Sunday, 11 March 2012

A great day of birding

Today was one of those full days of birding with a load of great birds on the list at the end of the day! I visited the lowland and coastal areas from Monfalcone down to Grado (usual birding places actually) with a couple of friends. On the way we encountered several other birders that joined us.
The morning started very well with a visit at the Lisert wetland that produced: 1 female GOSHAWK (soaring in the sky), about 30 GARGANEYS (in different groups; both on the freshwater lake and in the brackish marsh), several Penduline Tits, 1 Water Rail, 3 Marsh Harriers and most interestingly a singing MOUSTACHED WARBLER (just heard unfortunately).
Female Goshawk:

We then moved towards the lake of Doberdob, where we could only add the nice sighting of a Dalmatian Algyroides - one of the colorful mediterranean lizards we have here on the Karst. There were several butterflies around too in the form of Brimstones, Large and Small Tortoiseshells and Wall Browns. A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was the first of the year for us. A singing Crossbill was also of note in the nearby pines.
In the early afternoon we were soon around Fossalon, watching a female/imm Merlin, that showed well on the top of a tree. A flock of 20 Ruffs flying over the fields was also interesting to see.
Nearby in the Valle Cavanata NR there was a bit of wildfowl movement as well. Lots of Pintails and Gadwalls, with many other Shovelers, Teals, Wigeons ect. Many GARGANEYS were also around (interestingly only males). Other birds in the reserve included 4 Spoonbills, cca 25 Spotted Redshanks, 1 Greenshank, 2 Marsh Harriers and a flock of about 150 White-fronted Geese flying overhead (on migration).

The final place to visit in the afternoon was Bosco San Marco (near Belvedere - Aquileia), where the wintering Booted Eagle was reported to be still present in the area.
Arrived on site, we enjoyed the usual variety of farmland birds including Crested Larks, Skylarks, Buzzards, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 female Hen Harrier, Meadow Pipits and another female/imm Merlin (perching on the top of a tree). After a bit of searching we managed to spot the *BOOTED EAGLE* perched on a distant tree (see pic on the top fo the post). Unfortunately the bird remained far all the time, so we had just distant views and brief flight views.
When the sun had just set we heard the characteristic calls of COMMON CRANES and realised there were some birds in the nearby lagoon. So we ran on the hilltop of Bosco San Marco (that overlooks the lagoon of Grado) and soon spotted 10 birds on the mudflats - pic below:

What a nice end of the day we thought...
Just as we finished to enjoy the cranes, a deep but short "huut" call alerted us of the presence of a LONG-EARED OWL. We realised the owl was actually calling (or singing) from its roost site on a pine, just above our heads! In the poor dusk light we managed to spot the bird on the tree and discovered there was another one nearby! After a few minutes both birds flew off from the tree and gave nice flight views. They continued to fly around from tree to tree for a while and called repeteadly. They seemed to be chasing each other... territorial behaviour or something I think.
LEO in the dark (the ear-tufs are just visible):

At the same moment we were listening to the LEO, two LITTLE OWLS were calling nearby too!
The third owl (and by far the best) of the day came at the end, when we had a last stop from the local entrance road to Bosco San Marco. A BARN OWL called in the darkness and soon materialised, flying past us over the fields. We had great views on it because of the strong street-lamps placed nearby. It drifted a few times over our cars as well, before disappearing back in the darkness.
Well...and that was indeed the end of today's great birding!

Local patch: top bird of the day (for the patch) was a migrating female MARSH HARRIER, spotted over the sea at Miramare (early morning). In the area there was a flock of about 20 Common Gulls and about 20 Great Crested Grebes (all in breeding plumage). The Mute Swans present today on the sea were 6!