Tuesday, 29 November 2011

LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL returns



Local patch: this morning a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was present in the small bay of Miramare within a flock of Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls. I presume it's the same old returning individual from the past years (a post with pics from last year can be found here). Now it is annualy recorded in the area between Barcola and Miramare, favouring the latter area. I remember I saw my first Lesser Black-back right there in 2005, so there's a possibility this is the same one... This time I managed just a few poor photos in bad light (above).
The 2 Red-throated Divers were also still around, getting quite close to the shore and giving close-up views (pic below). Otherwise quite poor on the sea, with only 1 Black-necked Grebe and the usual Shags.
A fine adult male GOSHAWK gave additional interest. I spotted it soaring over the woodland of Monte Grisa - it then rose quite high up and disappeared northwards. At first it gave quite close views, when it was still low over the coast.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

GREAT GREY SHRIKE











Found this magnificent GREAT GREY SHRIKE earlier this morning, just out of Sežana (SLO). The bird was sitting on the tops of different bushes on the open grassland area of Dane. It allowed great scope-views and showed well while hunting small insects - picked up from the ground. Sometimes taking prey after a short hover in mid-air! Fantastic to see, especially because it's the closest Great Grey Shrike to my home - just 20 minutes away!
I was hoping to find any sort of winter thrushes in the area, but there were few other birds around: 2 Ravens (one feeding on the ground), just 2-3 Mistle Thrushes, 3 Greenfinches (bah!), 5-6 Meadow Pipits and 1 Skylark (heard).

Firecrest & Short-toed Treecreeper visit the garden

Local patch: yesterday I had a nice morning out in the garden. Top bird was a FIRECREST sticking around a cypress tree in the late afternoon. Not a daily visitor to the garden and quite scarcer than the Goldcrest. Quite a surprise was a Short-toed Treecreeper that landed on a tree in the garden, just few metres away from the house. It climbed the tree to the top, then flew off. This is only the second or third time I see a treecreeper in the garden. Usually I just hear them singing or calling from nearby woodlands or bigger parks. Other birds around included: 1 Buzzard and 2 Sparrowhawks, 1 Nuthatch (heard), 1 Wren, Dunnock, 1 Green Woodpecker, 2 Black Redstarts and several Chaffinches. The Robin numbers have decreased by now and there are just a few birds per garden around.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Overflying Bittern


Škocjanski zatok NR: yesterday's highlight was a BITTERN that showed well for the whole morning. I got four views of it in flight, on different parts of the reserve. Most of the times it just flew over the reedbed for a few seconds, before dropping down again. The last time it decided to take a longer circle and landed somewhere nearby me, giving great flight views from quite close distance. It also called a few times while in the air - a harsh, heron-like call I never heard before!
Other birds on the reserve today included: 2 Shelducks, 1 female Pintail, +30 Shovelers, 70 Wigeons, 527 Teals (lots!), 13 Pochards (all on Jezerce), 5 Tufted Ducks (2 on Jezerce and 3 in the lagoon), 2 Black-necked Grebes, up to 500 Coots (!), 1 Marsh Harrier (seen briefly in flight...quite dark, so probably a female), 1 Sparrowhawk showing well on a tree, Buzzard, 5 Water Rails, 1 Green Sandpiper, 15 Greenshanks, 10 Curlews, 4-5 Snipes, 1 Skylark (overhead), lots of Water Pipits - now totally replaced all the other pipits, 1 Moustached Warbler (heard calling in a small patch of reedbed... it didn't show this time), a few Chiffchaffs, some Penduline Tits at Jezerce, 3 Hawfinches and several Reed Buntings.
Above pic taken in Hungary, 2011

Local patch: a Hawfinch was of interest yesterday - flying on the edge of the deciduous woodland.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Black Redstart & Sparrowhawk




Local patch: plenty of Black Redstarts around in the last few weeks. One or two showing well on the rooftops around my house. Usually the females are commoner, but today this nice male was giving prolonged views on the top of a chimney and in the garden (above).
Otherwise 1 or 2 Dunnocks now on a daily basis, along with 1 Wren and a few Blue Tits - not yet on the feeder though.
A Sparrowhawk is always around looking for a meal, but promptly mobbed by the crows (below). A Buzzard that flew over the patch was aggressively driven away by a cloud of 15 or so Hoodies. Not much else in the gardens for now.


Yesterday a Peregrine was reported flying over Barcola, but unfortunately I didn't see it. It represents one of the very few yearly records of the species in the patch.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Frosty forest






Yet again another trip to the Trnovski gozd (Trnovo forest) in nearby Slovenia. That's already the third time I visit the area this year and actually concentrated exclusively in autumn. The situation today was a bit different from the previous times: all very quiet in the forest, maybe also due to the rigid temperatures. Just after 17.00 pm we reached -4 degrees C! The more shaded places (especially grasslands and woodland clearings) were all covered in a hoary frost. The ice spectacle was particularly pleasant on the bottom of Smrekova Draga, probably one of the coldest places in the area (see pics above). Even some feeding holes of Black Woodpeckers were frozen over (last pic).
Birds seen during the course of the day included the common forest species: 1 Buzzard, 1 Mistle Thrush, mixed parties of Coal, Crested and Willow Tits, Goldcrest, a few Eurasian Treecreepers, 2-3 Bullfinches, 1 singing Crossbill and a Raven.
In the evening not much Ural Owl activity either, with just 3 birds heard singing (one while still light). At dusk also a Tengmalm's Owl revealed its present with a high-pitched call.
A female RED DEER was of interest near Smrečje, grazing on a woodland clearing in the evening. Some Edible Dormice were still around too and a Roe Deer was "flushed" from the roadside.
That's it for this time!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Red-throated Diver score in the patch







Local patch: spent an amazing morning wandering along the coast between Barcola and Miramare, looking for divers and grebes. The RED-THROATED DIVER off the coast of Miramare was still showing well (see pics above). After some minutes of watching, it was joined by a Black-throated Diver and together they frequently dived for short periods. Amazing to have the two species in the same field of view (last pic above). Further down the shore, towards Miramare's castle a second Black-throated Diver was found. In the small bay where the Shags usually roost on the rocks, a superb RED-NECKED GREBE was also showing well and close (pics below). Probably the same bird from a week ago. A Water Pipit flew overhead (heard only).
Red-necked Grebe with some brown still visible on the neck and a striking yellow base to the bill:



Few kilometres away, on the sea in front of Barcola I managed to found yet another Black-throated Diver (below) and a second RED-THROATED DIVER.

Total so far:
2 Red-throated Divers
3 Black-throated Divers
1 Red-necked Grebe

Still no sign of any Great Crested or Black-necked Grebes on the sea (by far the commonest species in winter).

However not too bad for a morning in my local area. It is also the first time I see more that one Red-throated Diver in the patch (which is usually the scarcer of the two regular species here). It seems a good year for divers in general. At least here.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Grey Plovers on the Slovene coast




Škocjanski zatok NR: nothing really exciting around today. Just usual seasonal wildfowl, some waders and few other things: 2 Shelducks (clearly two different birds), 40-45 Shovelers, 65 Wigeons, about 200 Teals, 5 Pochards at the small lake of Jezerce (both sexes), 2 Black-necked Grebes in the lagoon, only 3 Pygmy Cormorants left, 1 male Marsh Harrier resting in the freshwater marsh (late record for the species here; a bit out of season), 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk (see pic below), 2 Water Rails, 1 GREY PLOVER in the lagoon, 5 Lapwings on the mudflats in the lagoon, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper (just heard), 10 Greenshanks, 8 Curlews, several Snipes, 1 Skylark (heard), 2 Meadow Pipits (overhead), lots of Water Pipits, some Penduline Tits and Reed Buntings as usual.
Sparrowhawk - just after landing on its favoured tree:


On the way back home I had time to check the small bay of Lazzaretto/Lazaret (half in Italy and half in Slovenia). The tide was quite low and the small muddy beach revealed 2 Grey Plovers and 2 Common Sandpipers, feeding together on the shore. The Grey Plover is a bird I've never seen in the area, so it was kind of interesting to see. At the waterside, on the beach 2 female Wigeons were also an unsual sight (some weeks ago I already had one there).
Within a flock of Black-headed Gulls, 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls were showing too (see pic below). The sea was quite lively: 3 Black-necked Grebes were present, along with 1 Great Crested and 1 Little Grebe, plus a female Red-breasted Merganser. Two Sandwich Terns also in the area.
Med Gull (foreground):


Yesterday a Great Egret was of note - migrating NE over Conconello (Trieste) at dusk. In the area of Campo Carri, near Banne (TS) just a few Meadow Pipits, Woodlarks and several Mistle Thrushes. No sign of the 3 reported Fieldfares from few days ago.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Cold wind brings birds!




Finally back to my routine birding, after nearly a week of "absence"! Fortunately the weather improved (at least for good birds) with a cold northeasterly that began to blow on Friday. Thus more new birds from the north and at least something to see offshore.

Local patch: a 15-minute visit to Miramare produced two very good birds for the area: 1 RED-THROATED DIVER (extremely close to shore) and nearby a RED-NECKED GREBE fishing along it (see pics above). I was quite surprised when the diver uttered repeatedly a mournful call to the sea.
A Wren and a Grey Wagtail were also of note in the garden (seen).

After 8.30 am I was at Isola della Cona, helping a friend guiding a group of beginners around the reserve. Even if it wasn't hardcore birding all the time, we managed to pull out some pretty interesting species: 60-80 White-fronted Geese, along with 4 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE (showing well while grazing on the marsh, but no pics unfortunately), several hundred Greylags, 3 Barnacle Geese (still present), all common dabbling ducks, including Pintail, then 3 Tufted Ducks, 3 female GOLDENEYES on the Quarantia canal (the firsts of the season!), 4 Black-throated Divers on the same canal, some Black-necked Grebes, 1 BITTERN (seen briefly in flight over the reedbed), 2 Cattle Egrets, 1-2 Marsh Harriers, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Goshawk (spreading panic among Starlings), Water Rail, several hundreds Lapwings, Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, a few Greenshanks, 5 Snipes, Curlew, Water Pipit, 1 female Stonechat, Penduline Tit, Hawfinch and some Reed Buntings.
Early in the afternoon I checked the sea at Lido di Staranzano/Alberoni (GO) and found: another Red-throated Diver (offshore), several Black-necked Grebes, lots of GC Grebes, several Grey Plovers on the mudflats, along with hundreds of Dunlins and Curlews. But there was too much "wind haze" to see farther out at sea.
Two female Goldeneyes:

Black-throated Diver:

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Autumn 2011 in the garden - a review


Local patch: as now most summer migrants will probably be in Africa already, it's time to make a bit of sums. It's been a very good autumn season in the garden. I was lucky enough to see almost all the common migrant species that usually visit the wider area of the local patch. The main misses were probably Pied Flycatcher and Northern Wheatear. However I got a nice surprise instead, in the form of an Icterine Warbler.
Here's a list of the top passerine migrants that were spotted in the garden (September to October):
-Common Whitethroat: 1 on 5th Sept
-ICTERINE WARBLER: 1 on 5th Sept
-Spotted Flycatcher: 1 on 17th Sept
-Willow Warbler: 1 on 26th Sept
-Whinchat: 1 on 28th Sept
-Tree Pipit: several on passage. The best was a bird perched on a tree in the garden on the 1st of Oct
-Common Redstart: 1 female on 1st Oct
-Lesser Whitethroat: 1 on 1st Oct
-Garden Warbler: up to 3 birds recorded together, but usually seen in singles
-Woodpigeon: total of 424 birds passed over the patch
-Song Thrush: total of 4 birds
-Blackcap: common on migration, usually 3-5 a day
-Chiffchaff: common, 1-3 a day

Not to mention the "out-of-the-garden" birds like Pallid Swift, Yelkouan Shearwaters, Gannets ect. A really enjoyable season!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Update from the patch


Local patch: yesterday I heard a SKYLARK over the garden, as it called flying by (not seen though). It represents the first record of the season for the garden area. A Serin was also of note yesterday.
Today instead the highlight was a LINNET (maybe more than one) that was also heard calling, as it probably flew past. Overall a scarce bird in the garden, recorded mainly just a few times a year. 2 Cormorants on migration flew over the patch at 11.45 this morning, heading east. At the same time a Buzzard was soaring high over the coast. The local Woodpigeon was also seen flying off some private parkland. In the garden, birds included: 2 Blue Tits, 2 Dunnocks (now heard on a daily basis), 5-6 Black Redstarts (predominantly females), +10 Chaffinches (feeding in flock on the ground) and 1 Cirl Bunting (calling somewhere in the nearby garden). Several Red Admirals were still around too, usually basking in the sun.
I also had a quick glimpse on a thrush sp. that flew past too quickly to be correctly identified. Most probably a Song Thrush, but the underwing colour seemed also quite good for Redwing. The mistery unfortunately remains...

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Woodcock time has arrived


Local patch: still quite grim today, with a very light south-easterly blowing from the sea and bringing even more wet weather. I spent some time at Miramare, trying to see some sort of seabirds. Only 2 Sandwich Terns flew past, along with several Red Admirals (over the sea) and a single Water Pipit.
In the garden a calling Wren was of note, along with Long-tailed Tits and 250-300 Starlings flying around.

Early afternoon was spent at the Lisert wetland with a friend, were a singing (sort of) Moustached Warbler was the highlight. Just heard...this time it didn't want to show. Otherwise lots of Penduline Tits in the reeds, several Water Rails, 1 Lapwing, 15 Curlews, Common Sandpiper, Water Pipit, 1 Goshawk hunting over the reedbed (later it headed NE) and 2 Black Woodpeckers in flight over the poplar wood, calling loudly to each other.

The top highlight came at dusk, when a WOODCOCK flew over our heads as we were leaving the Doberdob lake area (almost dark). It probably arrived from the poplar trees and headed straight towards the village of Doberdob, overflying the karstic heathland. Year-tick and thus a first of the season!
Other birds present around the lake included: 1 showy and very vocal female Grey-headed Woodpecker, 1 Meadow Pipit, Siskins (overhead), 4 singing Water Rails, Reed Bunting and some Teals (heard only). No sign of the Great Grey Shrike on the open heathland...
Above pic by RSPB

Friday, 4 November 2011

November rain


Škocjanski zatok NR: a wet and rainy morning on the reserve today with nothing really exceptional to report. Birds present in the area included: 11 Pochards (both on the small freshwater lake and in the lagoon - both sexes), 1 female Tufted Duck (a different bird from last week's one), 682 Coots (still increasing), 56 Shovelers, 6 Water Rails (one crossed the path as usual), several Siskins flew overhead, 1 singing Wren, Dunnock, 36 Greenshanks, several Reed Buntings, 6 Water Pipits (especially close to the screenings on the grazing marsh - see pic above), 4 Meadow Pipits on the grazing marsh (+ several others flew overhead), 16 Curlews, 1 SHELDUCK in the lagoon (not very common), 524 Teals in total, 10 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Great Egrets, 1 CATTLE EGRET (on the cattles and horses in the freshwater marsh), 1 Whinchat still (!) present in the same area (late record), flock of 7 Skylarks (on the grazing marsh), 2 Green Sandpipers, 9 Snipes, 2 Dunlins (within the flock of Greenshanks) and 3 Grey Plovers (with the Curlews) and a total of 49 Wigeons in the brackish lagoon.
I'm still waiting for the first Goldeneyes... it's only a matter of time.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Flame Brocade - new for the garden


Local patch: found this moth on Tuesday evening, just in front of my door. Later identified as a Flame Brocade (Trigonophora flammea) - a tick for the garden moth list!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Owl trio in the Trnovo forest



Yesterday I was back again in the Trnovski gozd (SLO) with a couple of other friends. We spent the morning looking for diurnal movement of Ural Owls and walking some really beautiful parts of the forest. In the evening we concentrated on the other owls, trying the good places by car. Before arriving to Predmeja (on the forest's border) a stop out of Ajdovščina revealed the local Great Grey Shrike sitting on the wires.
In the forest, during the afternoon/evening we got a total of at least 15 Ural Owls. We managed to see well a male in complete daylight, while it was mobbed by Jays in the beech forest. For about 15 minutes we followed its movement as it flew from tree to tree, at times perching for prolonged periods. Otherwise we did see some brief movement of other Ural Owls in the evening with the aim of the torch.
The TENGMALM'S OWLS were quite active too, with up to 6 different birds heard in the course of the evening. Only one of these gave its true "po-po-po-po" song, the others were just uttering the squeaking odd calls. We even managed to see one in flight over the conifers.
The third owl-highlight was in the form of a PYGMY OWL singing in the evening while already dark. Even if quite distant, the song was clearly audible for some minutes.
The forest was active with all the usual commoner birds including: Coal, Crested and Willow Tits, Mistle Thrushes, Siskins, several Bramblings within bigger flocks of Chaffinches, a few Meadow Pipits (flying over Mala Lazna), some Crossbills, lots of Black Redstarts, Goldcrest, Black Woodpecker (the commonest bird!), Raven and Eurasian Treecreeper.
The Edible Dormice were instead very quiet in the evening, with just a few heard squeaking.
On the way back home a total of 3 Red Foxes, 2 Brown Hares and 2 Roe Deers from the car.
The two above photos were taken two years ago in the same area (see post)
Below a view over Smrekova Draga:


Colourful fungi on the forest's floor:

A Black Woodpecker's "dining table":