Category Archives: Posts in English

Long-eared Owls in Hungary in winter

WaldohreuleIn a small side street of the sleepy town of Balmazújváros in eastern Hungary, almost in the city center next to the church, up to 10 Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) have been hiding in large trees for years. A bizarre sight that makes every photographer or birdwatcher’s heart beat faster. Long-eared Owls are not uncommon in almost any countryside in Europe. However, they are difficult to observe outside winter time. They usually sleep during the day and only become active during the pitch-dark night.

The ecological requirements of the Long-eared Owl largely coincide with those of the Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) and the Carrion Crow (Corvus corone). The two latter are also the most important nest suppliers, as Long-eared Owls themselves do not build nests.

In winter, Long-eared Owls concentrate in the vicinity of particularly nutritious habitats with high vole densities or mass sleeping places of small birds. Some wintering sites have been regularly visited by dozens to more than 100 Long-eared Owls for years, not infrequently also in cemeteries and parks with a good food supply.

What drives this rather large number of long-eared owls to set up quarters exactly here will probably remain their secret. The choice of location does not mean that they have to settle for a lot of traffic noise and a lot of people, but of course one or the other curious person passes by. But people are peaceful and only look up from Continue reading Long-eared Owls in Hungary in winter

Collared Plover on a sandbar in the Pantanal

Azararegenpfeifer oder Schlankschnabel-RegenpfeiferA tiny white-gray-brown bird runs swiftly ahead of me on the sands of the Rio São Lourenço, which is called Rio Cuiabá as well. It is a Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris). I lie down on the sand and let the bird come. It walks here, sometimes there. But over time the wader gets closer and closer. I decide to take a few photos with the 4.0 / 500 on the monopod from the plover, but also from the other waders on the sandbanks. Who knows when to find them again?

In addition to the Pied Lapwings (Vanellus cayanus) I dedicate a lot of time especially to the Collared Plover. With their chestnut-brown neck, gray-brown mottled coat and pure white bottoms, they are very rich in contrast. There is also a black chest band. The male I photograph has a white forehead bounded by a black frontal strip and at the bottom by a black eyestripe. Strikingly are the long pinkisj legs. Collared Plovers differ from most similar species of plovers by the narrow black breast band.

Actually, I wanted to make my way back today via the Transpantaneira. A rain front is announced. If the road is soaked and I have to drive with snow chains, I must pull these down before each bridge, because otherwise I will irrevocably disassemble the bridge and my land cruisers, too. The chains get caught in no time in the fixing iron or in the protruding nails.

Other sympatric Charadrius plovers occurring in similar habitats look very similar. One of them is Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus), the American representative of our Kentish Plover (Charadrius Continue reading Collared Plover on a sandbar in the Pantanal

Preuss’s Weaver creeping on giant primeval forest tree

PreussweberIn the steaming lowland rainforest of Ghana we are standing since dawn up to 45 meters above ground on the so-called Canopy Walkway since dawn. Despite the height of the jungle giant, we are not standing in the canopy. No wonder the tree on which our platform is mounted can be a resource of food in every respect and any altitude. The gaze must always be directed upwards and downwards. A yellow flashing makes us look up. A small yellow-black goblin quickly and purposefully examines the thick side branch of the tree. Once it runs on the light bark, then again the mossy bottom is inspected. It is a rather small weaver bird, but it can score with its intense colors. It is a Preuss’s Weaver (Ploceus preussi). The yield in foraging can be seen on one of the images. It consists mainly of insects, such as grasshopper (Orthoptera) butterflies (Lepidoptera). In the documented case – see the gallery of Preuss´s Weaver – the bird fed from spiders (Araneae).

The Preuss’s Weaver examines the bark of tree trunks in the rainforest of Guinea via Ghana, Cameroon to the Congo. It examines the smooth bark as well as branches that are covered with epiphytes. The foraging should probably take place less than 10 m in height. It is said, that they are foraging usually in pairs. But we did not see single individuals.

The photographed Preuss’s Weaver – sometimes referred to as Golden-backed Weaver – is a male who is recognizable by his Continue reading Preuss’s Weaver creeping on giant primeval forest tree

Birding in Chobe Nationalpark/ Botswana

Afrikanischer ScherenschnabelIn the first morning light a mokoro-boat splits the shallow waves of the early river. Silence lies over the wide river plain in the morning haze. The birding specials in the area around the Chobe River in the north of Botswana, characterized by flood plains, grasslands and riparian woods along the river courses, are real treats for avid birders. The bird list is characterized by many species that love the proximity to the water. These include White-backed Night Heron (Gorsachius leuconotus), Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula), African Darter (Anhinga rufa), African Marsh Harrier (Circus ranivorus), African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis), Pel’s Fishing Owl (Scotopelia peli), Half-collared Kingfisher (Alcedo semitorquata), Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) and – last not least – the African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris).  But also other beautiful and/ or rare birds like White-fronted Bee-eater (Merops bullockoides), Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera), Meyer’s Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri), Swamp Boubou (Laniarius bicolor), Holub’s Golden Weaver (Ploceus xanthops) and Brown Firefinch (Lagonosticta nitidula). Regular guests from the western Palearctic from October on are Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) and Thrush Nightingales (Luscinia luscinia).

When we’ve left the river bend behind the lodge for a while, a flock starts moving with a heavy, powerful wing beat. Perched low on a sandbank were standing dozens of black and white colored birds with a strikingly long red bill. These are the long-awaited African Skimmer. First, the flock turns a round over the resting sandbar. Then the flock descends into low altitude flight. The black-and-white-colored, roughly tern-sized birds with their long, elegant wings fly a few centimeters above calm water, hovers prey-hunting parallel to the water surface – as you might want to see from the Skimmers at River Sanaga in Cameroon. Suddenly they pull out their oversized, laterally flattened and sharp-edged lower beak and pull it, flattening its wings, through the upper layers of water. They fly until their beaks come into contact with a fish. Shortly thereafter, it closes his beak abruptly, and a small silver fish disappears wriggling in the throat of the successful hunters.

The beaks of the Skimmers have over thirty special adaptations to the hunting technique in the skull and neck area – such as horn-like Continue reading Birding in Chobe Nationalpark/ Botswana

Little Bee-eaters and a bridal gift

ZwergspintWatching and photographing the colorful Bee-eater is always a great experience. The (European) Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), which also occurs in Germany, is only one representative of a whole family, which has its stronghold in the tropics, especially in Africa. A common representative in Kenya is the Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus), which occurs in a large part of sub-Saharan Africa. I was especially happy that I was able to photograph this Bee-eater on the approach of the branch and that it also took along its prey, a fat hoverfly. The courtship is a very special ritual between the Bee-eaters. The male brings his beloved a bride gift in the form of a fat wasp, bee or dragonfly. Bee-eaters, according to their name, like to present striped insects. At that moment in the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Kenya in October she, the female, sits for a while next to or behind him and does not appear immediately interested. Perhaps as a bride, she is waiting for the male to offer her the wedding gift even more invitingly. She adorns herself, but Continue reading Little Bee-eaters and a bridal gift

Wildlife in The SPERRGEBIET / Namibia

RiesentrappeOnly after I have held many talks and signed a pile of paper, I get access to the “Sperrgebiet”, a diamond restricted area. Not only the precious stones benefited from the enormous security measures. Incidentally, the most protected nature reserve in the world was created – an African wilderness that is not in the public eye because it is so difficult to access. This makes birdwatching and photography as appealing as it is complicated. Of many settlements of the Diamond era, only ghost towns remain, which are recaptured by the desert again. The ruins of these ghost towns are populated by animals. In addition to birds such as the Kori bustard (Ardeotis kori), reptiles also feel at ease here.

The restricted area is larger than many states in Europe and is only permeated by a few dust tracks. Only where gems are extracted, it is worth to maintain connecting routes. The remaining slopes are quickly reclaimed from the desert. An off-road vehicle is therefore indispensable. Nevertheless, many areas of the restricted area were simply not accessible.

Since the operators of the mines are no longer interested in nature, the infrastructure is correspondingly poor. Detailed maps are not available, there are no Rangers and few other people who can help Continue reading Wildlife in The SPERRGEBIET / Namibia

Young Warbler as an ID-challenge in southern Brandenburg in Germany

SumpfrohrsängerIn the beginning of August I shot the image of a drab warbler near a pond in southern Brandenburg. I did not realize the bird at that moment, as the whole willow bush in a otherwise highly agricultural land was quite busy with migrating birds, e.g. Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) well. I think, I remember that “Marsh Warbler” was my first thinking? The slender appearance on one of the images would be a hint. But he greyish tinged legs, the shape and colour of the bill and especially the head pattern made me think of a Sylvia-Warbler. The brownish cap could be some pollution/ pollen, yes. But I thought this not very useful in August.  What really irritated me were the colour and the contrast in the tertial fringes, which was the reason I had the impression that the bird looks a hybrid between a Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and a Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). Looking at the images with 2 month in between, I was more in the direction of thinking of a young Blackcap due to the whitish eyering and the shape of the bill. Continue reading Young Warbler as an ID-challenge in southern Brandenburg in Germany

Pomarine Jaeger deep in hinterland in Germany

SpatelraubmöwePomarine Jaegers (Stercorarius pomarinus) are high-arctic gulls, which spend most of the non-breeding season offshore in the Atlantic. Thus, a Pomarine Jaeger is a very unusual sighting in Germany, especially for inland states like Brandenburg. End of September a Pomarine Jaeger was seen on the Gülper See.

The Gülper See (lake) in the Havelaue west of Rhinow is always worth a visit. However, it was a small sensation when a Pomarine Jaeger was observed on September 26th and 27th, 2019 – and thus before the storm depression Mortimer. The immature Pomarine Jaeger of the dark morphe was first observed resting on the water. In the further course the bird was photographed very nicely in flight and on the meadow opposite the lakeshore. More often it was parasitic to Caspian Gulls (Larus cachinnans). Whether it was very successful, remained open. Later, she was at least with a large perch ashore, which the Jaeger “bit by bit” cranked.

The next day the Pomarine Jaeger was last seen and photographed swimming on the lake. A short time later the bird was observed in a vigorous battle with a Caspian Gull on the water surface. This Continue reading Pomarine Jaeger deep in hinterland in Germany

American Golden Plover near Tarifa at the Playa de los Lances

WanderregenpfeiferAs the morning dawns on an early October day at the Playa de los Lances, west of Tarifa at the southern tip of Spain, only two fighting sanderlings (Calidris alba) con be observed and photographed. Apart from that, there are Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and at least one or two Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) in the estuaries of the periodic water courses to take pictures. In addition there are some Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) and one European Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria). Wait a moment!?

A Golden Plover here at the tidal seam? This is a very unusual habitat! The golden plover, I have to be suspicious and necessarily see if this was not an American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica), possibly even from 29.9 from an Ian Ford and then again from 3.-4.10 as a juvenile copy at Playa de los Lances, Tarifa was seen by David Cuenca Espinosa. And indeed, the exact image analysis actually results in a juvenile American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica), which runs along the beach in the first sun. Good to see the large hand primary projection and the protruding feathers over Continue reading American Golden Plover near Tarifa at the Playa de los Lances

East Coast Akalat in the east-african lowland forest of Arabuko-Sokoke/ Kenya

BlauflügelrötelA somewhat melancholy, often repeated melody from the dense undergrowth reveals the “tropical robin”. It is an East Coast Akalat (Sheppardia gunningi) of the subspecies sokokensis. We are in the so-called mixed forest. The beginning of our morning trip is not going well. However, a Red-legged Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus rufobrachium), can be seen briefly on the edge of the track. Suddenly there is loud chirping from the dense bush. Here we leave the car, as obviously a Bird Party is on the way. Our guide says to hear an East Coast Akalat out in the thicket. We play the vocals from the East Coast Akalat by band. But unfortunately, there is nothing to see. Perhaps the large troop of Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike (Prionops scopifrons) is responsible for the East Coast Akalat not venturing out. So we have to beat ourselves into the bushes. That turns out to be very productive. First of all, I see the Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus) scurrying across the ground. Then we play the song of the East Coast Akalat from the tape again. This time we have a prompt response.

The East Coast Akalat comes first on a branch. Unfortunately he does not stay there for a long time, but at least I can photograph it in the semi-darkness. Only a short time later, it sits even very nicely exposed on a branch right on the track we passed in the jungle. The whole area looks very typical like the place at the Chintheche Inn on Lake Malawi, where I had already photographed the East Coast Continue reading East Coast Akalat in the east-african lowland forest of Arabuko-Sokoke/ Kenya

Red-footed Falcons in Berlin and Brandenburg

RotfußfalkeIn case of observations of Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) it is important to rule out other small falcons. The type of hovering of the Red-footed Falcon is often called useful for species identification. In a case of observation in the Lower Flaeming, 50km south of Berlin, this was very helpful. The gentle hilly landscape of the Lower Flaming south of the medieval town of Jueterbog is agriculturally used. Therefore irrigation systems and electricity pylons are almost the only landmarks. Red-footed Falcon can see you from afar. And you might realize Red-footed Falcon from a distance as well – if you are aware of their field marks. Two Red-footed Falcons were sitting on power lines in the hilly landscape of the Lower Flaming. One of the Red-footed Falcons flies off, sweeping over a harvested potato field at a remarkable speed, then rises and hovers. A little later the birds dives down to earth and comes up a little later with a big insect in the clutches.

Flight pattern was quite good to observe. The Red-footed Falcon in its graceful and agile flight behavior is generally located between the Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and the Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo) and may sometimes have traits of both Falcons. The Red-footed Falcon has a quick and agile cross-country flight on its Continue reading Red-footed Falcons in Berlin and Brandenburg

Save landing for Black-tailed Godwit Christiansieneson

UferschnepfeA satellite transmitter packed on a juvenile Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) called “Christiansieneson” recorded a save landing the Inner Niger Delta in Mali. The Black-tailed Godwit has made the more than 4,100 kilometers from the wetlands of the Duemmer (south of Bremen in northern Germany) down to the African wintering area in record time and virtually in one go. This was the result of the evaluation of a satellite transmitter, which the young bird had received as one of 25 Black-tailed Godwits in the LIFE project ” Wiesenvoegel “, which means Meadow birds. The project is managed by the Niedersächsische Landesbetrieb für Wasserwirtschaft, Küsten- und Naturschutz (NLWKN). Since 2018, 25 Black-tailed Godwits had been equipped with satellite transmitters. These satellite transmitters are extremely light at five grams and are worn like a backpack.

Unlike most of his conspecifics, “Christiansieneson” flew the route without long stops and did not take the “classical” route of other tracked birds. On July 15, the juvenile was located at lunchtime in the breeding area, on July 16, the Godwit already flew over Algeria. Just under 55 hours after leaving Duemmer, the bird finally reached the Inner Niger Delta in Mali. “Christiansieneson” flew on average 74 kilometers per hour.

The evaluation of the birds equipped with satellite transmitter in 2019 in the EU bird sanctuary Duemmer shows that these migrate Continue reading Save landing for Black-tailed Godwit Christiansieneson

Standard-winged Nightjar in Guinea savanna woodlands in Mole NP

FahnennachtschwalbeAs dusk falls, the purring cries of the African Scops Owl (Otus senegalensis) sound softly from the savannah. Darkness breaks in. We want to end the day with one of the most incredible birds of the savannah. A male Standard-winged Nightjar (Caprimulgus longipennis) in full display dress is supposed to make his courtship flights over its territory on a terrain with barren stones in the middle of the densely vegetated savannah. Males and females of this species gather at these display arenas (the so-called leks) immediately after dusk in open places in the savannah. The males meet on the ground as well as in the air. They sometimes run towards each other in abrupt movements, but also move in a circle 1-8 m above the ground and sometimes swooping low over another bird on the ground. In contrast male displays to female are given by flying around the female giving faint clicking calls. As a result, the female Standard-winged Nightjar land nearby or fly with trembling wingbeats around the males while calling as well.

The Standard-winged Nightjar is named – of course – after their standards. Here you should be aware that “standard” means something like a flag. The male Standard-winged Nightjar has extremely elongated, second innermost primarie feathers, which are webbed at tips only, forming “standards” or flags. – They are what prompted the species name: longipennis (long feather). However, what has been said before also means that these flags are not tail feathers of the male. But the Standard-winged Nightjar is certainly Continue reading Standard-winged Nightjar in Guinea savanna woodlands in Mole NP

Grey Heron fighting with a Common Newt

GraureiherThe Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) flies elegantly on the wetland in the middle of the agricultural landscape of the Lower (Niederer) Fläming. Carefully the bird secures to all sides before it starts on the muddy shore with the search for food. Although at the beginning it just stands silently on the edge and obviously lets the whole scenery work on it in contemplation. For a long time, I look at the Grey Heron and its feeding site from a hide. Then I return my eyes to the lonely Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), who has been scared off by the Grey Heron and is looking for food on the opposite bank. The wader gets then society in the form of a Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) as well.

After a while, the Grey Heron apparently managed to convince himself of the lack of space. After some settling in, he walks along the shore; the other birds (the Common Snipe and the Green Sandpiper) are on the lookout. The proximity of the good 5 times as big heron is obviously suspect for them. Suddenly I hear a loud splash in the water. The Grey Heron has captured swimming a Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris).  Smooth Newt, also known as the Common Newt is a species of amphibian, the most common one in Germany. The Heron brings the Smooth Newt ashore and chews extensively on the newt. I am surprised that the Grey Heron does not swallow the Smooth Newt directly down. But the Newt probably does not taste that well. At some point the Grey Heron leaves the Smooth Newt fall on the land and returns – clearly disgusted – back Continue reading Grey Heron fighting with a Common Newt

Steppe habitat just outside Castilla de la Mancha

The Spanish province of Valencia was visited in summer. One reason was to relax for a week. The second argument was to get a feel for avian delights of an area of the country normally thought of in mainstream tourism terms. As a habitual visitor to the more well-known birding destination of Andalucía and Portugal, I wasn’t expecting too much but was enjoyably surprised by the numbers and variety of Valencia’s avian inhabitants. One day I headed for the steppe habitat just outside Castilla de la Mancha. This area is blessed with an incredibly diverse range of habitats and excellent birding sites.

A stop at the tiny Bonete Municipal Cemetery en route meant we could search a small lake and a few trees, giving us great intimate views of Egyptian Vulture (Neophron pernocterus), Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica), Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula), a lonesome Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) and – best of all – a yellow-and-black male Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus). European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) are common in these lowland Continue reading Steppe habitat just outside Castilla de la Mancha

Souza’s Shrike in Brachystegia dry forest / Malawi

RostmantelwürgerIn the morning we are already a while on the road in the sparse savanna forest with lots of brachystegia, the typical tree of the African wooded savannah. Now is dry season. Between the trees are tall grasses, which are usually dried up. Suddenly you can see a shrike. Immediately I remember the Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) from Central Europe. But here in the middle of the African forest savannah? This can not be. And thats the way it is. This is a Souza’s Shrike (Lanius souzae)! The Souza’s Shrike is indeed similar in plumage color and in habitus to the Red-backed Shrike. But the characteristic white shoulder badges are clearly visible in this case. Souza’s Shrikes choose forest savannah as their habitat. Out of the car window, I see him sitting next to the small forest track exposed on a branch. The Souza’s Shrike then switches to a brachystegia branch that is in its first foliage. Finally, the bird flies down into a dry tree, keeps beating his tail up on a branch, and intensely observes his surroundings in search of prey. I can photograph it extensively; first track out of the car then even with an a tripod.

The The Souza’s Shrike was an excellent find. Many ornithologists have not seen this birds despite intensive work. Consequentely the image of the blog made it to a image in the “Handbook of the Birds of the World” – Volume 13, by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, David A. Continue reading Souza’s Shrike in Brachystegia dry forest / Malawi

Eurasian Reed-Warbler in a jungle of reed

Reed seems a monotonous habitat. In early spring, the reeds of the previous years are uniform and stand close to each other; pale gray, sometimes brown. Peeling stalk layers of the reed already provide for the maximum of visual variety. Otherwise: a sea of ​​vertical stems. But like the right sea, the reed “sea” is inhabited. And this habitat is both species-rich and individual-rich. One of the inhabitants is the Eurasian Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus). Its plumage is as grayish-brownish as its surroundings. Like its habitat, this bird ist drab, this bird has no obvious features for the birder. A closer relative is Savi’s Warbler (Locustella luscinioides), which is colored brown, too. Like the Savi’s Warbler the tail of the Eurasian Reed-Warbler is slightly wedge-shaped, but not as strong and broad as in the Locustella- Warblers.

What is striking, though, are the song of the inhabitants of the sea of reed. This applies to the Reed-Warbler as well as for the Locustella- Warblers. Here is the Eurasian Reed-Warbler to advantage. Its song consists of a continuous, strongly rhythmic rarely accelerating performed scandals. As a rule, simple and short, relatively quiet and slowly recited elements are introduced; the louder body with constant pause lengths usually ends abruptly after different durations. Its singing can probably not be described as well-sounding. The singing is rather scratchy. But not so rough and deep compared to the Great Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), which also lives in extensive reeds. The bird sometimes sings in the cover of the reed; but also like to sing in dense bushes. In choral singing with neighbors, it does not keep the Eurasian Reed-Warbler Continue reading Eurasian Reed-Warbler in a jungle of reed

Photographing Shining Blue Kingfisher at perch in Ghana

SchillereisvogelA blue twitch in the shadow of an overhanging bush directly near the path along the water. A Shining Blue Kingfisher (Alcedo quadribrachys) has established a perch just on a quite busy trail on an overhanging branch. The Shining Blue Kingfisher sits just 1m above water level – ie at eye level for us. A perfect photographic situation. The beautiful bird is sitting in a distance of not more than 8 meters in front of us. From time to time the head makes a jerky upward movement. The neck gets longer. Sometimes the angle of the downward bill is slightly changed. The bird’s tail, which is also blue, twitches irregularly. We admire the kingfisher for a while. Eventually, the Shining Blue Kingfisher begins to shrug his wings excitedly and raise them high above his center of gravity. The time of the booty kick is obviously imminent. Maybe he has already spotted his potential prey. In the perspective we are on the narrow path at this extensive waterhole, we cannot see any fish in the water. The water is too murky for that. The Shining Blue Kingfisher is so busy Continue reading Photographing Shining Blue Kingfisher at perch in Ghana

Imperial Eagle near border of Eastern Germany

KaiseradlerA fresh summer morning with a steel-blue sky opened the day. In front of the steel-blue sky over the Zichow forest in the Randowbruch only 10 km away from the polish border, raptors are circling up in the air. One of them is strikingly different. Red Kites (Milvus milvus) circle around him and – after a while – attack him. Finally it is clear: the highly thought-after immature Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) is found.

After a beautiful but quite cool morning, the birding day had gone so far without the long-awaited sighting of the Imperial Eagle. The day was – now at 10:30 am – although still young already very productive. But the exceptional vagrant had not yet emerged. Bad luck: on Tuesday and Wednesday of the week, the Eagle of the Randowbruch between Zichow and Zehnebeck could not be detected within five hours of up to 4 observers.

Otherwise, it was already a beautiful, productive birding day. Almost no sighting of a regular bird of prey remained unfulfilled. So many Red Kites – especially young birds – ,Black Kites (Milvus migrans), young and adult White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), Eurasian Marsh-Harriers (Circus aeruginosus), Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo), at least 4 Lesser Spotted Eagle (Clanga pomarina), one or the other Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and as a nice highlight a deep passing Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo).

Shortly before a sighting of an Aquila-Eagle was still uncertain. Continue reading Imperial Eagle near border of Eastern Germany

White-throated Dippers in the valleys of the Vosges

WasseramselA black bird with partially white belly rushes in a low flight along between huge boulders over the fast-flowing stream. For sure, this is a White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus). Often you see them with nesting material in the beak. These are the classic photos that you see of dippers. They fly preferably to and from exposed spots, as stones outstanding on the water.

Over moss-grown stones and some meters high cascades, the clear water rushes through varied mixed forests. Beside Dippers, Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) as well as Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) are to be found here.

The streams that flow from the Vosges in an easterly direction to the Upper Rhine, have to overcome a considerable slope. Their eroding power is correspondingly strong. Deeply cut valleys with steep flanks therefore characterize the southeastern Vosges. Particularly interesting in terms of photography are the valleys of the Doller below the Lac d’Alfeld and the Thur above the Lac de Kruth-Wildenstein with their numerous tributaries. On the upper reaches of the Doller, Beavers (Castor castor) have been spreading for some Continue reading White-throated Dippers in the valleys of the Vosges

Yellow-headed Picathartes: a mystical bird

Gelbkopf-FelshüpferIn March 2019 I visited Ghana with Birdquest specifically to search for the White-necked Rockfowl – or Yellow-headed Picathartes – (Picathartes gymnocephalus). Previously, colonies of this bird sought by many avian enthusiasts had been recorded throughout the rainforest zone of western Africa. Ceaseless deforestation destroyed all known populations, and the bird was considered extinct in Ghana a few decades ago.

However, scientists suspected that they still existed in hard-to-reach places and tried to look for suitable spots in the interior of West Africa. The hope was confirmed when several indigenous hunters responded on appropriate questions that they knew the bird and claimed that they still existed. Then a few years ago the news broke that picathartes had been rediscovered in Ghana at a community forest reserve.

Researchers studied the environment and discovered several more colonies. Some of these colonies were opened to tourism after researchers found that responsible birdwatchers are perceived by the birds to be of little disturbance.

The White-necked Rockfowl is somewhat misnamed as it has both a yellow neck and head but the name is presumably inspired by the Continue reading Yellow-headed Picathartes: a mystical bird

Heligoland and its Northern Gannets

BasstölpelA spectacular whitish bird almost effortless standing in the windy air on close distance. But also deafening screeching, biting fishy smell and occasionally a drop of bird droppings from the air. It is not a pure pleasure to photograph at the Heligoland bird cliffs.

But you can exploit a unique approach in aerial photography – at least for Germany. The most impressive birds are the Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus). Full-frame images are already possible with a 300 mm focal length lens. This focal length is even perfect for aerial photography. Only for shots of the nests with the seabirds, sometimes longer focal lengths are advised. During the breeding season from April to August, you have the best opportunities to get worthwhile shots. Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and Common Murre (Uria aalge) also prefer to breed in the steep, inaccessible cliffs at this time.

In the breeding colonies of the bird cliffs of Heligoland there is a constant coming and going. To my surprise, however, the birds Continue reading Heligoland and its Northern Gannets

British Yellow Wagtail on Heligoland

Gelbkopf-SchafstelzeAlthough the distribution area of Motacilla flava flavissima is not far from Germany, records of this (sub-)species are quite rare. As to be expected, there are some records from the islands in the wadden sea (Amrum, Sylt-Ost, Norderney, Wangerooge, Neuwerk, Baltrum) or near the coast as e.g. Horumersiel  but the best location for a german twitcher is Heligoland for sure. Thus, we were alerted when we saw a record in Ornitho.de at the end of May 2019.

Something yellow flashes in the green grass. Could this be the Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava flavissima) reported this morning? On the circular route over the upper plateau of the tiny off-shore island Heligoland we actually pass a cow pasture. 6 Galloways  and a goat can be seen on a pasture fenced with electric wire. Here at the so-called Oberland of Heligoland the Yellow Wagtail of the subspecies flavissima was spotted this morning. That was at 10:15 am, much earlier than now at 4:00 pm. But the cattle meadow seems to be still worth a look. Not least because of a pale Continue reading British Yellow Wagtail on Heligoland

White-crested Laughingthrush from a hide

WeißhaubenhäherlingA white-crested thrush-like bird on the ground hopps about throwing leaves. The bird is a White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus) and is really throwing the leaves around in all directions . They were searching intensively for food. It was a family group of eight birds. They might remind you of other birds of the family as e.g. the Grey-crowned Babbler (Pomatostomus temporalis) from Australia. They also move around in groups of eight and bounce around among the vegetation. White-crested Laughingthrush is often found scratching for food in the leaf litter. The White-crested Laughingthrush is a member of the Leiothrichidae family. It is found in forest and scrub from the Himalayan from north and north-east India, south-east Tibet, Sumatra, Myanmar, Thailand, south-west China foothills to Indochina.

The White-crested Laughingthrush is easily recognizable by its distinctive broad whitish crest, black mask, whitish underparts, rufous-chestnut upperparts and rufous flanks and undertail-coverts. It is usually seen in flocks which produce song bursts of rapid chattering and repetitive double-note phrases. It is found in a wide range of habitats, including broadleaved evergreen, semi-evergreen and dry deciduous forest,   secondary growth and bamboo up to about 1,600 m asl.

The White-crested Laughingthrush has been absent from south Continue reading White-crested Laughingthrush from a hide

Orchards: home for the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

KleinspechtLesser Spotted Woodpeckers (Dryobates minor) only rarely find a breeding ground under the flower roof of apple trees in Central Europe anymore, because there are hardly any orchards or other suitable habitats for this small woodpeckers. However, the structurally rich landscape of the Vordertaunus near Bad Soden close to Frankfurt am Main is an exception. Here still a number of breeding pairs live in old tree caves and during the breeding season, the fruit blossom provides a striking backdrop for bird photographers. The little woodpecker is perhaps the least well-known of the black-white-red woodpeckers of Europe.

In the diversity of Central European cultural landscape, this small woodpecker has lived many centuries in close proximity to humans. Here the former inhabitant of alluvial forests found optimal conditions to live. But in recent decades, its holdings in Central Europe have partly melted drastically. In some areas it is still to be found on distribution maps, but in fact it is extinct in many places or there are only residual occurrences. The culprit of his disappearance is certainly the intensive agricultural use and the associated destruction of his habitat.

The woodpecker often shares its breeding grounds with the Little Owl (Athene noctua). Here, however, the flat Lower Rhine in North Continue reading Orchards: home for the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Etchécopar’s Owlet in Shai Hills Resource Reserve

Kapkauz, Etchécopar’s OwletThe target area of the morning is the Shai Hills Resource Reserve. We try to manage to see the scarce local form of African Barred Owlet sometimes split as Etchécopar’s Owlet (Glaucidium etchecopari). While the morning was still fresh we left the van to search for the bird in the dense thickets at Bat Cave. After a while, we realized that we would be unlucky. We returned to another “Cave”-spot, left the van again and tried to lure into view the local form of African Barred Owlet that is sometimes treated as a separate species; Etchécopar’s Owlet.

The imitation of the voice of the Etchécopar’s Owlet should lure him out. And indeed, the bird called back. At first, at some distance. But finally it entered a nearby dense forest. But there was nothing to see yet. The owl could not be far away. The voice was good to hear. Our local guide was finally able to make out the Etchécopar’s Owlet. It was hiding on a big branch of a big tree. Sitting quite in the open, nevertheless the owl was hidden by leaves and twigs. Fortunately the African Barred Owlet was not nervous and staid long enough for some excessive photographic opportunities which were more than necessary because camera-autofocus was distracted from the bird several times.

The African Barred Owlet was first discovered in 2005; in the dry forest at Bat Cave in Shai Hills Resource Reserve. The Shai Hills Resource Reserve is located in the north-east sector of the Accra Continue reading Etchécopar’s Owlet in Shai Hills Resource Reserve

Kingfishers and their nests

A flash of blue suddenly took my eye and, when I checked to see what had caused me to blink, I spotted a Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) sitting on an overhanging branch. A short, sharp whistle had announced the Common Kingfisher. Now, in spring, it will soon be heard on many natural waters again. Kingfishers often fly low and fast over the water. Because of its pronounced territoriality in the spring, the nest is not far.

The “nest” consists of a more than 50 cm long tube with a subsequent incubator. However, the material to be worked on the site must neither be too hard nor too loose. If the Common Kingfisher encounters rocks or root systems or if a loose ground collapses, the Common Kingfisher must start work in another location again.

There was a time when I was curious about what happened to the bird’s nest, when the water floods and the banks are flooded. That can have devastating consequences. To be reasonably protected from flooding, the bird’s nest is usually located at a height of 1 – 3 m above the water level in steep walls with grave-capable, loamy or sandy soils. When the tube is excavated to the right size, the female moves into the cave. The Common Kingfisher, tunnels tubes to up to 100 cm long and lets them end in an extended incubator. Among the existing breeding sites, those that occupy every year, even after Continue reading Kingfishers and their nests

The Western Hazel Grouse – a bird on the edge of extinction

Haselhuhn, MännchenThe Vosges in eastern France are a very attractive tourist destination in summer time. The The Western Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia rhenana) is a secretive representative of the grouse family, which has its last refuge in the Vosges. But it is also in danger in the northeast of France. 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 forests as well. Beside birds of the higher mountain zone one sees some interesting plants like Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea), Mountain arnica (Arnica montana), Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina) and Mountain Pansy (Viola lutea).

Due to the difficulty of exact surveys, the decline in Western Hazel Grouse in northeastern France is described not easy. Since the 1930s, there are five to seven methodologically comparable observations. The area under consideration in the first survey is a rather continental-toned climate. The area is forested to about 33%, with a variation of 20% in arable land and up to 75% in the low mountain range. Four natural areas can be distinguished:

  • The densely cultivated Champagne on the edge of the Paris Basin with 20% forest share at sea heights of 60 to 200 m.
  • The zone of hills and plateaus at 100-400 (-500) m asl in the Ardennes and Lorraine with 37% forest, mainly oak and beech forest and coniferous forest.
  • The up to 1,424 m high Vosges with their vegetation levels: Below 500 m, a forest cover of 44% beech oak forest with sprinkled coniferous on the wetter west side of the mountains, and mainly sessile forests on the drier east side. Tree cover has been significantly replaced by conifers on the east side. Above 500 m, forest cover with beech fir forests increases to 75%. Beyond 1,000 m there are spruce-enriched beech-fir or pure beech high-altitude forests.
  • The Alsace Upper Rhine plain (100-250 m asl) with 25% forest cover, on the one hand alluvial oak-ash or riparian forests and, on the other hand, oak-beech forests on sandy areas, enriched with Scots pine.

Continue reading The Western Hazel Grouse – a bird on the edge of extinction

Mount Kupé Bushshrike – searching for a rare bird

HalsbandwürgerOne of the top birds of the Bakossi Mountains is Serle’s Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis) – better known as Mount Kupe Bushshrike. This fresh morning had started almost exactly like the previous, unsuccessful birding morning. But this time we take another trail. At the very beginning, we see the remains of a camp where scientists had conducted ornithological surveys (ringing schemes, etc.). In conduct of the trip, reliable locations for Mount Kupe Bushshrike should be found. We will be playing the voice of Serle’s Bushshrike (better known as Mount Kupe Bushshrike) too and perhaps lure it out. Along the way, the local guides had seen the bird at least. The bird activity is amazingly good. The Blackcap Illadopsis (Illadopsis cleaveri) or better Black-capped Illadopsis and Yellow Longbill (Macrosphenus flavicans) can be heard. The first known location of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike proves to be unproductive. We then continue along the ever-narrowing path. It is now 8:00 am and very pleasant in the forest. The sun is already shining on the first slopes. At the 2nd spot we stop to play the raucous song of Serle’s Bushshrike and maybe lure it out. The local guide had definitely seen it on this spot several times. But first we see “only” a Bar-tailed Trogon (Apaloderma vittatum), in the dense foliage. Suddenly, in the far distance, a Bushshrike answers. For a while I play the tape with its rasping calls. In between, the local guide is very good at mimicking the bird’s Continue reading Mount Kupé Bushshrike – searching for a rare bird

Pied Lapwing on sandbank near Porto Jofré/ Pantanal

DiademkiebitzA Lapwing is standing on a sandbar on the north bank of the Rio Cuiabá (on some maps, this section of the river also Rio São Lourenço). It is a conspicuous black and white colored small wader which obviously uses the southernmost end of the Transpantaneira as his homeground. The Pied Lapwing (Vanellus cayanus) is quite a common bird on sandy shores along the rivers of the Pantanal in central Brazil. In the meantime, this lapwing has gotten a new scientific name: Hoploxypterus cayanus. The north bank of the Rio Cuiabá at Porto Jofré is the end of a 145 kilometers stretch of the Transpantaneira. Apart from a few houses, a simple campsite, boat moorings and the huge grounds of Hotel Pantanal Norte, there is not much to see here. On the river a few houseboats dangle on the opposite shore. Swiftly the white-black bird runs in front of me on the sand of the Rio São Lourenço/ Rio Cuiabá. Again and again the small wader pauses and seems hesitant to start moving again. I lay down on the sand and let the bird come. Over time, the Pied Lapwing gets closer and closer. I decide to stay in the sand and take a few photos with the 4.0 / 500 also from the other waders on the sandbank.

In addition to the Pied Lapwing I dedicate a lot of time especially to the Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris). With their chestnut-brown neck, gray-brown mottled coat and pure white bottoms, they are very rich in contrast. There is also a black chest band. The male I Continue reading Pied Lapwing on sandbank near Porto Jofré/ Pantanal

Cranes in evening duet

KranichA pair of Common Cranes (Grus grus) are standing in the meadow in the twilight of dusk in Brandenburg. They obviously searched and found each other. While at the end of January an impressive migration of the cranes could be observed in Germany, arctic temperatures with two-digit minus degrees had performed over 3 weeks. The Common Cranes obviously could not impress that.

In the setting sun, they walked across a mowed wetland on the edge of a vast wetland and reed area. Again and again they walked towards each other after they had gone their own way shortly before. When they approached each other, especially when they were close together, they trumpeted their togetherness. The breath came from both throats and formed nicely visible vapor billowing in the icy cold evening air.

In addition to the rolling call, which can be heard above all from the flight formations, the Common Crane can also clearly distinguish the duet and a special warning call. The loud trumpet-like call is an Continue reading Cranes in evening duet

South Luangwa Nationalpark/ Zambia

ErdbeerköpfchenEventually we are standing on the Luangwa Bridge. Crocodiles sunbathe on the other side of the river, baboons and impalas roam through the woods. The call of the African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) is the final proof. That’s Africa!,

Luangwa Bridge offers already great photo opportunities. The Luangwa Bridge leads into the park. Immediately you are introduced to the scourge of South Luangwa, the tsetse flies (Glossina sp.). This noiseless, painful stabbing tormentor is not a disease carrier in this area, but allows only two alternatives: driving with closed car-window and switched on air conditioning or to be equipped with enough fly swatters. Taking pictures with the window open requires a certain degree of self-control, so that the shots do not blur.

South Luangwa is normally be visited during the dry season from June to October. During the heavy rainy season, the park is largely flooded and only a handful of specially created road on upper levels provide very limited movement possibilities. It will be very hot from the end of August. In September and October, the Luangwa River has reached its lowest level and the water holes are drying. But in contrast to some other parks in Zambia, accommodations are also available during the rainy season when the birds are in the breeding plumage.

The fees are heavy. $ 30 per person and $ 15 per vehicle will be Continue reading South Luangwa Nationalpark/ Zambia

Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) in Germany

ZwergscharbeIn size between a Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) and a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and black as well. Pygmy Cormorants are increasingly a sighting in Germany.  Right now, a Pygmy Cormorant has been reported from Stotternheimer See near Erfurt. Several images show, as the Pygmy Cormorant swims, rest and starts from the water in front of reeds on this lake in Thuringia. Before, this species – maybe the same bird – was reported from the southern bay of Sulzer Lake which is also close to Erfurt. The bird was always good to see from the 3rd  to the 11th of December 2018. Pygmy Cormorants found in Thuringia fit very well into the picture of a more frequent occurrence of the bird species in Central Europe starting from the years 2000, as reports from the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, from the Bodensee and from Germany. Scientists suspect that this phenomenon can be explained by the large increase in the breeding population in the Hortobágy in Hungary. The species seems to occur increasingly in Germany in the second half of the year – especially in late autumn and winter.

Pygmy Cormorants are in fact small relatives of the European Continue reading Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) in Germany

Feeding with fish: Kingfisher´s wedding gift

EisvogelA clear winter day. The alders and willows along the small stream are covered with hoarfrost. Wafts of mist rise from the slow-flowing water in the cold air. But then a whistle permeates the silence, and suddenly an azure flash of lightning rushes just above the surface of the water, once more a whistle, and then it is gone again.

Later, in spring I go to the same place and I’m curious if the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) has reoccupied its territory. When I approach the embankment, I already hear the chirping calls of two kingfishers in display. Standing behind a tree, I watch them with my binoculars. The male, recognizable by the black beak, flies off and it takes five minutes until I hear his whistle and he’s back with a little Continue reading Feeding with fish: Kingfisher´s wedding gift

Hovering Phylloscopus – Warblers

Every now and then several species of old-world Warblers of the genus Phylloscopus are observed feeding on pollen and nectar. This habit is usually found during migratory periods and is thought to be associated by scientists as a means of building energy after or before long-distance flights. So far, migratory Phylloscopus warblers have been observed visiting the flowers of various plant species, including eucalyptus trees, aloes and capers. The fact that nectarivory is not restricted to migratory birds is proved by this picture showing a Canary Islands Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus canariensis) on the island of Tenerife visiting the flowers of an ornamental banana tree. Although this habit has been rarely observed or photographed, this individual has apparently learned to hover in front of the corollas and is able to feed nectar almost like a hummingbird (Trochilidae) or sunbird (Nectariniidae). It can be seen that this species is not a migratory bird, because the Canary Islands Chiffchaff is a native species of the Canaries, although closely related to central European Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) or the Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus). The Canary Islands Chiffchaff has more rounded wing tips than its northern relatives and the characteristic wing shape is clearly visible here.

From the far north of Europe and America images that show a Continue reading Hovering Phylloscopus – Warblers

Middle Spotted Woodpecker at Hainich National Park, Thuringia

MittelspechtA high-pitched call in early spring is heard from afar. An obtrusive väh-wäh-wäh – combination of calls can be heard after. A beautiful old mixed beech forest with several layers and plenty of dead wood is home of the Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius).  A small hiking trail passes the ground at Langes Tal in the Western Hainich park area. The Middle Spotted Woodpecker is easily been seen in 5 meters height when it is calling. The Middle Spotted Woodpecker uses oak-dominated forest stands in the National Park. Beech dominated forest areas are only used when the beech trees are well over 140 years old or a high proportion of mixed tree species is available.

Signs of woodpecker’s nesting holes can be seen afterwards. The area of the Hainich National Park in general is important for many other species of Picids, including Grey-headed (Picus canus), Lesser Spotted (Dendrocopos minor)  and Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) which are all quite common.

Using the playback method, along transects, an annual scientific study counted Woodpeckers distribution and abundance. In the context of the point stop count all woodpecker species occurring in the national park were proven. The results show that, as expected, the most common species were Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (41 % on average per year), Grey-headed Woodpecker (20 %) and Middle Spotted Woodpecker (21%). These species were detected in each study year. Continue reading Middle Spotted Woodpecker at Hainich National Park, Thuringia

Cape Teal on Malta

A common sighting in Southern African, the Cape Teal (Anas capensis) is a very rare vagrant to regions north of the Sahara. Thus, the observed (and photographed) Cape Teal at Is-Simar Nature Reserve, Malta, on 28 January was maybe the biggest twitcher-news of this last years January-week for the Western Palearctic. The bird was unhinged, very wary and not seen on subsequent dates.

The Cape Teal is found mostly in South Africa, where it is uncommon to locally abundant, being especially populous in the Western part of the RSA (Western Cape, North-West Province and Free State Province) The duck prefers to live in salty, brackish vleis, often with dense reeds, and is also very common in sewerage ponds. The teal feeds mainly on insects. But approx. 25% of its diet is dedicated to plant matter as well. After breeding, the chicks are immediately led by their mother to the water, as they know how to dive and swim by Continue reading Cape Teal on Malta

Cranes in the moor

KranichHumans have always been fascinated by the elegant birds. Their calls ring in the autumn the beginning of winter and announce its early end in early spring. a wintry tour led to the resting place of more than 100 birds in the Rambower Moor in Prignitz district in Brandenburg.

South-east of the picturesque village Rambow in western Brandenburg the view opens into a wide plain. Reeds and shallow waters can be seen from afar. In between are tall grey figures in the wintry sun. They are Common Cranes (Grus grus)  resting here in the middle of winter. They stand out wonderfully from the gold-yellow of the reeds behind them. The birds can already be seen at a great distance. In Rambower Moor, up to 1500 cranes will gather for a nightly rest in March. Of course, it is much less now. Maybe it is still too early in the day and too sunny. In good weathers Common Cranes spend more time on corn fields and come later to their resting place in the moor.

Actually, they should now be in their winter quarters in Spain and France. But winter does not seem so grim that it would be worth the Continue reading Cranes in the moor

Chucao Tapaculo in Patagonia

RotkehltapaculoA thicket of bamboo, ferns, mushrooms and moss in the interior of the forests of Patagonia offers many animals hiding places. The king of the forests is the Chucao Tapaculo (Scelorchilus rubecula), a small bird with an artistic and loud reputation typical of the rainforests of southern Chile. However, normally it lives very hidden and is therefore difficult to observe. I just tried it with a tape and sitting quietly in the dense rainforest of  the Pumalín Park/ Chile. The Tronador campsite north of Caleta Gonzalo is an excellent base to explore this park is its pristine Nothofagus forests. The campground is situated 46 kilometers north of the small town of Chaitén.

A combination of coldness and humidity is responsible for the formation of damp-temperate rainforests in southern Chile. Over a million years the forests were isolated by climatic and geographic conditions: the mountain massif of the Andes in the east, the dry climate in the north and the Pacific Ocean in the west. As a result, a unique animal and plant world developed in the forests. The Chilean rainforest stretches from the river Maule to the extreme tip of the country to Tierra del Fuego. Traveling from north to south, the annual average temperature drops from 12 to 5 degrees, but Continue reading Chucao Tapaculo in Patagonia

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) near Camperduin/ Noord Holland

KuhreiherA small road and a deep ditch are one of the ingredients of a birdwatching trip in Noord-Holland. Right now, an additional add-on is the sighting of a Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). This Egret is rare in middle Europe but a common inhabitant of southern Europe. If you want to save time and distance you might try to look for this nice egret in a Nature reserve at the coast of Noord Holland near Camperduin.

During year end this egret stayed in the Harger- en Pettemerpolder, a reserve quite recently established to protect habitats for waders, ducks and geese. Narrow and windy roads along deep ditch pass the area. The Cattle Egret could be seen the first day on a wet meadow in some distance. On the way back, the egret was gone. Lucky man, I thought and only chose the road by accident the next day. This time the egret was standing right to the side of the road allowing for the image of the blog. And also on the next day the bird was there. This time standing in the garden of a small farmhouse together with a Herring Gull (Larus argentatus). The whole time I saw the egret in search of food, but could not see on what prey it was feeding. But obviously the habitat provided for enough food to stay for several days.

In general, the whole area in Noord-Holland is excellent for bird observations. E.g. an adult Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) could be observed north of Callantsoog in the newly established nature reserve “The Nollen van Abbestede” in June 2013. Again, there was a notice on www.waarneming.nl, that someone reported that a Continue reading Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) near Camperduin/ Noord Holland

Kori Bustard in Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

Early spring sees life returning to the thirsty bushveld landscape in the Taita Hills. Knob-thorn trees (Acacia nigrescens) in full bloom dot the landscape in their yellow splendor, and birds too experience a renewed surge of energy. One day I saw a male Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) displaying in some distance from the road.

I was able to get some fair pictures of him as he stood in one position, displaying and uttering his low, booming call. I decided to stay in the area, hoping that he might come closer to allow me to take better images, but l had to abandon the passionate wait at sunset due to bad light. Although not expecting to see him again, I returned to the grassy area with low bushes the following afternoon and to my surprise the bird was still around. This time he was following two female Kori Bustards. As the females crossed the road behind our Land Cruiser, the male tried to approach them but they felt offended and disappeared. As an alternative the male Kori Bustard started to catch grashoppers quite close by allowing me to capture images of him in his extravagant and impressive beauty.

Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary is a privately owned sanctuary, located Continue reading Kori Bustard in Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

Superb Starlings in flight near Lions Bluff Lodge/ Kenya

DreifarbenglanzstarThe waterhole at the Salt Lick Lodge attracts an impressive number and diversity of animals and birds. Nevertheless, we do not last long in the lounge area within the lodge. A little later we move in the afternoon heat again. Many other tourists also go to Lions Rock. There are few alternatives. “Feeding forbidden“ a sign says just 100 yards behind the Salt Lick Lodge. A little later, I see why. Superb Starlings are fed from the tourist bus directly from the dirt track. One of the drivers in front of us picks up peanuts and the Superb Starlings (Lamprotornis superbus) pick them in his hand while flying. I hate that – and it’s even prohibited by the sign. Nevertheless, I cannot help but photograph the fluttering right in front of the driver’s door. The word “fluttering flight” does not adequately reflect the perfect aerial acrobatics. The birds have an impressive ability to fly on the spot quickly and at the same time a little later. The elegant standing in the air must be seen. I do not trust this for these compact birds. The blue-violet shines in the sun in ever new variations and the black wing linings on the wings really dance during the upswing and downswing of the wings. Sometimes you can even see the light brown belly with the white chest band. Especially the white eye stands out despite the rapid action. Of course, that does not happen without screaming and constant calling. With wide open beaks, the Superb Starlings try to scare each other off the much anticipated food source. A Northern White-Crowned Shrike Continue reading Superb Starlings in flight near Lions Bluff Lodge/ Kenya

Yellow flycatcher (Erythrocercus holochlorus) im Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, at Kenya´s east coast

Goldrücken-SpreizschwanzAfter paying the fee to enter the Arabuke Sokoke Forest at Gedi Forest Station Visitors’ Bureau, we want to look at a small piece of woodland just beyond the ranger post. It is now 6:15 a.m.. So pretty early. It would not be worth it much sooner. There are thick clouds in the sky. We walk in the cloud-filtered morning light a path behind the office. Here the Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus) should occur. Unfortunately, we only see some dugging residuals. At a daytime roost for owls, we see a pair of Brown greater Halago (Otolemur crassicaudatus), the so-called Bush babies, nestled close together. Otherwise there is not much to see on birds; and also not heard. It is pretty quiet. Suddenly we see a beautiful Yellow Flycatcher (Erythrocercus holochlorus), which our guide calls Little Yellow Flycatcher. With his tape we can attract the Yellow Flycatcher so far that it manages in photo pose and sings eagerly.

Later we will see Yellow flycatchers quite often. Mostly small family parties in mixed-species flocks that originated along a trail in a patch of evergreen mixed forest but also quite close to miombo woodland. One Yellow Flycatcher had caught a caterpillar in the canopy of the mixed forest.

The Yellow Flycatcher – or Little Yellow Flycatcher – as it is sometimes called, is a small, active warbler-like flycatcher with Continue reading Yellow flycatcher (Erythrocercus holochlorus) im Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, at Kenya´s east coast

African skimmers in the Chobe Nationalpark/ Botswana

Afrikanischer ScherenschnabelMorning haze lays over the wide river plain. Perched low on a Sandbank dozens of black and white colored birds with a strikingly long red bill are standing. These are the long-awaited African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris). When we’ve left the river bend for a while, the whole flock starts moving with a heavy, powerful wing beat. First, the flock turns a round over the sandbar. Then the flock turns into low altitude flight. The black-and-white-colored, roughly tern-sized birds with their long, elegant wings fly a few centimeters above calm water, hovers prey-hunting parallel to the water surface. Suddenly they pull out their oversized, laterally flattened and sharp-edged lower beak and pull it, flattening its wings, through the upper layers of water. They fly until their beaks come into contact with a fish. Shortly thereafter, these birds close their beak abruptly, and a small silver fish disappears wriggling in the throat of the successful hunters.

Because of their peculiar hunting style these birds are called skimmers in English. Many years ago I was fascinated by a very special species of bird at the Madre de Dios, a tributary of the Amazon. In the silence of dusk, these birds flew over the wide river in small groups, holding one another strangely over the water. Their sweeping wings almost touched the surface of the water every time they hit. Her flight was straightforward, not too fast and her flapping wings steady, elegant and had something of a provocative phlegmatic slowness. They were “my” first Skimmers, more specifically Black Skimmer (Rynchops nigra), as I soon realized. Her submerged beaks plunged furrows into the red colored water of the Amazon.

This spectacular species of prey can only be observed in three species today: the Skimmers of the genus Rhynchops, which are native to the Asian and African tropics and along the American coast. An excellent spot to see African Skimmers in Africa in the Sanaga River  in Cameroon.

The beaks of the Skimmers have over thirty special adaptations to Continue reading African skimmers in the Chobe Nationalpark/ Botswana

Red-throated Pipit: Fall migration along Egypts Rea Sea

RotkehlpieperHotel garden lawns along the Red Sea coast can be remarkable birdy. The sun has just appeared on the horizon for 3 hours. Nevertheless, it is already really hot. Coming from breakfast in a hotel complex on the Egyptian Red Sea, we walk first our inspection round. Here we see again the two Ruffs (Calidris pugnax) and also the one Spur-winged Plover (Vanellus spinosus) in the middle of the hotel area on the same lawn as 5 days ago. When we then run back to the free grassy areas, I think to realize, that in contrast to spring bird quantity is high but diversity is rather low. Except for the Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava), we have not seen any other birds on the grass. Especially no Pipit. That is just thought, as we see two passerine birds patterned with broad-stripes. They are Red-throated Pipits (Anthus cervinus). One of the birds still has a still a red throat. Great, I’ll have to go and scan it again. When I come back, both Red-throated Pipits are practically still present in the same area. The Yellow wagtails are of course in the majority. As I approach, they all fly up. Then I hide behind a lush bush and crawl on all fours behind the bushes. Eventually they are not more than 8 meters ahead of me. In contrast to the Yellow wagtails the Red-throated Pipits seem not be so keen to stay in the shade. They give great images despite the steep sunlight. One of the Continue reading Red-throated Pipit: Fall migration along Egypts Rea Sea

Malindi Pipit (Anthus melindae) in the Arabuke-Sokoke Forest/ Kenya

MalindipieperA Pipit takes flight as we approach the dry, low grassy area. Our Guide calls immediately: this is not Malindi Pipit (Anthus melindae) but an African Pipit (Anthus cinnamomeus). Already on the Sabaki River Delta we had searched for the Malindi Pipit in the sparsely vegetated grasslands in vain. Our Guide says that the previously highly populated plain has been abandoned because agriculture reduces available habitat. In the specific case on the Sabaki River Delta probably a salt production should be established. Politicians currently seem to be investing in salt production along the coast. This is of course a big threat. The areas for the salines, i.e. the evaporation areas, the technical facilities and the dikes will of course dramatically reduce the available habitat for this species. But the transformation of agriculture, including the cultivation of biofuels, is also a major threat. Overall, he sees a great threat to the survival of this species, at least in the vicinity of Malindi.

In the Arabuke Sokoke Forest, however, he was able to see the Malindi Pipit near the so-called elephant swamp. Because there is nowhere around but the only place to see the Pipit. The swamp is not bad at all. Nevertheless, Our Guide cannot feel comfortable in the area, because you never know when and if elephants would Continue reading Malindi Pipit (Anthus melindae) in the Arabuke-Sokoke Forest/ Kenya

Photographing Wrynecks

WendehalsAn Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) sitting open on a stone singing in the morning light is a really rare sighting. The obtrusive väh-wäh-wäh – calls can be heard from afar. The emitting bird remains hidden. In the second half of April, the powerful courtship calls of a bird, which is rarely seen, are often heard. The Eurasian Wryneck is to be heard.  Its voice is unmistakable. The Eurasian Wryneck prefers open landscape forms as a habitat. So its breeding ground in Europe can be found in orchards, parks and open, light forests. The Eurasian Wryneck spends the wintering season in Africa. At the end of March / beginning of April it returns to its breeding area. The Eurasian Wryneck quickly discovers a new breeding cave. The Eurasian Wryneck is grey-brown above, finely striped like a bark, below creamy yellow and has at the throat a grey-brown banded plumage. The Wryneck almost looks like a long-drawn sparrow. But the Wryneck can turn its head 90 degrees. This ability helped him to his name. Due to its camouflage color, it is particularly difficult to find it. But if it is in court in the spring, he mutates to the real screamer. Then the nasal calls of both sexes are hard to miss. During this time, the best options are to photograph different behaviors of this bird.

Since the Wryneck cannot make its own breeding caves, it is dependent on natural excavations in trees or on the caves of Continue reading Photographing Wrynecks

Atlantic Puffin on Hornöya in Norway

PapageitaucherA strong wind from the east drives the whitecaps over the sea. Even in spring, the wind lets the photographer freeze to the bone. The sky is overcast and the persistent strong wind whirls the sand up to the edge of the cliffs. First, it is a steep, narrow stairs to climb up to the lighthouse, which stands on a rock spur. When I get to the top, I find that many Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) duck into their nesting holes for protection from the wind. Atlantic Puffins are relatively small birds which stand its ground in a crowded bird colony by settling in self-dug burrows. These burrows are dug usually up to 4 feet below the surface. Like most other seabirds they are colonial breeders. Underground Puffins rear their offspring. With feet and beak a comfortable housing is created that is safe from attacks by larger birds as sea gulls. This does not seem to be a promising start for a photo session. I am crouching in a grassy hollow in the lee of the lighthouse and I already reproach myself that it was a stupid idea to drive to the small island and in the very end this trip would be a waste of time. Later, however, I am astonished to see an Atlantic Puffin rising in front of me and being lifted into the air by a Continue reading Atlantic Puffin on Hornöya in Norway

Anhingas in Florida

Amerikanischer SchlangenhalsvogelThe ditch along the visitor’s trail is teeming with fish. Suddenly a sharp, dart-like beak emerges out of the water right in front of us. It is followed by a long piece of neck. Like a snake, Anhingas – the snakebird – (Anhinga anhinga) glides silently through the water. Its water-permeable plumage reduces the buoyancy that occurs during diving and suppresses any rippling. For a while we see the slender bird body still sliding underneath us through the fairly clear water. Now it’s time to take care. Far more spectacular than Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) they fish under water. Anhingas use their pointed beak like a harpoon. The long neck, which is bent back in an S-shape before being impacted works like a taut feather and allows lightning-fast fishing under water. The Anhinga Trail in Florida’s Everglades offers ideal conditions to observe these black fish hunters. They harpoon the fish by piercing it with their closed beak. Continue reading Anhingas in Florida

Whimbrel in Ponta Delgada Port on São Miguel

RegenbrachvogelPonta Delgada Port on São Miguel, the biggest island of the Azores, is a busy place. This is true also in terms of foreign tourists and local visitors. Beautiful is the view from the pier from one of the sidewalk cafes. On first sight, it is a surprise that a wader comes very close even to busy tourist infrastructure. But the Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is searching for food on the rocks of the wavebreakers. The Whimbrel is a regular migrating bird on the Azores, which can be observed on all the islands of the Azores at any time of the year. The Whimbrel is one of the largest waders that occur in the archipelago. Something smaller than the Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata), the bird has shorter legs, as well as a shorter, less decurved bill. Anyway the bill recedes still visibly down. The general tone of the plumage is brown, the belly is whitish. The most obvious character is it well-marked eyebrow (by comparison with the Eurasian Curlew, a bird with Continue reading Whimbrel in Ponta Delgada Port on São Miguel

Great Bittern back on stage in Great Britain

Rohrdommel Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) has experienced its most successful year for breeding in Great Britain in 2016. At least, an annual national survey carried out by RSPB mentioned this. This is pointed out in an article in birdguides about the breeding success in the UK.

This breeding success is welcome news for these bulky brown-streaked herons, who’ve endured a tumultuous history in Britain and Ireland. In the late 19th century Bittern had vanished from Britain. They were prized as a medieval banquet dish and consequently hunted intensively. The loss of their reedbed habitat contributed to their decline.

Bittern started to re-colonize England at the beginning of the twentieth century, but due to the continuing loss of habitat, their numbers declined from the middle of the century. By 1997, there were only 11 territorial males across the country

To mark their territory and advertise themselves to potential partners, male Bitterns make a distinctive ‘booming’ sound in the Continue reading Great Bittern back on stage in Great Britain

Photographing flying Short-eared Owls

It is already some years ago, that I spent Christmas and New Year days at the coast of the Netherlands. Here I had my first sighting of a flying Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) in 2008.  It was my second encounter, after one individual of a Short-eared Owl I witnessed sitting in the sandy grass of the coast near Wilhelmshaven in northern Germany. Of course I wanted to photograph this beautiful and rare owl as well.

At my next visit to this area in December 2009 I was lucky enough to see 3 different Short-eared Owls at one spot in action. In the late afternoon this birds start to get active and fly over the polders in this area looking for prey. It is really a fascinating view to see this beautiful birds flying over the fields and then abruptly changing direction to catch their prey, mainly mice, on the ground.

Then in January the next year I went to Zeeland again. I had not made these images I wanted to take of these birds. I hoped that the Continue reading Photographing flying Short-eared Owls

A gourmet among woodpeckers: a Wryneck in Estonia

WendehalsHi-pitched callings are coming out of nowhere. Even the direction is not clear. In the poor light of the dawn I see a bird in flight. First I think of a Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria) or maybe a small female shrike like a Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio). Suddenly a Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) hops around the woodland floor in search of a new anthill. It moves clumsily on flat ground, with its tail raised. With a few hammer blows from its bill, the wryneck breaks into the ants nest. Ants swarm out, but they do not have a chance. The Wryneck can hold 150 ants in its throat at any one time.

Afterwards the Wryneck flies to an oak tree, gripping the rough bark with its strong feet. It looks in holes in the bark for grubs and food items. The Eurasian Wryneck detects the tiny sound of a beetle moving behind the bark, and swiftly inserts its long tongue to catch the insect. The bird´s sharp, chisel-tipped bill enables it to smash into anthills. Specially adapted salivary glands keep its tongue sticky, so it can pick up ants with a flicking action. The tongue is also long Continue reading A gourmet among woodpeckers: a Wryneck in Estonia

Lammergeier at Mount Olymp/ Macedonia

BartgeierThe rush of wind through feathers is the only sound to break the silence as a huge bird glided by just a few meters from a crack high in the mountains around Mount Olymp. A Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) soars above the mountains, scavenging for a meal. It is the only species of bird that cracks open bones to feast on the marrow inside. Lammergeiers are able lifting large carcasses to great heights. Then they drop them onto the rocks below to break up the bones and access the marrow. Smaller bones are swallowed whole.

Like other mountainous areas of Greece, Mt Olympus has a fine selection of raptors and these include Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus), Cinereous Vulture or Eurasian Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)  and Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus). A national park in the eastern part of the Olympus Mountains of northern Thessaly includes some of the most dramatic scenery in the whole of Greece and is popular with hikers as well as birders. Lammergeiers were regularly seen until a few years ago and they were thought to be no longer permanently resident in the area.

But this year, an adult Lammergeier has been seen and photographed on the 6th April in Mt. Olympus by Thomas Nikolopoulos. The Lammergeier in flight appeared with a Golden Eagle on the grey sky.  This is the first observation of an adult plumage bearded vulture since several years.

Two years ago, though, a 2nd-3rd calendar year bird was observed. Lammergeiers do occur in Crete, where the population is stable, at around 7 pairs. In the Alps the population has been increasing Continue reading Lammergeier at Mount Olymp/ Macedonia

Common Swift and Northern House-Martin: a bad year in Germany?

MehlschwalbeYou could read in May several times in the media that there were fewer Common Swifts (Apus apus) and Northern House-Martins (Delichon urbica) this year than in previous years. For example, a conservation organization reported on the results of the “Stunde der Gartenvogel”, which is equivalent  the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch number of these fast-flying insectivores declined by 40% less compared to 2006, when the first garden birds count (Stunde der Gartenvogel) was heralded.

But is it possible to deduce the extent of the loss of insect-eating birds from a momentary impression?

Meanwhile, both species are already longer in the country and the breeding season is almost over. Thus, the number of Common Swift has already passed its zenith again and since the beginning of August, no adult or this year’s specimens are present at some colonies in Brandenburg. House-Martins will be still present for several weeks but have bred already as well.

Thus, there are now good preconditions for answering the question Continue reading Common Swift and Northern House-Martin: a bad year in Germany?

Influx of Rosy Starlings in Middle Europe

RosenstarRosy Starlings (Pastor roseus) are sociable and partly nomadic breeding birds of the steppes and semi-deserts of Central Asia and Southeastern Europe. Westward thrusts are usually associated with the mass propagation of grasshoppers. In Germany, Rosy Starlings are rare vagrants with few records per year, which usually affect rather inconspicuous pale-colored juveniles. At the moment, however, the chances of observing an attractive adult bird in partly breeding plumage are as good as virtually never before.

Currently there is a strong influx of Rosy Starlings. In the past two weeks, an unusually large number of adult Rosy Starlings have been found far to the west of their regular breeding grounds. Hundreds Continue reading Influx of Rosy Starlings in Middle Europe

Sandy beaches on Sylt

KnuttBar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica), Eurasian Curlews (Numenius arquata), Spotted Redshanks (Tringa erythropus), Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) and – maybe – even one Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) in the backlight of the evening.  Some flocks of waders are flying in. Evening mood at the Lister Ellenbogen (elbow). You might think you are alone in the world.

North of the “Kampener Vogelkoje” begins the nearly thirteen square kilometer Listland dune area. The area reaching up to the Ellenbogen nature reserve is well known by the up to 35 meters high raised dunes. They are undoubtedly one of the scenic highlights of Sylt. Part of Listland is the northernmost recreational area in Germany: the Ellenbogen. This spot is characterized by beautiful beaches, natural dunes and the two photogenic beacons ” Ellenbogen West” and ” Ellenbogen East.” Since the elbow is a private property of Listland owners, the motorist has to pay a fee of about four euros when passing In the early morning, landscape photographs can be made well with the flat incident light, then the photographic equipment should already be set up, so that at the time of sunrise you are prepared. The early wake up will be rewarded with beautiful shots in excellent light and overall stress-free photography.

The island of Sylt in the north-western corner of Germany offers not only luxury vacationers but also nature photographers a lot of variety. The Wadden Sea, with its numerous bird species, wide Continue reading Sandy beaches on Sylt

Blyth’s Reed-Warbler at Matsalu Bay/ Estonia

BuschrohrsängerI am standing at the entrance to a beach area in North-western Estonia, which I had already used to photograph migrating waterfowl 2 days ago. At that time already, I had the impression that a Reed-Warbler is singing in the background. But at that time, I had it “checked off” as a “normal” Reed warbler – maybe a Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris). Now I’m not so sure and play in the same place, the transition zone of bushes, old reed and beach from the song of the Blyth’s Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum). After a few seconds of melodies, the reaction is prompt. Loud and clear, the Blyth’s Reed-Warbler sings its tune reminiscent of anything between a Marsh Warbler and an Icterine Warbler (Hippolais icterina). I stomp through thick herb layer, stinging nettles, winter rinse and the reeds. A Blyth’s Reed-Warbler appears at an old, dried-up reed stalk and sings against the alleged rival. He sings in the middle of the reeds. Interesting: this is actually ruled out in standard field guide for Western Palearctic by Killian Mullarney, Lars Svensson and Dan Zetterström. It then changes its perch and sits in a rowanberry. The reaction to playing the tape is prompt and unfortunately also associated with many site changes. Nevertheless, I use the time to look at this Blyth’s Reed-Warbler now more closely. He definitely looks much grayer than a Marsh Warbler. After a while, you also have the song in mind and can identify it very well. In Continue reading Blyth’s Reed-Warbler at Matsalu Bay/ Estonia

Ptarmigan in Tyrol

AlpenschneehuhnA rattling, gibbering call is thrown back from the high rocky walls in echoes. After 1 minute, the call is repeated. Carefully, I try to approach the noise source. Unexpectedly, a Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) appears between the boulders. After only two shots, the Ptarmigan is already disappeared.

In the middle of the mighty mountain range of the European Alps lies the province of Tyrol. Here you can follow untouched natural landscapes from the meadows in the valley over the alpine meadows and forests far up to rugged slopes in the high mountains.

Rugged peaks and countless, crystal-clear mountain lakes, which lie in the midst of idyllic pastures characterize Tyrol. Throughout the year, but especially in autumn, Tirol offers photo opportunities galore. They make every nature photographer’s heart beat faster. Tyrol is home to a typical bird species set for the subalpine and alpine elevations of the Alps in the upper mountain regions.

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), Common Rock Thrush or Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) or Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) are examples from the songbird comunity.

A summary rating of Tyrol is currently not possible. However, due to Continue reading Ptarmigan in Tyrol

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?