Saturday, 19 May 2012

Top quality birding - Magredi with Stone Curlews, Ortolan Buntings and shrike trio!

Today I was back on the steppe-grassland areas around Pordenone called magredi. This time I was "escorted" around by a friend of mine who showed me some characteristic birds of the area. We had some great species, including several rare breeders of this habitat.
We had an excellent start at 8.00 am in the morning with two STONE CURLEWS flushed with the car along a gravelly path. Later in the morning a search for this elusive species revealed 2 other birds resting in a field. They both showed well, even if a bit distant and with a bad heath haze (see second pic above).
As we started to scan the bushy areas for Ortolan Buntings we soon found a Short-toed Eagle perching on a small tree. Later it took off and flew past us. After a few fruitless stops we finally heard a singing ORTOLAN BUNTING that immediately showed up (last two pics above). We enjoyed the bird perched on some nearby bushes, while another male started to sing.
Minutes later, right in the same habitat my friend spotted an adult LESSER GREY SHRIKE perched on a dead tree (third pic above).
The area held also a nice variety of commoner birds including: 1 Honey Buzzard, Spotted Flycatcher, 2 female Montagu's Harriers, Skylark and Woodlark, tons of Corn Buntings and Red-backed Shrikes, Cuckoo, 3 Yellowhammers, 2 Northern Wheatears, several Stonechats, +5 Tawny Pipits, 1 fly-by Sand Martin, singing Common Whitethroats, 2 Red-footed Falcons (male and female), 5 singing Common Quails, 2 Turtle Doves, Golden Oriole, some breeding pairs of Lapwing, 2 Hoopoes, Melodious Warbler, several BLACK KITES (common in the area), 2 migrant Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, 5 White Storks feeding on a mown grassland, Common Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Linnet and Cetti's Warbler.
At lunchtime we went to see some wetter areas of scrubs and grasslands close to some small water bodies. Here we had the luck to observe a pair of nesting Montagu's Harriers. Male and female displayed above our heads, exchanging the prey with the talons. After that the female dropped down into the grassland - probably to the nest. In the willow bushes two Marsh Warblers were singing and showed as well. Four Honey Buzzard were migrating overhead.
In the afternoon we got back to the grasslands, visiting the area where the Lesser Kestrels are to be found on migration. Even this time we had no luck with the kestrels, but found a beautiful WOODCHAT SHRIKE perched on a bush (see first pic above). A perfect end to a great day and by the way, today I managed to score 3 shrike species!
When driving back on the motorway I also saw 2 Night Herons and several Pygmy Cormorants flying by.
Several orchids were also flowering in the meadows:

A view over the flowering grasslands: