Category Archives: Birds of Western Palaearctic

Common Cranes over Brandenburg

KranichMigration of the Common Crane (Grus grus) has started. Thousands of these birds, also known as “birds of luck”, can currently be observed in Brandenburg on their way to the southern wintering sites under distinctive and loud trumpet calls. The unforgettable nature experience is offered in September and October every year. With their legendary trumpet calls, thousands of Common Cranes fly in the blue sky, circling in the thermal, fly to their resting sites in Brandenburg. All of this is done to prepare for the long onward flight tot he south. During the day, the birds can mainly be observed on the feeding areas on harvested corn fields. But the evening flight to the rest areas is particularly impressive.

The loud trumpet calls make the heads of visitors and residents of Brandenburg go up by themselves. The Common Crane breeds in good numbers in Brandenburg. But so far not in western Germany. The Common Crane is a pure migrant there. Now the migration has started via Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse towards their wintering quarters in southern France and Spain.

These fascinating birds can be observed very nicely in the post-mining landscape of the Luckau region. The Cranes are increasingly Continue reading Common Cranes over Brandenburg

Young female Goshawk attacked by Kestrel in the Eifel

While observing the bird migration on the Bürvenicher Berg at the edge of the Eifel, I could see a young Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) flying elegantly low over a field. Striking were the size and the flight pattern on top, which was determined by a brown color and the rather broad, curved wings at the rear edge. A powerful bird that then perched in a dry elderberry tip. Immediately a male of a pair of Eurasian Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus), which had been sitting on its perch significantly further down the slope, started calling. The young female hawk was not impressed by this. Thereupon the young Goshawk was vehemently attacked first by the male, then also by the female Eurasian Kestrel. Above all, the male of the Kestrel rose regularly in the morning sky, then hit the edge of the forest with the elderberry with flung wings, caught himself in the fall less than 3 meters above the Goshawk and circled around and in close contact the bare branches of the bush. The young female Goshawk did recognize that it was the subject of the attacks, regularly turned her head in the direction of the attacker, then sometimes up in the sky. All in all, however, she remained extremely unimpressed and did not let her morning perch scare her away.

The female of the Kestrel could also be heard quite loudly, but did not step into such a vehement attack and stayed largely away from the flight action. In an unobserved moment the female Goshawk Continue reading Young female Goshawk attacked by Kestrel in the Eifel

Woodpeckers and their breeding cavities

SchwarzspechtSpring is marked by striking drums that reverberate loudly through the forest. In addition to their drumming, the calls, which can be heard especially in spring and autumn and allow the species to be distinguished from afar, are noticeable. Like no other bird family, the woodpeckers in Central Europe represent the forest habitat.

It is the same when, in early spring, powerful hammer blows sound far through the morning forest. All that is missing are the occasional, far-reaching calls to confirm the assumption. The Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) marks its territory.

In his “Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas”, Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim describes in detail the preferences of Black Woodpeckers with regard to their breeding trees. The black woodpecker is quite picky about cave trees. For the creation of breeding and sleeping caves, the Black Woodpecker primarily prefers old beeches. This predilection usually makes the Black Woodpecker a typical inhabitant of deciduous forests in Central Europe.

Almost all woodpeckers build caves and thus open up resting, breeding and food sources for a variety of animal species. They are therefore of particular importance for the forest ecosystem. Numerous fascinating adaptations to the tree as shelter and food source characterize this group of birds, as well as their high cognitive abilities. The self-made caves, specially set up forges as a simple form of tool use, ring marks on trees, and the almost omnipresent chopping marks bear witness to the presence of woodpeckers in our forests. Bird-lens.com has written about woodpeckers in their breeding burrows for some species. So for the Black Woodpecker breeding in poplar tree, Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius) or the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in orchards.

Each species has its own preferences. Smaller woodpeckers often use dead trees that are already quite rotten to build their caves. The Continue reading Woodpeckers and their breeding cavities

Wood Ducks on small pond in Brandenburg

BrautenteOn the reedy pond of a pumping station in southern Brandenburg, mist clouds rise above the water in the early autumn morning. A quick visit shows a surprise. It is a pair of Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) sitting on the rusty railing of a staircase. The male is in full breeding plumage. This was the first record of a pair for the Nuthe-Nieplitz-Niederung for me.

The primary breeding habitats of Wood Ducks are wooded sections of slow-flowing rivers and their oxbow lakes, as well as marshy lowlands interspersed with old trees. During the ice-free months, the Wood Ducks living in Europe mostly inhabit water bodies in urban settlement areas, especially tree-lined park ponds and/or those with half-tame water fowl.

The Wood Duck has been kept in German zoos and private facilities since the middle of the 19th century and is often bred in captivity. Observation reports show a focus in urban settlement areas or even in the middle of big cities. The focus seems to be more in the west of Germany. There were targeted settlements more than 100 years ago, in e.g. the Berlin Zoo. The pairs multiplied initially, but went out with the ceasing of additional feeding. Because of numerous breeding in captivity and mostly good reproduction rates, there are regularly field observations of individuals. The Wood Duck, however, is (still?) a non-established neozoon. One of the causes is said to be the high predation of the raccoon, which is actually quite common in the area.

With little or no inclination of local birds to migrate, it can be assumed that the same individuals stay in the territory throughout Continue reading Wood Ducks on small pond in Brandenburg

The Big Year & the Pink-footed Goose

If you have seen the movie “The Big Year” from 2011, you probably remember the search for the Pink-footed Goose which Jack Black pursued together with Owen Wilson and Steve Martin as keen birders. The Big Year is a story about three singularly obsessed men who compete to see who will be the “best birder in the world” by spotting the most species in a year. To win a “big year,” as the endeavor is called, a participant should expect to identify more than 700 species. Consequently the Pink-footed Goose ist a Must! Jack Black misses the bird in High Island, Texas and then again in Boston; before he finally saw Pink-footed Goose bathing on a mountain top in Colorado on a warm spring day in December. The scriptwriter probably – in my opinion – used in the movie the Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) because of its “funny” name. Difficult for European goose watchers to assess, but sightings of the Pink-footed Geese in Texas and Colorado are rather unlikely.

The Pink-footed Goose nests in Iceland, Spitsbergen and Greenland and can be seen in the UK and the Netherlands in winter. Otherwise one is dependent on chance observations also in Central Europe. Continue reading The Big Year & the Pink-footed Goose

Dancing in the Rain: a Coot

There are only remnants of the former alluvial forest belt along the Rhine between Bonn and Düsseldorf. Thick clouds stand over the Rhine near Cologne-Porz. A humid temperature, as it is not unusual for the Cologne Bay in summer. Reluctantly at first: drizzle. Then a rain shower pelts the relics of an alluvial forest in Porz-Zündorf, south of Cologne. A family of Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) were already noticed, among the other water birds like Llittle Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) and above all Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The adult Eurasian Coot raised at least 3 young already. The young look well-fed, but are still a bit whimpering and continue to beg their parents. The most independent young ventures further out into the lake area. It climbs on a floating piece of wood and from there tries to take in food from the surface of the water. When the rain falls, it looks irritated at first. When the rain increases in intensity and thick raindrops make the water “boil”, it can no longer contain itself. It stands up, taps up with its disproportionately large webbed feet and then even lifts its wings and flaps them up and down again and again. An enthusiastic dance for the rain!

There are only remnants of the former alluvial forest belt along the Rhine between Bonn and Düsseldorf. Above all, the old arms are only present in meager remnants. The former arm of the Rhine – the Groov – forms an extensive Rhine meadow landscape, characterized by trees, some of which are centuries old. Originally the Groov was Continue reading Dancing in the Rain: a Coot

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.

A memory of a Pterosaur

An image that could have come from a book about pterosaurs due to the monochrome background of a late afternoon sky. A larger winged animal is being chased by a tern against a pinkish-gray sky. The body posture or the cutout from a body turn seems almost artistic and unusual. Although, the background of the photo is just trivial. A Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) had flown over a mixed colony of Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) and Common Terns (Sterna hirundo). As a large bird, the Gray Heron was immediately identified by the Common Tern as a potential breeding predator and approached. Since the Gray Heron flew steadfastly towards the breeding rafts of the gull colony and eventually crossed them, the attacks were intensified, mainly by the Common Terns. The aggressive attacks of the Common Terns were impressive, as they were on skin-better feather contact with the Gray Heron. When trying to escape the predicament, it was amazing to see what contortions a flying Gray Heron is capable of. How much the Gray Heron was afraid of the situation could also be seen from the high-pitched croaking calls that the Heron made loudly.

Of course, the comparison between the dislocating Gray Heron and a pterosaur is based on the fragments of science published with which we are familiar. Much of the way of life and flight abilities of the Pterosaurs are still completely unknown. It is generally assumed that especially the small species could actively fly very well. Until now, it was assumed that the large Pterosaurs – which also brought Continue reading A memory of a Pterosaur

Pied Wheatear only 150 km south of Berlin

According to ornitho.de a Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) can now be seen far north of its regular distribution/ breeding area. This male individual, now molting into new plumage, can currently be seen on the Alte Elbe near Kathewitz; approx. 10 km as the crow flies from Torgau in northern Saxonia.

When I came to the place already visited and described by many ornithologists in the early morning, I first found: nothing. A truck came and unloaded a few pallets with paving stones for the new road behind the dike. That may have caused a certain restlessness and background noise, which the Wheatear might not like. I spent almost 1 hour on the spot without even seeing the Pied Wheatear.

I checked several times all the spots that came to my mind along the dike section. They should be characterized by maximally sparse vegetation and an accumulation of stones or split. In the meantime, I had already seen a, a successfully hunting Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo) with some Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) harassing on him, a Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) on a plum tree along the access track and 2 Little Terns (Sternula albifrons) with captured fish in their bills .

Finally, I could see a striking white-headed, pied bird on a pallet of paving stones. Yes, this was the Pied Wheatear!  However, the bird was quite shy and disappeard already to a distance. When it Continue reading Pied Wheatear only 150 km south of Berlin

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

Prey and spectrum of food of European Bee-eater

BienenfresserThe name already reveals part of the food spectrum of the magnificent birds. Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) lead a short, eventful life in Germany. The colorful birds only arrive in our latitudes in the second half of May. Bee-eaters feed exclusively on insects, specializing in the hunting of large and medium-sized flying insects. Bees, bumblebees, beetles, wasps, dragonflies and butterflies are among their main prey. In order to hunt them efficiently, the Bee-eater needs a “perch”, an elevated twig, from which it can start hunting. Birds’ habitats therefore always include old trees with bare branches or tall shrubs. In order to avoid stings from its defensive prey, the Bee-eater subjects its victims to a truly murderous treatment. Before devouring them, he kills non-toxic insects by knocking them on a branch several times. Or he occasionally throws them in the air and catches them again. European Bee-eaters always grab “poison-biting” insects on the abdomen and hits them once or twice on a branch before rubbing the end of their abdomen on a branch. This is how the poison is drawn  out of bees or wasps and is removed thereafter. After a few more hits on the head, the insect is finally ready to eat. Who likes to risk a stab in the esophagus?

Because of its food spectrum, the bee-eater relies on a warm climate. Over the centuries European Bee-eaters has continued to expand its distribution area to the north. But it is an eventful story of expansion and withdrawal. The Bee-eater is currently on the rise Continue reading Prey and spectrum of food of European Bee-eater

Ospreys attack White-tailed Eagle at the nest

FischadlerTheir nests are never far from water. The bulky structures are often high on a pylon for the power supply. Sometimes the nests are scattered over the landscape, sometimes they are not far from a road or a village. A nest of the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) not far from a parallel main road made me linger early one morning. The early summer day was still very fresh. It was pleasantly cool. The air was filled with singing birds. The roaring calls of the Common Cranes (Grus grus) could be heard as well as the melodious song of the Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus).

When dawn allowed for the first light, male and female of the Osprey initially sat on the nest. Then a partner flew to a power pole about 100 meters away. Suddenly the Osprey sitting on the nest went up, then his partner. With high shouts they flew purposefully towards a wood. The reason was quickly recognized. A White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) had made its way to the lake along the edge of the wood. The proximity to the nest was not tolerated. The White-tailed Eagle was repeatedly attacked by the Ospreys. The alternating attacks were obviously considered by the White-tailed Eagle to be so uncomfortable or even threatening that it threw itself on its back a few times in the air and stretched its catch towards the Osprey. At some point the White-tailed Eagle had disappeared Continue reading Ospreys attack White-tailed Eagle at the nest