Tag Archives: Northern Wheatear

Ptarmigan in Tyrol

AlpenschneehuhnA rattling, gibbering call is thrown back from the high rocky walls in echoes. After 1 minute, the call is repeated. Carefully, I try to approach the noise source. Unexpectedly, a Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) appears between the boulders. After only two shots, the Ptarmigan is already disappeared.

In the middle of the mighty mountain range of the European Alps lies the province of Tyrol. Here you can follow untouched natural landscapes from the meadows in the valley over the alpine meadows and forests far up to rugged slopes in the high mountains.

Rugged peaks and countless, crystal-clear mountain lakes, which lie in the midst of idyllic pastures characterize Tyrol. Throughout the year, but especially in autumn, Tirol offers photo opportunities galore. They make every nature photographer’s heart beat faster. Tyrol is home to a typical bird species set for the subalpine and alpine elevations of the Alps in the upper mountain regions.

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), Common Rock Thrush or Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) or Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) are examples from the songbird comunity.

A summary rating of Tyrol is currently not possible. However, due to Continue reading Ptarmigan in Tyrol

Alpine birds in the Haut Chaumes / Vosges

SteinrötelThe mountain meadows in the Vosges are very attractive in summer time. Beside birds of the alpine zone one sees some interesting plants like Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea), Mountain arnica (Arnica montana), Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina), Mountain Pansy (Viola lutea). Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe), Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis) and Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) are certainly the most common species of birds, but some rare bird species live in the cliffs and boulder fields as well. If you are lucky, you may spot the Common Rock Thrush or Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) or other “high mountain species” such as Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris).

The scratching sound is unmistakable. Not necessarily the nature lover would consider this as singing. But that’s exactly what it is. With that, the Northern Wheatear is defending his territory. Although the Wheatear is not afraid to present itself openly, it is not so easy to spot the small, black and white colored bird on one of the boulders.

It is even more difficult to discover the Common Rock Thrush. Continue reading Alpine birds in the Haut Chaumes / Vosges

Snow Bunting, a migrating passerine on Flores/ Azores

SchneeammerThe Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is one of the few migratory passerines to be found on a regular basis to visit the Azores archipelago in general and Flores in particular. Maybe only the Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) of the subspecies leucorhoa, the Greenland Wheatear is recorded as often on Flores, the westernmost island of the archipelago.

The morning of the 11th of October 2017 turned to be sunny, but started quite cloudy and in the higher parts of the inner plateau with fog with visibility that was only 10 meters. On return to the northern coast I decided to pay the highest peak of Flores, the Morro Alto, a short visit. Still, at 10:00 moist atlantic air clouded the Pico da Sé. Wind was blowing and one little bird, brightly colored in a creamy yellow and some dominance of white in the wing plumage jumped over the volcanic gravel around the antennas erected on Continue reading Snow Bunting, a migrating passerine on Flores/ Azores

Birdphotographie in the Picos De Europa

While the southern landscapes in Spain – like the Estremadura – are among the most popular photo destinations on the Iberian Peninsula, the mountains in the north, like the Picos De Europa, are largely unknown to many bird photographers.

On my travels to Spain mountainous birds of the Hochgebirge had been too short. They were at the center of a birding trip this time. The target species were: bearded vulture Yellow-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus), (Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus), Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) and Citril Finch (Serinus citrinella).

During a break at one of the numerous clear streams I hear a wonderful melodic bird song. I quickly set up my mobile camouflage tent. This is a converted camping landruiser. I slowly approach the song. Suddenly a yellowish-green bird flies back and forth Continue reading Birdphotographie in the Picos De Europa

Grey-cheeked Thrush as a vagrant in the WP

GrauwangendrosselThis medium-sized thrush with its brownish-grey upperparts and tail, its pale underparts with heavier spotting on the breast, a plain grey face with some light streaks but no eye-ring would be a real mega – if identified as such in the Western Palearctic. Grey-cheeked Thrushes (Catharus minimus) are rare vagrants to the WP, with only a few records each year. All recent sightings were noticed from – sometimes – remote islands in the Atlantic as from Corvo on the Azores, St Agnes from the Isles of Scilly, Ireland, Iceland, Fair Isle or Orkney (both Scotland). Most sightings are from the fall migration with a peak at the end of October but with possibilities between end of September and the beginning of November. A record from May – as happened on the May, 26th 2015 from the County Mayo on Ireland is a real exception.

A trip to the tiny village of Gambell on the north-western tip of the big St. Lawrence Island in the middle of the Bering Sea yielded Grey-cheeked Thrush as the only representative of Catharus – Thrushes. Some tough birders flew in from the end of May to observe mainly the seabird migration. But during our seven-day stay on the Gambell– led by a guide from High Lonesome Tours – we could Continue reading Grey-cheeked Thrush as a vagrant in the WP

Passerine vagrants on St. Paul – Pribilof Islands

RubinkehlchenAs the plane gets closer to the barren island of St. Paul, the first impression is Brown und Olive-green. Later we see that there are not only brown and olive colors on the island. Metre-high waves of a dark blue sea are breaking against the rugged, rocky coast which is shimmering black. As we land, sunrays are breaking through the clouds. Enchantment in a wild landscape. The melancholic character of the open tundra is obvious. When we get off the plane in front of the hangar, it is very quiet at once. What a contrast to the noise in the machine. Only now and then we hear the melancholy flight song of Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus) or the high trill of the local race of Rock Sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis).

Barren tundra-covered hills dominate the landscape of the Pribilof Islands. But these island also host the largest seabird colony in the Northern Hemisphere with 98 percent of the world population of Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris). In addition, the strongest breeding colony Continue reading Passerine vagrants on St. Paul – Pribilof Islands

Pintail Snipe on a remote US-Island in the northern Pacific/ Alaska

SpiessbekassineGambell, a small village on the north-western tip of the remote St. Lawrence Island is an outstanding outpost not only for North American Birders. A short trip with only a few days with High Lonesome yielded all sorts of good birds, both Asian and North American origin.

During a 6-day trip guided by the tour operator High Lonesome a group of mainly US-birders was amazed by the impressive but regular bird migration along the shore of the island to the Bering Sea further north. An almost as important feature was the possibility to catch-up with maybe the best vagrants sightings of the spring 2016.

There had been some very good Asian species this spring. Far outstanding was the Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura), which was finally only identified by checking the images shot and discussing sighting and sound impressions in the group. First reviews from experts for ID-confirmations turned out to be positive.

The snipe was flushed at close distance in the so-called Far Boneyard, flew low and a very short distance on first flush and then flew farther and higher on second flush, always from dry ground, although bird flew high it circled back around, we were not able to flush it a third time the bird called once, not particularly sharp like Common/Wilson’s but also not particularly wheezy (fairly short and quiet call). The images of the bird show a coloration very Continue reading Pintail Snipe on a remote US-Island in the northern Pacific/ Alaska

Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope) in May on the Pribilofs

RubinkehlchenLooking for Vagrants at Hutchinsons Hill, the northernmost tip of the island of St. Paul, resulted in a perfect male Siberian Rubythroat on the 24th of May 2016. A group of 10 birders travelled to the Pribilofs with High Lonesome and we had already exiting observations with great adventure with great leaders and excellent organization. When we arrived in Hutchinsons Hill, we first walked in line along the hill. But besides an Arctic Fox and the abundant Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) and Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), we did not see something. Suddenly, our leader shouted out: “ Siberian Rubythroat”, and again  “ Siberian Rubythroat”. Immediately the group was highly alerted. The 2nd leader had to push a bit for discipline because everybody wanted to get perfect views and – even more important – excellent photos. Finally the Siberian Rubythroat could be pinned-down in a combination of green vegetation – probably sellery – and dried grass. The views in the scope were short but striking. Then the bird flew away. Without hope, we started sitting and wait for more vagrants to come. After a while, someone got a glimpse on a brownish bird, which turned out to be a Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). We congratulated Continue reading Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope) in May on the Pribilofs

Eurasian Wryneck and other birds in Bulgaria

Eurasian WryneckI am now back from a trip to Bulgaria for quite a while. As I wrote already in the Bee-eater-Blog, the main purpose was to photograph European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). But as I mentioned in the recent blog, Bulgaria is full of wildlife which could be found relatively easy. As most of the mornings were spent with Bee-eaters or in a hide for Eurasian Golden Orioles (Oriolus oriolus), evening photo sessions quite often were spent roaming along country roads in the car and photographing any birds I encountered. I came up with pretty good results. There were many passerine birds present. I came across with Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina), Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala), Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca), Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor), Continue reading Eurasian Wryneck and other birds in Bulgaria

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) on Norderney

Northern HarrierNorderney, the most densely populated island in the german Wadden Sea is with good reason called a bird paradise. Terns, Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus) , Brent Geese (Branta bernicla), Greylag Geese (Anser anser)and many other birds of water are to be found there, as well as the rare Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), or raptors as Kestrels, Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus) and Buzzards. The birds are back from their wintering grounds in southern Europe and Africa and have reached their breeding grounds on Norderney safe.

On the meadows at the airport breed Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) defend clamoring their turf against intrusive neighbors in the Grohdeheller, Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus) flutes from their perch on the fence posts along the salt marshes in the Grohdepolder and the dunes to the east of the island host again a large breeding colony of gulls. Breeding pairs of the rare Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) live on the island, too. The Northern Harrier, Circus cyaneus, also called the Hen Harrier was the main reason to arrange a trip to Norderney in early May this year. Finally the Northern Harriers have returned from their wintering areas. On a trip to China – on Happy Island – Northern Harrier could be photographed very successfully on migration  -interesting enough only females. The courtship and breeding period should now be photographed.

For shots of the beginning of courtship, it was too late. Beginning and mid of April you can observe Continue reading Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) on Norderney

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

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

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

Cattle Egret taking a shower under a lawn sprinkler

This species of heron is renown to spend a lot of time close to livestock like grazing cattle and grab insects and worms that their hooves disturb. But on these pictures you can see, that the Cattle Egret feels attracted to other human environment as well. Weather the egret seeks the spray of the lawn sprinkler in search of insects and worms or weather it just like a cool shower running along its feathers is not clear.  But anyway, a great impression which couldn´t be missed. Without haste the bird marched under the spray of the water from one side of the green rondell to the other.  The images were shot in March 2012 in the park called Green Mubazzarah near Al Ain/ UAE at the foot of the Hajar Mountains. Green Mubazzarah is a picnic area with streams, grass and chalets at the northern base of Jebel Hafeet before the road starts to climb upwards towards the summit of Jebel Hafeet. Lawn sprinklers are abundant and in full action in the mornings to preserve the green in a extremely desert environment. The green in the desert does not only attract Cattle Egret and other birds present year-round in that area like Chukar, Grey Francolin, Laughing Dove und Eurasian Collared-Dove but also many migrating birds like e.g. Blue Rock-Thrush, Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, Eurasian Hoopoe, Pied, Northern, Isabelline and Desert Wheatear, Wagtails and Water Pipits.
The birding strategy is to go early in the morning. The official opening times is: 9am to 9pm, but cleaning service start right after dawn so you might be able Continue reading Cattle Egret taking a shower under a lawn sprinkler