Reisebericht: Kanarische Inseln

Der Bericht der vogelkundlichen Reise auf die Kanarischen Inseln für BirdLife Österreich ist hier online.

Teidefink / Blue Chaffinch (Fringilla teydea) | Tenerife, 2019

Möwen im Winter / Winter Gulls

A recent trip to the northern Adriatic Sea coast produced a lot of flight shots of the wintering gulls. I put together overviews of the "winter plumages" of the three most common species.

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Goldman's Warbler

Target of my last trip to Guatemala was the endemic and very range-restricted Goldman's warbler (Setophaga coronata goldmani) in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes highlands. This form is usually considered a subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler / Kronenwaldsänger but sometimes referred to as a distinct species.

Pink-headed warbler / Rosenwaldsänger

You gotta love this bird! On my last trip to Guatemala I rather surprisingly had cracking observations of Pink-headed warbler / Rosenwaldsänger (Ergaticus versicolor). I had seen this gem of the highlands before, but the views at the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, in the west of the country, blew me away! If you ever happen to get to Todos Santos/Guatemala, be sure to walk the Sendero Ecológico "La Maceta" that ascends from the main road. Pink-headed warbler was - without a doubt - the most common bird there, when I visited this August.

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Reisebericht: Madeira

Der Bericht zur BirdLife-Reise nach Madeira im August 2018 ist hier online (PDF, 2 MB).

Europe's Rarest Tern

The harbour of Funchal on the island of Madeira (Portugal) is known to be a good place to see Roseate terns / Rosenseeschwalben (Sterna dougallii). This species is sometimes slightly boastfully dubbed "Europe's rarest seabird" (what about Zino's petrel?) but it surely takes the title of Europe's rarest tern.

During my time on the island, I saw 2-5 individuals (one pair with two chicks and one additional adult), whenever I visited the area between 2. and 9. August 2018. The Roseate terns usually gathered on wavebreakers in the eastern part of the harbour, together with up to 30 Common terns / Flussseeschwalben (Sterna hirundo). The adults spent much time fishing, while the two juveniles where waiting there to be fed, only sometimes flying short rounds in the harbour.

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Palomas verdes

I'm currently in Spain, where these "palomas verdes" - as a little boy referred to them - were abundant in some places. Escaped Monk parakeets / Mönchssittiche  (Myiopsitta monachus) have established big populations and mingle with the Feral pigeons in the cities. Check out how it uses its feet! Most parrots are zygodactyl, meaning that they have one reversed toe. Two point to the front, two to the back. This is i.e. also seen in many woodpeckers or owls. But bringing food to the bill with the feet is usually not seen in other birds than parrots.

Parrot crossbill / Kiefernkreuzschnabel collecting nesting material

A female Parrot crossbill / Kiefernkreuzschnabel (Loxia pytyopsittacus) collecting nesting material near Zeist, the Netherlands on 8 March 2018. Looking good for the second ever Dutch breeding record of this species native to Scandinavia and Russia. The nest's framework is made from dry twigs, grass is used as lining.

Iceland Gull / Polarmöwe in Amsterdam

Photos of a subadult Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) from the city of Amsterdam, where this bird has been wintering. This species breeds in Greenland and in arctic Canada. It winters in Iceland and northwestern Europe, with some birds reaching the European mainland every year.

Dutch Short Break

I tried my luck and twitched the long-staying Ross's Gull / Rosenmöwe (Rhodostethia rosea) in the harbour of Vlissingen by train. I arrived in the afternoon of the tenth day after its discovery, a couple of minutes after the bird had just been seen... But then it took four hours for it to reappear. And also then, it only made a very swift appearance for the crowd of around 20 Dutch and Belgian birders, flying by twice in front of us. Ross's Gulls breed in the high arctic and winter in the Bering Sea. This bird is only the 18th record for the Netherlands. I used the waiting time to study the other gulls that were present and take some pictures too. I like harbor situations for photography, because of the colorfully painted boats that can be interesting backdrops.

Birding in Belize: Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Some photos of my visit to this Central American top birding site in February 2017. I stayed at Bird's Eye View Lodge, which is perfectly located to serve as a birding base. The lodge does not only offer rooms directly at the shoreline, allowing for great birding from the breakfast table, but also runs various tours by small boat and car, led by knowledgeable local guides. I got brilliant sightings, a couple of lifers, lots of photos, but most imporantly, my first ever Agami Herons (Agamia agami) on one of their boat tours. Other (personal) highlights on this three-day visit included Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria), Sungrebe (Heliornis fulica), Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) and Yucatan Jay (Cyanocorax yucatanicus).

White-tailed Eagles in the Volga Delta

The thing that probably impressed me the most on this birding trip to Russia in April 2017, was the sheer number of White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla). Where the river Volga meets the Caspian Sea, this species breeds in ridiculous densities. There's so much food but not enough suitable nesting trees, so that some pairs even build swimming nests in the reeds (something I couldn't see myself unfortunately). In parts of the delta, we found nests every couple of hundred meters. Since we visited quite early in the year and many migrants hadn't arrived yet, the eagles were certainly among the most abundant species, with many dozens seen every day. Here's just a small gallery of photos, taken from the small boats which we used to get through the many bayous near Kordon Damchik.

British Birdwatching Fair 2017

Ich war für die St. Martins Therme & Lodge auf der British Birdwatching Fair in Rutland Water, England. Neben der Besucherbetreuung am Stand mit dem Nationalpark und der Neusiedler See - Tourismus blieb nicht viel Zeit für Anderes. Ein paar Schnappschüsse sollen vermitteln, wie es auf dem "Birdwatching Glastonbury", der größten Vogelbeobachtungsmesse der Welt, zugeht. Mehr auf meiner facebook-Seite

Meine Kollegen am Neusiedler See - Stand auf der Birdfair.

Luxury Birding at Chan Chich Lodge, Belize

A lodge in Central America, where sightings of big cats seem to be more the rule rather than the exception? This sounded to good to be true - even for me as an avid birder - and put Chan Chich Lodge on my radar. But I probably would not have seen the place if it was for the cats alone. Some internet research revealed that the surroundings, privately owned and protected forest and farmland, offered great birdlife, including some sought-after Central American highlight species.

In early February this year, we got picked up in Belize city by Marvin, one of the lodge’s guides and took the three-hour drive deep into Orange Walk county, close to the border with Guatemala. The lodge is only accessible for guests, either by car (4x4 recommended) or aircraft from the city, via the airstrip of the nearby Gallon Jug farm.

After an informative and entertaining drive, with plenty of good birds already seen from the car, we arrived at Chan Chich lodge - a small piece of paradise on earth. The lodge is set up as a small village of wooden cottages (different price ranges), beautifully nestled in the middle of the forest and amidst unexcavated Mayan ruins that emerge as grass-covered hills to the sides of the property. As we learned, it was also for the protection of these ruins, that the owner decided to establish the lodge.

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Ocellated turkey detail

Ocellated turkey / Pfauentruthuhn
Ocellated turkey / Pfauentruthuhn (Meleagris ocellata) | Detail of the side of a male individual.
I've seen birders taking more than just one extra mile and a good effort to get a glimpse of the near threatened Ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata). At Chan Chich Lodge in Belize, this gem was the species I would see most often and at ridiculously close distance. As most megafauna species, the turkeys are being hunted in other places, hence being rare and shy. Hunting is banned in a vast area around the lodge, so many animals are very easy to see and not afraid of humans.

Winter getaway: Guatemala | save the date

I've spent a larger part of december in Guatemala, el País de la Eterna Primavera ("the land of the eternal spring"). This Central American gem delivered what it promised: Amazing birds and wildlife, breathtaking scenery and cultural highlights. Save the date: I will give a talk about my experiences as a backpacker searching for birds in Guatemala on 21 June 2017 at Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Natural History in Vienna).

Back in the Wadden Sea

I can't say how often I've written this or something similar here or elsewhere. The coast and islands of the German wadden sea keep attracting me. On a recent trip through Germany, I paid the Nationalpark Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer another visit to see friends, beloved places and birds. And I brought home some pictures.

More from Qeshm

Back from a great tip to the Middle East. We visited Qeshm island in Iran, the emirate of Dubai and tiny parts of Oman in the past weeks. I already posted some first images from Qeshm island in the Persian Gulf below. But there's so much more. This post just shows some more highlight images, but I plan to prepare a page with the less beautiful record shots of interesting taxa.
As you might have seen in the previous two posts, it's nearly all about birds, no landscapes, people, macros.. This comes absolutely unintentional. I usually try to capture at least some additional impressions of my trips, besides the birds. On the way to Dubai, the lens release button of my Nikon D800 broke, so I couldn't change lenses for the whole trip. I didn't bring a spare body to save weight, due to my never-ending cabin luggage issues. Tied to a 500mm lens for four weeks, carrying a full bag of equipment, just to strengthen my back. During the very last days in Oman, even the autofocus system of the lens went down, technically carrying me back into the dark ages of manual focus. All pictures were taken hand-held, without tripod.

Layover days in Dubai

On our way to Iran we had a layover day in Dubai. We used it to visit one of the parks closer to the aiport as well as the Dubai creek, where we surprisingly found two Black Drongos (Dircrurus macrocercus), a Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) and many of the more common urbanized/introduced bird species of the emirate. When leaving Iran, we spent some more days in this crazy, over the top city. Birding was not outstanding in most places, except for Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary, where we counted more than 16 Greater Spotted Eagles (Aquila clanga) including one marvellous juvenile fulvescens.

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Plunge Diving Western Reef Heron

At the jetty in the mangrove forest near Tabl on Qeshm island, Iran, we found this dark morph Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis) successfully plunge diving for fish from boats.

Back on Qeshm

The thoroughly positive experiences of a trip to Iran in 2014 drew me back to this wonderful country. This time, I wanted to add some research to the regular birding, dig deeper into some taxonomic subjects and so I'm out with Christian and Martin on the desert island of Qeshm in the Persian gulf, to take a close look at the local bird life, in a country visited by very few "western" birdwatchers.
We are still out there - doing very well - but there's so much to see and so many photos worth sharing remain on my camera every day, that I put on this first set already now.

Birdwatching and mist-netting in the Dolomite Alps

A visit to South Tyrol and its amazing Dolomite Alps produced beautiful and instructive sightings of mountain birds, some photos and very good mist-netting (bird ringing) at Val Gardena with some of the certainly very few Ladin speaking bird ringers in the world!

There were many highlights of our two days up at Gardena Pass/Jëuf de Frea/Grödner Joch/Passo Gardena. What struck me the most was the never-ending traffic of seemingly hundreds of Nutcrackers (Nucifraga caryocatactes) transporting throat sacs full of seeds of Swiss Pine (Pinus cembra) across the pass from southwest to northeast. We caught around 30 of them in the mist nets (all but one adults!), nearly all of them with dozens of pine seeds in their sublingual pouches.

Dilan to Iacun Prugger for making this possible and for your overwhelming hospitality!

Video: Swarovski Optik EL family binoculars

September 2015 sees the release of the new Swarovski Optik EL family of binoculars - the best binoculars out there, Austrian-made, now even further improved!

I had the honor to act in a short film, promoting the passion for birdwatching and the new products. We filmed in April and June 2015 in Seewinkel, Austria, as well as Varanger, arctic Norway. Thanks to Swarovski Optik and Mario Kreuzer for the great collaboration!
In Norway, although we were very busy filming, I could take some photos of the amazing bird life of this outstanding birding destination - you'll find a selection below. Sometimes it was really hard to concentrate on the acting, when Arctic Redpolls where hopping on the ground around me, or when Stellers Eiders were swimming right behind the camerman.. While shooting in Varanger, I could watch an amazing total of six bird species I had not seen before in my life.

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Red-necked Phalaropes

To me, the genus Phalaropus is something extraordinary, within the already extraordinarily charismatic group of waders. Of the two species of Phalaropes occuring in Europe, only Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) breeds outside Iceland. Phalaropes are among the few sexually dimorphistic European bird species, with "more beautiful" females than males. The female's plumage is more contrasty and more intensively colored and they also behave a little macho-like compared to the quiet males.

On the recent trip to arctic Norway, I had the chance to spend some time with these astonishing creatures after work and to take some pictures in the never-setting midnight sun. The task was extremely difficult in the low light conditions with a monopod, 500mm lens and the Nikon D800's mediocre high ISO performance. I left the right gear (which would have been a tripod and the 70-200mm lens for this confiding species) at home, as I didn't expect too much time for photography on this trip.

I still managed to get some decent shots - enough to please me at least.

Po Delta trip report online

The short report of the latest trip to the Po Delta (in German) is online here.


I'm currently enjoying the fabulous birds of the Seewinkel with a group of BirdWatch Ireland. See a photo of tonight below, taken from the terrace of our hotel. White Storks are apparently doing well despite the recent period of cold and rainy weather (which changed into a veritable heat wave yesterday). The depicted pair on the main square of Illmitz raises three chicks and we've seen plenty of (so far) successful pairs in Marchegg today.

Weißstorch / White Stork
Weißstorch / White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) | Illmitz, June 2015

Po Delta, Italy

I've been visiting the Po Delta in northern Italy since 2003. For the last week, I was guiding a group of BirdLife Austria to this productive birdwatching destination again.

The thing that amazes me most about this region, besides the good birds, is the amazing number of birdwatching opportunities. There are plenty of walks and hides, some old and overgrown though. There must have been a time where the "Po Delta Regional Park" was heavily developed as a birding destination. But I didn't see any new hides and the site guide (the one with the Little Egret in front) is unfortunately very old. I found a new one here, which I used a lot this time. This PDF is apparently quite new, though it also lists very unproductive, disappointing sites (such as Canneviè) or sites with unusable hides (Valle Bertuzzi, eastern shore). Trip report coming soon!

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