The wide meadows oft he Elbe south of Wittenberg in Saxony-Anhalt is a special bird protection area. By far not as populated as the lower Rhine valley, it favors many migrating and breeding bird species. Spring is spectacular. A familiar “neigh” is in the air. The meadows are mainly characterized by the distinctive calls of the Common Cranes (Grus grus) or the calls of the Taiga Bean-Geese (Anser fabalis) and Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) high in the blue sky, but this gentle, melodious trill clearly indicates the Black Kite (Milvus migrans ). Hearing the Black Kite is one thing. But to find the Black Kite is not that easy. Then I discover a Black Kite high in a poplar tree on the edge of the wide floodplain. When I stop the car and get out, the bird flies away and shows very nicely the tail, which is not as notched compared to the Red Kite (Milvus milvus), which had already arrived on ist breeding ground the week before.
For many people, bird migration is synonymous with the masses of birds that move over us in a more or less orderly manner. But this form of bird migration is more the exception than the rule for us. Many species migrate secretly and quite quietly. Our warblers such as the Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin), the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) or the Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca), the Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), the Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) or the Reed warblers such as the Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) migrate individually at night. During the day they rest mostly hidden in forests, bushes or reeds. Conspicuous Continue reading The first returnees from migration: the Black Kite
The 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
A thin branch in the most beautiful evening light and on it a European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). This is an image many nature photographers want to shoot. This raises the question of course of what the Bee-eater’s habits and preferences are. If you take a closer look at Bee-eater photography, you ask yourself e.g. how a favorite habitat must look like, what a perfect breeding site must be like and which season is suitable at all.
Part of the solution to the problem is already solved by the food spectrum of the magnificent bird. Merops apiaster live a very flight-intensive life and feed exclusively on big insects. The bird is specialized in the hunting of large and medium-sized flying insects. Bees, wasps, bumblebees, beetles, dragonflies and butterflies are among their main prey. In this respect, you will find more European Bee-eater where these main prey insects are found in large numbers. Furthermore, the Bee-eater is dependent on a warm climate due to its food source.
In order to be able to hunt the flying insects efficiently, European Bee-eaters need a “perch”, an elevated stig, from which it can start to hunt. Birds’ habitats therefore always include old trees with bare branches or tall shrubs. Continue reading Photographing European Bee-eater: How and Where
The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) flies elegantly on the wetland in the middle of the agricultural landscape of the Lower (Niederer) Fläming. Carefully the bird secures to all sides before it starts on the muddy shore with the search for food. Although at the beginning it just stands silently on the edge and obviously lets the whole scenery work on it in contemplation. For a long time, I look at the Grey Heron and its feeding site from a hide. Then I return my eyes to the lonely Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), who has been scared off by the Grey Heron and is looking for food on the opposite bank. The wader gets then society in the form of a Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) as well.
After a while, the Grey Heron apparently managed to convince himself of the lack of space. After some settling in, he walks along the shore; the other birds (the Common Snipe and the Green Sandpiper) are on the lookout. The proximity of the good 5 times as big heron is obviously suspect for them. Suddenly I hear a loud splash in the water. The Grey Heron has captured swimming a Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris). Smooth Newt, also known as the Common Newt is a species of amphibian, the most common one in Germany. The Heron brings the Smooth Newt ashore and chews extensively on the newt. I am surprised that the Grey Heron does not swallow the Smooth Newt directly down. But the Newt probably does not taste that well. At some point the Grey Heron leaves the Smooth Newt fall on the land and returns – clearly disgusted – back Continue reading Grey Heron fighting with a Common Newt