Category Archives: Rare Bird sightings

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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

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

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.

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

Huet-huet: observation in Patagonia

Patagonia is a country of contrasts. Patagonia, the storm-swept south end of the South American continent, does not only captivate nature photographers. The further south you go and the narrower the continent, the wider and more endless the landscape seems to become. Suddenly, rugged mountains protrude from the plain like fangs. Scraps of cloud hunt across the sky.

The way from El Chalten to Lago Desierto is pure Patagonia. When you arrive at Lake Desierto, an impressive panorama opens up. We do not hesitate to take a long walk. It goes along the north bank section of Lake Desierto. The path along the lake is little more than a path along the water. To do this we have to cross a very adventurous suspension bridge. The path passes hill and dale. But at some point I almost go crazy. Wow, that’s a Black-throated Huet-huet (Pteroptochos tarnii) also just called Huet-huet for short. It just stands in front of us and then runs a few meters without any fear. Stays and scratches with his feet in the loose forest earth. I can’t keep up with my camera, which I finished in no time. The Nikon 2.8/ 300 lens with the Metz Blitz MZ-1i may not be the right choice. Again and again I have to go to the Huet-huet and chase it back away because the close-up limit has been undershot. The bird doesn’t take it from me. There must be a particularly productive spot on the forest floor. The Black-throated Huet-huet keeps coming back to the Continue reading Huet-huet: observation in Patagonia

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

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?

Firecrest, Regulus ignicapilla, in coniferous forest

SommergoldhähnchenConiferous forest and a high-pitched ziziziziit, practically always at the same frequency. You cannot go wrong in the combination. The song is the best field mark for the Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla).

If you made the Firecrest approach you closer, for example by imitated the “song”, you quickly see a bright orange red crest, which is set up in excitement. Both sexes have a black eye-streak and on the sides of the neck in front of the wing-bow each a large olive-yellow spot.

The Firecrest is like the winter Goldcrest a lightweight. Regularly it is to be found near high conifers. Here also likes to another even smaller bird on – the Goldcrest (Regulus regulus). The Goldcrest is only about nine inches big bird. It is the smallest bird in Europe. He is very vocal and his reputation fine and very high. The Goldcrest happily stays in treetops and hops and jumps restlessly between the spruce branches. In contrast to the Goldcrest that looks almost identical, the Firecrest has a wide white stripe over the eye.

Firecrests pick and pick their food more superficially from twigs. Sometimes branches and leaves are visited in a buzzing flight. Firecrests need to eat about their own body weight during one day. That’s why you can see them constantly foraging. In contrast to the more resilient twins, the summer gold chicken leaves the winter Continue reading Firecrest, Regulus ignicapilla, in coniferous forest

Pintail Snipe: ID for a WP vagrant

SpießbekassineThe genus Gallinago provides observers with difficulties in field identification, chiefly because of the rather similar general plumage patterns of snipes and their concealed lifestyle. Most views are of flushed birds flying away from the observer. Difficulties generally arise between large-looking Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) and Great Snipe (Gallinago media) but emphasis on these two species should not preclude the possibility of other Palearctic snipes, especially the Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura), occurring as vagrants in western Europe. The inclusion of the Pintail Snipe in a popular European field guide has attracted the attention of observers to the species, but the brief description given there is of little use in the field. The small Jacksnipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) should not be discussed here, as it looks different due to the short beak and acts significantly different and also differs greatly when flushed from a Gallinago snipe.

The Pintail Snipe breeds widely across Siberia, from the western foothills of the Urals east to Anadyrland. Field identification on the ground is not easy as the distinctions between the Snipe and the Pintail Snipe on the ground are not so obvious as in flight. If the two species are seen together, however, the Pintail Snipe can be picked out by the buff stripes along the Continue reading Pintail Snipe: ID for a WP vagrant

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

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