A thick, fat maggot has been washed out of the earth on the former compost heap. The male Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) had only briefly scratched the surface with its yellow beak and had already very skillfully removed a thick maggot – probably a large beetle larva – from a dark-black layer of earth. It is astonishing how unerringly the Blackbird approaches two sites and then, after scratching no more than three times, one prey is exposed. Nevertheless, the bird is careful and only grabs the maggot by the black head at first and then quickly drops it again. After the Eurasian Blackbird has obviously convinced itself of the relative harmlessness of the prey after several procedures, the maggot is grabbed and tumbled at the head-body transition. Finally hunger outweighs fear and the maggot disappears upside down in the Thrush’s beak.
Now only the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) are interested in the feeding place. Somewhat unpleasant, the otherwise successful Eurasian Blackbird joins in from time to time and pursues the House Sparrows. Sometimes – when the Sparrows are outnumbered – the Eurasian Blackbird also have to pull out. Blackbird are what are commonly called “normal” birds. But her behavior always offers surprises and is also good for a few nice action shots. Before that, it was nice to see a furious chase of a Eurasian Blackbird to drive away a Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) that might have come too close to the nest. The Titmice (Parus sp.) appreciated it as well.
It was a pretty fresh morning after it had finally rained in southern Brandenburg in the night. In the morning it was only around 8 °celsius degrees. Later in the sun it was warmer of course; around 16 ° C. A wood chopper is always headed Continue reading Blackbird with a thick maggot in the beak
At 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
It takes no special effort to see a Red Kite (Milvus milvus) in Brandenburg. But to be successful with more than a photograph of proof takes more. It is of little interest to scan a Red Kite at a distance or high up in the sky. The straight-forward search flight can go seamlessly into a steep downward slide with slightly angled wings up to the bottom of the earth’s surface. This is the opportunity to be found for the right photographer. The uprise-flight following the pushing down with wide, elastic wing flaps is particularly impressing for shots. A freshly mown meadow attracts the Red Milan when the tractors are still mowing.
Once the correct location has been discovered, a whole series of conditions have to be fulfilled in order to be able to press the trigger with success. Good light conditions alone are not enough. In the spring or in the summer the light before 5:00 pm is much too steep, the contrasts too hard and the blue portion in the sky is much too high. The wind must coincide with the sun’s position, as the Red Kites stand against the wind in flight. Flying with the wind, their position changes so quickly that the kite is lost from the viewfinder.
Besides Red Kites, Black Kites (Milvus migrans) are also looking for food during the summer months. Commonly both species hunt together. If the above-mentioned conditions are fulfilled, the Continue reading Flight photography of the Red Kite
I had been very successful in the Bakossi Mountains with the Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis) – also known as Serle’s Bushshrike. After an unsuccessful first day on an expedition in these Afrotropic mountains, my indispensable guides and me encountered a total of 7 individuals of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike until the end of the second day; including 4 sightings and 3 only heard individuals elsewhere in the forest.
The Bakossi Mountains are part of the so-called Cameroon Mountain Arc in the western country of Cameroon. Here an Afrotropic mountain vegetation prevails. In addition to the Mount Kupe Bushshrike other endemic species like e.g. Mount Cameroon Francolin (Francolinus camerunensis) and Bannerman’s Turaco (Tauraco bannermani) contribute to the wealth in biodiversity.
Overall, I spent nearly 15 minutes at the site where a pair of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike displayed a mating ritual (as described in the blog). Initially I shot with the Canon EF 400mm 1: 2.8L IS II USM from a Gitzo tripod. The frequent relocation of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike along with the unexpectedly low-level location of the bird inside the forest let me switch to the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM on the Canon EOS 5DS R. Despite exposure times of 1/160 sec. – later also with 1/80 sec. – the excellent image stabilizer allowed shots from the hand. A total of 183 pictures were shot on the occasion, of which 26 pictures were reasonably acceptable and a few were good enough. The image of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike Continue reading Mount Kupé Bushshrike – some aspects on equipment & logistics
The east of Germany, especially Brandenburg and Berlin is one of the »hotspots« for birdwatching in Germany with a rich variety of birds and many rare species.
Until recently, trips has to be fully based on the birding guide for North-east Germany (Vögel beobachten in Ostdeutschland; Wagner and Moning 2009, Franckh-Kosmos Verlag). This splendid book with clear maps and numbered stake-outs brought already many birdwatchers to several good birding sites you might not have heard of before.
If you try bird-lens.com as a guidance, a good intro for the spring visitor you will find here: http://www.bird-lens.com/2017/04/11/observation-site-for-spring-migration-on-the-river-oder/
In the meantime, a new field guide was published: White: A Birdwatching Guide to Brandenburg and Berlin. Roger White has created an outstanding field guide for his Continue reading A Birdwatching Guide to Brandenburg and Berlin: a new field guide
The Birdlife of West Africa was on the schedule for April 2017. I decided for the Africa specialist Rockjumper. Cameroon is a vast and diverse land; lying just north of the equator. This bird-rich nation forms the inter-grade between West and Central Africa and harbors a wide range of habitats, ranging from steamy lowland rainforest to Sahelian semi-desert.
By combining the Rainforest & Rockfowl tour with the Northern Extension tour of the Africa-specialist Rockjumper I was confident to book a birding tour that visits all of the area’s core ecological zones and provides a thorough coverage of this West Africa birding destination in three-weeks. Due to its wealth of habitats, over 900 bird species have been recorded, and comparable tours had been successful with roughly 550 species. This is the one side. But how about bird photography – my 2nd leg of interest.
Here the guidelines provided by Rockjumper are clear: NOTE FOR Continue reading Cameroon: bird photography on a guided birding tour
An Albatross sailing the seas, an agile Petrel, a dynamic Shearwater. These are real challenges. Bird photographing in general is quite a difficult task. Add in a rocking, heaving boat, crowds of people, salt spray and fast moving agile targets and you have a most challenging undertaking. For certain digital photography has not revolutionized bird photography, but has made Bird Photography a lot more less strengous. This is true in general and has been especially so in seabird photography. If you look back on some of the so-called analog (or predigital) “Seabird Photo” books you will see the amazing steps forward that have been made in the last 15 years. For Seabird Photography I personally have been using a consistent set-up for the last years. This includes the professional flagship Canon “sports & journalism” camera currently the EOS 1 D X with a Canon f4.0, 400mm DO lens. This in most cases without a teleconverter (TC). If using a teleconverter, it is a 1.4 Canon teleconverter of the II-series. The Canon EOS 1 D X with a Canon f4.0, 400mm DO is a very fast set-up with a unique ability to achieve very high shutter Continue reading Seabird Photography
The one or the other may have read my reviews of e.g. the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM or the Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM. My latest lens now is the Sigma Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. As with the blogs mentioned above, this review really is a personal experience report. This is not a test, or even the result of a laboratory evaluation. Those interested, should continue to scan reports in the relevant forums.
As with the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM a diverse usability – especially when traveling – was in the foreground with the acquisition of the Canon 70-200 / 4.0 L IS USM. The lens Continue reading Shooting with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, an experience review
Some months ago, a blog was written on bird-lens.com to review the Canon EOS 1DX and explain some aspects of dynamic range and noise in the Canon EOS 1DX performance.
As mentioned in the blog, some tests in photo laboratories show, that the dynamic range of the Canon EOS 1Dx benefits from having “only” 18 million pixels with a full frame sensor. For this you get a high dynamic range and a better signal / noise ratio. The Canon EOS 1Dx produces images with so little noise, that you can safely use high ISO values.
To give more examples, I show some images shot at dusk at the Laguna de Gallocanta. A Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) was hunting over Continue reading Canon EOS 1DX: Twilight performance
The one or the other may have read my reviews of e.g. the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM of the Canon EOS 1 DX camera. My latest lens now is the Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM, the predecessor of the present S (for Sport).
While the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM is the lens of diverse usability – especially when traveling – I was looking for something different now. In preparation of the purchase of the Sigma I searched after a bright lens for the “borderline” situation, for available light photography. I am bird photographer who specializes in photographing as many species of birds for scientific purposes and therefore it is not always sunshine when I am on expedition.
I have checked my needs carefully. In recent times – e.g. during a stay at Ole Martin Dahle near Trondheim in Norway – I had spent many hours in photo hides. Unlike when traveling in Continue reading Experience review Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM
After some reviews-blogs had been written in bird-lens.com about photo equipment as the Canon EOS 1 Mark IV or the Canon EOS 1DX and the Canon 400mm f4 DO I think, I write also a short experience review of the Baffin Men’s Shackleton Snow Boot, because I ‘m often asked about my experiences not only with camera staff but also personal equipment which in many cases are as important for successful photo shootings as the photo gear is.
With my Meindl Hiking boots (Meindl Ortler) I have been very satisfied all the time until the beginning of April this year when I spend 4 days photographing Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) in the vicinity of Oulu in Finland. Finding the Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) can be hard stuff, but even harder to prevent loosing her. To walk/ run behind the owl means walking in 1,5 meters of harsh snowcover, sometimes breaking through the icy cover, sometimes not. This in temperatures between -20° and -5°. It did not take a long time and my feet were deeply frozen whatever socks you wrap around them.
Maybe I should clarify, that I am a bird photographer, who is specialized on photographing as many species of birds for scientific purposes as possible. The subjects to shoot brought me to Varanger in Northern Norway in February or to Finland in early April. Now I trip to Norway was scheduled again. End of November for Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) s. The experience of Finland should not repeat. So I bought a pair at the german Outdoor Shop “Globetrotter” for roughly 300,- €.
After 7 days in use I can Continue reading Baffin Shackleton Snow Boot, customer review
After blogging a review of the Canon EOS 1DX some people asked me wether I can subscribe what is written there and wether it is possible to show proof of what is said, that the dynamic range has improved significantly over the Mark IV.
Some tests in photo laboratories show, that Dynamic range of Canon EOS 1DX benefits from having “only” 18 million pixels with a full frame sensor. For this you get a high dynamic range and a better signal / noise ratio. The test showed a total dynamic range of nearly 11 stops at the low ISO settings in a RAW file. At 100 ISO RAW files, they found a usable dynamic range (while taking into account noise) of 7 stops and at a 6400 ISO jpg file still 6 stops.
The sensor of the Canon EOS 1D X use a new feature where there is no space between the pixels, and as much as possible of the incident light is actually converted into signal. This is new in a professional Canon Continue reading Canon EOS 1DX: some aspects of Dynamic range and Noise