Category Archives: Bird Trips (Pictures & Stories)

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

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

Beautiful Sunbird on a flower in Ghana

ElfennektarvogelA male Beautiful Sunbird (Cinnyris pulchellus) balances busily and without misstep on a bare stem of a Aloe, which lead to some, small yellowish flowers with red borders. There, the photographer has a chance to shoot the bird, which is aptly called its English name. The male of the Beautiful Sunbird places the rather long, slightly bent black beak against the calyx of the flower and sucks the nectar for a short while. Then the Beautiful Sunbird is already on the way to the next flowering.

I had become attentive to the Beautiful Sunbird when I decided to explore the motel area in the Mole National Park in northern Ghana. Along the simple bungalows I ran to the end and discovered a very bird-rich place. A sewage pipe appeared in the middle of dense scrub with many trails to the surface and had created a small pool. You do not want to know which corners of the motel are drained this sewage pipe. Already from a distance, the smells were anything but attractive. But the combination of water and scrub attracted the birds magically. The scrub provided reasonably well protected Continue reading Beautiful Sunbird on a flower in Ghana

White-vented Violetear in display

Right out of the car, a loud singing bird can be heard with a rhythmic sound. A beautiful morning in early August on the north side of Das Emas National Park in the state of Goiás in Brazil has started. The sound is generated by a hummingbird. It is the White-vented Violetear (Colibri serrirostris). This beautiful, shining blue-green hummingbird is obviously in a high display mood. The birds flutters excitedly with his wings and raises the wing again and again in the courting display. When my guide mimics the calls, it responds very strongly to the voice recordings. The White-vented Violetear comes up to 5 m to us. Regulary it places themselves parallel to a branch. Sometimes the White-vented Violetear relax the wings, but only seconds later it switches position to provoke the “competitor” up-front.

White-vented Violetear of the Trochilidae family are medium-sized hummingbirds found in the grasslands, savanna and ravines surrounded by shrubs. They are most common in highland areas between 1,000 and 1,500 meters asl, but are Continue reading White-vented Violetear in display

White-browed Fantail flying over a fountain

Weißstirn-FächerschwanzThe White-browed Fantail (Rhipidura aureola) is aiming for its future “bathtub” in low flight. A little later, the drops will splash for several meters. The White-browed Fantail had already bathed extensively in the shallow fountain a few minutes before. The feathers are soaked with water. The White-browed Fantail is obviously not afraid of water. Proper cooling is also important in the south of Sri Lanka. Birds should also try to keep a cool head and, on the occasion, get-riff of roommates living on their feathers. First the White-browed Fantail comes on the ceramic rim, secures and sips from the water in the bowl. The cool water feels good. Then the bird stands in the middle of the flat pool area. The water goes up to the belly of the standing bird. Then it’s time to plunge ist head, fling the water in a rotary motion and wait until the water drops come down again. Then fly up again with your wet feathers on ist stomach and spread the water drops in the area. Done!

For birds, cleaning and maintaining the plumage is an important hygiene measure and necessary preventive health care. The white-browed fantail, for example, uses extensive water and dust baths to rid its more than 1000 feathers of parasites such as ticks, mites and fleas. He whirls the water around. With a little luck, you might even Continue reading White-browed Fantail flying over a fountain

Forbes’s Plover in Mole National Park

ForbesregenpfeiferIt is incredibly hot. If you would leave the air-conditioned bus, you will be attacked by extremely annoying bees. But: we are looking for the Forbes’s Plover (Charadrius forbesi).

The Forbes’s Plover has to be found now. We drive to a flat area in the middle of the dry savannah of northern Ghana, which is probably flooded during the rainy season. As the guide explains, these places are not overgrown in the dry season. We are lucky. Just when we appear in the area we recognize a Forbes’s Plover. The excitement is great.

Two black breastbands and a red eyering are the key features of the Forbes’s Plover. On first sight it only slightly resembles a Three -banded Plover or Three-banded Sandplover (Charadrius tricollaris). The habit is definitely different. Additionally the Forbes’s Plover is larger, with darker upperparts; darker, browner head and a dark brown bill with red at base of lower mandible.

Our guides mention that we should take pictures from the bus. The Plovers would otherwise disappear. So everyone gets up and tears open the windows or pull them aside with force. With some it remains with the attempt. Since the windows overlap, an open window for one is a double-closed window for the other. So, after a while, all travelers have to see that they can shoot their photos from just a few windows. The Forbes’s Plovers, however, prove to be quite frugal. We see at least 4 specimens, although it is not clear whether they are pairs or individuals defending their territories. As sexes are alike, you do not see the gender. In any case, it is interesting that we had already visited the area the day before, and Continue reading Forbes’s Plover in Mole National Park

Oriental Skylark versus Eurasian Skylark

Kleine FeldlercheThe Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula) is basically an “eastern” species.  Nonetheless, the species is a local migrant and winter visitor in Israel. The best places to observe them are the are alfalfa and lucerne fields in the valleys. During migration periods, these larks are regularly seen along the Mediterranean coast. The Lesser Skylark is often seen in small groups of about 3-5 birds, but sometimes in larger concentrations in winter. It is therefore quite possible that the Oriental Skylark will be encountered at some point in Western Europe. Therefore it is good to have the most important characteristics for species identification ready – especially in differentiation to the Eurasian Skylark.

Many observers familiar with the Lesser Skylark explain how strikingly different the structure of the Lesser Skylark is from its close relative, the Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis). Of course, the species is most likely to be confused with the Eurasian Skylark, especially with the smaller subspecies. However, when visibility is good, the attentive observer should not perceive the separation of the species as a serious problem.

A trip to Sri Lanka gave the chance to observe and photograph several individuials of the nominate subspecies gulgula in Bundala Nationalpark in southern Sri Lanka. Alauda gulgula gulgula is spread as a breeding bird over almost the whole India subcontinent, from Continue reading Oriental Skylark versus Eurasian Skylark

Neotropic Cormorants along the Transpantaneira/ Brazil

BrasilscharbeA few kilometers the Transpantaneira officially begins, a bridge give views to a very open countryside. There is busy fighting in the low water beside the bridge. It is fascinating to observe the fish-catching Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus). A feast for the eyes are the Cormorants, who playfully fetch the fish out of the water, hold them with their beak tips, do throw fish at 20m before my eyes and devour them. Again and again one appears, sometimes it has even impaled a fish with his lower beak. The fish are not big; it could be a small catfish species. Nevertheless, the Neotropic Cormorants obviously take an extensive play with the prey. It seems that a mutual fish hunt is also carried out in the group, with several individuals swimming in a row on the water. This is all associated with a lot of excitement in the group and mutual assertiveness gives nice action packed pictures.

The Neotropic Cormorants inhabits the Americas from the southern USA to Tierra del Fuego. The species is quite easy to determine. Features indicative of an Neotropic Cormorant are a pointed rear surface of the featherless skin connecting the lower jaw of the beak with the bird’s neck, a long, wedge-shaped tail and a rather small beak with little pronounced thickening at the top. Like all cormorants, the Neotropic Cormorants prefers to prey trailing fish under water and then catching it. The hunt is often done in groups, Continue reading Neotropic Cormorants along the Transpantaneira/ Brazil