Here on this blog I report on some of my latest sightings including some of my notes on the franconian birdlife. I focus on the district of Bamberg, but the other regions of Franconia are respected as well of course.
If you´d like to get an overview of the last days, then you can visit the website www.ornitho.de . However when you´re not registered, you are only allowed to see the observations of the last seven days.
A fantastic autumn day and the chance to visit one of the best birdwatching sites of Bavaria - what could a birder wish more. Yesterday I enjoyed a brilliant afternoon on the observation tower of the "Altmühlsee", which is situated in the southern part of Middle Franconia. The most obvious difference of this site to all my regular birding destinations is the large number of birds that you can see there. When I normally get not more than 300 Greylags on the local lakes I get here a lot more than 1000 (only talking of the birds which can be seen from the tower). Over the last decades, since the lake was dammed in the 80's, the Altmühlsee has become an important stepping stone for bird migration.
Unfortunately, just as I arrived at the tower, a helicopter circled one or two times over the area and flushed most of the birds. Still I caught up with some interesting birds including probably the last waders of the season, namely two Dunlin, nine Ruff, ca. 20 Eurasian Curlew, five Snipes and a couple of Lapwings. Far more impressing were the numbers of the already mentioned Greylags and of the various duck species like Northern Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall and my first Wigeon of the season. Apart from that there were just the usual wetland species.
As I will spend from now on a notable time of the year in this region, I'll certainly visit the Altmühlsee and the other birding hotspots of southern Franconia (e.g. Brombachsee) more often than in the last years. So stay tuned.
This post was written by freelance writer Sally Perkins.
The general bird population is on the decline, decreasing each year due to a variety of environmental factors. It may be shocking to some that one of the main dangers for birds is the risk of flying into windows. In many cases, birds that fly into windows are stunned by the impact, which can result in internal damage, bleeding, and brain damage.
It is therefore important that we do all that we can to make our windows be safer for birds. There are certain window treatments and other updates that can make windows more visible to birds and consequently prevent them from flying into the glass. The Humane Society suggests making any of the following changes to a window's exterior:
For these and other tips, check out the guide to bird-friendly windows in order to make the proper adjustments to protect the bird population from harm.
Originally, I hadn't planned to go birding today, but when news broke that a Little Crake had been spotted at my favourite site, the Großer Wörth, I couldn't resist the temptation to give it a try. All in all, the situation wasn't very comfortable, one the one hand I didn't have much time and on the other it was rather wet and cloudy. However, I was fortunate to find already two birders on site that already spotted the bird. It was feeding on the opposite shore, exactly where it had been seen first. Due to the bad light most of my photos are really bad, serving at best as record shots, but it's great that this spontaneous idea has actually worked at all.
Unfortunately, the last weeks haven't seen me birding very often. Nevertheless, the migration season takes place normally at the moment, though there is few special to report about. Waders are right now passing through, yet there aren't many suitable resting areas, because on the one hand the water level is high again and on the other hand many actually "good" sites have lost in value over the last years, since vegetation has settled down on the sandbanks. Perhaps a juvenile Mediterranean Gull is worth mentioning, which is now resting for almost a month on the Röckelein Baggersee.
However, the great thing of autumn migration is that almost anything can happen in this time. This is pretty much what I've thought when read last week of a Black-winged Kite that had been spotted near the village Burgbernheim last week. The elegant raptor, roughly as big as a falcon, is normally found in North Africa and Spain. Therefore it is an extreme rarity in Central Europe and the wish to see this bird once so close to my home was understandably big. Yet it took a whole week until I could afford to drive the 90 km to Burgbernheim. Fortunately, the bird stayed and offered nice scope views despite of the large distance and the resistant fog.
After the rainy weekend it was a benefit to get out birding again. For today I had ambitiously planned to arrive at sunrise at the Teichwiesen of Stressenhausen, an interesting wetland area in South Thuringia (approximately an one-hour-drive from Bamberg away). Although it didn't worked exactly, I was greeted by perfect morning light in Stressenhausen. The navigation on site is rather simple: There is a signposted car park for the nature reserve at the southern edge of the village, from where a path leads you straight to an observation tower with information panels.
The Teichwiesen are in fact extensively used meadows, which have become so rare in Germany over the last decades. Therefore it is an excellent site for species like Snipe, Whinchat or Meadow Pipit. I spent a whole hour in the area and spotted a good mixture of birds, the highlights being Black Stork, Garganey and Greenshank. The only weird thing is that the last 100 meter you have to cross the pasture, which is enclosed by an electric fence. However, in practice it was rather simple, as there was an open gate.
Originally, I had planned to make some stops on my way back along the valley of the Main. Yet on my first detour it turned out that it has rained too much on the weekend. Therefore there aren't any sandbanks on the quarry ponds left, which are the only resting habitats for waders in the german inland. So the drive back was rather short with just a single hotspot remaining on the tour, the Abtissensee near Hallstadt. The small pond immediately next to the motorway junction of Bamberg is generally good for dabbling ducks and herons. Today I found altogether 13 Garganeys, which is a very high number regarding the size of the site. Furthermore I was astonished to find a hide at the shore! It's just an ordinary construction without roof, but it does its job.
After the rather unspectacular July the first days of August were ornithologically astonishingly productive. In this period I've often visited the "Großer Wörth" area, as it turned out that for some reason it's currently the best place for observing waders here. However on my last walks I've only seen common species like Lapwing, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover. Nevertheless this isn't so strange for the season, since migration is just about to roll on. Hopefully the situation improves in the next weeks.
In fact it has been much more interesting to scan the bushes for passerines. With a bit of patience I managed to find a juvenile Bluethroat, five Penduline Tits (at least two juveniles) and three Red-backed Shrikes (minimum one juvenile). Therefore all three species must have bred somewhere in the area, which is fantastic, especially because Penduline Tits have become alarmingly rare.
Today I've furthermore made a detour to the Hochreinsee, which quickly turned out to be a great idea. Shortly after I've reached the observation platform, I spotted a large dark bird soaring over me. It was an adult Black Stork, which was about to land nearby. However it didn't take long until the local Yellow-legged Gulls detected the intruder and drove it away. The next nice bird to come was a male Honey Buzzard that gained height over me. In the meantime one of the local Marsh Harriers explored the area and scared the waterfowl resting on the sandbanks. Among these there were already two Great White Herons, which will reach their maximum in the winter.
So, all in all it have been some exciting birding days, which compensated the long birdless time before.
Recently I've visited the Hochreinsee again, which I haven't done for quite a while now. However, on the first glance it wasn't that exciting there, just the usual species like Greylag Goose, Great Reed Warbler and Marsh Harrier. Fortunately, I spent a bit more time at this place, as after a few minutes a group of large gulls circled over the lake. Of course, the most were certainly Yellow-legged Gulls, which is by far the most common species of these here in inland Germany. As it turned out a pair must have bred on the lake or close by, since there were also two juvenile individuals.
Yet a closer examination of the gulls produced furthermore a "weird" looking individual, which had most likely stayed the summer on the Hochreinsee last year as well. It shows many features of a Caspian Gull, e.g. the grey "tongues" on the primaries that cut deep in the blackish tip, the completely white p10, the lighter grey upperside etc.
Despite of these rather clear features it's not so easy to pin down a "pure" Caspian Gull here, as there are quite a lot of integrades between Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls, that come from the mixed colonies in Eastern Germany. So I was told by a gull expert to use the term "gull with features of a Caspian Gull". Unfortunately, I have never been able to read its ring which would certainly help to enlighten this mystery.
Nevertheless, the best bird of the day was definitely this Lesser Black-backed Gull that had apparently joined the other gulls. This species is a rather unusual guest so far in the inland and appears normally in the winter months. Therefore I was astonished to find one of these here in June. It was really stunning how obvious the differences in structure and colour were in comparison to the other two gull species.
Originally, I had planned to visit the Fichtelgebirge today, in order to find an obviously tame Three-toed Woodpecker that had been reported on ornitho.de. However, this morning I skipped this plan, as yesterday evening a Thrush Nightingale had been discovered in the Mohrhof-Weihergebiet. The eastern sibling of the more common Nightingale looks and sounds very similar to the latter and isn't actually easy to identify. So it is quite understandable, that I'm normally a bit sceptical when I read about Thrush Nightingale sightings beyond eastern Germany, which is by the way its western distribution boundary. Nonetheless, since both sound recording and record shots had been uploaded to ornitho.de, this case was naturally different.
I started as early as possible and went straight to the location where it was seen last. At first it remained very quiet there (well, some other birds were singing of course, but not the one I hoped for) and I had to wait quite a while until finally the striking song of the Thrush Nightingale could be heard. Sadly, during the next twenty minutes the bird didn't hop out of its bush a single time, but still I'm happy with my sound recording, which is a lot better than nothing at all.
Afterwards I spent another hour or so walking around in the area, where I could add Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Savi's Warbler and Sedge Warbler to my year list. Generally, this site is very nice and many rare species like Black-necked Grebes breed there, although it is not always easy to spot them from the paths.
As I was already rather close to Erlangen, I made a detour to the suburb Tennenlohe before driving back home, where my second target species of this day, a male Red-breasted Flycatcher, spends now its second summer in a row. Despite no female is anywhere nearby it's singing the whole day and has apparently adapted to the permanent presence of humans. So I got very close to this small guy and was able to take some decent pictures, although the light was far from good.
As according to the weather forecast storms are approaching in the next days, I used these two last nice days with intensive birding. Yesterday I paid the Ortolan Buntings at Grettstadt a visit, which has become kind of a tradition over the last three years. Unfortunately, it was a bit windy and so the buntings were just reluctantly singing. In the end it must have been roughly as many as last year, but due to the suboptimal conditions I can't be absolutely sure. Last year wasn't actually a particularly good year for the Ortolan Buntings in Franconia, so let's hope that this breeding season will be better.
Welcome extras here were my first Quail and Wryneck of the year, though only heard.
Today I started with the Unterbrunner Mainschleife in the Upper Main valley. Birding began here already at the car park when I spotted two Turtle Doves, before I even got out of the car. Immediately afterwards a Golden Oriole sounded out of the nearby wood, year tick number 2.
While the start was really great, the situation on the lake didn't look so good at first, because there were virtually just a couple of Canada Geese and Mallards. However this changed also rather quickly, when a small white egret appeared on the opposite shore. A brief glance through the binoculars confirmed my first assumption, a Little Egret. Though this species is increasing in Germany, it's yet a scarce sight. Normally this would have been reason enough to be pleased with the day, but the site kept on delivering, as no five minutes later a Grasshopper Warbler set in with its song.
After a while I went to the second hide on the western shore of the lake. Here masses of Common Whitethroats were singing, accompanied by Nightingales, a Marsh Warbler and a Bluethroat. A closer examination of the bushes produced furthermore a pair of Red-backed Shrikes and a Wryneck. Unfortunately I had strong backlight, so it was very difficult to make pictures on this place.
Instead of driving straight back home I decided to make a detour to a small lake near Breitengüßbach. This should turn out to be a wise choice, because alongside with four Little-Ringed Plovers and a Lapwing I spotted a Little Tern resting on a sandbank! For all people living close to the sea this might sound not so spectacular, but in Southern Germany this is a true rarity with just a handful records each year. After enjoying this gorgeous bird for a few minutes through the scope I made some record shots and left the site. What a great end of a superb birding day!
It has been quiet on this blog for quite a while, mostly because I've spent three weeks in Israel, which is by the way not only a beautiful country but also terrific for birdwatching. Soon I'm going to report more on my experiences there as well, but for now I'll focus on my current sightings here at home.
Today I started with the "Schlagenweg" near Zell a. Ebersberg hoping to find some classical woodland species. The site is especially interesting because three species of flycatchers breed in the ancient forest, namely Pied, Collared and Red-breasted Flycatcher. The latter is by far the rarest of the three and since the first individuals are just arriving from their winter quarters, I couldn't seriously expect to find one. The other two have however been reported since at least four weeks on ornitho.de, though mainly from other sites. Therefore I was a bit shocked that on the first kilometer I didn't find a single flycatcher but just the usual Wood Warblers and Chaffinches. It took very long until I heard the first individual faintly in the distance. Fortunately, it changed its position and came very close to the path so that I was able to take a record shot of it.
Despite of this nice sighting it is nonetheless strange that I haven't found even a single Pied Flycatcher. On the way back I came at least across one further Collared Flycatcher but this species is as well underrepresented in comparison to last year. I wonder what the reason for this is. I can only hope that it was because of the admittedly late daytime.
Afterwards I went to the Großer Wörth, which is - as said some times before - one of my favourite sites. Before walking the classical circular route I made a detour to the neighbouring airfield in order to connect with the Corn Buntings there. Fortunately, it took no longer than five minutes until I heard their characteristic jingling song.
A quick visit of the observation tower produced the usual Reed Buntings, Eurasian Reed Warblers and Great Reed Warblers, but no Little Bittern. I guess that I would have needed a bit more patience for observing one of those, but I simply didn't want to stay longer there than necessary. Along the circular path I finally heard the songs of several common species like Nightingale, Garden Warbler or Cuckoo that I've so far missed in the year, since the most hadn't yet arrived, when I had left Germany in April. So I could add some easy year ticks within a couple of minutes.
On the sandbanks of the opposite shore there was surpringly a small flock of large gulls, which normally are rather found in the winter. Yellow-legged Gulls are indeed rare breeders in Franconia, but the also present Caspian Gulls were a really unusual sight. Perhaps this comes because of the continuing expansion of this species over the last years. Alongside these probable migrants I found furthermore some Lapwings and a pair of Little-Ringed Plovers.
So in the end I've seen 62 species today, of which 8 have been new for this year.