wareing

My solitude in the lighthouse was interrupted over the weekend by the visitor of a former volunteer Esben and his friend (also Esben). They were a pleasure to have here, bringing both lovely food and company.

There seems to be an unwritten law here that when a new birder comes, they bring luck on their first visit out. My first seawatch with Knud produced a Sooty Shearwater (Sodfarvet skråpe), so I was keen to find out what the Esbens could offer. We set out at night, armed with a net, thermal scope and flashlight to see what birds we would find. The thermal scope is a seriously cool piece of equipment, betraying the presence of any life by its body-heat. It feels almost like cheating! Within two minutes we had found a Common Kingfisher (Isfugl), and managed to catch it, place it in a bag in order to take it back and ring it.

This is only the third time the station has ringed a kingfisher and so we called Simon so he could come and take part. We met Simon with his car parked at the side of the road, as I (with only my eyes uncovered) handed him over the bag. If the police were observing, this would have seemed like the most obvious illegal activity and our explanation that it was only a bird would have been laughed at. Fortunately, the police are rarely to be seen here.

It was a real treat to take it back and measure and observe it closely. They are always a delight to see in the wild with their vibrant blue colours so to see one so close up was special. This female has been here since November and, if she does move on elsewhere, we are excited to see where she will turn up. As a side note, you can tell it is a female by the lower half of their bill which is orange (the male's is black). To remember, just think of it as lipstick. Another fun fact...the Danish, Dutch and German name for the Common Kingfisher literally translates as 'ice bird.' This is a bit of a misnomer though, as they can also be found as faraway (geographically and climatically) as Papua New Guinea. It is also a little strange given that they depend on getting their food from water, so when it is frozen, they have to go elswhere or starve...

Kingfisher1

Kingfisher2

Kingfisher3

Kingfisher4

The next day, the Esbens decided that what would be a really fun thing to do, would be to go for a quick dive into the sea. Always wanting to be a part of the culture I am in living in, I had no choice to agree. So we stripped down to shorts and ran barefoot across the snow into the water. I have a self-imposed rule that, whenever I go into the water, I have to be fully submerged for it to 'count.' I can report that it was 'fresh' (which means 3/4 degrees) but warmed myself with the knowledge that, according to Esben, it is 'good for the immune system.'

Unfortunately, the Esbens have now left, which means no more swimming, but I am very much looking forward to whatever luck and experiences the next visitors bring.

Link to todays observations from observers in the area

People: James Wareing and the Esbens

Ringing (Batteriskoven):

Isfugl (Kingfisher) - 1

The difference between the English and the Danish

lørdag 10. februar 2024
af James Wareing

There is no need for a report on the weather here today, because you can all understand the theme by now. 

waves

Today's seawatch was not as productive as yesterday in terms of numbers (not aided by half the sea being covered in fog), but it did produce a new bird for me. This was a Little Auk (Søkonge), which was a very nice surprise whizzing close to the shore. My bird app describes their size as similar to that of a grapefruit, so for those of you who have not seen a Little Auk before, just imagine a flying black and white grapefruit. I was also very excited to see an Atlantic Puffin (Lunde). This was another bird that I had always wanted to see and my excitement warmed me until I got home. However, on closer analysis with Simon, he informed me that what I had seen was probably just a Guillemot or a Razorbill (Lomvie or Alk) and my first puffin will have to wait....So there are no cute puffin photos, we will just have to make do with Common Gulls (Stormmåge) instead. 

Stormmage2Stormmage

Rolf Christiansen very astutely pointed out on Facebook yesterday that only 1 of the 100 local birders (1%) was out birding yesterday (and that was him). He makes a very good point, the weather was indeed windy, cold and more conducive to staying inside. However, by my quick maths, 100% of the English birders in Skagen were out birding yesterday. The only logical conclusion is that the English are perhaps a little tougher than the Danish...*runs for cover*. 

Birding today reminds me of a quote from a Olympic gold medallist, Daley Thompson (from England), who said that he trains twice on Christmas Day because he knows that he has gained two training sessions on his rivals. Perhaps, the Little Auk is what I gained today...

Link to todays observations from observers in the area

People: James Wareing

Super Ice

fredag 9. februar 2024
af James Wareing

Yesterday's radio silence was brought about by a large amount of snow falling on Wednesaday night (around 3cm). When Simon explained to me that February is the quiet/cold/wet/snowy month for the observatory and did I really still want to come, this is what I excitedly signed up for...I can now understand why most people just sit and wait comfortably until spring! But their loss is my gain, and Skagen under a blanket of snow is particularly beautiful, if only now a little colder. 

snowview

The birds though do not seem to mind and put on a nice display this morning as I did my seawatch. There were high numbers of Common Guillemots (Lomvie) as close to 2000 were seen over the course of two hours. Also present in hight numbers were Common Scoters (Sortand) and Black-legged Kittiwakes (Ride). The gulls in particular, were often quite close to shore, which gave me a good excuse to move my feet and try and take some photographs. The wind (or at least I blame the wind) ruined a few of my photographs but a couple turned out ok.  

kitti

Ride (Black-legged Kittiwake)

ederfugl

Common Eider (Edderfugl)

hg4

Herring Gull (Sølvmåge)

gbbg

Great Black-backed Gull (Svartbag)

For those of you less familiar with a seawatch, this involves watching and counting all the birds you can see flying over the sea in hourly intervals, usually using a scope. Despite the cold, it is actually a rather civilised affair, and I was able to enjoy a nice armchair and listen to a podcast at the same time. At least it may seem cosy from the first view. The second photo shows the birder/criminal/both himself, I will let the reader decide. 

chair

birder

As my reference point on the horizon I had a ship at anchor that was appropriately named Super Ice, as if to remind me of just how my feet were feeling at all times. Arctic Lady was also at anchor nearby, just to reinforce the message. I am hoping Tropical Islander will be sailing here tomorrow to give me some warmer vibes (although that is currently near South Korea, so is probably unlikely). 

superice

Tomorrow apparently brings more snow and maybe the day after that and the day after that, with a bit more snow forecasted for the following day too...Regardless, you know where to find me; sitting on a beach in my armchair watching the birds (it sounds idyllic at least!). 

scene

Link to todays observations from observers in the area

People: James Wareing

Everything White (/Grey)

onsdag 7. februar 2024
af James Wareing

Today's blog is dedicated to the colour white and variants of it (bear with me, this is going somewhere...). It started looking rather gloomy under heavy clouds but ended with sunshine and two new species for me, so an unqualified success!

I took advantage of some lovely light around midday to take a walk across the moor, which was drizzled in a small helping of snow. The moor at this time of year is beautiful, with the goldeny yellow of the grass complementing the low winter sun. It rather reminds me of home in England but has the fortune of having significantly fewer dogs.

moormoor2

The birds however were generally very quiet. A few Crested Tits (Topmejse) betrayed themselves with their song but did not submit to being photographed, which is a shame because they are a cool bird and one I have only seen on one other occassion. 

Just as I was about to head back I spotted a white blob on top of a tree. I am used to seeing many white blobs in the corner of my eye here, I call them gulls. Gulls though, my instinct told me, do not sit on trees, so a closer look was needed. I was very excited by what appeared in my binoculars, a bird I had always wanted to see, a Great Grey Shrike (Stor Tornskade). Shrikes are particularly cool birds; their scientific family name is derived from the Latin word for "butcher". This is because of their habit of impaling prey onto spikes of branches/thorns to save for later and show the females just how good a hunter they are. They are not too commonly seen here, so this was an exciting find. Unfortunately, I was only able to get a rather distant photograph so I am hoping it stays around for a photoshoot tomorrow. 

shrikey

In the afternoon, Simon and I went to Skagen harbour to feed the gulls. The gulls were very happy with our offering of white bread and quickly around 200 flocked to greet us. The Common Eiders (Ederfugl), were less impressed with our offering and stayed far away (maybe they prefer wholemeal with a few seeds....)

gullmadness

HG2

HG3

Eiders

There was thinking to this madness and we managed to find two ringed gulls to record. When we returned to the lighthouse we recorded these and found they were originally from Norway. 

ring2

ring1

Amongst all this gull madness was the last present of the day, a Caspian Gull (Kaspisk måge) was to be found amongst the multitude of Herring Gulls (Sølvmåge). To those of you who do not know their gulls, you may ask: 'Well how did you know it was a Caspian Gull and not a Herring Gull?'. Well, the answer is; I was with Simon and Simon knows his gulls very well. On reflection, I can now see that it stands out from the others but I am indebted to Simon for first finding it. 

caspian

And so ends another day in paradise, not quite Papua New Guinea, but I think it will do all the same. 

Today’s observations in Dofbasen from observers in the area

People: James Wareing (with help from Simon Christiansen) 

 

Snow Snow Snow

tirsdag 6. februar 2024
af James Wareing

This morning I spent a couple of hours observing the seabirds with the lovely Knud, who is always very generous with his time in helping volunteers like me. The weather is now not as windy, but as you can see from the birder and forecast below, it has turned ever so slightly colder. It certainly felt that way sitting in the sand dunes with the wind in our faces. Fortunately, Knud informed me that we currently have the best weather in Denmark, so I guess I should be grateful.

forecast

birder

The birds certainly seemed to be thankful for the high winds to have stopped and we were rewarded for our commitment with over 3000 Guillemots (Lomvien) in just two hours flying through (mainly to the north-west). Along with the usual seabirds, 63 Canada Geese (Canadagåsen) were also seen flying north, perhaps escaping the Danish weather and two Mute Swans (Knopsvanen) arrived in Denmark from the north, probably regretting their decision.

One notable absentee was a Gannet (Morus), which we did not see for the entire first hour. As soon as Knud noted this to me, we saw one within the next few minutes. I optimistically then announced that we had not seen an albatross (Albatrosser) yet, but maybe the ability to call in birds is reserved only for bird-whispers like Knud.

I am glad to report that beaches do not just wash up plastic. What is without life can still be full of life, as a dead harbour porpoise (Marsvin) had provided a good feed to the gulls. We also found a dead Herring Gull (Sølvmåge) which had been ringed in the South of Norway five years ago.   

We escaped just in time before the snow started and I now write watching the snow gust past my window. This is certainly one of life’s more satisfying feelings, knowing you are warm and cosy inside (and not a bird). I think it will remain that way for the rest of today.

snow

Link to todays observations from observers in the area

People: James Wareing

 


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