The Birds, thus far, of Copenhagen

The Royal Swans at the Kastellet, which I think is a small castle, but also gets called the Citadel. From the air, it's star-shaped with raised battlements and a moat with swans. These are this morning's sketches of the two parents and their 5 ugly duckling cygnets. Sorry about the unscanned sketch. Pencil in Moleskine sketchbook, photographed with iPhone.
The Royal Swans at the Kastellet, which isn’t Danish for “small castle”, but translates to The Citadel. From the air it looks like a star. A moat around it hosts a family of mute swans; these are the morning’s sketches of the two parents and their 5 cygnets, born this spring. Pencil in Moleskine sketchbook, photographed with an iPhone. Sorry, no scanner.

I haven’t run up much of a bird list here in Copenhagen. The city habitat is a little heavy on stone and masonry, so whatever lives around here must love rooftops and manicured parks. That narrows the list to pigeons (rock and wood, how appropriate), corvids (hooded crows, jackdaws and magpies), and a few gulls (common black-headed, herring, great black-backed) around the wharf. This week we’ve been busy with official business: finding fruit stands and cheesemongers, learning how to navigate cobbled streets and shampoo-purchasing, filling out forms. Birds create a playful diversion. Living in the attic apartment, we can stick our heads out of the roof windows, and sometimes, birds whoosh past at nearly arm’s length.

Wood pigeon on the chimney, swifts (Apus apus) high above them. The view from my writing desk. Pencil in Moleskine sketchbook.
Wood pigeon on the chimney, swifts (Apus apus) high above. It’s the view from the writing desk where I’m sitting at the moment. Pencil in Moleskine sketchbook. Those are my fingers at the bottom of the page, holding the pages open.

Below us, Nyhavn (New Harbor) is awhirl with crowds of diners and drinkers clinking glasses at little tables. A strolling accordionist squeezes “Moon River” and “A Time For Us” while herring gulls and magpies lunge at dropped smorrebrod. Today I watched an unleashed chihuahua bury a bone under a tree in a city park as a hooded crow stood by. When the dog’s back was turned, the crow snagged the prize from the dirt and flew away. They are adaptable, those birds, those that can adapt.

A Jackdaw, a pigeon-sized corvid with lots of charisma. This one seems to have found the roof tiles below the window amusing. Drawn from, maybe, six feet away, out the window. Pencil in Moleskine sketchbook.
Jackdaw, a garrulous, pigeon-sized corvid with charisma. This one seems to be amused by the Nyhavn tourists below. Sketched from, maybe, six feet away, with my head stuck out the window. Pencil in Moleskine sketchbook, 5″ x 8″

As long as we’re in the city, I’ll be looking at the vast possibilities of other things, too: bicycle traffic flow patterns and rider fashions, sketching gruesome statues and 19th century tall ships, people on the street. The birds of Copenhagen, however, squeeze into the human ecosystem with not a lot of room to spare. They breed in castle moats and shaved yew hedges; their wings sweep green spires and chimney tops. And that’s where you’ll find me: sticking my head up above the roof tiles, watching the jackdaws play.

Happy Friday.

Wonderful Copenhagen: the evening view from our little apartment on Nyhavn.
Wonderful Copenhagen: the evening light on candy-colored houses, taken from the window of our little Nyhavn apartment.



10 thoughts on “The Birds, thus far, of Copenhagen

  1. Alan Medak says:

    I really respect your patience to sit, concentrate and draw. I have a hard time doing those things, but when I do I like the drawings I end up with. Your work definitely inspires me to get going on a project.
    We were in Denmark a year ago and found a lot of old military works, ponds and trees just up behind the Little Mermaid. I guess that is northeast of downtown. We went on to ride bikes up the east coast and all around Zealand, mostly near the coast. It would be worth a drive for you to see some of these coastal areas. Denmark is a beautiful country.

    1. zeladoniac says:

      A bike ride up the coast is high on the list of things to do- it really is a beautiful country. Thanks for the note!

  2. alanbaggs says:

    Interesting to see you tackling a bird familiar to me here in the UK. I read somewhere that crows, and particularly Jackdaws are as good as it gets on the avian evolutionary tree, what with all their physical abilities and high intelligence and all…
    Great post.

  3. Kathie says:

    It all looks so interesting and inviting. do you know the song, “Wonderful Copenhagen?” I do not know if that is the title but I know it is part of the chorus that I can now hear playing in my head. I am wondering if the song is from that Danny Kaye musical about Hans Christian Anderson, or some other musical I saw as a young girl.

    1. zeladoniac says:

      It’s from the Danny Kaye musical- and it’s in my head, too. I’m trying to replace it with “Inchworm”. Honestly, it’s a sweet movie (Danny Kaye is great casting) but it’s pretty far on the fictitious side. The music is wonderful, no question.

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