At the beginning of February, together with my girlfriend, we found a new place to explore. It was the Stubbe Sø Lake at about an hour drive from where we live and that has a protected area maintained by a nature protection organization. In the protected area they have left the forest untouched except for a small trail along which thieve installed birdhouses. They also feed the small birds in one spot and recently they had built a photo blind at a bird drinking station which is the first thing done for photographers that I know of, in Denmark. Going there that day was defiantly the best thing I could have done since I have spotted 2 new species that I wished to see for a long time and I got my best picture to this day.
Ever since I have first spotted the Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) few months before this trip, without any chance of photographs, I have made a promise to myself that I would find and photograph them. Every time I would go to social media I would have seen at least a picture with the long-tailed tit and my ambition grew bigger and bigger. When I’ve seen that at this place were reported some sights a few days ago I knew that I want to go there. I could not believe my eyes when I saw and photographed the first one that day, I was so absorbed in trying to get a good shot and just enjoying them that I didn’t pay attention to my girlfriend that was trying to tell me that she is spotting another more elusive animal. This little angels, as I like to call them, are only 13–15 cm in length, including its 7–9 cm tail, have round-bodies and a very long, narrow tail. There appearance when flying gave them the nickname ,,the flying lollipop’’. They also have an interesting behavior, when the nest of a pair fails they will become helpers for another, usually related, pair. From this, they get different benefits like the experience of successfully raising chicks. In one study, around 50% of nests had one or more helpers. Cool, right?
Another bird that I wanted to see for quite a while but I thought I had small chances because of the small size, good camouflage and not being so noisy, is the Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris). While I was tracking the Long-tailed Tits I’ve noticed this small bird moving on the tree trunk and once I’ve got it in the viewfinder I’ve confirmed it’s the Treecreeper. One more bird that looks like a small ball and has long rigid tail fathers and a long decurved bill. The name of this bird suggests the way it climbs up the trees like a mouse in search of insects. It does not come down the trees head down like the nuthatch, instead, it flies to the base of another tree.
When we arrived at the edge of the lake, my girlfriend and I turned in different spots for exploring. She was lucky enough to spot what it looked like a polecat and told me about it but I was certain that it was a super lucky sighting and didn’t give any chance of seeing it again. The second time she spotted it I was near her and she was quietly shouting for me to look but I was so caught in photographing my first Long-tailed tits and Treecreepers that I thought I better stay and photograph what I have been again certain that the mustelid will quickly disappear and I risk losing all my subjects. I regretted not lessening to her after she told me that the small carnivore was curious and spend a minute or two checking her out so I have decided for the rest of the day just to hang around that spot and see if I’m lucky. Almost at the end of the day, the American Mink (Neovison vison) came back to that spot with a part of her fur dirty and start rubbing on a tree. She was so obsessed with cleaning her fur that she spent a few minutes just rubbing against the tree truck giving me the opportunity to take photos and even videos. After a while, she decided to retreat to the nest and gave me the opportunity to take what has become my favorite picture and one of my favorite memories. I cannot describe to you the moment when I saw that frame and I have seen the result on the back of my screen. The whole experience of being around a mink was surreal but managing to capture a good photo it is a huge extra, it is the reason wildlife photographers get addicted to this hobby or even job. Unfortunately, the American Mink is an invasive species in Europe with implications in the declines of the European Mink, Pyrenean Desman and Water vole populations. Close to this lake there are some mink fur farms, which I cannot believe they still exist to this day, so this one is probably an escaped one giving the fact that it didn’t seem disturbed by our presence. There are many more to say about the minks but I don’t want to make the articles too long so I will hopefully photography it again and share more information’s than.
While waiting to see if the mink would show up, two Goosander (Mergus merganser) appeared on the lake. I later identified them to be two females and because they were too far and shaded by the sun I did not manage to get good pictures of them so I have added one of a couple from another day and lake. The Goosander is a large duck that eats fish and nests in holes in trees. For nesting, they require mature forests or they can also use nest boxes when provided which need to have an entrance hole of 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter. Immediately after hatching the ducklings are taken by their mother in her bill to rivers or lakes, where they feed on invertebrates and small fish fry.
On our way two the lake as well as a return I’ve photographed some Marsh Tits (Poecile palustris) foraging in the trees. It is small (around 12 cm long and weighing 12 g) with pale cheeks, a black nape and crown, brown back and grayish-brown wings and tail. It is one of the birds whose name does not reflect their habits; in this case, the marsh tit occurs in a range of habitats including dry woodland. Marsh and willow tits are difficult to identify on appearance alone, good thing that where I found them the willow tit is not present so I can be certain.
That’s all the species that I found that day but many more than I usually find in a week and, man, what species and what memories…
I will continue with one more species that I found on a walk at one of the local lakes and it is one of my favorite species of corvids to watch and photograph. It wasn’t the first time to see the Western Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula) but it was the first time I got good pictures of them. I found this couple perched in the top of a tree being gentle with each other. Males and females pair-bond for life and pairs stay together within flocks. Their distinctive pale-gray irises fascinate me and sometimes hypnotize me. Jackdaws have a social hierarchy in their flocks and it is determined by supplanting, fighting or threat displays. The interesting fact is that pair-bonded birds share the same rank and the unpaired females are the lowest members in the pecking order. Once they’ve paired, the females assume the same social position as her partner which got his before pairing. One case was noted in which a male that was absent during the dominance struggles returned to the flock and became the dominant male. After choosing one unpaired female for a mate, the female immediately assumed a dominant position in the social hierarchy.
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For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look at INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.