About one and a half years ago I thought about how I could photograph a Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula). This duck species is spread over the whole northern hemisphere, in Germany it only breeds in the north. But it also spends the winter in southern Germany. The males are coloured black and white, the females brown and grey – despite this lack of colour it is a very beautiful bird species. Two years ago I had the chance to photograph a female in Leipzig – but never a male.
Last winter I spent some time with a friend, M. Kamps, in northeast Germany – among other things we were hoping for beautiful observations of goldeneyes. In an industrial harbour I finally had a satisfying encounter.
Goldeneyes perform an extraordinary courtship display. The male swims towards the female – suddenly he leans his head wide on his back, holds it there for a moment and then several things happen at the same time: It throws its rear body up while it bends its tail down, pushes its feet quickly under the body till they are put into the air. The water splashes around, so that the male is framed by a ring of water. It finally gives a strange grunt. Then it turns its head with its beak open directly into the sky before returning to its typical swimming position. I hadn’t even dared to hope to photograph this behavior. But shortly after my return from northeast Germany, a Goldeneye male happened to doe the courtship display right in front of me. Here I show you some single pictures from a series of this behaviour:
Here another photo of the series showing the ring of water:
As you can see, the male does several things in sync, but this is understandably not so easy – not even for a goldeneye. Look at the following photo of a young male – while in the adult bird both feet are almost perfectly synchronized, in this young male the feet have completely different positions and the toes are not even spread. Water droplets fly through the air in a wild mess, but do not form a ring. So males are likely to have to practice this courtship behavior and females may be able to judge the male quality from their performance at the courtship display.
This spring, two friends and I visited one of the most remote Central Asian countries: Tajikistan. A country with breathtaking landscape, full of nice people and amazing animals. Life in this country with swamps, deserts and extremely high elevation areas is not easy. I will certainly tell and show more about this trip at some point. Here is already a first insight.
Another short trip – this time to France. I met a friend and college, Julien R., to record and discuss Crossbills. We visited different places in the French Alps. The days started long before sunrise and we hiked through the mountains during the early morning. Here are some impressions:
As we hoped, we found very interesting crossbills. When I show you the photos, they look like every other Red Crossbill. You need to hear the voice of these birds to be able to recognize them. As this is the topic of my PhD, it was really fascinating to meet some of these special birds of the southern Alps, which I heard on my computer many times but not in reality.
It’s done: all biIt’s done: all bird species of the Western Palearctic that I photographed until December 2016 are in the online archive. Finally I added photos of one of my favourite groups – the Grouses. All birds of this group are hard to find and hard to observe – so every encounter is an adventure.
I have spent many hours finding them, watching them, approaching them without disturbing them and finally photographing them. Some of them live in the densest thicket like the hazel grouse and it is easy to understand that they are hardly observable.
Other species of the family are found in the open like the Ptarmigan. However, they live in the high montane regions and, thanks to their camouflage, it takes a long time to discover them in winter.
They sometimes dig themselve into the snow for resting and all you see later are their tracks.
But as soon as you are rewarded with a real encounter, you know it was worth the effort.