A strong wind from the east drives the whitecaps over the sea. Even in spring, the wind lets the photographer freeze to the bone. The sky is overcast and the persistent strong wind whirls the sand up to the edge of the cliffs. First, it is a steep, narrow stairs to climb up to the lighthouse, which stands on a rock spur. When I get to the top, I find that many Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) duck into their nesting holes for protection from the wind. Atlantic Puffins are relatively small birds which stand its ground in a crowded bird colony by settling in self-dug burrows. These burrows are dug usually up to 4 feet below the surface. Like most other seabirds they are colonial breeders. Underground Puffins rear their offspring. With feet and beak a comfortable housing is created that is safe from attacks by larger birds as sea gulls. This does not seem to be a promising start for a photo session. I am crouching in a grassy hollow in the lee of the lighthouse and I already reproach myself that it was a stupid idea to drive to the small island and in the very end this trip would be a waste of time. Later, however, I am astonished to see an Atlantic Puffin rising in front of me and being lifted into the air by a Continue reading Atlantic Puffin on Hornöya in Norway
Soft evocative calls in tall herb. Every year there is a pronounced migration of Goldcrest (Regulus regulus). But it is worth to risk a closer look. In the mixed flocks sometimes there are representatives of small Phylloscopus-Warblers. One of them, the Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), comes from the forests of the taiga between Sea of Okhotsk and Ural. This bird is oftern named Inornate Warbler, too.
The Yellow-browed Warbler is a small warbler with a fine, pointed beak and relatively short tail. In appearance this Phylloscopus-Warbler resembles a kinglet. You might misidentify him for a Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla). In comparison it is much more delicate than the common native Phylloscopus-Warbler, the Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita). The Yellow-browed Warbler is eight millimeters shorter.
Especially in this year many Yellow-browed Warbler seem pursue a southwestern route across Europe. In Finland, some 1,000 Yellow-browed Warblers were observed since the beginning of September. In recent years there were usually throughout the fall Continue reading Siberian Vagrants: The Yellow-browed Warbler
A moment ago it had rained. Now again, you are standing in the most beautiful sunshine. Well, that one is on the lee side of the lighthouse, because the east wind whistles pretty much. In a distance on the horizon you see migratory birds flying ahead against the heavy wind towards the Barents Sea.
In the distance, migrating Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) can be discovered. They are not the only migratory birds. Other seabirds are on the trip as well. There are King Eider (Somateria spectabilis), Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis), Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra) and Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), all can be seen on off-shore over the rough sea. Now – in early May – the passage of Red-throated Divers has reached its peak and Red-throated Divers make with the largest group of migrating birds. Again and again you can hear a strange cackle. After a while, normally you observe a Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) close to see at or above the lighthouse. But the main part of Red-throated Divers pulls over the open sea. Even from a long distance you can recognize them well due to their characteristic flight pattern. The feet Continue reading Red-throated Diver: Migration in May in front of Nordkyn/ Norway
A high level of noise prevails especially in the breeding season on a typical bird cliff. Right in the middle an attentive observer might discover a colorful, stocky fellow with bright orange feet and beaks. Resting on the edge of the cliff, as if it is not concerned of all the fuss. This is the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica). You can see Puffins often in more or less large groups standing on rocky outcrops. Observing this bird for a while, you might see how a puffin after another flying – in a bumblebee-like flight and then gladly land to join its peers. Not only for the tourists this is a very popular species. So elegant and skillfully Puffins act underwater, so clumsy they act on landing and when staggering on the cliffs. That is why Puffin gain this special benevolence of many tourists of bird colonies. He acts as the needy comedians among seabirds, which you simply must give his sympathy.
Often you can see Continue reading Puffins, the black-red-white clowns of bird rocks
A report of a Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) from the Northern Sea, maybe Heligoland, would be the Mega of the year. Even better, than the Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) which spend several weeks around the sea bird colony along the red cliffs on this sole off-shore island of Germany. In general observations of pelagic or oceanic birds are rare from the Northern Sea. Too shallow and too much secluded from the open big oceans, reports of seabirds of the Northern Sea normally refer only to some sightings of Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) or Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus). Reports of Continue reading Black-capped Petrel in the western Palearctic
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
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