Birding and Bird Photography Blog by Leander Khil

Kategorie: Travel/Reisen

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.


Some birds from French Guiana

I just returned from an exciting trip to French Guiana. This time, frogs were the more important actors in the rainforest. We took part in a study trip with the University of Vienna, studying Allobates femoralis, a small, non-toxic “poison dart frog” – more on this later, including photos. After four weeks at an undisclosed site in the primary forest, there’s lots to catch up with, so I’ll be brief again. I did a quick selection of bird photos from the trip, most of the first week at the coast around Cayenne (where watching and photographing birds is fairly easy) and a few from the Nouragues reserve. I consider the rainforest being one of the toughest landscapes to photograph birds in, so there weren’t to many lucky shots while searching for critters on the ground. But: The album includes to very special species in the end. My childhood dreambird, the Guianan cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola), which I finally saw at the inselberg of the Nouragues reserve and the unique Capuchinbird (Perissocephalus tricolor), which made a late appearance on the last day at the frog study-site. Those two posed for record shots rather than for really appealing photos..

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.

Ashy Drongos in Iran

Reminded by the first Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus) for Israel, I finally took another look at the Drongos Barbara and me recorded in south-eastern Iran in February 2014. Black Drongo (D. macrocercus) used to breed in Iran (Porter & Aspinall 2010) and I’ve heard vague reports of recent records of Black Drongo from this part of Iran. So we stamped the birds as vagrants of this species rather carelessly, although they looked more like Ashy Drongos to us… Trust your suspicions!

In Minab, south-eastern Iran, we noted the following observations of 4-5 ind., all of which I now identified as being Ashy Drongos from photos:

19.02.2014 1 ind. in Minab town and 3 ind. in the nearby date groves.
20.02.2014 1 ind. still present at the latter location.

The birds were hunting from treetops in gardens and plantations. On some of the photos, a slightly paler lower belly and vent, unglossed paler back to darker wing feathers, as well as the crimson eye are visible. Also, all birds lacked the white rictal spot typical for Black Drongo.

A little research on the net and correspondence with Iranian ornithologist friends revealed, that Ashy Drongo had been recorded in Iran for the first times in recent years. Unfortunately, informations about the exact number of records (especially claims about “firsts”) on the net are extremely confusing and there might be more records. Also, I couldn’t figure out exact dates as it seems that observations are published with different dates (Iran uses another calendar than Europe does). This is wat I got: 1 ind. was seen from 1.-30.12.2012 on Kish island, in the Persian Gulf (S. A. Jebeli; attention, the year of this record is still unclear) and 1 ind. on 25.12.2013 in south-eastern Iran (A. Sangchooli, S. Mokhtari). So, our records from Minab in February 2014 should be the third and fourth records of the species for the country.

Thanks to M. Ghasempouri, A. Hashemi, A. Hazad and A. Khaleghizadeh for their help in researching the data.

Porter R. & S. Aspinall (2010): Birds of the Middle East, Princeton Field Guides

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.

Iran in Winter – Minab

The full report on the trip to Iran is not yet finished, I still have to figure out some IDs (particularly chewing on the gulls…). In the meanwhile, I uploaded some of the photos from the Minab region in the south-east of the country. This extremely untouristy place with it’s semi-deserts and vast date groves was a real birdwatching treat, with a good variety of raptors and the sought-after Sind Woodpecker (Dendrocopos assimilis).

Iran in Winter – the North

I just came back from a marvellous trip to Iran. It will take some more time until the full trip report is finished, but here are some photos of the northern part of this huge and fascinating country, the region of Fereydoon Kenar in particular.
We spent two days at the doubtfully famous “damghas”, flooded rice fields were bird trapping (especially for ducks) is carried out to a vast extent. When searching for “Omid”, sadly the last wild Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus) left of the western population, we had the opportunity to see with our own eyes what’s going on in the damghas.
Thanks a lot to all of our friends who helped us during our stay in northern Iran, first and foremost Dr. Mahmoud Ghasempouri, Ellen Vuosalo-Tavakoli and Mohammad Ali Allahgholi!

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