Birding and Bird Photography Blog by Leander Khil

Kategorie: Europe

Back from the po delta / new website coming soon

I returned from a birding trip to the po delta. Soon the website will look like this.
Some photos of the trip are already on there.


New Year’s Eve in South Tyrol

We spent the beginning of the new year in South Tyrol, Italy and had few opportunities to take some bird photos. The abundance of overwintering songbirds in the region was amazing. Blackbirds, Robins, Chaffinches en masse, some Fieldfares, Song Thrushes, single Blackcaps and Dunnocks amongst others were filling the bushes around Lake Kalterer See. A highlight was an encounter with Europe’s smallest bird. A male Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) enjoyed some afternoon rays of the sun in a hedgerow, posed fearlessly at extremely close range and even showed the male’s diagnostic feature, the vibrant orange center of the yellow crown stripe.

Texel trip report

In the end of October, I led a group of BirdLife Austria members to the West Frisian island of Texel, the Netherlands. We had a stormy but successul birdwatching trip, co-guided by local expert Christian Brinkman. The most enjoyed species were Steppe Grey Shrike, Sooty Shearwater (a personal lifer!), Purple Sandpiper, Bewick’s Swan, Shorelark, Snow Bunting and a Great White Pelican of unknown origin at our way back to the airport. Read the trip report (in German) here.

Meerstrandläufer / Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)

Meerstrandläufer / Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)

One day birding on Hallig Hooge

During a last visit to the North Frisian Wadden Sea in 2014, Barbara and me also visited Hallig Hooge for a one day birding trip. Although we didn’t score a notable rarity (despite the valuable and pleasant company of local expert and friend Martin Kühn, who joined us for parts of our stay) and migration wasn’t in full swing, we saw a satisfying total of 73 species. Besides typical Wadden Sea species, migrants and some first winter guests, we recorded some local scarcities at last, such as Common Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) and White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).

Hooge is the second largest of the unique Halligen, a group of ten small, extremely flat islands. The lack of a proper dyke leaves them flooded many times a year. The only flood-safe areas are the so-called „Warften“, small man-made hills, which host few houses and their 103 inhabitants.

„Lost“ migrants are attracted to the few bushes and trees around the houses and so, a birding trip to Hooge can pay off not only because of the magnificent bird life of the Wadden Sea but also for the occasional vagrant.

Hooge can be reached by several ferries from several ports, e.g. the „SeeAdler“ from Schlüttsiel (75 min.).

Usually, visitors return to the mainland on the same day, only very few stay overnight (which results in caf̩s opening not before 11 a.m. Рbeware!). As a typical one-day visitors, you will have around four hours on Hooge, which allows you to visit three or four of the inhabited hills and some other parts of the eastern half of Hooge. The map in the gallery below points out some of the more interesting sites for birdwatching of east Hooge, includes some images taken by Barbara and also some shots from Amrum, visited two days later. Thanks to Schutzstation Wattenmeer for hosting us!

Avocet vs. Shelduck

On a recent trip to Amrum, North Frisia, I observed an example of parental defensive behaviour that was as impressive as it seemed overacted..

A pair of Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta) was feeding in a larger puddle with its two chicks. When a pair of Common Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna) walked over from the adjacent pasture, the male Avocet flew into a fury. It started to attack (only) the female Shelduck, pecking and biting her, jumping on her and, above all, hitting her with its wings. Although it never approached the Avocet’s chicks and only tried to feed in the muddy water, the wader didn’t stop until the Shelducks were fed up and left – walking back to the pasture.

Few minutes later, they tried it again and the spectacle repeated itself. Surprisingly, the female Shelduck was again the lone target of the outraged Avocet, while the male was watching. This time, the victim persisted for maybe a quarter of an hour, trying to get some nibbles, while the Avocet was battering her constantly – only to cease when the ducks walked away.

I did a quick websearch and found that this behaviour, notably between these two species, is a common thing. The fact that only the female Shelduck is attacked in most cases is described here.

Wadden Sea, again!

Recently I went for a short visit to the wadden sea national park again, to visit Barbara who’s on an internship at Hamburger Hallig. We spent some great days at Hamburger Hallig and Amrum.

The “Albatross posture” of the Caspian Gull

The posture Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans) frequently adopts during its long call, with wings raised and head held vertical, has been described as diagnostic for the species (Klein & Buchheim, Limicola 17, 21-26, 2003; Gibbins, Small & Sweeney, British Birds 103, 142-183, 2010). In difficult plumages or stages of moult and wear, especially in immature birds in summer, it can be very helpful to clinch an ID.

During my recent short trip to Pusztaszer, I had the opportunity to watch dozens of immature Caspian Gulls mixed with some Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis) at a feeding place. Many Caspian Gulls (probably all males, judging from their size and “brute” look) stood out by their aggressive behaviour, frequent fights over dead fish which were available en masse and the striking albatross posture during their rapid, laughing long call.

Not all birds were easily identified though. I will probably post some images of rather challenging birds (to me at least) later.

Herons, Egrets, Black Stork & Spoonbill

In April, I had the opportunity to visit Bence Máté’s incredible bird photo “park” in Pusztaszer, Hungary – bird photography through mirrored windows. Now I found the time to edit the images I took in the short time I spent there. Unfortunately, I was punished with constant rain and very low light, so the results could be better – a reason for another visit, one day.

Birding break to Madrid

Following an invitation, I had the chance to accompany my friend Christoph Roland on a short birding break to Madrid in mid-December. We spent two days of great winter-birding in the fun and relaxing company of Manolo Andrés, connecting with 2,5 lifers for me (Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti, Azure-winged Magpie Cyaonopica cyana and the Iberian subspecies of Green Woodpecker Picus viridis sharpei).
Manolo showed us some great places in the direct vicinity of the city of Madrid, which are obviously not typically visited by foreign birdwatchers. Our endurance in the cold and foggy conditions payed off with an astonishing 13 species of raptors, Great Bustard (Otis tarda) and more, only missing Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) which remains on my list of western palearctic breeding species yet to be seen.
Thanks to Manolo, Christoph, Pedro, Alberto and Sarah for having us!
Read a short trip-report here soon.

(Wander)falken in Graz

Der zumindest namentlich weithin bekannte und, mit Ausnahme der Antarktis, nahezu weltweit verbreitete Wanderfalke lebt in Österreich vorwiegend in felsigen Mittelgebirgsregionen. Besonders im Winter erscheint die Art aber auch im Hügel- und Flachland. Das Grazer Stadtgebiet besuchen einzelne Individuen immer wieder und vor allem in der kalten Jahreszeit, zumindest 1-2 Vögel verbringen mittlerweile aber auch Teile der Sommermonate in der Stadt (siehe ältere Beiträge).
Der Wanderfalke ist auf die Flugjagd auf Vögel spezialisiert, besonders in Städten bilden Tauben einen Großteil seiner Nahrung.

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