Sunday, 18 December 2011

MERLIN & Velvet Scoters - signs of a cold winter!

I started this nice Sunday at Lido di Staranzano-Alberoni (GO). While scanning the sea I was soon rewarded with a flock of 16 VELVET SCOTERS. Quite far, but still managed to get some decent views. Both sexes were present, with the males sporting a nice yellowish base of the bill. Sometimes they flapped their wings, showing the extensive white panels.
The sea and the beach were full of birds: 510 Dunlins feeding in tight flock (see pics below) along with many Curlews & Grey Plovers. Also lots of Wigeons, about 50 Black-necked Grebes, 150 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Black-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 female Goldeneyes, 2 Red-necked Grebes and 1 Red-throated Diver.
Curlews, Dunlins & Grey Plovers:

Later I went to see the 3 reported FLAMINGOS in the Valle Cavanata Nature Reserve. I found the birds almost immediately - three juveniles, one of them had a green ring on the right leg.
The main reservoir/lagoon was absolutely stuffed with wildfowl: especially large numbers of Shoveler and Pintail, Teal, Mallard and some Gadwalls. Quite a lot of Lapwings too. Also an adult Spoonbill was present in the area. On the Averto canal and on the sea part of the reserve: 200 Pochards, 2 Goldeneyes (male and female), 2 Water Rails (both seen), 4-5 Grey Plovers (see pics below), 1 Greenshank, 8 Sandwich Terns, lots of Red-breasted Mergansers, 1 Common Sandpiper and even here large numbers of Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes out on the sea.
Two of the three juvenile Flamingos (with a Pintail on each side):

Grey Plovers on the shore:

For the afternoon, few other places could be better than Isola della Cona NR. I stayed in the area from 13.00 to 15.50 approx. The top bird of the day was found here in the form of a really nice female MERLIN sitting on a bush (see pics below). The bird perched there (just over the saltwater marsh) for about 5 minutes, giving distant but good views. Then suddendly took off, made a few circles over the reedbed and returned to the same perch. My first Merlin of the season by the way!
Other interesting birds on the reserve included: +500 White-fronted Geese + Greylags as well, 4 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE, 5-10 Curlews, lots of Lapwings, 2 Dunlins (in the freshwater marsh), Water Pipits, 3 Pintails, 5 Tufted Ducks, 1 Sparrowhawk and 3 Marsh Harriers (4 in the evening). A BITTERN in flight was also a great sight. It landed on the edge of a distant reedbed and showed for a while, before disappearing into cover.
A perfect end to the day!
Female Merlin:

Female Merlin...with Miramare's castle in the background (!!):

Some views on the snow-covered Nanos in nearby Slovenia (with Karst plateau in the foreground):