Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Local patch list updated

I've finally updated my local patch bird list, which now includes also the species seen around Miramare and Monta Grisa - the areas I usually visit within the patch. See the link below or the bar on the right.
Local patch bird list

Local patch: by the way a Golden Oriole it's now singing every morning from the nearby woodland. I hope for a closer encounter with it...maybe on one of the trees of the garden as a juvenile did few years ago (see pic above). It now seems that Serins have bred somewhere too as I usually see some juveniles flying around.

Local patch (Monte Grisa): yesterday apart from the usual Alpine and Common Swifts me and my Danish friend Nikolaj found a Rock Bunting's nest on the limestone cliff. The adults were seen flying into a sheltered "shelf" on the steep cliff...and even from the public path the nest cup was visible. The Blue Rock Thrush seemed also very busy with nesting activity: the male carrying food in the beak and female on a nearby rock.

And here some shots of two Hoopoes taken last week by my sister in a camp-site in Croatia. Probably a local nesting pair. Quite approachable I would say, especially beacuse the birds were photographed at close distance with a small compact camera.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Rediscovering Nightjars

Yesterday me and my friend Nikolaj found a new breeding ground for Nightjars just few minutes from my home. Two birds were singing in the Mount Grisa area near Kontovel in a very nice scrubby and rocky slope. I actually managed to see one of the two birds, flying and perched on a dead branch (just binoculars, no torch).
In the area usual good numbers of Common and Alpine Swifts plus the local Buzzard and amazingly 3 GREY HERONS flying out on the sea towards Trieste. On a low tree at dusk an Edible Dormice was climbing the higher branches...just below it an Eastern Hedgehog.

In the morning I also got my first ever SOUTHERN WHITE ADMIRAL on a rocky beach on the Trieste's coast and in the same area a HOBBY flew past.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cerkniško jezero - Saturday 25th June 2011

Had some enjoyable birding yesterday on the Cerkniško jezero (Slovenia) in the company of Nikolaj Noel Christensen. The area held the usual fantastic summer mixture of great birds: 2 singing Quails, at least 4-5 COMMON ROSEFINCHES singing in bushy areas around Dolenje Jezero (some seen), Grey Wagtail, Common Whitethroat, 1 male Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, pair of White Storks at Martinjak, 1 ad WHITE-TAILED EAGLE soaring above Dolenje Jezero, 1 singing Wryneck, Linnet, Ashy-headed Yellow Wagtails, Sedge Warbler, 2-3 Tree Pipits, at least 2 singing male BARRED WARBLERS in bushy area near Dolenje Jezero (seen a female + males in flight), 1 singing Marsh Warbler, Great Crested Grebe, 2 Short-toed Eagles hovering and "hanging" (one over Otok, the other near Martinjak), 3 Honey Buzzards, 1 Hobby (Otok), Great Reed Warbler heard, 1 Bittern heard singing from Otok, 1 Great Egret, Whinchat, Skylark.
Before arriving to the lake area we stopped at Planinsko polje where another Quail was singing + some Red-backed Shrikes and Grey Wagtail.
The area just out of Postojna held the usual breeding colony of Crag Martins plus a Honey Buzzard. Also 2 White Storks were at Razdrto.
Pics above: doc shot of the Common Rosefinch and Short-toed Eagle.

Friday, 24 June 2011


A very productive seawatching session this morning from Miramare (TS), with a nice north-easterly wind and occasional rain-showers. The highlight came in the form of 2 *GANNETS* flying out on the sea towards Duino: an nice white adult and a dark immature. This is the first record for the patch (!!) and the first time I see the species in the province of Trieste!
The other highlight were different flocks of YELKOUAN SHEARWATERS, passing by in small numbers, very far at sea, on the horizon. Quite closer was a SHORT-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHIN leaping out of the water just in front of Miramare's castle! A very interesting record for the area (usually we get the more common Bottlenose Dolphins) - see the pic above.
Very common were Shags and occasional fly-by Common Terns.

Afternoon on the Rilke path (overlooking the sea cliffs near Duino) produced: 4 juv Peregrines (pics below), very confiding and pearching on nearby rocks; 2 Blue Rock Thrushes (male and female) and few Alpine Swifts.

We all love waders!

Yesterday's late afternoon at Isola della Cona NR produced: 50-80 Spotted Redshanks, 20-30 Wood Sandpipers, Bee-eater, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, 2 Kingfishers, 1 Squacco Heron, 3-4 Purple Herons, 2 Cetti's Warblers, several Night Herons, 2 Curlews, 10-15 Green Sandpipers, 12 Spoonbills, 3 late Black Terns in the freshwater marsh, 2 Greenshanks, 2 Common Redshanks, 5 Little Ringed Plovers, 1 OYSTERCATCHER flying out of the inner marsh, towards the sea (good record for the area), 1 Pygmy Cormorant, 2 MARSH SANDPIPERS among all the other "shanks", 1 female Marsh Harrier, 1 female Little Bittern in flight and 1 Sand Martin.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Black-headed Buntings in nearby Croatia

Spent a nice morning in the company of Danish birder Nikolaj Noel Christensen in the Mirna river's valley in Croatia. The area held a variety of mediterranean species, with the highlight being of course BLACK-HEADED BUNTING. We had 2 singing males in two different sites. Both quite approachable and showing pretty well (pics above). In the area also: Corn Buntings being the commonest species, some Cirl Buntings, Serin, several Melodious Warblers, Reed Warbler, Curlew (on the estuary), Common Tern, 2-3 singing Tawny Pipits, 2 singing Quails, 3 Turtle Doves (on the wires), Great Reed Warbler, 3-4 Red-backed Shrikes (both sexes), 1 Cetti's Warbler, 3 Stonechats, Skylark, 1 LITTLE OWL (gorgeous bird sitting on the roof of a local farm!), 2 GREY PARTRIDGES dust-bathing on the path (very approachable, giving nice views), 1 Fan-tailed Warbler, 1 male SPANISH SPARROW (first pic below).

Grey Partridge:

Škocjanski zatok: of note only 13-15 Wood Sanpipers, 1 Spotted Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern, 2 Common Redshanks and a single (female or juv.) KENTISH PLOVER. The last one is actually a nice record for the area this year (pic below).

Saturday, 18 June 2011

YELKOUAN SHEARWATERS galore in the gulf!

Local patch: a 5 minute seawatching session from the window, proved to be very productive: at 18.33 pm about 28 *YELKOUAN SHEARWATERS* flew past, far on the sea. This is in fact the 3rd ever record for the species here! The whole day looked promising for seawatching mainly because a stiff southerly wind was blowing right from the sea. Usually this weather brings nice surprises. Also a Common Tern and 1 Great Crested Grebe were seen flying along the coast.
Later at 19.05 another bigger flock of Yelkouans I decided to go out on the shore and try to get closer views. Half an hour later I was at Miramare (TS) scanning the sea...but it was only at 20.30 pm that the YELKOUAN SHEARWATERS appeared. Lots of different flocks actually (30-50 birds per flock), flying low above the waves in long, loose formations. It was then that I got really good views, especially when a big flock entered in my scope's field of view from the right and closer than ever! Usually the birds (in the different flocks) appeared at the same time...but at different distances. 2-3 birds gave especially fine views as they circled around for some time and rose higher above the sea than others. Anyway all the birds were coming roughly from NW and the open sea and heading towards the inner part of the gulf (towards the town of Trieste). I estimated in total 150-200 birds, but there should have been more, as I was seeing other very distant "trains" almost constantly out on the sea.
A truly amazing spectacle...pity it happens just few times a year!
Picture above from "Petrels night and day. A Sound Approach guide" (Robb, Mullarney)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Redshank's breeding success

Škocjanski zatok: very little movement today, with small numbers of birds. The usual chicks of all the different species are growing up quickly. The highlight was probably a family of Common Redshanks. One adult and 3 juveniles were present in the lagoon (where I usually see "the" single Redshank). This is a quite amazing record. I didn't know the species was breeding there...and in fact, maybe even the NR wardens are not aware of that (I haven't spoke to them yet). Photo above by Steve Round.
Otherwise little movement as I said before: 1 male Little Bittern (in flight and perched), 1 Night Heron heard, 3 Teals (quite odd for the season!), usual Black-winged Stilts & chicks, 3 Little Ringed Plovers (nesting in the lagoon), 1 Spotted Redshank (in summer plumage...maybe the usual one), 2 Greenshanks, 58 Common Terns (including the juvs.), 1 Yellow Wagtail, Reed and Great Reed Warblers and 2 Melodious Warblers. On the edge of the lagoon a Red Fox was trotting around.

In the hope of finding some raptors, I then headed to the Mount Stena area (Glinščica/Val Rosandra NR). Lots of different species of butterflies, the commonest being Marbled Whites and Fritillary sp., with some Pearly Heaths. On the cliffsides good numbers of Dryads as well as Great Banded Graylings.
Below few pics...I guess the last one is a Spotted Fritillary. The second pic shows a poor Pearly Heath being caught by a Crab Spider of some kind.
Birds included: 1-2 Melodious Warblers, Rock Bunting, Linnet, 1 TAWNY PIPIT calling (good record for the area), 1 juv. Blue Rock Thrush on the cliffs and 1 Honey Buzzard.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Scops Owls at nest & Goatsucker census

Note: the eyes are red due to the camera's flash
Yesterday evening I took part in a small Nightjar census in their stronghold area - a heathland on the Italian Karst. We recorded 14 singing males. Some were seen flying around and giving the characteristic "chuik" call. A great spectacle with on the background the moon's eclipse. Just before dark a Hobby flew overhead with a prey in the talons.
Later we went to check a Scops Owl's nest in the city of Trieste. It is set in a plane-tree hole, overlooking a busy road. Actually a very urban environment! The male and female Scops Owl were quite busy bringing food to the nest (mostly grasshoppers and moths) and gave some spectacular views on the nest entrance (see pics above).
From the nearby park Edible Dormice were heard squeaking and an apparent Grey Heron flew overhead (calls heard).
Not too bad for an urban night!

Local patch: Robin still singing at dusk, plus Golden Orioles calling from the nearby woodland.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Grassland butterflies

Here are some butterfly shots from today's wandering on the Karst (both Italian and Slovene). Present in the areas: Great Banded Grayling, Marbled White, Pearly Heath, Meadow Brown, Essex Skipper and Six-spot Burnet (which is actually a moth).
Pics above (from top to bottom): Silver-studded Blue, Marbled White, possible False Heath Fritillary (3x), Essex/Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Pearly Heath, Five-spot Burnet...not sure about the last one.
Bird species recorded in the afternoon included: 1 singing Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, several Nightingales, 1 Tawny Pipit, 1 singing Rock Bunting (see pic below), mixed families of Great, Blue and Marsh Tits with their youngs, ad Blackcaps with youngs, 1 Melodious Warbler, 3 Red-backed Shrike (1 female, 2 males), a pair of Stonechats, 2 Corn Buntings, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Skylark, 1 Honey Buzzard, Cirl Bunting, 1 singing WRYNECK, Cuckoo. Also a RED FOX was of interest...sunbathing in the afternoon on a grassland clearing.
Rock Bunting:

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Two days in the Alps with BLACK GROUSE special

I spent the last two days (Thursday and Friday) in the Italian Alps of Friuli Venezia Giulia with two other friends, trying to see some alpine gamebirds and other upland specialities.

Day 1 - Thursday 9th June:
We nearly spent the whole day at the Cornino lake Nature Reserve, near Forgaria. The main target here was a mega rarity: a Black Vulture reported in the previous days...that we dipped at the end. Instead we got another pretty much rare bird, a *LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD*, also reported in the past few days. The birds was soaring quite high with other raptors, so the views were not extremly grateful (not as those in Hungary!). Other interesting birds in the area: about 96 Griffon Vultures, lots of Ravens, 10-15 Black Kites, several singing WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLERS, singing Common Redstarts (the first for me this year), about 8 Honey Buzzards (far commoner than Common Buzzard), 2 Short-toed Eagles, 1 female Kestrel, 1 Hobby (hunting House Martins), 2 Siskins (flew overhead), Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Red Squirrels and 3 Wild Boars (see pic).
Later on the mount Cuar a quite far away singing Ural Owl. Also there Eurasian Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Bullfinch ect.
A stop near Portis (Venzone) produced: nesting Griffon Vultures and some Crag Martins plus 6 ALPINE IBEXES.
Griffon Vultures:

Wild Boar:

Day 2 - Friday 10th June:
At 03.00 am in a park in the town of Udine a Little Owl was singing.
We then headed to the Mount Oisternig (2050 m a.s.l.) on the border with Austria, to try and see some truly alpine birds. The main target were of course Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Cappercaillie ect.
We were actually very lucky with the BLACK GROUSE - no less than 4 birds! The first one (a female) was seen as we were ascending to the top of the Oisternig - it took off some 10-20 metres away from the path. The second encounter was with a stunning male. Firstly spotted at great distance as it was sitting on the ground below a spruce tree... we then approached it and got nice views. When it took off, another one followed him in flight. But the best came at the end. When we were walking back on the steep grassy slope, I almost trod on a female Black Grouse! It bursted away with great noise, hitting my leg with the wing and leaving me quite schocked! I then realised that few centimetres away from my foot there was a nest with 7 eggs!! The nest was actually well concealed in a cup of grass, beneath the top of a fallen spruce. We had a quick look at it, took some photos and left the site as soon as possible. A probably quite scary encounter for the grouse, but a great one for us!
This was of course the highlight, but there were other interesting sightings too during the day. Here are the species we had: Song and Mistle Thrush, Wren, Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest & Firecrest, Crested, Coal and Willow Tit, Eurasian Treecreeper, several Bullfinches, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, Dunnock (in upland habitat), a Siskin family, both Tree and Water Pipit (marking their upland territories), Linnet, several RING OUZELS (superb males!), 2-3 pairs of Northern Wheatear, 8 Alpine Choughs flew past, 1 ALPINE ACCENTOR, Crossbills in flight, some Honey Buzzards, 2 calling Nutcrackers (one seen), Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Black Woodpecker heard, 2 WHITE-THROATED DIPPERS (in flight and perched...on a mountain stream), 1 Buzzard and 1 male Red-backed Shrike. Mammals included: 1 male RED DEER at dawn, 1 European Hare, 1 Roe Deer, 6 ALPINE CHAMOISES and several ALPINE MARMOTS (on the grassy slopes). Also 2-3 Small Tortoiseshells on the top of the mount.
Black Grouse's nest:

Small Tortoiseshell:

Some landscape views: