Siberian specialities on Bird-Lens

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

A first impression you will find in the gallery here. An update of the image stock in the “Pictures Shop” is already uploaded. There you will find more than 220 pictures of various bird species often in different plumages. Just give me a message, if Bird-lens could serve you with additional requests.
Other successful shootings you can see under: http://www.bird-lens.com/photos-2/

Influx of Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) this winter?

According to discussion in EuroTwitch there is a good chance that twitchers of the north of Middle Europe can observe Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) this winter/ late fall on their homegrounds. This should be not only true for Denmark but also at least for the northern part of Germany for this autumn/winter as there are very good numbers in Finland (incl. south and west coast) with, for example, 164 observations reported within last 7 days (some undoubtedly concern same individuals but gives an indication of the abundance) from the whole of Finland. At first sight, it seems that similar numbers are being reported from Sweden and last weekend two birds were observed in the extreme south (Scania). In the “Danish Bird News” they announced the first Hawk Owl for almost 7 years already. A 1st winter individual has been seen at Store Hareskov, Copenhagen during 30th September to 8th October.

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. The picture shows a vagrant bird at the former lignite opencast mine Dubrau at the Spreewald near Vetschau/ Brandenburg/ Germany on march 22nd 2006.

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 before the new pictures are online.

Cranes on Happy Island, Chinas´s Helgoland, Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birds in autumn in the Comana Natural Park / Romania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall migration at the Black Sea Coast/ Romania

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

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

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

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

Migration of raptors over the Macin Mountains National Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NABU | Vogel des Jahres 2013: Die Bekassine

Common Snipe is “Bird of the Year 2013” NABU and the national federation for Birds (LBV), NABU partner in Bavaria have voted in Germany endangered Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) to the “Bird of the Year 2013” as you can see here:  NABU | Vogel des Jahres 2013: Die Bekassine. More information, you will find following the link to the Landesbund für Vogelschutz in Bayern e.V (LBV).

In Germany actually there are only 5500-6700 breeding pairs left – about half the population of 20 years ago. The Common Snipe is to advertise as an ambassador for the preservation of wetlands and wet meadows. The deaf great snipe bird with beige-brown plumage and the distinctive beak is due to his vociferous courtship flight often called “complaints bird”.

“The snipe had really good reason to complain because of bogs and marshes their habitat is fast disappearing. It is high time the last Moore strictly protected in Germany – in the interests of climate protection. The same applies to wetlands. We can not accept the fact that lowered the water table and dewatered areas, grasslands plowed, cultivated crops such as corn for biogas plants over large areas, and degraded peat meadows are planted in, “said NABU Vice President Helmut Opitz.

“The fact that the Snipe is threatened with extinction in Germany, is mainly due to the systematic destruction of their habitats. The habitat Continue reading NABU | Vogel des Jahres 2013: Die Bekassine

Booted Warbler and other vagrants on Helgoland

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

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

Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor on Helgoland

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

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

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

Blue Tit migration on southern tip of Falsterbo/ Sweden

During the last week of September 2012, huge numbers of Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) have been observed in Nabben at the peninsula of Falsterbo, the south-western tip of Sweden. 24,000 individuals has been migrating at Nabben which is 10% more than what is seen in a whole year in average. In the Migration Counts run by the Falsterbo Vogelstation  you see, that only the years 1996, 2003 and 2008 can compete with the migration numbers of this year.

In his „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“, Band 13/I „Passeriformes, Muscicapidae – Paridae“ Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim mentioned that all migrating behavior is shown by the Blue Tit. Some are resident bird, some (especially the youngs) show dismigration Continue reading Blue Tit migration on southern tip of Falsterbo/ Sweden

Images of birds for science & public; Western Palaearctic & the World