Sunday, December 25, 2016

SNOWY OWL!!!

Today, Christmas Day, I visited Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays to try and find an owl. I have been visiting this site for years in hope of finding one, but these trips were never successful. After walking along the beach for only a short time I located my lifer Snowy Owl in the dunes, an individual with intermediate barring, so either an immature male or an adult female. Despite the many surfers and people walking dogs on the beach, the owl seemed calm and unbothered.

It was also an opportunity for me to test my new 400mm Canon lens, which took some pretty good pictures of the owl.

Snowy Owl - 25/12/2016
Snowy Owl - 25/12/2016

Snowy Owl - 25/12/2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Birding Central Park

Central Park is most famous for warblers in Spring, but Winter is good for birds as well. I spent two days in Manhattan, and visited the park on both days.

Day 1:
On my first visit to Central Park, I started in the south of the park and headed to the Reservoir. On the way I saw a Hermit Thrush on a fence post. I was amazed at the tameness of the birds in the park, including the thrush, which let met approach it closely.


Hermit Thrush - 21/12/2016


I then continued on to the Reservoir, where I saw Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks, American Coots and American Black Ducks.

Ruddy Duck - 21/12/2016

Bufflehead - 21/12/2016
In the Ramble, my main objective was to find a Fox Sparrow. After looking through the flock of White-throated Sparrows for a long time, I finally managed to locate a Fox Sparrow, with beautiful reddish coloration.

Fox Sparrow - 21/12/2016

Day 2:
On my second trip, my main goal was to see the Green-winged Teal and Wood Duck that had been reported in the days prior. I headed to the Pond where I quickly located the teal and got great views, while the Wood Duck was largely concealed by vegetation.
Wood Duck - 22/12/2016
Green-winged Teal - 22/12/2016
      
New York Skyline - 22/12/2016
                         

                           

Birding Shinnecock Inlet

I arrived in New York last week with Harlequin Duck, Snowy Owl and Snow Goose on my target list for the trip. Earlier this week I headed down to Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays to search for winter birds. It was around -5 degrees Celsius at the Inlet, and very windy. I walked to the jetty and scanned the flock of Black Scoters and to my surprise, I saw a pair of Harlequin Ducks.
Harlequin Duck - 19/12/2016
Harlequin Duck - 19/12/2016

The female was far out but the male came quite close to shore. The male's white markings and chestnut coloration was truly beautiful, but I continued down the beach to a massive flock of gulls. After doing a lot of walking and searching, I was rewarded with an Iceland Gull. My camera was out of battery, so I took a picture with my phone through my binoculars.

Iceland Gull - 19/12/2016

Iceland Gull - 19/12/2016
             





Sunday, December 11, 2016

Birding Lake Constance


Lake Constance, shared between Germany, Switzerland and Austria, is a great place to go birding in winter. Many birds that are rare in the rest of Switzerland can be found here.

My birding trip started on the Untersee, a small water body connected to Lake Constance by the Rhine river. The Ermatinger Becken in the East of the Untersee is a well-known location for Bewick's (Tundra) Swans in winter. After scanning the lake we found two female Red-breasted Mergansers, a Spotted Redshank, and one Tundra Swan. The swan was a great distance away, on the other side of the lake in Germany, and was difficult to identify because its bill was hidden most of the time. At the train station we saw two Stock Doves, a lifer for me, in a group of Collared Doves.

Stock Dove - 11/12/2016

We continued on to the town of Altnau, a reliable place to see Arctic Loons and other open-water species. As soon as we arrived at the lake, a flock of 8 Velvet Scoters flew by, quite far out on the lake. This was another lifer, and an uncommon species in Switzerland. We then saw two Arctic Loons close to shore.

Velvet Scoters - 11/12/2016


Arctic Loon - 11/12/2016

Arctic Loons - 11/12/2017

After that we went to Arbon where we saw a Caspian Gull, and after scanning the Eared Grebe flock, we discovered two Horned Grebes. I only managed to get a few dreadful shots as they were far out.

Horned Grebe - 11/12/2016

Caspian Gull - 11/12/2017

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Eurasian Bittern

Today I visited the Flachsee in Canton Aargau, one of my favorite birding destinations in Switzerland. It is an artificial lake on the Reuss river which is well known to birders and even has its own hide. Rarities that have been recorded here include Gull-billed Tern and Audouin's Gull and Black-winged Stilts have even attempted nesting here. I have seen Black-winged Stilts, both Godwits and Eurasian Spoonbills here in the past.

The Eurasian Bittern however is not strictly speaking a rarity, but an uncommon winter guest that has somehow eluded me until now. Due to its camouflaged plumage, which can look indistinguishable from the surrounding reeds, along with its solitary habits and its secretive behaviour it is not easy to find this species. Despite this, I managed to find one and this being my first encounter with this species I was overjoyed to be able to see this bird and even more happy to see it from a short distance and get some pretty good shots.

Eurasian Bittern - 13/11/1


Eurasian Bittern - 13/11/16


Eurasian Bittern - 13/11/16


Eurasian Bittern - 13/11/16







Saturday, October 22, 2016

Birding in the Rhine Delta

The Rhine delta is probably the best place on Lake Constance to go birding. It is in Austria, in the province of Vorarlberg, though most of the lake's shoreline is in Switzerland and Germany. During the last week, a Red Phalarope has been reported from the delta. I went there two days ago with no luck. I finally successfully twitched the bird today and although I only got fairly distant views I was extremely happy when I found this rare bird.

 I walked into the small viewing platform at the delta, where birders were lying on the floor taking pictures of birds. Finally, when the phalarope turned up on a mudflat, I managed to get a few pictures, albeit blurry ones . Unfortunately, the phalarope left the mudflat after that and was out of sight at times, although I did get to witness its strange feeding habit, where it spins around in circles to lift food from the bottom, creating a small whirlpool. Although the phalarope was by far the rarest bird there, I also got to see Water Rails and Spotted Crakes up close.

Red Phalarope

Red Phalarope

Water Rail

Spotted Crake

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Welcome to my Blog & About me

Welcome to my new blog about birds and birding. My name is Ben and I am an Austrian-American living in Switzerland, a great country for birding with many birding opportunities ranging from trekking in the mountains to taking boat trips on vast lakes. I created this blog because there is very little information about birding in Switzerland on the internet, although there is a great diversity of birds here. On this blog I will be writing about birding experiences in Switzerland and abroad, writing about birding tips and doing reviews of books, birding gear, movies and TV series that relate to birds and birding. Every summer and for about two weeks around Christmas the posts will be about birding in the U.S since I go there every year during these times to visit my family.
Happy birding!