Birding and Bird Photography Blog by Leander Khil

Kategorie: Non avian

Austrias rarest and other amphibians

So far, Ultimate Frisbee kept me busy this summer and will continue to do so until early October. I just returned from the World Ultimate Club Championships in Lecco, Italy, where I competed with my team fwd>> Vienna. To prevent a huge posting gap to emerge and to ensure some variety, I post some photos of amphibians taken this early summer in Austria. Included are some images of Austria’s rarest amphibian, the Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita), taken in July in one of the only two Austrian populations – in Waldviertel, Lower Austria.

European Ground Squirrel – an endangered species of Austria

A couple of images of European Ground Squirrels (Ziesel, Spermophilus citellus), one of Austria’s most endangered vertebrate species, from the Seewinkel. The youngsters already left the burrows!

Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Sally Lightfoot Crab (Grapsus grapsus) is common along the rocky western coasts of the Americas. This large species is particularly abundant on the Galápagos Islands, where the strikingly and variably colored animals can be seen on the black volcanic rocks in large numbers. It was a joy to watch the perfectly adapted crabs clinging to the rocks and fighting against the surf smashing down on them repeatedly, every few seconds. All photos were taken on the Galápagos in August 2012.

Galápagos Reptiles

Before I start preparing blog posts of the spectacular main reason to visit the Galápagos (you’re right, birds!) – I’ll show you photos of another fascinating group of animals, whose mostly huge members roam most of the islands of the archipelago.

Galápagos land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) inhabits the islands of Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, Baltra, North Seymour and South Plaza. I had good opportunities to photograph them on the latter two. This mostly herbivorous species is thought to be (together with Galápagos giant tortoise) the evolutionary force to be responsible for the tall-growing prickly pear cacti. The iguanas feed on the cacti’s leaves, which the plant tries to avoid by developing trunks, often up to 10m high. Hence, the cacti are growing small and without trunks on islands without iguanas and tortoises.

Barrington Land Iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) is endemic to the 24 km² large island of Santa Fé.

Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is one of only two species of giant tortoise alive (the other one being Aldabra giant tortoise from the Seychelles). There are several subspecies in the archipelago of which some went extinct during the exploitation of the islands by whalers, pirates and buccaneers. The last tragic episode being the extinction of Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni in June 2012, when well-known ‘Lonesome George’ died in the in the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz without a mate of the same subspecies.


Lava Lizards (Microlophus sp.) occur throughout the archipelago. There are nine species endemic to the Galápagos islands.


Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) to my eyes is the most fascinating reptile of the Galápagos and one of the most outstanding in the world. This lizard is the only one to forage in the sea, being able to dive more than 15 m. The species is widespread and occurs in several subspecies, differing in size and color.

Galápagos sea lions

I’ll start to work off the images from South America with a non-avian post. Endemic Galápagos sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) are, in many of the islands of the archipelago, as conspicuous as the many extremely tame birds, iguanas and tortoises. The problem of what to point the lens at is a consistent (and serious!) one in the Galápagos and not rarely, I chose these interesting and rewarding animals as subject.
It’s amazing how close they live to humans: Sea lions occupy beaches, boats, sea moles and even benches (check out the last photo in the gallery) with no fear at all. Whelps waiting for their mothers frequently come over to people, smelling their shoes and clothes, checking if it’s not their mum who returned from the sea. I really had tons of amazing experiences with them.

Barbary Macaques

When crossing the Middle Atlas in Morocco, we had some fabulous hours, watching and photographing a troop of about 30 Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus) in the cedar forest “Cèdre Gouraud” near Azrou. The animals were extremely confiding, being fed by local people and tourists stopping en route.
Barbary Macaque, the only Macaque living outside Asia, is restricted to some declining populations in Morocco and Algeria and is listed as “Endangered” by the IUCN 1. The Middle Atlas holds the largest and most important population 2 and a growing population of unknown origin inhabits the Rock of Gibraltar 3.
It was a joy to watch these peculiar animals in their natural environment and to observe their interactions. Still, the monkeys are allegedly being caught and sold as pets. At Jamaa el Fna, the huge central market place in Marrakech, we saw several young, chained Barbary Macaques which were shown to tourists for money.

The gallery got quite big, I know.. I just wasn’t able to throw out more pictures of the selection.

  1. IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. . Downloaded on 17 March 2012
  2. http://barbarymacaque.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/study-species
  3. http://www.gonhs.org/macaques.htm

Winter in the Middle Atlas

The Middle Atlas is the northernmost of the three Atlas Mountains chains, stretching over 350 km in the northwest of Morocco 1. We crossed the range on our way from Fez to Zeida, stopping in the mountain village Azrou, in the heart of the Middle Atlas mountains. Primarily adjusted for mild temperatures – which we largely failed to witness on this trip – we were quite astonished to find a North African winter wonderland of the finest sort: vast, beautiful, wild landscape, covered in snow. If we hadn’t come to find some birds, I bet we would have gotten stuck in this fascinating place for a longer time.

In the Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) forest “Cèdre Gouraud”, we were looking for Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vaillantii), a recently split species, closely related to European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) and endemic to the Maghreb countries Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia 2.
A nice bonus on this route was a stop at a local troop of around 30 Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus) – photos to come soon.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Atlas
  2. Svensson, L., Mullarney, K., & Zetterström, D. (2009): Collins Bird Guide, 2nd Edition, Collins

Planneralm

Ein paar gemischt-zoologische Aufnahmen von der steirischen Planneralm. Überraschende Beobachtungen waren ein Waldwasserläufer auf 1900m und ein weiblicher Bluthänfling auf 1700m (beide 12.7.), sowie eine juvenile Mittelmeermöwe, die nach einem Schlechtwettereinbruch zumindest von 14.-16.7. im Ort Planneralm, auf 1700m rastete!

“Wilde” Atlashörnchen

Das Atlashörnchen (Atlantoxerus getulus), ursprünglich in Algerien, Marokko und Westsahara heimisch, wurde auch auf Fuerteventura eingeführt. Angeblich wurde 1965 nur ein einziges Paar ausgesetzt – jetzt findet man die Nager häufig und fast überall auf der Insel. Auf den Aussichtspunkten nahe Vega de Río Palmas entwickelten sie sich zu handzahmen Attraktionen. Besonders säugende Weibchen nehmen unersättlich alles, was ihnen die begeisterten Touristen vorwerfen..

Bergmann, H.-H. & Engländer, W. (2008): Kanarische Inseln, terra NaturReiseführer, Tecklenborg

Der Himmel über Nordfriesland

Während meiner Zeit in Nordfriesland galt mein fotografisches Hauptaugenmerk natürlich stets den Vögeln. Im Nachhinein betrachtet schenkte ich der beeindruckenden, endlos weiten Landschaft dadurch aber zu wenig Beachtung. Gerade die Sonnenuntergänge erzeugen im Wattenmeergebiet Tag für Tag dramatische Bilder, die ich nur viel zu selten einzufangen versuchte.
Die hier gezeigten Landschaftsfotos entstanden zum Teil auch als Nebenprodukte mit dem 500er- und sonst mit dem vielseitigen, leichten und empfehlenswerten AF-S 18-55mm 1:3,5-5,6 G II ED.

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