Category Archives: Rare Bird sightings

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White-tailed Eagles on an icy coot hunt

The night was cold, so that a layer of ice had formed on the vast lake. Already 70 percent of the lake area was frozen over. The ice layer was strong enough to carry the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). After a few days of snowing, it didn’t get any drier, but it was significantly colder. Temperatures below -5 ° C were possible. A few days later I went on to Lake Blankensee from an excursion to Potsdam.

A morning excursion to the Blankensee not only gave the birder a wonderful water landscape on an impressive winter morning with minus temperatures and fog, but also a remarkable bird-watching of a sea eagle on its icy coot hunt. Obviously the White-tailed Eagle had just captured a Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) that have run carelessly on the ice. The Eagle immediately tried to leave the ice surface with the coot it had captured, but was attacked by a conspecific as well as some Hooded Crows (Corvus cornix) because of the prey. The struggle dragged on for a while. When the successful White-tailed Eagle had just scared away the Hooded Crows, another hungry White-tailed Eagle came flying in.

The well-developed reed areas of the Blankensee southwest of Berlin are a very good photo area and, among other things, known for the Bearded Tits or Bearded Reedlings (Panurus biarmicus) found in the reeds. A boardwalk affords a very nice view of the lake from the east. The boardwalk can be reached either from the parking lot at the exit of Blankensee in the direction of Schönhagen or from the parking lot in the middle of Blankensee (near Blankensee Castle) on a short walk. It is the only way to observe birds up close on the Blankensee, as the lake is otherwise completely surrounded by wide siltation zones with reed beds and alder break.

Adult female eagles can weigh up to 7 kg, while males remain significantly below that, but still weigh up to 5 kg. So it is no wonder that the imposing birds have a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters. White-tailed Eagles also feed on fish. But also (larger) waterfowl up to the Continue reading White-tailed Eagles on an icy coot hunt

Vagrant Hume’s Warbler in Brandenburg

The decision to try the ornithologist’s luck despite the distance of 75 km was made quickly. A Hume’s Warbler (Phylloscopus humei) was reported on ornitho.de from the northern Spreewald. Oh, sure just a short sighting – and the bird is gone, I was thinking first. But the next day, the Hume’s Warbler was still hanging around the small village of Dannenreich, in the Spreewald. The attentive and happy first observer, Bodo Sonnenburg, was able to locate the Leaf Warbler on the first day between 08:50 a.m. and 09:05 a.m. by ist calls several times. Although the bird was approx. Only 10 to 15 meters away, it was difficult to see the bird in the willow bushes  and reeds on the opposite side of the Skabyer Torfgraben, which is a peat ditch.

Around 7:30 am – the sun was sending the first tentative rays from the east – I was standing at the point that had been identified as Brandenburg’s hotspot for the last two days. The Skabyer Torfgraben is approached from the village of Dannenreich via a dirt road. On the other, the southern side, there is a swamp that makes any access impossible. The Hume’s Warbler had been seen calling several times in the afternoon of the previous day in a Willow tree (Salix sp.) with a few broken branches. It was cold, the thermometer showed 1 ° C. A wonderful morning without wind and without clouds. Alone, the bird could not be seen. A Eurasian Robin (Erithacus rubecula) jumped calling through a dense willow bush, some Eastern Eurasian Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) were unmistakable in the alder crowns above me. But the Hume’s Warbler stayed hidden for the first 45 minutes. Then the message came on ornitho.de that the Hume’s Warbler had been seen again. Ok, so my position was the wrong one. A little later I found a group of ornithologists standing just 50 meters away on the Skaby peat ditch.

We only waited a short time together. Then, attracted by a characteristic call, not unlike that of a White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), a small, grayish looking bird – clearly a small warbler – could be seen in the backlight. Photos were out of the question. The Hume’s Continue reading Vagrant Hume’s Warbler in Brandenburg

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

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?