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

Harriers on wintering grounds in Awash NP – Ethiopia

Having seen the Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), a species of a graceful flying raptor already during trips in September on its migration route along the Black Sea coast near the town of Constanta south of the Danube delta at the Black Sea coast of Romania and north of Astrakhan along the Volga river in Russia I was keen to see this “near-threatened” species during a stay in Ethiopia, too. Before, I had seen Pallid Harriers already on their wintering grounds in South Africa (Kruger Park) and Tanzania (Serengeti). But literature said, that Pallid Harriers occur in Ethiopia during passage and some overwinter, albeit in small numbers. A good bet to try it in the arid environment of the Rift Valley, as Pallid Harriers main wintering grounds are open grasslands and agricultural areas in the savannah belt in Africa, south of the Sahara. But J. Terraube et al. (2011) in an examination of “Broad wintering range and intercontinental migratory divide within a core population of the near-threatened Pallid Harrier” showed that birds wintering in Ethiopia spent the winter in the most anthropized habitats, a mix of pastures and agricultural areas at the vicinity of several villages.

In that combination the perfect place to look for, was in my opinion the Awash National Park. This is because the Park’s location in a region of semi-arid grassland and its accessability only 2 hours drive from our stay near Debre Zeit. We spend a phantastic time in the park, seeing 90 species of birds in just 8 hours (from 9 to 5). In the afternoon we had our first harrier in the eastern part of the central Ilala Sala Plain. A 1st winter individual of Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), could be seen in Flight gliding gracefully over the savannah of the Ilala Sala Plain. We followed the harrier in a pick-up for a minimum of 5 minutes allowing excellent (and close) shots of the flying birds as you can see in the gallery. One and a half an hours later a male harrier could be seen very well. But again, a Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus) as you see on the image of the blog. But then, after 30 minutes more, there was sitting another harrier. This time you could see a pale collar behind Continue reading Harriers on wintering grounds in Awash NP – Ethiopia

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Hello to you all,

Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year.
Although winter might be not truly there where you are with minus temperatures and snow so far, but think it could be when you have mostly rain. Plenty of snow means a hard time for birds, too. If the snow comes, try to enjoy it and do not look as the bird on the image show its discontend.

Till next year, have a wonderful time and enjoy your Christmas holidays! Or at least the snow!
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 Ethiopia, Romania, Oman to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The nice images you find in the gallery are only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Pictures Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if Bird-lens could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

Other successful shootings you can see under: www.bird-lens.com in the pictures shop.

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

Birds at vulcano lakes in Debre Zeit – Ethiopia

Spending two full days during a stop-over from the Seychelles, we wanted to avoid the crowd in downtown Addis Ababa. We were lucky to arrange to stay in a lodge situated on the rim of a vulcano with a lake on the ground near Debre Zeit approx. 45 km south of Addis Ababa. Our main interest was to have a rest after the tropical sun on the Seychelles, enjoying the fresh air, the steel-blue sky and the birds – of course. They were abundant. Within one morning we saw Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta), Grey-headed Woodpecker (Dendropicos spodocephalus), Red-faced Crombec (Sylvietta whytii), Rueppell’s Robin-Chat (Cossypha semirufa), a female Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Kenya Yellow-rumped Seedeater (Serinus reichenowi), Swainson’s Sparrow (Passer swainsonii), and Red-cheeked Cordonbleu (Uraeginthus bengalus).  The result you can see here!

The Babogaya Lake Viewpoint Lodge says it guarantees to its visitors the observation of 50 different african bird species on 24 hours in the compound and on the volcanic lakeside A list can be found at their website. Of course we took the chance to explored other lakes in the surroundings, too. From the beginning November until mid of February, 3,000 Common cranes (Grus grus) are flying in every evening from the surrounding fields to the swamps west of Lake Babogaya.

The hole lodge is a great nature-area with original houses, a nice garden over four floors on a steep slope over the wonderful Babogaya-Lake. A paradise for the keen birdwatcher as well as for the beginner in birdwatching who approaches that pastime in a relaxing attitude.

Bird-Lens is mainly a website to suit the growing demand for top shots of the species of the Western Palearctic. Consequentyl Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the array of pictures of birds you can find in the Western Palearctic. Trips to tourist spots like the Seychelles (also) to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic are part of the program and were already very successful. More nice images you find in the gallery or in the “Pictures Shop”. Just give me a message, if Bird-lens could serve you with an images also outside the range of the Western Palearctic. Images of e.g. Africa are well on stock, too.

Other successful shootings you can see under: www.bird-lens.com

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

A quiet highway with many serpentine curves, conifer forest, twitters of birds. The typical attributes of a high-altitude German central mountain landscape like the Black Forest in southern Germany. But the location actually is in the middle in Mexico at the slopes mountains of the central mexican plateau with peaks as high as 3,000 m above sea level (asl).  Having just crossed the 19. degree of latitude I am on the way down into the hot dry valleys at the edge of the Pacific coast. The coast is only approx. 150 km distant as the crow flies. But the difference of this forest to the dry thorn bush forests at the west coast could not be bigger. A trip on the winding mountain roads could make you feel like being in a reminiscence to the Black Forest. But here on 2,500m asl you are in the Mexican pine-oak forest. Pine- oak forest biomes are one of the dominating characteristics of mexican high altitudes, in particular on the slopes. The determining of the development of a pine-oak forest is the altitude. Slopes exposed to the coast or forests on the mountain comb are damper and more dense than the pine-oak forest s, which are oriented on one of the central dry valleys. The pine-oak forest in Mexico is very species-rich and shows a high diversity. Of the oaks alone, there are more than 170 species. But the general appearance especially of the dry pine-oak forest in Mexico is not unlike that of its european counterpart on the mountain ranges.

This is true as long until the attentive observer is caught by the charm of the birds you find here in the New world. Practically all colors are represented with its own species of bird. Consequently there are blue Mexican (Grey breasted) Jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina), red warblers (like Ergaticus ruber), brown Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus), orange-grey Olive Warbler (Peucedramus taeniatus), yellowish- white Hermit Warbler (Dendroica occidentalis) and green Pine Flycatcher (Empidonax affinis) to observe.  The images in the gallery give you an idea of the richness of birds and colours. The winter is the favorable season for bird observation in Mexico highlands, since the food offered on the birds wintering grounds Continue reading New world warblers in pine-oak forest in Mexico, Part I

The birds of Remseck

Die Vögel von Remseck – im Großraum Stuttgart is a new book which describes local avifauna in the south-western part of Germany. It is intended primarily to show that common birds can be found at what time and at what locations without much trouble. If you follow some advice, then we can observe in the course of a year almost anywhere from 50 to 100 species of birds. “On our doorstep” but also breed birds that are rare and vulnerable. Those who delight in the bird watching, which is also often participate in the protection of these and other organisms.

This book, with images of approx.. 270 species is aimed at the beginner and want to help him to find the most common species of native birds “on the doorstep” to observe and identify. Even in the garden, in the park or at the bird feeder, there are several ways to. The text is written in german but a short abstract for the best local birding sites in the surrounding of that nice town on the river Neckar speak for themselves – or find a german friend, who can translate it for you. The booklet is full of nice images like the one you see as part of the blog. One pictures is showing the Eurasian River Warbler of the author of this blog, which has been already commented in a previous blog. At the beginning of the booklet a rough geographical map points the 12 top bird observation places and you can see, what you can expect there. An overview with images of the „the typical “species of bird, in Continue reading The birds of Remseck

Vagrant Fox Sparrow in Estonia

During the last days one Fox Sparrow Zonotrichia or Passerella iliaca, continues to stay in the town of Haapsalu, Estonia at the Baltic Sea. The bird was first spotted on last Sunday. The location Läänemaa/ Haapsalu is roughly 100km away from the Estonian capital, Tallinn. This thrush is obviously only the 5th record for the Western Palearctic after Iceland in November 1944 and Northern Ireland June 1961 plus two records from Germany (caught at Mellum, May 1949 and Scharhörn, Hamburg 24.04.77). In his „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“, Band 14/III „Passeriformes, Emberizidae “ Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim considered these birds as ship-assisted vagrants. There is also record in Denmark from 08.01.2010.
The picture show a bird in its home range habitat in southern California. This bird belongs to the subspecies Passerella iliaca unalaschcensis (Sooty Fox Sparrow). This is the west coast (of the US) taxa in the genus Passerella. Although some of the excellent images shot of the vagrant in Estonia give the idea that the Fox Sparrow in Estonia belongs to the nominate form Passerella iliaca iliaca (the so called Red Fox Sparrow), bird-lens attaches the photo to give you some idea of appearance. More pictures you will find in the gallery.

The Fox Sparrow in Estonia belongs probably to the generally central and east coast taxa in the genus Passerella. This is the brightest colored group. The Sooty Fox Sparrow is browner and darker than the Red Fox Sparrow A nice report of the twitch you see here. Just in the middle of November another European rarity, the Dusky Thrush was also spotted in Estonia. And now, some weeks later the Fox Sparrow has shown up.
In his „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“,Band 14/III „Passeriformes, Emberizidae “ Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim mentioned that this is a bird of any overgrown

Continue reading Vagrant Fox Sparrow in Estonia

Cranes on China’s Helgoland, PART II

I was happy to experience a trip to Happy Island at the end of October. A 10-day trip in 2007. So far so good concerning the character of Happy Island in comparison to the vagrant hotspot Helgoland. What Helgoland does not have are resting cranes. But on Happy Island you could see a total of 4 types very well. These were, of course, above all, our “normal” Cranes, Grus grus, then White-naped Crane, Grus vipio, Red-crowned Crane, Grus japonensis, and eventually even a single Sandhill (Canada) Crane, Grus Canadensis. For the last one this was  only the third time ever that there has been an observation on Happy Island. Also Siberian Crane, Grus leucogeranus, Hooded Crane, Grus monacha and Demoiselle Crane, Anthropoides virgo have allegedly already been proven. Happy Island is considered to be (one of) the best location to watch the East Asian migration. Hope that this is true for the future, too. During my visit in 2007, extensive construction work was in progress to make the island more interesting for “normal” day trippers and to improve touristic infrastructure. Ditches and canals were dug to pedal with small boats. But, the ongoing construction work had some good advantages, too. The excavated material was used to provide quite a high hill of sand piling up in the middle of the island. This turned out to be an ideal vantage point to watch the migration of the mornings. Passing birds on eye-level (sometimes 10 meters) were a perfect experience. The derelict (but cheap) beach huts were demolished in the following year to my visit without temporary replacement. The future will show whether Happy Island can continue to be China´s Helgoland China – perhaps with better accommodation!

A nice selection of bird images of that trip can be seen in the gallery. In a different gallery you also find impression of the landscape of that nice Continue reading Cranes on China’s Helgoland, PART II

Bird migration and regional circulation in the Pantanal

Jabiru mycteria, Fazenda Ypiranga, Pocone, Mato Grosso / Brazil

Whereas long-distance bird migration for aquatic bird species is roughly understood there are other movements of birds between especially the lower Paraná River valley wetlands in Argentina, and the south Brazil/Pantanal wetlands which are far from clear.

Besides the fact, that the global patterns of Summer/ Winter north and south of the equator determines the arrival and departure of arctic migrants and Patagonian guests, there are two major inherent factors which drive birds moving in and out the Pantanal. The one is the regular change in flooding and dryness or even droughts. The other factor is the different food mix embedded in that pattern of seasonal flooding. Whereas most birds move in with the floods in September/ October others move in when the floods retreat using food resources e.g. on small pools left after the waters has covered the most part of the Pantanal.

A good example are the Jabirus, Jabiru mycteria, big storks, which are not present in the Pantanal during the flooding season. Obviously they move to higher grounds to sites outside the Pantanal area. Availability of food for the adult individuals to raise their young are the driving factor. The birds prefer low water levels, especially in lagoons and ponds, in order to obtain the food they can catch with their specialized beaks. Besides by watching for preys while walking they also hunt by tactile prey location, thanks to the sensible bill tip. The Jabiru feeds on various aquatic preys such as fish, molluscs, crustaceans, amphibians, snakes, even young caimans and insects.  They walk slowly in shallow water, regularly stabbing and pecking at preys with the bill. One of their fish species preferred are mussum fish (Symbranchus marmoratus), which can stay dormant and encapsulated in the mud throughout the dry season. They are reactivated by the humidity of the rain and start to swim again when the water rises in the rainy season. The Jabiru is a specialist in detecting and catching the dormant fish in the muddy ground of the dried ponds.

Another example of birds using the environmental conditions during the dry season are huge  concentrations in nesting sites in the gallery forest, to take advantage of the seasonal resources available. The breeding colonies are formed by hundreds of nesting birds, such as Wood stork (Mycteria americana), egrets (Snowy Egret, Egretta thula, Great White Egret, Casmerodius albus and the Capped Heron, Pilherodius pileatus) and the Roseate Spoonbill, Ajaia ajaja. In this gallery you will find some more examples of bird moving in the Pantanal or adjacent Southern Brazil or migrate to these wetlands.

In his article in Bird Conservation International, 4, „Migration and other movements among the lower Paraná River valley Continue reading Bird migration and regional circulation in the Pantanal

Lateinamerika – Symposium – 17./18. Dezember 2010 – ZFMK

The next Latin America  Symposium is held at 7th/ 8th of December 2012 in Bonn. For someone interested in topics of biology and geology in the neotropics a real must!

For those who want to present their own scientific results to a wider audience, it is possible to perform a PowerPoint presentation. Alternatively, it is possible to present scientific findings with posters. These contributions are more than welcome. Overview contributions of the latest developments in research are particularly desired. Presentation should not exceed 30 minutes. But also short papers (max. 15 min) can be presented on the following topics: tropical ecology, biogeography, vegetation science, limnology, botany, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology, ornithology plus free projects.

Posters to topics mentioned above are welcome. Posters should not exceed a height/ width of 1 m x 1 m. Presentations and posters: in German or English.

The organization office can be contacted via phone: +49 (0) 228 / 9122-237 or 9122-238. For more information see: Lateinamerika – Symposium – 17./18. Dezember 2010 – ZFMK.

Deadline: Registration and submittance of orals and posters until December 1, 2012.

Naumann´s Thrush in Estonia

During the last days one Naumann’s Thrush, Turdus naumanni, continues to stay at Kihnu, Parnumaa. This thrush is obviously one of the few records for the Western Palearctic (only the 20th record might be too pessimistic) and has been observed on the island of Kihnu in the Gulf of Riga in Estonia. The bird was found around the Kihnu lighthouse. Kihnu lighthouse situates on the most southern tip of Pitkänä. A nice report of the twitch you see in an article Finnish Birding: MEGA! Naumann´s Thrush in Estonia 19.11.2012.

On Wednesday, 21st of November, the bird was still on the above mentioned location. The thrush was not the only bird on the island. At the same day a Pine Grosbeak could be observed, too.

Naumann’s Thrush is a split from the Dusky Thrush and is a Continue reading Naumann´s Thrush in Estonia

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