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

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) at Laguna Gallocanta/ Spain

Sandhill CraneDuring the last days one Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) continues to stay at the Laguna Gallocanta in the south-western part of Aragon, Spain. This bird is obviously only the 3rd record for Spain since 2009 although there are more observations from the northern part of the Western Palearctic. The Sandhill Crane is present at least since last Sunday, February 24th 2013 but with wintering European Cranes (Grus grus) numbering 35,000 individuals now at the site and occasionally severe snowfall to find the bird in the crowd is a real challenge for the travelling twitchers, who arrived already in good numbers.  Updates and pictures from the site of the twitch you see here.

The Laguna de Gallocanta is one of the largest lakes in Spain – obviously the largest natural lake in Spain covering around 1,500 ha of open water within a total area of almost 7,000 ha. The lake is fed mainly by rainwater, giving rise to dramatic changes in water level from year to year. In wet years the lake can be vast while in dry years during the hot summers the lake dries out completely. As the lake is at an altitude of 1000 m there can be some very low temperatures in winter. The water of the lake is saline but freshwater springs allow for localized patches of reeds and reedmace.

The lake is one of the most important bird sites in Spain. Common Cranes that breed in Fennoscandia and the Baltic states take the west European migration route to their wintering grounds. lt is supposed that the total number of birds migrating along this route is now in the order of 70,000, and most of these, some 50,000-60,000, winter mainly in Spain, with smaller numbers in Portugal. Thus the lagoon is the largest wintering area of the European/ Eurasian cranes. The number of cranes showed a maximum of 35,000 in recent years. The lagoon is subject to the Ramsar Convention since 1995 and is also a National Nature Reserve.

In his „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“, Band 5 „Galliformes und Gruiformes “ Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim does not mention the Sandhill Crane for Middle Europe.

To cope with the growing demand Continue reading Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) at Laguna Gallocanta/ Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Influx of Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) cancelled?

Hawk OwlNow that winter has proceeded quite well already with cold temperatures all over the northern part of the continent, the Influx of Hawk Owls might been cancelled. In a blog in November, Bird-lens mentioned that there might be a good chance that twitchers of the north of Middle Europe can observe Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) 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 were very good numbers in Finland with 164 observations reported within 7 days It seemed that similar numbers were reported from Sweden. But up to now only 1 bird showed up in 2013. It is still present (at least until yesterday, 6th of February) in Porsmose near Næstved, Denmark. Porsmose  is roughly 80 km south-west of the Danish capital Copenhagen.This individual has been seen at least since January 6th 2013 but was only the 2nd observation this winter in Denmark.

From time to time there are wintering birds far inland. Last time, a Northern Hawk-owl (Surnia ulula) could be seen in inland Germany was on February 13th 2011 near   1 Bad Vilbel, in the state of Hessen, north of Frankfurt.

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.

Birds on Pousada Pouso Alegre – the Non-Passeriformes

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

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

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

A list can be found at their website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eckla-carts for photo equipment, a field report

For about half a year I enjoy to transport my photo equipment with the Eckla-Beach-Rolly-Pro Edition II photographers.  I ordered the cart at the online shop”Augenblicke eingefangen“.

The Eckla Beach Rolly -Pro Edition for photographers is advertised as the ideal transport assistance for heavy photo equipment and can have at a weight of just 4.4 kg cope with a maximum load of 70kg. More than enough also for a big photographic equipment. The problem is then more available space  with a surface of 47cm x 39cm (without the additional charging cradle). This is  very handy for the trunk of the car, but sometimes is a little tight for larger photo luggage Eckla-Beach-Rolly Pro Fotografen-Edition II -Foto. But to do so an additional charging cradle is included in the package.

The Eckla Beach-Rolly for photographers as the standard model consists of a sturdy, non-rusting aluminum construction. The large wheels, which are provided for more capacity with a steel shaft, instead of the standard aluminum axle prevent reliably the sinking in loose surfaces such as sand and thereby allow easy transport.

Whether the wheels with alloy wheel and roller bearings provide more ride comfort or simply are more durable over longer distances (5 km return trip, are not a rare event), is beyond my knowledge. But it will have been a reason that these wheels replace the original wheels. Any photo backpack can be attached on the Rolley till Lowe´s Lens Trekker 600 AW.  Additionally the Gitzo tripod, etc. camouflage tent.

Almost 180 Euros for the photographers version Eckla Beach Rolly appear at first glance, quite a lot, but this price is justified given the quality offered. What I additionally had to buy was a strong strap from the hardware store.

The integrated upholstery  is  added into this version with an additional windscreen cover and ensure a high level of comfort. For the session at the photo hide or at rest, the Eckla Beach Rolly is unfolded very simple and reveals a comfortable seat. This is very handy!

The quality of the product of Eckla is very good overall.

Said that, I must stress the point that I found during the assembly that one of the (plastic) mounts for the axle has largely decomposed (broken down) in the box. Fortunately, a short notice to my online retailer “Augenblicke eingefangen” and they send me a spare part for replacement. Nevertheless, Continue reading The Eckla-carts for photo equipment, a field report

Der Eckla-Karren, ein Erfahrungsbericht

Eckla-Beach-Rolly Pro Fotografen-Edition II -FotoVor ca. einem halben Jahr habe ich mir zum Transport meines Foto-Equipments den Eckla-Beach-Rolly Pro Fotografen-Edition II beim Online-Shop „Augenblicke-eingefangen“ bestellt.

Der Eckla Beach-Rolly wird als die ideale Transporthilfe für schweres Fotozubehör beworben und kann bei einem Eigengewicht von gerade mal 4,4 kg immerhin eine maximale Zuladung von 70kg verkraften. Mehr als genug für die Fotoausrüstung. Das Problem besteht dann eher im verfügbaren Platz der Ladefläche, die mit 47cm x 39cm (ohne Zusatzladebügel) sehr kofferraumgerecht ist, aber manchmal doch etwas eng für größeres Fotogepäck ist. Aber dazu ist ja ein Zusatzladebügel im Lieferumfang enthalten.

Der Eckla Beach-Rolly für Fotografen besteht wie das Standardmodell aus einer stabilen, nichtrostenden Aluminium-Konstruktion. Die breiten Räder, die für mehr Belastbarkeit mit einer Stahlachse anstatt der Standard- Aluminiumachse versehen sind, verhindern zuverlässig ein Einsinken auch in losem Untergrund wie Sand und ermöglichen dadurch einen bequemen Transport.

Ob die Räder mit Metallfelge und Rollenlager für mehr Rollkomfort sorgen oder einfach nur auf längere Strecken (5 km Hin und Zurück sind leider keine Seltenheit) haltbarer sind, entzieht sich meiner Kenntnis. Es wird aber schon seinen Grund haben, daß diese Räder die Originalräder ersetzen. Auf dem Rolley lässt sich jeder Fotorucksack bis hin zum Lens Trekker 600 AW befestigen. Dazu noch das Gitzo-Stativ, Tarnzelt etc..

Knapp 180 Euro für die Fotografenversion erscheinen auf den ersten Blick recht viel, doch ist dieser Preis angesichts der gebotenen Qualität gerechtfertigt. Was ich mir zusätzlich noch kaufen mußte, war ein starker Spanngurt aus dem Baumarkt.

Die integrierten Polster werden in dieser Version mit einer zusätzlichen Windschutzbespannung ergänzt und gewähren einen hohen Sitzkomfort. Für den Ansitz Continue reading Der Eckla-Karren, ein Erfahrungsbericht

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