Category Archives: Bird Trips (Pictures & Stories)

What could be seen, what to see, the landscape…

White-bellied Fish-Eagle in Yala NP

Weißbauch-SeeadlerIf you are an eagle fan and think that there are masses of White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) on the Volga or even think that Brandenburg is densely populated with this bird species, you really have to go to the Lunugamvehera National Park in the south of Sri Lanka. Such a density of large fish-eating eagles like here at the Weheragala Reservoir I have really never seen before. Well, the White-bellied Fish-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) is not as powerful as the White-tailed Eagle; the weight is also much lower (max. 4 kg against over 7 kg). However, the wingspan is almost as impressive with over 2 meters. The White-tailed Eagle is of course also a little larger. The most impressive thing about this early morning is the rather slow back and forth flight of individual White-bellied Sea-eagles against a green jungle background. Again and again a White-bellied Sea-eagle flies in and then disappears into an old giant tree right next tot he dam. Great flight pictures with a beautiful background.

One reason for perfect shooting is the excellent position on a 25 meter high dam, where the White-bellied Sea-eagle flies along at almost the same height like you are standing. On the other hand the high yield in images is due to the rather low demands on the focusing technique. The auto-focus on the Canon EOS 1 DX has enough time to focus on the flying target. The contrast range is so high that the bright bird is perfectly captured in front of the dark green background, although the depth of field of the Canon EF 600/4.0 L IS II USM is low. Scrap – otherwise high within flight photos (BiF) – is almost non-existent with this series. For quite again and again another immature White-bellied Continue reading White-bellied Fish-Eagle in Yala NP

Northern Gannets and other seabirds on Heligoland

BasstölpelA deafening screeching can be heard from afar. The colors shine in a unique soft pink on the horizon. The sun is obscured by light clouds. What a great light! We are standing on Lummenfelsen near the Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus). The conditions are beautiful. With a wonderfully diffuse light you could take pictures all day. We don’t just pay attention to these large white birds. But also the many Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) and the Common Murre (Uria aalge) buzzing in front of the steep face are fascinating. We can also take pictures of one or the other Razorbill (Alca torda).

When it starts to rain, we go back to the little hotel for a lunch break. A short lunch snack, then we walk back to the gannets. The wind develops into a solid storm with wind force 10 to 11. One or the other may then think about stopping; especially since you are standing directly on the edge of the cliff. But what sounds like a single imposition at first was really great. The Northern Gannets are in the air in front of us and the clouds are arranged in dark formations. Wisps of clouds fly by. In between, one or the other white feather wipes over the cliff. Photography is really fun. Only drawback: Since the wind comes west and thus directly from the Continue reading Northern Gannets and other seabirds on Heligoland

King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise sings his song up in Tari Gap

WimpelträgerThe male King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise (Pteridophora alberti) performs his courtship song from a high point of view, from the bushy crown of a giant tree. It is actually the perfect habitat for a King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise. The King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise impresses with two long feathers on the head, which he can be moved to courtship with big muscles. They are reminiscent of pennants with their eye-catching structure and are clearly visible from a distance. Mowing forward his two extra-long head feathers he smashes his monotonous song, like a Common Grasshopper-warbler (Locustella naevia) high in the rainforest. At first we can only see the bird between leaves on the edge of a row of trees. Then the male King-of-Saxony even lets himself down to fly on a bare tree and from there extensively to shake with his two long feathers on the head. Back and forth, back and forth, he moves his two long feathers.

From Ambua Lodge we started in the afternoon by bus to higher elevations, above the clouds. This is the region known as Tari Gap in literature. From the road we wanted to observe the King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise. We were not out of the gate yet, Continue reading King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise sings his song up in Tari Gap

Swimming and Birding in Amphoe Khlong Thom/ Thailand

DamadrosselSuddenly there is something beautifully bright orange in front of me in the bamboo thicket. It’s the Orange-headed Thrush (Zoothera citrina). What a beauty! I hadn’t expected that at bird all. The Orange-headed Thrush can be found in India, in the Himalayan region to southern China, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand and Indochina and on some islands in Southeast Asia. Dense forests and bamboo thickets are preferred. The Orange-headed Thrush has a stocky body, the back of the male is blue-gray (shown in the image of the blog), the female is brownish. The Orange-headed Thrushes are very shy birds that live in pairs mostly on the ground.

But the reason to come to Khao Pra Bang Khram Park is the opportunity to discover the very rare Gurney’s Pitta (Pitta gurneyi). Otherwise this Pitta occurs only in a few lowland rainforests in Myanmar and Thailand. Thus, the early morning of a birding trip was reserved to this rare Pitta species. As promised, Yotin, my guide, stand right in front of the open dining room of a small guesthouse, the Morakot Resort, at 6:30 am. With his pick-up, we will also be able to master difficult routes. Unfortunately we are not successful that morning with this rare pitta.

Then we drive to the actual park, the Khao Pra Bang Khram Park, to look for another type of Pitta. For most people, Gurney’s Pitta is the number one reason to visit KNC, and most people end up getting good sightings on one of the trails after internalizing the call of the Pitta. The equally beautiful Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana) is often seen Continue reading Swimming and Birding in Amphoe Khlong Thom/ Thailand

Marshall’s Iora in Sri Lanka

Marshall’s Iora (Aegithina nigrolutea) – recently called White-tailed Iora – is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent, where it prefers lowland thorn scrub and tree groves. It is closely related to the Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) and the two were previously considered conspecific. In Sri Lanka I had the opportunity to observe a male neaer the Weheragala Reservoir in the Yala National Park that only needs to be agitated slightly. Then the bird stands on the dry branches of a bare tree. After a short time it changes to a bush with lush green leaves. A little later, the bird decides again for the lower, more stable branches of the bare tree. After a while, the bird begins to take the rival male seriously. The wings are stretched and the beautiful white stripes come into their own. Then it comes down so far that I can photograph the male at eye level in a tree that looks like a black locust. From time to time the white-tailed iora sings. Finally, the male of the White-tailed Iora begins to search leaves and branches for food at a short distance; possibly as a skipping act. The whole performance has now lasted more than half an hour. Very remarkable. This is the only place far and wide to reliably see the Marshall’s Iora / White-tailed Iora in Sri Lanka, as my guide emphazises.

Marshall’s Iora is not a well-studied species, and it is suspected to be under pressure owing to destruction of its habitat, especially due to cutting down of scrub forests. Although it is treated in literature as Continue reading Marshall’s Iora in Sri Lanka

Magnificent Bird-of-paradise in the rainforest

FurchenparadiesvogelHeavy rains during the last night made the path through the steep slopes of the rainforest almost impassable. Again and again I sink up to my knees in the mud while I try to follow my guide, who is carrying my luggage and using his machete to help us through the thicket of lianas and branches. Suddenly we hear a short whistle: That must be the courtship call of a Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise (Cicinnurus magnificus). Although we can spot no bird, a courtship area can be clearly seen in front of us on the forest floor. My guide builds a provisional hiding place out of leaves and a few hours later we visit the place again. But since it starts to rain again, no bird can be seen. Over the next five days I keep trying my luck in the hide, but unfortunately it rains almost all the time. Only in the rain breaks does a male stop by and inspect the courtship area. After all, I am rarely lucky enough to see a Red-bellied Pitta (Pitta erythrogaster) which is now split taxonomically and called a Papuan Pitta (Erythropitta macklotii). This species is extremely shy and difficult to observe. The annual rainfall in this area of ​​New Guinea is 6,000 millimeters, so rain (mostly at night) is quite the order of the day. I set my trip in the dry season, but unfortunately, according to the locals, I apparently had hit a particularly wet dry season. After that unsuccessful experience, I changed location to the Central Highlands around Mt. Hagen in the middle of the island. Here I was accomodated in the rustic lodge, the Kumul Lodge, and my success level developed much better. Here I shot the image of the blog, the female Crested Bird-of-paradise.

When the first scientists from Europe saw New Guinea’s birds-of-paradise at the beginning of the 19th century, they were completely perplexed: “I was too amazed to shoot the bird,” wrote the French Continue reading Magnificent Bird-of-paradise in the rainforest

Gurney’s Pitta at Khao Pra Bang Khram Park in southern Thailand

GoldkehlpittaI wake up in the middle of the night to the heavy pounding of rain falling on the tin roof. It takes a good 1 hour before I can go back to sleep. Then I remember: the reason to come to Khao Pra Bang Khram Park (formerly Khao Nor Chu Chi) is the chance to discover the very rare Gurney’s Pitta (Pitta gurneyi).

“If you have seen Angola Pitta you can close your books” That was the statement of my experienced guide in Malawi in 2006. I saw the Angola Pitta (Pitta angolensis) and, to my shame, I have to admit that with this sighting the appetite for Pittas tends to increase not to diminish. There was no question of closing the books. So now the Gurney’s Pitta. Otherwise this bird occurs only in a few lowland rainforests in Myanmar and Thailand. After the dipping the previous day – we had to keep ourselves harmless with the Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana) – we took the second attempt this morning. So the early morning was reserved for this rare Pitta species.

I am at breakfast before 6:00 am. For breakfast, I really hit it again. No experiments. There are pancakes and fried eggs. Strong coffee adds to a real breakfast. As promised and like yesterday morning, Yotin, my guide, is standing in front of the open dining room of my small guesthouse, the Morakot Resort, at exactly 6.30 am. With his pick-up, a heavy 4X4 truck. It really seems to clear up now. The thick rain clouds of the night are still there. But there could be a nice day once the clouds have cleared. First, Yotin shows me the blooming tree with the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma) Continue reading Gurney’s Pitta at Khao Pra Bang Khram Park in southern Thailand

Anhingas in Florida

SchlangenhalsvogelThe ditch along the visitor’s trail is teeming with fish. Suddenly a sharp, dart-like beak emerges out of the water right in front of us. It is followed by a long piece of neck. Like a snake, Anhingas – the snakebird – (Anhinga anhinga) glides silently through the water. Its water-permeable plumage reduces the buoyancy that occurs during diving and suppresses any rippling. For a while we see the slender bird body still sliding underneath us through the fairly clear water. Now it’s time to take care. Far more spectacular than Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) they fish under water. Anhingas use their pointed beak like a harpoon. The long neck, which is bent back in an S-shape before being impacted works like a taut feather and allows lightning-fast fishing under water. The Anhinga Trail in Florida’s Everglades offers ideal conditions to observe these black fish hunters. They harpoon the fish by piercing it with their closed beak. Then they look for a gnarled branch on the shore. Now the photographer has to react quickly. A special behavior follows a most interesting ritual. Anhingas try to free themselves from the pierced fish, in order to finally be able to swallow it. It often throws the prey into the air with impetus before catching him and finally devouring him. A little later, one can expect the Anhinga to spread its wings and let it dry itself from the sun.

With every drop of water that the sun draws from the wet plumage, the bird becomes more beautiful, especially if it is a male. If one then discovers one in the breeding dress, you can only hope that it sits as close as possible to the trail. Then it is possible to capture the bright Continue reading Anhingas in Florida

Spectacled Duck in Tierra del Fuego / Patagonia

Spectacled DuckI slept poorly in the cold. When the alarm clock rings I am still very sleepy. But the prospect of an extraordinary rafting experience makes me get up. By the time I have done everything, dawn has already begun. First I have to make myself really cold-proof. Fleece underwear, fleece shirt, a shirt, the blue navy sweater and the ski undersuit. In combination with the neoprene waders it may look a little over the top, but in retrospect I notice that it might be too warm around the top, but it could be a bit warmer on the feet. In the early morning light I climb the raft with the tripod set up and the camouflage tent stretched over it. I climb into the water of the Rio Paine, which is densely covered at the edges with surface vegetation – like our duckweed. The Spectacled Duck (Speculanas specularis) feels particularly comfortable here. At first I notice that the ducks are not so keen to be photographed in close-up with the Nikkor AF 4.0 / 600. Nevertheless, a few atmospheric photos succeed. The raft as a construction is really great, you can even sit down on the “beams” (made of aluminum sheets) to relax.

Yesterday evening I had passed Lago Pehoe with the expensive campsite and the even more expensive Hotel Explora. Finally I come to the information center at the mouth of the Rio Paine in the Lago del Toro. There are at least 3 buses in front of the center and 10 alternative hikers. But I get good tips inside from the Guardaparques where I can see something. The Austral Rail (Rallus antarcticus) is said to occur here as well. The statement about the Continue reading Spectacled Duck in Tierra del Fuego / Patagonia

Birding in the Marañon valley

TaczanowskikolibriThe Spot-throated Hummingbird (Leucippus taczanowski) is one of the (almost) endemic birds in the Marañon valley and one of the top finds for an excursion in this remote  northeastern part of Peru. The of the Hummingbird´s underparts are cream or very light gray and there are small glittering spots on the chest and throat. The Spot-throated Hummingbird looks similar to the Tumbes Hummingbird (Leucippus baeri), but this species is limited to the lower elevations on the Pacific slope in the extreme northwest of Peru. These two species generally replace each other and are not syntopic. The Tumbes Hummingbird is smaller than the Spot-throated Hummingbird and has a simple (unspotted) throat. If you want to see a Spot-throated Hummingbird singing in the wild, you have to prepare for a trip to the Marañon valley.

Coming the way from the small town of Chamaya in the wider area of ​​the Maranon Valley, I went for Bagua Grande along the Rio Utcubamba – a tributary of the Río Marañon. I am supposed to go to Pedro Ruiz through a very impressive cactus area. At a natural site of vegetation along the river I was lucky with the sighting of the Spot-throated Hummingbird.

There are two recommended starting points for exploring the bird watching areas in the Marañon Valley. The one is from the north, from Jaen and the other from Celendín in the south. Celendín is only 105 km from the capital of the province of the same name, Cajamarca. The trip from Cajamarca to Celendín can be completed Continue reading Birding in the Marañon valley

Extremadura, a paradise for birders

WiesenweiheThe steppes and extensive dehesas of Caceres and Trujillo are famous for their steppe bird life. Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax), Great Bustard (Otis tarda), Eurasian Thick-knee (Burhinus oedicnemus), Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata), Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis), Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana) and Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) share the fruits of the holm oak with the black Iberian domestic pigs. Many birds that have rarely or completely disappeared in the rest of Europe can still be observed very well in this almost deserted area.

The Extremadura in southwestern Spain has always been a magical attraction for nature lovers. Nowhere else in Europe you can find a higher biodiversity of plants and especially birds. A particularly large number of birds of prey circle in the thermals above the mountain ranges and plains, which are covered with evergreen oak and cork oaks and are particularly reminiscent of the African savannah in summer. Over 80,000 Common Crane (Grus grus) spend the winter Continue reading Extremadura, a paradise for birders

Photographing birds on the Shetland island Foula

SchmarotzerraubmoeweA barely inhabited island, rugged cliffs, changing light moods and unusual species of animals: this is how the Shetland island of Foula presents itself. A terrain made for nature photographers. As long as the wind does not blow the equipment or the showers from the sea put everything under water.

When I visited the Shetland island of Foula in June, this was mainly with the aim of taking photos of the Great Skua (Stercorarius skua). On Foula you will find the world’s largest breeding colony of this species. The Skua is the highwayman of the island. She is also a true flying artist. Nobody – except perhaps the Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus), which is found mainly in the south of the island – can take it with her in terms of agility and aggressiveness. It is impressive to see how Skuas keep track of Parasitic Jaegers again and again on its heels. It is amazing to which turning maneuvers both Jaegers are capable. A special feature of the Skua is the attacking of birds, heavily laden with food. Many seabirds return from the sea to their offspring. The victim is pursued by Parasitic Jaeger and Skuas as well and attacked until it vomits the prey. Still in free fall, the vomited prey is seized by the Skua in an artistic dive and brought to its own offspring to the nest.

I was deeply impressed not only by the almost unlimited possibilities to document the interesting behavior of the Great Skuas, but also by the other possibilities for taking pictures. Scenic Foula has a lot to offer. Da Kame is the second highest sea cliff in the UK at about 400 meters. In order to take the many seabirds, plants and the landscape into the viewfinder, I returned to the island at the end of July again. Continue reading Photographing birds on the Shetland island Foula