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.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

DOTTEREL at last!!

A perfect day, for a perfect bird! I spent today's afternoon looking for Dotterels on the hillsides of the mount Vremščica in nearby Slovenia, with my friend Igor Maiorano. After almost 2 hours of walking the grassy slopes and having just heard a weak call of a probable bird, our effort was rewarded. At 17.45 two EURASIAN DOTTERELS flew over our heads, calling (it was the call we heard before!) and landed on a nearby hill top. So we went to check. The birds remained there for the whole time. The moments that followed cannot be described with simple words, but let's say that excitment was of course the prevailing feeling. We had the two birds feeding on the stony path down to 5 metres in front of us! From the plumage features I can say they were juv/1st winter birds...or something like that (see pics above). Very tame; they approached us even more when we sat down on the ground and waited. Simply gorgeous, especially with the perfect orange light of the sun setting! They showed very well on the path (and in the nearby low vegetation) until 19.00-19.30 when we left the site.
The search in the early afternoon was not too boring, as we had some other birds for good company too: 2 Kestrels, lots of Whinchats and Northern Wheatears, Skylark (being the commonest bird), 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 imm Marsh Harrier (hunting over the hills), Raven, Buzzard, 1 Honey Buzzard, 1 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling in the nearby wood, 1 Willow Warbler and a nice immature GOLDEN EAGLE being mobbed by a Common Buzzard (an interesting sightings here).

And here a photo by Igor Maiorano with 300 mm lenses:

Friday 2 September 2011

Final score: 7 BLUETHROATS!

Škocjanski zatok NR: a great day with an interesting passage of passerines, including some pretty rare ones. Early in the morning when I saw the first BLUETHROAT (first pic above) I was quite amazed by the find of this rare migrant. But when I began to see them everywhere, I realised there was a strong passage going on. I counted a total of 7 different birds in different parts of the reserve. Usually preferring reedbed-filled ditches, hedges (by the main path) and reedbed borders. The second bird was hopping on the path and feeding in the nearby hedges. The third and fourth were seen in a reedbed, usually feeding on the ground (sometimes chasing each other). While these two uttered a "tack-tack" call, a third bird called back, rising the score to 5 birds! At the end of the path, by the biggest reedbed area, I could spot 2 other Bluethroats chasing each other in flight - identified by the diagnostic reddish tail-sides. One also landed on a willow and gave some short views.

All were either 1st winter males or adult males/females in autumn plumage: with a blue band on the lower throat. Some were more colorful (having a bigger blue band) thus suggesting males.

This was undoubtely one of my best birding sights on the reserve!

Other birds of note included: 1 juv Purple Heron, 1 juv Spoonbill (the usual one), 20 Shovelers, 232 Teals (!), 2 female GARGANEY, 1 juv/female Marsh Harrier, 8 Common Sandpipers, 9 juvenile Spotted Redshanks, 18 Greenshanks, 3 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Snipes, Kingfisher, 1 singing Wryneck (always the same one), Tree Pipits on passage, 5 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Nightingales, 10 Whinchats on the grazing marsh, 1 first winter Northern Wheatear (by the railway line), 1 Fan-tailed Warbler, 3 Great Reed Warblers (in the hedges), 4 Sedge Warblers, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 juv/female Common Whitethroat (first of the autumn), +8 Blackcaps, +10 Garden Warblers and 2 juv Red-backed Shrikes.

Some waders were pretty close...

Juvenile Spotted Redshank:


Spotted Redshank and Greenshank:

Wood Sandpiper:

Not a wader, but worth a picture - Goldfinch: