Category Archives: Posts in English

Alpine birds in the Haut Chaumes / Vosges

SteinrötelThe mountain meadows in the Vosges are very attractive in summer time. Beside birds of the alpine zone one sees some interesting plants like Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea), Mountain arnica (Arnica montana), Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina), Mountain Pansy (Viola lutea). Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe), Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis) and Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) are certainly the most common species of birds, but some rare bird species live in the cliffs and boulder fields as well. If you are lucky, you may spot the Common Rock Thrush or Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) or other “high mountain species” such as Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris).

The scratching sound is unmistakable. Not necessarily the nature lover would consider this as singing. But that’s exactly what it is. With that, the Northern Wheatear is defending his territory. Although the Wheatear is not afraid to present itself openly, it is not so easy to spot the small, black and white colored bird on one of the boulders.

It is even more difficult to discover the Common Rock Thrush. Continue reading Alpine birds in the Haut Chaumes / Vosges

Strenuous hike for Mount Kupé Bushshrike

SchnäpperwürgerWe had a very good breakfast at 5:30. John-Pierre and his team were busy supplying us with a lot of food. We departed at 6:00 with our Rockjumper-guide along the Max’s Trail through farm bush with palms and banana trees up on Mt Kupé. The other option is the Shrike Trail which is a famous, but also very steep and narrow trail. Fortunately the climate is more comfortable here in the forests of the Eastern Moutain Arc than in the lowlands.

The initial stretches of the Max’s Trail is even, getting steeper in the open canopy forest and becomes insanely steep inside primary forest. The last patch we did inside primary forest, we did not see especially many birds. It was a fairly quiet forest. But he continued with our heads down our way up to the altitude where the Bushshrike can be found. Short stops along the way to catch our breath yielded a few nice birds such as Grey-throated Greenbul resp. Western Mountain Greenbul (Andropadus tephrolaemus) and 2 Yellow-billed Turacos (Tauraco macrorhynchus). A nice bird was a female of a African Shrike-flycatcher (Bias flammulatus or Megabyas flammulatus),

In contrast to a year later in the Bakossi Mountains, we did not even hear Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Chlorophoneus kupeensis) at an Continue reading Strenuous hike for Mount Kupé Bushshrike

Eurasian Hobby in the Belziger Landschaftswiesen

BaumfalkeA misty and chilly morning. After weeks without rain, the drizzling rain kept going already for a while. A wet falcon was sitting crooked on a pole in some distance. Obviously not very comfortable in the rain. The view through the scope revealed a Eurasian Hobby (Falcon. subbuteo), also known as the Northern Hobby rested on a post with larger prey. In this position a Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)  would be the first bet, if you are looking only superficially.

Often you will observe Hobbies in flight. Hobbies catch dragonflies and are hirundine or swift specialists, usually taking the prey by surprise in the air, and even dismantling and eating them there.

With its moustache and its rank, slender body, with blue-tinged slaty upperparts and black-streaked underparts which have a subtle buffy tinge these falcons should be not mistaken for any other raptor. But Continue reading Eurasian Hobby in the Belziger Landschaftswiesen

Orange-tufted Sunbird in the Cameroon Mountains

BouviernektarvogelThe hilly area with the lush greenery, the fern bushes and the tree strips gives an impression of Scotland. In addition, it is – at least for African conditions – really pleasant tempered, not to say cool.

This should be a top spot for nectar birds? My doubt is answered within minutes. The sunbirds to be seen in the further course are almost all new for the trip. First, a rather inconspicuous yellow-olive Sunbird can be seen. It appears on the edge of a bush below as in the valley. As inconspicuous as only a female of a sunbird can be. Whether it is large or small, is hard to judge in the distance. But our guide is very experienced and he announce the rare Orange-tufted Sunbird (Cinnyris bouvieri) as a newcomer for our trip list. A little later, a “colleague” of this species appears. Oh, well, it has more colors to offer. The wing shoulder or the leading edges of the wings are dazzling green and the tail dark blue at the base. Otherwise, the Continue reading Orange-tufted Sunbird in the Cameroon Mountains

Great snipe on a lek in Estonia

DoppelschnepfeTo photograph a male Great Snipe (Gallinago media) displaying on a lek in the wide-stretched lowlands of northern Middle Europe, was the target. In a project in collaboration with scientists from Estonian University of Life Sciences is was possible to perform this task in one of the remaining habitats which used to be so typical for this species. It occurred until the 19th century in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Finland and the lowlands of Sweden and Norway – sometimes in remarkable abundancy.

Whereas in the western parts of Middle Europe the loss and deterioration of important floodplain meadow and marshland habitat led numbers of Great Snipe decline dramatically, wide river valleys with extensive grassy meadows are still existent in the low-populated Estonia.

As mentioned, the main objective of a trip to Estonia was, to photograph the Great Snipe in its ancestral habitat, the lowlands of Continue reading Great snipe on a lek in Estonia

The Black Scrub-Robin, a rare Western Palearctic bird

RussheckensängerDry Sahel seems to be a hostile living environment in the dry season. Nevertheless it is home to a charismatic species found across the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal east to the Red Sea coast of Sudan and Eritrea I Africa: the Black Bush Robin or Black Scrub-Robin (Cercotrichas podobe), an inhabitant of the hot arid subdesert and savanna with scattered shrubs or acacia bushes and groves of date palms.

During a Rockjumper-tour to bird northern Cameroon in April 2017, bird-lens.com also visited the wide Sahel belt in the northern part of Cameroon. Bird companions in the area going up to Waza NP are the Quail Plover or Lark Buttonquail (Ortyxelos meiffrenii), Scissor-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii), Black-headed Lapwing (Vanellus tectus) and the Cricket Warbler or Cricket Longtail (Spiloptila clamans).

Normally shortly after we left the car, at least one individual of a Black Scrub-Robin could be detected in or besides the low, thorny shrubbery.

The Black Bush Robin is a long-legged scrub-robin with long, graduated and usually high-cocked tail. The nominate race is greyish-black, with black rump, wings and tail. It is said to be common or very common across the majority of its range. Within this range it is generally considered resident, although short-distance migratory movements evidently occur, as the species is documented as a regular winter visitor south to Ethiopia and Continue reading The Black Scrub-Robin, a rare Western Palearctic bird

Flight photography of the Red Kite

It takes no special effort to see a Red Kite (Milvus milvus) in Brandenburg. But to be successful with more than a photograph of proof takes more. It is of little interest to scan a Red Kite at a distance or high up in the sky. The straight-forward search flight can go seamlessly into a steep downward slide with slightly angled wings up to the bottom of the earth’s surface. This is the opportunity to be found for the right photographer. The uprise-flight following the pushing down with wide, elastic wing flaps is particularly impressing for shots. A freshly mown meadow attracts the Red Milan when the tractors are still mowing.

Once the correct location has been discovered, a whole series of conditions have to be fulfilled in order to be able to press the trigger with success. Good light conditions alone are not enough. In the spring or in the summer the light before 5:00 pm is much too steep, the contrasts too hard and the blue portion in the sky is much too high. The wind must coincide with the sun’s position, as the Red Kites stand against the wind in flight. Flying with the wind, their position changes so quickly that the kite is lost from the viewfinder.

Besides Red Kites, Black Kites (Milvus migrans) are also looking for food during the summer months. Commonly both species hunt together. If the above-mentioned conditions are fulfilled, the Continue reading Flight photography of the Red Kite

Waders at Lake Neusiedl

SäbelschnäblerMost people thinking about Austria have immediately snow, mountains and hiking in mind. A very different, but extremely interesting picture, is offered for the birder in Burgenland, in the area around the lake Neusiedl. The question is, however, is a bird paradise at the same time also a photographer´s paradise? The landscape in the easternmost tip of Austria is a typical Puszta landscape with numerous, small, flat salt lakes, the so-called “Lacken”, and a big water body but only one meter deep the Lake Neusiedl (German: Neusiedler See) or Fertő. With an area of ​​about 320 km², which is almost half covered with high reeds, it is considered to be the largest steppe lake in Europe and has a decisive influence on the climate in this area. This is very mild in this region. Temperatures in excess of 30 ° C may already prevail in May. Fortunately there is almost always a gentle breeze. Otherwise when the breeze fails, the heat becomes unbearable.

Almost all year round is tourist season. We visited Lake Neusiedler in spring and summer, as well as in autumn, and found that the months April to mid July were the most interesting for animal photography. In early summer, the meadows around Neusiedler See are transformed into a colorful flower carpet. The autumn Continue reading Waders at Lake Neusiedl

Fraser’s Sunbird with young in Campo Maan National Park/ Cameroon

Not only does the Campo Maan National Park have to offer the Gray-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas), but also a lot of other birds that you will not find in other parts of the world. One Highlight was a sequence of shots of a Fraser’s Sunbird feeding its young at the edge of Campo Maan National Park.

After we had observed successfully the shy Bare-cheeked Trogon (Apaloderma aequatoriale), the birding luck left us a bit in the course of the day trip. The heat of the day is now fully reflected on the shady jungle paths. A small group of birds, which feed on caterpillars, have white dark circles. My guide taps on a African Yellow White-eye (Zosterops senegalensis). Well, so yellow had not at all on the stomach. At first perplexed, we end up with the species determination at a Sunbird. After all, it could be the purely insectivorous Scarlet-tufted Sunbird or Fraser’s Sunbird (Deleornis fraseri). That´s it!

Fraser’s Sunbird could be beautifully watched slipping through the Continue reading Fraser’s Sunbird with young in Campo Maan National Park/ Cameroon

African Pied Hornbill in the dust bath in the Campo Maan National Park / Cameroon

ElstertokoOn the way back from the Campo Maan National Park after a very successful search for the Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas) we drive on the last day straight into a hollow and then look over a ridge, which makes the track in the slightly wavy national park. Before us, dust swirls in the middle of the dirt track. A group of African Pied Hornbills does not only just hang around in the adjacent trees, but also on the ground. The African Pied Hornbill (Tockus fasciatus) with their red lower bill belong to the subspecies fasciatus and they really look so beautiful. Although the track does not look too dusty, it seems to exert an uncanny attraction on the birds. Some individuals of the African Pied Hornbills are already flying away when we come over the top with our car. But one bird – probably a female – remains sitting and takes a long dusty bath. I let the driver stop the car and also turn off the engine. So, I can take some distance shots with the Canon EF400mm f / 2.8L IS II USM lapped on the side mirror. Then I let it get closer two more times. The bird does not fly off. Of course, the female of African Pied Hornbill does not let us out of her sight. First, she secures, but then she ducks deep into a hollow and throws up the dust so that the plumage is completely covered. Only when we are up to 25 meters, she flies out of the lying posture and disappears on a perch in a low tree. This day was almost the most successful birding morning of the last days.

Campo Maan is Hornbill -Country with the possibility of White-crested Hornbill (Tockus albocristatus), Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill (Tockus camurus), African Pied Hornbill (Tockus fasciatus), Piping Hornbill (Ceratogymna fistulator), Continue reading African Pied Hornbill in the dust bath in the Campo Maan National Park / Cameroon

Immigrant from Africa: the Egyptian Goose

NilgansIf you are looking for the Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus) you have to memorize the typical chatter of this species, because the deliberately calling male Egyptian Goose does not hide. Originally native to Africa, the Egyptian Goose is no longer an exception in Germany.

Today, these sole members of the genus Alopochen are frequently found in many places. Its spread in Europe originated in Great Britain, where it was released. The population rapidly increased. As the English Channel is not a serious geographic barrier, it was only a matter of time before the first birds appeared on the European mainland. Since 1980, the Egyptian Goose has been established in Germany and its population has already reached an impressive size. Egyptian Geese now belong to the familiar inventory of many lakes and ponds.

The long-necked and high-legged Egyptian Geese are about 70 cm tall and weigh up to two and a half kilos. Male and female are same-colored. They show a pronounced pairing behavior. When Egyptian Geese lead young, they can be quite aggressive against observers or photographers. However, usually every bigger location has a pair that is particularly cute. Then even extreme wide angles can replace the longer tele lenses of 600 or even 800 mm.

Although usually the Egyptian Geese occupy a wide range Continue reading Immigrant from Africa: the Egyptian Goose

Mount Kupé Bushshrike – some aspects on equipment & logistics

I had been very successful in the Bakossi Mountains with the Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis) – also known as Serle’s Bushshrike. After an unsuccessful first day on an expedition in these Afrotropic mountains, my indispensable guides and me encountered a total of 7 individuals of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike until the end of the second day; including 4 sightings and 3 only heard individuals elsewhere in the forest.

The Bakossi Mountains are part of the so-called Cameroon Mountain Arc in the western country of Cameroon. Here an Afrotropic mountain vegetation prevails. In addition to the Mount Kupe Bushshrike other endemic species like e.g. Mount Cameroon Francolin (Francolinus camerunensis) and Bannerman’s Turaco (Tauraco bannermani) contribute to the wealth in biodiversity.

Overall, I spent nearly 15 minutes at the site where a pair of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike displayed a mating ritual (as described in the blog). Initially I shot with the Canon EF 400mm 1: 2.8L IS II USM from a Gitzo tripod. The frequent relocation of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike along with the unexpectedly low-level location of the bird inside the forest let me switch to the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM on the Canon EOS 5DS R. Despite exposure times of 1/160 sec. – later also with 1/80 sec. – the excellent image stabilizer allowed shots from the hand. A total of 183 pictures were shot on the occasion, of which 26 pictures were reasonably acceptable and a few were good enough. The image of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike Continue reading Mount Kupé Bushshrike – some aspects on equipment & logistics

Orange Weaver near nest on Sanaga River

KönigsweberThe sun was already up and shining. The mighty Sanaga River laid in beautiful light in front of us. A small wooden boat was hired for this morning to pick us up at a sand pit at the shore of the river for a morning trip on the water. When we arrived, nobody was there. But some more minutes later we saw two guys heavily paddling a small canoe down river. We embarked the canoe only minutes later and started the trip. Large sandbanks in the middle of the river were our first stop. Eventually we made our way down the river to some more matured sandbank, which has become well vegetated islands. The banks of these islands were quite steep and the water in front so deep that the driver of the canoe could not fix the boat with his long wooden stick. Maneuvering the boat with the paddles against the currents, I saw a typical weaver nest hanging less than half a meter above water level on reed. I tried to tape the Orange Weaver (Ploceus aurantius) with its call. Only a fraction of time, a small yellow bird with an orange wash on the head and breast appeared: the male of the Orange Weaver. What a bird!

The Orange Weaver was one of the highlights on a Rockjumper trip in April 2017. But at that time we saw 3 birds on our final birding Continue reading Orange Weaver near nest on Sanaga River

Grey Pratincole at Sanaga River/ Cameroon

GraubrachschwalbeThe black eyestripe which curves down behind the eye, the light chestnut nape, and the white supercilium features a small beauty: the Grey Pratincole (Glareola cinerea). Add a light grey for the upperparts and a white rump with a black tail you are ready with the ID.

The excursion to the Sanaga River in the South Province, Cameroon was the target of my last birding part during a trip in February. We departed from the nice Hostelerie de la Sangha in Edea. At least close to Douala it is easiest here to pick up Grey Pratincole and the African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris). Additionally, Preuss’s Swallow (Hirundo preussi) and some waders were present as well. Coming from Douala we just passed the center of Edea and just after the second large bridge over the river take the first tarmac road left which goes to Dizangue. Soon it becomes a dirt road and after about 10 km from the turnoff the road comes close to the river.

The large sandbanks in the middle of the river were our first stop. We found the African Skimmers and the Grey Pratincoles immediately. Senegal Thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Little Stint (Calidris minuta), several Kentish (Snowy) Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) were present in low numbers as Continue reading Grey Pratincole at Sanaga River/ Cameroon

CAMEROON – a birding trip to south-western Cameroon

HalsbandwürgerINTRODUCTION

Having participated in a Rockjumper Trip to Cameroon with a 3-week itinerary in April 2017 I knew that Cameroon is likely the number 1 birding destination in Western Africa with a big potential of seeing more but in a 3-week itinerary in a group of 11 participants. A trip list in April of 537 (of which 393 photographed) species for 3 weeks and an increase of my global bird list by as many as 319 species to 4.449 species was not a bad result. But overall, photography, an intensive feeling for nature and sometimes silence on the birding spot came short. Ok, no wonder with the many participants plus 2 leaders, guides, porters etc..

Right at the end of the trip to Cameroon in April 2017, I had considered making a second trip – but different. This time it should be a real photography trip. As a ground agent I realized, that Jean-Pierre Somon (jeanpierre.somon@yahoo.fr) might be able to arrange the trip. I wanted to focus on 3 locations:

 

  • Bakossi Mountains for the Mt. Kupe Bushshrike.
  • Sanaga River for African Skimmer and Grey Pratincole
  • Campo Ma’an NP for the Red-headed Picathartes or Grey-necked Rockfowl.

I opted for mainly camping in Campo-Ma’an-NP as well as in the Bakossi Mountains. For the birds of the Sanaga River I wanted definitely to take a boat in the early morning. Starting point: the Continue reading CAMEROON – a birding trip to south-western Cameroon

Out of area Common Whitethroat in Cameroon

DorngrasmückeA Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) is a common warbler in the Western Palaearctic. But not in February. The same is true, if you see the Common Whitethroat in in the litoral province in southern Cameroon. On a way back from a successful hike on Mount Cameroon, we were lucky to be surprised by this Western Palaearctic visitor near the foothills of the highest mountain of Western Africa.

After having spent almost the whole on the mountain, we were hiking already back through agricultural land. In a small shrub above the fist outskirtst of the local town Buea, I became aware of a bird by its movement. The rust-brown wings with the black wing edges on a gray-brown back, a gray head and a hint of an eye ring I know but somewhere. The throat looks pure white. Yes, that must be a Whitethroat. Taking a photo takes too long. Besides, I do not want to have any trouble with the officials because we are right in front of the local prison. For that I can look in the binoculars in detail what turn out to be a female of the Whitethroat.

With the ID I am fine, but the distribution map of the Whitethroat, which is shown in the book “Birds of Western Africa” ​​by Nik Borrow Continue reading Out of area Common Whitethroat in Cameroon

Photography of Grey-necked Rockfowls between rocks in Cameroon

After having arrived in the rock-cut cathedral of giant boulders to see the Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas), called also the Red-headed Picathartes, in the Campo Maan National Park in April 2017, we settle down to wait. Be patient and wait. This is the motto.

We are still pretty early. It is just 4:00 pm. I got assigned a place by the Ranger of the NP office, which seems a bit reset compared to last April. But with my Canon EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM I’m well prepared. I set up the three-legged stool and adjust the 200 with the EOS 5 DsR to the Gitzo G1588 monopod. In addition, I arrange the EOS 1 DX with the Canon EF85mm f / 1.8 USM in case the Grey-necked Rockfowl is suddenly in front of me. That had happened briefly in April; too short for the lens attached at that time. I switch both cameras on Silent Mode. But I change that after a while with the EOS 1 DX, because I think that – when I use the EOS 1 DX – it is really hardship and then noise does not matter anymore. In this case speed is more needed. Luckily, I still remember to turn on the image stabilizer on the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM. Then I am ready. I’m still undecided whether I should rather take the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM or the EF85mm f / 1.8 USM in the hand. The sitting position is ok on the stool; but sitting for hours is perhaps not recommended.

After I sorted everything I feel prepared. The nests of the Picathartes seem to be much further compared to their last visit in Continue reading Photography of Grey-necked Rockfowls between rocks in Cameroon

Grey-necked Rockfowl in Campo Maan National Park / Cameroon

One of the reasons for a 2-week tour to Cameroon was to take much better shots of the Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas). Called also the Red-headed Picathartes, the very primitive-looking rainforest dwellers were already the main reason to visit Campo Maan National Park in April 2017.

The drive to Campo Maan National Park was tedious but ultimately successful. Now only the way through the jungle to the large granite rocks in the breeding area of ​​the Grey-necked Rockfowlhad needed to be mastered. The path has grown pretty much. The local guide must therefore run ahead with the machete and cut it free. In the mud you can see but also footprints, which cannot be so long ago. Thus a certain tourist frequency seems to exist. Unlike in April, we do not see any other of the forest birds along the way. In fact it is really quite in the shade of the trees. Then the impressive collection of giant pebbles appears in the darkness of the forest. Like a dark castle, the blocks of Continue reading Grey-necked Rockfowl in Campo Maan National Park / Cameroon

The Mount Kupé Bushshrike in the Bakossi Mountains

HalsbandwürgerA fresh, sunny morning in the Bakossi Mountains. The initial stretches of the trail are even for a fairly distance, getting steeper and even insanely steep inside the core primary forest. The last patch we did inside primary forest before getting to one of the territorial spots of the Serle’s Bushshrike – better known as Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis), we did not see especially many birds. It was a fairly quiet forest. Finally, we have found a territorial pair of Serle’s Bushshrike or Mount Kupe Bushshrike. The birds are even quite low to detect inside the forest – almost just above the undergrowth. We pass lianas and fallen tree trunks and then stand just below the top of a ridge. A little further down the slope, a couple of the Serle’s Bushshrike (Mount Kupe Bushshrike) cling to twigs and branches in a not too dense, but mossy and lichen-covered undergrowth. It is very similar to the habitat description “Primary forest with relatively open understorey, sometimes on steep hillsides; at 930-1550 m “, which is described in the Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Editions, Barcelona.

Obviously, the two birds have chosen a special place and perform something like a dance, which is only known to a few ornithologists and is very observable. Definitely a mating display; a reminiscence Continue reading The Mount Kupé Bushshrike in the Bakossi Mountains

Mountain Robin-Chat on red ants road at Mount Cameroon

During the night, a heavy thunderstorm had fallen with heavy downpours over Douala and the southwestern province. Now in the early morning a few birds are on the hiking trail. In an open site, some specialists have found themselves plundering an ant-train. Unlike in South America, these birds actually seem to eat the ants themselves. Anyway, I quickly see at least 4 Garden Bulbuls (Pycnonotus barbatus gabonensis), at least 2 Mountain Robin-Chat (Oreocossypha isabellae or Cossypha isabellae) and at least 1 Brown-chested Alethe (Chamaetylas poliocephala). The Brown-chested Alethe is much shyer than the other birds. Nevertheless, she can be photographed perfectly on a perch. A young Mountain Robin-Chat is so engaged in his search for food that it lets me easily approach up to 6 meters. The Mountain Robin-Chat proceeds always in the same way. First it walks to an exposed part on the side of the ant trail, lowers the head as if it should think, and then pecks in a fraction of a second. Whether picking was successful, I cannot judge at the minuteness of the loot. All the while, I have to make an image at a time. Sometimes the Garden Bulbuls approach this site after disappearing and try to move the Mountain Robin-Chat away from its best place. In the short term, that also has success. But quickly, the young Mountain Robin-Chat is back in place and just keeps going. Continue reading Mountain Robin-Chat on red ants road at Mount Cameroon

Where and how to photograph Hawfinches

Right now, there is a large invasion of Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) recorded for Great Britain. The peak took place in fall 2017, and good numbers have remained during the winter months. With fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs in Britain, Hawfinch populations are critically low and the bird is Red-listed as a Bird of Conservation Concern, according to the RSPB.

On the continent – especially in the eastern parts, Hawfinches are not as rare as in the western part of Europe. But to photograph them, is tricky enough.

Hawfinches are notable for their bright brown-orange-grey colors and for their unusually large beaks and strong jaws. Hawfinches are real beauties. Famous are their beaks, which can shear open hawthorn, cherry and even damson stones. Like all finches, Hawfinches use the cutting edge at the back of their bills to hold a stone while they crack it open and skilfully extract the kernel with their tongues.

Hawfinches love to feed on hornbeam seeds. If you find a suitable Continue reading Where and how to photograph Hawfinches

Where to photograph seabirds in flight in the UK

EissturmvogelIn the age of digital full-frame cameras with a very fast autofocus, flight-shot photography is possible that used to be (almost) unthinkable only some years ago. Ducks starting trembling over the water were (and are) still quite easy. But who managed to photograph a flying Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)? Other land birds were usually only photographed at take-off. Seabirds, on the other hand, provide the best conditions to make shoot excellent aerial images quite easy. These birds are numerous, they are tall and therefore do not move too fast. At hatching, they appear on land – albeit often on fairly inaccessible shores. Besides, they are not shy at all in flight and approach sometimes on short distances.

These are a lot of reasons why seabirds are still favored by bird photographers today. They are the Continue reading Where to photograph seabirds in flight in the UK

Land under water in Poland

RotschenkelIn the 18th century settlers made the long, marshy lowland area of ​​the Warta and the river Netze habitable. Individual farmsteads and villages from that time can still be seen from the dike of the Warta. None of the houses has no stork nest.

Today, only the diked areas at the Warta estuary reminds of the original landscape. The meadows between Kostrzyn and Slonsk are gradually being drained here via an old trench and canal system.

Today only a few farmers graze their cattle and horses here. Therefore, herbaceous thickets and willow bushes are increasingly spreading to many areas that have long been no longer cultivated in today’s national park. The easiest way to get to the national park is from Kostrzyn via the main road 133 to Slonsk, a larger village that used to have city rights in former times. After entering the village turn left at a grocery store to take the road to Przyborow. In this village, a paved road leads to the right of the paved road to a concrete country road, which ends for cars at a bridge with a sheltered hut. Behind it, the concrete runway meanders over three kilometers along the Postomia to the Warta. Another easy-to-access gateway starts at Przyborow, on the right off the main road, just opposite a simple shop. The bumpy side path leads down to the causeway along the canal, where Great Grebes (Podiceps cristatus) are often seen. Sometimes Red-necked Grebes (Podiceps grisegena) or Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) can be found there, and seagulls (Larus spec.) and Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) almost always Continue reading Land under water in Poland

The Yellow-legged Gull on the Azores

MittelmeermöweThe appearance of a black head mask or cap makes the Azorean subspecies of the widespread Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis atlantis) interesting. Although in the Azores several species of gulls of holartic origin might show-up, the best bet throughout the archipelago is always a Yellow-legged Gull.

About the size – a bit smaller – of other gulls of the genus Larus like the Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), the identification of a Yellow-legged Gull of the subspecies atlantis is quite straight-forward, at least if you are looking for adult birds. The general tone of the plumage of the back and wings is grey. The wing tip is black with white spots. The throat, chest and abdomen white is white with a variable extent of black streaking on the head (the cap!). The beak is strong and yellow with a red spot almost on the tip. The legs are yellow – sometimes shining bright yellow. The eyes are white with a red orbital ring, which is even identifiable on some distance.

Although the Yellow-legged Gull is preferably marine, it also frequents other biotopes, usually on the coast, such as beaches, ports, marinas, beaches, coastal cliffs and pastures

These gulls nestle throughout the Azores in good numbers throughout the year. Look for them on the water-filled volcanic caldeiras as well. From time to time they like to swim and bathe in the sweet water of these lagoas.

The Yellow-legged Gull nestles mainly on the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula and France, on the islands of the Azores and Madeira and the Canaries, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. In winter it is distributed along the European Atlantic coast, from Denmark to Western Sahara, and along the Mediterranean coast. On the sea, this Gull has a markedly coastal distribution, not moving towards waters beyond the continental shelf. Similarly in the Azores it uses the waters near the coast, and may be further from the latter in the post-nuptial period

Most of the population is sedentary and even young birds disperse relatively short distances. Some individuals can make wider dispersive movements and ringed birds on islands of the Atlantic were observed in the first two years of life in the United Kingdom, northern France, southern Spain and Morocco.

In order to satisfy the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Western Palearctic, Bird-lens.com has undertaken dedicated trips to nearby and distant bird areas. This is to be able to do anything to provide excellent images of the birds of the Western Palearctic. Sometimes the yield of images is enriched by bird species, which are very unlikely to show-up in the Western Palearctic. The results in images even of rare Western Palearctic birds are very good. The beautiful image of the blog is only a first impression of what you will find in behind “Picture Shop” very soon. Simply contact bird-lens.com if you need an image of a bird before the newest images are online.

A Birdwatching Guide to Brandenburg and Berlin: a new field guide

The east of Germany, especially Brandenburg and Berlin is one of the »hotspots« for birdwatching in Germany with a rich variety of birds and many rare species.

Until recently, trips has to be fully based on the birding guide for North-east Germany (Vögel beobachten in Ostdeutschland; Wagner and Moning 2009, Franckh-Kosmos Verlag). This splendid book with clear maps and numbered stake-outs brought already many birdwatchers to several good birding sites you might not have heard of before.

If you try bird-lens.com as a guidance, a good intro for the spring visitor you will find here: http://www.bird-lens.com/2017/04/11/observation-site-for-spring-migration-on-the-river-oder/

In the meantime, a new field guide was published: White: A Birdwatching Guide to Brandenburg and Berlin. Roger White has created an outstanding field guide for his Continue reading A Birdwatching Guide to Brandenburg and Berlin: a new field guide

Great Bittern at Colfiorito in Umbria

RohrdommelIn early January, the weather forecast announced a Siberian high above the Mediterranean and the Italian west coast. After a few mild winters, the upcoming cold now seemed to reverse the trend of recent years. In fact, temperatures dropped on the Italian peninsula, especially in northern Italy and in the center of the southern Apennines  lower than in the last 10 years.

The wetland Colfiorito in Umbria is located at about 800 meters altitude on a karst plateau in the central Apennines. Due to the altitude, snow and cold temperatures are not uncommon, but this year it was extreme. The temperatures were between -5 ° C and -12 ° C every day in the early morning and often remained below 0 ° C during the day.

The marshland was quickly frozen, and after a few days the ice was Continue reading Great Bittern at Colfiorito in Umbria

Swifts over Sanager River/ Cameroon

MohrenseglerSwifts (Apodiformes) in the family Apodidae are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 13 species occurring in Cameroon. In a Rockjumper trip to Cameroon in April 2017, swifts were encountered almost every day with Little swift (Apus affinis) and African palm-swift (Cypsiurus parvus) being by far the most common.  The best shots of Swifts and Swallows during the trip you will finde in the gallery “Swift and Swallows over Sanaga River in Cameroon” .

Common Swift (Apus apus) are probably the 3rd most abundant and could be seen and photographed especially in the lowlands near the Sanaga River close to Edea in the south-west corner of Cameroon. A gallery of flying birds of Sanager river – Swallows and Swifts – show the great potential for birders and photographers.

Numbers of Common Swifts are declining throughout Europe. A third of British Swifts e.g. have been lost since 1995. But the reasons underpinning this decline are unclear. Scientists of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO ) are involved in a project aiming to address Continue reading Swifts over Sanager River/ Cameroon

Nationalpark Pilanesberg: a heaven not only for Kingfishers

GraukopfliestIn the surrounding bushes of the Tidodi Dam there is  loud bustle already. In the gallery forest around, numerous birds such as the Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala) enjoy the first sun beams. Haze floats above the water. It is morning shortly after sunrise. The surrounding trees of the dam form a small gallery forest, which attracts many birds such as Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas), Grey-headed Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher (Halcyon albiventris), Crested Barbet (Trachyphonus vaillantii), Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus) and Broad-billed Roller (Eurystomus glaucurus).

An alternative is the Malatse Dam along the Dithabaneng Drive. This dam offers the opportunity to photograph the African Fish-Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) and other birds such as Ibisse and Spoonbills at their sleeping retreat.

Not far from the Malatse dam is the Dithabaneng dam. If the water is high, you can go by car directly to the shore. The light is perfect for taking photos in the morning and in the evening. It is worth driving to the Ruighoek waterhole in the afternoon. At this small dam is a relatively low-lying hide.

From the frog’s perspective you can take pictures at the waterhole of the Kwa Maritane Lodge. The waterhole of the Kwa Maritane Continue reading Nationalpark Pilanesberg: a heaven not only for Kingfishers

Pochard: a bird population in decline

TafelenteThe fate of the Common Pochard is discussed intensively in the relevant forums. Scientific research suggests that the sex ratio of the populations of Common Pochard (Aythya ferina), a medium-sized diving duck, in Europe and North Africa has changed. This could play a role in the decline of the species in the Western Palearctic.

Sex ratio results have just been published in the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) Journal Wildfowl. These conclusions show that populations are becoming increasingly “masculine”. Using the data obtained in January 2016, the researchers compared counts from surveys conducted in January 1989 and January 1990 in the same region. The proportion of men in the total population was 62% in the years 1989 to 1990 and in 2016 this disparity even increased to 71%.

Interesting clues for the pochard, a bird in a sharp population descent, provides an investigation of ZIMMERMANN, H. (2010), which was published in: Brut und Mauser der Tafelente Aythya ferina im Naturschutzgebiet Fischteiche in der Lewitz (Breeding and moulting of the pochard Aythya ferina in the nature reserve fish ponds in the Lewitz) in Orn. Newsletter Meckl.-Vorp. 46: 367-373.

The fish ponds in the Lewitz are a traditional breeding and moulting area of the Common Pochard in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Continue reading Pochard: a bird population in decline

Ungeheuerwiesen in winter

KornweiheThis winter wildlife heaven is often full of birds. Probably the most spectacular (and noisy) are the thrushes and European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) to feast on the unfrozen meadows. Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) winter out on the remote parts of the meadows, but will regularly hunt the lakes and wetland down to the shores of Blankensee. In the hawthorn and crab apple trees you might see Redwings (Turdus iliacus) and hundreds of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris). Both Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) and – to a lesser extent – Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) over-winter near the Ungeheuerwiesen and occasionally drop in for a feed or even to spend the night. Frozen days might even reveal the usually shy Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) as it is forced to leave the cover of vegetation in the ditches to find something to feed.

An excellent stake-out is an observation tower on the south-eastern edge of the Ungeheuerwiesen. Photographic opportunities are ideal for flying birds. It results in options to take pictures of the birds from above as well as to take pictures at eye level. Continue reading Ungeheuerwiesen in winter

Mount Cameroon: a heaven for little birds

FarncistensängerArriving from the Northern Extension of the Rockjumper Rainforest & Rockfowl 2017 – tour we were more than tired as we had arrived on a late flight from Garoua via Yaoundé. To postpone the breakfast to get some sleep was not advisable. The birds do not sleep during the day. And: the morning hours are the most productive. We had a very good breakfast and shortly later our Rainforest & Rockfowl started off with a visit to Mount Cameroon. We were delighted to have a beautiful morning, after heavy rain the previous night, and there was an excited buzz in the air for the anticipation of great birding which lay ahead. We were not to be disappointed and the forest was alive and active throughout the day but especially in the morning.

For 10 minutes we entered the vans to get the first kilometers uphill done before we saw the fields below Mount Cameroon in front of us. We then headed up the mountain on muddy – and in cases – some slippery trails. In comparison to other trails this route is not as steep and narrow. Fortunately the climate is more comfortable here than in the lowlands.

Right in the beginning we had several brown-headed beauties, which show well after a while. Behavior and my anticipation looked for Grey Apalis. But the chestnut-browns color of the head did not seem to fit the description of a grey-brown head. The „Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa“ (Helm Field Guides) von Nik Borrow and Continue reading Mount Cameroon: a heaven for little birds

Birding at Ponta do Albernaz on Flores

KiebitzregenpfeiferIn the north of the island of Flores, there are two top birding locations, distanced only about 3km from each other. The one is the village Ponta Delgada to the east, a small site with less than 400 inhabitants, and the lighthouse on the edge of Ponta do Albernaz on the western edge. The lighthouse at Ponta do Albernaz is the most powerful lighthouse of the Azores.

The view is breathtaking, with the neighboring island of Corvo in the background. The lighthouse is accessed via an isolated roadway that extends to the western edge of Flores.

Here is the first point of arrival of the migratory birds to the island of Flores in fall. But Ponta Delgada is equally important for breeding seabirds. In Ponta Delgada, the small port and the old soccer field should be visited. The small port was productive and is always worth a view:

  • Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia),
  • Red Knot (Calidris canutus) and
  • Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

were really good birds besides the 1 – 3 individuals of Ruddy Continue reading Birding at Ponta do Albernaz on Flores

Red-necked Phalarope: Migration in the Western Palearctic

OdinshühnchenRed-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) are mainly known as colorful breeding birds of the Arctic tundra of Eurasia and North America. The more colorful females advertise with conspicuous courtship flights around the males, which later take care for the offspring. Following the breeding time, Red-necked Phalaropes are pronounced migratory birds. Now they change to their simple black and white non-breeding dress. In small numbers Red-necked Phalarope migrate over Germany annually. About the migration routes and the wintering areas of individual populations, however, relatively little is known. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, it was known that most of the European Red-necked Phalarope winter on the open sea. The wintering areas are dotted in the tropical seas. Well-known wintering areas are known off the west coast of South America, in the southwest Pacific and in the northwest of the Indian Ocean. A well-known area lies in the Arabian Sea. Very late, it was discovered that even on the Atlantic off the coast of West Africa Red-necked Phalarope spend the winter. It is not yet known exactly from where Red-necked Phalarope on migration over in Germany are coming and in which winter quarters they are traveling. If one previously followed the theory that there are Icelandic breeding birds on a southeastern route to Arabia, it seems today also imaginable that birds from Scandinavia rest in Germany, which winter off the West African coast.

The breeding season of the Red-necked Phalarope starts in late May. Although the birds are now in their breeding plumage, the spring passage in Germany from early May to early June is not very noticeable. Far more noticeable is the autumn migration, which extends over a longer period from mid-July to October. Females, Continue reading Red-necked Phalarope: Migration in the Western Palearctic

Northern Waterthrush on the Poço do Ferreiro in Flores / Azores

DrosselwaldsängerA green bird slips through dense vegetation right on the side of a beautiful, silent forest lake. Hiking should go to Poço do Ferreiro, also called Lagoa da Pato. I want to look at an area without tourists, which can be overcrowded during the day. I am a little disappointed. There is already a car in the parking lot although it is only 8:45 am. So I’m not alone. Thick clouds are in the sky. The clouds are also hanging over the plateau as well and have shrouded the upper parts of the cliffs in fog. This reinforces the impression of the falling waterfalls all the more. I have not been standing on the elevated bank edge for a long time. Right next to a lily pad I see movement. I can hardly believe my eyes. Green-grey, a bird slips between the leaves and the stem of the aquatic plant. Hey, the guy with the thick, white, superciliary is not a native bird – at least not one I’ve had seen already. Anyway: otherwise you can see only the yellow of the Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) on or near the water. Crouched posture and a thick, white superciliary: Yes, this is clearly a Northern Waterthrush or in Portuguese Mariquita -boreal. In any case, it is a Seiurus noveboracensis. Suddenly – without even being able to take a picture – the bird disappears. Fortunately, the Northern Waterthrush Continue reading Northern Waterthrush on the Poço do Ferreiro in Flores / Azores

Helmeted Manakin in Pantanal

HelmpipraThe Helmeted Manakin  (Antilophia galeata) is one of the most striking and colorful birds of Brazilian forests. Several species of Manakins occur from the Amazon or Atlantic Forest, but the Helmeted Manakin –  the soldadinho in Portugues – is an exclusive species of riparian forests of the central-western Brazilian and the forests of the Pantanal lowland, with only a small distribution area in Bolivia and Paraguay.

As in most species of the family, the male is very flashy. Body all black, contrasting with the living red of the top of the head and back. A longer feathery wad is held high or over the beak, being marked by the shape and giving clue to the common name of the bird. The female and the young males are uniform green except for the beak, legs and eyes. The forehead feathers are Continue reading Helmeted Manakin in Pantanal

Female Pygmy Sunbird in northern Cameroon

Grünbrust-NektarvogelOn a thorny acacia tree is quietly sitting a bird. I shot some photos and head off with the group. Someone noticed a Senegal Eremomela (Eremomela pusilla) at that moment. And indeed: what I saw at home was – on first sight – the image of a yellow warbler

But a Senegal Eremomela? I was skeptical. I could see only a hint of a pale white supercilium. The back and mantle were uniform and not green, becoming brighter yellowish green on the rump. And the throat and upper breast were as bright lemon yellow as the lower breast, belly and vent. The bill was blackish with a pale part only in the beginning and the legs are not pale brownish but grey. I asked for help in ID at www.birdforum.net. After some confusion with the Continue reading Female Pygmy Sunbird in northern Cameroon

Goldcrest, bathing under waterfall on Flores

WintergoldhähnchenWalking a steep trail in search of North-American vagrants under the high cliffs near the little village of Ponta da Fajã on the west coast of Flores eventually I came to a waterfall right beside the hiking trail. I took a rest and was surprised to notice some movement close to the constant shower of water. I looked through the binoculars and saw a Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) feeding in the wet mosses on one side of the waterfall which falls down for 30 meters in a little pond. Quite a strange – and open – habitat for a Goldcrest. Obviously the main task was to search for food, but several times the bird raised the wings and it looked as if it was bathing under the waterfall.

Although quite a common bird on mainland Europe, this small, chubby and restless passerine bird (the smallest bird in Europe) is undoubtedly one of the favorite companions during hiking walks inside dense forests and natural scrub of the island of Flores. Its constant hissing, combined with its innate curiosity, make this bird an easy species to observe, as long as you are patience and listen to its high-pitched calls. Its nesting in Portugal is restricted to the Continue reading Goldcrest, bathing under waterfall on Flores

Bird photography in the rainforests of Peru

ArakangaAs the name suggests high precipitation characterizes the rainforests. Photographing animals during the rain is a real challenge to people and material. But this particular weather situation gives many motifs an additional charm. An extensive downpour is always a great moment to spot birds in an extraordinary situation. But also the small representatives of the animal kingdom such as frogs, butterflies, insects are hardly to be surpassed in their diversity. A macro should therefore be part of the equipment as a good, powerful flash.

Rainforests of Peru are one of the richest in biodiversity on earth. Although the jungle is full of life, the extreme conditions make animal photography in the rainforest always a tricky. Poor lighting conditions, high humidity and a lot of rain make every photographer face a challenge.

Peru is one of the countries with the highest biodiversity and has astonishingly many endemic species as well as a remarkable variety of ecosystems. Almost 70% of the country’s surface is covered with tropical rain forest. This makes Peru one of the most interesting destinations for passionate nature photographers. Although the Continue reading Bird photography in the rainforests of Peru

Where to watch birds in Germany: Fichtelgebirge

SperlingskauzThe stars sparkle from the cloudless firmament. In the dark the hike up to the mountain started. The markings lead you via forest paths and logging trails. After about 2, 5 hours and 4 km you can start the final spurt to the summit. When you arrive, you can feel the coolness of the early morning. A light wind is blowing. There is nothing to be heard except for the singing of the thrushes deep down in the forest. The view up here at the summit of the Waldstein is absolutely stunning. Not far are the peaks of the Schneeberg and the Ochsenkopf. Both are surrounded by a white misty sea. Only the peaks emerge from this sea. In the far distance are the heights of the Frankenwald.

The majority of the way passes through spruce forest. This is also the habitat of the Eurasian Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium passerinum). In addition to the spruces, there are many trees from Beech (Fagus sylvatica) Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) and Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra), which further enhance habitat quality for typical montane species. The summit area of ​​the Grosse Waldstein is very scenic. Very impressive are the many high granite towers. Unlike the neighboring mountains, the rocks have not collapsed here. Furthermore, the observation deck on the summit offers an impressive view over Continue reading Where to watch birds in Germany: Fichtelgebirge

Yellow-billed Cardinal in Pantanal

MantelkardinalDespite being at the edge of its eastern distribution, the Yellow-billed Cardinal (Paroaria capitata) is so common in the Pantanal,  that you hardly can miss it. Besides being one of the most colorful birds of the Pantanal, it is also one of the most common along the rivers, corixos and bays of the Pantanal plain. Form groups of up to a few dozen in feeders, such as at the farm Pouso Alegre and on the salted meat blankets drying in the sun.

The Yellow-billed Cardinal inhabits the riverside in various strata of vegetation. During the flood season, they join the rising waters, reaching places far from the rivers. They colonize farmhouses and other structures created by human action, remaining year-round in the place when there is food. They catch insects, other invertebrates and seeds on the ground. They live in groups throughout the year, although there are strong disputes between them for space or food.

Male and female are identical, with the characteristic red of the head contrasting with the rest of the colors and with the yellow bill.

Young birds come out of the nest with their backs and bill gray. The head is brown. The juvenile birds are sticking to their parents in flocks as of December. In the following months, they begin to change their plumage until they have moulted in the definitive colors. Continue reading Yellow-billed Cardinal in Pantanal

Little Egret at Ponta Delgada, Flores

SeidenreiherA white bird standing calm near the sea. It is the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta). A small heron. As you would expect from a heron, this bird is beautiful, graceful and shows long legs, neck and beak. A solitary and patient fisherman, the bird is waiting for low tide to make ambushes in still waters on the rocks. On other occasions, the Little Egret risk more and hunt patiently near the surf. As its name indicates this heron is small, of dimensions clearly inferior to Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus). Compared with the herons that regularly visit the Azores, only Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is smaller than the Little Egret.

All its feathers are white and limpid. On the chest they are longer and form a tuft, in a kind of bib. Also on the back of the head you can see two elongated plumes, but only during the breeding season. Its beak is black and straight and the eyes are yellow. The legs are also black, but the toes, quite characteristic, are bright yellow.

In case of doubt in the identification of this species in the field it is to be remembered that both the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) and the Cattle Egret have the yellow beak. Although the legs are all Continue reading Little Egret at Ponta Delgada, Flores

Snow Bunting, a migrating passerine on Flores/ Azores

SchneeammerThe Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is one of the few migratory passerines to be found on a regular basis to visit the Azores archipelago in general and Flores in particular. Maybe only the Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) of the subspecies leucorhoa, the Greenland Wheatear is recorded as often on Flores, the westernmost island of the archipelago.

The morning of the 11th of October 2017 turned to be sunny, but started quite cloudy and in the higher parts of the inner plateau with fog with visibility that was only 10 meters. On return to the northern coast I decided to pay the highest peak of Flores, the Morro Alto, a short visit. Still, at 10:00 moist atlantic air clouded the Pico da Sé. Wind was blowing and one little bird, brightly colored in a creamy yellow and some dominance of white in the wing plumage jumped over the volcanic gravel around the antennas erected on Continue reading Snow Bunting, a migrating passerine on Flores/ Azores

Common Moorhen at Ribeira do Ferreiro/ Fajã Grande

TeichhuhnThe general area of Fajã Grande has a great potential for Birdwatching. Die different habitats include lagoons, streams, woods, coastal areas, small pastures, agricultural fields and 1 little lake. This is a place of magnificent beauty. Take the parking spot on the road between 2 bridges and walk from the main road up to the lake.

By a pedestrian, partly steep path in good condition of less than 1 km you will come to the center of Ribeira do Ferreiro. Here is located a lake also called Lagoa dos Patos or Alagoinha. Numerous waterfalls are feeding a pond, used by ducks. This is also the place where you can observe the resident Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) which is called the Galinha-d’água in portugues. Considered a subspecies endemic by some authors, it has been Continue reading Common Moorhen at Ribeira do Ferreiro/ Fajã Grande

Vagrant Glossy Ibis on Flores

SichlerIn the north of the island of Flores, there are some excellent birding locations. Basically these sites are between the village Ponta Delgada to the east and the lighthouse on the edge of Ponta do Albernaz on the west. The lighthouse at Ponta do Albernaz is the most powerful lighthouse of the Azores. The view is breathtaking, with the neighboring island of Corvo in the background.The lighthouse is accessed via an isolated roadway that extends to the western edge of Flores.

Here is the first point of arrival of the migratory birds to the island of Flores in fall. But beginning of October might be too early. Besides an Greenland Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa) there was nothing special to see on the 3rd of October. We drove to the small village Ponta Delgada and behind a bend in the road we immediately noticed a dark slender bird with a long bill standing in ditch made by a water hole for cattle. With not doubt: a Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). Reluctantly the bird started to fly. Instantly calling it Continue reading Vagrant Glossy Ibis on Flores

Woodcocks on Flores

WaldschnepfeDue to its stealthy habits the Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) is one of the least observed regular birds in Europe. Essentially active at twilight and at night the Woodcock is the least known birds among the islands of the Azores as well. It is, however, one of the most unique species of the Azorean avifauna. The fact that Scolopax rusticola (named Galinhola in portugues) has different names on different islands, Cagarrona (Santa Luzia, Pico); passaroa (Terra do Pão, Pico); marreca (by several people in some localities of Pico) indicates, that people have something in mind with this bird.

The Woodcock is essentially resident on the island and breeding records are noticed from all the islands, with the exception of Santa Maria and Graciosa. Although the occurrence of migratory individuals (a bird was ringed in São Miguel in 2006 and recaptured a few months later in France), the real importance of these Continue reading Woodcocks on Flores

Bird photography on the Falklands

MollymaukQuickly I realized that the storm was the dominant element of Falkland. For two days, hurricane winds swept over the island with wind force eleven, and alternately hail and snow storms followed the downpours. On the more than 400 Falkland Islands there are only 80 settlements, where approximately 500 English sheep breeders live. Only the towns of Stanley and Mount Pleasant are bigger. For the King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), the Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua), the Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) and the Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus), these islands represent the ideal habitats in the middle of the nutritious South Atlantic seas. The Falkland archipelago offers hundreds of thousands of seabirds ideal breeding possibilities. Although the motifs are mostly close to the grasp, many images remain only visions, because the weather is the limiting factor.

The history of the islands, which are now a paradise for us, is a single chronicle of exploitation: millions of penguins and seals fell victim Continue reading Bird photography on the Falklands

Azores: birding in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

KappensturmtaucherThe Azores are well-known among ornithologists mainly for the fact that many American bird species occur, mainly in fall. Although this group of islands is part of the Western Palearctic (even Europe) on some islands, more Nearctic than Palearctic species have been found. In addition, several endemic taxa breed on the archipelago. The island group is particularly important for seabirds, which breed partially in large numbers. Migration of Seabirds in fall is another highlight. A sighting of a Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris borealis) is guaranteed.

Before an offshore (pelagic) tour, however, you might save some time to visit the famous coastal areas of the different islands. An example is the wetland area in Cabo da Praia on the island of Terceira. From the beginning of September till end of October, the Nearctic waders are piling up: Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus), Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca),  Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia), Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) and Dowitchers (Limnodromus sp.) you might see searching for food in the shallow waters of the bay. In addition, preferentially in the ports of the island, Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii) can be found. The species has its most important breeding ground in the world in the Azores. However, a Continue reading Azores: birding in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

Common Cranes in Zingst/ Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

KranichWho wants to observe the huge accumulations of Common Cranes (Grus grus) in fall, will find excellent opportunities near the seaside resort of Zingst in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Zingst and Darß were declared a National Park in 1990 due to their natural coastline and the unique so-called Boddenlandschaft. Together with the Fischland, they form a peninsula in the course of the Mecklenburg coast between Rostock and Stralsund.

When we started the first exploration on an early October morning, the sky was still pitch black. We headed south and wanted to be in front of the cranes at the known feeding grounds. But when we reached the town of Barth, the sky was already reddened by the morning sun, and crowds of wild geese and cranes were already calling out loudly over the city on the way to the harvested fields for finding food. So we were too late. Nevertheless, we stopped briefly, because it was not possible to concentrate on the road, as we were fascinated by the spectacle of the birds in the sky above us. Continue reading Common Cranes in Zingst/ Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Pelagic birding on the Azores

The isle group of the Azores is particularly important for seabirds, which sometimes breed in large numbers or are found here during off-shore migration. Best in summer, but also in September and October, boat trips can give an impression of the importance of the sea area around the Azores with its unique marine ecosystem.

From the island of Graciosa boat trips start, each lasting a half to a whole day. The most dominant bird species in the waters around the Azores is the Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris borealis), which is by far the largest of its breed species. But to expect more bird species that follow the ship. They are attracted by the smell-intensive mixture of sardines, fish oil and other delicious ingredients, the so-called chum. This is to lure some of the pelagic bird species. In September, for example, Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis), a Cape Verde Petrel (Pterodroma feae), and a few Monteiro’s Storm Petrel (Oceanodroma monteiroi) near the boat could be observed in the waters around Graciosa. Particularly great is the pleasure when the sighting of Sooty Tern (Sterna fuscata), a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma castro), a Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) or of Continue reading Pelagic birding on the Azores

Eurasian Thick-knee (Burhinus oedicnemus) in Croatia´s karstic landscape

TrielOn the southern edge of the island Pag you can enjoy the ample stony lowlands of the island´s disorientating karstic landscape. With large, sideways eyes, the Eurasian Thick-knee peers into the twilight. It is still almost dark; only the first glimmer of the morning over the mountains on the coast of Croatia is visible. A family group of Eurasian Thick-knees stands quietly on the edge of a gravel road. It is the two parents and a young one. The feathers of the young Eurasian Thick-knee are still standing on and off on the head. As the car slowly approaches and then stops, the Eurasian Thick-kneee runs without too much haste into the wide landscape of the karstic steppe. A little later they are swallowed by darkness.

It is just a coincidence that on the way back, a revival is possible. A former farmyard is covered with higher grasses. Suddenly, one Eurasian Thick-knee appears. Before, the bird was so well hidden in the grass-stone mosaic that one of the Eurasian Thick-knee parents’ now stands only 10 meters from the car. The bird remains motionless. The reason is obvious a little later. A young bird with its up and down standing feathers on its head stands between the grasses. If the Eurasian Thick-knee parents were alone, they would Continue reading Eurasian Thick-knee (Burhinus oedicnemus) in Croatia´s karstic landscape

White-rumped Sandpiper in Brandenburg at Gülper lake

WeißbürzelstrandläuferThe White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) – initially recorded as Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii) – from Lake Gülper was intended to be observed on Saturday, July 22nd. Already at 7:00 am I arrived after 2 hours’ drive at the southeast corner of the small village Prietzen at the south end of Lake Gülper. Some birders had already placed their cars along the road. But on Saturday morning nobody had seen the bird in the Havelaue already.

Since Wednesday, July 19, the White-rumped Sandpiper had been seen loosely associated with river Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) and a Little Stint (Calidris minuta) on the sands on the banks of the southern shore. The White-rumped Sandpiper was busily searching for food with little resting phases. The bird was steadily to be seen until evening.

The southern shore of Lake Gülper is, however, crowded in summer by thousands of resting geese, predominantly Greylag Goose (Anser anser). For longer periods of time, White-rumped Sandpiper could not be found between the Greylag Geese. Thus, e.g. on Friday, July 21, 2017 between 7:45 and 8:00 pm, the bird could only be discovered after a White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) had flushed all the Greylag Geese. Before that, he had not been seen Continue reading White-rumped Sandpiper in Brandenburg at Gülper lake

Flammulated Bamboo-Tyrant (Hemitriccus flammulatus) in the Ocorotu Forest/ Bolivia

GraustreifentyrannShortly, the Flammulated Pygmy-Tyrant (Hemitriccus flammulatus) undertakes a sally-strike maneuver to glean arthropod prey from the surfaces of leaves and twigs. Than it sits on a branch. The undergrowth is pitch dark. It is only through its flight-movements that the little bird is noticed. Frequently it vocalizes its high-pitched call. The Flammulated Pygmy-Tyrant is a tiny olive-grey bird – like many species in the family Tyrannidae.

Early in the morning I had woken up. Outside it is still hazy; thick clouds are covering the sky. I decide, I could try to photograph the Flammulated Pygmy-Tyrant. It is humid and the sky remains covered. So I pack my rucksack with a 2.8 / 300 lens and a MZ-5- flash. After just a few meters hike with the rucksack on the back, the shirt sticks to the wet body. The main path through the hotel Flora and fauna grounds of Robin is really a dream. Hilly forest, which still exists with impressive jungle giants. It is called the Ocorotu Forest. I am really impressed. The Flammulated Pygmy-Tyrant can be heard already from the undergrowth. I follow the course of the path that leads down into a brook bed. From there it goes up the hill again. Just at this point a few days ago I encountered the biggest bats I have ever seen. They are probably False Vampire Bat (Vampyrum spectrum)

As the genus-name, Vampyrum, suggests, the False Vampire Bat were mistaken for bloody vampire bats. But they are carnivores Continue reading Flammulated Bamboo-Tyrant (Hemitriccus flammulatus) in the Ocorotu Forest/ Bolivia

Oriental Reed-Warbler in Laem Pak Bia Watertreatment / Thailand

Chinarohrsänger2 warblers are calling out of the reeds in the early morning in the middle of Thailand. The one is a Black-browed Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps) this is clear. Checking some older images I stumbled over an Acrocephalus-Warbler, which at the time, I called a Blunt-winged Warbler (Acrocephalus concinens). I shot the image in January 2011 in the Laem Pak Bia Watertreatment plant in middle Thailand. I checked the Helm ID-guide “Warblers of Europe, Asia, and North Africa” and I start thinking due to the streaks on the breast and the thick bill it might have been a Oriental Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus orientalis) instead. I opened a threat in www.birdforum.com.

Quite shortly, a specialist confirmed the ID with the words “…is indeed an Oriental Reed Warbler. Note in particular combination of grey streaked breast, strong supercilium, rather heavy bill and blue-grey legs.”

In the Laem Pak Bia Watertreatment plant, there are pools designed to purify the water a biological cleaning process with reeds. Continue reading Oriental Reed-Warbler in Laem Pak Bia Watertreatment / Thailand

Cameroon Olive-Greenbul (Phyllastrephus poensis) near Bamenda in the Cameroon Highlands

BamendabülbülA dark olive-brown bird moves between twigs and branches. The trees are on the slope above the crater lake are not so high. This allows for very nice pictures of birds, which would otherwise be rather up in the canopy – largely invisible from the ground. This time, the brown bird with the striking beak is not a banded wattle-eye. At first sight it reminds me of an Terrestrial Brownbul (Phyllastrephus terrestris). But this Brownbul is a bird more confined to a variety of thickly vegetated habitats in evergreen forests mostly in the lowlands and coastal scrub of southern and eastern Africa. This medium-sized, relatively elongated, simple-looking bird is a Greenbul with a relatively long and fine beak. Lores, throat and the side parts of the face are light grey. While the tail appears rather brown, the predominant color of the wings and the back is olive. This is the Cameroon Olive-Greenbul (Phyllastrephus poensis), which is – unlike the previously seen Cameroon Montane Greenbul (Andropadus montanus) – not particularly olive green. We are lucky, because the species is limited in its distribution only to the ecoregion of the Cameroon mountains although the bird is not so rare in its distribution range.

The trip to the crater lake Lake Awing was already very productive. A young Banded Wattle-eye (Platysteira laticincta) and one of the parents could already be seen along a ridge above the lake. A very Continue reading Cameroon Olive-Greenbul (Phyllastrephus poensis) near Bamenda in the Cameroon Highlands

Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis) in the Cameroon lowlands

SchlangenbussardDriving from Edea down to Kribi in April 2017 we managed to catch a bird, unobtrusively crouching on a branch of a medium-sized tree right along the road. The bird had large eyes, but was sitting right in the open. Wow, this was the Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis) is a medium-sized eagle that occurs in densely forested areas throughout western and central Africa. Normally prey is spotted in dark forest, either on a tree trunk, in foliage, or on the ground. But they also hunt along roads and forest clearings and may perch over rivers.

The Congo Serpent-Eagle is part in the family Accipitridae, and is classified in the monotypic genera Dryotriorchis. This species is found in West and Central Africa, with its range stretching from Sierra Leone south to Angola and west to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis spectabilis) is found in upper Guinean forests of Western Africa, while Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis batesi) is found in lower Guinean forests in the south of Cameroon and Gabon.

Although monotypic, it seems to be closely related to Circaetus- Snake-Eagles like the Short-toed Snake-Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and is possibly a link between these and the Asian genera Spilornis – Serpent-Eagles like the Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela). This Continue reading Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis) in the Cameroon lowlands

European Nightjar feeding habit

ZiegenmelkerWhen the sun has set and dusk turns to darkness, a discreet purring is heard often over the heath in Brandenburg´s landscape south of Berlin. The rhythmic purr of the Eurasian or European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) is increasing in volume in the background. The time lags between the purring of the Nightjar become shorter more and more. 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.

Like all members of the family, the European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) is an almost exclusively aerial feeder that feed in continuous hawking flight, which may be rather erratic as they pursue their prey. European Nightjars hunts moths, beetles and Continue reading European Nightjar feeding habit

White-backed Woodpecker in the Croatian Karst Mountains

Soft contact calls reveal a woodpecker nearby. A view through binoculars: clearly a White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos). The white ribbons on the folded wings can be seen very well. He looks more like a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor). Only bigger. A short “giggle”. I realize that there are 2 birds. One is only a bit disheveled. Probably a juvenile bird. The other probably one of the parents. The two woodpeckers quickly disappear up the slope. I decide to go afterwards. After a good 30 meters, I wait. I play the contact calls from a tape. Also the typical long-lasting drumming is played to lure the woodpecker. But sorry, no feedback. It makes no sense to pursue the White-backed Woodpecker through the Croatian Karst.The slope looks very open right away. However, there is a lot of deadwood in the steep slope. In between are large limestone rock blocks, which also hinder a speedy advance. After all, a good sighting which really impressed me.

We had planned a mountain hike through the upper parts of the Paklenica National Park. Walking already for half a day through a very pretty mixed deciduous forest I was quite surprised Continue reading White-backed Woodpecker in the Croatian Karst Mountains

Fiery-breasted Bushshrike in the Cameroon Highlands

BlutbrustwürgerTo discover a Fiery-breasted Bushshrike (Malaconotus cruentus) in the mountain rainforest of south-western Cameroon is a very special privilege of a birding trip. As soon as we started to climb a hiking trail at Mount Kupe, we saw the mountain chain of Mt. Kupe, Mt. Oko near Kumbo and Mt. Cameroon. A beautiful chain of mountain rainforests.

Right in the beginning we could observe some of the primeval forest specialists, such as Speckled Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus scolopaceus) or the Yellow-billed Barbet (Trachyphonus purpuratus) in the canopy. Impressive birds. Especially when you can see them in the spotting real good. The view up into the canopy is quite exhausting – if you perform it for a while. But when our bird guide was able to detect a large, powerful bird high up between epiphytes and mosses of the canopy, all eyes were directed upwards again. These plants occur only in areas with frequent rainfall and high humidity. For this purpose, the light tropical rainforest of Mount Kupes is predestined. It is a Fiery-breasted Bushshrike, a colorful bird from the family of Bush shrikes (Malaconotidae). The Fiery-breasted Bushshrike first stands on a thick branch and moves there without great haste. Despite its striking colors, it still looks very unobtrusive and can easily be overlooked. He reminds me a bit of a Cutia (Cutia nipalensis), one member of the Shrike Babblers from the Continue reading Fiery-breasted Bushshrike in the Cameroon Highlands

Little Greenbuls fly catching insects in the rain

Having been in Campo Ma’an National Park in southern Cameroon already the 2nd day, we experienced a heavy thunderstorm with endless rain. Probably not the first front of the rainy season brought heavy rain and thunder – and myriads of flying insects.

Just outside our basic camp, birds made sallies into the air, to catch insects that started flying in the rain. It is amazing what the combination of the Canon 400mm f4.0 DO IS USM and the EOS 1DX can perform in the rainy weather. Then the question quickly arose: “What bird do the photos show?” immediately I supposed a Greenbul or Bulbul. A Common or Garden Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus) show the great flight recordings certainly not. I recalled in my notes, that besides swallows and swifts, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher (Erythrocercus mccallii) and some Sunbirds had also participated in the flycatching orgy during the rain on the clearing that day.

After consultation with an ornithologist specialized in African Continue reading Little Greenbuls fly catching insects in the rain

Grey-necked Picathartes in Campo-Ma’an National Park/ Cameroon

Buntkopf-FelshüpferNow the afternoon was for the Grey-necked Picathartes or Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas). We expected an arduous trip of hiking for hours through tropical heat in the National Park. Some people say, that the bird only appears after rain storms. If this would be true, we would be unlucky, as on our first day in the park’s interior, it did not rain. We had only one more day in the park – but rain seemed likely enough for the next days. I cannot confirm, that the particiapants of the trip showed sights of anxiety and gloom. But never you know. On trips prior to ours the bird had not been seen.

But already with the hike we were lucky. We had a short, pleasant and fairly easy hike with lots of good birds to at “cave” formed of several enormous boulders where the birds build mud nests on the sides of the rocks during the breeding season. We hoped that no rain was needed as our guides told us, that this species checks on its breeding site every afternoon or during dusk. We arrived early in the hope that the birds would appear in some natural light. Maybe earlier than normally to expect. One of the local guides tried to show as the nest a bit too much. We almost shouted through the forest to keep him from removing the nest. The Continue reading Grey-necked Picathartes in Campo-Ma’an National Park/ Cameroon

Blue-crowned Motmot in Pantanal

Blauscheitel-MotmotThe Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota) is so common in the Pantanal,  that you hardly can miss it. Besides being one of the most colorful birds of the Pantanal, it is also one of the most spectacular birds of the Pantanal by the colorful and unique shape of the tail feathers. The bird is specialized in hunting insects and small vertebrates from a fixed landing.

The song is similar to that of an owl, most often emitted in the lightening and darkening, although it can be heard at any time of day and night. It starts with a short, severe, accelerated call (understood as udu or hard). When another Blue-crowned Motmot responds, they accelerate the singing and increase the number of “udus”.

Although it activates its calls all day, it is impressive how difficult it is seeing it in the shadows of the vegetation, despite the intense color of the body and head, besides the size of the tail. The bright green of the plumage is yellowish on the belly and chest. Around the red eyes, a large black mask is ending in two ends. Ripping the entire mask, the intense cobalt blue is lighter and more extensive on the Continue reading Blue-crowned Motmot in Pantanal

Dull-capped Attila in Pantanal

RostattilaThe Dull-capped Attila (Attila bolivianus) has rufous-brown upperparts and tail and it has a gray-brown crown. The underparts and  the rump are rufous as well. Remarkable is the white iris. Also known as the White-eyed Attila, the Dull-capped Attila is principally an uncommon inhabitant of seasonally flooded forests, including on river islands, as well as gallery woodland in the Brazilian Pantanal, where it feeds alone or in pairs, and sometimes joins mixed-species foraging flocks. Nonetheless, the species is probably most frequently detected by virtue of its loud whistled song. Mainly rufous-brown, the White-eyed Attila is most easily identified by the pale yellowish-white iris. The bird forages in the canopy and subcanopy of varzea forest and old second growth. It is similar to the Cinnamon Attila but is distinguished by a gray-brown crown and – as said already – the white iris.

The Dull-capped Attila is uncommon and widespread also in Amazonia where it is known to range on the south side of the Amazon and lower Marañon River.

The location of the photo-shot was taken on the farm Pouso Alegre. This is a pousada which is very well situated 7 km away from the Transpantaneira. The location is only 33 km south of Pocone in the northern Pantanal. The whole pousada is a great Continue reading Dull-capped Attila in Pantanal

Neumann’s Starling flight along cliffs in Bamenda/ Cameroon

RotflügelstarHaving birded the Bamenda highlands until midday, we expected an impressive rainstorm, over the buzzling town of Bamenda while admiring several Neumann’s Starling (Onychognathus neumanni)  obviously feeding on the cliffs just below the plateau of the upper parts of the suburbs. Neumann’s Starling are said to be observed from some rocks in the a semi-suburban/ agricultural area above the city.

We visited a (very) little farm which offers a breathtaking view over the steep cracks – probably of clay – which make up the edges of the urban basin of Bamenda. After two short incoming flights, the last flight of a male Neumann’s Starling was shot with this photo.

Other excellent birds were breeding White-crowned Cliff-Chat (Thamnolaea coronata), which were found in the immediate vicinity Continue reading Neumann’s Starling flight along cliffs in Bamenda/ Cameroon

Birdphotographie in the Picos De Europa

While the southern landscapes in Spain – like the Estremadura – are among the most popular photo destinations on the Iberian Peninsula, the mountains in the north, like the Picos De Europa, are largely unknown to many bird photographers.

On my travels to Spain mountainous birds of the Hochgebirge had been too short. They were at the center of a birding trip this time. The target species were: bearded vulture Yellow-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus), (Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus), Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) and Citril Finch (Serinus citrinella).

During a break at one of the numerous clear streams I hear a wonderful melodic bird song. I quickly set up my mobile camouflage tent. This is a converted camping landruiser. I slowly approach the song. Suddenly a yellowish-green bird flies back and forth Continue reading Birdphotographie in the Picos De Europa

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