Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 YEAR REVIEW

2013 started with a cold January that brought some amazing northern vagrants. In January and February I made a few trips to Ptuj (Slovenia) and saw the above LONG-TAILED DUCK, both WHOOPER and BEWICK'S SWANS and a large variety of interesting wildfowl and waterbirds.

WAXWING invasion in Udine (north-east Italy) - surely one of the highlights of the winter. More than 200 birds gathered between February and April in the town centre.

Spring brought many highlights and this CUCKOO on the 1st of April in the patch was an excellent start.

An April trip to north-eastern Slovenia provided a very strong dose of pannonian birding with highlight being WHITE-HEADED DUCK (my first lifer of the year), Long-tailed Duck, PALLID HARRIER, Bewick's Swan, Osprey, White-tailed Eagle, Black Stork, a Stoat and much more - all in one day!

A BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR in the garden in April was a local mega - and a new bird for the patch.

The GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO I went to see at the end of April was perhaps the rarest of all the birds seen this year.

BARRED WARBLER season on the Karst was good and in May I managed to locate several territories of this elusive Sylvia.

LESSER GREY SHRIKE was again breeding successfully in 2013 on one of the few remaining sites for the species in Slovenia.

A trip to Cerkniško jezero (Slovenia) in July represented one of the year's best birding days. COMMON ROSEFINCH was the highlight, along with several other birds like Corncrake, Grasshopper Warbler, Spotted & Little Crake, Short-toed Eagle and many more.

The PECTORAL SANDPIPER at Valle Canal Novo (Marano Lagunare) in July was my second lifer this year.

Between August and December 2013 I enjoyed many happy moments in the company of the DIPPERS on Planinsko polje (Slovenia).

SHORT-TOED EAGLES seen many times on the Karst during July and August were a good summer entertainment.

BLACK STORK was also in the focus of summer 2013. I made several visits to the foraging site of a local pair near Divača and enjoyed many close encounters with this rare and elusive species.

TEREK SANDPIPER was the third lifer of the year. I went to see it at Valle Canal Novo NR, where the Pectoral Sandpiper was present two months earlier.

The first GREAT GREY SHRIKE of the season in October - always a pleasure.

Dinaric forest full immersion - on the university front a 3 day trip to the Snežnik forests (Slovenia) was an absolute highlight of my field lessons career.

SNOW BUNTINGS at Lisert were a major late-autumn attraction - 3 birds were present, but I only saw two of them.

The year started and ended with LONG-TAILED DUCKS. Three birds were seen at Cerkniško jezero at the beginning of December and a female was in the Quarantia canal at the end of the month.

Actually 2013 was stuffed with highlights and probably there are too many to list them all. Some of them will remain impressed in my memory more than others: the trip to the Trnovo forest and Nanos plateau in September with URAL OWLS, TENGMALM'S OWL and GOLDEN EAGLES, the SHORT-EARED OWLS seen at Medvedce reservoir (January) and at Magredi del Meduna (May), the day at Cerkniško jezero in September with an adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLE & singing URAL OWLS, the GREATER SPOTTED EAGLE twitch at Torviscosa in January, the RED KITES seen in October, the male RING OUZEL seen on Mt.Nanos in April, the different WALLCREEPERS seen through the winter, the CORNCRAKE holding territory on the Karst (June) or the self-found SHORT-TOED LARK at Škocjanski zatok in April.
    2013 was a very good year for the patch as well. I added several new species to the local list including Alpine Accentor, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, Reed Bunting, Spoonbill, Crag Martin, Black-eared Wheatear and Little Grebe. The latter was a milestone species - the 160th.
    In 2013 I also held a local patch year list which at the end of the year numbered 122 bird species.


    But of course I cannot forget to mention the botanical part of the year. Below are some personal favourites.
    Crocus weldenii
    Allium sphaerocephalon
    Sorbus aria
    Primula carniolica
    Gladiolus illyricus
    Sorbus aucuparia
    Pinus mugo
    Gentiana clusii
    Primula auricula
    Lilium bulbiferum
    Helleborus niger
    Lush meadow
    Gentiana lutea

    Saturday, 28 December 2013

    Trnovski gozd in winter


    Been in the Trnovo forest (Trnovski gozd) today. It was my first visit in the middle of winter and it was made possible thanks to the absence of snow on the ground.
    On the way to the forest, a few tactic stops along the Hubelj and Lokavšček streams near Ajdovščina produced 2 Dippers (one on each). Pleasant birds. One of them was so territorial it was even singing.
    Dipper
    The highlight of the day came shortly after when I reached Predmeja (the forest edge) and had a look down into the Vipava valley. On the massive rocks overlooking the forested slope an adult GOLDEN EAGLE was perched in full view. After a few minutes, a thick cloud of fog rose from the valley and hid the bird (it actually hid the whole mountain).
    Golden gargoyle
    The situation in the forest was pretty lively with a lot of small birds' activity. Crossbill and Coal Tit were the most numerous, followed by Crested and Willow Tit, Goldcrest, Bullfinch, Treecreeper and finally Great Spotted & Black Woodpecker (3 heard). Several Nutcrackers were also pretty active and vocal and some allowed close views. In the course of the day I didn't stumble across any of the owls and I didn't even try an evening session.
    The entire area of the Trnovo forest is an SPA under the Natura 2000 network

    Willow Tit

    Predominant tree species in the forest: beech Fagus sylvatica, silver fir Abies alba and Norway spruce Picea abies

    The winter version of a mixed Dinaric forest

    Smrečje - almost pure stand of Norway spruce Picea abies

    Moss on the forest floor (Norway spruce stand)

    Monday, 23 December 2013

    A Long-tailed Duck in the fog

    Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis
    Despite the lack of a proper winter weather, it's feeling pretty northern-ish at the moment. After the small influx of Snow Buntings all over Friuli Venezia Giulia and Slovenia, now it's the turn of Long-tailed Ducks. One of them (a female) was found a few days ago on the Quarantia canal in the Foce Isonzo/Isola della Cona nature reserve.
    Despite having seen 3 already two weeks ago, today I braved the thick fog and went to look for it. It took me about an hour and a half (and a nice walk in the 100% humidity) to find it. The LONG-TAILED DUCK was swimming peacefully on the lower stretch of the canal in the company of Black-necked Grebes. This was a nice winter plumaged female and a totally different bird from those seen on the Cerknica lake. In between its frequent dives I managed to take a couple of phone-scoped shots in the thick fog (above).
    The area held the usual species to be espected at this time of year, including a few Goldeneyes (several also on the Isonzo river), Red-breasted Mergansers, common grebe species and waders in the form of Dunlin (+1000), Curlew & Grey Plover. Perhaps the most interesting birds were a Great Grey Shrike, a Peregrine hunting above Quarantia's estuary, a few Firecrests and Goldcrests, 1 Green Sandpiper and 7 Common Gulls on the mudflats. A flock of about 300 White-fronted Geese (and Greylags) was feeding on the fields at the entrance of Isola della Cona.
    A brief visit to Valle Cavanata NR with a nice low tide, revealed a lost GOLDEN PLOVER among 100 Lapwings, a few Common Redshanks and an awful lot of wildfowl.
    Golden Plover (centre), Redshank and Lapwing

    Monday, 16 December 2013

    Bubo bubo

    Bubo bubo through the years - note the white throat-patch visible when singing
    Yesterday evening I paid a visit to the local EAGLE OWL pair on the outskirts of Trieste. Male and female were performing a duet and sang for more than 20 minutes at regular intervals. These were my first Eagle Owls in a while so I was quite glad to catch up again with this iconic species. Above is a selection of the best shots of the male, obtained through the years visiting the site (from 2010 onwards).
    Earlier in the afternoon I also had 2 Alpine Accentors feeding on the rocky slopes of the Glinščica/Val Rosandra valley.