Category Archives: Bird Migration

Observations of migration birds, aspects of migration

Influx of Red-footed Falcons, Falco vespertinus, in Brandenburg

RotfußfalkeThe month of August already brought the first of Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) for Germany. Maybe 2020 is a good Falcon-year again. The year 2019 at least was a strong year for the occurrence of the Red-footed Falcon.

The Red-footed Falcon is still regarded as a vagrant from late April to early June and from August to September in Germany. However, every year some individuals are observed with a certain regularity on their fall and their spring migration.

in 2019, several Red-footed Falcons from northern Germany, especially from the northeast of the republic, were reported daily at the end of August and September.

It is well-known that the Red-footed Falcons now and then invade unusual areas. Thus in the last century mass-migration influxes through East Prussia were reported. Examples are the September 1881, May 1882, the fall of 1896 and September 1927 called.

Last year 2 Red-footed Falcons could be observed in the Niederer (Lower) Flaeming, 50km south of Berlin, too. The gentle hilly landscape of the Lower Flaming south of the medieval town of Jueterbog is agriculturally used heavily. Therefore irrigation systems and electricity pylons are already landmarks. A pumping station near Bochow is connected to the electric grid with power lines. One morning two pretty petite birds were sitting on the lines. They were already perceptible from afar. I wonder if it is small doves. A look through the spotting scope reveals that my second thought is confirmed: there are two first-year Red-footed Falcons. A quick photo was taken. However, the position of the sun drives me to do a lap so I have the sun in my back for better shots. I have to drive under the power line with the two red foot hawks. That scares them to a surprisingly short distance only. The Red-footed Falcons circle over me. A little later they land on the power lines again. One of the Red-footed Falcons flies off, sweeping over the harvested potato field at a remarkable speed, then rises and hovers. A little later the birds dives down to earth and comes up a little later with a big insect in the clutches.

Then the second bird flies over the wide plain. A little later, I suddenly see one of the red-footed hawks flying from the west about 20m above a potato field, pursued by a Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). The Eurasian Kestrel cannot be shaken off immediately. In any case, both birds disappear eastwards across the Meadows. Unfortunately, this way I lost track of both Red-footed Falcons.

It will be seen if more Red-footed Falcon will arrive and if a invasion will gradually end around mid-September, as in previous events

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 to capture images not only of rare birds of western Palearctic were very successful. The nice image of the blog is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give bird-lens.com a message, if bird-lens.com could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

Mega-rare Raptor sightings for central Europe?

BartgeierSometimes, you just need luck: A bird-loving hiker in the Alps had never seen a Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) with such a wide, white band on its lower wings. Therefore, he photographed the flying eagle. Only some time later it turned out that he had seen a Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) from the last calender year. The only third suspected wild bird in Germany since 1977, which was accepted by the german rarity commissions.

The Steppe Eagle is only recognized as a wild bird in Germany since 2005. Previous observations were always treated as refugees from captivity by the rarity commissions. Up to 2013, there are currently three German records compared to a total of 28 records for Denmark. In the past ten years alone, a Steppe Eagle has been observed eight times in Denmark.

In Western Europe, meanwhile, a flurry of extremely rare Raptors is expected. The Netherlands and northern France have seen a wave of exciting reports of large birds of prey in the past weeks. And of course the British bird watchers hope that one or the other raptor could also make it across the strait.

Belgium, northern France and the Netherlands have housed a steppe eagle in Apeldoorn in mid of May. After all, this is only the fourth Dutch report. It was therefore more than unexpected that another Steppe Eagle appeared in Middelburg, the capital of Zeeland, on May 21st. It is believed that the Steppe Eagles migrated west this spring due to longer periods of southern and eastern high pressure systems. This almost invites further speculation as to whether more birds of prey from the southern part of Europe are being drifted further north. This expectation is strengthens by the appearance of at least three Booted Eagles (Hieraaetus pennatus) in the past week – two in Belgium (one of which also came to France) Continue reading Mega-rare Raptor sightings for central Europe?

Pallid Harrier on early migration south of Berlin

SteppenweiheAt least since Sonday, March, 29, 2020, the Niedere Flaeming, a hilly contryside south of Berlin, is home to a male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus). The Niedere Flaeming near Jueterbog is roughly 60km distant from downtown Berlin.

This adult male Pallid Harrier braved the onset of winter in the Lower Fläming very well. With measured 2 ° C, snow showers and a strong eastern wind, the bird was sitting in the winter cereals. By luck the Harrier was spotted between the green stalks of straw with its strikingly white head. When we arrived, the first observer’s car was thankfully still at the point of observation. A little later, when the bird watcher got up in his car to warm up, I just unpacked the tripod and set up the heavy Canon EF 600mm f / 4L IS III USM lens on the Canon EOS 1DX Mark III. Shortly after the bright bird rose from the green and flew elegantly deep over the winter grain field. It dropped twice between the stalks. When the male Pallid Harrier flew up again, an interesting grey pattern could be seen on the tail. The Pallid Harrier could be persued with the camera in full shooting. After about 3-4 minutes the bird had reached the end of the field and disappeared over a windbreak hedge.

I was glad to have already made some presets on my new Canon EOS 1DX Mark III. For this I had set up AI Servo, the AF point selection in a zone and Case 1 with exposure times from initially 1/320 sec. to 1/1000 sec. Although the flying bird had to be photographed against a structured background, the autofocus only rarely lost the bird and could then “catch” it again and again. The number of images fort he trash were very small. The autofocus tracking seems to work much better with the 1DX Mark III than with its predecessors.

This Pallid Harrier male had very pale grey upperparts and is white Continue reading Pallid Harrier on early migration south of Berlin

Influx of Eurasian Jay in autumn 2019

EichelhäherEurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) are not pronounced migratory birds, which can be seen from their flapping flight style and their wide, rounded wings. The Jay´s body is more made to fly from tree to tree, less to cover longer distances. Small migratory movements probably take place annually, but are hardly noticed due to the wide distribution of the species.

Birds from the north and east fly in irregularly, however. In such cases, there are significant migratory movements of thousands of jays that extend far into Central Europe. Extraordinary years of influxes were in 1978, 1983, 1996, 2004 and 2010. Now in autumn 2019 there was another strong jay influx. From the beginning of September, observations of Eurasian Jays migrating in Germany and double-digit flock sizes were reported. It became particularly noticeable from the second decade of September. Not only in Germany, but also in some neighboring countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland, a strong appearance of Eurasian Jays was registered. Flocks of up to 200 Eurasian Jay and four-digit daily totals were recorded at various points. The maximum was reached in Germany in early October. Some bird watchers, who systematically counted migratory birds at Überlingen on the northern shore of Lake Constance, had an unforgettable day. More than 42,000 jays roaming through were recorded on that day. After that, however, the phenomen quickly calmed down and in mid-October jays were only seen in large numbers in southern Germany, until normal levels were reached again in early November and no more unusual migratory movements were reported. The whereabouts of the birds are unclear. The troops have presumably disbanded and the jays are scattered across the landscape. How many individuals were ultimately involved in the invasion can hardly be estimated. In view of the high daily totals at different observation points, a number in the six-digit range can be assumed in any case. Where did the jays come from? The question of the origin of birds is usually difficult to answer.

In combination with the high number of migratory birds along the southern Baltic coast, there are some indications that the Eurasian Jays may have derived from areas to the east. Additonally, while in Continue reading Influx of Eurasian Jay in autumn 2019

Common Whitethroat at Brenu Beach Grasslands near Cape Coast

DorngrasmückeAfter a long journey from Ankasa, we – a Birdquest-Group – stranded for an afternoon birding at Brenu Beach Grasslands near Cape Coast / Ghana. We had just seen a male Marsh Tchagra (Tchagra minuta) a bird in a spiny bush reminded me of an old friend from Germany. It looked like a Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). I called, but obviously nobody of the group was interested. So made some shots with my camera and had to rely on my photos to help me to identify the bird. Reviewing the photos, the bird in the bush look very much like this common European warbler. I consult birdforum.net. The experts confirmed ID to me. In the meanwhile, another Palearctic migrant was detected. It was a Great Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus). Attempts to get the Great Reed Warbler out of the bush failed. When excitement ceased, the Common Whitethroat had gone.

The bird reminded me of a young male already on the spot. The wing pattern seemed quite convincing to me at the time. On the images I saw a hint of a pale white eye ring. The “problem was, that books, as „Birds of Western Africa“ (Helm Identification Guides) von Nick Borrow und Ron Demey, mention this bird only as a vagrant in the south (pictured as a red cross) and see their wintering distribution more for the north. This in contrast to the Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin), which is shown for the north of Ghana and the coastal strip.

As the Common Whitethroat is a common warbler in the Western Palearctic, there seems to be a lack in information concerning its distribution in Western Africa. The same what happened in March 2019 in Ghana happened in the littoral province of southern Cameroon 2 years ago. On a way back from a successful hike on Mount Cameroon, we were lucky to observe this Western Palearctic visitor near the Continue reading Common Whitethroat at Brenu Beach Grasslands near Cape Coast

American Golden Plover near Tarifa at the Playa de los Lances

WanderregenpfeiferAs the morning dawns on an early October day at the Playa de los Lances, west of Tarifa at the southern tip of Spain, only two fighting sanderlings (Calidris alba) con be observed and photographed. Apart from that, there are Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and at least one or two Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) in the estuaries of the periodic water courses to take pictures. In addition there are some Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) and one European Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria). Wait a moment!?

A Golden Plover here at the tidal seam? This is a very unusual habitat! The golden plover, I have to be suspicious and necessarily see if this was not an American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica), possibly even from 29.9 from an Ian Ford and then again from 3.-4.10 as a juvenile copy at Playa de los Lances, Tarifa was seen by David Cuenca Espinosa. And indeed, the exact image analysis actually results in a juvenile American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica), which runs along the beach in the first sun. Good to see the large hand primary projection and the protruding feathers over Continue reading American Golden Plover near Tarifa at the Playa de los Lances

Save landing for Black-tailed Godwit Christiansieneson

UferschnepfeA satellite transmitter packed on a juvenile Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) called “Christiansieneson” recorded a save landing the Inner Niger Delta in Mali. The Black-tailed Godwit has made the more than 4,100 kilometers from the wetlands of the Duemmer (south of Bremen in northern Germany) down to the African wintering area in record time and virtually in one go. This was the result of the evaluation of a satellite transmitter, which the young bird had received as one of 25 Black-tailed Godwits in the LIFE project ” Wiesenvoegel “, which means Meadow birds. The project is managed by the Niedersächsische Landesbetrieb für Wasserwirtschaft, Küsten- und Naturschutz (NLWKN). Since 2018, 25 Black-tailed Godwits had been equipped with satellite transmitters. These satellite transmitters are extremely light at five grams and are worn like a backpack.

Unlike most of his conspecifics, “Christiansieneson” flew the route without long stops and did not take the “classical” route of other tracked birds. On July 15, the juvenile was located at lunchtime in the breeding area, on July 16, the Godwit already flew over Algeria. Just under 55 hours after leaving Duemmer, the bird finally reached the Inner Niger Delta in Mali. “Christiansieneson” flew on average 74 kilometers per hour.

The evaluation of the birds equipped with satellite transmitter in 2019 in the EU bird sanctuary Duemmer shows that these migrate Continue reading Save landing for Black-tailed Godwit Christiansieneson

British Yellow Wagtail on Heligoland

Gelbkopf-SchafstelzeAlthough the distribution area of Motacilla flava flavissima is not far from Germany, records of this (sub-)species are quite rare. As to be expected, there are some records from the islands in the wadden sea (Amrum, Sylt-Ost, Norderney, Wangerooge, Neuwerk, Baltrum) or near the coast as e.g. Horumersiel  but the best location for a german twitcher is Heligoland for sure. Thus, we were alerted when we saw a record in Ornitho.de at the end of May 2019.

Something yellow flashes in the green grass. Could this be the Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava flavissima) reported this morning? On the circular route over the upper plateau of the tiny off-shore island Heligoland we actually pass a cow pasture. 6 Galloways  and a goat can be seen on a pasture fenced with electric wire. Here at the so-called Oberland of Heligoland the Yellow Wagtail of the subspecies flavissima was spotted this morning. That was at 10:15 am, much earlier than now at 4:00 pm. But the cattle meadow seems to be still worth a look. Not least because of a pale Continue reading British Yellow Wagtail on Heligoland

Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) in Germany

ZwergscharbeIn size between a Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) and a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and black as well. Pygmy Cormorants are increasingly a sighting in Germany.  Right now, a Pygmy Cormorant has been reported from Stotternheimer See near Erfurt. Several images show, as the Pygmy Cormorant swims, rest and starts from the water in front of reeds on this lake in Thuringia. Before, this species – maybe the same bird – was reported from the southern bay of Sulzer Lake which is also close to Erfurt. The bird was always good to see from the 3rd  to the 11th of December 2018. Pygmy Cormorants found in Thuringia fit very well into the picture of a more frequent occurrence of the bird species in Central Europe starting from the years 2000, as reports from the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, from the Bodensee and from Germany. Scientists suspect that this phenomenon can be explained by the large increase in the breeding population in the Hortobágy in Hungary. The species seems to occur increasingly in Germany in the second half of the year – especially in late autumn and winter.

Pygmy Cormorants are in fact small relatives of the European Continue reading Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) in Germany

Cape Teal on Malta

A common sighting in Southern African, the Cape Teal (Anas capensis) is a very rare vagrant to regions north of the Sahara. Thus, the observed (and photographed) Cape Teal at Is-Simar Nature Reserve, Malta, on 28 January was maybe the biggest twitcher-news of this last years January-week for the Western Palearctic. The bird was unhinged, very wary and not seen on subsequent dates.

The Cape Teal is found mostly in South Africa, where it is uncommon to locally abundant, being especially populous in the Western part of the RSA (Western Cape, North-West Province and Free State Province) The duck prefers to live in salty, brackish vleis, often with dense reeds, and is also very common in sewerage ponds. The teal feeds mainly on insects. But approx. 25% of its diet is dedicated to plant matter as well. After breeding, the chicks are immediately led by their mother to the water, as they know how to dive and swim by Continue reading Cape Teal on Malta

Cranes in the moor

KranichHumans have always been fascinated by the elegant birds. Their calls ring in the autumn the beginning of winter and announce its early end in early spring. a wintry tour led to the resting place of more than 100 birds in the Rambower Moor in Prignitz district in Brandenburg.

South-east of the picturesque village Rambow in western Brandenburg the view opens into a wide plain. Reeds and shallow waters can be seen from afar. In between are tall grey figures in the wintry sun. They are Common Cranes (Grus grus)  resting here in the middle of winter. They stand out wonderfully from the gold-yellow of the reeds behind them. The birds can already be seen at a great distance. In Rambower Moor, up to 1500 cranes will gather for a nightly rest in March. Of course, it is much less now. Maybe it is still too early in the day and too sunny. In good weathers Common Cranes spend more time on corn fields and come later to their resting place in the moor.

Actually, they should now be in their winter quarters in Spain and France. But winter does not seem so grim that it would be worth the Continue reading Cranes in the moor

Red-throated Pipit: Fall migration along Egypts Rea Sea

RotkehlpieperHotel garden lawns along the Red Sea coast can be remarkable birdy. The sun has just appeared on the horizon for 3 hours. Nevertheless, it is already really hot. Coming from breakfast in a hotel complex on the Egyptian Red Sea, we walk first our inspection round. Here we see again the two Ruffs (Calidris pugnax) and also the one Spur-winged Plover (Vanellus spinosus) in the middle of the hotel area on the same lawn as 5 days ago. When we then run back to the free grassy areas, I think to realize, that in contrast to spring bird quantity is high but diversity is rather low. Except for the Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava), we have not seen any other birds on the grass. Especially no Pipit. That is just thought, as we see two passerine birds patterned with broad-stripes. They are Red-throated Pipits (Anthus cervinus). One of the birds still has a still a red throat. Great, I’ll have to go and scan it again. When I come back, both Red-throated Pipits are practically still present in the same area. The Yellow wagtails are of course in the majority. As I approach, they all fly up. Then I hide behind a lush bush and crawl on all fours behind the bushes. Eventually they are not more than 8 meters ahead of me. In contrast to the Yellow wagtails the Red-throated Pipits seem not be so keen to stay in the shade. They give great images despite the steep sunlight. One of the Continue reading Red-throated Pipit: Fall migration along Egypts Rea Sea