Sunday, 26 February 2012

ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD - Divača (SLO)






I've just spent a relaxed sunny Sunday having a family lunch in a restaurant in Divača (Slovenia). After the delicious and abundant meal I had the brilliant idea to take my mum on a short stroll in the nearby grassland (airfield) of Ležeški Gabrk. I was expecting to see the odd Great Grey Shrike... but instead I got far more than that. Approaching the airfield by car I immediately spotted a soaring Buzzard with a very white tail-base. At that instant I realised what kind of buzzard was that.
So I jumped from the car and had binoculars ready on it: *ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD*!! The bird glided slowly towards me, then started to soar above my head. On few occasions it tried a short hover. A few minutes after it rose so much up in the sky that I lost it. I was quite impressed by the overall whitness of the bird, contrasting with the dark carpal markings and brown belly. The white seemed just so pure and hoary that it was like the angelic form of a Buzzard.
This represents indeed one of my best finds in the last weeks! And by the way Rough-legged Buzzard is still considered a rarity here, so twice the enjoyment!
Unfortunately I had no telescope, so the above pics were made through the bins - binoscpoing works at times!
The Buteo lagopus was actually contending its airspace with a Common Buzzard and most surprisingly, a migrating female Marsh Harrier. A few Ravens were also nearby.

Later while driving back home, a flock of +100 Fieldfares near Lipica was also quite interesting to see.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Red-breasted Goose...invasion!


I had some unplanned birding this afternoon around the "goose hot-spot" - between Fiumicello and Terranova (GO). With a friend of mine we went to look for the rare geese and other lowland stuff. We think it's better to enjoy the goose spectacle while it lasts! The White-fronts (and all adjoining rarities) will be leaving in a while. The warm sunshine seems to be pushing the birds a bit, so I think it's just a question of days. Just to prove the fact: 6 (!!) Red-breasted Geese were found today in a field near Udine, along with hundreds of other White-fronts. Those were probably the same that overwintered southern down in Veneto and Emilia Romagna.
Well... the highlight for us came also in a ruficollis fashion, as we enjoyed the "local" RED-BREASTED GOOSE in a field near Isola Morosini, among 1000-1500 White-fronted Geese. Even if it was dusk already and the light was poor, the goose was a quite distinctive feature in the flock. A real spectacle when all the birds took off several times (due to passing airplanes). Around Isola Morosini a Bittern was also of interest: firstly flushed from a small reedbed and later flying over a field at dusk (silhouette against the sunset... wow!). Some Wigeons passed overhead when already dark (clearly on migration). In the nearby trees, along the Isonzato canal, were also 25-30 Fieldfares.
At Isola della Cona NR not much movement: a few Ruffs (not more than 10), 1 usual Bittern by the restaurant, 500-800 White-fronted Geese (in the freshwater marsh; no sign of the Lesser White-front), 1 Penduline Tit, common dabbling ducks, several Tufted Ducks and some really nice displaying Goldeneyes. A Red Admiral was on the wings in the warm sun.
The above photo is from last year - taken at Terranova, where the geese used to spend much of the time

Local patch: 2 Black Redstarts today (male and female) and a Firecrest in the garden yesterday.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

SPOTTED CRAKE heralds the arrival of spring!





Škocjanski zatok NR: top bird of the day was a SPOTTED CRAKE that I found during the monitoring (see pics above). While I was counting the ducks on the freshwater marsh, this little rail entered in my scope view and entertained me for about five minutes, while it fed out in the open with a bunch of Ruffs. I must say I'm really glad to see the first returning summer migrants!
Other birds that added a "touch of spring" to the air included: 35-40 Ruffs (in different flocks on the freshwater marsh), 5 Black-tailed Godwits and a flock of 14 Lapwings on the grazing marsh.
The White-fronted Geese were still around and I counted a total of 421 birds. They were moving quite a lot, probably visiting the nearby areas for feeding. Within the main flock were also 9 Greylag Geese.
Other birds around today: 17 Little Grebes (very low numbers), 4 Pygmy Cormorants, 3 Great Egrets, 29 Wigeons (confined to the freshwater marsh), 1 female Pintail, 41 Shovelers, 152 Teals, 15 Pochards, 8 Tufted Ducks, 1 Buzzard, 466 Coots (decreasing), 9 Curlews, 4 Greenshanks, 3 Snipes, 640 Black-headed Gulls (awful lot!), 141 Yellow-legged Gulls, 3 Caspian Gulls (usual first-winters), 83 Common Gulls (high number!), 11 Skylarks on the grazing marsh, 10 Water Pipits, 22 Fieldfares (in different flocks over the reserve; 2 feeding on the grass), 9 Penduline Tits, 15 Jackdaws, 3 Hawfinches and Reed Bunting.
Some Ruffs sported quite extensive white on the underparts:

Black-tailed Godwit:

First-winter Caspian Gull:

No sign of Garganeys yet, but the firsts should be here in a while...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Weekday birding at its highest: mega GEESE & Golden Plovers


Today's perfectly sunny and clear weather motivated me to go out and stay in the fresh air for the whole afternoon. A touch of north-easterly (a breeze actually) provided the best conditions for incredibly good visibility. From about midday onwards I was sticking around Isola della Cona NR and its huge geese flocks (about 2300 White-fronts were around). At that time, most of the geese were on the mudflats towards the estuary, so I had to wait for the sunset to see them well on the fields. In the meantime, between the reserve, Punta Barene and Alberoni I saw: Tufted Ducks (on the Quarantia canal), lots of Goldeneyes (big "rafts", especially on the sea), Red-breasted Merganser, 2 female Goshawks (one perched - a real massive bird), Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Curlew, Grey Plovers, Dunlin, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes in large numbers on the sea, Reed Buntings, all commoner dabbling ducks, Lapwing, 54 Ruffs (in the freshwater marsh... so far the first migrants this year!), 2 BITTERNS by the restaurant at Isola della Cona (showed extremely well and close while fishing - see pics), Hawfinch, Green Woodpecker, 1 Ruddy Shelduck (of unknown origins) and flock of about 30 Meadow Pipits.
Bittern giving excellent views:


Male Tufted Duck:

In the afternoon the freshwater marsh was already full of geese that came to drink and bathe. Both Greylags and White-fronted Geese were present in good numbers and among them also the four beautiful LESSER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE (see pics below and at top of the post). They were quite close to the second screening and could be viewed even with bins only. I couldn't see the reported Red-breasted Goose though, so I soon moved out to the fields of Terranova, where all the biggest flocks were starting to gather. As I arrived there I realised there were in fact lots of other scattered flocks of White-fronts in the surrounding fields (also several kilometers away). When I started to scan the main flock I immediately found 5 Tundra Bean Geese and shortly after just one of the Lesser White-fronts. But no sign of the Red-breasted here either. A beautiful male Hen Harrier was hunting nearby in a roadside ditch.
Finally some decent shots of the Lesser White-fronts:





Tundra Bean Geese:

I was soon joined by another fellow birder and together we decided to check the other geese flocks in the surrounding fields.
As we were heading towards Isola Morosini a small flying flock of plover-like birds caught our attention. We stopped the car and realised they were GOLDEN PLOVERS! About 25 birds that circled in the air for some seconds, before dropping down into a field. It's always a pleasure to see Goldies here on our latitudes where they are quite scarce visitors (away from migration).
After checking the flocks of White-fronts without success we decided to return to Terranova for a last look at the main group. An then... almost immediately, the first scan revealed the gorgeous *RED-BREASTED GOOSE*, grazing with hundreds of other White-fronts.
A perfect end to a great day!
With a bit of imagination you can see a Red-breasted Goose here (the light was too poor!):

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Lesser Black-backed Gull




Local patch: the wintering Lesser Black-backed Gull is always around Miramare and showed well this afternoon (pics above). In the area were also about 10 Common Gulls (4 birds in the last pic with the LBB Gull), 2 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Black-necked Grebes and a Cormorant.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Eagle Owl getting horny!







The Eagle Owl just out of the town of Trieste showed extremely well this afternoon. As shown in the above pictures, the male sang for nearly half an hour in full view on its favoured perches (a rock and a bush). The extensive white throat-patch was really obvious and looked huge when it delivered the song. It's always an incredible sight!

The rest of the day was spent wandering a bit around, without seeing that much movement. Earlier in the morning, the best sightings from the area around Staranzano-Bistrigna, Isola della Cona and Valle Cavanata included: about +2000 White-fronted Geese feeding on the mudflats (very distant), as well as some on the fields, 5 Tundra Bean Geese, a beautiful male Hen Harrier hunting by the roadside, a female Goshawk, several Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneyes on the sea and about 100 Common Gulls on the shore, Penduline Tits, Marsh Harrier ect.
On the Karst 2 Black Woodpeckers were of interest, along with 24 Greylag Geese migrating very high over the mount Stena (15.58 - heading N), a few Woodlarks, 2 Firecrests, 1 Fieldfare, Rock Buntings, Raven, Marsh Tits and so on.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Merlin, Alpine Accentor, Wallcreeper - the best of winter on a sunny February day!






Škocjanski zatok NR: this morning I was back doing my monitoring, after several weeks of absence. The main water bodies were still frozen after the very cold spell. Wildfowl has decreased steadily, but was compensated with a flock of 474 White-fronted Geese. These birds are present in the area since the beginning of February (maybe even before), but numbers fluctuate between the 300 and 500 birds. As I said, today I counted 474 birds, grazing on the freshwater marsh (last pic above). The best bird in the area though was a nice male MERLIN that decided to perch on the ground in the grazing marsh - giving excellent views for 10 long minutes (pics above).
Other birds around included: 8 Little Grebes (!! where have all the grebes gone?), 4 Greylag Geese (among the White-fronts), 17 Wigeons, 1 female Pintail, 8 Shovelers, 35 Teals, 15 Pochards, 10 Tufted Ducks, 1 Buzzard, 496 Coots (steady numbers), 3 Curlews, 4 Greenshanks, 465 Black-headed Gulls, 48 Common Gulls (interesting and quite high number for the area), 6-7 CASPIAN GULLS (still several 1st winters in the area; some were very distinctive), 282 Yellow-legged Gulls, 4 Skylarks, 5 Water Pipits, 10 Penduline Tits, 23 Jackdaws and a flock of 30 Linnets on the saltings.
This 1st cy Caspian Gull was very obvious:


Goose flock on the grazing marsh:

Early in the afternoon I enjoyed the warm sunshine on the cliffs of mount Stena - Glinščica valley, just out of Trieste. The first thing I saw when I got out of the car was a migrating flock of 35-40 White-fronted Geese heading north. Perhaps part of the flock from Škocjanski zatok...?
Initially the situation on the cliffs was very calm, with nothing of note apart from a Raven. I waited in silence for about 45 minutes. Suddendly some odd calls: quite metallic and... they were approaching. Few seconds after I was watching 2 ALPINE ACCENTORS flying over my head along the cliff ridge. Pity they didn't stop.
Then a Peregrine followed: it arrived in very quick flight from west (maybe from the town) and landed on its usual perch (see pic). From the colouring I guessed a female.
One last bird remained to be seen... But it was time to go. A last scan with bins on the cliff...and there it was: WALLCREEPER! Like my first one several years ago - same place, same circumstances: at that time I was leaving when I decided to take a last look at the cliff. That look gave me my first ever Walcreeper, flashing those crimson butterfly wings.
In the pine wooddland a few Crested and Coal Tits were of interest as well as a calling Black Woodpecker.
Peregrine:

Monday, 13 February 2012

A much awaited REDWING joins the show!


Local patch: another "thrush day" spent in the patch. Plenty of Fieldfares still around, but perhaps in smaller numbers than yesterday. Several birds flew over my house as well as the garden, but they all seemed to prefer the area at the edge of the woodland. And right there, on the highest treetops this afternoon I had a lovely surprise: a REDWING flew in with a couple of Fieldfares. Showed well (perched) for some seconds and then dropped down in a garden. A brief but intense encounter and a very welcome sight that rose the local patch bird list total to 146 species!
This morning I also had a close encounter with a male Cirl Bunting in full glorious sunshine light. Later a Cirl delivered its song several times (it's spring already!). Other interesting birds around included: 2 Firecrests (together on a bush) 1 Dunnock, 1 female Blackcap, 2 Greenfinches, 2 Hawfinches (flying above the woodland). Several Blackbirds were still around too - feasting on the ivy berries.
The sea was completely flat today (the wind decreased last night) and allowed a good view. A compact flock of 15 Great Crested Grebes was about, followed by a Black-throated Diver.
Redwing pic taken few years ago in Slovenia

Sunday, 12 February 2012

FIELDFARES feasting on kaki















Local patch: today I finally discovered where all the Fieldfares come from (or in fact go to)... Just a few hundred meters behind my house, at the woodland's edge, there's a kaki tree with plenty of fruits still on. Yesterday I was seeing a flock sticking around that area, so today I decided to investigate. I reached the last house at the wood's edge and there it was: a kaki tree teeming with Fieldfares! At one time there were at least 35 birds on the tree and many others nearby (pics above). In total I estimated a flock of about 50-60 individuals. There was a real feeding frenzy in that garden with lots of Starlings too and some Blackcaps feasting on the kaki fruits. The noisy Fieldfares were quite aggressive towards other birds and were contending the tree for themselves. Two videos can be found here and here. Nearby also a calling Mistle Thrush, a Hawfinch and a Cirl Bunting delivering a short song.
During the day several mixed flocks of Fieldfares and Starlings flew over my house as well.
A true winter spectacle!