Every evening a very special spectacle occurs in this beautiful Wildlife Refuge in the south of New Mexico. Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) arrive at the “crane pools” at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge each evening. Having spent the day feeding in nearby corn fields, they will overnight standing in the shallow pools of the Reserve. This presumably so that they can rest in the dark with minimal threat to be attacked by coyotes. As the sun rises the next morning, they eventually depart to the corn fields again. The pond which the Cranes prefer, is perhaps my favorite spot in the whole area of the Bosque del Apache NWR. I spend the first days in January 1999 in the Bosque Del Apache NWR after a business trip to Texas. My main targets were Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens), Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), Continue reading Sandhill Cranes in Bosque Del Apache NWR at Sunset
Happy Island is considered to be (one of) the best location to watch the East Asian migration. This turned out to be already on the first – very successful – photo morning of my stay on a late autumn day on Happy Island. Wow, a real hotspot for migratory bird observation on China’s south-east coast. I got up at 5:45 am. I grabbed not only the Continue reading On migration: a Siberian Rubythroat on Happy Island
Going for Laguna de Gallocanta, this lake on 1,000 m asl in the middle of Northern Spain, seems to be good for impressive numbers of wintering birds as well as for surprises. Some years ago, there has been observations of a Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis). Actually, I wanted to watch and photograph Common Cranes (Grus grus) on their resting and wintering grounds. These birds breed in Germany, Fennoscandia and the Baltic States, and then take a western migration route through Europe to wintering areas. It is estimated that the total number of birds that migrate along the western route count up to 70,000 individuals. Most of them 50,000-60,000 wintering in Spain. The rest of Continue reading Golden Eagle at the Laguna de Gallocanta/ Spain
During the last days one Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) continues to stay at the Laguna Gallocanta in the south-western part of Aragon, Spain. This bird is obviously only the 3rd record for Spain since 2009 although there are more observations from the northern part of the Western Palearctic. The Sandhill Crane is present at least since last Sunday, February 24th 2013 but with wintering European Cranes (Grus grus) numbering 35,000 individuals now at the site and occasionally severe snowfall to find the bird in the crowd is a real challenge for the travelling twitchers, who arrived already in good numbers. Updates and pictures from the site of the twitch you see here.
The Laguna de Gallocanta is one of the largest lakes in Spain – obviously the largest natural lake in Spain covering around 1,500 ha of open water within a total area of almost 7,000 ha. The lake is fed mainly by rainwater, giving rise to dramatic changes in water level from year to year. In wet years the lake can be vast while in dry years during the hot summers the lake dries out completely. As the lake is at an altitude of 1000 m there can be some very low temperatures in winter. The water of the lake is saline but freshwater springs allow for localized patches of reeds and reedmace.
The lake is one of the most important bird sites in Spain. Common Cranes that breed in Fennoscandia and the Baltic states take the west European migration route to their wintering grounds. lt is supposed that the total number of birds migrating along this route is now in the order of 70,000, and most of these, some 50,000-60,000, winter mainly in Spain, with smaller numbers in Portugal. Thus the lagoon is the largest wintering area of the European/ Eurasian cranes. The number of cranes showed a maximum of 35,000 in recent years. The lagoon is subject to the Ramsar Convention since 1995 and is also a National Nature Reserve.
In his „Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas“, Band 5 „Galliformes und Gruiformes “ Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim does not mention the Sandhill Crane for Middle Europe.
To cope with the growing demand Continue reading Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) at Laguna Gallocanta/ Spain
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