Cranes on China’s Helgoland, PART II

I was happy to experience a trip to Happy Island at the end of October. A 10-day trip in 2007. So far so good concerning the character of Happy Island in comparison to the vagrant hotspot Helgoland. What Helgoland does not have are resting cranes. But on Happy Island you could see a total of 4 types very well. These were, of course, above all, our “normal” Cranes, Grus grus, then White-naped Crane, Grus vipio, Red-crowned Crane, Grus japonensis, and eventually even a single Sandhill (Canada) Crane, Grus Canadensis. For the last one this was  only the third time ever that there has been an observation on Happy Island. Also Siberian Crane, Grus leucogeranus, Hooded Crane, Grus monacha and Demoiselle Crane, Anthropoides virgo have allegedly already been proven. Happy Island is considered to be (one of) the best location to watch the East Asian migration. Hope that this is true for the future, too. During my visit in 2007, extensive construction work was in progress to make the island more interesting for “normal” day trippers and to improve touristic infrastructure. Ditches and canals were dug to pedal with small boats. But, the ongoing construction work had some good advantages, too. The excavated material was used to provide quite a high hill of sand piling up in the middle of the island. This turned out to be an ideal vantage point to watch the migration of the mornings. Passing birds on eye-level (sometimes 10 meters) were a perfect experience. The derelict (but cheap) beach huts were demolished in the following year to my visit without temporary replacement. The future will show whether Happy Island can continue to be China´s Helgoland China – perhaps with better accommodation!

A nice selection of bird images of that trip can be seen in the gallery. In a different gallery you also find impression of the landscape of that nice Continue reading Cranes on China’s Helgoland, PART II

Bird migration and regional circulation in the Pantanal

Jabiru mycteria, Fazenda Ypiranga, Pocone, Mato Grosso / Brazil

Whereas long-distance bird migration for aquatic bird species is roughly understood there are other movements of birds between especially the lower Paraná River valley wetlands in Argentina, and the south Brazil/Pantanal wetlands which are far from clear.

Besides the fact, that the global patterns of Summer/ Winter north and south of the equator determines the arrival and departure of arctic migrants and Patagonian guests, there are two major inherent factors which drive birds moving in and out the Pantanal. The one is the regular change in flooding and dryness or even droughts. The other factor is the different food mix embedded in that pattern of seasonal flooding. Whereas most birds move in with the floods in September/ October others move in when the floods retreat using food resources e.g. on small pools left after the waters has covered the most part of the Pantanal.

A good example are the Jabirus, Jabiru mycteria, big storks, which are not present in the Pantanal during the flooding season. Obviously they move to higher grounds to sites outside the Pantanal area. Availability of food for the adult individuals to raise their young are the driving factor. The birds prefer low water levels, especially in lagoons and ponds, in order to obtain the food they can catch with their specialized beaks. Besides by watching for preys while walking they also hunt by tactile prey location, thanks to the sensible bill tip. The Jabiru feeds on various aquatic preys such as fish, molluscs, crustaceans, amphibians, snakes, even young caimans and insects.  They walk slowly in shallow water, regularly stabbing and pecking at preys with the bill. One of their fish species preferred are mussum fish (Symbranchus marmoratus), which can stay dormant and encapsulated in the mud throughout the dry season. They are reactivated by the humidity of the rain and start to swim again when the water rises in the rainy season. The Jabiru is a specialist in detecting and catching the dormant fish in the muddy ground of the dried ponds.

Another example of birds using the environmental conditions during the dry season are huge  concentrations in nesting sites in the gallery forest, to take advantage of the seasonal resources available. The breeding colonies are formed by hundreds of nesting birds, such as Wood stork (Mycteria americana), egrets (Snowy Egret, Egretta thula, Great White Egret, Casmerodius albus and the Capped Heron, Pilherodius pileatus) and the Roseate Spoonbill, Ajaia ajaja. In this gallery you will find some more examples of bird moving in the Pantanal or adjacent Southern Brazil or migrate to these wetlands.

In his article in Bird Conservation International, 4, „Migration and other movements among the lower Paraná River valley Continue reading Bird migration and regional circulation in the Pantanal

Lateinamerika – Symposium – 17./18. Dezember 2010 – ZFMK

The next Latin America  Symposium is held at 7th/ 8th of December 2012 in Bonn. For someone interested in topics of biology and geology in the neotropics a real must!

For those who want to present their own scientific results to a wider audience, it is possible to perform a PowerPoint presentation. Alternatively, it is possible to present scientific findings with posters. These contributions are more than welcome. Overview contributions of the latest developments in research are particularly desired. Presentation should not exceed 30 minutes. But also short papers (max. 15 min) can be presented on the following topics: tropical ecology, biogeography, vegetation science, limnology, botany, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology, ornithology plus free projects.

Posters to topics mentioned above are welcome. Posters should not exceed a height/ width of 1 m x 1 m. Presentations and posters: in German or English.

The organization office can be contacted via phone: +49 (0) 228 / 9122-237 or 9122-238. For more information see: Lateinamerika – Symposium – 17./18. Dezember 2010 – ZFMK.

Deadline: Registration and submittance of orals and posters until December 1, 2012.

Naumann´s Thrush in Estonia

During the last days one Naumann’s Thrush, Turdus naumanni, continues to stay at Kihnu, Parnumaa. This thrush is obviously one of the few records for the Western Palearctic (only the 20th record might be too pessimistic) and has been observed on the island of Kihnu in the Gulf of Riga in Estonia. The bird was found around the Kihnu lighthouse. Kihnu lighthouse situates on the most southern tip of Pitkänä. A nice report of the twitch you see in an article Finnish Birding: MEGA! Naumann´s Thrush in Estonia 19.11.2012.

On Wednesday, 21st of November, the bird was still on the above mentioned location. The thrush was not the only bird on the island. At the same day a Pine Grosbeak could be observed, too.

Naumann’s Thrush is a split from the Dusky Thrush and is a Continue reading Naumann´s Thrush in Estonia

Bird migration in late fall on Seychelles – an abstract

Escaping the cold and shorts days in Germany in late fall is a real privilege. This time the target was the Seychelles Islands. Relaxing and birdwatching is both possible on these famous island near the equator. Whereas the bigger islands as Mahé or Praslin are famous for its endemic (and rare) land birds the smaller islands are famous for huge seabird colonies where several thousands of birds breed in densely packed colonies on rocks, sandy beaches and trees. Looking mainly for western palearctic birds to complete the gallery for www.bird-lens.com the real thrill was to find migrating birds. Late fall is a perfect months as you find migrating and wintering birds side by side with the above mentioned endemics and sea birds. Birds visiting Seychelles also include a good number of Asian species which are vagrants to the western palearctic, too. Another good reason to travel to the Seychelles. But anyway, the list of all birds recorded in Seychelles is long and includes visitors from almost all over the globe. Thus one more reason to do the trip and shoulder the long flight.

During this 2-week journey at the end of October/ beginning of November it was possible to visit the bigger islands as well as small islands like Bird Island. Here we were very successful with several waders like Grey (Black-bellied) Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, Common Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula, Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos, Little Stint, Calidris minuta, Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea, as you see in that gallery.

Whereas these birds are regular visitors to coasts of the Western Palearctic too, the good numbers of both Mongolian (Lesser Sand) Plover, Charadrius mongolus, as well as the Greater Sand Plover, Charadrius leschenaultii, were a most welcomed observation. The black-and-white Crab Plover, Dromas ardeola, was another Continue reading Bird migration in late fall on Seychelles – an abstract

Siberian specialities on Bird-Lens

On the eastern edge of the western palearctic are living bird families closely related to the species you find on a regular basis in the western palearctic too. Sometimes these birds cross or touch the borders of the western palearctic only. Sometimes they occur during an influx as vagrants touching down often to islands of the western palearctic. Like the Nearctic species these birds are put on the wall especially in fall. Thus for the keen birdwatcher of western palearctic birds these species are highly though-after mega birds. To see birds like Orange-flanked Bush-Robin, Tarsiger cyanurus, Siberian Stonechat, Saxicola maurus, Grey-backed Thrush, Turdus hortulorum, Naumann’s Thrush, Turdus naumanni naumanni, Dusky Thrush, Turdus naumanni eunomus, Black-throated Thrush, Turdus ruficollis atrogularis, Red-throated Thrush, Turdus ruficollis ruficollis and Scaly Thrush, Zoothera dauma, it is advisable to go for locations on the eastern flyways like e.g. Happy Island on China´s yellow sea coast.
To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer birds of the western palearctic from science & public customers Bird-Lens is proud to present a wide range of pictures shot mainly in China. Are you interested?

A first impression you will find in the gallery here. An update of the image stock in the “Pictures Shop” is already uploaded. There you will find more than 220 pictures of various bird species often in different plumages. Just give me a message, if Bird-lens could serve you with additional requests.
Other successful shootings you can see under: http://www.bird-lens.com/photos-2/

Influx of Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) this winter?

According to discussion in EuroTwitch there is a good chance that twitchers of the north of Middle Europe can observe Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) this winter/ late fall on their homegrounds. This should be not only true for Denmark but also at least for the northern part of Germany for this autumn/winter as there are very good numbers in Finland (incl. south and west coast) with, for example, 164 observations reported within last 7 days (some undoubtedly concern same individuals but gives an indication of the abundance) from the whole of Finland. At first sight, it seems that similar numbers are being reported from Sweden and last weekend two birds were observed in the extreme south (Scania). In the “Danish Bird News” they announced the first Hawk Owl for almost 7 years already. A 1st winter individual has been seen at Store Hareskov, Copenhagen during 30th September to 8th October.

From time to time there are wintering birds far inland. Last time, I remember very well, was in 2006, when Hawk Owls could be seen in the middle of Germany 100km south of Berlin. The picture shows a vagrant bird at the former lignite opencast mine Dubrau at the Spreewald near Vetschau/ Brandenburg/ Germany on march 22nd 2006.

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic.  Trips to remote places to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. This nice image is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Pictures Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if I could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

Cranes on Happy Island, Chinas´s Helgoland, Part I

China’s Helgoland? Is there such a thing? Well, it depends on what you consider to be the specific characteristic of the “Shijiu Tuo Island” or “Bodhi Island” (in English simply “Happy Island”) mentioned island.

Shijiu Tuo Island or simple Happy Island, about 3 hours drive from the seaside resort of Beidaihe located on the Yellow Sea to the east, is at first appearance rather like one of the Northern Sea islands as Texel, Norderney or even Wangerooge. This applies both to the topography as well as the distance from the mainland. Happy Island is not an off-shore island. Therefore it only takes a small boat to bring passengers to the island – in about the same time what it takes to ship from Harlinger Siel to Wangerooge.

Beidaihe is located east of Beijing – about 300 km from the international airport.

The resort has been in the international media at the beginning of August 2012, as this year the Chinese leadership resided in this seaside town to a multi-week retreat to prepare for the upcoming change in power. Previously, the communist party retreats were held regularly in the summer in the nice place. Large parts of the state bureaucracy were carted in the hot months to Beidaihe with its convenient seaside climate. Security is of course very strict at that time but in October / November – the best time for bird migration observation – the resort is very quiet and not crowded. Perfect conditions to go for the beach or in the park adjacent to the Lotus Hills – the Lian Feng Mountain Park – to look after local and migrating birds. So far so good. But now more to Happy Island.

Happy Island at the widest point is only 1.5 kilometers wide and 3.5 kilometers long. Albeit this island offers an impressive diversity of habitats – as does Helgoland. There are grasslands, sandy beaches, small ponds, dense coastal scrub, sand dunes, shrimp ponds and – in the middle a collection of trees that could be almost called a small wood. The wood is picturesquely located right around a Buddhist temple.

The surrounding sea impresses the observer with wide mud flats at low tide. This is an excellent food area for migratory and native birds – such as our North Sea islands. Here waders as Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva), Mongolian Plover (Charadrius mongolus), Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii), Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata), Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis), Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) and Dunlin (Calidris alpina) can be seen. Rarities are Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) and finally Far Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis). One of the highlights is Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer), who is the almost annually observed. Unfortunately I draw a blank on that bird as I missed the Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), who is also a scarce passing migrant. A special feature is the observation opportunities for the otherwise very rare Saunders’s Gull (Larus saundersi) and Relict Gull (Larus relictus). Both could be photographed beautifully. So far, the impressive number of 408 species has been proven for the island, of which only 29 are valid as breeding species and 379 as migratory.

The Fall – from September to mid-November – is a very favorable season for bird watching Continue reading Cranes on Happy Island, Chinas´s Helgoland, Part I

Birds in autumn in the Comana Natural Park / Romania

Having seen a spectacular bird migration in the Macin Mountains and at the Black Sea Coast near Constanta we decided to look for birds on a different spot. Maybe not really an important migration hotspot but a wetland near the capital of Romania should be still good at the end of September.

An excellent choice. Arriving early at around 7:00h the activity of the birds were already high. The fog was still hovering over the open water dotted with sedge and reed. We stopped the car from the country road on a dam connecting the Comana village with it´s famous Comana Monastery to the neighboring villages.

Immediately we saw masses of ducks and egrets on the water. A short walk along the newly built concrete dam (thanks to aid from the European Community) gave excellent views on the wetland.

But the highlight, which drew our attention was a feeding Little Crake, Porzana parva. This time of the day was just right. We did manage to observe a single individual for almost 15 minutes – sometimes really close. But the next birds were already waiting for us. A Spotted Redshank, Tringa erythropus, was quite relaxed when we approached him carefully. Just a few meters more and we saw a young Common Nightingale, Luscinia megarhynchos, preening in the rays of the early morning sun. Beautiful images!

Another highlights were a Sedge Warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, feeding on a spider, picking him out of his net. A comrade of the Sedge Warbler was caught by a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, in the meantime. This shows, that all is within the cycle of life.

The Comana Natural Park (Romanian: Parcul Natural Comana) is a protected area situated in the southern part of Romania, on the administrativ territory of Giurgiu County. The park is located at the Neajlov Delta and is just a 40-minute drive from downtown Bucharest. More information you will find here.

Other successful shootings you can see under: www.bird-lens.com.

Parasitic Jaeger (Arctic Skuas) in Romania: a nice surprise

September is fall migration time in Romania´s Black Sea coast. Thus it is prime birdwatching time. After having seen the spectacular mass migration of Red-footed Falcon, Falco vespertinus, in an area south of the Danube Delta with its wide stretch of a sandy shoreline with shallow lagoons we arrived at the sandy beach near the little town of Vadu. A surprise was, what you see on the pictures: a slender, elegant fast flying birds with an obvious contrast in the feathers was flying close to the beach. Short after another individual appeared. Just after 2 minutes both left the immediate stretch of sandy coast to fly over the open waters of the Black Sea. Immediately we were sure, that we saw a Jaeger, a species of the Stercorarius – group. But only the examination of the images revealed: Both Skuas were indeed Arctic Skuas (alias Parasitic Jaegers in America, Stercorarius parasiticus in latin).

Here you can see more of the Jaegers in flight. Photographed in the nice countryside of Romania near the city of Constanta.

On the Avibase – Bird Checklists of the World for Romania the Parasitic Jaeger is listed without detailed comment for Romania. The Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) is regarded as a relative common species on the Romanian Black Sea coast  but only during the migration. This due to local ornithologists. But this species  is a rare vagrant for inland Romania. There is one record for Bucharest area – a few years ago. A pattern which is shown in Middle Europe, too. Some days before a Romanian birdwatcher observed a couple (maybe the same individuals we saw) just 10km to the north. Obviously Parasitic Jaeger migrate on different migration Continue reading Parasitic Jaeger (Arctic Skuas) in Romania: a nice surprise