Category Archives: Where to watch birds

Pelagic birding on the Azores

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

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

White-rumped Sandpiper in Brandenburg at Gülper lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oriental Reed-Warbler in Laem Pak Bia Watertreatment / Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Jacobin in the Itatiaia NP/ Rio de Janeiro

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

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

Observation site for spring migration on the river Oder

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

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

Black Grouse on leks in the snowy spring of Finland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graveyard Blackbirds in the snow

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

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

Yellow-billed Loon in the middle of Germany

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

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

Vagrant Mongolian Plover: seawatching surprise on St. Lawrence Island

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

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

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

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

HemprichmöweIntroduction

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

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

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

We visited the following birdwatching locations:

Berenice (BE)

Gorgonia Beach Resort (GBR)

Wadi el Gemal (WG)

Hamata Mangrove (HM)

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

Lahami Bay Hotel (LBH)

Shams Alam Resort Hotel (SARH)

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

Species list

Striated Heron (Butorides striatus)

2 seen in front of GBR

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

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

Young Whinchat on summer morning

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

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

Slettnes – Gambell-Seawatching: a photographers point of view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Tegel as a winter birding destination in Berlin

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

Great Grey Shrikes in winter in Brandenburg

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

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

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

Birding Berlin: Charlottenburg Palace

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

Birding around Berlin: Rough-legged buzzards on wintering grounds

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

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

Bird migration on the Sagres Peninsula/ Portugal

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

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

Where to find Eurasian dotterel on migration in Germany

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

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

Vögel im Holunder im Garten

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

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

A night in Brandenburg heath: The Eurasian Nightjar

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

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

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

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

Female Northern Goshawk at nestsite near Tegel airport

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

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

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

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

Snowy Owl on snow-covered plateau in Nordkyn/ Norway

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

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

Dippers – photography along streams and rivers

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

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

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

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

Taiga Bean Goose in Havelland near Berlin

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

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

New Natura 2000 bird sanctuary: Bergstrasse Dossenheim – Schriesheim

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

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

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

Eiders in the Frozen

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

Birding around Berlin: former lignite mining lakes in southern Brandenburg

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

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

Desert Sparrows in Morocco

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

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

Birding around Berlin: The Guelper See

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

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

Birding around Berlin – Reckahner Teiche

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

Birding around Frankfurt Airport – NSG Lampertheimer Altrhein

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

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

Pallid Harrier on the Schroecker Feld north of Frankfurt/ M

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

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

Eurasian Wryneck and other birds in Bulgaria

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

Bearded Tits south of Berlin

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

Blyth’s Reed-Warbler on Greifswald Oie

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

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

Tripreport Carpathians of Slovakia, June 2014

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

Tripreport Noord Holland June/ July 2014

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

Target birds

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

Next Rarity for Noord Holland – a Glossy Ibis

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

Lesser Yellowlegs near Callantsoog/ Noord Holland – NL

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

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

Lake Neusiedl: Rare birds in June

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

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

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

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

The Dupont‘s Lark at Las Almoladeras in Spain

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

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

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

High-spirited Eurasian Eagle-Owls rumble on houses roofs

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

Great Eagle-Owl near Frankfurt/ Germany

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

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

A gravel pit: home for Sand Martins

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

Weilbacher Kiesgrube, a birding paradise near Frankfurt

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

Birding around Frankfurt Airport – Kuehkopf-Knoblochsaue

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

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

Observations of a Great Reed-Warbler in the Rhine Valley

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

Lowland birds in and around Kuehkopf

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

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

White-tailed Lapwing in Nature Reserve near Frankfurt / Main

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

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

Hazel Grouse: the results

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

Hazel Grouse: the hide

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

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

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

Hazel Grouse: the habitat

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

Finding Hazel Grouse in the Carpathians

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

Caspian Seashore & Volga delta in May

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

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

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

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

Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) photography in Extremadura

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mating of Common Buzzards on spruce top

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

Wallcreeper in the Sierra de Guara in Northern Spain

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

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

Grey Partridges in winter in Lower Saxonia

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

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

Brown Shrike still in Gelderland/ NL

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

Brown Shrike in Gelderland near German border

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

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

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

Great Bittern in Schiersteiner water works near Wiesbaden

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

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

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

Griffon vulture in the Wonnegau in the middle of Germany

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

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

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

Snowy Owl in nature reserve near Hanstholm/ North Jutland

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

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

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

Ivory Gull in the port of Hanstholm, Denmark

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

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

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

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

Bullfinches: White-red-black balls in action

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

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

Adventure: driving to the Keoladeo National Park

Sarus Crane, pair on field

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

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

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

Hawk Owl in Gristede in Lower Saxonia

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

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

From time to time there are wintering birds far inland. Last time, I remember very well, was in 2006, when Hawk Owls could be seen in the middle of Germany 100km south of Berlin. A blog you will find here to that situation.

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

Birding around Frankfurt – Mittlere Horloffaue/ Wetterau

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

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

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

Taiga Bean Goose in Vorpommern (Pomerania)

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

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

Cranes (Grus grus) at the Guenzer lake in Vorpommern

Common Crane

Loading
Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
Google MapsGet Directions
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

Bird migration at the Stockert in the Eifel hills

Crested Tit, resting in sloe

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

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

The Northern Goshawk – aerial shots and more

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

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

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

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

Birding around Frankfurt Airport: Grosser Feldberg

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

If you have the time and you can use a car, you should consider a trip to the Taunus Mountains northwest of Frankfurt. The Grosser Feldberg is only the most reknown – and due to easy access by a curvy road – the most visited of the Peaks of the Taunus near Frankfurt

In dense fog and strong north-western wind on the morning of the 7th of October 2012 38 Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus)  could be seen around the hightest summit of the taunus, the Grosser Feldberg. (Gr. Feldberg> 26 ind.; in the little town of Oberreifenberg nearby: 12 individuals). In general the time in September and October is excellent to see the active Migration of many bird species.

Generally March and April are best for viewing woodpeckers as Continue reading Birding around Frankfurt Airport: Grosser Feldberg

Occurrence and habitat of Eurasian Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) in Brandenburg

Eurasian Pygmy-OwlThis small owl is the sole member in Europe of a worldwide spread genus Glaucidium. The owl inhabits mainly the coniferous forest zone, especially the upland and mountain areas up to the tree line in Central Europe. But in the 19th Century this owl was widespread distributed in all the mountain ranges of central Europe and their forelands and well represented in the North German / Polish lowlands at many locations.

In the german Red List of breeding birds the pygmy owl is classified as
regular breeding native bird species but regarded as “rare”. In the last decades the population trend is positive, this is ture for the long term and at many sites for the short term, too. Additionally there are more and more records from the lowlands in recent years. A nearly comprehensive investigation in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxonia) in (2001/2002) resulted in a population count of 170-230 pairs. Particularly important here is the well established lowland population in the Lüneburger Heide (Heath), where the first records date back as far as 1977. Now (2001/2002) 23 – 35 pairs defend their territories.

More than one reason to investigate the situation in Brandenburg a state with a landscape very comparable in many topographical aspects. A similar development trend is also emerging in Brandenburg, whose maximum height is about 200 meters n. NN is. Secured older records ‘before 1990 are not available for the state. Since the first reliable records of the Eurasian Pygmy-Owl in the 1990s some areas, particularly in the south of Brandenburg were studied in greater detail. These studies did show that Continue reading Occurrence and habitat of Eurasian Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) in Brandenburg

Birding in the city of Bucharest – Vacaresti wetland

Whiskered Tern feeding young with fishIn the South-Western corner of the capital of Romania, near and alongside the Dâmboviţa River, one of the nature jewels of Bucharest can be found. Park the car on the sidewalk and quickly you can see the first Whiskered Tern already, which fly croaking from the river and disappear behind you. Often the bird is carrying a small fish in its beak. Parallel to the city road there is a high dam which does not seem to promise too much. But then – if you stand on the dam – you will see a wide swampy landscape with only a few scattered willows. Otherwise, a lot of open water and almost no people. This is surprising, because right next door some pretty looking apartment buildings had been built in the last years. This is Vacaresti!
Soon you will hear the first Great Reed Warbler. A real bonus bird is the abundant Eurasian Golden Oriole. The Orioles you can hear all the time when you are walking on one of the paths that cross through the area. The paths – mainly trampled by anglers – pass the many ponds very closely. Thus keep a little distance, so the birds will not flush before you see them. If you keep quiet, you will see many birds – especially waders, ducks and herons. Last time, I had a female Common Pochard, right in the first pond. Whiskered Terns breed in the area and can be seen – as documented in the Gallery (here) – very closely feeding the youngsters.
The Vacaresti area was a development project of the ancient communist regime. Actually, planned as reservoir (flood protection and urban recreation area), this plan was abandoned after 1989 and the Vacaresti lake was created in its present form. Today, after more than 20 years, the area is a very interesting case of a natural ecological succession in an urban area. The area is approximately 155 hetares and is now home to a self-sustaining ecosystem with grasslands, lakes, temporary pools, puddles and partly an extensive reed beds. The area is home to many species of plants and animals and some of them are nor very common species. A team of botanists of the Botanical Garden Bucharest has identified two major plant communities: the Danube (Danubian) community and a community of settlement areas (anthropic community). Me, Cristian Mihai, have intensively studied the area visiting it many times in roughly 4 years (between 2007-2011) and identified more than Continue reading Birding in the city of Bucharest – Vacaresti wetland

Zugvogeltage inform about natural wonders on the coast

Common ShelduckWith the Zugvogeltage – the “Migratory days” – the Nationalpark Niedersaechsisches Wattenmeer (the National Park Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony) will inform visitors of the Coast of the Northern Sea about this unique natural spectacle this year. More than 200 events will be held for nine days from October 5th on. This was a spokesman of the National Park announced on Tuesday. The program also includes walks on the mudflats and boat tours. Twice a year, millions of migrating birds rest on the North Sea coast in the Wadden Sea. Many of the long-distance flyers aircraft breed in the Arctic and winter in Africa.

With this offer, National Park Service, wants to inform the public of the great spectacle of bird migration and explain why the Wadden Sea is international indispensable and worthy of protection. The Zugvogeltage take place in cooperation with the National Park houses and centers and many other supporters. For each and everyone there will be something interesting – whether with ornithological prior knowledge and spotting scope or completely inexperienced, but curious, big or small, with or without family. You can pick and choose individual events or you can make a whole week on the coast in East Friesland or on one of the island in the national park.

More information you will find under: www.zugvogeltage.de.

There are perfect sites for birding on almost the whole coast. Facilities include hides and observation towers. Sometimes access is a bit tricky. Please contact via the contact form if I can give further directions or even guide you!

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

Birds of heath in Brandenburg

Northern ShrikeBrandenburg, one of the new federal states is much more influenced by continental climate than the western parts of the country like e.g. Frankfurt am Main. Moreover, this state is not very densely populated at the Polish border. A good reason to call some parts of the country a birds and birders paradise. Breeding pairs of the rare Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) live here in the East in a good number The Shrike – also called the Northern Shrike – was the main reason for a trip to the east at the end of June. Now the Great Grey Shrikes have largely reared their brood and now take care of the (almost) fledglings. A disturbance of breeding is thus excluded. The feeding phase for the young should therefore be photographed.

Especially in summer I often used go and photograph to the military training areas near Cologne, in particular at the Wahner Heide. The military training areas Reicherskreuzer Heide (Heath) and Lieberose Heide were unknown to me until then and should now be visited intensively for the first time. Actually what I was looking for were the Great Grey Shrikes and the Eurasian Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus). Besides the birds which could be seen in roughly one week,  it was delighting to see the multitude of butterflies. In addition to large quantities of moths and butterflies like the Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) were tons of Calliptamus italic, a species of short-horned grasshoppers and Small Gold Grasshoppers (Euthystira brachyptera) that you can rarely see anywhere else like this.

The weather forecast was perfect and everywhere there were numerous motives. So I took advantage of every free minute in the morning to be outside. The Lieberoser Heath showed up Continue reading Birds of heath in Brandenburg

All 4 Sylvia – Warblers in Weilbacher Kiesgrube near Frankfurt

Common WhitethroatThis morning all 4 species of Sylvia-Warblers which regularly occur in Germany could be seen. First the male of a Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) showed up in the first light of this chilly but sunny morning. Then a beautiful singing individual of a Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) could be seen very near to a observation tower which is located on the eastern end of the old gravel pit. A Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) showed up briefly afterwards. And finally even a silent Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) could be seen catching a caterpillar in a dense bush.

When photographing it was obvious to see that breeding is in full swing. Singing and other territorial habits were rare and normally quite short – with the exception of the singing individual of a Common Whitethroat and a Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos).

A sunny morning with clear sky after several rainy days was a good reason to make the trip to that abandoned gravel pit which is now a nature reserve and try to photograph some special birds.

This early morning on a sunny day (but quite cold in the first hours) was a real pleasure – even from the point of ornithology. In addition to the shots of the Warblers, it was possible to see and photograph birds like European Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia turtur),  Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), Eurasian Golden-Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) and Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes). Good contributions to the bird-lens portfolio and possible to see here in the Continue reading All 4 Sylvia – Warblers in Weilbacher Kiesgrube near Frankfurt

Birding around Frankfurt Airport – Wagbachniederung:

Purple HeronFrankfurt Airport (FRA) is the gateway to continental Europe. Many airlines use the Airport as a hub for connecting flights all over the world. If you are coming from Frankfurt Airport and heading down to the south for e.g. Munich or Stuttgart or the Black Forest, you might consider to squeeze in a morning of birding you might have a look at the wagbachniederung. Here you can walk, enjoy some fresh air and enjoy birding for typical european birds.

One of these sites is the best riparin woods 110 km south of Frankfurt, called The “Wagbachniederung” . This location is situated on the right bank of the Rhine at Waghaeusel southeast of Speyer between Mannheim and Karlsruhe. The Wagbachniederung was formerly a loop of the Rhine, which was separated from the main Continue reading Birding around Frankfurt Airport – Wagbachniederung:

Heavy migration of Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) through the Taunus/ Germany

Song ThrushDuring a short trip with sunny weather and quite clear sky but a cold wind in the morning of March 26th through the upper Taunus near Bad Soden I experienced many migrating birds among them approx. 50 Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) and more than a 100 Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs).  Remarkable in the sighting of the Chaffinches was the gender relationship which was very much in favor of the males – all in beautiful breeding plumage.

Remarkable with the Song Thrushes were the sheer numbers observed. They tried to conceal among dry grass or clods to take food. All this was complicated by the tight chokes for wind, which the thrushes also tried to avoid. Eventually, using the car as a moving hide, a smaller flock of Song Thrushes could be seen in perfect light showing their typical arrow-markings on the belly.

There are other recent sightings Continue reading Heavy migration of Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) through the Taunus/ Germany

Snowy surprise for Cranes & Geese in nature reserve Kuehkopf-Knoblochsaue in Germany

Tundra Bean Goose

Although the winter’s chill hold finally broke last week the wintertime is not over, already. The mild conditions and temperatures of up to around 8 degrees did not last for a long time. By 19th a Scandinavian high pressure was fully in charge and a strengthening easterly flow and increasing cloud cover ensured that temperatures were soon heading all the way back down again.

Not only the common songbirds responded well to the rapidly lengthening days and the suddenly mild conditions but also the first returning cranes. But these are early days indeed for spring migrants.

So it was quite a surprise to find at least 7 Common Crane (Grus grus) on an open field in the mist of the snow in the northern part of the nice Nature Reserve One called Knoblochaue. Together with its sister reserve Kuehkopf this reserve is famous for being the best riparian forest location not too far south of Frankfurt. The nature reserve (in german: Naturschutzgebiet or NSG) is a European Reserve und an excellent birding spot year-round.

As nice images of the Bean Goose of the (Sub-)species Tundra Bean Goose (Anser (fabalis) serrirostris), were still missing on bird-lens.com, I decided to visit the meadows on the northern side of the reserve called Continue reading Snowy surprise for Cranes & Geese in nature reserve Kuehkopf-Knoblochsaue in Germany

Common Buzzard at the bait in wintertime

Common BuzzardTo observe and photograph Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) at the bait in wintertime in good numbers  – sometimes 8 individuals on one occasion. Is this possilbe right in the center of a heavy industrialized country like Germany? Yes, it is!

The valley of the river „Leine“ and the surrounding hills called “Leinebergland” is not famous of being one of Germany´s birding hot spots. But in wintertime the charming countryside between the cities of Hildesheim to the east and Hameln to the west is invaded by keen birdwatchers and bird photographers to shoot images of Common Buzzards and other excellent birds on a winter feeding site.

Having been spend one day on invitation of Wolf-Dieter Peest has been very productive – as you can see in the gallery. Wolf-Dieter offers Wildlife Workshops but also the chance to sit in one (or more) of his hides located on ponds, small streams or at the border of agricultural fields. The Leinebergland 30 km south of the city of Hannover, with its many gravel pits, is a paradise for nature photographers. In the early 70s many gravel mining pits were built along the line between Hanover and Göttingen. Having exploited these areas, the remaining ponds and lakes are now on the way back to nature again and offer a new habitat to a huge number of animal and plant species. Many of these ponds are real paradises for nature lovers and the nature- of course. A description of the locations written in german, you will find here!
Wolf-Dieter managed to lease a good number of attractive properties over the last 15 years. There are ideal conditions for a photographic passion Continue reading Common Buzzard at the bait in wintertime

Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor in the Hochtaunus near Frankfurt

Northern ShrikeDuring a short trip to a hiking site near my hometown in the Hochtaunus just 25km from downtown Frankfurt I could observe a beautiful Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor. This Northern Shrike could be seen in perfect light in the afternoon of the 20th of February in an area called Viehweide (cattle pasture) northwest of the small village Schloßborn near both to the highest peak of the Taunus, the Grosser Feldberg, and the fashionable town of Koenigstein im Taunus.

The bird was already observed by Eleonore Gothe on the 18th of February.

This was my first sighting for this winter in the Taunus. One of the last Great Grey Shrikes I could see was on Helgoland in the Suedhafen area last October.

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), back to breeding grounds has been reported between mid of February until beginning of April with peaks in March. In so far the observation could still fit for a wintering ground observation or a sighting during migration.

Remarkably otherwise there were 8 Ravens (Corvus corax) and at least 5 Red Kites (Milvus milvus). Although Red Kites breed in the Taunus and these Kites seem to stay and feed in the area, they will probably go further north in the near future. The german Birdnet is full with migration counts of Red Kites – sometimes in good numbers (as 37 individuals migrating in north-eastern direction in the Landkreis Waldeck-Frankenberg in northern Hesse).
Moreover, 8 Eurasian Buzzards (Buteo buteo) could be seen. Very interesting to see 5 Common Buzzard with 2 Kites trying to Continue reading Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor in the Hochtaunus near Frankfurt

Birding around Frankfurt Airport – Schwanheimer Duene

Eurasian Golden-OrioleThere are not too many foreign birdwatchers coming to the middle of Germany for just birding. But Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is the gateway to continental Europe. Many airlines use the Airport as a hub for connecting flights all over the world. If you have spare time between two flight and you are a birdwatcher, you might be interested to know, where you can find good places to stretch your legs, enjoy fresh air and enjoy birding for typical european birds. One of these places is only 15 minutes away from the Frankfurt Airport. This is the Schwanheimer Duene (Dunes of Schwanheim) located in a southern outskirt of Frankfurt. In so far, the area is more or less the same distance than the Langener Waldseen. But whereas these lakes, situated just 2 km east of the runway of Frankfurt AP, are a highly frequented recreation area in summertime, the Schwanheimer Duene is especially good in spring and summer. Thus an excellent alternative to the Langener Waldseen which are very productive in wintertime.

The Schwanheimer Duene is one of the few inland dunes in Europe. It was established after the last ice age of sands that have been blown out of the riverbed of the River Main. Then, a forest grew on it. In the last century farmers cleared the forest and put on cherry meadows. Several dry periods ended these attempts in the second half of the 19th Century. The dune devasted and started to wander. Between 1882 and 1890 the dune moved aground to its present location.

Following the desolation a  typical plant community of inland dune developed, which can be encountered up to nowadays. This plant community is called Continue reading Birding around Frankfurt Airport – Schwanheimer Duene

Ferruginous Duck near Frankfurt – Germany

Ferruginous DuckNow that winter has proceeded quite well some good birds show up on “stupid” spots like recreation areas and parks. In a series of blogs Bird-lens has already described some excellent spots like the Langener Waldseen to observe birds, but this spot came to my awareness the first time. This was due to the fact that a female Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) showed up on a abundant gravel spit near Offenbach-Rumpenheim, just 10 km east of the city of Frankfurt. The location is called the “Schultheisweiher”. Normally the Ferruginous Duck is looking for the companionship of Aythya – ducks like Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) and Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula). The Ferruginous Duck was discovered on the 31st of January 2013 on the Schultheisweiher is there now for more than 1 week.

The photo was shot yesterday when the sun came out after heavy clouds and snow showers distracted a visit on the previous days. The female Ferruginous Duck could be seen next to at least 22 Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) and approx. 50 Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) on the north-western corner of the lake. The female Ferruginous Duck could be seen first only sleeping, then preening the plumage and finally swimming and even diving.

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

Birding around Frankfurt Airport: Bad Soden

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

One of these sites is the hilly countryside around Bad Soden. The state (Bundesland) of Hessen still supports a comparatively large number of mixed orchard meadows where the Little Owl (Athene noctua) is a relatively common bird. After North-Rhine Westphalia, Hessen has the largest Little Owl population in Germany.

Bad Soden is located on the southern slope of the Taunus mountains, 15 km north-west of Frankfurt and 20 kilometers northeast of Wiesbaden and 10km south of the highest summit of the Taunus, the Grosser Feldberg. Although a wealthy suburb of the city of Frankfurt a high percentage of the area (15%) is forested. The altitude ranges between 130 m above sea level (asl) and 385 m asl.

The landscape of the so-called Vordertaunus is very scenic and host some excellent birds, which are quite hard to see in other more northern parts of Germany as e.g. European Honey-buzzard(Pernis apivorus), Red Kite (Milvus milvus), Stock Pigeon (Columba oenas), Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo), Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor ), Middle Spotted Continue reading Birding around Frankfurt Airport: Bad Soden

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

…….on the way back back to Patzcuaro I had not been in the pine mountain-forest interspersed with oaks for a long time when I encountered my first Mexican (Grey breasted) Jay of the day. It is a flock, which roam sometimes on the road, sometimes on the lower branches of the pines in search of food. I had to stop and immediately started to keep the situation photographically. Short after I discover the best mixed flock, which I saw so far on this journey. Everywhere there were yellow, red, blue, orange, green colours which obtain the impression of a multicolored Mobilés. Maybe you get an impression when you see the gallery. Some species of bird such as American Treecreeper (Certhia americana), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), Mexican Chickadee (Poecile sclateri) and Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) are related close to species of old world (palearctic) bird species, others, like the Pine Flycatcher (Empidonax affinis) and the Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus) Continue reading New world warblers in pine-oak forest in Mexico, Part II

Birding in & around Frankfurt: The Palmengarten

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

One of these sites is the Palmengarten. On an area of approx. 22 hectares near the old american embassy and just north-west of the towers of the banks, the Palmengarten botanical gardens display a range of interesting and beautiful plants. Almost every kind of exotic flora growing around the world can be found here, right in the middle of Frankfurt. The Tropicarium, an ensemble Continue reading Birding in & around Frankfurt: The Palmengarten

Birding around Frankfurt Airport: Langener Waldseen

Gavia stellata

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is the gateway to continental Europe. Many airlines use the airport as a hub for connecting flights all over the world. If you have spare time between two flight and you are a birdwatcher, you might be interested to know, where you can find good sites to stretch your legs, enjoy fresh air and enjoy birding for typical european birds. One of these places – only 10 minutes away from the Frankfurt Airport – are the Langener Waldseen. These artificial lakes are situated just 2 km east of the runway and are a highly frequented recreation area with an oper-air swimming area. But wintertime is quiet and goods birds – including some vagrants – can be seen on the most western lake. This lake is still an active gravel spit, thus access especially for the best site is more or less tolerated and cannot be guaranteed.

Good birds to be seen on the lake in wintertime here on a regular basis are Canada Goose (Branta canadensis), Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Gadwall(Anas strepera),  Common Pochard (Aythya ferina), Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) and  Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula). At the beginning of December 2012 there was an influx of cold temperatures in Germany. Shortly after a Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellate), Smew (Mergellus albellus) ,  Common Merganser (Mergus merganser ) and a male Red-crested Pochard  (Netta rufina) as well as up to 10 Velvet Scoter  (Melanitta fusca) showed up. The woods hold all 6 species of continental woodpeckers (incl. Black, Middle-spotted and Grey-faced Woodpecker) and vast numbers of Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes ) and Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla) in the winter. Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) are often heard and sometimes seen in the canopy of the many pine trees.  For the last winters 1 Great Grey (Northern) Shrike (Lanius excubitor) used the area as a wintering ground. I have seen large flocks of Common Crane moving overhead in late October from this site.

For direction it is recommended to take a taxi Continue reading Birding around Frankfurt Airport: Langener Waldseen

Common Wood-Pigeon & other birds in elderberry shrub

The elder of the species black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in my garden right outside my work room window is a special attraction. Not only for birds but also for insects and small mammals such as mice. In the elder I’ve seen birds the size of a Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) to the smallest passerine species such as the Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus). In total, there are 25 species, including Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris), Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus), Wood Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), 4 types of Sylvia – species, Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Hedge Accentor (Prunella modularis), European Serin (Serinus serinus), European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) and both species of sparrows.

Two interesting reason make the elder a magnet for birds. For one, the elder show the rich-black fruits starting in June and bear the fruit for 2 months. On the other hand, the birds after having made their way through moulting do roam around again or even take the first few meters on the way to the winter quarters. The Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) also Continue reading Common Wood-Pigeon & other birds in elderberry shrub

Common Kestrel feeding on trapped bird

loud alarms calls of Blackbirds draw my attention to a place in neighbor´s garden. First I saw a moving wing – white with black pattern. Then the moustache. Hey, this is a female Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, feeding on a Eurasian Blackbird. The dead Blackbird had been accidentally trapped by a fruit net, provided to protect garnet berry, Ribes rubrum, from marauding birds.
Just after I showed up, the kestrel flew away with a piece of his prey in her bill. But only after a while she came back and hung down at the wrapped bird. Unfortunately, I could not reach the neighbor’s yard. Ok, the bird was dead, but it could have been that even the Kestrel gets tangled in the net. Finally, the neighbor had seen the incident and also untied the dead blackbird off the net. A little later I could see the kestrels, as she was feeding with relish the blackbird-meal on a stone wall. Finally, she flew away, not without being aggressivly harassed by the excited fellows of the dead blackbird. Other shootings of that session you can see in the gallery under: www.bird-lens.com.
Common Kestrels eat almost exclusively mouse-sized mammals: typically voles, but also shrews and true Continue reading Common Kestrel feeding on trapped bird

Black Stork over Altenhain/ Bad Soden

A look in the sky this evening. Hey, this is the silhouette of a stork – isn´t it? Yes, indeed a Black Stork, Ciconia nigra, could be seen over the nice little village of Altenhain on 250 m asl. The Black Stork was coming straight forward from the west (from Kelkheim, Main-Taunus-Kreis) circled three times high in the sky and passed the valley of Bad Soden/ Altenhain at 6pm. After less than 2 minutes the Black Stork disappeared behind the eastern horizon. Probably he flew along the southern slope of the Hochtaunus north of Frankfurt/Main. Continue reading Black Stork over Altenhain/ Bad Soden