Friday 19 January 2018

Wallcreepers, Dippers & woodpeckers

This is the perfect title summarising the birds that we most like to see in winter. Few other birds make the dull and cold winter days more livelier than the above trio. We'll start with the most interesting to foreign birders an locals alike: Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria. This rare bird lives on inaccessible cliffs in the Alps and its breeding distribution is still poorly known in Slovenia. Needless to say, it's not easy to find one in the Alps in summer. Much easier is to wait for winter and look for it on the south-facing limestone cliffs of the Karst edge (W Slovenia, NE Italy & NW Croatia). In the past week we checked some of the locations close to home and observed 3 different Wallcreepers. Two were chasing each other on the same cliff, while the third was on another location some 5 km away (above pics). The latter showed well for quite a long time and allowed us to make this short VIDEO (watch HD).

Last weekend we took part in the yearly International Waterbird Census (IWC) and were assigned to two small rivers in the Vipava valley. The rivers are fast-flowing and not very wide, so we didn't see any of the true waterbirds or wildfowl one might expect on such a census. But it was nevertheless exciting, as we counted 12 Dippers Cinclus cinclus. These smart semi-acquatic passerines are common on mountain streams in Slovenia and are frequently the only species recorded by most of the IWC volunteers counting on rivers in the north and west of the country. Some of the Dippers in the Vipava valley were already very territorial and we even observed a pair in courtship. These early breeders are in full spring mode!

Here we go again with the Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius. In recent months there has been an expansion (invasion?) from Slovenia into northeast Italy, where previously the species was totally absent. Now even in the Italian Karst, in the outskirts of Trieste, records of Middle Spots are becoming increasingly regular. The above bird was photographed in Italy, only 3 km away from the nearest Slovenian breeding grounds. It's just a matter of time, before the first breeding pair for the whole of northern Italy is found (the species only breeds locally in central and southern Italy).
Shortly after the above Middle Spot was seen, two Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor and a Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius landed on nearby trees and went to roost. Soon the first Blacks will start with nest excavation and the woodpecker season will finally kick in!