Monday 19 November 2018

Greater Spotted Eagle in Istria

Yesterday we tried to escape from the strong and cold northeasterly wind (called burja), currently sweeping over most of western Slovenia and making outdoor activities quite unpleasant. With a group of friends we set for the warmer Istrian peninsula, in nearby Croatia, just about 15 km away from Slovenia's southern border. We visited the Mirna river valley in the hope of catching up with some interesting wintering birds, including an immature Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga (or Clanga clanga) which has been reported at least a week or so ago. We were quite lucky with the eagle as it was one of the first birds we saw when we arrived. It was perched on a tree along the river Mirna, quite close to the river's estuary. It showed well, both perched, flying and hunting, but usually from a distance. Although we don't know the status of this species in Croatia, it is probably similar to the status in Slovenia, being a rare an irregular winter visitor. There have been records of overwintering birds in Slovenia, but not very recently. In the north-east of Italy the species is a more or less regular wintering bird, with small numbers in the lowlands of the river Po. This year there seems to be a small "invasion" going on with several birds reported in various central and southern European countries in November. Some observers stated that they actually saw two different Greater Spotted Eagles on the river Mirna, however we only saw one. Moreover the area seems to be the wintering ground of a Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, that has also been reported recently.
Some other interesting birds we observed in the Mirna valley included an unexpected drake Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata (unknown origin), a female Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus, a Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor and some common waterbirds. 
On our way back we stopped at the Karst edge in SW Slovenia where on the limestone cliffs we observed our first Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria of the winter season. More on this species hopefully in one of the next posts.