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

Ring Ouzel migrating through the Taunus near Frankfurt/ Main

Sunny weather and clear sky seduced for a nice hike on midday of September 30th through the upper Taunus near Bad Camberg, only 25 km north of the center of the city of Frankfurt. Having parked the car near Riedelbach, the nice Riedelbacher Heide on more than 500m above sea level (asl) was a resting home of a little flock of resting Ring Ouzel, Turdus torquatus. In totel 6 individuals could be seen. Immediately I made some shots with my camera. The birds were quite shy, trying to avoid contact with the photographer. They were uttering their contact call almost all the time. Only one of the images is good enough to proof the observation.
The Riedelbacher Heide is a small – but nevertheless the biggest in the upper Taunus – area of juniper heathland, which is protected as a nature reserve (Naturschutzgebiet).
When we returned to the car in the evening probably the flock has already flewn further south along the slopes of the Hochtaunus north of Frankfurt/Main.
To cope with the growing demand Continue reading Ring Ouzel migrating through the Taunus near Frankfurt/ Main

Black Kite on migration along Black Sea coast Romania

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

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

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

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

Rare buntings in the western Palearctic

For middle Europe, Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim listed 16 species of buntings of the genus Emberiza plus the Corn Bunting, Miliaria calandra, of the genus Miliaria, the Snow Bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis, of the genus Plectrophenax the Lapland Bunting (also known as Lapland Longspur), Calcarius lapponicus, of the genus Plectrophenax in his „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“, Band 14/III „Emberizidae“. In total there are 19 species of buntings occurring in the west-center part of the Western Palearctic. The List of the birds of the whole Western Palearctic count for 25 species in this respect.

Of the rarer species of buntings some species occure as vagrants from the northern or eastern parts of Asia, as the Pine Bunting, Emberiza leucocephalos, the Yellow-browed Bunting, Emberiza chrysophrys, the Rustic Bunting, Emberiza rustica, Chestnut Bunting, Emberiza rutila, the Red-headed Bunting, Emberiza bruniceps, the Black-faced Bunting, Emberiza spodocephala and finally the Little Bunting, Emberiza pusilla. The plumage normally is quite drab due to their bush- and ground-dwelling lifestile a rare bunting is not easy to identify. This is particulary true for the females. Here you can find some images in the gallery of the rarer species of buntings.

Of the rarer species of buntings only the Little Bunting can be found with some regularity mainly in fall in western Europe. In Germany Little Buntings were observed at the Lisdorf Beringungsstation on the 13th of Oct 2011 and in Mecklenburg at the Greifswalder Oie on the 25th of Sept. 2011. On the Island of Helgoland, Little Buntings are twitched several times during the fall migration. On the other hand Helgoland was a temporary home for the Rustic Bunting, Emberiza rustica, Continue reading Rare buntings in the western Palearctic

Looking for larks in Morocco, PART II

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

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

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

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