One reason why finding new species is becoming a rare event is the lack of traveling and exploration of new places. A new place doesn’t guarantee the discovery of new species but with a bit of previous research, chances can be increased. From time to time a new species appears in the usually visited spots, especially in migration season. And then there is the problem of getting an acceptable photo, one that can be shared without totally ruining the aesthetics of the rest of the page. Many times when I want to explore a new place I research the local birding websites or the global nature apps like Inaturalist to see what I can expect to find there. It is defiantly a good tool if you want to check off the list of a new species.
In the last ‘’new species,, article I’ve talked about this lake that is one hour drive from home and where I found the cute mink. I have returned to that place in hopes that I would see the mink again. I did not see it, but to be honest, I did not spend too much time lurking at the place I’ve seen it last time because it was too cold to sit in one place for long periods of time. Instead I found two new bird species in the forest that’s next to the lake. I have seen before the Coal Tit (Periparus ater) but this time I also got a decent photo. In the field can be easily mistaken with the Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris) and Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) but the Coal tit can be identified by its white nape on the back of its head and it often shows a tiny crest. P. ater is an all-year resident throughout almost all range and in winter will form small flocks with other tits, resembling the other tits in acrobatic skill and restless activity. The most interesting fact I found about this bird is that it was reported to have the largest number of bird fleas (Ceratophyllus gallinae) from a single nest, 5,754 fleas.
Another bird spotted that day was the Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) which I’ve seen and photographed for the first time. I was lucky to have that ray of beautiful warm light illuminating the bird, too bad it was so high up in the trees. The Eurasian siskin (Spinus spinus) is a small passerine bird in the finch family that has a pleasant song, beautiful plumage and is active and sociable, often being raised in captivity for those various reasons. It is one of the few species that exhibiting the behavior called “allofeeding”‘. This behavior is where subordinates (of the same sex) regurgitate food for the dominant members of the group. Those actions imply a hierarchical structure within the group and create a strong cohesion in the flocks.
A great example of a time when I’ve done some research before deciding on a new place to explore is when I’ve got these pictures of the Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) and a video. I have seen the sighting of a common eider in a Danish birding website and because it was near the place where I live I did not hesitate in trying my luck. The bird was there, single, in a port, too bad I didn’t find a place to get to the water level and too bad that as the bird got closer and more comfortable with me, a boat appeared and ruined my photo shoot. This is a very beautiful bird but also a rare one, is classified as near threatened by the IUCN. This sea duck is the largest from the four species of eiders, the largest duck in Europe and only exceeded by the Muscovy duck in North America. Female eiders frequently return to breed on the same island where they were hatched, this being a case of natal philopatry. This can lead to a high degree of relatedness between individuals, which has likely played a role in the evolution of co-operative breeding behaviors amongst eiders. Behaviors like laying eggs in the nests of related individuals and team up and sharing the work of rearing ducklings.
On my way to find the Eider, I have stopped to take some photos of the noisy European Skylark (Alauda arvensis ssp. arvensis). It was not the first time I see the Skylark but it is the first time I see it on the ground and I get good pictures. The bird is known for the song of the male that is delivered in hovering flight from heights of 50 to 100 m, exactly how I usually encounter it, way above me. The Skylark was introduced to New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and Canada. In the Uk, there are now only 10% of the numbers present 30 years ago mainly due to farming practices and partly due to pesticides. Now, English farmers are encouraged and even played to create and maintain habitat for the European Skylark.
Other times I just go on a place uninformed about what I could find and just take what I get. This mostly happens when I go to a place like a national park or reservation where it is guaranteed to find something and usually during the migration when you can never be sure what is going to fly by. One of those times happened last March when I went to an island that is part of a big coastal national park. Because of an unexpected car problem I was unable to spend too much time there so the amount of spotting and photos was way under the predicted quantity. I made a single new spotting there and that was the Brant goose (Branta bernicla). On those blackheads, you can barely spot dose dark eyes also because they were at distance and didn’t let me approach no matter how much I’ve tried. Like the Eider, it breeds on the Arctic coast and winters in western Europe. There is a myth dated back to at least the 12th century that says that brant and the similar barnacle goose are one species and are the same creature as the crustacean. Until relatively recently, Catholics could eat this bird on a Friday because it counted as fish.
Sometimes in February this year, I have made a trip to the most northern point of Denmark in search of seals and based on a rumor that it is a good time to find one there. The weather was awful with high winds, overcast sky, low temperature, and some precipitation. No seal in this case, only a dead one that was lying on the beach. Few Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) were flying from place to place and they looked like they would be carried by the wind. But I guess they are used to difficult weather conditions as the snow bunting is the most northerly recorded passerine in the world. It is also the first migrant species that arrive at the Arctic probably because the males are highly territorial and the quality of the nesting area is crucial to reproductive success. The females follow four to six weeks later when the snow begins to melt. Because of the risk that the low temperatures will kill the embryo during the incubation period, the male brings food to the female so she can continually control the nest’s microclimate.
We all know that bats are nocturnal creatures, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw a bat flying in the middle of the day. It was around 14:00 o’clock when this happened, and it was more than one bat in the area. I have tried to find out if this is a normal phenomenon but all that I’ve read says that is not. They are part of the Vesper Bats (Family Vespertilionidae) that are insectivore. What is even funnier is their names derive from the Latin term vesper which means ‘’evening’’ and they were once referred as evening birds.
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For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look at INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.