Category Archives: Posts in English

Cricket Longtail sightings in northern Cameroon

SchuppenkopfprinieThe Cricket Warbler or Cricket Longtail (Spiloptila clamans) is another excellent contribution to the portfolio of Western Palearctic birds for bird-lens.com. Although only recently encountered inside the boundary of the Western Palearctic this cute, small bird native to the Sahel region is highly welcome.

In April 2017, bird-lens.com went on a Rockjumper-tour to bird northern Cameroon. Coming from Waza NP on 10th of April, we arrived at Mora by early morning. The fields for birds were along the road just a few kilometres north of Mora. The small agriculture is done on a very sandy place. First the much-wanted Quail Plover or Lark Buttonquail (Ortyxelos meiffrenii) was on everybody’s mind, and we turned our attention to this species first. Although we started our walk at 7:15 AM, a long, hot walk expected us. Soon we were striding purposefully across the parched Sahelian landscape. We had to work hard, lining up and scanning the area. First we saw a Scissor-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii) circling low over our hats, a handful of Black-headed Lapwing (Vanellus tectus) and good numbers of Black Scrub-Robins (Cercotrichas podobe).

Shortly after we spotted a very smart pair of Cricket Longtail in the low, thorny shrubbery. A short while after, another single Cricket Longtail was noted; it was restless and moved from one Continue reading Cricket Longtail sightings in northern Cameroon

Cameroon: bird photography on a guided birding tour

KrokodilwächterThe Birdlife of West Africa was on the schedule for April 2017. I decided for the Africa specialist Rockjumper. Cameroon is a vast and diverse land; lying just north of the equator. This bird-rich nation forms the inter-grade between West and Central Africa and harbors a wide range of habitats, ranging from steamy lowland rainforest to Sahelian semi-desert.

By combining the Rainforest & Rockfowl tour with the Northern Extension tour of the Africa-specialist Rockjumper I was confident to book a birding tour that visits all of the area’s core ecological zones and provides a thorough coverage of this West Africa birding destination in three-weeks. Due to its wealth of habitats, over 900 bird species have been recorded, and comparable tours had been successful with roughly 550 species. This is the one side. But how about bird photography – my 2nd leg of interest.

Here the guidelines provided by Rockjumper are clear: NOTE FOR Continue reading Cameroon: bird photography on a guided birding tour

Hartlaub’s Duck near Douala in southern Cameroon

HartlaubenteHigh on the list of a Rockjumper-trip in Cameroon was the Hartlaub’s Duck  (Pteronetta hartlaubii). We found four on the morning going to the Sanaga River, Cameroon in April 2017. Probably they were 2 pairs in the area.

On the road from Douala to Yaoundé lies the remnant of a lake that has grown to a small, shallow pond. Probably the construction of the road has cut off the access between the water source and the lake. The lake is already fairly grown but looks still quite close to a natural habitat despite the proximity to the city. Maybe this small pond was formed by former flooding by the nearby river. Just in the early morning some very nice birds are to be found here. And promptly I have my fist liver. And it is a megabird. A male of a Hartlaub’s Duck is floating in the shallow water. Its partner is also to be seen. Then one of the Hartlaub’s ducks flies up, revealing the beautiful wing badges, which are so typical of this species. A very inconspicuous African Pygmy-goose (Nettapus auritus) floats in the water as well. In the further course there are 2 more Hartlaub’s Duck, this time swimming together with – in total – 4 African Pygmy-goose to see. In the further course, the Hartlaub’s Ducks fly a few more times. Of the 30 flight shots, 3 are acceptable enough, to be Continue reading Hartlaub’s Duck near Douala in southern Cameroon

Tree Pipit: back from Africa

BaumpieperA remembrance of a song, beautiful and both familiar and strange. It took a while until I got the clue. It was a Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) singing in a woodland in the heath on sunday. Singing now south of Berlin, seen 20 days ago in Cameroon. There the subspecies trivialis was still fairly common near the Ngaoundaba Ranch on the Adamawa Plateau of middle Cameroon in the beginning of April. Other migrant WP-birds were Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Great Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and many Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra).

The Tree Pipit is a small passerine bird which breeds across most of Europe. It is an nondescript species, similar to the Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). The Tree Pipit is brown with streakings above and has black markings on a white belly and buff breast below. It can be distinguished from the slightly smaller Meadow Pipit by its heavier bill and greater contrast between its buff breast and white belly. Tree pipits more readily perch in trees in comparison Continue reading Tree Pipit: back from Africa

Black Jacobin in the Itatiaia NP/ Rio de Janeiro

TrauerkolibriWhite flashes on the tail of an almost completely black bird is hovering in the air. Not far from me, a hummingbird is feeding on a nectar stick. The ornitologist and German naturalist Helmut Sick described the Black Jacobin (Florisuga fusca) as abundant and the most frequent species of hummingbird in Macai de Cima (or Macaé de Cima), near Nova Friburgo in the state Rio de Janeiro.

After my 2nd visit to to the Itatiaia NP near the village of Penedo, district of Itatiaia (RJ), I would like to say that the abundance of this hummingbird species in the Rio de Janeiro summer can be observed here in “little Finlandia”, and it is also known that this is a  quiet and funny place – here where is located a Continue reading Black Jacobin in the Itatiaia NP/ Rio de Janeiro

Observation site for spring migration on the river Oder

SchwanzmeiseAfter having presented protected nature areas in the Havellaendisches Luch or the Guelper See, a recent blog was dealing with the Oder valley in general and The National Park Lower Oder especially. The National Park protects a flood plain, the last still intact in large parts of the estuary of Central Europe.

A rainy, cloudy Sunday led me to the river Oder. Having refueled with gasoline and a Breakfast from a gas station I decided going to Criewener polder south of Schwedt. Criewen is a small village only 3 km south of the industrial city of Schwedt and roughly 100km north-east of Berlin. The car I parked just in front the bridge on the western side channel of the Oder. I grabbed the tripod, spotting scope and the Canon 4.0 / 400 DO from the car. So I walked up to a bench not far from the crossing between the entry road from the village of Criewen and the dike. Here you really an impressive view over the whole polder with riparian woods and wide Continue reading Observation site for spring migration on the river Oder

Black Grouse on leks in the snowy spring of Finland

BirkhuhnNature photographers, who visit the snow-capped central Finland in early April, might observe a very special natural event: the mating display of the Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix).  If you want to take pictures of the mating display, you should go to Scandinavia for nature conservation reasons alone. For the last remnants of domestic populations the stress of photography is too high.

You have to get up early in order to get a good night’s sleep in the stable, well-insulated wooden cabinets with mattresses and old sleeping bags before daybreak. In the hiding place you have to be completely calm. Gradually, the cocks come closer to the snow-capped plain. A sound makes the presence of the cocks divine; It is a quiet cooing to hear.

In the morning dawn the first cocks of Black Grouse appear on the mating grounds . They announce their arrival with vigorous hissing. Then they begin to walk back and forth with little tripple steps. The wings grind deeply over the ground. They make rolling sounds. With sounds like this: “Kuluku -Lulluku -Kulluku”.

30 cocks run in front of the hiding places in quite a narrow area. If they come close to imaginary limits, they take an imposition. For two or three, they walk along the border parallel to the border. In such moments, they call particularly loudly. They try to force the opponent to turn back. Both cocks are hissing and spitting sounds when they try to persuade the opponent to repent. The images in the gallery show the vigorous fights of the Black Grouse cocks.

All this takes place according to a fixed “ritual”. If none of the Continue reading Black Grouse on leks in the snowy spring of Finland

Remarks to wintering Solitary Sandpipers (Tringa solitaria) in the Pantanal

EinsiedelwasserläuferDuring scientific research in the northern Pantanal between the 20th of December 2012 and the 10th of January 2013 I often observe Solitary Sandpipers along the muddy ditches on a farm. Of the two subspecies of the solitary sandpiper recognized the subspecies present probably was Tringa solitaria solitaria which usually has a more well-defined streak between the eye and the bill which are clearly visible on the images shot. On the other hand Tringa solitaria cinnamomea typically lacks these streaks, being more finely spotted and speckled instead. First I saw the Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) on the muddy fringes of small pools, where you could see them from wooden bridges crossing these waters. There were no more but 3 individuals which you could see at one time. In between 10 days the water level rose by about half a meter. After that you only saw Solitary Sandpipers on muddy pieces of grassland between leaves of grass. These patches were characterized by highly degraded grassland, where cattle used to feed on quite recently.

The Solitary Sandpipers were never numerous and obviously preferred the open muddy shores of various types of pools. In „Birds of Brazil, The Pantanal & Cerrado of Central Brazil“ von J. Gwynne, Continue reading Remarks to wintering Solitary Sandpipers (Tringa solitaria) in the Pantanal

Photographing Tanagers at Itatiaia NP/ Brazil

DreifarbentangareStumbling out of the cabin you will be enchanted by the expansive view looking out over the valley below. A blue-grey carpet of clouds is normally lying over the lowlands.  In the half light of dawn, Cliff Flycatchers (Hirundinea ferruginea) are already gathering on the roofs of cabins nearby. A first priority should be a careful inspection of the hotel grounds and the hotel feeders. Extremely appetizing and delicious -looking fruit platters are carried and hang from the balconies outside the hotel restaurant. Dishes of sliced oranges are laid in the gardens below for the slightly more wary birds and of course. Sugar water feeders are supposed to attract the hummingbirds. Abundant are tanagers in several species which are feathered in an amazing palette of colors.

Sitting in the hotel for breakfast, I settled down at a table on a window overlooking the fruit and nectar feeders.  First, a family group of Green-Headed Tanagers (Tangara seledon) and a single Red-necked Tanager (Tangara cyanocephala) dissembled a big banana on the silvery plate.  Then, a breath-taking male Burnished-buff Tanager (Tangara cayana) swept in, quickly followed in Continue reading Photographing Tanagers at Itatiaia NP/ Brazil

Rufous Hornero on a termite mound

Rosttöpfer The Rufous Hornero (Furnarius rufus) is so common in the Pantanal, that you hardly think of taking a picture, as you think, that you will do it next day. Ok, this time some pictures were shot, when the bird was standing on a termite mound. There is some examination ungoing to study the interaction between birds and termites in Brazil. A study found 218 bird species feeding on termites or using termitaria for nesting or perching . The study found out, that termites are used as a food source are exploited as a nest site for some bird species as well. Some bird species also perch on the top of termite mounds to search for their prey or to conduct territorial or courtship displays.

The Rufous Hornero is one – or the best-known- of the Ovenbirds and is from the same family as the Woodcreepers or the Spinetails. The bird looks a bit like a thrush but is very plain with a dirty white supercilium and a rather long, slightly Continue reading Rufous Hornero on a termite mound

Rusty-fronted Tody-flycatcher at the nest

Rostzügel-TodityrannA trip during a scientific excursion in the northern Pantanal between the 20th of December 2012 and the 10th of January 2013 showed a lot of excitement. One day I perceived a movement right along the path I was walking. A small bird with a transversely lying blade of grass quickly disappeared in the thicket. I can then see the place where a Rusty-fronted Tody-flycatcher (Poecilotriccus altirostris) diligently enters his nesting material. It appears to be an Cerrado islet that stand out slightly. The area is well closed with tight standing stems. Nevertheless, I get access to this only 3 meters in diameter measuring grove. After all, I’m standing right in front of his hanging nest. Only a short time later the Continue reading Rusty-fronted Tody-flycatcher at the nest

Red-legged Kittiwake on the Pribilofs

KlippenmöweA sticky grey fills the sky. Fog lays over the sea. Only a shade of white on the water is visible when the waves crush to the rocky coast. A narrow trails gives way to the cliffs – called bluffs – on the southern edge of the island of St. Paul. St. Paul, the biggest island of the Pribilofs, is more or less in the middle of nowhere in the Bering Sea.

Suddenly in the grey an almost white birds passes by, silently and effortlessly in a slow pace – sometimes standing in the constant wind – along the colonies of seabirds on the cliffs. Yes, a Kittiwake. But some characteristics with the well-known Kittiwake of the Western Palearctic, the Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) – do not match. The bill looks more stout and the underwing looks grey and not white. Starting the descend of flight, red legs, are hanging out of the white body. Hey, this is the enigmatic Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris).

The Red-legged Kittiwake is closely related to and partially sympatric with Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) but there is no interbreeding known. The breeding adult Red-legged Kittiwake is white as its congener, but shows a darker grey mantle, back and upperwing.

Although roughly three quarters of the world’s population Continue reading Red-legged Kittiwake on the Pribilofs

Andean Cock-of-the-rock in Manu/ Peru

Andenklippenvogel oder AndenfelsenhahnThe spectacular Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana) suddenly sits on a branch in the middle of the thicket. In the middle of a pristine Cloud Forest lies the legendary spot, where you can photograph the most beautiful orange bird full-frame.

Whether you travel in the mist forest of Manu or into the wilderness of Amazonia, starting point in each case is the city of the Inka, Cusco, at 3.500 m height. Over treeless ande passes and past small villages the off-road vehicle transports you towards the north-east to the Kosñipata Valley at the South East of Peru. The transition from the dry zone takes place almost seamlessly at 4,000 m asl. to the eternally damp region of the fog, from bright sunshine to twilight. After five hours drive you reach the tree border, which is located in the tropical Andes at about 3,500 m. This is where the Manu National Park begins. Up to heights of 3,000 m, the narrow pass road is lined with bizarre “elfin forests”, barely man-high, gnarled, lichen-covered trees that are hundreds of years old and still have only a trunk diameter of less than 10 cm, The further you descend the higher trees are. In the fog, sometimes on the silhouettes of mighty trees are visible, and the trees are covered with bromeliads. After a further three hours of adventurous journey you reach the target location: The valley of the Rio Kosnipata on the southeast edge of the Manu National Park. The ornithological highlight is the Andean Cock-of-the-rock. In the midst of the cloud forest is the legendary place, where you can photograph the spectacular Red Rock-fountain in full format. Near the simple lodge, with the auspicious name “Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge”, you will find Continue reading Andean Cock-of-the-rock in Manu/ Peru

Graveyard Blackbirds in the snow

Amsel, MännchenIt is cold in Germany. There had been snow the last few nights before. But now it thaws again. The air is cold and clear. The main part in a vast park cemetery is still as packed with a 5 cm thick layer of snow. Only the paths are cleared temporarily by a snow plow. Ok, this is already not a real winter, but there is snow and in between comes out even the sun. Ideal conditions for a walk in the park of the cemetery. On careful examination, there are encountered many blackbirds constantly in the cemetery over the winter. The population of the Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) seem to have increased again now with snow. Everywhere you see a dark bird flit from a side of the road to the other. Under each second (coniferous) trees the ground is intensively scratched. A regularity is not really visible. However, there seems to be a preference for conifers, under which twigs are intensively inverted. A short picking in the substrate and again…..

A park cemetery, which is not too neat is ideal. Winter food for Blackbirds but also Common Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) – besides what lies under leaves and scatter – is offered e.g. by the Barberry. The Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) is a nearly 3 meters tall, Continue reading Graveyard Blackbirds in the snow

Yellow-billed Loon in the middle of Germany

GelbschnabeltaucherA dam in the middle of the Sauerland in Germany in hazy weather with low-lying clouds combined with drizzle, wind from the west with in gusts 4 bofors at 8 ° Celsius normally is not the place to stay and watch. But this is the place to add a vagrant Yellow-billed Loons or White-billed Divers (Gavia adamsii) on the german birdlist. Yellow-billed Loons are highly thought-after species for the serious birdwatcher of continental Europe. And it is a big event, if a Yellow-billed Loon is observed so far inland in Europe.

Starting form December 13th of 2016 a juvenile Yellow-billed Loon was detected on the Diemelsee near Kotthausen. Striking were the yellowish and upward shifted massive beak, with a striking angled lower mandible. In addition to the brownish-washed body and the light head, the dark washed ear spot and the bright neck back were striking. For the next 2 weeks, the bird obviously loved the seaside resort at the height of the lido, from which a bunch of birder could observe the diver very well. Yellow-billed Loon mainly was constantly moving from west to east – maybe due to the winddrift from west. Then it flew back to the west to drift east. In between, extensive diving phases, then resting phases, were observed. Often the head was hold under water – to search for food. Despite an injury, the Gavia adamsii is apparently in good shape. Extensive Continue reading Yellow-billed Loon in the middle of Germany

Vagrant Mongolian Plover: seawatching surprise on St. Lawrence Island

MongolenregenpfeiferSeawatching along the arctic coasts of north-west Alaska – with Siberia on the horizon – was the thrill at the end of May till the first days of June 2016. Along the edges pf St. Lawrence Island seabirds are living and migrating not only in the Nearctic region but also to the Palearctic.

Migration was on its peak when we arrived with a tour of the operator High Lonesome – a group for mainly US-birders. Migration kept going for the whole time (during a 6-day trip) with some changes in mixture of species.

Whereas Eiders as Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) and Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri) and Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) were abundant mainly in the first days, other seaducks like White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi) of both subspecies – Stejneger´s Scoter (Melanitta deglandi stejnegeri) and White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi deglandi) or divers like Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata), Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) and Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) showed up later. Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) could be seen daily. Unfortunately only Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri) we missed – probably these birds, which migrate normally quite early, had Continue reading Vagrant Mongolian Plover: seawatching surprise on St. Lawrence Island

Stejneger’s Scoter at Alicante, Valencia

Höckerschnabelente ssp. An adult male Stejneger’s Scoter (Melanitta deglandi stejnegeri) could be photographed at Pinet beach, La Marina Coast, Alicante.  This Asian White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi stejnegeri) is the second record for Spain and is a real MEGA .

The bird was seen at least from the 6th of December at La Marina together with Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra), Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), Northern Gannets (Sula bassana), Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and Razorbills (Alca torda).

The last Stejneger´s Scoter in Europe I heard from, was detected in Norway in Fauske, Nordland, where an adult drake was observerd at Røvika in July 2016 and a individual (maybe the same?) in June near Berlevåg, Finnmark.

The Stejneger´s Scoter is a relative to the White-winged Scoter of North America (Melanitta deglandi). This species is one of three species/subspecies of the Melanitta fusca – group. Theses Scoters are found throughout the Holarctic waters. The assemblage includes Melanitta deglandi stejnegeri of Eastern Asia, White-winged Scoter Continue reading Stejneger’s Scoter at Alicante, Valencia

Bird Migration in Eilat/ Israel

SteppenadlerBirding in Israel in general is unique. But the observation of the spring migration of thousands of raptors is literally breathtaking. The Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus) is one of the first raptors, you can observe migrating. On good days, migration starts as early as before 8 am. Then the birds pass the city of Eilat between Sholmo and Mount Yoash in about 300-400 meters above sea level (asl). During the morning, migration normally moves a little to the northwest of the area between Mount Yoash and Moon Valley. However, the migration may also switch to southeast, directly over Eilat if there is bad weather in the Negev desert. The Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) forms the conclusion of migratory events in the spring around the end of May. Approx. 1 million birds of this species migrate within just two weeks through the area, in some years, the birds migrate even in the course of just one week. In early May usually the temperature drops at night below 25 degrees Celsius, which means that the Honey Buzzards do not have to wait until the air is heated by daybreak. Therefore, you can already Continue reading Bird Migration in Eilat/ Israel

Tripreport Southern Red Sea Coast/ Egypt, September/ October 2016

HemprichmöweIntroduction

Mid of July 2016 we decided to visit the southern Red Sea Coast of Egypt. The main reasons of the trip, were to relax in the sun in early fall and to see some Western Palearctic specialities

in an interesting and not very often visited region during fall migration. With this in mind we booked a two-weeks charter .

We stayed at the Gorgonia Beach Resort just 2km north of the famous  but old-fashioned Shams Alam Resort Hotel (SARH) at the northern boundary of Wadi el Gemal National Park.

We visited the following birdwatching locations:

Berenice (BE)

Gorgonia Beach Resort (GBR)

Wadi el Gemal (WG)

Hamata Mangrove (HM)

Qu’laan Islands (QI) 1x, a tourist boat visited 3 islands on a snorkeling trip

Lahami Bay Hotel (LBH)

Shams Alam Resort Hotel (SARH)

Bir Shalatayn (BS), close to the border of Sudan.

Species list

Striated Heron (Butorides striatus)

2 seen in front of GBR

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) Continue reading Tripreport Southern Red Sea Coast/ Egypt, September/ October 2016

Vagrant Dusky Thrush in Western Europe

NaumanndrosselA strong, white supercilium, blackish cheeks and long white submoustachial stripe on a Thrush in late fall might mean just a Redwing (Turdus iliacus). But sometimes, it is something different, something “better”. Dutch birders in Groningen were (almost) lucky to find a Dusky Thrush (Turdus eunomus) yesterday. Unfortunately the bird was found dead on a table. Additionally ist was gripped by a cat. The bird was found in Beijum on the northern part of Groningen in the eastern-most province of the Netherlands.

The last Dusky Thrush in Europe I heard from, was detected on Scilly (GB) on Wednesday 26 October 2016.

The author of a report on a birdguides-article of a Dusky Thrush on the Islands of Scilly realized during a birding walk, that a distant thrush-like bird did not show the flanks of a Redwing and looked superfically like a Dusky Thrush. The the scope it was clearly visible, that the bird showed in general a blackish-and-white plumage with strong golden-brown wing-panel, black chevrons on white flanks, a flaring white supercilium, blackish cheeks and Continue reading Vagrant Dusky Thrush in Western Europe

Shalatayn – birding in the south-east corner of the WP

OhrengeierThe main target of the trip was the Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus). This uncommon resident breeder of the south-east corner of Egypt can be found sporadically from Gebel Elba down to the Somali border. The best place to see the species is at Bir Shalatayn. Here a dozen of these vultures can be seen feeding on the carcasses of slaughtered camels in and near the town. You  might also see the bird near the coastal highway, feeding on road kills.

After having birded the mangroves at Hamata at dawn (with success for Crab Plover (Dromas ardeol) and Greater Sand-Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) and without luck for the Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath)), we drove south to Bir Shalatayn (or just Shalatein or Shalateen or Shalatin) on the administrative border with Sudan. Bir Shalatayn is the southern-most spot most visitors can reach along the Egyptian Red Sea without getting a military permit. Calling it a town might be a exaggeration. It is said, that this settlement with – indeed – a strong Continue reading Shalatayn – birding in the south-east corner of the WP

Sooty falcons – killers on the islands of the Red Sea

SchieferfalkeA blast from the blue evening sky. Brown feathers in the air. The collision does take only a fracture of a second. Then the spectacle is already over and gone and a bird of prey with long, slender wings and a long tail has disappeard in the stands of low mangroves. Another migratory songbird has finished its life. A Sooty Falcon has made his job again not far from its breeding ground. These falcons start breeding in fall between August and November to make use of the bird migration in fall along the red sea coast.

The Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor) is the killer of passerine birds on the islands along the red sea coast of Egypt. When the Sooty Falcon recognizes a bird flying overhead, the Sooty falcon rapidly takes to the air, accelerating above its prey before making a low dive and seizing it in its talons. The adult birds with its mainly uniform Continue reading Sooty falcons – killers on the islands of the Red Sea

Grey-cheeked Thrush as a vagrant in the WP

GrauwangendrosselThis medium-sized thrush with its brownish-grey upperparts and tail, its pale underparts with heavier spotting on the breast, a plain grey face with some light streaks but no eye-ring would be a real mega – if identified as such in the Western Palearctic. Grey-cheeked Thrushes (Catharus minimus) are rare vagrants to the WP, with only a few records each year. All recent sightings were noticed from – sometimes – remote islands in the Atlantic as from Corvo on the Azores, St Agnes from the Isles of Scilly, Ireland, Iceland, Fair Isle or Orkney (both Scotland). Most sightings are from the fall migration with a peak at the end of October but with possibilities between end of September and the beginning of November. A record from May – as happened on the May, 26th 2015 from the County Mayo on Ireland is a real exception.

A trip to the tiny village of Gambell on the north-western tip of the big St. Lawrence Island in the middle of the Bering Sea yielded Grey-cheeked Thrush as the only representative of Catharus – Thrushes. Some tough birders flew in from the end of May to observe mainly the seabird migration. But during our seven-day stay on the Gambell– led by a guide from High Lonesome Tours – we could Continue reading Grey-cheeked Thrush as a vagrant in the WP

Searching for Eurasian dotterel on migration through Middle Europe

MornellregenpfeiferThe Eurasian dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) is a member of the plover family which migrates from northern Europe, where it breeds, to North Africa, where it winters. In the Middle Rhine area (Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse) the Eurasian dotterel was considered to be a rare vagrant until recently. Only through systematic migration surveys, a large number of records were discovered of this species. The (re)discovery required the migration status to be set by Rhineland-Palatinate ornithologists from ‘accidentally’ to ‘regular passage’. The main migration period is during late August and early September. But observations are both from return migration as well as from the fall migration to the wintering areas. Springtime observations are significantly less often counted than the fall findings. Spring migration occurs during the period between mid-April to mid-May. The species prefers open habitats in elevated locations like hilly plateaus. Only rarely the pretty small Eurasian Dotterel be discovered by accident. The Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) shows a strong preference for grubbed stubble fields. In the Continue reading Searching for Eurasian dotterel on migration through Middle Europe

Kittlitz’s Murrelet between glaciers in Alaska

KurzschnabelalkThe big push for the last days of the birding tour in Alaska was to search for the Kittlitz’s Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris). Kittlitz’s Murrelet is a rare member of the Alcid family of diving seabirds that includes the puffins, auklets and murres. This was one of the birds highest on my list, as it is a species that numbers in the low tens of thousands and does only rarely migrate along the west coast of the United States, and therefore can be seen mainly near its breeding grounds in Alaska. But in Alaska too, this bird is uncommon and local and there are recent evidences of decline.

After a 2 week trip with the tour operator High Lonesome to the Pribilofs Islands, St. Lawrence and Nome to observe the impressive bird migration along the shore of the islands to the Bering Sea I wanted to complete birding in Alaska with some birds I missed or could not see further to the west.

During summer, populations of Kittlitz’s Murrelets are concentrated in areas with large glacial fields. For this I participated in a chartered boat trip with Saltwater Tours from Seward. From Seward Harbor we started in early June. We went on a veritable boat, which is approved for 20 people. We headed on Resurrection Bay south. When pulling out of harbor, we saw the first Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and Pelagic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) sitting on rocks along the shore. Suddenfly Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) raised their heads out of the water. Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) could Continue reading Kittlitz’s Murrelet between glaciers in Alaska

Young Whinchat on summer morning

BraunkehlchenA fresh morning. Thick layers of fog are lying over the wetlands of the Nuthe floodplain south of Berlin. The weather forecast was perfect and everywhere there were numerous motives. So I took advantage of every free minute in the morning to be outside. The meadows along the river offer a diverse habitat structure. One family of Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra) with at least 2 juveniles were seen in uncut grassland. I placed the car not far from a pole inside the meadow, hoping a young Whinchat, I had seen before, to return. After a while the recently fledged Whinchat really returned to the pole. In the first morning light, it started to preen and stretch the wings. Obviously it wanted to get rid of their youngster’s feather dress. Successful, as it seems. With a surprised look, the young Whinchat looked after the flying plume.

The area south of Berlin has a lot to offer in terms of nature. In addition to the natural richness this is a legacy of the division of Germany, which has prevented the city´s spread after the end of the 2nd World War like in no other city. This means, that even today you often have to pass the city limits only in order to stand in the middle of nature. One of these areas is the Continue reading Young Whinchat on summer morning

Passerine vagrants on St. Paul – Pribilof Islands

RubinkehlchenAs the plane gets closer to the barren island of St. Paul, the first impression is Brown und Olive-green. Later we see that there are not only brown and olive colors on the island. Metre-high waves of a dark blue sea are breaking against the rugged, rocky coast which is shimmering black. As we land, sunrays are breaking through the clouds. Enchantment in a wild landscape. The melancholic character of the open tundra is obvious. When we get off the plane in front of the hangar, it is very quiet at once. What a contrast to the noise in the machine. Only now and then we hear the melancholy flight song of Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus) or the high trill of the local race of Rock Sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis).

Barren tundra-covered hills dominate the landscape of the Pribilof Islands. But these island also host the largest seabird colony in the Northern Hemisphere with 98 percent of the world population of Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris). In addition, the strongest breeding colony Continue reading Passerine vagrants on St. Paul – Pribilof Islands

High Lonesome BirdTours St. Paul Trip 2016

HornlundThe High Lonesome BirdTours trip to St. Paul Island this year was successful beyond expectations. Not only did we get great looks at all the seabirds, ranging from auklets, murres, puffins, and kittiwakes, we also managed to time our arrival just right to catch up with a slew of vagrant birds. The list of shorebirds that were found on the island during our stay included dozens of Wood Sandpipers, several Longtoed Stints, Common Greenshank, Common Snipe, and a breeding plumaged Curlew Sandpiper (quite rare in Alaska). A Brambling was also a nice find, but was trumped (I think we all agreed) by a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat which we all managed to see well, even in the scope!

Another welcome rarity was a male Tufted Duck spotted among the common Northern Pintails on Salt Lagoon during our first evening on the island. The seabird cliffs of course never disappoint with Least, Parakeet, and Crested auklets in full swing, plus the Pribilof speciality, Redlegged Kittiwake. We studied the Kittiwake in flight, Continue reading High Lonesome BirdTours St. Paul Trip 2016

Slettnes – Gambell-Seawatching: a photographers point of view

EiderenteA Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) with a yellow bill might be not the only difference what you realize, if you are seabirding on different locations. Well, Somateria mollissima v-nigrum is breeding along the arctic coasts of north-east Siberia to Alaska and shows a yellow bill unlike its relatives from the northern part of Europe. But is this the only difference when seawatching? Along island or peninsula edges seabirds are living and migrating not only in the Palearctic but also in the Nearctic. Bird-lens.com managed trips now to 2 hotspot destinations in the high arctic. One location, Slettnes is on the northern tip of Norway, on the Nordkyn peninsula. This is the best location to spot the migration out to the Barents Sea.

On contrast, Gambell, a small village on the north-western tip of the remote St. Lawrence Island of Alaska, is an outstanding outpost not only for North American Birders to observe impressive bird migration along the shore of the island to the Bering Sea further north.

After having performed these trips, it is time to compare the chances and challenges in observation and photography of migrating pelagic Continue reading Slettnes – Gambell-Seawatching: a photographers point of view

Pintail Snipe on a remote US-Island in the northern Pacific/ Alaska

SpiessbekassineGambell, a small village on the north-western tip of the remote St. Lawrence Island is an outstanding outpost not only for North American Birders. A short trip with only a few days with High Lonesome yielded all sorts of good birds, both Asian and North American origin.

During a 6-day trip guided by the tour operator High Lonesome a group of mainly US-birders was amazed by the impressive but regular bird migration along the shore of the island to the Bering Sea further north. An almost as important feature was the possibility to catch-up with maybe the best vagrants sightings of the spring 2016.

There had been some very good Asian species this spring. Far outstanding was the Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura), which was finally only identified by checking the images shot and discussing sighting and sound impressions in the group. First reviews from experts for ID-confirmations turned out to be positive.

The snipe was flushed at close distance in the so-called Far Boneyard, flew low and a very short distance on first flush and then flew farther and higher on second flush, always from dry ground, although bird flew high it circled back around, we were not able to flush it a third time the bird called once, not particularly sharp like Common/Wilson’s but also not particularly wheezy (fairly short and quiet call). The images of the bird show a coloration very Continue reading Pintail Snipe on a remote US-Island in the northern Pacific/ Alaska

Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope) in May on the Pribilofs

RubinkehlchenLooking for Vagrants at Hutchinsons Hill, the northernmost tip of the island of St. Paul, resulted in a perfect male Siberian Rubythroat on the 24th of May 2016. A group of 10 birders travelled to the Pribilofs with High Lonesome and we had already exiting observations with great adventure with great leaders and excellent organization. When we arrived in Hutchinsons Hill, we first walked in line along the hill. But besides an Arctic Fox and the abundant Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) and Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), we did not see something. Suddenly, our leader shouted out: “ Siberian Rubythroat”, and again  “ Siberian Rubythroat”. Immediately the group was highly alerted. The 2nd leader had to push a bit for discipline because everybody wanted to get perfect views and – even more important – excellent photos. Finally the Siberian Rubythroat could be pinned-down in a combination of green vegetation – probably sellery – and dried grass. The views in the scope were short but striking. Then the bird flew away. Without hope, we started sitting and wait for more vagrants to come. After a while, someone got a glimpse on a brownish bird, which turned out to be a Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). We congratulated Continue reading Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope) in May on the Pribilofs

Display flights of European Honey-buzzards

WespenbussardSpring is the best time to observe a flying or circling European Honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus) on their breeding grounds. Now is Display time! Since the breeding birds arrive until the middle of May in the breeding area, bird watchers and bird photographers have to hurry-up to take pictures of European Honey-buzzards. This is because oviposition falls on the brink of May/ June. At the end of June / beginning of July, the youngs appear and at to the beginning of August fledging starts.

There are two periods of activity for the adult European Honey-buzzards: display and post-fledging. Display takes place in Germany from mid of May till early June. There is a time lag between spring migration observations and display flights. It seems, that on first arrival in early May the birds are rather lazy perhaps feeding and resting after the long migration. The lazy flight with long periods of effortless floating, interspersed with the very occasional stall or spell of active flapping, occurs over their breeding areas at this time. This can be misinterpreted as migration flight. In this time very impressive and repeated display flights – “butterfly display” – is brief and in rainy springs may not be conspicuous. In “butterfly mode” the European Honey-buzzard shakes its wings above back in rapid succession, usually six or seven times.

A good description you will find here. The author mentions, that Continue reading Display flights of European Honey-buzzards

Migration of Red-footed Falcon along Alpine foothills

RotfußfalkeIn the last days of May 2015, a remarkable presence of Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) was reported from southern Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria. Red-footed Falcons are a thrilling sight – not only for Western Europe. Therefore it is advisable to prepare for a seasonal pattern of occurrence by knowing migration routes, behavior and history of vagrant sightings.

These bird breeds from Eastern Europe to Mongolia. Its journey to and from its South African wintering grounds routinely leads it across the Mediterranean. This migratory behavior make it a regular vagrancy, not least in spring when they are significantly travelling further west from Africa back into the Eastern European breeding areas.

At least this was true in 2015, where at least Switzerland, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria showed a strong presence of Red-footed Falcon But already north of the Danube it occurred only occasionally. But not only these areas in Continue reading Migration of Red-footed Falcon along Alpine foothills

Common Kingfisher feeding female

Eisvogel

A Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) on its perch is the image! Many nature photographers are keen on getting on – or more – of this. Highlight is action, which could mean feeding or diving for food. Between February and March of Kingfisher starts dating. Before Kingfishers are ready to mate, the female have to be brought into the right mood. For this purpose, the male woos his selected counterpart and offer presents, in many cases small fishes. Obviously feeding the female is a very important contribution to the pair bond. Nice photo opportunities are possible from a photo hide in der Feldberger Seenlandschaft in the northern part of Brandenburg. A lake called Hechtsee is full of fishes. End of April a pair of kingfishers could be photographed. At dawn first mating could be observed and photographed and in the course of the morning, at least threetimes feeding action could be photographed. Luckily for photographers feeding the female is therefore not only limited to the time prior to mating.

Up to 8 eggs are hatched alternately by the Kingfisher pair in a period of just three weeks. Until they get their full plumage, it takes Continue reading Common Kingfisher feeding female

Identifying Eurasian dotterel on migration

MornellregenpfeiferA bleak agricultural prairie in a low mountain range of Germany. The gaze falls on monotonous furrows. Only on the horizon forest can be discerned. The area seems to be empty of birds. Only at some distance a Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) is circling in the air. Nevertheless, this kind of habitat can be of great importance ornithological-wise. After a while, you might hear a trilling call, a melancholy “pjurrr”. Now it is time to watch-out carefully. Intense screening of suitable areas with binoculars or spotting scope to spot resting Eurasian dotterel (Eudromias morinellus) usually results only with a lot of time and patience in success. Due to the excellent camouflage of the resting birds you cannot expect fast sightings. Once you have discovered a Dotterel, it is relatively easy to determine the bird. In non-breeding plumage Eurasian dotterel may – under certain circumstances – be confused with the European Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria). Dotterel in breeding plumage, however, are not to be confused with any other species to be expected in Germany. The following tips should help in determining ID-characteristics of the birds.

Dotterel in breeding plumage are characterized by the bright white superciliar stripe. On chest and belly they showy a reddish-brown color. A narrow white chest band is very typical. Moulting birds in the plumage, fade all the colors, the belly is yellowish to white blotchy. At that time a chest ring is far less noticeable. Juvenile individuals or Eurasian dotterels in non-breeding plumage are to be confused Continue reading Identifying Eurasian dotterel on migration

Lanner Falcon for the western Palearctic

LannerLanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) is a highly thought-after species for a central European birdwatcher. Lanner Falcons are the large Falcon in the Mediterranean region and in Africa. This Falcon is replaced by the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug), a raptor widely distributed in warm-temperate zones from southeast Europe (mainly Hungary) and Turkey to the Central Asiatic steppes. The five species of large falcons (Falco sp.) which occur in the western Palearctic constitute one of the most impressive and exciting groups of birds in Europe. They have long attracted great interest and attention among ornithologists and non-birdwatchers alike.

The Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) breeds in western Palearctic from its  northern limit in Italy with 100-140 pairs over Greece with 36-55 pairs, Turkey with 300-600 pairs to Armenia with 20-30 pairs. In the east the trend is unknown but the general perception is declining. There are 3 subspecies in the West Palearctic, with Continue reading Lanner Falcon for the western Palearctic

Waterfowl Spring migration on the flooded meadows of the river Oder/ Germany

SchnatterenteAlready several sites for nature protection with excellent birding ops in Brandenburg has been presented. One of these sites is a protected nature area in the Havellaendisches Luch or the Guelper See. If you have spare time between two tourist attractions in Germany´s sprawling capital Berlin you might be interested as a birdwatcher to know, where you can find good places to enjoy fresh air and relax with birding for typical European birds. Berlin, the capital of Germany is a top tourist destination and easy to reach by air or car. So the city is a great place to combine a city trip with a birding excursion.

One of these sites is a National Park in Oder valley (Polish: Odra). The Oder is a river in Central Europe which rises in the Czech Republic and ultimately flows into the Szczecin Lagoon of the Baltic Sea. The National Park Lower Oder protects a flood plain, the last still intact in large parts of the estuary of Central Europe with its adjacent slopes, mixed deciduous forests and dry grasslands.

April demonstrated spring time with pleasant temperatures, a pleasant southern wind and usually sunshine. The first weekend provided a significant boost in migratory birds. Especially thrushes – including the first Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatus) were Continue reading Waterfowl Spring migration on the flooded meadows of the river Oder/ Germany

Spring migration along the Baltic Sea coast

BuchfinkSunrise over the southern shore of the Baltic Sea. Grey dots swinging in the air reveal themselves as migrating songbirds. And there were masses of grey dots. One flock after another passed the steep cliff of the island of Usedom in the morning of eastern. A fresh wind blowing from the south obviously pushed the birds from their wintering grounds up to the north. At the southern coast of the Baltic Sea the birds realized the huge area of open water and preferred to stay on an eastern direction to reach their breeding territories.

Up to that the sunny, windy Sunday morning only the very first migrating songbirds as Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) and European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) could be found quite numerous in the bushes of the island of Usedom in north-eastern Germany. But following the wind from the south, masses of Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) appeared over the canopy Continue reading Spring migration along the Baltic Sea coast

Newly discovered wintering location for Spoon-billed Sandpiper

LöffelstrandläuferSpoon-billed Sandpipers (Calidris pygmaea) are one of the big megas in birding space. This charismatic species is listed as Critically Endangered because it has already an extremely small population. Population distribution is limited for the breeding range from the Chukotsk peninsula south to Kamchatka. The bird migrates from north-eastern Russia down the western Pacific coast through Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China to its main wintering grounds in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

According to BirdLife International HKBWS volunteers found end of December 2015, at least 30 Spoon-billed Sandpipers near the Fucheng Estuary in south-west Guangdong Province. This was the highest number ever found in China during winter. At the end of January further coordinated counts in Guangdong Province, including members from the Zhanjiang Bird Watching Society and staff from the Zhanjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve Management Bureau took place. The numbers accounted for at least 45 individuals from four locations, with Fucheng Estuary having the highest count with 38 individuals. This is an extremely significant tally, given that the world population numbers fewer than Continue reading Newly discovered wintering location for Spoon-billed Sandpiper

White-backed Woodpeckers in Strandzha Nature Park/ Bulgaria

WeißrückenspechtWhite-backed Woodpeckers (Dendrocopus leucotos) are always high on WP-birdwatcher´s lists. But the subspecies lilfordi is even a better mega bird. After having seen birds of the lowlands, I wanted to make the next day the big day for woodpeckers. Starting off very early, we noticed that the weather was however very misty with some little showers in the lowlands. When we ascend to the oak mountains we fear to be right in the middle of the clouds but encountered quite nice, dry but overcast weather for woodland birding. We drove all the way up inside Strandzha Nature Park, to the Silkosia Nature Reserve. This is a reserve up in the hills, just 15 km as the crow flies to the Turkish border. Silkosia is situated 2 kilometers north of Kosti village and 1 kilometer east of Bulgari village. Around 260 species of land plants have been found in the reserve. It conserves the most typical and relict Oriental beech (Fagus orientalis), which is a deciduous tree highly preferred by our main target species, the White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopus leucotos lilfordi). Other tree species dominate Continue reading White-backed Woodpeckers in Strandzha Nature Park/ Bulgaria

Seabird Photography

KapsturmvogelAn Albatross sailing the seas, an agile Petrel, a dynamic Shearwater. These are real challenges. Bird photographing in general is quite a difficult task. Add in a rocking, heaving boat, crowds of people, salt spray and fast moving agile targets and you have a most challenging undertaking. For certain digital photography has not revolutionized bird photography, but has made Bird Photography a lot more less strengous. This is true in general and has been especially so in seabird photography. If you look back on some of the so-called analog (or predigital) “Seabird Photo” books you will see the amazing steps forward that have been made in the last 15 years. For Seabird Photography I personally have been using a consistent set-up for the last years. This includes the professional flagship Canon “sports & journalism” camera currently the EOS 1 D X with a Canon f4.0, 400mm DO lens. This in most cases without a teleconverter (TC). If using a teleconverter, it is a 1.4 Canon teleconverter of the II-series. The Canon EOS 1 D X with a Canon f4.0, 400mm DO is a very fast set-up with a unique ability to achieve very high shutter Continue reading Seabird Photography

Larks in the Cape Provinces of South Africa

SpikelercheMany species of larks are one of the big treasures of southern Africa. Visits to the Western Cape and the Northern Cape Province provide the best chances for arid country specials like larks. If you want to see an excellent selection of larks in Continental Africa, you have to go for the western and northern part of the Republic of South Africa (RSA). The western part is located along the West coast. The central and northern part is the Bushmanland. Leaving cape town for 200 km, the landscape is characterized by a vast and sparsely populated semi-desert of impressive beauty. Continuing from Clanwilliam northeast towards Loeriesfontein or Brandvlei, you will notice the landscape becoming markedly more arid until you enter Bushmanland. Roadside birding in the morning is always rewarding. Bushmanland stony plains are scattered with low bushes, punctuated by broken country and the occasional dune field. The keen birder can appreciate a great selection of Larks as well as some other southern African endemics. The diversity of larks is marked with more than a dozen species occurring regularly. There are Spike-heeled Lark (Chersomanes albofasciata), Karoo Long-billed Lark (Certhilauda subcoronata), Black-eared Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix australis), Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix verticalis), Sabota Lark (Calendulauda sabota), Red Lark (Calendulauda burra), Sclater’s Lark (Spizocorys sclateri) and Continue reading Larks in the Cape Provinces of South Africa

Aleutian Tern on decline?

AleutenseeschwalbeThe cute, delicate Aleutian Tern (Onychoprion aleuticus, formerly Sterna aleutica) breeds entirely in the north Pacific Ocean on the coasts of Sakhalin and Kamchatka, Russia, on islands in the Bering Sea and on the Aleutian Islands. A recent BirdLife article from November 22, 2016 by Andy Symes asks whether this species has to be uplisted to Vulnerable or Endangered.

Aleutian Tern is currently listed as Least Concern on the basis that it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria. A 2013 status assessment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service compiled new data on Alaskan colonies and suggested that the population at surveyed colonies had declined by 79% since 1995, with perhaps fewer than 5,000 individuals – down from 9,000 to 12,000 birds – in Alaska as a whole.

Recent studies show however, that the majority of the world’s Continue reading Aleutian Tern on decline?

Lake Tegel as a winter birding destination in Berlin

OhrentaucherDuring migration and in winter waterfowl rest in good numbers on the Tegeler See (a lake just north of Tegel airport). A visit in late January performed with damp and cold conditions at temperatures around 0 degree Celsius. The shore is lined of a crumbling ice. No welcoming weather. No snow nor sunshine will improve the images. But very quickly, this does not matter. A wintering Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus) in the middle of Berlin had been observed due to a message on the local birding website Ornitho.de. This is an opportunity a nature photographer does not want to miss. The Great Malchsee is Continue reading Lake Tegel as a winter birding destination in Berlin

Great Grey Shrikes in winter in Brandenburg

RaubwürgerHaving seen the Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) sitting in a snowstorm during a trip to Lapland and Finmark in northern Norway in early spring, I decided to pay more attention to discover this bird – which is called Great Grey Shrike, too – in the lowlands of Brandenburg in Winter as well. It turned out, that it is a good strategy to drive low-traffic countryroads in farmlands. Often you can see the bird sitting remoteless in a low birch wood, a hazel bush of a cherry tree along the road. It does not matter whether the fields are cultivated intensively or whether it is fallow land. Important is a object which can be used as a perch. Photography of Northern Shrikes suffer from the fact, that Shrikes are first of all quite shy, second have big winter territories and third perch on top of higher objects like trees, pylons of power lines. This means you often have a boring grey winter sky as a background. Additionally this position poses quite a challenge in terms of contrast and saturation of colors.

Numbers of the wintering population vary from year to year. It seems, that nowadays, the wintering population in Brandenburg has reduced, as severe winters appear to have become a something Continue reading Great Grey Shrikes in winter in Brandenburg

The Dotterel – migration pattern in Germany in autumn 2015

MornellregenpfeiferOnly during migration you will find this cute, little bird of the high Arctic in Germany. The charismatic Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus or Eudromias morinellus) has now a loyal fan base, which explores specifically known staggering sites from mid-August for a few week. A good option is, to look for additionally for appropriatec locations in the open, hilly landscape.  Whereas in spring especially the coastal areas are preferred. In contrast in autumn Dotterel show a preference for locations far inland. To find these interesting birds, you should pay attention to some basic insights. On the one hand there is a pronounced seasonality.

From around the middle of August it is worthwhile to look for a few weeks to see this bird on its famous resting places in the open landscape. Experiences with the observations on the staggering areas in autumn 2015, however, were rather disappointing for Germany. With good 1,100 resting birds as the sum of all reported staggering days the occurrence was weaker than in previous years. Compared to the maximum during fall migration 2014 there Continue reading The Dotterel – migration pattern in Germany in autumn 2015

Caspian plover at Kuifkopvisvanger, Velddrif

WermutregenpfeiferTravelling through the western and northern cape of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) at the end of November, we visited also the West Coast National Park. We decided to stay on a charming farm at Velddrif on the banks of the Berg River in a self-catering cottage. The surroundings looked very promising.

On the last day, almost on the way up to Namaqualand we were told by the owner, that beside a pair of Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) there had been an observation of a Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus) the weekend before. Caspian Plover would be a lifer for me. A good reason to pay some extra time for a search.

After passing the first salt pans, we were lucky to see the Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) swimming lonely in one of the pans. On a dam between the pans in the upper parts of the area, we noted some plovers on the dam and sandpipers on the shore of the salt pan. Clearly some Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius), but there were also 2 individuals of the Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) which is a good bird, too.

On the far end, there seemed to be a bigger plover as well. The first impression was: American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica). Unfortunately the whole flock departed due to Continue reading Caspian plover at Kuifkopvisvanger, Velddrif

Flying Raptors over the Cape Province of South Africa

KaffernadlerOne of the top birds for a European traveler to the RSA is the Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii). A pair of these beautiful eagles is said to be present on the forested slopes and rocky cliffs of the Cape Peninsula. A number of more pairs of Verreaux’s Eagle pairs still nest in near surrounding of the mountains. Their distinctive silhouettes can be seen circling the skies anywhere along the Peninsula’s mountain range forming a rugged spine. The Cape Peninsula has a lot of vegetation to offer. These are greenbelts, golf courses, and large leafy gardens, cemeteries and public recreation areas.

Raptors on offer during a patient visit to the slopes of the southern part of Cape Town are Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus), Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) (in summer), African harrier-hawk or Gymnogene (Polyboroides typus), Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the Rock Kestrel (Falco rupicolus). In 2014 there are 4 pairs of African fish-eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) on the Peninsula, but they nest in trees generally as far away from human habitation and activity as is possible on the cape peninsula. The patches of indigenous forests and Continue reading Flying Raptors over the Cape Province of South Africa

Patience for a G(h)ost-Hawk

Habicht….no birds and no squirrels to hear around. Snow is falling. The table for the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) finally is beautifully covered with snow. This gives great pictures from the Northern Goshawk – if he is coming. After a while, the first Chicadees are to be seen. First Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and Great Tits (Parus major) and finally the rest of the bunch: Willow Tits (Poecile montanus), Coal Tits (Periparus ater) and Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus). All can be observed around the feeders filled to the top with grain. A little later, the first Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) arrives. At some time in the morning, there a intensively calling Eurasian Jays is to be heard. Is there about the Goshawk? Maybe just sitting in the neighborhood on a branch? Waiting for a secure situation to feed? Nothing to see. It’s almost midday and I’m already a bit discouraged. I am sitting here for more than 6 hours and I still have not triggered a single shot. Continue reading Patience for a G(h)ost-Hawk

Birding Berlin: Charlottenburg Palace

BuntspechtBirding parks in big cities are often a stopgap in between two family arrangements. But parks are often good for excellent surprises. Berlin should result in a great place to combine a city trip with a birding excursion. I started from the flat of a friend at  Prenzlauer Berg. Soon we arrived at a subway (U-Bahn) station at street level. We bought a U-bahn ticket for the westbound trip to Sophie-Charlotte Platz from where it is a short walk along Schlossstrasse to the Charlottenburg Palace. We had been told that the extensive gardens here are home to a pair of Middle-spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos medius), a species that we had seen only once previously. The huge park is said to be full of gorgeous flowers and birds. It must be very nice to walk along the streams in the shade of huge trees. Unfortunately it rained and we decided to wait a while. After some hours, the weather Continue reading Birding Berlin: Charlottenburg Palace

Birding around Berlin: Rough-legged buzzards on wintering grounds

Rauhfußbussard Breeding in the tundra zone of northern Europe, As holarctic guest bird Rough-legged Buzzards (Buteo lagopus) are encountered in Central Europe especially in the winter months. Rough-legged buzzards leave their high northern breeding areas by the end of September / early October. In increasing numbers they migrate in the central European region especially the North German / Polish lowlands a short while late. It is a striking accumulation of north-northeastern sightings observed for this Buteo-Buzzard. For Germany most reports came from North Friesland last year. But Brandenburg counties follow on the step. They are namely Prignitz, Havelland, Dahme-Spreewald and Uckermark.

During the winter months most Rough-legged Buzzards can be observed by mid-November and then especially in December to mid-February. With nearly 3,000 observations in 2014 (through mid-December) this species is not really rare in Germany. A comparable experience you do observe with the distribution of winter Hen (or Northern) Harrier (Circus cyaneus).  Again, you will find Continue reading Birding around Berlin: Rough-legged buzzards on wintering grounds

Siberian Vagrants: The Yellow-browed Warbler

Gelbbrauen-LaubsängerSoft evocative calls in tall herb. Every year there is a pronounced migration of Goldcrest (Regulus regulus). But it is worth to risk a closer look. In the mixed flocks sometimes there are representatives of small Phylloscopus-Warblers. One of them, the Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), comes from the forests of the taiga between Sea of Okhotsk and Ural. This bird is oftern named Inornate Warbler, too.

The Yellow-browed Warbler is a small warbler with a fine, pointed beak and relatively short tail. In appearance this Phylloscopus-Warbler resembles a kinglet. You might misidentify him for a Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla). In comparison it is much more delicate than the common native Phylloscopus-Warbler, the Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita). The Yellow-browed Warbler is eight millimeters shorter.

Especially in this year many Yellow-browed Warbler seem pursue a southwestern route across Europe. In Finland, some 1,000 Yellow-browed Warblers were observed since the beginning of September. In recent years there were usually throughout the fall Continue reading Siberian Vagrants: The Yellow-browed Warbler

Bird migration on the Sagres Peninsula/ Portugal

MornellregenpfeiferDuring the fall migration this is one of the areas most visited by ornithologists who want to enjoy the magic of bird Migration in Portugal. One of the birds encountered is the Eurasian Dotterel, among others. The Eurasian dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) is a member of the plover family which migrates from northern Europe, where it breeds, to North Africa, where it winters. A nice place to look for Eurasian Dotterels is in the Algarve. Eurasian Dotterels is a regular passage migrant for many years, mainly in the Sagres Peninsula. The flat fields of Vale Santo are the main area of occurrence of this tundra bird, which likes the steppe. It can be seen there with roughly a 3 weeks delay compared to the german staggering sites every year between September and October.

The exact screening of suitable areas with binoculars or spotting scope is a must but usually results only with a lot of time and patience in success. Due to the excellent camouflage of the resting birds on a steppe habitat, birds on the ground are much more difficult to detect as migrants which fly over. Once you have discovered a Dotterel, it is relatively easy to determine the ID-characteristics and a Dotterel can hardly be confused with other species. Knowing the vocalizations is extremely Continue reading Bird migration on the Sagres Peninsula/ Portugal

Where to find Eurasian dotterel on migration in Germany

MornellregenpfeiferA Eurasian dotterel (Charadrius morinellus or Eudromias morinellus) is a cute little bird of the northern landscapes of Scandinavia. The Dotterel is a member of the plover family which migrates between the breeding grounds in northern Europe to North Africa, where it winters. In a roosting place they often behave quite familiar and usually persist even on a few meters distance. However, larger flocks are sometimes shy and fly away even in case of low interference. In spring especially coastal areas are preferred. In fall Eurasian dotterel show-up at resting areas sometimes far inland. To find these interesting birds, you should obey to some findings.

Preferred habitat is usually characterized by open, exposed areas with short vegetation. A convincing reminiscent of Scandinavian countryside. In the cultural landscape with its large-scale agricultural Continue reading Where to find Eurasian dotterel on migration in Germany

European Honey-buzzards: Fall Migration Denmark – Germany

WespenbussardIn order to satisfy the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Palaearctic, Bird-lens.com has made a trip in early September to the best birding area in Germany to observe migration of the European (or: Western) Honey-buzzards (Pernis apivorus).

A very interesting scientific work concerning migration strategies of Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus) through an Isthmus area in southern Italy gave helpful information. The authors counted in total, 1346 (19%), 4727 (65%), and 1177 (16%) Western Honey Buzzards along 3 routes. They were called the western, central, and eastern corridors. The time of day had a significant effect on the visible migration; the passage showed an evident peak in the afternoon at 1:20 – 3:19 p.m.. Along the eastern corridor, the proportion of migrants was significantly Continue reading European Honey-buzzards: Fall Migration Denmark – Germany

Red-throated Diver: Migration in May in front of Nordkyn/ Norway

SterntaucherA moment ago it had rained. Now again, you are standing in the most beautiful sunshine. Well, that one is on the lee side of the lighthouse, because the east wind whistles pretty much. In a distance on the horizon you see migratory birds flying ahead against the heavy wind towards the Barents Sea.

In the distance, migrating Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) can be discovered. They are not the only migratory birds. Other seabirds are on the trip as well. There are King Eider (Somateria spectabilis), Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis), Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra) and Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), all can be seen on off-shore over the rough sea. Now – in early May – the passage of Red-throated Divers has reached its peak and Red-throated Divers make with the largest group of migrating birds. Again and again you can hear a strange cackle. After a while, normally you observe a Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) close to see at or above the lighthouse. But the main part of Red-throated Divers pulls over the open sea. Even from a long distance you can recognize them well due to their characteristic flight pattern. The feet Continue reading Red-throated Diver: Migration in May in front of Nordkyn/ Norway

Handa, a Scottish bird island

SkuaSpray foam feet high. The air is impregnated to the saturation limit in puccinellia. Metre-high waves crash against the craggy, rocky shores that extend indomitable and majestic into the air. Just having left the small fishing port of Tarbet in County Lairg, Highland in a calm sea, a beautiful sound between a rocky coast and a rocky island enchants the visitor. The crossing to the bird island is short-lived. The landing site is an unaffected looking, lonely sandy beach. But this is the east side facing away from the Atlantic sea. On the west side, the world looks very different. Sun rays breaking through the cloud cover giving the wild scenery wrapped in warm colors a melancholy charm. The air is filled with the piercing cries of a countless multitude of seabirds. Despite cold, wind and water they have set their breeding colony on Scotland’s west coast.

The visitor is first simply overwhelmed when the first rays of the wild scenery of moss and rocks give off warm colors wrapped in melancholy charm. In the distance the Continue reading Handa, a Scottish bird island

Vögel im Holunder im Garten

MönchsgrasmückeDer Holunderstrauch der Art Schwarzer Holunder  (Sambucus nigra) in meinem Garten direkt vor meinem Arbeitszimmerfenster ist ein ganz besonderer Anziehungspunkt. Nicht nur für Vögel sondern auch für Insekten und kleine Säugetiere wie Mäuse. In dem Holunder habe ich schon Vögel von der Größe einer Ringeltaube (Columba palumbus) bis hin zu den kleinsten Singvogelarten wie dem Sommergoldhähnchen (Regulus ignicapillus) gesehen. Insgesamt sind es 25 Arten. Darunter Eichelhäher (Garrulus glandarius), Sumpfmeise (Poecile palustris), Schwanzmeise (Aegithalos caudatus), Kleiber (Sitta europaea), Fitis (Phylloscopus trochilus), Zilpzalp (Phylloscopus collybita), 4 Arten von Sylvia – Grasmücken, Grauschnäpper (Muscicapa striata), Hausrotschwanz (Phoenicurus ochruros), Gartenrotschwanz (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Heckenbraunelle (Prunella modularis), Girlitz (Serinus serinus), Stieglitz (Carduelis carduelis), Bluthänfling (Carduelis cannabina) und beide Spatzenarten.

Zwei interessante Sachverhalte, die zeitlich aufeinander fallen, lassen den Holunder zum Vogelparadies werden. Zum einen Continue reading Vögel im Holunder im Garten

A night in Brandenburg heath: The Eurasian Nightjar

ZiegenmelkerThe late sun of the day still shines through some pine trees. The sun stays already very low, but is not yet set. A discreet purring is suddenly heard from a wood right in the heath landscape in front of me. The calls of the Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) are still much more dominant. But the rhythmic purr of the Eurasian Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) is increasing in volume in the background. Aggressive wasps and importunate little flies are bothering the attentive birder. The time lags between the purring of the Nightjar become more and more shorter. Finally, the male begins to patrol its territory. Slow, excessive wing beats enhance the impression of a relevant actor in the night theatre. It is beautiful to admire the white spots on the tail edge and the primaries. Only a few moment, this event takes place; then the Nightjar has disappeared already in the adjacent ash grove. A short time later, you can hear the singing of the Nightjar from a stationary point of view of right behind the site I am sitting. It is time for a investigation. The search reveals a Continue reading A night in Brandenburg heath: The Eurasian Nightjar

Ringed Gull-billed Terns on the coast of the Northern Sea

LachseeschwalbeIn the only colony in North Western Europe, in Schleswig-Holstein on the Dithmarsch Elbe estuary in the Neufeld polder, Gull-billed Terns (Gelochelidon nilotica) had a good breeding success in 2014 and about 30 breeding pairs in the colony in Neufeld / Schleswig-Holstein and the one in Lower Saxony probably get roughly 40 young birds fledge. In the last two years the Gull-billed Tern had already raised each 20-30 fledged young birds. In 2014 the first young birds from the year 2012 returned to the breeding colony. This was clearly Continue reading Ringed Gull-billed Terns on the coast of the Northern Sea

Puffins, the black-red-white clowns of bird rocks

PapageitaucherA high level of  noise prevails especially in the breeding season on a typical bird cliff. Right in the middle an attentive observer might discover a colorful, stocky fellow with bright orange feet and beaks. Resting on the edge of the cliff, as if it is not concerned of all the fuss. This is the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica). You can see Puffins often in more or less large groups standing on rocky outcrops. Observing this bird for a while, you might see how a puffin after another flying – in a bumblebee-like flight and then gladly land to join its peers. Not only for the tourists this is a very popular species. So elegant and skillfully Puffins act underwater, so clumsy they act on landing and when staggering on the cliffs. That is why Puffin gain this special benevolence of many tourists of bird colonies. He acts as the needy comedians among seabirds, which you simply must give his sympathy.

Often you can see Continue reading Puffins, the black-red-white clowns of bird rocks

Female Northern Goshawk at nestsite near Tegel airport

HabichtweibchenSun rays are breaking through the foliage and the twigs of an inner-city park in Northern Berlin. Just 3 km distant to Berlin-Tegel airport, some of the most reliable sites for Northern Goshawk (Accipter gentilis) can be found. A hint in the birding community, “…. look for trail behind the hill, then 100m to the east and scan the bigger pine trees for the impressive nest..” made me birding the parks around Tegel in mid June. Big city parks may be often just a stopgap in between two family arrangements, but parks are often excellent habitat to get an first and fast impression for the woodland species of a foreign country. Berlin with is many park is no exception. Some of the parks are small, but others are huge parks. All are full of gorgeous plants, trees and flowers – and birds as well. It is very nice to walk along the trails, some near the streams in the shade of huge trees.

After some searching at that morning I decided that a big bird in the canopy of a tall pine Continue reading Female Northern Goshawk at nestsite near Tegel airport

A Vagrant in Brandenburg: Greenish Warblers

GrünlaubsängerAfter excellent observation chances for the Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) – or Gruenlaubsänger in german –in the Siegerland on the edge of the state of North-Rhine Westfalia in 2012, now even more observations in Germany are possible. Whereas the indivudual in 2012 could be seen on the 10th of June 2012 along a stream near a retirement home in the center of the town of Hilchenbach (427 asl), now the reports are from Friedersdorf in the municipality Heidesee in Dahme / Spreewald (LDS) just 50km south-east of Germany´s capital Berlin. The Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) was found the first time on June 16, 2016 when its distinct and species-typical verses were heard. In June, all domestic warblers has arrived in Brandenburg. The first birds have ceased their songs already. Then it is exiting to hear something new from different species of Warbler. In this particular case it was interesting that the song could be heard in the early afternoon in the middle of Continue reading A Vagrant in Brandenburg: Greenish Warblers

Pallid Harrier: First-summer individual in post-juvenile moult in Havelland

SteppenweiheDescribed in old literature as a rare vagrant, the Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) is much less rare in NW Europe nowadays. It is not yet clear, whether this is due to the numbers of birders in the field, increasing knowledge of the immature and adult female plumage, migrations watchpoints or due to a change in the migration patterns of this bird species. At least on the coast and in the eastern parts of Germany Pallid Harriers can be regarded as scarce migrants now. Visiting the Havellaendische Luch at Buckow – 50 km west of Berlin – very interesting observations of a hunting immature Pallid Harrier could be made. The lowlands of the Havellaendische Luch are an unique area of meadows and fields. Actually known as the top territory in Germany to observe Great Bustards (Otis tarda), it is a perfect habitat for raptors as well. Different species of flying predators such as Red Kite (Milvus milvus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Montagu’s Harriers (Circus pygargus), Western marsh-harrier (Circus aeruginosus) and Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) visit the area Continue reading Pallid Harrier: First-summer individual in post-juvenile moult in Havelland

Snowy Owl on snow-covered plateau in Nordkyn/ Norway

SchneeeuleHaving booked a snowmobile-trip with Nordkyn Nordic Safari AS to the fjell-region south of Mehamn (the most northern fishing town of the world) to enjoy the snow-covered nature of this beautiful nordic countryside and to have a look for the first arrivals, arrivals of birds coming back to their breeding grounds. Already before starting the trip, there were rumors of a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) hanging around in the area we were supposed to visit. Local people and winter enthusiasts had already enjoyed the sightings of at least 2 Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) in the past months around Lake Skillevatnet. The area is only on 260 meters above sealevel (asl) and is highly frequented by snow-mobiles and other winter activities which bring hordes of people to this otherwise snow-covered loneliness. As they say, that the Snowy Owls hang around since several weeks, it seemed obvious, that the Owl had adapted to some kind of human disturbance. Anyway, I hoped for a chance to have a glimpse on the Snowy Owl.

In the beginning of May, we started the trip in the evening at the office of Nordkyn Nordic Safari in Mehamn to prepare and pay the scenic ride over the mountains. When we arrived at the site, from where the snow-mobile were supposed to start, we heard already the high trilling calls of the European Golden-Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria). The days before, it had been warm already, very warm Continue reading Snowy Owl on snow-covered plateau in Nordkyn/ Norway

Seabird migration from a boat in Nordkyn/ Norway

PapageitaucherIt is hard to believe, but also on the northern edge of the WP (Western Palearctic) seabirds are living and migrating. To see them, bird-lens.com managed a trip in the beginning of May to the northern tip of Norway, to the Nordkyn peninsula. This is the best location to spot the migration out to the Barents Sea. The Nordkyn is the next peninsula west of Varanger, which might be more known.

After trips to the western edge of the WP to see and photograph migrating pelagic birds, now migrating seabirds with a strictly northern circle of migration could be observed from the land but also on an off-shore boat trip with Vidar Karlstad.

I went out on his boat to the excellent migrating grounds north of Continue reading Seabird migration from a boat in Nordkyn/ Norway

Lesser Black-backed Gull in Mehamn, Finmark in early May

HeringsmöweLesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) is said to be on its northern limit in Finmark/ northern Norway. It is described as a scarce and sparse breeding bird in Finmark. First breeding records date back to the 1960s. The bird breeds in small colonies normally in western Finmark and the Porsanger Fjord. The population in Finmark has decreased greatly in recent years. This gull migrates far away by the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and arrives on its breeding grounds at Finmark in mid May. There is probably 1 subspecies involved. It is L. f. fuscus – the Baltic Lesser Black-backed Gull which breeds in northern Norway, Sweden & Finland to the White Sea. An alternative might be L. f. heuglini –Heuglin’s Gull which Continue reading Lesser Black-backed Gull in Mehamn, Finmark in early May

Great Grey Shrike – a winter surprise in Lapland

RaubwuergerDuring a trip to see the first spring birds in Lapland and Finmark in northern Norway, I discovered a Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) which is called Great Grey Shrike, too. The bird was remoteless sitting in a snowstorm in a low birch wood along a road. It was still early May and the landscape was covered with a white linen of snow. Really a winter surprise in the – still almost – birdless snowy landscape of finish Lapland. Half the distance between the towns of Utsjoki and Inari in northern Suomi/ Finland right way from the Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) to the Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) I could see and photograph the bird very well near the Syysjärvi – Lakes. This was really a surprise and far beyond my expectations. The next sighting this far north was reported almost 1 week later, on the 8th of May on this latitude. A Great Grey Shrike was seen in Neiden, Finnmark/ Norway, which is almost on the same latitude Lake Syysjärvi. Honestly I did not even Continue reading Great Grey Shrike – a winter surprise in Lapland

Dippers – photography along streams and rivers

WasseramselPhotographing White-throated Dippers (Cinclus cinclus) in the natural habitat normally means to shoot on a black bird with partially white underparts with nesting material in the beak for the nest building. These are the classic photos that you see of dippers. They fly preferably to and from exposed spots, as stones outstanding on the water. Fast flowing, clear rivers and streams have become rare in all over Europe due to the increasing changes in the landscape and the pollution in our latitudes.

But if you find such a river or a stream, you might be lucky to watch a bird which is not really striking in terms of appearance and plumage coloration. The life – however – is so unique that it has a special place among our native songbirds. It is the White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus). Almost the size of a Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) it shows a short-tailed, plump, dark brown body with a white throat.

The main food White-throated Dippers lingering year-round in its breeding habitat provide water insects, especially mayflies and caddisflies (Trichoptera). White-throated Dippers hunt them at the bottom of a shallow river or stream. To gain access to this food source, White-throated Dippers dive underwater or run on the bottom of a river. They can swim Continue reading Dippers – photography along streams and rivers

Cleptoparasitism between White-tailed Eagles

SeeadlerAlthough it is said, that kleptoparasitism (or cleptoparasitism) is relatively uncommon in birds, some Skuas – as the Great Skua (Stercorarius skua),  Jaegers – as the or the Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus) – and Frigatebirds are famous of taking prey from another bird that has caught. In this case, two White-tailed Eagles – a juvenile and an adult individual – were observerd and photographed.

White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) are able to detect prey from a very far distance, and then a small dot in the sky very quickly transforms into a giant bird of prey swooping down from a great height. The White-tailed Eagle catches – its impressive claws already Continue reading Cleptoparasitism between White-tailed Eagles

Photo Project: Dancing Great Bustard in Germany

Grosstrappe, männlichDancing Great Bustard (Otis tarda) at dawn. That must be a great photo project. The courtship is an incredible spectacle. The male Great Bustard transforms himself into a large, white ball of feathers. To do so, he turns the brown, patterned flight feathers out so that the white underside and the white feathers of the elbow face upwards. Than the tail flips up to the back and shows only the white down feathers. On a morning in mid March everything seems perfect. After a period of bad weather, it had cleared the day before and the weather forecast had announced freezing temperatures. When I left early in the morning, the sky was filled with stars. Not a cloud covered the sky and of the temperatures were in the minus degrees – as promised. One of the areas for the Great Bustard is a good half hour away from the my home town. The morning sun had cast a strip on the eastern horizon Continue reading Photo Project: Dancing Great Bustard in Germany

The Woodlark – a welcome sign for spring

HeidelercheAlmost everyone probably knows the warbling of this tireless champions of the songs in the sky. It is such a welcome sign of spring,  that we all must look up in the sky involuntarily and have a look after the singer. That’s not that simple. And how many of us have seen recently larks in the last years. Besides the frequent Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) you might see Woodlarks (Lullula arborea) in Germany and – becoming more and more rare – sometimes Crested Larks (Galerida cristata), too.

To observe their behavior close-up is difficult because all larks are characterized by a modest plumage. The gray-brownish color allows the birds mainly reside on the ground while remaining almost undetected. On the ground, these songbirds are quiet. Only with the flight Continue reading The Woodlark – a welcome sign for spring

A sacrifice for a Goshawk – winter photography in Norway

HabichtIn the depths of Norwegians winter forest I stroll in the pitch darkness over a small path. It is just 6:00 am. I woke up early to visit a Goshawk photography hide with Ole Martin Dahle. During a very successful Eagle photography session in November 2013 I made my first attempts to shot the Goshawk with my Canons. But in vain. This time is late winter and I am about 90 minutes earlier on the way to be in the hide prior to activity time of the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). The night before it has snowed. Now the air is cold and the land lies under a thin, icy snow. Ideal conditions for the Goshawk Photography. We travel a narrow road out of the village and a short time later Ole place the car at the edge of a pine forest. Now it is time for the walk through the pine forest. The path is just poorly lit only with a meager torch light. Soon we are in the spacious, well-isolated cabin. Good thing, that I brought enough tripod heads. These are each fastened with a large wing nut under the window. The “loopholes” of hide are now equipped with the lenses, cameras are mounted and secured: Ready! Meanwhile Ole prepares the table with a Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus)-bait. The bait is draped on the table, that it looks as if it is laying on the forest floor.

Now everything is ready for hard-core photography. It is now 5:45 am and it is completely dark in the closed pine forest. In the dark I hear the first bird: a Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula). At about 07:00 am the forest looks something brighter now. But no birds and no squirrels far and wide to hear. It begins to snow. Luckily no rain. The table is beautifully covered with snow. This gives great pictures from the Goshawk – if he is coming. Well, at first light Continue reading A sacrifice for a Goshawk – winter photography in Norway

Greater Spotted Eagle on Northern Sea coast of Germany

Schelladler,Today a Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga) has been recorded again near the mouth of the river Eider in Schleswig-Holstein.  The Eagle strays around in the so-called Moetjenpolder with the nearest village Hemme not far away. The bird was seen in the Moetjenpolder by a photographer who took images more by accident. Some observations could be made from the observation tower “Rehmer Moor2m which is east of the village of Rehm. The eagles is cruising from to time to time of the Lundener Niederung. The ealge was observed the first time on march 11th 2015. Sometimes it is flying not far from the observation tower, but it is also resting for prolonged periods Continue reading Greater Spotted Eagle on Northern Sea coast of Germany

Sandhill Cranes in Bosque Del Apache NWR at Sunset

KanadakranichEvery evening a very special spectacle occurs in this beautiful Wildlife Refuge in the south of New Mexico. Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) arrive at the “crane pools” at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge each evening. Having spent the day feeding in nearby corn fields, they will overnight standing in the shallow pools of the Reserve. This presumably so that they can rest in the dark with minimal threat to be attacked by coyotes. As the sun rises the next morning, they eventually depart to the corn fields again. The pond which the Cranes prefer, is perhaps my favorite spot in the whole area of the Bosque del Apache NWR. I spend the first days in January 1999 in the Bosque Del Apache NWR after a business trip to Texas. My main targets were Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens), Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), Continue reading Sandhill Cranes in Bosque Del Apache NWR at Sunset

Yellow-billed Loon between the archipelagos of Flatanger

GelbschnabeltaucherYellow-billed Loons or Yellow-billed Divers (Gavia adamsii) are highly thought-after species for the serious birdwatcher of continental Europe. And it is a big event, with lots of hot telephone wires, if a Yellow-billed Loon is observed inland in Europe. This happened recently due to a Yellow-billed Loon which was observed near the small city of Goerlitz in the southeast corner of Saxony/ Germany. The bird could be seen for well 2 month on a lignite mining lake, called Berzdorfer See (lake). The distance to the next water, which you can call a sea, is roughly 400km away. I did not manage to travel there.

This time I was successful to see and photograph a Yellow-billed Loon on its “right” winter habitat. Because Yellow-billed Loon overwinter with some regularity on the west coast of Norway, it was Continue reading Yellow-billed Loon between the archipelagos of Flatanger

Taiga Bean Goose in Havelland near Berlin

WaldsaatgansBean Geese on their wintering grounds near Berlin. The Havelaue west of Hohennauen – north of Rathenow – is a vast plain of the North German lowlands. In January, the landscape was – at temperatures around 0 ° Celsius – under a thick blanket of foggy clouds. The air was humid and cold, and the country is very quiet. Abundant rains in recent days have flooded the meadows. Some parts of the meadows and pastures are under a thin layer of crumbling ice. The river Havel flows in the background.

End of January some 100 Geese, mainly Bean Geese (Anser fabalis) could be seen not far from the road from Hohennauen to Parey. Obviously, the geese came in search of food to the fields and meadows. The preferred resting grounds must surely be in the polder Continue reading Taiga Bean Goose in Havelland near Berlin

Forster’s Tern, Sterna forsteri, as a vagrant for the Western Palearctic

SumpfseeschwalbeTerns in general are excellent fliers, which may, from time to time, appear as vagrants outside of their home range. Forster’s Tern, Sterna forsteri, are no exception in that. Only some days ago, a Forster’s Tern was found on the coast of Ireland. An adult winter Forster’s Tern could be observed at Corronroo along with Common Loon (Gavia immer), 3 Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis), some Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator), Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), 2 Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), 3 adults and 1 first-winter Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) or (Larus melanocephalus) and 1 second-winter Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus). This would have been an excellent selection of birds for a continental birding day in the middle of wintertime. Other Forster’s Terns could be found in Galway on Mutton Island, at Nimmo’s Pier, at Doorus and off Newtownlynch Pier. All observations were made between mid December 2014 and beginning of January 2015.

In the Western Palaearctic the first Forster’s Tern, probably an adult specimen, was taken Continue reading Forster’s Tern, Sterna forsteri, as a vagrant for the Western Palearctic

CMCK, Malawi: Flying Dinosaurs of Karonga

 

The mission of the CMCK is, to preserve and promote Karonga’s rich natural and cultural heritage by providing unique opportunities for discovering, learning and building up awareness and sharing this endowment with the region and the world.

Dinosaurs are the ancestors of all birds living today. These pictures were taken around Karonga by Johannes Ferdinand, a contributor of bird-lens.com: yewo chomene!

If you want to see the photos, taken during 2 trips to Karonga/ Malawi please https://www.facebook.com/CMCK.Malawi .

If you are interested to know more abount the birds, please use the Contract form or contact Dany for bird watching tours! (+ 265 99 943 6427)

Least Tern for the Western Palearctic

Amerikanische ZwergseeschwalbeClosely related bird species occurring in different continents are always a special challenge for keen birders. It is not too long ago, that ornithologists found out, that a Least Tern (Sterna antillarum) was found in East Sussex. This was new to Britain and the Western Palearctic. Also on other sites along the western coast of Europe and Great Britain, you might have chances to see (and compare) 2 small terns of the genus Sternula. Sternula is a genus of small white terns, which is often subsumed into the larger genus Sterna. Least Tern was formerly considered to be subspecies of Little Tern but is now regarded a valid species besides the Little Tern, Sternula or Sterna albifrons.

In the case of a small Tern in East Sussex, a Little Tern, Sternula albifrons, with a distinctive Continue reading Least Tern for the Western Palearctic

New Natura 2000 bird sanctuary: Bergstrasse Dossenheim – Schriesheim

WendehalsOn 11 December 2014, the first information boards for the Natura 2000 bird sanctuary “Bergstrasse Dossenheim – Schriesheim“were presented to public by the Chairman of the BUND Dossenheim, Dermot O’Connor. The press is coming soon. When designing the images for the info panel – inter alia the Wryneck (Jynx torquilla), Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), Grey-faced (or Grey-headed) Woodpecker (Picus canus) and Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia). BUND Dossenheim chosed images from www.bird-lens.com. Bird-lens.com is proud to present these photos as part of its efforts to strengthen the importance of nature conservation in the region.

Dossenheim is a municipality in the Rhein-Neckar-Kreis in the north-western part of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Dossenheim is located just 80km south of Frankfurt/ Main main station and thus reached by car in less than an hour’s drive.

The so-called Natura 2000 Vogelschutzgebiet is a Special Protection Areaa according to the EU-Birds Directive. The reserve has a size of 916,13 Acres. The Bergstrasse Continue reading New Natura 2000 bird sanctuary: Bergstrasse Dossenheim – Schriesheim

Bugun Liocichla in Eaglenest – Winter in North-east India 2008

SonnenvogelIt is January. Winter in the Himalayas of India. We made our way from Bomdila back to Tenga. In between, I slept in the car despite the many abrupt stops because of land slides or upcoming cars. Finally we came to Tenga, where the intersection is scheduled to depart to our new location. The journey is abruptly replaced by a dirt track. Now we wind our way of about 1,500 m above sea level (asl) to an altitude of 2,400 m (asl). Everywhere we pass through 2nd Scrub in between small villages with mud huts. This is all the way up the whole slope. Not too long ago, there had been forest up here. The landscape was very different. Population pressure seems to be enormous. In the distance you can see the fire, which ensures not only to burn fields.

At 2:00 pm we arrive in the Lama Camp of Eaglenest in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India. A pile of tented camps Continue reading Bugun Liocichla in Eaglenest – Winter in North-east India 2008

Small Buttonquail (Turnix sylvaticus) for WP-portfolio

Laufhühnchen, Kurrichane Buttonquail

Early morning, 5:30 am. After a coffee in front of the small chalets, we will start for the first full day Malawi expedition. The typical east-african birds are our main interest. At 4:30 we have got up already. The starry sky promise a nice day. Great atmosphere. In the background the last lights of stars and to the east the very first morning light. Still in almost dark we walk to the car. And right in the beginning: the Birds are good. I start the engine of the Landrover, switch on the headlight and… startle a bird in headlight cone right in front of the car surrounded by pitch-black darkness. The bird stands still, obviously dazzled with our headlamps. A small, grey-brown Quail (or something like this) just sits on the ground. We get out of the car and try to dazzle the bird additionally with a hunting spotlight. But this is too much. The bird flies away. But we find it back. The students are very excited and try to encircle the bird. I follow them with the camera and a flash. Yes, the images reveal a male Small Buttonquail of the sub-Saharan African subspecies epurana. It is called Kurrichane Buttonquail in Continue reading Small Buttonquail (Turnix sylvaticus) for WP-portfolio

Eiders in the Frozen

PrachteiderentePhotographing the most colorful ducks of the world in 10-minus-degree temperatures in February at the northern tip of Europe sounds crazy. Well, whether it is crazy or just stupid is a matter of your point-of-view. But all can agree, that it is real Arctic Adventure. The one or the other vagrant Eider might arrive in front of coast of The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark. But this is a rare event. In contrast these birds are very common in the north of the Western Palearctic. On Varanger/ Norway www.bird-lens.com was able to shot nice pictures of King Eider (Somateria spectabilis), right from a floating hide in the middle of the harbor of Båtsfjord, Varanger. It was the 1st full-year in use and bird-lens.com was able to photograph not King Eiders alone, but also Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri) and Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) and gulls in 5 Continue reading Eiders in the Frozen

Birding around Berlin: former lignite mining lakes in southern Brandenburg

SterntaucherLignite mining has a high impact on bird habitats and during the process of mining vast areas are devasted. After exploitation, the question how to deal with the moon-like landscape is often answered by filling the holes with water. Some of these waterbodies represent valuable habitat for endangered bird species as well as for other animals. Several lignite mining lakes are located in the southern part of Brandenburg.

On 15/11/14 a report in Ornitho.de – a birders alert website – from the Stossdorfer lake made curious. Visiting the lake south-east of the town of Luckau sighting of a migrating (or wintering) Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) could be made. The bird could be observed Continue reading Birding around Berlin: former lignite mining lakes in southern Brandenburg

Joined hunting with Hen Harrier

KornweiheThe lowlands of the Havellaendische Luch at Buckow – 50 km west of Berlin – as an unique area of meadows and fields. Actually known as the top territory in Germany to observe Great Bustards (Otis tarda), it is a perfect winter habitats, especially for wintering raptors as well. Different species of flying predators such as Red Kite (Milvus milvus), Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus), Merlin (Falco columbarius) and sometimes a Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) use the high diversity of the meadows , pastures and fields around to pick up their food. The White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is a feeding guest, too. Unlike the species mentioned above, he does not keep up with mice but tries to chase the many Geese grazing in the area. Unfortunately, he also attacks some of the precious Great Bustards (Otis tarda).

While visiting the Havelländische lynx very interesting observations of hunting Northern Harriers chasing songbirds Continue reading Joined hunting with Hen Harrier

Desert Sparrows in Morocco

WüstensperlingMorocco, one of the northernmost countries of Africa is a top tourist destination. Morocco is situated in the northwest corner of Africa and is basically an African country with a large Mediterranean region along the coast. Additionally Morocco might not sound like a birdwatcher’s paradise but, Morocco offers surprisingly good birding in various habitats. Morocco is one of the favorite destinations for birders in search of endangered or rare species of the Palearctic. Many birds are generally endangered and rare or are species which are rare in Palearctic because their main distribution is mainly in the core lands of Africa. Anyway, birds such as Bald Ibis (Geronticus calvus), Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae), Marsh Owl (Asio capensis), Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vaillantii), Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalus), Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti), African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti), Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri) and the Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex) are a real must for the keen birder.

Morocco offers sandy deserts of the Sahara, high mountains of the Atlas mountain chain and coastal strips along the Atlantic. The most exotic part is certainly the Sahara Continue reading Desert Sparrows in Morocco

Birding around Berlin: The Guelper See

SaatgansBerlin might not sound like a birdwatcher’s paradise but the capital of Germany offers surprisingly good birding. Berlin is already a top tourist destination. But it is a great place to combine a city trip with a birding excursion, too. Many airlines use the Airport of Berlin, but it is possible to take a flight to Frankfurt/ Main as well and drive with a rented car in roughly half a day.

If you have spare time between two tourist attractions and are a birdwatcher, you might be interested to know, where you can find good places to bird for typical European birds. One of these sites to mention is the lake of Guelper See in the west of the State of Brandenburg. The small village of Guelpe, south of the Continue reading Birding around Berlin: The Guelper See

On migration: a Siberian Rubythroat on Happy Island

RubinkehlchenHappy Island is considered to be (one of) the best location to watch the East Asian migration. This turned out to be already on the first – very successful – photo morning of my stay on a late autumn day on Happy Island. Wow, a real hotspot for migratory bird observation on China’s south-east coast. I got up at 5:45 am. I grabbed not only the Continue reading On migration: a Siberian Rubythroat on Happy Island

Hobbies pull over the Nyika Plateau – Malawi

BaumfalkeThe Nyika National Park, in the north-western corner of Malawi is the largest National Park in Malawi. It spreads over 3,000 sq km. On the Nyika Plateau at an altitude of approx. 2,000 m asl and above you can find typical grassland and mountainous vegetation. Wide gently rolling grasslands alternate with valleys covered with fern. There are areas where light gray, often almost white boulders intersperse among the grass. Miombo woodland can still be found on the slopes of Continue reading Hobbies pull over the Nyika Plateau – Malawi

Birding around Berlin – Reckahner Teiche

KrickenteBerlin, the capital of Germany is a top tourist destination. Many airlines use the Airport of Berlin, but it is possible to take a flight to Frankfurt/ Main as well and drive with a rented car in roughly half a day. If you have spare time between two tourist attractions, are fed-up with the museum in crowdy downtown Berlin, have enjoyed nightlife extensively and are a birdwatcher, you might be interested to know, where you can find good places to enjoy fresh air and relax with birding for typical European birds. One of these sites Continue reading Birding around Berlin – Reckahner Teiche

Black-capped Petrel in the western Palearctic

TeufelssturmvogelA report of a Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) from the Northern Sea, maybe Heligoland, would be the Mega of the year. Even better, than the Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) which spend several weeks around the sea bird colony along the red cliffs on this sole off-shore island of Germany. In general observations of pelagic or oceanic birds are rare from the Northern Sea. Too shallow and too much secluded from the open big oceans, reports of seabirds of the Northern Sea normally refer only to some sightings of Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) or Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus). Reports of Continue reading Black-capped Petrel in the western Palearctic

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica): 2014 record in the Rhine-Main area near Frankfurt

LachseeschwalbeA Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) was reported end of May 2014 in the Offenbach district. During an inspection in the Nature Reserve Gehspitzweiher in Neu-Isenburg a warden suddenly observed a predominantly white, gull-sized bird. Looking for food the bird circled over the water surface and finally rested on the island in the lake. It quickly became clear Continue reading Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica): 2014 record in the Rhine-Main area near Frankfurt

Shooting with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, an experience review

Canon EF 70-200mm f4L IS USMThe one or the other may have read my reviews of e.g. the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM or the Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM. My latest lens now is the Sigma Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. As with the blogs mentioned above, this review really is a personal experience report. This is not a test, or even the result of a laboratory evaluation. Those interested, should continue to scan reports in the relevant forums.

As with the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM a diverse usability – especially when traveling – was in the foreground with the acquisition of the Canon 70-200 / 4.0 L IS USM. The lens Continue reading Shooting with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, an experience review

Birding around Frankfurt Airport – NSG Lampertheimer Altrhein

Schwarzer MilanFrankfurt Airport (FRA) is the gateway to continental Europe. Many airlines use the Airport as a hub for connecting flights all over the world. If you have some more spare time but only 2 hours between two flights, you might be interested to know, where you can find good places to stretch your legs, enjoy fresh air and enjoy birding for typical European birds.

One of these sites is the best riparian forest 60 km south of Frankfurt, called Kuhkopf or in German Kuehkopf. The nature reserve (in German: Naturschutzgebiet or NSG Kuehkopf-Knoblochsaue) is the largest in Hesse, with Continue reading Birding around Frankfurt Airport – NSG Lampertheimer Altrhein

Pulli – young birds on Northern Sea Coast

SturmmöweSpending the yearly vacation this time in the Netherlands, it was possible to look for birds as well. Besides an observation of an adult Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) north of Callantsoog in the newly established nature reserve “The Nollen van Abbestede”,  I could see a lot of young birds – the so-called pulli – of various birds on the sea shore.

Identification of Pulli – young birds in general – not only on the coast of the Northern Sea – is not an easy task. Sometimes you are lucky with the „Handbuch der Voegel Mitteleuropas“, by Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim. For waders some useful information you will find in “Strand- und Sumpfvögel Europas – Einschließlich Nordafrika und des Nahen Ostens”by Wolfgang Makatsch. Some nice information with images of clutches, locking jaws, dune-plumage, some photos of the nursery of the birds you will find in “Vogelnester : nach Farbfotos erkannt” in the selection  Sauers Naturführer by Dr. Frieder Sauer. Besides that, there are little comprehensible images Continue reading Pulli – young birds on Northern Sea Coast

Moorhen chases Snipe at Rieselfelder Munster

Moorhen_DSF40101

Migration season starts in Germany right now. One of the best places to see especially the early fall migrants – the waders – is the old sewage farm in the north of Muenster, called Rieselfelder Munster. Early morning, 6:30 am. Still dawn. Haze over the water and I am watching through a well located hide here on the edge of the best lagoon, called E1. Waders are my main interest, but I would not complain, if an early Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) or Continue reading Moorhen chases Snipe at Rieselfelder Munster

World Shorebirds Day

The World Shorebirds Day is anounced for September, 6th 2014.  Shorebirds Unite Us | World Shorebirds Day. The International Shorebird Counts will be held as a part of the event series of the World Shorebirds Day. We’d be thrilled if lots of birders would support this idea and would join this global event, supported by eBird.

Please help us to make it a worldwide event. More details can be found in the on the Website of the Worldshorebirdsday.

Certainly a very useful event.  And: You can participate, too. Don’t hesitate to add your dot on the event map.

What do you need to do to have your name in the hat? Here are Continue reading World Shorebirds Day

Pallid Harrier on the Schroecker Feld north of Frankfurt/ M

SteppenweiheAt least since Saturday, July 19, 2014, a plateau east of Marburg, the Schroecker Feld, is home to a male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) on. The Schroecker Feld near Marburg is roughly 100km distant from downtown Frankfurt/ Main. This Pallid Harrier male has very pale grey upperparts and is white below. In flight, the distinctive black wing tips can be seen. Young male Pallid Harrier look not so bright white, in the earliest stages, they have coloration similar to the female. This individual seemed very light, almost white, but had – as is recognizable in the photo of the flying male Pallid Harrier – some darker wash on the upper wings. Therefore the ornithologists unanimously call the bird a male in the third calendar year (autumn).

The bird stayed in the area on the following weekend. It was observed among corn fields and harvested fields in a specific area (N 8 ° 51’26 .39 “E / 50 ° 46’40 .46”) which is shown on the detailed maps as Ebsdorfergrund. The Pallid Harrier could usually be seen hovering for a short while in the evenings, sometimes until dark on / above the roost. The most of the day, however, the bird kept hidden. Continue reading Pallid Harrier on the Schroecker Feld north of Frankfurt/ M

Eurasian Wryneck and other birds in Bulgaria

Eurasian WryneckI am now back from a trip to Bulgaria for quite a while. As I wrote already in the Bee-eater-Blog, the main purpose was to photograph European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). But as I mentioned in the recent blog, Bulgaria is full of wildlife which could be found relatively easy. As most of the mornings were spent with Bee-eaters or in a hide for Eurasian Golden Orioles (Oriolus oriolus), evening photo sessions quite often were spent roaming along country roads in the car and photographing any birds I encountered. I came up with pretty good results. There were many passerine birds present. I came across with Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina), Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala), Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca), Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor), Continue reading Eurasian Wryneck and other birds in Bulgaria

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) on Laguna Alalay – Bolivia

Graubrust-StrandläuferEarly morning, 5:30 am. Haze over the water and I am watching through my camouflage tent here on the edge of Laguna Alalay on 2,600 m (asl). Waders are my main interest. At 4:30 am I got up already. The starry sky promised a nice day. In fact, at 5:00 am I pitched my tent in the dark. I pitched it on a site at the Laguna, which I had chosen yesterday. Great Continue reading Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) on Laguna Alalay – Bolivia

European Bee-eaters in Bulgaria

European Bee-eater at branchI am just back from a trip to Bulgaria. The purpose was to photograph European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) during a busy young feeding period. Honestly this was the main target of the trip. The birds had arrived in Bulgaria for quite a while. Thus feeding of the young were almost finished. Feeding on their breeding tube. This was a bit disappointing. However I still had good photo opportunities of this incredibly adorable birds.

I decided to spent at least four days with these colourful birds. Thanks to the help and advice of a friend who worked the area one year ago, I easily found a good site and decided to pitch a tented hide. This on top of an escarpment of a sand pit. There were also sandbanks next to the Bee-eaters colony. But the perspective on top was best. To my delight 2 or sometimes even 3,4,5 birds were landing on a perch, flying away, landing again. What a spectacle. There was plenty of action.

As the Bee-eaters are more active feeding early in the morning, I decided to come back at dawn. This time I set – up my hide before the sunrise and to my big relieve birds started to turn up again with the first light. As the name suggests bees are on the top of the menu for bee – eaters, but they are chasing dragonflies, Continue reading European Bee-eaters in Bulgaria

Bearded Tits south of Berlin

Bartmeise, Although the capital of Germany, Berlin has a lot to offer in terms of nature, too. In addition to the natural richness this is a legacy of the division of Germany, which has prevented the city´s spread after the end of the 2nd World War like in no other city. This means, that even today you often have to pass the city limits only in order to stand in the middle of nature. One of these areas is the Nature Park “Lowlands of Nuthe and Nieplitz”. The small rivers Nuthe and Nieplitz are located south-west of Berlin and form Continue reading Bearded Tits south of Berlin

Blyth’s Reed-Warbler on Greifswald Oie

BuschrohrsängerAccording to reports in Ornitho.de a Blyth’s Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum) had been seen today – July 9th 2014 – on this tiny island in the Baltic Sea again.

After reports from the island of the Greifswald Oie earlier in the year and from the off-shore island of Heligoland there were increasingly Continue reading Blyth’s Reed-Warbler on Greifswald Oie

Buff-barred Warbler in the Himalayas

Goldbinden-Laubsänger

The Buff-barred Warbler (Phylloscopus pulcher) or Orange-barred Leafwarbler is an arboreal bird of conifers of the middle strata in the Himalayas which could be observed on various expeditions’ trips along mountain roads in India and in China. As you can see in the image, the bird occurs above tree-level in juniper and rhododendron scrub, too. In these days, beginning of January, in India it had a strong favor for the flowering rhododendron. As much, that that the bird´s chest was covered with nectar Continue reading Buff-barred Warbler in the Himalayas

Tripreport Carpathians of Slovakia, June 2014

Steinadler - JungesAfter having visited the Carpathians of Slovakia in April mainly for Hazel grouse photography, I wanted to observe different birds in the same area. In preparation I ordered a birdlist of the species from a local guide which birds might be possible and got the Continue reading Tripreport Carpathians of Slovakia, June 2014

Tripreport Noord Holland June/ July 2014

RotschenkelSpending the yearly vacation this time in the Netherlands, it was possible to look for birds as well. While looking for information on birding in Holland, we came across www. http://waarneming.nl/ and www.birdingholland.com, a website for guided birding in the Netherlands. Very helpful is the website http://vogelkijkhut.nl although not all sites – especially the newly created ones – are described.

Target birds

No real target birds in that time of the year. An early returning migrant on the “wrong” side of the Atlantic Ocean would Continue reading Tripreport Noord Holland June/ July 2014

Next Rarity for Noord Holland – a Glossy Ibis

SichlerAccording to a report from waarneming.nl a Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), a species from the birds family of the Ibises and Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae) could be observed on July 1st 2014 near Heemskerk in the Heemskerker Noordbroekpolder than in Heemskerk in the Waterberging Noorderveldjust south of Castricum. After the Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) at the coast of Noord Holland between Den Helder and Callantsoog the 2nd rarity in Continue reading Next Rarity for Noord Holland – a Glossy Ibis

Lesser Yellowlegs near Callantsoog/ Noord Holland – NL

Kleiner GelbschenkelRight now, it is possible to see a rare Tringa-wader in a Nature reserve at the coast of Noord Holland between Den Helder and Callantsoog. An adult Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) can be observed north of Callantsoog in the newly established nature reserve “The Nollen van Abbestede”. After a report two days ago it could be observed this afternoon by parking the car along a dirt track on a in nature reserve near the sandy coast and dunes only 200m away from the first observation.

The older report came from the wetland right on the N 502, the Duinweg. The first efforts to twitch the bird the next morning were Continue reading Lesser Yellowlegs near Callantsoog/ Noord Holland – NL

Lake Neusiedl: Rare birds in June

HaubenlercheThe Neusiedler See and the area to the east of the lake the “Seewinkel” is an internationally important breeding, resting and wintering ground for many bird species and is home to some large populations of bird species that are rare in other parts of Europe. Especially the numerous so-called “Lacken” are characteristic of the Seewinkel. “Lacken” are salty pans and ponds. Shallow standing waters with increased salinity, which regularly dry out in Continue reading Lake Neusiedl: Rare birds in June

Blyth’s Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum) in north-east Germany

BuschrohrsängerAccording to reports in Ornitho.de and Club 300.de there is a good chance that bird watchers and Twitcher of the North Central Europe can increasingly observe Blyth’s Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum) comparatively to the west.

After reports from the tiny island of the Greifswald Oie and from the off-shore island of Heligoland now comes a message from Continue reading Blyth’s Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum) in north-east Germany

The Dupont‘s Lark at Las Almoladeras in Spain

Dupont's Lark on a stoneAlthough recent research and an action plan by SEO regards the Dupont‘s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) as highly on risk in Almeria, this area is still worth a try.  This Lark is probably one of the highly thought-after bird species if travelling to and birdwatching in southern Spain. I photographed it in mid May 2002. First choice for this lark in southern Spain probably is Cabo de Gata. This is a Parque Natural with almost 50,000 ha (exactly 49,696 ha). Cabo de Gata comprises a Biosphere Reserve of the UNESCO. In general this large area extends from the western side of Cabo de Gata around to the eastern coast as far north as Carboneras. For birdwatchers the best sites are the sierra of Cabo de Gata, the salinas of Cabo de Gata, and a series of steppe areas, of which I tried Las Amoladeras which is Continue reading The Dupont‘s Lark at Las Almoladeras in Spain

Eurasian River Warblers discovered near Frankfurt

SchlagschwirlThere is proof of a Eurasian River Warblers (Locustella fluviatilis) around Idstein in the Taunus region about 40 km north from Frankfurt city center. The area is called the “Hintertaunus”. According to a report in Continue reading Eurasian River Warblers discovered near Frankfurt

Irish Bird Trip to the Frankfurt area in Germany; 16thMay-19th May 2014

Black KiteWe flew in from Kerry airport Ireland and landed at Hahn to met by Johannes Ferdinand from Bird-Lens our bird guide.  During our stay we had no rain, some cloud in the mornings and plenty of sunshine all day. We saw a total of 113 birds including lifers Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris), Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo), and adult Black-necked or Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) and Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica). Johannes had organised our trip to Continue reading Irish Bird Trip to the Frankfurt area in Germany; 16thMay-19th May 2014

High-spirited Eurasian Eagle-Owls rumble on houses roofs

UhuThe family of Eagle-Owls (Bubo bubo) on the Hundertwasserhaus in Bad Soden is still very active. The 3 youngs have now moved their focus of activity to the slope opposite to the breeding tower, the so-called Dachberg. Not always to the delight of neighbors they change from the canopy of the trees sometimes on the rooftops and jump on the gables of the roofs of the houses around. Doing this, they call Continue reading High-spirited Eurasian Eagle-Owls rumble on houses roofs

Great Eagle-Owl near Frankfurt/ Germany

Since several weeks notable guests can be seen in a small, tranquil town at the edge of the Taunus near Frankfurt. It´s a family of Eurasian Eagle-Owl

Uhu(Bubo bubo). Mid of April 2014 a representative of the NABU in Bad Soden, Mr. Guenter Sieper, was called that a young owl was staying on a terrace of the Hundertwasserhaus, a house built by the famous architect Hunderwasser. Die local conservancy initiative NABU drove immediately out to find the Continue reading Great Eagle-Owl near Frankfurt/ Germany

A gravel pit: home for Sand Martins

UferschwalbeOccasionally, I drive a lonely country road along. Right beside the road a gravel pit, excavated only in the back part, can be found. The mine is located in a flat agricultural area. Scenic beauty is only revealed to the connoisseur . Many walkers or joggers therefore do not pass by. Once, I passed by with the car and parked next to an embankment. Flying Bank Swallows or Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) could be seen on and near their breeding tubes only a few meters away. They did not felt bothered Continue reading A gravel pit: home for Sand Martins

Weilbacher Kiesgrube, a birding paradise near Frankfurt

HaubenlercheA sunny morning, clear sky, the air filled with songs of birds, a steppe-style open county area with excellent outlooks, riparian woods. This could be a morning in the Weilbacher Kiesgrube. The area is located near the town of Weilbach, which is only 20 km west of Frankfurt city and not far from Frankfurt Airport. Gravel mining took place since the 60th of the 20th century. A portion of the resultant landscape was reclaimed and is now home for many bird species. In a smaller part of the pits, the area was filled again and a park was created. In other parts the pits were not filled. Instead, this area has been designated as a nature reserve. From small watchtowers, visitors Continue reading Weilbacher Kiesgrube, a birding paradise near Frankfurt

Birding around Frankfurt Airport – Kuehkopf-Knoblochsaue

Eurasian Golden-Oriole, maleFrankfurt Airport (FRA) is the gateway to continental Europe. Many airlines use the Airport as a hub for connecting flights all over the world. If you have spare time between two flight and you are a birdwatcher, you might be interested to know, where you can find good places to stretch your legs, enjoy fresh air and enjoy birding for typical european birds.

One of these sites is the best riparian forest 60 km south of Frankfurt, called Kuhkopf or in Continue reading Birding around Frankfurt Airport – Kuehkopf-Knoblochsaue

Observations of a Great Reed-Warbler in the Rhine Valley

DrosselrohrsängerBased on a message in Ornitho.de in the beginning of May I when visited the Schiersteiner water works in the vicinity of Wiesbaden in the Rheingau region. This area is about 50 km west from the Frankfurt city center. A singing Reed Warbler had been seen. Maybe a nice photo opportunity. Shortyl after arrival at least one individual of an intensively singing Great Reed-Warbler was found . The individual was singing all the time – as shown in the photo. It showed-up repeatedly on the high stalks ends of last year’s reeds in a water pond called “the Lagoon”. The water body is easily detected from the flood dike. The shooting Continue reading Observations of a Great Reed-Warbler in the Rhine Valley

Lowland birds in and around Kuehkopf

Schwarzer MilanThe nature reserve Kuehkopf-Knoblochsaue (in German: Naturschutzgebiet or NSG Kühkopf-Knoblochsaue) is one of the best sites of riparian forest along the river Rhine. The reserve is the largest protected area in Hesse, with 2,369 hectares. It is located on the right bank of the upper Rhine. Towns nearby are Leeheim, Erfelden, Stockstadt and Biebesheim all roughly 60km south of Frankfurt/ Main. The NSG comprises an artificial puncture of the former Rhine floodplain. It is characterized by islands, riparian woods and meadows. Additional features are open water areas, oxbows, mud fields, reed-beds, floodplain meadows and soft wood forest (willows and poplars) and hard wood forest (including oak and elm). The area has a bird list of about 250 species. Approx. 120 species of birds breed here.

With fellow ornithologists I organized another birding walk along the banks of the Rhine at Kühkopf a few weeks ago. The goal was to see various species of water birds, the first migratory Continue reading Lowland birds in and around Kuehkopf

Birds in courtship and singing behaviour

Great Reed-WarblerWith the beginning of spring, the days get longer and the birds awaken to seemingly new life. For the males now the time of the highest activity begins. Everyone is keen to conquer a territory and find a mate. For this purpose, the birds have developed a variety of optical and acoustic methods, and specific behaviors in the course of their evolutionary history.

Singing is probably the most common type of attracting a mate among birds. In contrast to the calls produced by both sexes and which can be heard all year, singing is usually presented only by the males during the mating season. Many of our native birds here in Germany, such as Robins, Tits or Blackbirds start to sing already in late winter. Thus they are among the most striking signs of spring. Then gradually new voices add to the concert Continue reading Birds in courtship and singing behaviour

White-tailed Lapwing in Nature Reserve near Frankfurt / Main

WeißschwanzkiebitzThe bird with the scientific name Vanellus leucurus is a big attraction right now in Nature Reserve Mittlere Horloffaue near the small town of Hungen. On an area called „Kuhweide“ an adult White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)  could be (and still can be) observed on April 27th, 2014 just 40 km from the city center of Frankfurt / Main.

Several ornithologists had already been at the Horloffaue to observe the very rare species. This of course was a big sensation for the birders of the Rhine -Main region. When we arrived around 1:30 pm, the White-tailed Lapwing could not Continue reading White-tailed Lapwing in Nature Reserve near Frankfurt / Main

Hazel Grouse: the results

Haselhuhn, MännchenIn total we visited 5 different locations where the local guides had encountered several individuals of the Hasezl Grouse the last weeks or even years. The last encounter sometimes was only 3 days before. 4 of the locations were locations like a lek – where you could hear the mating song and the mating Continue reading Hazel Grouse: the results

Hazel Grouse: the hide

Tarnzelt in HaselhuhnhabitatAdditionally finding Hazel Grouse means knowing the behavior of the Hazel Grouse. E.g. the Hazel Grouse is – although a shy bird – quite responsive or even aggressive during the mating season which has a first peak in September and then again in March/ April. In this time you can hear the mating call or mating song of the male. Best is the time in the early morning, but actually they are calling/ singing the whole day – in the right mood in the right environment.

The search for direct and indirect references to the Hazel grouse is difficult due to its hidden and secret life.

The classic approach: visual observations. Many people Continue reading Hazel Grouse: the hide

Hazel Grouse: the habitat

HaselhuhnhabitatFinding Hazel Grouse is equivalent of knowing the habits of the Hazel Grouse which means also knowing and recognizing the habitat of the Hazel Grouse. The search for the right habitat is not eased by the fact, that the Hazel Grouse has at least 3 different habitat requirements during the year in the different seasons. In general the Grouse prefers the following habitat structures. Young forest stages with pioneer forest character. A high percentage of soft wood species like Continue reading Hazel Grouse: the habitat

Finding Hazel Grouse in the Carpathians

HaselhuhnHazel Grouses (Bonasa bonasia) are certainly one of the most thought-after bird species for naturalist and bird photographers in western Palearctic. This is in parts due to the fact, that this bird is one of the few autochthon representatives of the Phasianidae family in Middle Europe. And: actually it is a very beautiful bird. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately for the keen photographer – it is a difficult bird to observe or even photograph. In so far, not too many images are available, especially photos of the Continue reading Finding Hazel Grouse in the Carpathians

Caspian Seashore & Volga delta in May

Squacco HeronBird richness on the northern shore of the Caspian Sea is amazing. Caspian Sea is counted the largest inland body of water in the world. More than 100 rivers provide inflow to the Caspian, with the Volga River being the largest. Pristine floodplain forests, flooded grasslands to the horizon, eagles on almost every tree. A trip to the lowlands south of Astrakhan in southern Russia is not easy due to the distances and border formalities. But the only alternative is a trip to the Danube delta. To ease preparation, it was decided to participate in a guided trip in the first half of May 1998 to Volga delta. After that, the trip continued to the hill – lakes region and the feather grass steppe and the semi-desert north-west of Astrakhan.

In the Volga delta we stayed in Damtschik Continue reading Caspian Seashore & Volga delta in May

Alpine Accentor on migration on top of the Grosser Feldberg near Frankfurt / Main

AlpenbraunelleNo less than 3 Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) could be observed on April 11th, 2014 at the Grosser Feldberg just 20 km from the city center of Frankfurt / Main. After Ingo Roessler had found the species in searching for Ring Ouzel, Turdus torquatus, around the little town of Schmitten, several ornithologists had already been on the top of the mountain (approx. 800m asl) , to observe the very rare species. First, there was talk of a bird , then they were supposedly away and then there were but a total of three individuals which were staying near the radio tower at the Great Feldberg. This of course was a big sensation for the birders of the Rhine -Main region. When we arrived around 4:30 pm, the Alpine Accentor could be seen feeding in the western courtyard by the large telecommunications tower. From time to time they flew to the gutters of the radio tower and returned to the yard. Until at least 5:20 pm, 3 individuals of the Alpine Accentor could be observed in the small courtyard Continue reading Alpine Accentor on migration on top of the Grosser Feldberg near Frankfurt / Main

Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) photography in Extremadura

Littel Bustard male in displayThe sun is still high in the sky, although it is almost 6:00 pm. As far as the eye can see : steppe, interrupted now and then by eroded rocks . Above the ground , the air shimmers . In the car there is indescribable heat. After last year’s winter precipitation had failed in the Extremadura, everything looks withered. And yet it teems with soil insects, especially grasshoppers. It let the routes appear in a green. Dark- gray colour. Again and again Continue reading Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) photography in Extremadura

Common Black-headed Gull hunted by a Peregrine in the sewage farm near Muenster

WanderfalkeWhile searching for the Green-winged Teal which still can be seen on the pond E1 in the sewage farm Münster, I was also able to observe and photograph a successfully hunting Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) a young Common Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus).

With binoculars I watched from the hide at the entrance to the E1 and saw gulls, ducks and waders. There were a lot of Black-headed Gulls in the area, some already in courtship mood, some mating. Suddenly a tumult arose and the sky was filled with white Continue reading Common Black-headed Gull hunted by a Peregrine in the sewage farm near Muenster

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) near Muenster/ North Rhine-Westphalia

Carolinakrickente, Amerik. Krickente, After a message on Ornitho.de I decided to visit the sewage farms in the north of Muenster. A Green-winged Teal, a close relative of our European Teal (Anas carolinensis) was said to stay for a few days already in Muenster. The duck was in the area of an old abandoned sewage farm. The species has been seen since at least the 16th of March on the pond named E1. From the Rhine -Ruhr region, the sewage farm is  easy to reach and the sewage ponds – the Rieselfelder Muenster – are famous to reveal rarities especially in the spring season. The area is a real birding hotspot. First, there was nothing to see but the sheer numbers of ducks. Gadwalls (Anas strepera), Continue reading Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) near Muenster/ North Rhine-Westphalia

Mating of Common Buzzards on spruce top

MäusebussardDuring a visit on a fairly high mountain in the Taunus first mountain chain, the Atzelberg, in early March it was possible to observe and photograph the copulation of a pair of the Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo). On top of the Atzelberg there is a lookout tower, which gave the perfect position to photograph this unique event. The mating season begins usually in early spring in Middle Europe. During the mating Continue reading Mating of Common Buzzards on spruce top

Wallcreeper in the Sierra de Guara in Northern Spain

MauerläuferMy first attempts were not successful. The very reliable Wallcreeper wall in the town of Alquezar in Aragon revealed a Sparrowhawk instead. In search of this elusive high mountain dweller I payed attention to an article by Dave Gosney from 19th of find March 2008  on ” Birding abroad“. The article is titled: “Finding Wallcreepers in the Sierra de Guara“. The Sierra de Guara is a mountain range south of the famous Ordesa National Park in northern Spain. The peaks Continue reading Wallcreeper in the Sierra de Guara in Northern Spain

Canon EOS 1DX: Twilight performance

Some months ago, a blog was written on bird-lens.com to review the Canon EOS 1DX and explain some aspects of dynamic range and noise in the CanonSumpfohreule, EOS 1DX performance.

As mentioned in the blog, some tests in photo laboratories show, that the dynamic range of the Canon EOS 1Dx benefits from having “only” 18 million pixels with a full frame sensor. For this you get a high dynamic range and a better signal / noise ratio. The Canon EOS 1Dx produces images with so little noise, that you can safely use high ISO values.

To give more examples, I show some images shot at dusk at the Laguna de Gallocanta. A Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) was hunting over Continue reading Canon EOS 1DX: Twilight performance

Sparrowhawk at Wallcreeper cliff in Alquezar in Northern Spain

Sperber-MännchenFor long I have been looking for Wallcreepers (Tichodroma muraria). Observations – or even photos – from the Wallcreeper are my dream. I’ve been days hiking in the Alps in the Karwendel mountains, in the Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan, in the Carpathian Mountains. I was hiking at high altitudes and took a lot of efforts, but up to now I missed these high mountain dwellers. Since I am not alone. The Wallcreeper is actually one of the most sought-after birds in Europe. The Internet although is a help. One problem is that there are many places where Wallcreeper supposedly live. The catch is to find a reliable site. The trip and the spending should be worth it. This is true not only for breeding areas but particularly for wintering grounds. So I was glad to find an article by Dave Gosney from 19th of find March 2008  on “Birding abroad”. The article Continue reading Sparrowhawk at Wallcreeper cliff in Alquezar in Northern Spain

Golden Eagle at the Laguna de Gallocanta/ Spain

Going for Laguna de Gallocanta, this lake on 1,000 m asl in the middle of Northern Spain, seems to be good for impressive numbers of wintering birds as well as Steinadlerfor surprises. Some years ago, there has been observations of a Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis). Actually, I wanted to watch and photograph Common Cranes (Grus grus) on their resting and wintering grounds. These birds breed in Germany, Fennoscandia and the Baltic States, and then take a western migration route through Europe to wintering areas. It is estimated that the total number of birds that migrate along the western route count up to 70,000 individuals. Most of them 50,000-60,000 wintering in Spain. The rest of Continue reading Golden Eagle at the Laguna de Gallocanta/ Spain

Black Grouse on lek in Finland

Black GrouseIn Germany it is almost a dying experience: the sound of Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) in early spring. The indigenous population in the Rhoen – a mountaninour area in the middle of Germany –  is almost extinct. Only in the Alps a vital population still survives.

If you want to take pictures of the Black Grouse in courtship, one should trip to Scandinavia – also from nature conservation point of view. It is not acceptable to expose even the last remnants of native populations to the stress of photography. In the spring of 2013 I was travelling in the vicinity of the Gulf of Bothnia to Oulu in Finland. During a workshop near this northern part of the Baltic sea in Finland from 5th – 8th of April 2013 I shot images of a hunting Great Grey Owl but also of Black Grouse. Early in the morning you have to be already in the wodden hides, which are lined up in front of a snowy area shining white in the cloudless dark sky. Gradually, the male Grouse come closer to their mating grounds. You can already hear their faint cooing.

More and more they move closer to their display site. In early March at the latest the first grouse cocks are in place on the lek sites. In the snow you can still see feather streaks from their wide-spread wings and traces of jumps of the previous days. Every male bird has its defined territory and a timely arrival might prevent battles. Nevertheless, after a short while many different fights are to be observed. Some cocks fight with almost everybody, others only defend their territory. This is often associated with a corresponding loss of feathers.

The black grouse lek lasts from mid-April to mid-May. During that time the display activity of the cocks is hightest. They fly to the lek site already an hour before sunrise, in May even two hours. The morning display lasts about five to six hours and proceeds in two stages: in the twilight and after sunrise.

Last year’s young and those older male birds that could not manage to defend their territory keep to the edges of the lek sites, display only for short periods, move around and often feed. They may visit several lek sites during this period.

If there are not displaying, the grouses can be seen in birch tops. They look like black-feathered bundles. In spring birch buds are a major part of the diet of the grouse..

The cooing of male Black Grouse can be heard in October mornings, too. The autumn bubbling of grouse cocks can be heard at the same lek sites as in spring. Only rarely a grouse hen appears in the lek site. Ornithologists explain the autumn display  by the fact, that the daylight period is again as long as at the beginning of the spring leks in March. This might affect the hormons of the males, inducing lek behavior. This is something, which also happens with other Gallinaceous bird species like Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia).

It is in October again when you can observe these impressive birds on undisturbed forest roads in Scandinavia. They are pecking at gravel from the ground. In their stomach the little stones grind the ingested food. Until now they have been feeding on forest berries. But it will not take long before they have to change to the winter diet.

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 like in Finland to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The operator´s name of the workshop is Finnature. It is highly recommended. Most of other workshops run by Finnature – a tour operator based in Oulu – take place in January/February for a period of 2 – 4 days.

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.

Angola Pitta in Mvuu Camp/ Malawi

Angolapitta, Pitta angolensis, unter einem Dickicht

The African Pitta (Pitta angolensis) also called Angola Pitta is certainly one of the top prizes for birdwatchers going for Africa.

Some years ago I spent 3 days at the end of the so-called Green (i.e. rainy) Season in the Liwonde National Park. I decided to stay in the Mvuu Lodge. One of the highlights of the area of the lodge and the Mvuu Camp is the irregular appearance of the enigmatic African Pitta (Pitta angolensis). It was the 18th of March and on the morning, Continue reading Angola Pitta in Mvuu Camp/ Malawi

Grey Partridges in winter in Lower Saxonia

Grey PartridgeGrey Partridges (Perdix perdix) share a hard life with many other birds of fields and meadows in nowadays agricultural steppes. One a common bird, encountered in many rural areas, this nice bird of the family of the Phasianidae, the Pheasants, Fowls & Allies is becoming more and more rare. But there are still some places where it is possible to enjoy an encounter.

In one of my regular trips through the Continue reading Grey Partridges in winter in Lower Saxonia

Experience review Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM

Sigma_120-300_blauThe one or the other may have read my reviews of e.g. the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM of the Canon EOS 1 DX camera. My latest lens now is the Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM, the predecessor of the present S (for Sport).

While the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM is the lens of diverse usability – especially when traveling – I was looking for something different now. In preparation of the purchase of the Sigma I searched after a bright lens for the “borderline” situation, for available light photography. I am bird photographer who specializes in photographing as many species of birds for scientific purposes and therefore it is not always sunshine when I am on expedition.

I have checked my needs carefully. In recent times – e.g. during a stay at Ole Martin Dahle near Trondheim in Norway – I had spent many hours in photo hides. Unlike when traveling in Continue reading Experience review Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM

Brown Shrike still in Gelderland/ NL

Brown ShrikeThe vagrant but long-staying Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) – a first for the Netherlands – can still be found on the same location. As you can see on the website of the birding community in the Netherlands “waarneming.nl” this 1st winter Shrike near the German border between Doetinchem and Emmerich still attracts twitchers and ornithologists. The bird has been present in Netterden – in the Netterdensche Broek – in Gelderland for almost four weeks now. The Brown Shrike had been found near Gendringen at the January, 18th 2014, in the utmost south-east of the province of Gelderland not far from the German border. So far, this individual has being quite cooperative and could be seen in beautiful sunshine yesterday February 12th 2014 sitting Continue reading Brown Shrike still in Gelderland/ NL

Albinotic Chaffinch at winter feeder in Lower Saxonia

ChaffinchDuring a visit to a hide in front of a winter feeding station near the small town of Salzhemmendorf some 40 km south of Hanover in Lower Saxony, I was lucky enough to see a leucistic male Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) and I could shot some photos of the bird. That was on January 30th 2014. I saw this unusual Common Chaffinch along with some of his conspecifics ​​and some Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla). The regular bunch of birds at a winter feeder as Tits, Nuthatches, Blackbirds were present, too. The male Common Chaffinch with the interesting color distribution seemed to be a bit more shy than the other birds at the winter feeding . But he was neither bullied Continue reading Albinotic Chaffinch at winter feeder in Lower Saxonia

Parrot Crossbills drinking in a pond in Mulderskop/ Limburg

Parrot CrossbillParrot Crossbills (Loxia pytyopsittacus) close-up in a puddle while bathing. The photos on the website of the birders in the Netherlands “waarneming.nl” were really sensational. The Sunday before, I had made already for a short trip to an area nearby for the long-staying Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)​​. The Brown Shrike was a first sighting for the Netherlands. So rare Parrot Crossbills are not, but this year seems to be an irruption year. After visiting the website of the birders in the Netherlands “waarneming.nl”, we decided to look for these rare Crossbills which are seldom found in Central Europe. The target area was not far from the German border south of Nijmegen. The Parrot Crossbills (Loxia pytyopsittacus) had been present for several weeks on the border between Limburg and Gelderland already. Parrot Crossbills are currently to be found Continue reading Parrot Crossbills drinking in a pond in Mulderskop/ Limburg

Brown Shrike in Gelderland near German border

Brown ShrikeDuring a short trip to experience the long-staying Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) – a first for the Netherlands – we made this remarkable sighting. After visiting the sites of the website of the birding community in the Netherlands “waarneming.nl”  we decided to head for this vagrant Shrike near the German border between Doetinchem and Emmerich. The bird has been present in Netterden – in the Netterdensche Broek – in Gelderland for more than two weeks now. The Brown Shrike had been found near Gendringen at the January, 18th 2014, in the utmost south-east of the province of Gelderland not far from the German border. The first-winter individual has being quite cooperative and we decided we wanted to see it. The regular range of the Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) extends from central Siberia over Kamchatka, Sakhalin and northern Japan. In the south it extends to the Altai Mountains, Mongolia, Manchuria and Korea and China. The habitat is the boreal and arctic zone and steppe and desert zones and mountain regions. Thus an observation in the Netherlands is a real exception.

We arrived there at 14.30. Heavy clouds were on the sky, but it was not raining. After a while, the bird was sitting in some small tree and thorn bushes opposite a gravel pit, just 300m away from us. What a bird. A first for the Netherlands and a bird also very rare for the Western Palearctic. Some Images of proof you will find in the Gallery.

This Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) showed his striking Continue reading Brown Shrike in Gelderland near German border

Great Bittern in Schiersteiner water works near Wiesbaden

Great Bittern3 individuals of the Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) – which are named Eurasian Bittern, too – can be seen now already for several days. The Bitterns obviously winter on the waterworks in the Schiersteiner pond area near Wiesbaden. At least three specimens could be seen on a beautiful, mild winterday on the January 17, 2014 between 10:00 to 12:30.

Already at the last weekend some birders were on the site. But the sunshine on the January 17 seduced the Bitterns to leave their dense habitat in the middle of the reed and to show very exposed on the fringes to the waterline. Good time to photograph very well. Patience of course is still needed. Some individuals are stationary at this site since at least the 31 December 2013. On the first observation day 1 Bittern could be seen on the pond system III (the easternmost). Afterwards it was seen landing on a gravel island, on the so-called “Lagoon”. Also on the January 17, a Great Bittern flew from the pond system III to the gravel island in the “lagoon”, checked the situation from as short as  15 meters behind the fence and disappeared in the reeds afterwards.

When I arrived at around 10:00, a thick downpour had just cleared and the sun broke through the clouds. 2 Bitterns could be seen freely on the northernmost of the pond basin system III at the reed edge. They were sunbathing. But the distance was unfortunately still far. A little later another Bittern appeared on the southern pond of the basin system III at the reed edge. This Bittern also started sunbathing. Then suddenly, Continue reading Great Bittern in Schiersteiner water works near Wiesbaden

Griffon vulture in the Wonnegau in the middle of Germany

Eurasian GriffonCurrently, an unusual visitor from the south of Europe can be seen in an area of Rheinhessen between the cities of Gruenstadt, Worms and Ludwigshafen. The distance to Frankfurt am Main is only 100km in south-western direction. The bird is a Eurasian Griffon – or Griffon Vulture – (Gyps fulvus). The Vulture has been detected in the area on 02nd of January 2014 . Most Birder observe with spotting scopes from the concrete field roads that run through this intensively used agriculture landscape. The last days, the vultures could be observed in a field between the suburbs Obersuelzen and Obrigheim. The area is intensively  used by wind farm deployments – as you see in the images.

After days with mild but rainy weather the forecast for Sunday afternoon was quite favorable and I took the chance to photograph in a sudden clearing of the skies some shots of the Eurasian Griffon sitting on the ground of a field, which later took flight. A few pictures can be seen here. The Vulture is not an particulary shy, but you should not startle the bird and additionally the rain has extremely softened the fields and the field roads not fixed with a hard surface. Photo distances are therefore to be bridged only with a long tele lens.

When I arrived on Sunday, 5th of Jan. 2014, it was very cloudy. The bird sat quietly in a field and was only occasionally harassed without haste by some Carrion Crows (Corvus corone) flying over the big bird. The Crows seemed to be quite friendly – at least compared to the behavior when a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) showed up. Fiercely this raptor was attacked. The griffon vulture was found not worried. Only now and then he scratched the bill with his legs. As the sun came out, he find Continue reading Griffon vulture in the Wonnegau in the middle of Germany

Snowy Owl in nature reserve near Hanstholm/ North Jutland

Snowy OwlRight now, it is possible to see a rare Owl at Hanstholm at the coast of northern Jytland, Denmark. A young female Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) can be observed in the south of  Hanstholm in the first National Park of Denmark, called Hanstedreservatet. After the first days, around the 21st of December 2013  – when the owl was discovered in the habor – it dispersed in the more natural environment of the dunes nearby. Some images you see in the gallery.  The last days it could be observed by parking the car at Km 41 on the road between Hanstholm to Klitmøller along the sandy coast.

Some people think, that is rare bird probably comes from the Sibirian tundra. The Snowy Owl is a nomad, and it is roaming around in the hunt for food, but in this case, it is more likely, that this bird was ship-assisted. No wonder with the many fishing vessels nearby.

After missing the (male) Snowy Owl in Zeebrugge on the 2 days before Christmas, I could see the Snowy Owl now Continue reading Snowy Owl in nature reserve near Hanstholm/ North Jutland

Ivory Gull in the port of Hanstholm, Denmark

Ivory GullThere is still a last year’s (since 1.1.2014 ) Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea) in the middle of this Danish fishing port. The gulls sits often on the kai, which can be reached from the northern side street of Kai Lindberg Gade. Sometimes it sits on the 2.5 meter high perimeter wall on the northern edge – unfortunately positioned directly against the bright sky. But sometimes it also flies around in the habour.

After many Birder visit the site over the weekend between Christmas and New Year, I could now see the seagull very well on New Year’s Day 2014 and photograph it well. A Danish Birder fed them occasionally, with fish remains and this is perhaps why it is there quite steady .

Ivory Gull at least in the middle of Europe is anything but a familiar sight. And also if you look at the their breeding range e.g. Spitsbergen / Svalbard, it is still not easy to photograph a specimen close enough. The birds are  not extremely shy to humans, but they often stay in their breeding area on inaccessible areas.

Here in the fishing port the photographic conditions are Continue reading Ivory Gull in the port of Hanstholm, Denmark

Bullfinches: White-red-black balls in action

Bullfinch flying upEurasian Bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula, are usually thought-after species for the wintertime photographer. These colorful finches are now increasingly observed at the feeding tables when wintertime proceeds. Last year they could be seen with other wintering birds at the feeding sites, too. The favorite food of the birds observed in recent winters is a product made from beef tallow and fat oatmeal mixture. In many regular stores they are selling the birdseed. But the laid sunflower seeds are eaten alike. Particularly striking is the highly aggressive behavior of the bullfinches to each other. If multiple birds are in the same area, the same table of food, photography is often not possible, because as soon as a bird is flying to the feeding place, it is already chased away from the next. Especially the males are sometimes quite aggressive. Due to the shooting conditions in winter you are shooting at slow shutter speeds sometimes. Here you can make a virtue of the necessity. At 1/ 30 sec , the Finches are only dimly seen. To show the dynamics of the dispute is all the better advantage. This is beautiful to see in the Gallery. Too long exposure times, however, are not appropriate since then only colors can be seen.

It is always a fascinating experience, when not only the Bullfinch arrive at the bird table, but also Robin (Erithacus rubecula), Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Tits (Parus sp.) and Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) and sometimes even Continue reading Bullfinches: White-red-black balls in action

Adventure: driving to the Keoladeo National Park

Sarus Crane, pair on field

It is November. A trip to Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India is scheduled. Due to delays in domestic flights I find out, that there are still three days left . Now you can spend the time in New Delhi, the capital of India, of course. According to some strange statistics the human population of New Delhi barely exceeds 250,000 people, but there are still at least several million in the Delhi area. Nature must stand back there. Nevertheless, there are practically some interesting areas within the city limits, such as Sultanpur, and in the vicinity is also Keoladeo, a national park in the Indian state of Rajasthan, which has been object of a blog on www.bird-lens.com already.. It is also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. The national park is not too far south of the city of New Delhi. Since I had already read about this bird paradise, I opted for the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary.

From Germany, the first part of the trip went to Amman, then after a stopover to New Delhi. Actually I had arranged with the hotel directly located at the park entrance – the Birder’s Inn – that I get a lift from the airport at additional costs. The Birder’s Inn is quite recommended on the Internet for a stay in the area. When I accomplished the passport control, baggage claim and the retriev of money in Indian currency at an ATM, I must go and look for a taxi to Bharatpur. The pick-up service is in fact not there. A taxi agent speaks to me. I start in a bargain and get him down to 3,500 IR – this is roughly 42,- Euro – for the one-way driving southward. Then I think to use the morning hours for some more birding nearer to the airport. That is still on the way and a good location might be Sultanpur. Ok, that for additional costs. So in total now again Continue reading Adventure: driving to the Keoladeo National Park

Woodpeckers at the winter feeder

Great Spotted Woodpecker

A few years ago, I was a guest at a commercial winter feeding site for raptors. Great shooting conditions, beautiful scenery, great birds. Unfortunatelly not quite around the corner of my home located in the Eifel. ” …this I can do that, too” ,I thought. But then it turned out to be not so easy. Since there had been problems with the farmer who owned the land, then the tenant hunter. But finally I succeeded. A great advantage of my hide, built from wood and carpet remnants is that although it is right along the edge of a forest, it is only about 200 meters from my house. Of course you are thinking about the expected guests already when you plan the construction of the hide and the feeding site in front of it. Besides chickadees, finches and blackbirds, the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) was “booked” in my plans. This is the most common woodpecker species in our landscape, not only in forests of all types, but also in urban parks and bigger gardens. And the plans turned right. After a short time this woodpecker counted to the regular guests in front of the winter hide, from which I made my shots in all distances, sometimes only 3.5 to 7 meters away. Most times he announced himself with a loud ” KiKiKiK ” before he came rushing in his undulating flight. The favorite food of the woodpeckers observed and photographed in recent winters is a product made from beef tallow and fat oatmeal mixture that is commonly known as bird seed. Hazelnuts cause very little attention, walnuts are beloved and Continue reading Woodpeckers at the winter feeder

Baffin Shackleton Snow Boot, customer review

Baffin Men's Shackleton Snow BootAfter some reviews-blogs had been written in bird-lens.com about photo equipment as the Canon EOS 1 Mark IV or the Canon EOS 1DX and the Canon 400mm f4 DO I think, I write also a short experience review of the Baffin Men’s Shackleton Snow Boot, because I ‘m often asked about my experiences not only with camera staff but also personal equipment which in many cases are as important for successful photo shootings as the photo gear is.

With my Meindl Hiking boots (Meindl Ortler) I have been very satisfied all the time until the beginning of April this year when I spend 4 days photographing Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) in the vicinity of Oulu in Finland. Finding the Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) can be hard stuff, but even harder to prevent loosing her. To walk/ run behind the owl means walking in 1,5 meters of harsh snowcover, sometimes breaking through the icy cover, sometimes not. This in temperatures between -20° and -5°. It did not take a long time and my feet were deeply frozen whatever socks you wrap around them.
Maybe I should clarify, that I am a bird photographer, who is specialized on photographing as many species of birds for scientific purposes as possible. The subjects to shoot brought me to Varanger in Northern Norway in February or to Finland in early April. Now I trip to Norway was scheduled again. End of November for Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) s. The experience of Finland should not repeat. So I bought a pair at the german Outdoor Shop “Globetrotter” for roughly 300,- €.

After 7 days in use I can Continue reading Baffin Shackleton Snow Boot, customer review

White-tailed Eagle catching fish in Norway

White-tailed EagleWhite-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) are now at least in the eastern part of Middle Europe (as East Germany or Poland) a familiar sight . Nevertheless, it is not easy to photograph an eagle on close range. The animals are not extremely shy towards people, but they show respect and thus quite a distance from people , as it should be for wildlife.

So if you want to photograph wild eagles in Europe, you have several opportunities (including one in East German) or you do it right the first time. As far as I find out, there’s no better place to go than the Norwegian fishing village Lauvsnes near Flatanger in the province of North – Trøndelag, 200 km north-west of Trondheim. Here in the middle of Norway, Ole Martin Dahle has managed to gain confidence of some White-tailed Eagles. For several years, he offers with his company Norway Nature boat trips where you can watch the White-tailed Eagles during prey capture. Ole is noticeable in his many years of experience and he offers a professional service.

After I had observed and photographed the impressive Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) at the bait Continue reading White-tailed Eagle catching fish in Norway

Canon EOS 1DX: some aspects of Dynamic range and Noise

100% crop of Golden Eagle at baitAfter blogging a review of the Canon EOS 1DX some people asked me wether I can subscribe what is written there and wether it is possible to show proof of what is said, that the dynamic range has improved significantly over the Mark IV.

Some tests in photo laboratories show, that Dynamic range of Canon EOS 1DX benefits from having “only” 18 million pixels with a full frame sensor. For this you get a high dynamic range and a better signal / noise ratio. The test showed a total dynamic range of nearly 11 stops at the low ISO settings in a RAW file. At 100 ISO RAW files, they found a usable dynamic range (while taking into account noise) of 7 stops and at a 6400 ISO jpg file still 6 stops.

The sensor of the Canon EOS 1D X use a new feature where there is no space between the pixels, and as much as possible of the incident light is actually converted into signal.  This is new in a professional Canon Continue reading Canon EOS 1DX: some aspects of Dynamic range and Noise

Golden Eagle at fox bait in Norway

Golden EagleIs it possible to observe and photograph Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) at the bait in wintertime in good numbers with good reliability? Is this possible in Europe? Yes, it is!

Ole Martin Dahle, known as the Eagle Man, has several hides out in the wilderness of Norway. Having been spent one week on invitation of Ole Martin Dahle has been very productive – as you can see in the gallery. Ole offers Wildlife Workshops but also the chance to sit in one (or more) of his hides located on mountain ridges or in the middle of pine forests. It is also possible in winter to go out in the fjord for White-tailed Eagle-photography.

Ole managed to lease attractive properties over the last years, other locations he owns by himself. Consequently, there are ideal conditions for a photographic passion to shoot images of wild birds on close distance.

In wintertime the chances to shot breath-taking images of Golden Eagle are Continue reading Golden Eagle at fox bait in Norway

Canon EOS 1 D X: an experience review

Canon EOS-1 D XAfter having written a review about the Canon EOS 1 Mark IV not too long ago, the review for the Canon EOS 1 D X may be a little bit early. But I think, I write only a short review, because I ‘m often asked about my experiences with the 1DX. Mainly from photographers who (still) use the Canon EOS 1 Mark IV.

With the EOS 1 Mark IV I had been very satisfied all the time and – until February this year – I assumed that I would wait for the next professional model and would skip the Canon EOS 1DX. I would not have thought at the time, that I would buy the Canon EOS 1DX. The EOS 1 Mark IV had been the perfect camera for me. However, in Norway I met the famous finnish nature photographer Marcus Varesvuo. I realized that he was shooting with 2 Bodies of the Canon EOS 1DX and he told me that he had sold his two “old” EOS 1 Mark IV because after the purchase of the new professional models he no longer took pictures with the EOS 1 Mark IV . The EOS 1 Mark IV he had originally intended to keep to use the “better” crop factor of 1.3. As he told me, this is of no importance for him anymore. The higher resolution of 18mpix would allow cropping in the final image very well and allow a significant improvement in noise performance recordings with the converters, which is not suitable with the EOS 1 Mark IV.

The first time I photographed with the 1DX myself, I have noticed not only the above mentioned improvements. The autofocus speed, a speed of 12 frames/ sec and the dynamic range were significantly better. After a short expedition for the Great Grey Owl in Continue reading Canon EOS 1 D X: an experience review

Hawk Owl in Gristede in Lower Saxonia

Hawk OwlAccording to reports in Ornitho.de there is a good chance that twitchers of the north of Middle Europe can observe Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) this winter/ late fall quite close to their homegrounds in the northern parts of Germany. The location of a Hawk Owl spending already several days in that area is in Gristede (community: Wiefelstede) just 50 km south-south-west of Wilhelmshaven and not far of the Autobahn A28. The owl had been there from November 10th until at least the 14th. Till 16th the owl is disappeared from their long-lasting favored spot.

A comparable situation had been last year. At least this was true for Denmark and for the southern part of Sweden last year. In the “Danish Bird News” in 2012 they announced the first Hawk Owl for almost 7 years. A 1st winter individual has been seen at Store Hareskov, Copenhagen during 30th September to 8th October 2012.

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. A blog you will find here to that situation.

To cope with Continue reading Hawk Owl in Gristede in Lower Saxonia

Birding around Frankfurt – Mittlere Horloffaue/ Wetterau

Common CraneFrankfurt is the financial capital of Germany. It is well known although the city limits inhabit only roughly 600,000 people. But the greater Frankfurt area of course is much more populated. If you are on business in Frankfurt and have some spare time between two meetings and you are a birdwatcher, you might be interested to know, where you can find good places to walk a bit and enjoy birding for typical european birds.

One of these sites is the countryside around the area south of the town “Hungen” less than 30km south-east of Giessen.  The nature reserve is located in the Medium Horloffaue. The next villages are Trais- Horloff and Utphe.

The reserve includes open water mostly with shallow water levels, reeds, marshes and mud banks and residues of softwood floodplain forest. It has also created a lot of extensively used agricultural area with hedges and shrubs. The area is an important stopover for migratory birds, Common Crane (Grus grus), among others, and is also a breeding Continue reading Birding around Frankfurt – Mittlere Horloffaue/ Wetterau

Taiga Bean Goose in Vorpommern (Pomerania)

Taiga Bean GooseIn the Friedländer Große Wiese especially south of Mariawerth  but also north of Heinrichswalde 3,000 Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) could be seen in only about 2 hours in the early morning good of an early Novermber day. Obviously they flew up from the nature reserve “Galenbecker lake” which is right to the south. The preferred nighttime roost have probably been one of the polder at Heinrichswalde and the large flooded polder south- east of Fleethof. Fleethof itself is about 10km west of Heinrichswalde. Anyway, flocks of geese calling loud flew at 7:30 across the polder dikes to the north. Later I went to the so-called Friedlaender Große Wiese – a large meadow area. The Friedlaender Große Wiese is very accessible by paved and partly concreted driveway lanes without access restrictions. As I passed some harvested corn fields especially south of Mariawerth , I was lucky enough to see Bean Goose together with Common Cranes (Grus grus) in these fields. Since this flat area – a former alkaline fen-  is far away from densely populated areas, there is less interference by joggers or dogwalkers than in the south-western part of Germany. Insofar the geese can enjoy normally quite a calm day to feed. So the situation is quite different from that which was described in the blog “Cranes & Geese in winter.” The good numbers of geese on the harvested corn fields not so far away from the road were amazing. I went pretty much all the roads and paths along the vast meadows. I kept seeing large groups of geese, which were very inconspicuous on the seemingly empty, harvested maize fields. They can camouflage very well. Sometimes only when geese fly in, you will pay attention to the flocks of geese.

Among the observed geese were also Continue reading Taiga Bean Goose in Vorpommern (Pomerania)

Cranes (Grus grus) at the Guenzer lake in Vorpommern

Common Crane

Cranes at their resting places during migration are a great subject of photography. The biggest resting places of the Common Cranes in Germany can be found in Brandenburg on the Linumer fish ponds and in Mecklenburg- Vorpommern at the Guenzer lake. During migration time over 70,000 Common Cranes has been reported.

On the east side of the Guenzer lake a observation tower is erected, right next to the tree-lined chausee. This site is operated by the Crane Center in the little town of Groß Mohrdorf. Very nice observations are possible from this site or even right from the parking lot. To take account of the growing interest of nature lovers and wildlife photographers, ​​hides were set-up in the area of the meadows near the lake. The set-up times and other detailed information can be found their homepage.

The hides are wooden cabins which are larger than those which are set-up at the Lake Hornborga in southern Sweden. On behalf of Kranichschutz Deutschland (Crane Protection Germany) association some feeding areas were established. It is sown cereals to distract the cranes to feed on farmland. Therefore good numbers of cranes can be observed around this area.

The pictures in the gallery  were Continue reading Cranes (Grus grus) at the Guenzer lake in Vorpommern

Sabine’s Gull occurrence in California and Western Europe

Sabine´s Gull adultOne of the beauties in the Gull-family, Sabine’s Gulls (Xema sabini) is rarely seen in western Europe albeit on exposed seawatching spots or pelagic trips mainly in fall. Sabine’s Gull breed on coastal tundra around the shores of the Arctic Oceans. They migrate mainly at sea.
On Migration, Siberian and Alaskan birds winter off the coast of Columbia and Peru. They disburse east across the Pacific Ocean passing down the west coast of the US, where they are often seen on offshore trips. The best way to see this oceanic species is to take a boat trip out of Monterey, California, or some other Pacific Coast city. The wintering range is not fully known but obviously some birds winter off the Pacific coast of northern South America.
Canandian and Greenland birds disperse east passing along the coast of Europe to winter off the coast of Africa. After strong westerly winds they are seen on European seawatching spots – e.g. the western coast of Cornwall – usually in September and October. Only a few birds show up on coast making it a sought after pelagic in european waters.

Bird-lens.com is proud to show images of birds taken in California as well as taken in South-west England. The images in the gallery were taken in California in mid August and show adult birds as well as juveniles. The adult gulls are still showing its breeding plumages with a full-black hood. The images taken on pelagic trips off the Isles of Scilly in mid September showed adult birds only. These gulls were showing a transition plumage with breeding elements visible very well. It should be noted that Continue reading Sabine’s Gull occurrence in California and Western Europe

Albino Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) in Devon

Eurasian OystercatcherDuring a visit to the hides im Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve I was lucky to observe a partly albinotic Eurasian Oystercatcher. This was on the afternoon of 22nd of August 2013. The website of the reserve refers to abnormalies in plumages with oystercatchers which occur with some regularity most years. Otherwise, this wader is very frequently found on the southern coast of Great Britain. This is especially true for overwintering birds and migrating birds in fall.

I saw this unusual Eurasian Oystercatcher in a flock of roughly 100 of his congeners. Standing a bit by side all the time, it was neither mobbed nor attacked by the other, “normal” Oystercatchers. I could see that this bird had red eyes. In deed it is a partial “albino”. In an article by Charlie Fleming, an albino Oystercatcher is mentioned already for July 2009. The plumage looks quite the same. So maybe this bird still survives at Dawlish Warren for at least 4 years.

My main reason for my visit to Dawlish Warren was, to check if I could catch up with the Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii) seen a few weeks ago. Additionally a Slavonian Grebe (or Horned Grebe), Podiceps auritus, had been reported. Unfortunately I dipped with both rarities. But the leucistic Oystercatcher was an excellent photo opportunity, too.

Of a white Eurasian Oystercatcher I had not heard before. But from Germany Continue reading Albino Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) in Devon

Resultate 2013; Results of Euro BirdWatch in Switzerland

Migrating flock of Common Wood-PigeonOn the weekend of 5/6 October 2013 BirdLife International and its national partner institutions organized the pan-european Euro BirdWatch. Migratory birds on their way south were observed in 33 European and some countries in central Asia.

In total 2,509 visitors were inspired by the natural phenomenon of bird migration in spite of bad weather.  In Switzerland, a total of 49’304 birds were counted on euro Birdwatch weekend. The biggest numbers naturally show migrants like the Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs (22,722 watching birds) or the Common Wood-Pigeon, Columba palumbus, (4,018) and the Common Coot, Fulica atra (2,431). However, rare species such as the Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus, and Greater White-fronted Goose, Anser albifrons, could be observed, too. All Swiss results can be viewed on the established by the Swiss Protection of Birds SVS / BirdLife Switzerland Homepage

The International Zugvogeltag is the biggest event of this BirdLife partner in Europe. Since 1993 bird watching people and conservationists from all over Europe join in autumn for a weekend to observe and count the passing birds. This year the events was attended by 20,000 people at the Euro Birdwatch. The observers counted in total some 2 million migratory birds on their way to their winter areas.

The Swiss Protection of Birds SVS / BirdLife Switzerland and its local sections , in cantonal and national associations are involved since the beginning.

Detailed results for different Locations can be seen online via Resultate 2013.

Bird migration at the Stockert in the Eifel hills

Crested Tit, resting in sloe

A beautiful autumn day. Indian Summer, as written in the books. This time it is to go to the Eifel to hill Stockert south of Euskirchen where bird migration at day can be observed. It was still dark when I arrived. The first bird whispers were heard already . It was mainly chickadees whose calls were audible. Then it went very quick. Within minutes, the bushes were full. Of course, especially Great Tit (Parus major) and Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus ) were seen in the sloe (or Blackthorn), Prunus spinosa, and rosehip, Rosa canina, bushes. A wonderful contrast to the blue and red fruits that hung plentiful on the branches everywhere. Migration unrest obviously hit two species of tits too that are usually not associated with the open countryside but with conifers in the forests. There were some Coal Tits (Periparus ater) and Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus), which rested for a while on the branches of a sloe . Only short – about 2 minutes – then they were gone again.

When photographing it was obvious to see that migration is in full swing. Singing and other territorial habits were rare and restricted to the earliest morning. This early morning on a sunny day (but quite cold in the first hours) was a real pleasure – also from the point of ornithology. In addition Continue reading Bird migration at the Stockert in the Eifel hills

The Northern Goshawk – aerial shots and more

Northern GoshawkWhen scanning images of the portfolio of bird-lens.com it was noticed that the Northern Goshawk is still significantly under-represented . Therefore locations were actively scanned which are known to be frequented regularly by Goshawks. For this purpose sites near wetlands were visited especially in late summer or fall, where many (larger) birds rest and / or moult and are therefore available as prey for inexperienced, young Goshawks. Here, I could see and even photograph a young female Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) approaching me within a few dozen meters. As a result you can see some pictures of this wonderful Northern Goshawk in flight. So strong and breast -heavy like the bird on the pictures in the gallery, the female Goshawk can be differentiated easily from the Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) by size alone.

Other images were shot from an elevated vantage point in the forest. You need time and patience. But then you see pretty easy that Northern Goshawk breeding pairs are territorial. It was also shown that the nests are evenly distributed in the suitable breeding area. Breeding birds defend the environment of their nest within a certain radius, which should not exceed 1km.
Outside the breeding season, territorial behavior is observed, too. Other raptors as the Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) shown on the images are vehemently attacked. Especially adult males show a year-round commitment to the nest area and defend their territory. On the other hand young female Goshawks, independently roaming in others territory as shown in the picture apparently penetrate easily into foreign territories.

The Northern Goshawk is about 45 to 67 cm in length and has a wingspan of about 130 cm. The female is larger than the male. The adult plumage is brownish gray on the back and consists of a white chest which is finely barred black. Young birds are brownish until the first moult on the upper side. The barring on the breast is replaced in young birds by a streaking or a line drawing. The stripes can be found Continue reading The Northern Goshawk – aerial shots and more

A day for birders in the Black Forest, Euro BirdWatch in South-west Germany

Scopes & BirdersThe pan-european “Euro BirdWatch” major event will perform this year for the 20th times. As in Switzerland the migratory birds on their way south are observed on this weekend of 5/6 October 2013 at the invitation of BirdLife International in 33 European and Central Asian countries. On Sunday, 6th October the “Euro BirdWatch” is organized by the Naturschutzbund (Nature Conservation) called NABU, local chapter of Waldshut-Tiengen together with the Nature Conservation Buchsertal from Switzerland with an information stand on the peak of the Wannenberg above Bergöschingen and Reutehof in the immediate vicinity of the radio transmission tower. With an altitude of roughly 630 meters above the sea (asl) excellent observations of migrating birds are possible. If the weather is right. Over the past 20 years at least there could be seen up to 28,000 migratory birds in one day.

Below the Wannenberg there is an orientation panel for bird migration with many interesting information on this topic. BirdLife International is the coordinating these events.

The objectives of this Event are to provide information on bird migration and global contexts, sensitize visitors to the responsibility in this area and generating interest as well as to enjoy watching this natural spectacle. Maybe it give a kick-off for new conservation projects thereon.

Euro BirdWatch in Switzerland

The pan-european Euro BirdWatch major event will perform this year for the 20th times. On the weekend of 5/6 October 2013 the migratory birds on their way south are observed at the invitation of BirdLife International in 33 European and Central Asian countries. The Swiss people interested in bird migration , can choose from 59 observation posts of the local sections of the Swiss bird conservation SVS / BirdLife Switzerland.
The International Zugvogeltag is the biggest event of this BirdLife partner in Europe. Since 1993 bird watching people and conservationists from all over Europe join in autumn for a weekend to observe and count the passing birds. The Swiss Protection of Birds SVS / BirdLife Switzerland and its local sections , in cantonal and national associations are involved since the beginning .

Every fall, the sky can provide a very special natural spectacle. Millions of birds are on their way south and are flying over the Switzerland partly in huge flocks. On the occasion of the euro Birdwatch on 5th and 6th of October 2013 it is particularly easy to track the migration and to seek guidance from experts. Interested people can ask questions and watch the birds with a telescope, binoculars or just with the naked eye at the 59 monitoring and information booths of local sections of the Swiss Protection of Birds SVS / BirdLife Switzerland .

The locations and details Continue reading Euro BirdWatch in Switzerland

Kites slow wind power expansion not only in Germany

Black KiteConservation initiatives and strictly protected birds of prey such as the Red Kite, Milvus milvus prove as a barrier to wind power development not only in Germany. As in Germany, the situation is in Austria. Near the new wind farm which is under construction on the outskirts of Grosskrut, Mistelbach district, an ornithologist in Austria discovered the endangered raptor. Right through the of the almost finished towers of the wind farm flew a Red Kite, Milvus milvus. As well as the Red Kite a Black Kite, Milvus migrans, was hovering over the fields around Grosskrut. Later the ornithologist could spot even a young bird of the Red Kite.

Not only in Germany, people discover a new view to nature. The ornithologist described above stood up for years against the construction of wind turbines and has therefore developed to a conservationists. Consequently, evidence photos and descriptions of the observations were sent to the Birds organization “Bird Life”.

The Red Kite was already the subject of frequent blogs on www.bird-lens.com. Thus e.g. here or here. The Red Kite is a characteristic bird of Central European landscapes. Although about 65% of the world’s population of the Red Kites are found in Germany, Austria is home to a healthy population, too. For full-time ornithologists sightings of the kites are not uncommon. Although the Red Kite was formerly located mainly in eastern Czech Republic to the Marchauen, the bird spreads out now in the neighborhood of the WEinviertel (Wine quarter) near Vienna. One commenter in a local newspaper Continue reading Kites slow wind power expansion not only in Germany

Keoladeo National Park, a paradise also for Western Palearctic birds

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)Is it possible to combine business and birding in India? The country is large, the distance too and most business is performed in a metropolitan area – New Delhi. Although supposedly in the area of New Delhi only 250,000 people live after the Indian census of 2011, but there are at least several million in the greater Delhi area . Nature must stand back there. Nearby , however, is Keoladeo . According to wikipedia is a national park in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Keoladeo is also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary or Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary. The National Park is located about 50 km west of Agra near the town of Bharatpur and not too far south of the city of New Delhi, the capital of India. As a business trip to New Delhi allowed for a few days off for birding, I opted for the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary.

From Germany first the trip went to New Delhi. I stayed in the city, had four grueling days in business meetings with constantly running air conditioning in darkened rooms and then went on a weekend to my well-deserved relaxation destination, the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur. But before the bird’s enjoyment there are more exhausting times to cope with. Although there are only about 200 km to the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary. But they are strenuous. At least 3 hours – rather 4 hours – you are traveling on dusty, crowded highways in almost constant traffic jam. But then you’re on your final destination: in Keoladeo, India´s paradise for water birds. It is for India which for Botswana is the Okavango and the Everglades mean for America. The local population knows Keoladeo as “Ghana” . In their language the word means “forest” or “jungle”. Keoladeo was originally the private duck hunting ground of the Maharajas of Bharatpur. In the swamps many water birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia are wintering. Supposedly over Continue reading Keoladeo National Park, a paradise also for Western Palearctic birds

Hoopoes on Fuerteventura

As the plane gained altitude and the rugged, steep cliffs of the Canary Island of La Palma disappeared more and more in the haze, I decided to come back. Was it the allure of warm semi-desert with cactus like their spurge, the rugged caldera in the northern part of the island, which had thrilled me so, or it was the most overcast, cool bay-rainforests in the center of the island? Maybe it was because of the loud booming of the frogs that filled the night in the subtropical atmosphere.