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!):