maandag 9 februari 2015

Where to Watch Birds in Winter in Finland

During winter time, forests in Finland are usually quite empty with birds... it is the silence that dominates the forest's sounds. Despite this, you can still do some birdwatching; lots of people feed birds in their gardens! The variety of species is not very high, but every now and then some nice species can turn up. Tits (Great, Blue, Willow and Coal Tit) are usually found, followed by Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows, Waxwings, Bullfinches,Fieldfare, the less usual Blackbirds and also regularly Redpolls. In a feeding place south of Joensuu there have been observations White-backed Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch spp. asiatica and also good numbers of Hawfinches; a rare visitor in Karelia.

Last week sunday (Feb 1st) I went to the feeding place to see if I could take some photos and see some nice species; I felt like doing some birdwatching because it had been a while!

I spent some 1,5 hours there, enjoying myself with the Waxwings and other birds, but I hadn't seen my target species yet. Then after long waiting both White-backed Woodpecker and Nuthatch showed up simultaneously! I was able to take some good pics of both species, very exciting!

Below some of the results:
 The White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), male
 Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea asiatica),
 Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), male
 Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus)
Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
Mealy Redpoll (Acanthis flammea), adult male

woensdag 4 februari 2015

Faab in Finland

There I am, after a year of zero blogposts. Faab is on an adventure again: Finland this time! A month has already passed since I've been here and I promised myself (and others) that I would start with my blog again, so there is no way of avoiding it anymore :) The past weeks I have been quite busy with all sorts of stuff, so I didn't find the time yet to write something.

On January 3rd I flew from Amsterdam to Helsinki where I met Roni and his girlfriend Annika. The first two days were spent in Helsinki, doing some sightseeing and birding (and eating my first Moose meat!). On monday the 5th, we set off to Joensuu, a city in Eastern Finland where I am spending this semester studying forestry! On the way we dipped a Hawk Owl, but connected with a nice group of Two-barred Crossbills. Also, we saw our first groups of Pine Grosbeaks, and I managed to ring my first Grosbeak! The 6th we mainly did Grosbeak ringing, catching 22. And on wednesday the 7th, the real life begun: the orientation days of the university started at 12.00. The next days were spent doing all kinds of practical stuff for the uni, and of course meeting a lot of new people! So far it's been a lot of fun, making new friends, doing real Finnish stuff (Saunaaa, ice swimming, ice fishing etc) and studying at another university is also challenging!

Birdingwise I haven't had a lot of time for it yet! Not that winter birding here is superb exciting, but still there are some nice things to see around. The Waxwings haven't bored me yet; I see hundreds everyday, while cycling to the uni!

Below some pictures:
 Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator), adult male and adult female
 Pine Grosbeaks, together with some Waxxies
 Roni with a 1st winter male Grosbeak
 Roni & Johanna with some grosbeaks
 Arctic Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni), 1st winter, my first Arctic Redpoll (discovered from my appartment!)
Two-barred Crossbills (Loxia leucoptera), 20 birds near Punkaharju

And some other non-bird photos:
Joensuu: the forestry capital of Finland!

vrijdag 28 februari 2014

Snowy Owls & hundreds of Cranes

Last sunday, the 23rd of February, we went to see the Snowy Owls on Vlieland! Together with my dad and Henri. They've been present there for quite some time now, and we finally had the time to visit them.

We took the ferry at 10.40 from Harlingen and arrived on the island around 11.30. We rented a bike and then headed in the direction of the owls. There was a strong wind blowing so the 6 km drive took us about 45 minutes!

Arriving there we soon found a Snowy Owl perched on a dune, quite distant though, The view through the scope was great, but there was not much activity so we looked for the 2nd bird. I soon saw on that the second bird had been seen. So we headed there. This bird was much closer - but still not really active. We spend the entire afternoon with the birds, very enjoyable!

Here are some shots:
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), first winter female, bird nr. 1
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), first winter female, bird nr.2 - much darker and more barred
Location of the 2nd bird

The next day (monday 24th) a huge wave a Cranes passed through NL, I was birding at Radio Kootwijk, looking for parrot crossbills - only finding common -when I got lots of messages reporting groups of Cranes passing by. At that moment, I immediatly left and went to a high point with a good view to look for the Cranes: with succes!
 Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), male
Look-out point from which I saw 320 Cranes, Achterste Steenberg, Hoog Buurlo
Cranes (Grus grus), distant and close-by!

donderdag 13 februari 2014

Repeat of the Day

I went back to the woodies, spent a couple of hours with them, enjoying myself!

 Middle-spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), bird 1
 Bird 2
Also came across this Roe Deer, that didn't look too healthy after second inspection

dinsdag 11 februari 2014

Signs of Spring

As a result of the mild weather we're having, lots of birds have the feeling that it's spring already. I visited the Paleispark at Paleis het Loo this morning and had a great morning. Clear skies, with clouds every now and then, together with some slight wind gusts. The birds were in full swing: active Great Spotted Woodpeckers, most species of Tit, singing Chaffinches, Hawfinches, Mistle Thrush, displaying Goshawk and so on. Wonderful. The signs of winter were still conspicious however, with hundreds of Bramblings and Chaffinches. Also, groups of Fieldfares and Redwings were still present in the park.

My visit had a special goal: finding Middle-spotted Woodpeckers. It only took me about half an hour before I found them! I was walking along a lane with old oaks and suddenly I heard and saw two woodpeckers chasing each other. They turned out to be Middle-spotted!

The male showed well for a while, foraging in a oak at close distance. I lost the other bird as soon as I focused on the male, I presume it was a female because it was not really vocal, but I'm not sure. A bit later the male took off and started singing in a patch of oak trees a few 100m away from me. I enjoy the Jay-song of the woodpeckers, very distinctive.

Anyway, I got a couple of decent shots from the bird, if I would have my phone with me a good sound recording would have been collected as well,
 Middle-spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), male
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla), male adult winter

maandag 27 januari 2014

Winter keeps getting better and better: White-billed Diver!!

We've had an unbelievable good winter for rare birds in The Netherlands so far, it's crazy. Today I saw my 4th lifer of the year already... Two-barred Crossbill, Brown Shrike, Caspian Plover (last Saturday) and now White-billed Diver. Incredible!

Just take a look at this list of (really) rare birds present in NL right now:
A printscreen of yesterday's homepage

Yesterday a White-billed Diver (or Yellow-billed Loon) had been found on the Rhederlaag, a recreational lake near Arnhem. It's a good place for seabirds. I've seen Velvet Scoter and Long tailed Duck there for example. And now this place strikes again, but this time with a real badass bird!

The bird was discovered late in the afternoon and we weren't able to twitch it, so we went this morning. Together with my dad and Tommy we arrived there at 9.40. Luckily for us (and lots of other people), the bird was still there and showed really well.

We first saw the bird at quite close range (~150m). Not much later the bird swam towards the sun, bad light, and the bird was swimming further and further away. We tried from the other side of the lake where we had good views, but more distant than before (~500-600m). The light was perfect, so that made up for the distance.

Tammo got a recordshot of the first moments:
White-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii), first winter; what an enormous, massive bill,

As Tommy and I had to go to the uni we took off. Hopefully the bird will stay longer so we can visit it again:)
By the way, here: are already lots of other good pics of the bird. Check it out whilst I'm still enjoying this lifer from behind my laptop!

zaterdag 25 januari 2014

Caspian Plover & Long-legged Buzzard Combo!

Today I went to the Caspian Plover that has been present for almost two weeks now at Wissenkerke, Zeeland. I went together with Reinoud Vermoolen. We left Wageningen at 8.00 and in the mid-morning we arrived there. At arrival the bird wasn;t active at all, it was sat inactively on a crop field. We decided to check Neeltje Jans for Shags, but we weren't productive. When we came back to look if the Caspian Plover had become more active, and indeed! The bird had flown to another crop field and was foraging actively. At a good distance we could observe the bird very well. I managed one record shot:
Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus), first winter; based on the light brown edging of the coverts

Next stop was the Snow Goose not far from the Caspian Plover. We soon found it together with Greylag Geese, for what's worth it...! 

As always, the Brouwersdam between the islands Schouwen-Duivenland & Goeree-Overflakkee. This is always a great birding place in winter, for waterfowl. 

We saw a Great Northern Diver, some Red-throated Divers, several Horned and Red-necked Grebes, some Common Scoters and 3 Long-tailed Ducks were also really nice. One male was sat on the side of the dam, nice!

Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), adult? male

Last but not least a stop was made at the Maasvlakte, where the longstaying (120+ days!!) is still present. We had perfect views as it flew past in front of the car and perched on a pole, not far in the field!

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), first winter