Monday 4 December 2017

The master of reeds

Winter has arrived at last. Birds in the countryside are increasingly scarce and wetlands offer greater chances to see a wide variety of wildlife. Yesterday afternoon we visited Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve on the coast - a prime wetland site in southwestern Slovenia. The main attraction there (and our main target) was the above Bittern Botaurus stellaris. It was trying to avoid detection by moving slowly at the edge of a reedbed, but our sharp eyesight was simply too efficent :) Actually you can just see (last pic) how difficult it can be to spot such a well-camouflaged bird in its natural habitat. 
Only a few pairs of Bittern breed in Slovenia, mostly at Cerkniško jezero, where in spring they can be commonly heard booming. The species is slightly commoner in winter and on migration when it can be observed at different wetland sites. Škocjanski zatok is a regular wintering area for one or two birds. The newly-constructed observation tower at this nature reserve helps a lot with spotting the birds, especially those hiding over large patches of reedbed.
Other interesting birds at the reserve included a drake Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, 2 Greylag Geese Anser anser (scarce winter species), Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti, Water Rail Rallus aquaticus and Gadwall Anas strepera. In recent years the reserve has also become a regular wintering site for Bearded Tits Panurus biarmicus - those will be the target for the next visit!