Category Archives: Bird Trips (Pictures & Stories)

What could be seen, what to see, the landscape…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Caspian plover at Kuifkopvisvanger, Velddrif

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

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

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

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

Flying Raptors over the Cape Province of South Africa

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

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

Patience for a G(h)ost-Hawk

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

Bird migration on the Sagres Peninsula/ Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

Handa, a Scottish bird island

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

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

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

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

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

Snowy Owl on snow-covered plateau in Nordkyn/ Norway

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

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

Seabird migration from a boat in Nordkyn/ Norway

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

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

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

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

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

A sacrifice for a Goshawk – winter photography in Norway

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

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

Sandhill Cranes in Bosque Del Apache NWR at Sunset

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

Yellow-billed Loon between the archipelagos of Flatanger

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

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

CMCK, Malawi: Flying Dinosaurs of Karonga

 

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

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

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

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

Least Tern for the Western Palearctic

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

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

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

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

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

On migration: a Siberian Rubythroat on Happy Island

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

Black-capped Petrel in the western Palearctic

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

Eurasian Wryneck and other birds in Bulgaria

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

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) on Laguna Alalay – Bolivia

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

European Bee-eaters in Bulgaria

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

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

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

Buff-barred Warbler in the Himalayas

Goldbinden-Laubsänger

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

Lake Neusiedl: Rare birds in June

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

Hazel Grouse: the results

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

Hazel Grouse: the hide

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

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

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

Hazel Grouse: the habitat

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

Finding Hazel Grouse in the Carpathians

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

Caspian Seashore & Volga delta in May

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

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

Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) photography in Extremadura

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

Wallcreeper in the Sierra de Guara in Northern Spain

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

Sparrowhawk at Wallcreeper cliff in Alquezar in Northern Spain

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

Golden Eagle at the Laguna de Gallocanta/ Spain

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

Black Grouse on lek in Finland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic.  Trips to remote places like in Finland to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The operator´s name of the workshop is Finnature. It is highly recommended. Most of other workshops run by Finnature – a tour operator based in Oulu – take place in January/February for a period of 2 – 4 days.

This nice image is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Pictures Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if I could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

Angola Pitta in Mvuu Camp/ Malawi

Angolapitta, Pitta angolensis, unter einem Dickicht

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

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

Snowy Owl in nature reserve near Hanstholm/ North Jutland

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

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

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

Ivory Gull in the port of Hanstholm, Denmark

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

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

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

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

Adventure: driving to the Keoladeo National Park

Sarus Crane, pair on field

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

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

White-tailed Eagle catching fish in Norway

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

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

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

Golden Eagle at fox bait in Norway

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

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

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

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

Taiga Bean Goose in Vorpommern (Pomerania)

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

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

Cranes (Grus grus) at the Guenzer lake in Vorpommern

Common Crane

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

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

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

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

Keoladeo National Park, a paradise also for Western Palearctic birds

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

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

Hoopoes on Fuerteventura

As the plane gained altitude and the rugged, steep cliffs of the Canary Island of La Palma disappeared more and more in the haze, I decided to come back. Was it the allure of warm semi-desert with cactus like their spurge, the rugged caldera in the northern part of the island, which had thrilled me so, or it was the most overcast, cool bay-rainforests in the center of the island? Maybe it was because of the loud booming of the frogs that filled the night in the subtropical atmosphere. Eurasian HoopoeHowever, it could also Island Canary (Serinus canaria), also commonly known as the Canaries, the endemic subspecies of our chaffinches, the La Palma Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs palmae), the Canary Islands Pipit (Anthus berthelotii), the nasal flight calls of Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris borealis) have been, or were there in the end, “only” the graceful Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), which unfortunately I could not take pictures again as I had planned it all along?

Anyway, in the fall of 2011, I visited the Canary Islands again a visit. This time was the turn of Fuerteventura and now the Photo luck finally seemed to be on my side:

On a remote poultry farm with a lot of rotten and rusty agricultural machines, more precisely, on and around the corresponding dunghill with its many small, hidden, white grubs, not two, three Hoopoes had gathered – no, there were not fewer than 9 individuals. Running busily back and forth, they punted “nervous” in the soft decomposition products around. The birds often pushed the beak from the side, i.e. with inclined head in the manure inside. The beak is very sensitive to tactile stimuli. The reaction is a rapid collapse of the beak. When the tactile grip managed to feel the prey the caterpillar was swallowed as a whole. Hoopoes impress between meals like by placing her bonnet and tail compartments. If they threaten, they are spreading their wings in addition. This happened often with so many competitors for food in such a small space. Then aggressive reations are inevitable. So it was not surprising that the hoopoe with his usually horizontally carried rear bonnet fanned the bonnet suddenly when a conspecific rival dared to go through the accepted distance. In an extreme case, a bird raised the optically effective defense by increasing the body by sudden turning of the wing on the ground at the same time spreading the tail.

The image shown here succeeded Continue reading Hoopoes on Fuerteventura

Bird Island, a paradise for the Fairy Tern

Pair of Fairy TernsJust two days ago we landed after several hours of flights over Addis Ababa on Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles. Supposedly the territory of Seychelles comprises 100 well more or less large islands, which together form an area of ​​443 km ². How strewn lie the islands of the western Indian Ocean, spread over an ocean area of ​​over 400,000 km “. The climate in the Seychelles is tropical with an average temperature of 27 degrees Celsius. The weather here is influenced by the monsoon, with a hot and humid season from November to March. The “cool” dry season lasts from May to October. We are now – at the end of October – just in the transitional phase there and hope not to be trampled in the rainy season.

For the flight to Bird Island we were picked up by a taxi from our resort in the south of Mahe and brought to the small airport of Mahe. The formalities were completed quickly. But there is still a problem with the luggage. They are allowed a maximum of 10kg per passenger. Ok, go for the luggage storage. In the waiting room we could already see our small plane on the runway. When we are finally released from the waiting room to the aircraft, we find that it is already hot and humid out there on the tarmac. But on the plane the temperature is even higher by a few degrees. Finally, we sit in the narrow leather seats, tighten the seat belt and wait for the things that are coming. Finally, the folding doors of the twin-engine aircraft is closed. Immediately, the temperature in the cabin starts to rise further. Only a minute later, the shirt is wet, thick beads of sweat forming on the forehead and run down his eyebrows. “Hopefully the plane will start soon”, which at the moment is my only wish. Through the open cabin I can see the two pilots at the start. At the front a small table fan rotates. “They will know why they put up this utensil in the cockpit”, this is what I am thinking. Much too slowly the pilots are dropping the headphones. Then the pilot turns to his passengers, friendly smiles at us and raises his thumb.

Finally, the plane takes off from the runway. You can feel the sigh of passengers formally, now just sit back and relax. We quickly leave the main island of Mahe behind us. Some uninhabited rocky islands lie off the main island, we only see the deep blue open sea before us. The two engines roar loudly and evenly in the air.

Bird Island is our goal. This tiny island is located about 100 kilometers north of Mahe and can be reached in the aircraft in 45 minutes. Bird Island is a flat coral island overgrown with palm trees. In former times the island was used for a plantation. Besides Denis Iceland is the only coral island in the Seychelles, which is inhabited. The Bird Island is famous for its many seabirds that breed here. The beautiful Fairy Tern (Gygis alba) is one of our target birds because we are traveling to this remote coral island. Moreover, migration seasons is on. Maybe we can see the one or the other migratory bird far from the migration routs along the East African coast. That we were very successful with this, I can prove with photos in the gallery very Continue reading Bird Island, a paradise for the Fairy Tern

Hide Photography in Bulgaria in July; Images from the Dobruja

Eurasian Golden-Oriole, maleThe north-eastern countryside of Bulgaria called Dobruja or in Bulgarian Dobrudzha or in romanian Dobrogea was not famous of being one of Bulgaria´s birding hot spots for bird-lens before. But a trip to the Romanian Dobrogea in may 2012 was already very productive. Thus maybe an excursion to that thinly populated area south of the city of Silistra might be good as well.

No disappointment!

The area is a charming countryside which has to offer surprisingly good locations to shoot images of excellent birds.

Having been spent 4 days at the place aiming to photograph Golden Oriole, Ortolan Bunting, Bee-eaters, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Barred Warbler, Tawny Pipit, etc. on invitation of Iordan Hristov one of the two owners of Nature Travel has been very productive – as you can see in the gallery. The other owner, Sergey Panayotov, and his friend Iordan Hristov offer Wildlife Workshops, trips with bicycles and canoes but also the chance to sit in one (or more) of their hides located in the superb gently rolling countryside of that part of Bulgaria. The center of these activities is an ancient farmhouse with an orchard meadow behind. The area in General is dry and can be – at least in that aspect – best compared to the Macin Mountains in Romania.

One of the main targets was the Golden Oriole photography. For this the tower hide was used. This brand-new photohide is in the yard of a small farmland. The tower overlooks the branches of a walnut-tree where birds often perch. Several bird species have their territories around the yard and they often perch on the highest branches for their displays in spring. When bird-lens was shooting the images you see in the gallery the breeding season was almost over. I felt, that the birds use the exposed position of this tallest tree to orientate between a open field and a forest behind and the cherry trees in the orchards of that nice village. An excellent chance to photograph Continue reading Hide Photography in Bulgaria in July; Images from the Dobruja

Copula in flight of Alpine Swift in Romania´s Carpathians

Alpine Swift During a trip from July 1st till 8th 2013 to observe birds in Romania and Bulgaria a remarkable sighting could be noted. A couple of Alpine Swift (Apus melba) was seen flying below a crag in a steep rock and copulated for several seconds. This could be seen in a beautiful gorge near the town of Zărneşti (Zarnesti), in the Piatra Craiului Nationalpark. Zarnesti is located south of Brașov (Brasov) approx.. 180km away from the capital of Romania, Bucharest.

In the Western Palearctic Alpine Swifts breed in mountains mainly in southern Europe. Like Common Swifts, they are migratory, and winter in southern Africa. As happened in that gorge the species builds its nest on cliff faces typically. Alpine Swifts build their nests in colonies in a suitable cliff hole or cave. It is well known, that Alpine Swifts spend most of their lives in the air, living on the insects they catch but up to now, a copula in flight could not be photographed. At least Bird-lens could not find a photo on the web. Consequently Bird-lens is proud to show images of a flight copula of this remarkable species.

As is mentioned in the „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“ (Handbook of the birds of Central Europe), Volume 9 “Columbiformes – Piciformes” by Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim, the male Alpine Swift usually holds the female with the beak in the neck and with the feet in the back plumage of the quiet female partner in copulation. While the female raises its tail, the male winds down his abdomen. For the Common Swift (Apus apus), also a copula in flight is described. Bird-lens is proud to show images of a flight copula of the much scarcer species Alpine Swift. A copula in flight resembles a courtship flight. During courtship Continue reading Copula in flight of Alpine Swift in Romania´s Carpathians

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) on Norderney

Northern HarrierNorderney, the most densely populated island in the german Wadden Sea is with good reason called a bird paradise. Terns, Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus) , Brent Geese (Branta bernicla), Greylag Geese (Anser anser)and many other birds of water are to be found there, as well as the rare Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), or raptors as Kestrels, Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus) and Buzzards. The birds are back from their wintering grounds in southern Europe and Africa and have reached their breeding grounds on Norderney safe.

On the meadows at the airport breed Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) defend clamoring their turf against intrusive neighbors in the Grohdeheller, Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus) flutes from their perch on the fence posts along the salt marshes in the Grohdepolder and the dunes to the east of the island host again a large breeding colony of gulls. Breeding pairs of the rare Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) live on the island, too. The Northern Harrier, Circus cyaneus, also called the Hen Harrier was the main reason to arrange a trip to Norderney in early May this year. Finally the Northern Harriers have returned from their wintering areas. On a trip to China – on Happy Island – Northern Harrier could be photographed very successfully on migration  -interesting enough only females. The courtship and breeding period should now be photographed.

For shots of the beginning of courtship, it was too late. Beginning and mid of April you can observe Continue reading Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) on Norderney

Canon 400mm f4 DO, an experience review for flight shots

Canon EF-400 mm F4,0 DO IS USMIn the reviews of my blog I often see, that photographers are scanning 400mm f4 DO-articles especially concerning its ability for birding photography. As I mentioned already, this lens brings out a diverse range of opinions. The summary focusses on the optical “disadvantages” like:

  • Sharpness is very good, but falls off dramatically with TCs
  • Contrast very low

Concerning the optical performance I do not comment. Everything what has to be said has to be claimend / denied in the internet………..

I want to focus on the practical aspects, here for the usage of the Canon 400mm f4 DO as a flight shot lens:

  • Very light
  • Portable for a large aperture lens
  • AF – button
  • Old-fashioned IS

As said, I decided for the Canon 400mm DO f4,0 in combination with a Canon 1D Mark IV because I am bird photographer who has specialized in photographing many species of birds for scientific purposes also in their behavior. For this purpose the Canon 400mm f4 DO is absolutely great. Flight shoots of big birds such as raptors or storks/herons are perfectly possible.

Here you can see some nice flight shots of bigger birds I shot during a trip to the Pantanal – mainly on the the Pousada Pouso Alegre south of Poconé in Mato Grosso/ Brazil – during December 2012/ January 2013. For bigger images please click on the link in the text “Full size is 1800 × 1125 pixels” below the image in the gallery.

If the Autofocus matches the small passerine (song-)birds, flight shots of these birds are perfectly possible, too. It might take more time, patience and experience.

Some remarks for the usage of Canon 400mm f4 DO as a flight-shot lens:

Birds on Pousada Pouso Alegre – the Non-Passeriformes

Hyacinth MacawPouso Alegre is a pousada (ex-fazenda) which is very well situated 7 km away from the Transpantaneira, with water on both sides much of the way now in the rainy season. The location is 33 km south of Pocone in the northern Pantanal. The hole pousada is a great nature-area with original landscape and extensive cattle ranching. A paradise for the keen birdwatcher as well as for the beginner in birdwatching who approaches that pastime in a relaxing attitude.

The owner is there much of the time, and is a dedicated naturalist. If you are birders you will be pleased with the birding opportunities, including Hyacinth Macaws in front of the porch. On the way you will see of Jabiru storks, herons and raptors a lot. You can go on other guided hikes or horseback rides. It’s all custom and small-scale. The scenery is beautiful.

You can see an enormous variety of animals and birds but also the flora is wonderful.

A list can be found at their website.

Bird-lens was invited in the frame of an scientific project to monitor resident and migratory bird species in the Pantanal of Brazil. See also the blog here!

More than 600 species of birds – almost a third of the avifauna of Brazil – have been detected in the wider area of the Pantanal, of which about 20% occur as migrants of wintering birds only seasonally. Among them are those from other neotropical regions like the Andes, but also from North America (Nearctic) and from the Southern region of Latin America (Australis).

Although the origin of migratory species in most cases is known, there is still a lot of knowledge missing e.g. about the distribution patterns, feeding ecology and ecological niches, bioacoustics and metabolic physiology (eg moulting).

It is remarkable that very heterogeneous migrants Continue reading Birds on Pousada Pouso Alegre – the Non-Passeriformes

Spoon-billed Sandpipers and other waders in Thailand on wintering grounds

Spoonbill SandpiperThe Spoon-billed Sandpiper is one of the big megas in the birding space – not only for twitchers, but Thailand in general is an excellent birding destination.

During a trip to Thailand in January 2011 I was looking for wintering birds from the palearctic. The whole trip was a great success, seeing especially many waders which are rare in the western palearctic like Mongolian Plover (Charadrius mongolus), Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultia), Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura) and Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus).

But many birders go for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers. For general directions and travel advice visit Nick Upton’s excellent website Thaibirding.com. At the known Spoon-billed Sandpiper site at Pak Thale I spend 3 days. This location is very reliable, with several individuals seen each day there, and up to 3 at once. For details of locations you can also check out these Google maps.  They show the  Spoon-billed Sandpiper distribution not only in Thailand.

At the first time there were Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) and surprisingly 3 Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus). I teamed up with a group of german birdwatchers. We also saw one individual Spoon-billed Sandpiper at a site which is called the “Derelict Building” –site in Nick Upton’s description. This site is closer (only 2 km) from a little town called Laem Pak Bia. Behind a dam, drive a dirt track passing a garbage dump and you will see the shallow saltpans already. There were masses of egrets, waders and gulls. So we quickly saw Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Rufous-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis), Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta), Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), Broad-billed Sandpiper, (Limicola falcinellus) and many flying Common and Whiskered Tern Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) and Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus). A nice selection of the birds occuring you will find here!

But the best place on finding Spoon-billed Sandpipers in Thailand is certainly at Continue reading Spoon-billed Sandpipers and other waders in Thailand on wintering grounds

Harriers on wintering grounds in Awash NP – Ethiopia

Having seen the Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), a species of a graceful flying raptor already during trips in September on its migration route along the Black Sea coast near the town of Constanta south of the Danube delta at the Black Sea coast of Romania and north of Astrakhan along the Volga river in Russia I was keen to see this “near-threatened” species during a stay in Ethiopia, too. Before, I had seen Pallid Harriers already on their wintering grounds in South Africa (Kruger Park) and Tanzania (Serengeti). But literature said, that Pallid Harriers occur in Ethiopia during passage and some overwinter, albeit in small numbers. A good bet to try it in the arid environment of the Rift Valley, as Pallid Harriers main wintering grounds are open grasslands and agricultural areas in the savannah belt in Africa, south of the Sahara. But J. Terraube et al. (2011) in an examination of “Broad wintering range and intercontinental migratory divide within a core population of the near-threatened Pallid Harrier” showed that birds wintering in Ethiopia spent the winter in the most anthropized habitats, a mix of pastures and agricultural areas at the vicinity of several villages.

In that combination the perfect place to look for, was in my opinion the Awash National Park. This is because the Park’s location in a region of semi-arid grassland and its accessability only 2 hours drive from our stay near Debre Zeit. We spend a phantastic time in the park, seeing 90 species of birds in just 8 hours (from 9 to 5). In the afternoon we had our first harrier in the eastern part of the central Ilala Sala Plain. A 1st winter individual of Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), could be seen in Flight gliding gracefully over the savannah of the Ilala Sala Plain. We followed the harrier in a pick-up for a minimum of 5 minutes allowing excellent (and close) shots of the flying birds as you can see in the gallery. One and a half an hours later a male harrier could be seen very well. But again, a Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus) as you see on the image of the blog. But then, after 30 minutes more, there was sitting another harrier. This time you could see a pale collar behind Continue reading Harriers on wintering grounds in Awash NP – Ethiopia

Birds at vulcano lakes in Debre Zeit – Ethiopia

Spending two full days during a stop-over from the Seychelles, we wanted to avoid the crowd in downtown Addis Ababa. We were lucky to arrange to stay in a lodge situated on the rim of a vulcano with a lake on the ground near Debre Zeit approx. 45 km south of Addis Ababa. Our main interest was to have a rest after the tropical sun on the Seychelles, enjoying the fresh air, the steel-blue sky and the birds – of course. They were abundant. Within one morning we saw Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta), Grey-headed Woodpecker (Dendropicos spodocephalus), Red-faced Crombec (Sylvietta whytii), Rueppell’s Robin-Chat (Cossypha semirufa), a female Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Kenya Yellow-rumped Seedeater (Serinus reichenowi), Swainson’s Sparrow (Passer swainsonii), and Red-cheeked Cordonbleu (Uraeginthus bengalus).  The result you can see here!

The Babogaya Lake Viewpoint Lodge says it guarantees to its visitors the observation of 50 different african bird species on 24 hours in the compound and on the volcanic lakeside A list can be found at their website. Of course we took the chance to explored other lakes in the surroundings, too. From the beginning November until mid of February, 3,000 Common cranes (Grus grus) are flying in every evening from the surrounding fields to the swamps west of Lake Babogaya.

The hole lodge is a great nature-area with original houses, a nice garden over four floors on a steep slope over the wonderful Babogaya-Lake. A paradise for the keen birdwatcher as well as for the beginner in birdwatching who approaches that pastime in a relaxing attitude.

Bird-Lens is mainly a website to suit the growing demand for top shots of the species of the Western Palearctic. Consequentyl Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the array of pictures of birds you can find in the Western Palearctic. Trips to tourist spots like the Seychelles (also) to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic are part of the program and were already very successful. More nice images you find in the gallery or in the “Pictures Shop”. Just give me a message, if Bird-lens could serve you with an images also outside the range of the Western Palearctic. Images of e.g. Africa are well on stock, too.

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

New world warblers in pine-oak forest in Mexico, Part I

A quiet highway with many serpentine curves, conifer forest, twitters of birds. The typical attributes of a high-altitude German central mountain landscape like the Black Forest in southern Germany. But the location actually is in the middle in Mexico at the slopes mountains of the central mexican plateau with peaks as high as 3,000 m above sea level (asl).  Having just crossed the 19. degree of latitude I am on the way down into the hot dry valleys at the edge of the Pacific coast. The coast is only approx. 150 km distant as the crow flies. But the difference of this forest to the dry thorn bush forests at the west coast could not be bigger. A trip on the winding mountain roads could make you feel like being in a reminiscence to the Black Forest. But here on 2,500m asl you are in the Mexican pine-oak forest. Pine- oak forest biomes are one of the dominating characteristics of mexican high altitudes, in particular on the slopes. The determining of the development of a pine-oak forest is the altitude. Slopes exposed to the coast or forests on the mountain comb are damper and more dense than the pine-oak forest s, which are oriented on one of the central dry valleys. The pine-oak forest in Mexico is very species-rich and shows a high diversity. Of the oaks alone, there are more than 170 species. But the general appearance especially of the dry pine-oak forest in Mexico is not unlike that of its european counterpart on the mountain ranges.

This is true as long until the attentive observer is caught by the charm of the birds you find here in the New world. Practically all colors are represented with its own species of bird. Consequently there are blue Mexican (Grey breasted) Jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina), red warblers (like Ergaticus ruber), brown Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus), orange-grey Olive Warbler (Peucedramus taeniatus), yellowish- white Hermit Warbler (Dendroica occidentalis) and green Pine Flycatcher (Empidonax affinis) to observe.  The images in the gallery give you an idea of the richness of birds and colours. The winter is the favorable season for bird observation in Mexico highlands, since the food offered on the birds wintering grounds Continue reading New world warblers in pine-oak forest in Mexico, Part I

Cranes on China’s Helgoland, PART II

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

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

Naumann´s Thrush in Estonia

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

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

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

Bird migration in late fall on Seychelles – an abstract

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

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

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

Siberian specialities on Bird-Lens

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

A first impression you will find in the gallery here. An update of the image stock in the “Pictures Shop” is already uploaded. There you will find more than 220 pictures of various bird species often in different plumages. Just give me a message, if Bird-lens could serve you with additional requests.
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Cranes on Happy Island, Chinas´s Helgoland, Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birds in autumn in the Comana Natural Park / Romania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall migration at the Black Sea Coast/ Romania

Spectacular numbers of Pallid Harrier, Circus macrourus, and Red-footed Falcon, Falco vespertinus, were the highlight of the first day. Having spent 3 days in May north of Constanta at Romania´s Black Sea coast, it was decided to try our luck with birds again in the area around the village of Vadu. The target was, to increase the birdlist and to look what differences in the bird diversity we could experience. South of the Danube Delta is wide stretch of a sandy shoreline with shallow lagoons. This is part of Romania´s Black Sea coast. September– like May – is migration time. Whereas the association of the east Romanian countryside is normally with the core Danube Delta with its special birds like Pelicans, Black-necked and Red-necked Grebes, Glossy Ibises, Spoonbills, the stretch of coast just south of the Danube Delta up to the northern city limits of Constanta is an excellent birding spot not only for migrating birds, too. Two dedicated bird photographers went for the countryside area near of Vadu at the sandy coast in the 3rd week of September 2012. The area called Dobrudja with its steppe habitat more to the west was neglected this time. All breeding specialities should have gone already.

The trip date was perfect, allowing us to see good variety of species, many of them in considerable numbers, especially raptors. We also saw waders, gulls, herons, pelicans and passerines.

The Bird Diversity we enjoyed was high; exactly 90 species of birds we found in only 2,5 days. Highlights of the tour you will find in the gallery. Among others we made photos of Black-necked Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis, Dalmatian Pelican, Pelecanus crispus, Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, Ruddy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea, Common Shelduck, Tadorna tadorna, Black Kite, Milvus migrans, Western Marsh-Harrier, Circus aeruginosus, Pallid Harrier, Circus macrourus, Montagu’s Harrier, Circus pygargus, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, Red-footed Falcon, Falco vespertinus, Eurasian Hobby, Falco subbuteo, Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, Common Quail, Coturnix coturnix, Syrian Woodpecker, Dendrocopos syriacus, Red-backed Shrike, Lanius collurio, Sedge Warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, many Willow Warblers, Phylloscopus trochilus, Common Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita, lots of Blackcaps, Sylvia atricapilla, only a few Common Whitethroats, Sylvia communis, many Lesser Whitethroats, Sylvia curruca, many Spotted Flycatchers, Muscicapa striata and Red-breasted Flycatchers, Ficedula parva, good numbers of Common Redstarts, Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Whinchats, Saxicola rubetra, Northern Wheatears, Oenanthe oenanthe and a single Tawny Pipit, Anthus campestris.

This tour gave us the opportunity to witness the spectacular autumn migration Continue reading Fall migration at the Black Sea Coast/ Romania

Migration of raptors over the Macin Mountains National Park

Because Macin Mountains is famous as an important migration hotspot for raptors in autumn, we decided to visit this site after a visit in May again at the end of September.

An excellent choice. Arriving only at around 11:00h the activity of the “normal” birds were low. But the highlight, we were looking for, was the migration of flying raptors anyway. This time of the day was just right – as you can see in the gallery. We did manage to observe two adult, White-tailed Eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla in a heavy fight with a pair of Common Raven, and a juvenile individual just flying slowly overhead. Short after a Long-legged Buzzard, Buteo rufinus, hovered over our observation point in search of prey.

Long-legged Buzzard, Buteo rufinus, is one of the largest buzzards of Europe and is the most common bird of prey in the Macin Mountains National Park. He usually builds his nest on cliffs. Other breeding raptors of that area include Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk and Saker Falcon. But of the rarer breeding raptors we did not see one, but one (or more) migrating Pallid Harrier, Circus macrourus , were seen hovering on the cliff along. We were surprised to see so often (or so many) Pallid Harriers here in Macin again – as we were happy to see the migration of Pallid Harrier along the Black Sea coast north of Constanta. An Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, could be observed in a furious air combat with a Eurasian Hobby, Falco subbuteo.

Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, and Lesser Spotted Eagle, Aquila pomarina, were seen just migrating against the steel-blue sky in the wonderful mountainous scenery. It was a brilliant afternoon with not to many images today and large crops to some of them. But the birds which were photographed were top quality.

Of course we did not find any of the breeding songbirds we found in May. As you can read in a blog or see in the gallery at that time we had two species of Continue reading Migration of raptors over the Macin Mountains National Park

An early Common Gull, Larus canus on Romania´s Black Sea coast

September is fall migration time in Romania´s Black Sea coast. After having seen the spectacular mass migration of Red-footed Falcon, Falco vespertinus, in an area south of the Danube Delta with its wide stretch of a sandy shoreline with shallow lagoons we arrived at the sandy beach near the little town of Vadu. The shoreline was dotted with gulls (Common Black-headed Gull, Larus ridibundus, Yellow-legged Gull, Larus michahellis, and Mediterranean Gull, Larus melanocephalus, Little Gull, Larus minutus and some Caspian Gull, Larus cachinnans. Additionally Gull-billed Tern, Sterna nilotica,  Sandwich Tern, Sterna sandvicensis and Common Tern, Sterna hirundo,) and waders (Common Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula, Eurasian Curlew, Numenius arquata and Sanderling, Calidris alba). A blog describing what could be seen on that excellent birding spot will follow very soon on the 30th of October 2012.

One observation of a gull was remarkable. A gull in non-breeding plumage was swimming not too far from the shore. Heavy streaks on the neck were clearly visible and the bill showed a black ring on grey ground. A black area below/in front of the eye underlined the head markings even more. Only checking the images at home, it was possible to identify this gull as a Common (or Mew) Gull, Larus canus moulting in 2nd winter plumages. According to local ornithologists the Common Gull in September is an unusual record. Usually the Common (or Mew) Gull, Larus canus is starting to appear on its wintering grounds Continue reading An early Common Gull, Larus canus on Romania´s Black Sea coast

Booted Warbler and other vagrants on Helgoland

During a trip from October 08th till 13th 2012 to experience migrating birds on Helgoland several remarkable sighting could be noted. A Booted Warbler, Hippolais caligata, was seen at the red sandstone cliff at the southern corner of Helgoland, at the so-called “Kringel” on the 9th of October 2012. On the same day a Siberian Stonechat, Saxicola maura, was seen in the area near the sports field and a Rosy Starling, Pastor (Sturnus) roseus, was seen in the Kurpark. Further remarkable sightings on that day was a Barred Warbler, Turtle Dove, a Wryneck and the Yellow-browed Warbler.
Although the Booted Warbler thrilled the many birdwatchers already, that feeling could be even increased. On the following day, a strange thrush could be observed. Short ID-discussion revealed a Turdus atrogularis, a Black-throated Thrush, a recent split from the Dark-throated Thrush, Turdus ruficollis. The bird showed only for a few moments and disappeared for more than 2 hours. In the evening – just before dusk – it was seen briefly again. The lucky few were happy but the many frustrated birders who did not see it expected that the birds will leave in the night. This due to the fact, that a calm night with low wind was forecasted. It was a happy surprise, that on the following days until – at least – the 15th of October the the thrush showed up again – albeit with long times in between suddenly appearing on the steep slope just below a place called Falm on the so-called Oberland.

Thus an excellent bird sighting for Continue reading Booted Warbler and other vagrants on Helgoland

Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor on Helgoland

During a trip in the 1st half of October 2012 to experience migrating birds on Helgoland several remarkable sighting could be noted. Just one sighting very short. A beautiful Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor, could be seen in perfect light in the afternoon of the 13th of October in the area of the former Suedhafen (southern harbor) of the tiny offshore island of Helgoland in the Northern Sea, roughly 50 km out of sea from the shores of Friesland. Later on there were seen 2 more individuals on that day. On the next days, Sunday, the 14th and Monday, the 15th of October only 1 Great Grey Shrike could be seen on Helgoland.

This was the first sighting for the fall migration. The last observation of the Great Grey Shrike has been on the 17th of April on that island. Although not a regular sighting on Helgoland, the Great Grey Shrike does not qualify to be rare enough to be listed in the category “Rare birds – day by day” as you can see on the superb website of the Ornithologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Helgoland e.V. (OAG)

In his „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“, Band 13/II „Passeriformes, Sittidae – Laniidae“ Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim mentioned that migration of the Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor, (also called Northern Shrike), at the coast Continue reading Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor on Helgoland

Black Kite on migration along Black Sea coast Romania

During a trip from September 21st till 24th 2012 to experience migrating birds in Romania a remarkable sighting could be noted. A juvenile Black Kite was seen flying against heavy wind southward on his migration route along the Black Sea coast near the town of Eforie over Lake (Lacul) Techirghiol. Lacul Techirghiol and Eforie are located south of Constanta right on the middle of the Black Sea coast of Romania.

In his „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“, Band 4 „Falconiformes“ Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim mentioned that migration of the Black Kite at the Bosporus/ Turkey could be seen between Mid of August until Mid of September. The pattern of migration is said to be the non-breeding birds first (already end of July or August) than the adult Black Kites and – with a postponement of roughly 3-4 weeks the young birds of that year. In so far the observation fits perfect.

Local ornithologist regard migrating Black Kites in fall as “not common”. It was a very common species in Romania in the first half of the 20 century, but after the ’60s the number of breeding pairs quickly decreased. There are no records of breeding pairs in the last 5 years, but maybe a very few pairs still breed somewhere in Romania. Only during the migration it isn’t a very rare species in Dobrogea. Further south, two were noted moving south from the viewpoint above Sunny Beach on the 13th. Of September 2009. They were noted south of this observation point at Bulgaria´s Black Sea Coast by Branta Tours.

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic.  Trips to remote places like this one to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. One trip already was made to the Black Sea Coast of Romania, Continue reading Black Kite on migration along Black Sea coast Romania

Looking for larks in Morocco, PART II

…. A pre-adult Thick-billed Lark (Ramphocoris clotbey) was the next mornings highlight. After spending the night not too far away from the town of Boumalne, I started the day already at dawn. Behind the village, the road winds back to a plateau. Because I missed the turnoff, I drove on and finally stopped in an area that looked very promising due to its rocky, stony surface. First I saw the otherwise ubiquitous Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae). When I was taking photos, I realized a movement underneath my car. This discovery came out as a real winner: a juvenile Thick-billed Lark (Ramphocoris clotbey), which I had never seen photographed so far. Great! Some shots, then the bird disappeared.

Despite this success soon I had to realize that this was not the described direction to move further south to the sandy desert to see more larks and other desert specialists.

So I had to go back and focus myself strictly to the mileage-data in the reports and the road signs – or what I regarded as road signs. Than I started to ask the people on the road for a place called Ikniouin, a destination said to be in the wider environment. But the Bedouin, I ask, were not very helpful. They merely wanted to smoke something. Finally I decided to simply take the next driveway and follow the direction of my GPS. Driving in this stony flat desert Continue reading Looking for larks in Morocco, PART II

Fall bird migration and waterfowl in southwestern USA – August 2013

In late summer (mid-late August/early September), the Brehm Fund for International Bird Conservation, Bonn, offers an ornithological tour to the United States. The southwestern part – located between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico – provides numerous ornithological highlights, which we will do in California and Texas Station.

California, because of its exposed location along the Pacific flyway, has an extremely diverse avifauna (over 640 species), including interesting deposits of water-and seabirds. In addition, up to 10 different species of hummingbirds, such as Anna’s, Costa’s and Calliope Hummingbird, can be observed regularly. Highlights of the trip will detour to the coastal marshes south of Los Angeles (e.g. Western Sandpiper, Belding’s Savannah Sparrow), the lagoon of Malibu (Least Tern, Black Skimmer) and in the vicinity of the Salton Sea (Caspian Tern, Yellow-footed Gull). We will also check typical chaparral habitats (coastal shrub with endemic Wrentit, California Quail, Black-headed and California Gnatcatcher) and visit the coastal mountain range with its coniferous forests (occurrence of Acorn Woodpecker, Mountain Bluebird, Steller’s Jay). The trip to a bird island of Channel Islands National Park (including endemic Island Scrub-Jay, colonies of Brandt’s Cormorant and California Gull and the possibility of observing whales) can be scheduled optional. In 2009 and 2011 excellent images of pelagic birds could be shot to enlarge the portfolio von Bird-Lens. With a bit of luck these seabirds – as you see here in the gallery– can be seen on the ferry Continue reading Fall bird migration and waterfowl in southwestern USA – August 2013

Spring migration and birds of prey in Extremadura – April 2013

In spring 2013, there will be an ornithological study tour to the region of Extremadura, southwesternSpain. It includes the provinces ofBadajozand Cáceres east of the border withPortugal, and is not only famous for the best-preserved medieval monuments inSpainbut among nature lovers for its unique combination of oak woodlands, grasslands, agricultural landscapes, lakes and rocky regions. Accordingly, the avifauna is highly diverse (about 340 spp.), with many species having their distribution centers for the Iberian Peninsula and southwestern Europe in that region. The spectrum ranges from common birds like the Lesser Kestrel, Azure-winged Magpie and Thekla Lark to outspoken rarities, such as White-headed Duck, Little and Great Bustard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-shouldered (or Black-winged) Kite, (European) Roller and Great Spotted Cuckoo – species which are only distributed here and/or are already gone at most other places in Europe. The list of remarkable sightings is growing continuously; in spring of 2012, for the first time Lesser Crested Tern and Little Swift were recorded for the Extremadura.
A highlight of the tour will be a visit to the Monfragüe National Park north of Trujillo, which has been established

Continue reading Spring migration and birds of prey in Extremadura – April 2013

Looking for larks in Morocco, PART I

Many species of larks are one of the big treasures of Morocco. If you want to see the most larks in the Western Palearctic (in quality and even in quantity) you have to go for that north-african country which besides the larks offer much more birdingwise. Beginning of June might be regarded as already quite late to look for birds in a desert called Tagdilt, Morocco. But the Temminck’s Lark (Eremophila bilopha), a bird of dry open country, preferably semi-desert is hatching the offspring at that time of the year. Thus a good chance to take images of adult and young birds of this species. When I arrived on a barren stony desert near the town of Boumalne du Dades I a saw an adult species first. After a while I found a juvenile individual still with white ear-feathers in the same area, too. From inside the SUV I could photograph these usually shy birds from the immediate vicinity, although – after feeding – they always ran away pretty quickly. Again and again I had to move & stop the jeep. I only had a chance, if I could catch the moment when they to come to feed the chick. Here you see more!
Fortunately the spring 2002 had been quite rainy and the desert was still green enough to provide this nice lark with enough insect prey. Looking for larks, I spend a whole afternoon on a plateau at 1,600 m above sea level at the edge of the mountains called Ibel Sarhro when first Continue reading Looking for larks in Morocco, PART I

Identifcation of flying Chlidonias Terns in breeding plumage

 Looking at field guides like „ Collins Bird Guide“ from Peter Grant, Dan Zetterstrom, Lars Svenson and Killian Mullarney the ID look quite simple. But even in the breeding plumage Chlidonias – or Marsh – Terns can cause some headache identifying in the field. Then even the Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus) can be confused with the Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) especially if seen in poor light facing the sun when both terns look remarkably dark.

Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybridus
Black Tern, Chlidonias niger

  A remarkable fact is, that the scientific name arises from Whiskered Tern´s similarities in appearance to the Black Tern but also to the (more whitish) Sterna – Terns.
To distinguish Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) and the 3rd member of the genus, the White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus) is even more sophisticated. The wings do not always look decidedly white – as the name suggests. Often the upper parts of the wings do not look so much brighter than in the Black Tern. On the other hand a good deal of black is shown in the underwing-coverts. Hence the black & white contrast of the underwings might be the best criterion to distinguish flying White-winged Tern from Black Tern in the field.  

White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus

 

Black Tern, Chlidonias niger

 In flight, all these terns appear slim – less so the Whiskered Tern. The wing-beats are full and dynamic, and flight is often erratic as they descend to the surface for food. Chlidonias – or Marsh – Terns do not dive for fish, but forage on the wing picking up items at or near the water’s surface or catching insects in flight. They mainly eat insects and fish as well as amphibians. The feeding habit is quite unlike