A thin branch in the most beautiful evening light and on it a European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). This is an image many nature photographers want to shoot. This raises the question of course of what the Bee-eater’s habits and preferences are. If you take a closer look at Bee-eater photography, you ask yourself e.g. how a favorite habitat must look like, what a perfect breeding site must be like and which season is suitable at all.
Part of the solution to the problem is already solved by the food spectrum of the magnificent bird. Merops apiaster live a very flight-intensive life and feed exclusively on big insects. The bird is specialized in the hunting of large and medium-sized flying insects. Bees, wasps, bumblebees, beetles, dragonflies and butterflies are among their main prey. In this respect, you will find more European Bee-eater where these main prey insects are found in large numbers. Furthermore, the Bee-eater is dependent on a warm climate due to its food source.
In order to be able to hunt the flying insects efficiently, European Bee-eaters need a “perch”, an elevated stig, from which it can start to hunt. Birds’ habitats therefore always include old trees with bare branches or tall shrubs. Continue reading Photographing European Bee-eater: How and Where
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