Saturday, 4 February 2012

Hard winter spell brings good birds to the patch

Local patch: after the whole week of severe winter weather, this afternoon I finally managed to get out a bit. It has been freezy cold in the last few days and it still is! Temperatures varied between -7 to -2 degrees C and the termometer always remained below zero. This was also due to the very strong and chilly northeasterly wind (up to 130-160 km/h!). We had a bit of snow too, but it didn't accumulate on the ground that much.
It seems this weather will continue for at least 3-4 days and it was said it could even be worse. So this afternoon, when the wind slowed down a bit, I decided to check the streatch of coast in my patch. With all the inland freshwater bodies frozen over, there's always a good chance to find more bird movement on sea.
As I arrived at Miramare I immediately found a few Great Crested Grebes (10 in total) and a very nice looking Red-necked Grebe in nearly-complete breeding plumage! Even if quite distant, the reddish-brown colour contrasting with the grey throat was visible. In the car park area by the small dock, a cloud of gulls was in a feeding frenzy. Among the many Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls were several COMMON GULLS - I counted at least 22 birds in all the possible plumages (see pics above). The usual wintering LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was also present, but seen briefly just flying away.
I then decided to have a look in the sheltered bay of Grignano were I was surprised to find a completely calm and flat sea (despite the strong wind blowing just few kilometers away). On the surface close to shore, a compact monospecific flock of 64 COMMON GULLS awaited me (see pic below). I must say this is a quite large winter gathering for the area, as I usually see 6 to 10 birds in winter.
Close to the "gull-raft" were a male and female RED-BREATSED MERGANSER in the company of several Great Crested Grebes (haven't seen a merganser in the patch for quite long now!). Further out on the sea, another two Red-necked Grebes were fishing together, later joined by a third individual (the latter with a nice reddish throat).
Also 2 Black-necked Grebes were present offshore.
Part of the Common Gull's flock:

Sleepy male Red-breasted Merganser:

Great Crested Grebe in breeding plumage!

...and one still in winter mood:

In the past few days, birds around home included a Firecrest, 1 male Black Redstart, few Blue Tits and 1 Dunnock feeding on the lawn with 6 Chaffinches (daily). This morning from my window I had a Cormorant flying SE over the sea.

So, according to the forecast it seems we'll be having chilly weather in the next days as well. I really hope it brings down some amazing stuff from Siberia and Russia. I'm already dreaming of Smews, Long-tailed Ducks, Waxwings...