Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Black-throated Divers

Local patch: first BLACK-THROATED DIVERS of the season this morning at Miramare - 6 handsome birds swimming in flock, close to shore and giving brilliant views (above).
Another new winter arrival was a RED-NECKED GREBE in the bay of Grignano.
I also heard a BLACK WOODPECKER calling in the nearby woodland - literally a few meters above sea level!
The garden this morning was again full of Coal Tits, with up to 6 birds seen. A nice Short-toed Treecreeper visited the plum-tree, a Jay stole some sunflower seeds from the birdtable and Siskins were heard passing overhead. Dunnocks, Black Redstarts and Blue Tits all regular now. Earlier in the morning also a Grey Wagtail flew over the house.
Pretty much autumn standard.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Cory's Shearwater - a brilliant image!

The other day I forgot to post this interesting image. On Saturday when I was trying to photograph the Yelkouans (see the black dots on the left side of the pic) another bird entered in the field of view. It is most probably one of the Cory's Shearwaters!

Škocjanski zatok NR: nothing really exciting today, but a couple of locally interesting birds were present. Two late House Martins flying above the marsh were a nice surprise. The sky was full of autumn birds going through - things like Skylarks, Chaffinches, Linnets, 4 Bramblings, +20 Water Pipits, flocks of Siskins and so on. A Woodlark flying over the lagoon was also noted.
Waders included a Dunlin in the lagoon, 2 Lapwings in the marsh, along with good numbers of Snipes and Curlews and the BAR-TAILED GODWIT was also still present, resting on the saltings.
Water levels in the lagoon were very high and the islands were nearly all flooded. There were good numbers of wildfowl (incl. 9 Pochards) and Coots numbered more than 700 individuals!
Low temperatures gave to the air a pretty wintery feel.

Local patch: a MISTLE THRUSH flying over the garden was good to see the other day. Not very regular here in suburban areas. I've also started to put out some sunflower seeds into the birdfeeder and I'm already having the first Great and Blue Tits. Coal Tits are always present around, but I didn't see them on the feeder yet.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

CORY'S SHEARWATERS, KITTIWAKES & YELKOUANS off the patch!!

 
WHAT A DAY! I still can't believe what I've seen this morning in my beloved patch. It was all mega stuff. At 10.00 am, looking at the stormy sea, I thought it might be a good idea to go down to Miramare and see what I can find. There was an unusually strong south-east wind...
So at 10.19 I was in position at Miramare and literally the first birds I saw when pointed the scope out at sea were +50 Yelkouan Shearwaters flying east. Excellent, I thought!
A minute later (10.20) I was about to have a heart attack when two odd looking shearwaters materialized in my scope. Not just odd, but also BIG! More or less like the nearby Yellow-legged Gulls. I immediately realized what they were: bloody CORY'S SHEARWATERS! Yes, Cory's in the Gulf of Trieste! Rare stuff up here! The exciting thing is also that I've never seen a Cory's Shearwater before! There's anything better that a lifer in your local patch?
Minutes later I found about 3 or 4 other birds gliding over the waves in their typical fashion - stiff, slightly back-angled wings and virtually no wingbeats. The colour of the back was clearly light brown and grey and sometimes a hint of whitish rump was also visible. The max number were 5 birds flying together, but presumably there were more. The lone individuals were frequently chased and harassed by Yellow-legged Gulls.
After releasing the news to other friends, I carried on scoping and immediately got another surprise: 1st winter KITTIWAKE flying east!! A really scarce bird in the Gulf of Trieste and of course another patch tick! Wow!
Then a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL followed, which represented a first for the season, as well as a very good bird for the area.
At about 11.00 am I was finally joined by other birders and together we enjoyed some more views of these rare birds. Cory's Shearwaters were on show for the rest of the morning (until 12.30), usually flying up over the horizon, sometimes coming closer and giving better views. The flight jizz was always distinctive.
Yelkouan Shearwaters followed with flocks of about 50 to 100 birds (estimate 170 in total), usually flying east, not too far from the coast. Thus they allowed very good views. The above pics were taken when a smaller flock flew towards Trieste (see the town of Piran in the background). A lonely bird was seen flying very close to shore a few times and on these occasions it was promptly mobbed by some aggressive Yellow-legged Gulls. 
Kittiwakes also followed for the rest of the morning with at least 8-9 birds seen in total - all were first winters. Three birds in particular passed especially close to the shore, allowing excellent views.
Other birds at sea included 1 Sandwich Tern, +10 Med Gulls and the usual Black-headed Gulls.
The totals so far:
Cory's Shearwater 5-10
Kittiwake +8 (1st w)
Yelkouan Shearwater +170
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Med Gull +10
Sandwich Tern 1

All in all one of the best birding days in the local patch!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

LONG-EARED OWL at Škocjanski zatok!

Škocjanski zatok NR: when I arrived this morning I was greeted by one of the wardens who showed me the above LONG-EARED OWL sitting calmly on a fence by the hedge, not far away from the hut. It was discovered earlier in the morning in semi-darkness, when one of the wardens arrived. I think it remained there for the rest of the morning (at about 11.00 am it was still there).
It is the first record for the reserve! Not a bad start of the day.
Later in the brackish marsh I found another very interesting bird for the reserve: a BAR-TAILED GODWIT resting with some Curlews. This should be the second record for the reserve if I don't go wrong.
Other birds today included: 1 late Wryneck in the hedges (also singing!), 2 Dunlins in the lagoon, 1 Snipe, 9 Curlews, 31 Wigeons, 41 Shovelers, 53 Teals, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 7 Pygmy Cormorants, 6 Water Rails (2 crossed the path, showing very well), 491 Coots (up!), 16 Greenshanks, 2 Kingfishers, 3 Jackdaws, 2 Skylarks (on the grazing marsh), 1 Coal Tit (probably the first I see at the reserve), 2 Goldcrests, 9 Chiffchaffs, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Black Redstarts, 3 Song Thrushes, 5 Meadow Pipits, 11 Water Pipits (some showing well on the grazing marsh), Reed Bunting, Penduline Tit, 1 Brambling & flocks of Siskins going overhead, 1 Linnet and 1 Serin.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Larks over the house

Local patch: nice sunny and windy weather brought some good birds to the patch this morning. A bit of vis mig from the balcony was quite productive for the short time I was out. The most interesting were 2 WOODLARKS flying low above the rooftops, heading E (calling as they went). They were followed shortly after by a flock of 5 SKYLARKS that flew N instead. The above pic is just illustrative.
Later a MISTLE THRUSH flying over the woodland's treetops was also of note, along with 2 Song Thrushes in the garden area, 1 Linnet (flying past), 5 Woodpigeons (heading SE), 1 Serin, flock of Siskins and usual other garden stuff. Coal Tits, Dunnocks and one or two Goldcrests now seen on a daily basis.
A few days ago I saw again a JACKDAW flying NW over Barcola. Always flying quite high up in the sky. Where they go it's still a mystery.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Autumn is not over yet

Enjoyable autumn afternoon today of the Slovenian Karst. Kicking around on open grassland areas, meadowland and fields. Top bird was a STOCK DOVE that I picked out while it was feeding on some mowed fields along with +30 Starlings. It was quite nervous and wary and kept taking off all the time. It definitely flew away (somewhere far I presume) when a dog walker passed by. When flying around it gave good views. Never seen one on the Karst before. I think they are quite rare away from their wintering (and breeding grounds).
Later I was greeted by a really massive juvenile Goshawk that was followed by something like 30 angry Hoodies. It dropped down into a patch of trees, never to be seen again.
Also good to see again a GREAT GREY SHRIKE that showed well for the whole afternoon; usually sitting on hawthorn bushes (Crataegus monogyna) or Sorbus aria - pic above.
In general there was a huge amount of birds around. Literally every field had a flock of Meadow Pipits (+60), lots of different finches and Starlings. Chaffinches and Linnets were the most numerous, followed by some really large numbers of Greenfinches (+400), Siskins (usually in flocks of about 30, flying overhead), Goldfinches and +20 Yellowhammers. Mistle and Song Thrushes were also commonly seen feeding on the grassy fields with a total of about +40 and +30 respectively. Also quite large numbers of White Wagtails and Black Redstarts, with several flocks of Skylarks feeding on the ground and some Woodlarks calling overhead. Late migrants included 1 Tree Pipit (heard) and 4 Northern Wheatears.
Woodpigeons were also on the move with at least 148 birds counted passing overhead in smaller flocks. They were all heading W, SW.
A successful hunting action was that of a male Sparrowhawk that managed to catch an unfortunate Meadow Pipit.
Other more or less usual/resident birds included: 4 Common Buzzards, 1 Kestrel, 1 Marsh and 1 Coal Tit, 3 Chiffchaffs, 4 Ravens, Long-tailed Tit and a calling Black Woodpecker at dusk.
                          Pics below: Wheatear, Mistle Thrush, Black Redstart and Yellowhammer
Yesterday, half an hour at Škocjanski zatok produced a nice male BLUETHROAT hopping on the mud along with a Sedge Warbler. It still had a large amount of blue on the throat. Showed well and close for quite some time. Several other Sedgies and a Reed Warbler were still around. No sign of the Great Grey Shrike here, but instead a flock of 75 Woodpigeons flying south was of note. Also all other commoner late-autumn migrants passing overhead (incl. Brambling). A singing Crested Lark was also good to hear after some time.

Local patch: I forgot to say that I had again the CRESTED TIT in my garden a couple of days ago. Not bad.

I think that's all for now...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

HAZEEEEEEEEEEL!!

Photo by Tomaž Velikonja
Today was HAZEL GROUSE day in Trnovski gozd! I managed to flush one (two times in the same spot) and hear a female calling... at last! I also tried the playback mode for the singing male, but it didn't work too well. Probably not enough Hazel Grouses in the area. I'll need to try the Alps for some serious grousing. And after this, the only bird I need to see here in Slovenia is Capercaillie.
As for the Trnovo forest (Trnovski gozd), it was otherwise pretty quiet as usual...also because I didn't even try any owls (no evening session either). Birds of note included lots of Bramblings mixed with Chaffinches going overhead, a few Bullfinches, 2 Crossbills, 1 Nutcracker, 6-8 Willow Tits, some Siskins, 1 Black Woodpecker and 2 Eurasian Treecreepers. Also usual assortment of conifer-birds like Crested & Coal Tits and Goldcrests everywhere.
                                         The spot where I found the Hazel Grouse
   Some views on the forest
On some fields just out of the town of Ajdovščina there was a huge mixed flock of finches feeding on the ground and taking off quite frequently. I estimated about 300 birds that included: Linnet (100), Brambling (30), Chaffinch (+100), Greenfinch (10), Goldfinch (10), Tree Sparrow (20) and a single female Serin among them. The fields were also stuffed with Meadow Pipits. An amazing sight.
I love autumn!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Crested Tit in the garden!

Local patch: still a lot of migrants on the move this morning in the garden. Top bird of the day was a CRESTED TIT that visited the pine-tree in front of the house. As a regular breeder in the surrounding pine woodlands it's not hard to see, but is actually very scarce in the gardens. I think I only saw it here a few times. The above picture taken in 2006 documents one of these sightings, when a bird came to the birdtable.
Earlier in the morning a female COMMON REDSTART on the cherry tree was also kind of a surprise. A Lesser Whitethroat and a Garden Warbler were still present in the shrubberies along with good numbers of Blackaps. Song Thrushes were also quite obvious today, with at least 6 recorded throughout the morning (usually heard or seen flying around). A calling FIRECREST in the nearby garden represented a first of the season. Other interesting birds included: +10 Siskins (flying overhead), 1-2 Coal Tits, 2 Black Redstarts, 1 Hawfinch, at least 1 Water Pipit (on migration - one also yesterday), Serin (2 heard), 1 Sparrowhawk, 5 Common Buzzards, 1 Dunnock, 2 Chiffchaffs, Grey Wagtail, Linnet (heard a few times - overhead), Long-tailed Tit, Green Woodpecker ect. Surprisingly not many Chaffinches on migration. The same cannot be said for Robins - literally everywhere!
Yesterday at Miramare a WOODLARK flying over the sea was a bit out of place, but a good record. Also a Water Pipit passing by, some Siskins and 2 late Swallows heading south over the house were of note.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Melanopogon

Quick update. Spent 30 minutes at Škocjanski zatok today and found a nice MOUSTACHED WARBLER - the second for me this autumn. The Great Grey Shrike was still present in the middle of the freshwater marsh (hiding in the tamarisks). Also of note: 1 male Pochard, 3 singing Water Rails and a flock of superactive Penduline Tits, giving extra close views as always.
Illustration above by Szabolcs Kokay.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Great Grey Shrike at Škocjanski zatok

Škocjanski zatok NR: I pulled out another GREAT GREY SHRIKE today - the first of the season for the reserve. A nice bird sat on the top of a dead tree and nearby tamarisks, in the middle of the freshwater marsh (see above).
Other good sightings in the area included 2 late Sand Martins (flying south over the marsh), a flock of 25 Lapwings (over the lagoon, headed south as well), 1 male Pochard (first of the season) and an awful lot of showy Penduline Tits (pics below). Also quite good movement of small birds in the hedges and reedbed; especially Reed Warblers and Chiffchaffs. About 14 Meadow Pipits and a few Water Pipits heard, along with 1 Song Thrush, several Tree Pipits, 13 Reed Buntings, 4 Siskins, 6 Linnets, 2 Serins, 7 Hawfinches, 1 Sedge Warbler and 1 Skylark. Five Stonechats and 1 Whinchat were present on the grazing marsh.
One of the wardens had also a Lesser Redpoll this morning. I looked a bit for it, but didn't find it. From the ringing front: a Penduline Tit from Germany was recovered the other day, along with a Bluethroat from Poland. Not bad.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Autumn birds in the patch

Local patch: quite a lot of movement, especially as the winds have switched from southerlies (which brought rain) to northeasterlies (bringing clear skies & cold). Excellent conditions for vis migging. Highlights of the last few days included: LINNET (heard passing overhead on Sunday morning), 1-2 Chiffchaffs, Coal Tit (along with good numbers of migrant Blue Tits), 1-2 Song Thrushes on a daily basis, 1 Grey Heron (flying above Miramare - yesterday and today), +500 Chaffinch (constant influx of migrating birds overhead), 2 Cormorants (migrating east over Monte Grisa), 16 White Wagtails (in loose flock, passing overhead), 2 female KESTRELS (gliding down towards the sea), a few SISKINS (on passage), 1 Dunnock, 1 Greenfinch & usual Goldfinch numbers. Today the WOODPIGEONS began to move and about 45 were counted in two different flocks, heading E. Also as usual Robins singing everywhere and Jays frequently seen flying around with acorns and walnuts in the beaks. Starlings are beginning to form some small to mid-sized flocks.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Eurobirdwatch 2012

Today I had a guided walk around Isola della Cona in occasion of the Eurobirdwatch (European day of birdwatching). The weather was a bit miserable, but a good number of common/regular species was on show. Highlights included: 1 Avocet, 1 Hobby, 21 Dunlins, 3 Little Stints, 3 juv Ringed Plovers, 1 Grey Plover, several Water Pipits and general passage of migrants. Siskins were heard on a regular basis, while a few Swallows passed overhead. In the bushes quite a lot of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Garden Warblers, then 1 Lesser Whitethroat, Penduline Tits, 2 Sedge Warblers, a few Willow Warblers and so on. Also about 2500 Wigeons feeding on the sea grass Zoostera noltii on the coast towards the estuary.
In the afternoon me two other friends checked the Lisert area and found 2 late RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS still around the breeding site. One was an adult, the other clearly a juvenile. The latter nearly ended its existence in the talons of a hungry Sparrowhawk, which performed some incredible stoops in front of us. Fortunately the swallows was quick enough to escape from the predator.
Both Red-rumped Swallows remained on show for the whole time we were there and even perched on the top of a nearby sailboat.
Otherwise the area was a bit calm and silent. Another Hobby was of note, along with 1 male Stonechat, 1 Wryneck (in exactly the same bush where we saw one last Sunday), a flock of Skylarks, Tree Pipits on passage, 1 Black Redstart, 1 female Marsh Harrier, Penduline Tits & Water Rail in the reedbed and a load of Chiffchaffs in the hedges. A grasshopper I never saw before was also interesting to see. Its name is Acrida ungarica and is shown in this pic:

We ended the day at the Karstic lake of Doberdob, checking the woodland area around the lake (pics below). A Black Woodpecker was calling from the poplars, along with a nervous Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and some other woodland species (including Hawfinch). The nearby heathland held a few Woodlarks, 2 male Stonechats, some Rock Buntings and a calling Sardinian Warbler. More or less all the specialities of the area!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

October birds and flowers


Local patch: nothing truly exciting in the past days here, although some late-autumn migrants are around and about. For example I had one or two SONG THRUSHES flying over (and in) the garden, which is quite good. Also a Dunnock was heard, usual Coal Tits present, a Tree Pipit (went by today) and Grey Wagtails seem to be fairly regular now. Black Redstarts are getting commoner, as always in autumn. And of course Robins are now everywhere, singing their hearts out. I noticed a slight increase in the Blackcap numbers as well.
Yesterday three Alpine Swifts were still present along the Karstic ridge and a flock of 25 Swallows went past (heading S) in the evening. Most were short-tailed juveniles.

Yesterday I also had a quick visit at Škocjanski zatok which held the expected autumn migrants. Siskins were constantly flying overhead, along with a few Tree Pipits, Chaffinches, 1 Skylark, Hawfinch and Linnets. Also a small flock of Meadow Pipits was on the grazing marsh, sharing the feeding site with 5 Stonechats and 5 Whinchats. At a certain point a migrating flock of +70 Woodpigeons flew overhead, followed by a few Swallows. Smaller passerines and sylvias in the hedges included 5 Reed Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler and tons of Blackcaps (now the commonest migrants along with Dunnocks). Also a male Garganey, clearly moulting to "decent" plumage, a few Penduline Tits and Reed Buntings. Typically autumn!

I had some sort of update on the local patch birds list (which can be viewed here), especially on the species' status. I also added a short list of birds which I haven't seen, but were recorded by other observers in the patch area.
So the list is now fully updated and corrected and officially stands at 150 species.

The photograph shows and autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) - one of the typical plants that bloom in autumn. It's quite commonly found on the Karst in this period.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Excubitor joy

Autumn's first GREAT GREY SHRIKE is always a thrill. This afternoon I went to look for it in a place where I supposed I could find one on the Slovenian Karst. The area is the same where Barred Warblers breed in spring and the meadows seem perfect for a wintering Great Grey Shrike. And there it was: a fluffy white ball sitting on the hawthorn bushes (see pics). Priceless!
The area held a good variety of other typical autumn birds. Meadow Pipits were feeding on the grassland along with Skylarks, Woodlarks, about 40 noisy Mistle Thrushes and a single Song Thrush. Loose flocks of Chaffinches were constantly passing overhead and were present in every patch of woodland. Among them I could also hear a migrating Brambling, several Linnets, Siskins, some Yellowhammers and the usual overflying Tree Pipits. A flock of about 30 Swallows was also present in the air. Who knows if these are the last hirundines I see this year? Other birds included 2 singing Corn Buntings, 1 Wren, 1 Dunnock, 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 female Common Redstart, 2 Ravens and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling from the woodland.

Škocjanski zatok NR: in the morning I had the usual weekly count which failed to produce any really good sightings. There was a clear autumn swing in the air with top birds being passerines: +25 Penduline Tits, 12 Reed and 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Whinchat and 1 Stonechat, 3 Song Thrushes (first for the autumn), 1 Dunnock, small numbers of Meadow and Water Pipits (also first of the season), 4 Tree Pipits, small flocks of Siskins, 1 Hawfinch, 1 Cirl and several Reed Buntings. Also usual waterbirds present with 4 Black-necked Grebes in the lagoon (instead of the usual 2), 2 Garganeys, 1 Water Rail and so on.

Local patch: yesterday the first GOLDCREST for the season was on the pine tree along with several Coal Tits (a small invasion these days). Also a male Black Redstart, Cirl Buntings calling nearby, 1 Garden Warbler on the cherry tree and a couple of JACKDAWS that flew past this evening.