Saturday, May 25, 2013

In the nick of time

I left Norway in the nick of time. Though my last night in Norway was fantastic with no wind or rain, things were different when I arrived in Hirtshals in Denmark. The cold weather that had been predicted had arrived. By the time I disembarked from the ferry in Hirtshals, the wind was howling followed by buckets of rain. While the next day seemed fine as I followed the bike trail down the west coast, I was in for a surprise. During my second night in Denmark it snowed. Not much, perhaps only an inch at the campsite where I over-nighted, but the landscape became whiter as I cycled towards the city of Thisted. The cycle path was covered in snow and only occasional stretches between major towns had been swept clear; the off-the-beaten-track trails would not be serviced for a while, if at all (it was after all early winter when no sane person would be cycling these routes!). 

The cycle route on Denmark's west coast actually follows the beach for about 10 km.

Trampled snow and ice making cycling a challenge.

The cold snap put a damper on my birding efforts in Denmark, as I grew increasing worried that I would not make it to Germany in time to catch a flight back to South Africa. I looked at my options of taking a bus or train should things turn out for the worst, and then just pedalled and hoped for the best. I passed the lakes of Vejlerne Nature Reserve in northern Jutland to get an impression of the area. Hundreds of ducks and large flocks of Lapwings occupied the open waters and frozen mudflats respectively. I could see the area had huge potential, given more time. I wished it was summer!

Just follow the cycle path and all will be fine!

Not the best conditions for cycling, especially when in a hurry!

A bird hide in the Vejlerne Nature Reserve in Denmark's northern Jutland.

I continued my slow progress along the snowed-up cycle paths, and occasionally sneaked onto the main roads when things got too tough. At the saltmarshes at Agger Tange, in the southern parts of National Park Thy, there were scores of birds including Coots, Mallards, Goldeneyes, Lapwings, Black-headed Gulls, Mute Swans, Oystercatchers, Whimbrels, Eurasian Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwits, and Greylag Geese. Raptors such as Common Buzzard and Rough-legged Buzzard were regularly seen.

A large Barnacle Goose flock on the grasslands of Denmark's west coast.

I was making good progress despite the snow, and fairly easily made my way to southern Denmark following the west coast. The snow eased up in places, and almost seemed to be non-existent, but never for too long. South of Fjand the grasslands held large migrating flocks of Barnacle Goose. On Romo Island the mudflats held Common Shelducks, and the occasional Brent Goose. Cycling around the island, I also found Skylark, Pink-footed Goose, Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Rough-legged Buzzard, Twite, Pintail, and Snow Bunting. 

Sunrise in Denmark, with the snow easing up for a change.

After Romo it was only a four-day cycle to Hamburg; I had made it with a couple days to spare. I spent the spare time with family, who kindly hosted me until I caught my flight back to South Africa. Though my trip through Denmark was rushed, I hope to return someday in the summer! So after four and a half months since starting in Norway on 18 July, I had seen 183 bird species of which 80 were new to me (lifers). I had missed quite a few, but that means I have a reason to go back! For now I was looking forward to a hot summer in South Africa before returning for some more adventure cycle touring. 

A frozen pond in Germany.

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