Berlin: Goshawk Capital of the WorldDec 04, 2013
The Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis
) is a magnificent and powerful raptor distributed all over the Palaearctic and parts of North America. Hated and illegally pursued by pigeon breeders and gamekeepers, it remains a timid woodland bird over large parts of its range. Not so in Berlin! The buzzy German capital with its vivid night life, club scene and cultural offerings not only attracts flocks of tourists but also hosts a large and healthy population of the Northern goshawk. Since monitoring started in the 1980s, the population number is constantly growing up to recent > 85 breeding pairs with an estimated number of unknown pairs in Berlin’s large forests. In Berlin, goshawks prefer to breed in parks and cemeteries where they build their large nests in the tops of old trees. Courtship begins in January when the mating calls can be noticed by the wary observer. Egg deposition is generally in March. One to four hatchlings are raised which become full-fledged in July. Berlin’s goshawks mainly feed on domestic pigeons and rats, thus rendering a great job to control these pests.
To learn more about origin, dispersal, longevity and population dynamics of Berlin’s goshawks, a color banding program has been started in 2012. Detailed information (in German) can be found here
Urbanisation of goshawks has occurred also in other large European cities such as Amsterdam, Prague or Cologne, but none of these cities can claim to host such a large breeding population. The main reason of this phenomenon might be the constant availability of prey all year round plus the security from human prosecution. Many birds even became accustomed to the presence of humans and became very trustful, thus offering great photo opportunities which are difficult to find elsewhere.
The first picture above shows a pair of goshawks during courtship feeding in March. In close vicinity of the nest, the male (left, notice red eyes and smaller size) deposits prey on a perch and subsequently attracts the female by calling her. Generally the male flies off before she approaches but this time, I was lucky to catch Mr. and Mrs. Goshawk smiling for the camera!
Kestrel on the CoverNov 26, 2013
One of my kestrel portraits made it on the cover of the NABU journal Natur in Berlin
. NABU (Naturschuzbund Deutschland) is Germany’s largest and oldest nature and bird conservation organization. The recent issue of Nature in Berlin
is a special volume featuring the astonishing diverse birds of prey occurring in the German capitol. Apart of the title page, the volume contains seven other of my raptor images. The complete contend can be viewed online here
Grassshopper SnackNov 25, 2013
During late summer and early fall, the Great green Bush-Cricket (Tettigonia viridissima) represents an important food source for the Eurasian kestrel, especially in years when voles are scarce. The grasshoppers are most active in the late afternoon and this is the hunting time for both, kestrels and photographers.
Interestingly, prey handling behavior differs much among individual birds: Whereas some kestrels manipulate and ingest their prey in flight, others prefer the comfort of a perch, usually a fence post. Generally, the first thing kestrels do after a successful catch is to bite off the head of their wriggly prey, thus preventing escape. Sometimes, however, they omit to do so, as in the case pictured above.
Front-lit YellowjacketNov 15, 2013
To create a pleasing halo of hairs around this German wasp (Vespula germanica) I used the frontal sunlight as the main light source and the Canon macro ring flash as a fill flash. The halo is best visble when a dark background is used. For this setup, I mounted a cardboard plastered with black velvet some centimeters behind the perch. Nothing absorbs light better than black velvet! To make the perch ( a plum) more attractive for the wasp, I trickled a mixture of water, honey and sugar on the reverse site of the plum.
Tornadoropa relaunch!Nov 15, 2013
After five years since the start of Tornadoropa, I thought it is time for a facelifting of my website! Keeping things simple and a more modern appearance was my intention. The site has a blog structure now which will help me a lot to keep the content up-to-date. Moreover, it will be much easier for you to browse through the galleries. My sincere acknowledgements go to Olaf Schlegel from Al Websites
for the excellent job.
Since everything was broken anyway, I didn't see harm in experimenting with a new template for the blog. If you have a moment to comment, I'd appreciate your feedback:
Is the new site more or less aesthetically pleasing than the old site? How so?