Thursday, 29 September 2011

Autumn on the reserve

Škocjanski zatok NR: spent another day on the reserve, bird-monitoring in the morning and hanging around in the afternoon. Despite the intense migratory season, the situation was a bit quiet. However some truly autumnal birds were present like lots of Robins, Song Thrushes ect. Great to see the lagoon turning red in this season, due to the blossoming halophytes (above photo). In the late afternoon I was very pleased to witness to a huge Starling frenzy on the grazing marsh. Birds literally everywhere on the ground, making the grass black! Sometimes they all took off and performed some aerial numbers, before dropping again into the marsh. We estimated something between 5000-10.000 birds. That's possibly the biggest number of Starlings I've ever seen all at once!
Let's go to the species present today: 8 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Pygmy Cormorants, 9 Great Egrets. 1 juv WHITE STORK (usual bird still present in the area), 1 Buzzard, 14 Wigeon, 44 Shoveler, 307 Teals, 1 Gadwall (male-first of the autumn), 1 Garganey (female or eclipse male? - see pic), 4 Water Rails (2 giving exceptional views!), 224 Coots (up we go!), 6 Dunlins (juvs and winter plumaged adults in the lagoon), 3 Curlews, 4 Common Sandpipers, 23 Greenshanks, 1 Green Sandpiper (heard), 13 Snipes, Tree Pipit on passage, 6 Yellow Wagtails on the grazing marsh (see pic), 11 Robins, 1 Whinchat, 3 Song Thrushes (see pic), 1 Fan-tailed Warbler, 2 Reed Warblers, 10 Blackcaps, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, several Penduline Tits (heard, one seen) and 4 JACKDAWS flying overhead.
Song Thrush:

Yellow Wagtail:

Water Rail:


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Whinchat in the garden

Local patch: this morning as I opened my window, a huge cloud of swirling House Martins (mixed with some Swallows too) was calling overhead! I estimated about 250-300 birds, that remained in the wider area of Barcola for the whole morning. Clearly a migratory flock, arrived from who knows where! Several Robins in the gardens by now...singing their hearts out, early in the morning.
Today's top-bird was a WHINCHAT (1st winter) sitting on the top of plum-trees and perching on wires (see pics above). It's the first one in the garden this year! Always nice to see a Whinchat on your doorstep. Other birds during the "morning-check" included: 1 Chiffchaff in the garden (first of the season), 1 Short-toed Treecreeper, 1 Garden Warbler joined by 3 Blackcaps (1 m & 2 f).
The most unusual sighting was a flock of 44 UFOs on migration over the kasrtic ridge. As the flock was too far I couldn't identify the species, but the birds seemed Cormorant-styled, though very far and in a very disordered flock formation. Almost no wing-beats, just a long glide (wind-pushed actually) from E to W. Bah! I'll never know!
On the butterfly front single Red Admirals are regular now, with 1 or 2 Painted Ladies too.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Another great morning in the PATCH!

Local patch: this morning I had one of the most enjoyable hours of birding from home. As usual in these last weeks, I was "in position" on the terrace from about 11.20 am to 12.35 am. The total score was far higher that expected. One of the first birds was a calling Tree Pipit (passing overhead). The usual Garden Warbler was also present on the figs with 3 Blackcaps; a Robin and a Nuthatch were calling nearby. After a quick scan, I spotted a big flock of 150-200 Swallows far over Mount Grisa, mixed with some Alpine Swifts and House Martins. Occasionally the whole flock came closer and some Swallows flew over the gardens too. The first "good one" of the day was a juvenile MARSH HARRIER on migration. I spotted it over the karstic ridge; it then glided down towards the sea, heading SW. Nice! It's been long ago from the last Marsh Harrier here! Additional entertainment was given by a female Sparrowhawk that landed on a garden shed and showed well for 10 minutes - see pics below). Meanwhile I was hearing a WILLOW WARBLER calling somewhere in the garden. If don't go wrong, this should be a year-tick for the area!
But the best came in the end, when at 12.35 am, a splendid SHORT-TOED EAGLE materialised in the sky over the patch (it descended from Monte Grisa actually) and stayed in the area for some minutes. It then headed NE, following the ridge. Great!
From the above pictures I presume it's an adult bird, as it lacks some flight feathers. Overall the plumage seems quite worn and messy too.

Not too bad for an hour of "balcony-birding". Local patch scores once again!
Now...what's next??

Here are some shots of the female Sparrowhawk - the top garden predator:

Sunday, 25 September 2011

GOSHAWK & new butterfly for the patch

Local patch: the highlight this morning was a juvenile GOSHAWK gliding and soaring over the pine woodland (its usual habitat). This time I could get some better views, as it was showing for a longer period. Although the above photos are quite crappy, you can clearly see it's a Goshawk. You can even see a hint of the brownish plumage of the juvenile bird.
Other birds included 1 singing Robin, 1-2 Garden Warbler, 1 Short-toed Treecreeper (daily records in this period), 1 female Sparrowhawk patrolling the gardens, 4 Swallows flying past and very few House Martins.
On the butterfly front I got a patch tick: SMALL COPPER (Lycaena phlaeas), feeding on the ivy bushes (see pics below) along with a Red Admiral, lots of bees, hoverflies and a few hornets. Also a Scarce Swallowtail drigted by.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A proper Spotted Crake!

Škocjanski zatok NR:
the freshwater part of the marsh looks very attractive now, after all the reedbed-cutting. The grassy and muddy scrapes are now completely visible and host a variety of ducks, with Teals being the commonest. Today I counted a total of 613 Teals, which is a quite high score for the season.
Top-bird of the day was a SPOTTED CRAKE, walking on the reedbed's edge with 3 Moorhens. Even if a bit distant, I got nice vews of it through the scope. Actually this is the first time I see a Spotted Crake properly, completely out of cover. It seemed a nice adult as it had white barrings on the flanks and an overall blueish hue (Water Rail-like).
Other birds today on the reserve: 1 Black-necked Grebe in the brackish lagoon (winter plumage), total counts of 64 Little and 13 Great Egrets, 11 Wigeons, 4 Shovelers, 1 female Garganey in the lagoon, 1 singing Water Rail, 211 Coots (growing numbers!), 5 Ringed Plovers in flight over the lagoon (probably settled down somewhere on the mudflats), 1 Lapwing, 2 Curlews, 1 remaining Common Sandpiper (!), 1 juvenile Spotted Redshank, 23 Greenshanks, 1 Snipe, 11 Swallows, constant passage of Tree Pipits, +10 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Robins, 1 Whinchat, 1 female Common Redstart, 1 Bluethroat (seen briefly on the muddy edge of a reedbed), 2 Sedge Warblers, 6 Reed Warblers, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Blackcaps, 4 Willow Warblers and 1 Penduline Tit (calling).
Illustration above gently stolen from the RSPB website

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Planina & Cerkniško jezero (with special DIPPER)

I spent an enjoyable day in Slovenia and "tasted" a bit of fresh continental weather. On the way to the Cerknica lake I couldn't skip the usual stop at Planina (near Postojna). To delight me was a handsome WHITE-THROATED DIPPER, sitting on floating vegetation in the the local stream. It allowded a quite close approach, so I could take some photos (see above) - video here. It wasn't particularly worried, not even by the anglers, fishing nearby. Two metres away from it, was a nice Snipe (perching on the riverbank). I watched the Dipper for about 10-15 minutes, then suddendly heard the call of a Grey-headed Woodpecker. Another bird answered and soon I was watching two indivuduals on the same tree. They seemed to be female/juvs (see pics below).

The quite rich birdlife in the area (although common species) gave additional attraction: 4 Little Grebes in the stream, Tree Pipits overhead, tons of Hawfinches, Long-tailed, Blue, Great, Marsh and Coal Tits, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blackcap, 3 Whinchats (nearby fields), Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Blackbird, White Wagtail and few House Martins overhead. All these birds more or less at the same time.
At mid-morning I arrived on the Cerkniško lake. The most abundant bird was the Common Buzzard. All the fields were literally full of them... I think I got about +50 different Buzzards in the whole day. Along with them were many Kestrels.
Species of higher note included: Tree Pipit, 3 Stonechats (2 m and 1 f), 1 Yellowhammer, several Linnets, +5 Yellow Wagtails, some Skylarks, 3 juvenile Marsh Harriers (in different parts of the lake), 9 Great Egrets (at Dolenje Jezero), Mistle and Song Thrush, Hawfinch, Goldcrest, 1 Garden Warbler (near Otok), 2 GOSHAWKS (1 calling in the forest and 1 juvenile perching on a pole just out of Martinjak!), about 30 Crossbills (flocks near Otok), 1 Spotted Flycatcher, Crested and Coal Tits in the forest, 1 Black Woodpecker (forest), 2 Serins, 2 Willow Warblers, 6 Whinchats, 1 Northern Wheatear (1st winter near Martinjak) and 3 Honey Buzzards soaring at midday over Martinjak.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Pallid Swifts save the day!

I had 3 PALLID SWIFTS this afternoon at "Campo Carri" of Banne (TS). I spotted the three swifts at about 17.55 as I was leaving the area. They were mixed within a flock of 30-50 House Martins and Swallows. A good record for the day and for the season!
By this time the species should be more regular than Common Swift, although this year some Commons are now still around. The above photo shows one of the Pallids... or at least it should show - I don't think you can tell a Pallid from that shot!
Some grounded migrants still in the area, but in considerably lower numbers: 4 Northern Wheatears (all 1st winter - see pics below), 3 Whinchat and 2 calling Willow Warblers. I don't know if the juvenile Red-backed Shrike needs (yet) to be considered a migrant. It's probably one of the youngs fledged in the area. Also 4 Woodlarks were present, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Sparrowhawk giving acrobatic views, 1 female Black Redstart, 1 Marsh Tit. From the side of the path I also "flushed" a Brown Hare - quite heart-stopping encounter!

Local patch: one Garden Warbler is still present in the area, always on that same fig-trees, along with male and female Blackcap. Flock of 40-50 House Martins and a Short-toed Treecreeper were also of note. A Robin singing in the evening. Butterlies included a Painted Lady and a Southern Comma (on the photos below), apparently more common than the Comma Butterfly here!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Waders on the menu

I started the morning with the high tide at Banco Mula di Muggia, the sandy beach of Grado. The numerous Grey Plovers (about 150) were both in winter and summer plumage, with intermediate "colourings" too. 6 Kentish Plovers were taking a run on the sand in front of the flock. The main interest was provided by 2 BAR-TAILED GODWITS with quite long bills (suggesting females). Dunlins were also quite common as usual with numbers of about 200 birds; the majority already in winter plumage, but also several with black bellies and some juveniles too. Among the numerous Black-headed Gulls on the beach were 12 Mediterranean Gulls (winter plumage, 2nd winter and juveniles).
Mixed flock of Grey Plovers, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit (3rd upper bird from left) and Dunlins:

Bar-tailed Godwit within the Grey Plover flock:

A fisherman flushed the whole flock several times... (on the far left side a Bar-tailed Godwit is visible):

Some views on part of the flock:

Grey Plovers:

Later I checked Valle Cavanata that held: 5-6 Spotted Redshanks, 11 Common Redshanks (mainly juveniles), some Greenshanks, lots of Pygmy Cormorants and other common stuff. No sign of the juvenile Flamingo.
Also on the river Isonzo's estuary there was wader movement, though quite far. I could only recognize a flock of 400-500 Dunlins and several small flocks of Grey Plovers. On the "poles" along the estuary a total of 52 Sandwich Terns was of interest. In the nearby reedbed areas and fields also: 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 2-3 singing Water Rails, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Whinchats (on wires) and 2 Norther Wheatears (flushed).
Isola della Cona NR held fewer species than expected: 5 Snipes, 3 Ruffs, 1 female Garganey, 1 lonely Wood Sandpiper, +16 Mediterranean Gulls (within a large flock of Black-headeds), 1 Greenshank, 1 Willow Warbler (calling), 1 nice female COMMON REDSTART (the first for the autumn season), 2 Nightingales (calling in the hedges, one seen mobbing the Redstart), 1 Robin, 3 female Pintail, about 30 Lapwings, 2 Spotted Redshanks, 5 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers, 1 Spoonbill, 2 Little Stints, 4 Curlews and several Yellow Wagtails.
To end the trip, in the early afternoon I headed to Gorizia on the upper Isonzo river. Fortunately I soon got onto my target birds: 6 female GOOSANDERS, which were actually today's highlight along with the waders. They were resting on bigger stones in the middle of the river; sometimes taking a swim and stretching a bit the wings (see pic). In the area also the local Grey Wagtails.
Four female Goosanders are visible here:

Monday, 19 September 2011

Today in the patch

Local patch: a rainy morning with subsequent cold north-easterly wind in the afternoon. I did a bit of "garden checking" for some migrants, that resulted in: 1-2 Short-toed Treecreeper (calling somewhere in the nearby gardens), 2 Garden Warblers on their usual fig-tree, male and female Blackcap, 1 TREE PIPIT flying overhead (calling), 1 singing Robin (earliest record ever for the season of a singing bird!), 1 Blue Tit within a flock of Great Tits, 1 female Sparrowhawk in pursuit over the gardens (all the tits gave a loud alarm call), Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker.
In the afternoon on the sea (from Miramare): +100 Black-headed Gulls, 20 House Martins in flock over the sea (heading SE along the coast), 3 Mediterranean Gulls (all winter plumage) and the first BLACK-NECKED GREBE of the season (quite far off Grignano). Not to mention the numerous Shags and Yellow-legged Gulls.
Also yesterday a Garden Warbler was in the patch.

Saturday, 17 September 2011


Local patch: a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER was present this morning in the garden; seen for a few seconds perched on walnut-tree. It then flew off and I couldn't find it again. Quite interesting record... it's been some years from the last one in the patch! Also 1 GARDEN WARBLER (it will probably be an everyday sight for the next few weeks) feeding on the fig-trees, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Robin (calling), Blue Tit and a Common Buzzard. A Painted Lady was also present on the ivy bushes, along with a Hummingbird Hawk-moth sucking the flowers.
Later in the afternoon also a male Blackcap feeding on the last remaining figs, 1 Short-toed Treecreeper calling, Cirl Bunting and a (late) Common Swift - heard several times, but not seen (passing somewhere overhead).
Above: Spotted Flycatcher (taken last year)
Below: Common Buzzard (2x) and a very poor record-shot of the Garden Warbler.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Garden Warblers in the garden

Local patch: this morning 3 GARDEN WARBLERS seen feeding on a fig-tree, joined later by a female Blackcap. The first record this year for the species in the garden area.
In the sky a flock of +20 Alpine Swifts over Monte Grisa. Also a Nuthatch calling from the nearby wood.
Yesterday a Great Banded Grayling and a Hummbingbird Hawk-moth.
Above: a Garden Warbler found recently in one of the hides at Isola della Cona NR

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Enough with these Bluethroats!

Škocjanski zatok NR: another morning spent counting the birds and yet another BLUETHROAT! This was probably the same one I had last Friday in the area of recently mowned grassland. The bird was feeding on the ground, close to a very small patch of reedbed. Showed well for a few seconds, then disappeared - nice big blue breast band.
Also a juvenile WHITE STORK was present in the freshwater marsh this morning (see first two photos). After 10.00 am it took off and started to soar over the reserve.
Other birds in the area today: 10 Gadwalls, several Shovelers, 2 Wigeons, +150 Teals, 2 Night Herons (ad + imm), 1 "usual" juv Spoonbill, 1 Buzzard, 1 Water Rail singing, 3 Wood Sandpipers, 11 Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, 3 Curlews, still present the juv BAR-TAILED GODWIT in the brackish lagoon, 2-3 Snipes, 1 juv Mediterranean Gull over the lagoon, mixed flocks of Swallows and House Martins, +10 Tree Pipits on migration (see the 2nd two photos), 10-15 Yellow Wagtails, 1 female GREY WAGTAIL (same place as last week), about 10 Whinchats, 3-4 Blackcaps, 1 Sedge Warbler, lots of Reed Warblers and 2 Willow Warblers calling in the hedges bordering the lagoon. No sign of yesterday's Wheatears...