Saturday, 31 March 2012

Botanical beauties










Today was quite more a botanical day than ornithological. Me and a friend went to see some flowering plants and other wildlife on Volnik - a karstic mount/hill. It's quite odd to say, but today's highlight was a plant: Dog's tooth violet (Erythronium dens-canis). As I learnt it's quite rare around here, but very attractive at the same time. We found just one flowering plant (first 3 photos above).
In general there was a good amount of early flowers - most were the usual species found here on the Karst.
Birds seen during the day included: 4-5 Buzzards, 1 calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Marsh Tit, 1 Cirl Bunting, Green Woodpecker, 1 Meadow Pipit (passing over the top of the hill), 1 Common Swift (clearly on migration), 1 Rock Bunting, singing Chiffchaff, Mistle Thrush, 1 female Goshawk (giving the call as well) and other common woodland species.
Two Southern Festoons were the butterfly highlight, along with Common and Scarce Swallowtails. Many European Green Lizards were easy to se as well.
Later in the afternoon we also had a migrating MARSH HARRIER (female) over the Karst plateau and a Kestrel.
Pics above (top to bottom): Erythronium dens-canis, Narcissus poeticus, Pulsatilla montana, Anemone nemorosa, Green Lizard showing well and an informative board about raptors.

Local patch: this morning a Black Redstart was delivering its song from the top of a roof. Two or three Scops Owls were also heard this evening.

Friday, 30 March 2012

GREEN-WINGED TEAL still present



Škocjanski zatok NR: today the **GREEN-WINGED TEAL** was always there in the freshwater marsh, feeding with a couple of other Common Teals. It showed the legs as well on a few occasions, confirming that it didn't have any rings. Yes! There's a good probability that this bird is the same as last year's (near Ptuj) - the first Slovenian record.
Above are two pics taken yesterday; one showing the bird in flight as well.
The situation in the wetland was more or less the same as yesterday. There were slightly more Swallows around, with something like 20-30 birds in a flock. Finally I managed also to see the Yellow Wagtails: 2 feldegg and about 5 flava males were on the grazing marsh.
Also today both rails were to be seen: 1-2 SPOTTED CRAKES and 2 LITTLE CRAKES (females) showing well out in the open.
The Little Ringed Plovers numbered 18 birds - the highest score this year for the species. Usual waders (seen yesterday) were present as well.
Black-headed Wagtail (feldegg):


Blue-headed Wagtail (flava):

Spotted Crake (quite distant):


Local patch: had 2 House Martins flying around this morning - the first returning birds to the patch. Also my first SCOPS OWL of the year was heard this evening.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

MEGA: GREEN-WINGED TEAL!!







Škocjanski zatok NR: this morning while counting the Teals I came across one of my best finds ever: a beautiful drake **GREEN-WINGED TEAL**! Needles to say I immediately recognised the duck due to the vertical white stripe down the shoulder. There was almost no golden/buff border on the green eye-stripe (as seen in Teal), so the head seemed a bit different as well. It didn't seem to have any rings on the legs, but we'll have a check in the next days (if the bird remains there). If accepted it would be the second ever record for Slovenia and of course the first for Škocjanski zatok NR!
Tomorrow I'll be probably back there trying to get more views. For now I leave you with the above photos.
Quite a lot of other movement today, with several new arrivals. First of all I had both Porzanas in a day: a female LITTLE CRAKE and a SPOTTED CRAKE - both showing well at the edge of a reedbed area (freshwater marsh). Little Crake being the year's first.
A female Ferruginous Duck was on the Jezerce pond, along with several Pochards and 2 Tufted Ducks. A flock of about 20 Alpine Swifts over the reserve held a COMMON SWIFT as well - my first this year!
The lagoon produced the first 3 COMMON TERNS of the season.
Other commoner birds included: 3 Wigeons, 10 Garganeys, 2 Black-necked Grebes (lagoon), 2 female Marsh Harriers, 5-6 Black-winged Stilts, several Little Ringed Plovers, 6 Wood Sandpipers, 3-4 Green Sandpipers, 1 Redshank, 2 Spotted Redshanks, Greenshank & Curlew, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, lots of Snipes, cca 60 Ruffs, 1 Common Gull, about 10 Swallows over the reserve, Water Pipit (a few remaining birds - in breeding plumage), YELLOW WAGTAIL (heard repeatedly).

Monday, 26 March 2012

Spring in the countryside





Had a nice couple of hours on the Slovenian Karst this morning. The orchards, vineyards and open countryside around Pliskovica were teeming with wildlife. Top bird of the morning was my first WRYNECK this year. Actually there were two or more calling each other. I managed to glimpse one on the top of a dead tree. The singing Cirl Buntings were especially cool to see, along with two Corn Buntings "jingling the keys". Two or three Swallows around the buildings were the first I see on the Karst this year.
Lots of other commoner birds were around, but the most interesting included: Hawfinch, Serin, 1 singing Woodlark, 1 Goshawk (heard calling repeatedly from the nearby woodland), 2 Buzzards, 1 Song Thrush.
A SOUTHERN FESTOON (Zerynthia polyxena) was the best butterfly find of the morning. In general there was a nice movement of butterflies: Nettle-tree Butterfly, Orange Tip, Large Tortoiseshell, Common and Scarce Swallowtail, Comma, Brimstone, Small White...
The small pond just out of Pliskovica held several Water Boatmen, lots of Common Newts, frogspawns (both of Toad and frog sp.) and a Great Diving Beetle. A Grass Snake was basking nearby.
Earlier in the morning a farmer also "flushed" a Brown Hare that crossed the path just meters in front of me.
Pics above (top to bottom): Cirl Bunting (first two), Southern Festoon and Hepatica nobilis.

Local patch:
yesterday in the late afternoon a flock of cca 60 Garganeys was on the sea along with 2 Black-necked Grebes (breeding plumage). Also 50 Cormorants flew NW at 18.50 in "V" formation.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Cool waders







The above two WHIMBRELS and 3 Kentish Plovers were today's highlight at Lisert, along with a Spotted Crake calling from the reedbed. At least 81 Garganeys were also around as well as 3 Ferruginous Ducks (on the inner pond), 3 Marsh Harriers, 10 Little Ringed Plovers (brackish marsh), 2 Common Gulls and a male Stonechat. A Western Whip Snake by the road was a year's first and there were several Grass Snakes out too.
This Peacock Butterfly was also very nice to see:

Near Villaggio del Pescatore (TS) I also had a Swallow flying by and 3-5 Alpine Swifts were present along the Costiera road towards Trieste.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Spring morning on the cliffs




Local patch: spring has arrived to the cliffs as well! This morning the atmosphere was very pleasant on Monte Grisa with lots of wildlife around. The first BLUE ROCK THRUSH of the year was signalising its presence with a gently song. After a quick scan I found it perched on its usual rock. The bird made a few flights around to catch some insects (including a big bumblebee!). It continued to sing for almost the whole morning, with regular intervals.
At 10.36 am a male Marsh Harrier appeared in the sky, migrating eastwards, just to be followed by a beautiful male HEN HARRIER heading north! I got great views of the latter when it slowly rose from sea level to the karstic ridge, continuing its way over the plateau. A cracking bird!
A Jackdaw flying south was also a bit of a surprise - I've actually never seen one in the area.
The ALPINE SWIFTS were also back to their breeding territory, with up to 3 birds seen (one landed on a cliff-wall). Yesterday I spotted at least 5 birds from home.
A Sardinian Warbler was also of note - calling just beneath the Blue Rock Thrush's perch.
At 12.00 a nice PEREGRINE arrived from NW in steady flight along the cliffs and passed by heading towards Trieste. As there are no nesting Peregrines on Monte Grisa, it's always a pleasure to see this bird in the area. I have no idea where it came from, but it was interesting to hear it calling loudly when it was approached by some crows.
Other birds around included: 1 singing Mistle Thrush, 3 Hawfinches, Serin (constant passage), Blackaps singing, Common Gull (gatherings on the sea, sometimes rising up in thermals), Rock Bunting, Crested and Marsh Tits (in the pines), 1 female Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzards, 1 Raven (also perched on a pine) and 2 singing Chiffchaffs.
Basking on the limestone rocks was also a colorful Dalmatian Algyroides and several butterflies were on the wings as well: predominantly Wall Brown, 1 Orange Tip, several Scarce Swallowtails and some Red Admirals.
Pics above (top to bottom): Blue Rock Thrush on its private perch, Peregrine & the cliffs, Euphorbia wulfenii (a characteristic plant of our rocky coast).

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Summer migrants



Škocjanski zatok NR: some new summer migrants have arrived on the reserve between yesterday and this morning. Two BLACK-WINGED STILTS were present today in the freshwater marsh (see above) with several other wader species: 7 Lapwings, 1 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Spotted Redshanks, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, several Snipes and a flock of 48 Ruffs. In the lagoon there were 2 Common Redshanks, 10 Greenshanks, a few Curlews and 9 Little Ringed Plovers (on the muddy and gravel shore). The other true summer migrants included a WILLOW WARBLER singing at Jezerce (on some flowering trees) and a YELLOW WAGTAIL passing over the lagoon - both firsts of the year. A Swallow was also seen earlier in the morning.
The situation was othewrise as usual: several dabbling ducks still present (including some Wigeons), 5-6 male Garganeys, 6 Pochards, 2 Tufted Ducks, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Pygmy Cormorants, 1 Sparrowhawk (hunting the waders), 1 first winter Common Gull, 1 Crested Lark (singing), Water Pipit (several moulting to the summer plumage), lots of singing Blackaps and Chiffchaffs in the bushes, 2 Moustached Warblers (always present in the area of extensive reedbed - both singing), 6-7 Penduline Tits (feeding especially on the poplars now), Jackdaw, Reed Bunting.
Butterflies included several Green-veined Whites, the year's first Common Swallowtail, Red Admirals and Brimstones.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Migrant Marsh Harrier & SPOTTED CRAKE


Local patch: yesterday morning the above Marsh Harrier (male) was migrating eastwards over the house. Also 24 Common Gulls were on the sea and a Serin was singing in a nearby garden (present today as well).

Škocjanski zatok NR: I took a short "check stroll" this afternoon around the reserve and got brilliant views on a SPOTTED CRAKE in a ditch by the main path. The bird moved quickly in Water Rail fashion at the water's edge (completely out of cover), about 3 meters away from me. It stopped for a while before running to hide into some vegetation. Brilliant!
As I could see with bins only, one Black-tailed Godwit was still around, along with a flock of 35 Ruffs (all together). A Green Sandpiper was also heard, then usual Snipes, 2 Pochards, 1 female Tufted Duck, 2 Shelducks, Wigeon, a Grey Wagtail overhead ect. A Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) was in a water-filled ditch by the main path as well.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

MAGIC LISERT


Had a great morning out in the Lisert wetland today. The weather was quite changable with an overcast sky in the morning and an almost constant breeze/wind from SW (from the sea). Thus it proved to be the perfect factor for migrants. One of the first birds I saw when I arrived at the reedbed area was a SWALLOW - the first of the year!! Another one was close nearby, flying past. Almost at the same moment I also spotted my first HOUSE MARTIN of the year. Excellent! The three hirundines flew swiftly by and I soon lost them. Later in the morning I saw one or two other Swallows flying around.
In the meantime I began to see a great movement of Stonechats. During the whole morning I counted 46 different individuals in the area! This was clearly a migratory fall.
Later, as I was watching the local pair of Marsh Harriers (performing aerial displays), a flock of at least 21 ALPINE SWIFTS materialised in the sky overhead (see pic above). They stayed in the area just for a while, before heading away. In the bushes and trees migration was visible in the form of several Chiffchaffs (some singing), lots of Robins and Blackcaps, several Black Redstarts, tons of Blackbirds and a total of 8 Song Thrushes. The usual Reed Buntings, Cetti's Warblers and Penduline Tits were also around. A few Skylarks flew overhead as well during the morning. A single Water Rail was heard singing.
The small freshwater lake held its surprises as well. Apart from 8 Garganeys (four pairs), 5 FERRUGINOUS DUCKS were present along with a female RED-CRESTED POCHARD! There was just one male Ferruginous Duck, escorting the group of females (also displaying) and the RC Pochard kept following them as well (see pics below).
Ferruginous Ducks:


Ferruginous Ducks & Garganeys:

Ferruginous Ducks & Red-crested Pochard:

Female Red-crested Pochard:

Stonechat:


In the brackish marsh the mudflats were quite extensive and held 4 KENTISH PLOVERS (1 m and 3 f). They were quite hard to see, because they were keeping squeezed into the sand all the time. I soon realised what was the source of their fear: a hungry Peregrine looking for a meal over the wetland.
Other waders included 4 nice Redshanks, some Curlews, 1 Lapwing and a Common Sandpiper.
In the afternoon also 7 WHIMBRELS were spotted in the marsh. They stayed in a well-spaced flock on the mudflats and took off a few times, giving the characteristic liquid call (see pics). Other birds in the brackish marsh included: several Common Gulls, 1 adult pl Med Gull, Kingfisher, 12 Teals, 1 Shoveler and a few Water Pipits.
The seven Whimbrels in the air... and after landing:




After my excellent visit to the Lisert area, I went to Isola della Cona NR. The most interesting birds were: 10 SWALLOWS, 100-150 Ruffs, several Spotted Redshanks, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, about 10 Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Spoonbills, just 6 remaining White-fronted Geese and a Black Woodpecker (in the poplar wood by the Isonzo river).

Well well, a great day indeed! I'm quite glad to see the first summer migrants...at last!