Fall bird migration and waterfowl in southwestern USA – August 2013

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

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

Herbstzug und Wasservögel im Südwesten der USA – August 2013, Reise des Brehm-Fonds

Im Spätsommer (ca. Mitte–Ende August/Anfang September) bietet der Brehm Fonds für internationalen Vogelschutz e.V., Bonn, eine 2,5-wöchige ornithologische und naturkundliche  Rundreise in die USA an. Der Südwesten – zwischen Pazifik und dem Golf von Mexico gelegen – bietet zahlreiche ornithologische Highlights, wobei wir in Kalifornien und Texas Station machen werden.

Kalifornien verfügt aufgrund der exponierten Lage entlang der pazifischen Zugstraße über eine äußerst artenreiche Avifauna (über 640 Arten) einschließlich interessanter Vorkommen an Wasser- und Seevögeln. Außerdem können bis zu 10 verschiedene Kolibriarten, wie Sternelfe und Annakolibri, regelmäßig beobachtet werden. Höhepunkte der Reise werden Abstecher in die Küstensümpfe südlich von Los Angeles (z. B. Bergstrandläufer, Beldings Grasammer), zur Lagune von Malibu (Amerikanische Zwergseeschwalbe, Scherenschnabel) und in die Umgebung des Salton Sea (Schmuck- und Raubseeschwalbe, Gelbfußmöwe) sein. Wir werden auch typische Chaparralhabitate (küstennahe Strauchfluren mit der endemischen Chaparraltimalie, Kalifonischer Schopfwachtel, Schwarzkopf-Mückenfänger) und die Küsten-gebirge mit ihren Koniferenwäldern (Vorkommen von Eichelspecht, Berghüttensänger und Diademhäher) aufsuchen. Die Überfahrt zu einer Vogelinsel des Channel Islands National Park (u. a. mit Insel-Buschhäher, Kolonien von Pinselscharbe und Kaliforniermöwe und der Möglichkeit der Beobachtung von Walen) kann optional eingeplant werden. In den Jahren 2009 und 2011 wurden in der Gegend sehr gute Fotos von pelagischen Vögeln (Hochseevögeln) für das Portfolio von Bird-Lens gemacht. Bei ein wenig Glück sind diese Hochseevögel – wie hier in der Gallerie zu sehen – auf der Fahrt zum Channel Islands National Park Continue reading Herbstzug und Wasservögel im Südwesten der USA – August 2013, Reise des Brehm-Fonds

Spring migration and birds of prey in Extremadura – April 2013

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

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

Frühjahrszug und Greifvögel in der Extremadura – April 2013, Reise des Brehm-Fonds

 Im Frühjahr 2013 wird vom Brehm-Fonds für internationalen Vogelschutz e.V. eine ornithologische Studienreise in die im Südwesten Spaniens gelegene Region Extremadura geführt. Sie umfasst die Provinzen Badajoz und Cáceres östlich der Grenze zu Portugal und ist nicht nur berühmt für die am besten erhaltenen mittelalterlichen Denkmäler in Spanien, sondern unter Naturliebhabern auch für ihre einzigartige Kombination von Eichenwäldern, Steppen, Agrarlandschaften, Seen und Felsregionen. Entsprechend artenreich (ca. 340 spp.) gestaltet sich die Vogelwelt; viele Vertreter haben hier ihre Verbreitungszentren für die Iberische Halbinsel bzw. Südwesteuropa. Das Spektrum reicht von beinahe alltäglichen Arten wie Rötelfalke, Blauelster und Kalanderlerche bis hin zu ausgesprochenen Raritäten wie Weißkopf-Ruderente, Zwerg- und Großtrappe, Spießflughuhn, Gleitaar, Blauracke und Häherkuckuck – Arten, die in Europa entweder nur hier vorkommen oder an den meisten anderen Orten bereits verschwunden sind. Die Liste bemerkenswerter Nachweise wächst beständig; erst im Frühjahr 2012 wurden erstmals Rüppellseeschwalbe und Haussegler nachgewiesen.

Ein Höhepunkt der Tour wird der Besuch des erst seit 2007 bestehenden Nationalparks Monfragüe nördlich von Trujillo Continue reading Frühjahrszug und Greifvögel in der Extremadura – April 2013, Reise des Brehm-Fonds

Early fall images from the Leinetal/ Hannover

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 a excursion to that charming countryside between the cities of Hildesheim to the east and Hameln to the west has to offer surprisingly good locations to shoot images of excellent birds.
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 to shoot images of wild birds on close distance.
Wolf-Dieter´s favorite bird is the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). Here in that countryside the kingfisher finds the habitat they need. Steep walls of mud or broken steep edges on disused gravel pits. It is said, that nowhere in Germany you will find a better location Continue reading Early fall images from the Leinetal/ Hannover

African specialities on Bird-Lens

On the southern edge of the western palearctic, in Egypt, south of the Sahara, in southern North Africa are living some strange bird creatures which touch the borders of the western palearctic only. Sometimes they occur as a rare breeding species in countries like Morocco or Egypt or you can see them as a strangler on the Canaries, in southern Europe or Northern Africa. Unlike Nearctic species, which are put on the wall especially in fall, because then there is a high influx of birds from Northern American, you do not see the southern specials on a regular basis. But for the keen birdwatcher of western palearctic birds these species are highly though-after mega birds.
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 in Tanzania, Malawi, Namibia and the Republic of South Africa (RSA). Are you interested? A first impression you will find in the gallery here. There you will find 42 pictures of various bird species. Continue reading African specialities on Bird-Lens

Pelagic Birds in the Western Palearctic

Pelagic or oceanic birds, seabirds or marine birds all describe bird which spend a significant portion of its life on the open ocean, rarely venturing to land except to breed. Their flight is often described as elegant and beautiful. This is particulary true for the Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris), as you can see on the image on the right. Pelagic Birds are powerful fliers that can remain for hours while gliding or soaring over the waves. When the birds rest, they do so by swimming quite high (floating) on the water. Pelagic birds may be found hundreds or thousands of miles offshore. Pelagic birds typically feed on fish, squid and crustaceans as well as offal from fishing ships or trash dumped into the ocean. Although “Pelagic Birds” does not have a scientific meaning in it´s strict sense, normally you mean albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels are described as being pelagic. The right taxonomic description for these birds are “Procellariformes”. There are lots of pelagic bird species with a great range of sizes and ranges. In the Gallery you will find different types Continue reading Pelagic Birds in the Western Palearctic

Looking for larks in Morocco, PART I

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

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

Identifcation of flying Chlidonias Terns in breeding plumage

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

Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybridus
Black Tern, Chlidonias niger

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

White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus

 

Black Tern, Chlidonias niger

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

Cream-colored Courser with young in Morocco

Beginning of June might be regarded as already quite late to look for birds in the deserts of Boumalne du Dades (called Tagdilt), Morocco. But The Cream-colored Courser (Cursorius cursor) a bird of dry open country, preferably semi-desert is hatching the offspring at that time of the year. Thus a good chance to take images of adult and young birds of this species. Here you see more!
Fortunately the spring 2002 had been quite rainy and the desert was still green enough to provide this very special wader in the pratincole and courser family with enough insect prey which is typically hunted by erratic running on the ground. Looking for larks, I spend a whole afternoon on a plateau at 1,600 m above sea level at the edge of the mountains called Ibel Sarhro when I stumbled over a pair of the Cream-colored Courser which explored the area with young chicks. After a while I found a juvenile individual in the same area, too. From inside the SUV I could photograph these usually shy birds from the immediate vicinity, although they always ran away pretty quickly. They moved on to the rocky, stony ground even faster than the Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes), I had photographed some minutes before in more or less the same area. Again and again I had to move & stop the jeep. I only had a chance, if I catch the moment when they to come to an abrupt stop.  This worked best with the parents, because the young were even more mobile.

These coursers are found on the Canary Islands, too. There I saw 3 individuals on Fuerteventura in October 2011. These birds have long legs and long wings. They have slightly downcurved bills. The body plumage is sandy in colour. Some short description you will find here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cream-coloured_Courser

To track birds like larks or coursers in the endless deserts of Morocco is looking like the proverbial needle in a haystack. I had heard it before I left my hometown, and the initial experience confirmed this statement just too much. But the results so far of a photo safari through Spain and Morocco with my SUV in 2002 were very rewarding. With the help of fellow ornithologists, good maps and trip reports from the Internet, I had been in the High Atlas and photographed mega birds as Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris atlas, the southern form of the chemical also found in Scandinavian style), Continue reading Cream-colored Courser with young in Morocco

Black Terns catching flies in the Danube Delta

I was almost titeling Black Tern flycatching… but then I found an interesting nice article in Wikipedia, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawking_(birds)) to the meaning of feeding strategies of birds involving catching flying insects in the air. Wikipedia says, that the term “flycatching” refers to a technique of sallying out from a perch to snatch an insect and then returning to the same or a different perch.” Ok, this is not what I saw in mid May 2012 in the Danube Delta. For sure, a flock of approx. 50 Black Terns (Chlidonias niger) in a joined effort with some Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus) were catching flies in a swift, elegant and almost effortless looking manner but now I know, you should not call it “flycatching”.
2 species of Chlidonias – Terns, Black Terns and Whiskered Tern are breeding in the Danube Delta. Mid of May they have just arrived from their wintering grounds and they are in urgent need of nutrient-rich food after the strenuous migration and in preparation of breeding. A mass occurrence of black flies is the right food to fill up resources for the tasks ahead. The gallery show more pictures of the terns in the air that one unforgettable evening mid of May in the Danube Delta/ Romania.
According to a very nice article in Wikipedia. The various methods of taking insects Continue reading Black Terns catching flies in the Danube Delta

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