Saturday, 31 December 2011


Summerising the top 2011 bird highlights in words (chronologically):
-Merlin: stunning male - Škocjanski zatok on 29th February
-Red-breasted Goose: Terranova, 13th February
-Lesser White-fronted Goose: Isola della Cona, 19th February
-Yellow Wagtail, superciliaris ssp: Škocjanski zatok, 18th March
-SHORT-EARED OWL: top 2011 highlight - Lazaret (Ankaran), 3rd April
-Woodchat Shrike: male at Campo Carri, 29th April
-Black-eared Wheatear: male and female at Campo Carri on 29th April
-Rock Thrush: female at Campo Carri, 30th April
-Rose-coloured Starling: Isola della Cona, 30th May
-Collared Pratincole: Isola della Cona, 30th May
-Black Grouse: 4 birds + nest, mount Oisternig, 10th June
-Long-legged Buzzard: Cornino, 11th June
-Yelkouan Shearwater: local patch, 18th June
-Black-headed Bunting: Croatia, 22nd June
-Northern Gannet + Yelkouan Shearwater: local patch, 24th June
-Grasshopper Warbler: Škocjanski zatok, 26th August
-Bluethroat: 7 in a morning, Škocjanski zatok, 2nd September
-EURASIAN DOTTEREL: top 2011 highlight, mount Vremščica, 6th September
-Bar-tailed Godwit: first record for Škocjanski zatok, 9th September
-Dipper: Planina, 22nd September
-Spotted Crake: Škocjanski zatok, 23rd September
-Pallid Swift: local patch, 22nd October
-Moustached Warbler: Škocjanski zatok, 28th October
-Tengmalm's, Pygmy, Ural Owl: Trnovski gozd, 2nd November
-Caspian Gull: Škocjanski zatok, December

From the above list I excluded the trip to Hungary in May. Overall not a bad year, with actually some of the best sightings ever in my life! I even tried year listing, but had a weak result - 264 species recorded in total.
Hope 2012 will be as good as this year. And for an excellent start a nice week in Norfolk is what I really need!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Quick update

Škocjanski zatok NR: I was back on the reserve today for the usual weekly count. The warmer temperatures allowed the ice to melt down a bit, so there was more wildfowl around. In the brackish lagoon 2 CASPIAN GULLS were still around (see pic above) within the bigger flock of gulls. Other birds included: 5 Shelducks, 588 Teals, +50 Shovelers, 50 Wigeons, 9 Pochards (pic above), 4 Tufted Ducks (2 m & 2 f), 2 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Buzzard, 1 male GOSHAWK (flying over the lagoon and Jezerce - headed SE), 1 Water Rail, 622 Coots, 2 Grey Plovers (in the brackish lagoon), Greenshank, Curlew, Snipe, 1 first winter Common Gull, 149 Yellow-legged Gulls, +300 Black-headed Gulls, 9 Skylarks, +25 Water Pipits, 17 Meadow Pipits (flock over the car-park), 1 Fan-tailed Warbler (showing well on some grass - quite a long time from the last one here!), 1 Penduline Tit, 4 Hawfinches, 4 Cirl Buntings.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Three first-winter CASPIAN GULLS

First one:

Flight shot:

The second one:

And the third (on the right; the left one is probably the same as in the first photo):

Third bird on the left with a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull on the right:

Here are the other pics of yestarday's CASPIAN GULLS. Three different 1st winter birds then - all with quite distictive and easy to see characters (see above).
Photos visible here too.

Local patch: a MARSH TIT in the garden was of interest this morning. In the last two days there were a few Red Admirals on the wings too - a consequence of the mild and sunny weather we are having now. Not right very common to see butterflies on Christmas day!

Monday, 26 December 2011

More gulls, more headache!

Škocjanski zatok NR: today I spent the morning with a friend, as we were trying to re-find the Caspian Gull. Quite a lot of gulls around, especially Yellow-legged and among them we found some doubtful ones - Caspian-like. It gave us a real headache trying to work out the identity of some first winters. Several photos are still in the process of identification, so I'll post them later. In the meantime I can say that we got at least 1-2 CASPIAN GULLS (first winters).
The other thing I know for sure is that the above bird (first one) is an adult HERRING GULL. Also a juvenile was around. Within the same flock, mixed among Black-headed Gulls were at least 6-7 Common Gulls of almost every age (see last two pics above).
Other birds included: 1 female Goldeneye, 4 Shelducks, 2 Green Sandpipers, +7 Snipes, 10-15 Skylarks, Penduline Tit, Greenshank, Curlew, 1 Black-necked Grebe, 1-2 Jackdaws, 3 Hawfinches and several Water Pipits.
We then decided to check the bay of Lazzaretto as usual on the way back from Koper. The area held: 2 Curlews, 1 Sandwich Tern, 1 Little Egret, +10 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Black-necked Grebes, 1 adult HERRING GULL and 1 adult Common Gull, both on the buoys.

In the afternoon we tried the patch of beech woodland near Bazovica/Basovizza and were rewarded with all the 5 woodpecker species present in the area: 3 Black, several Great Spotted, 2 Green, 1 male Lesser Spotted and 1 female Grey-headed Woodpecker (doc pic below).

That's all for now... I'll soon post the remaining gull pics, when the mysteries will be solved.

Friday, 23 December 2011

CASPIAN GULL in the Škocjanski zatok NR

Škocjanski zatok NR: I got the confirmation of the gull photographed yesterday (see previous post below). It was indeed a 1st winter CASPIAN GULL as I originally thought. Well, not right an everyday sight here, so a bit of a rarity, but still annual on our coast.
The head shape is distinctive, with the slender bill and small black eye. The very white head and underparts are also quite typical of the species - and the brownish "boa" around the neck is visible too. The legs have a quite long tibia, another good structural character. The overall plumage consists of three colours: white head and underparts, brown wings and greyish back. On the scapulars, the black anchor-shaped markings are also present and the tertials are brown with a broad white tip.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Gulls: one in the process of ID

Škocjanski zatok NR: I found this interesting gull today, while doing the weekly count. I think it could be good for a Caspian, but I'd like to wait the opinions of some experts first. I'm not yet very sure to claim the identification of certain gull species...
Otherwise nearly all the water bodies were frozen over, so all the waterbirds were confined to small, ice-free areas. Even the brackish lagoon was locked in ice, but thankfully half of it was still free. However the numbers of the different species were a bit down today (a consequence of the ice cover). Birds of interest included: 124 Little Grebes (!), just 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Shelduck left, 28 Wigeons, 10 Shovelers, 183 Teals, 9 Pochards (both sexes), 1 female Tufted Duck, 3 Water Rails, 545 Coots, 9 Curlews, 15 Greenshanks, 1 Snipe, quite high numbers of gulls with 221 Black-headed and 218 Yellow-legged Gulls, 1 first-winter COMMON GULL also present (my first of the season!), 11 Skylarks on the grazing marsh (see pics below), 16 Water Pipits (walking around on the ice), 1 Wren, 2 Dunnocks, 1 male Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, flock of 36 Jackdaws (!) over the reserve, 4 Hawfinches (on hedges), 1 Spanish Sparrow (male at the feeding station - still within the massive flock of House and Tree Sparrows).

By the way, here on this link you can find three short films about the Škocjanski zatok nature reserve (by clicking on one of the three videos).
They are available here too:
1.The first one about wildlife/birds in the nature reserve (perhaps the most interesting)
2.The second about horses and cattles present on the reserve
3.The third about education, field trips and bird monitorings

Sunday, 18 December 2011

MERLIN & Velvet Scoters - signs of a cold winter!

I started this nice Sunday at Lido di Staranzano-Alberoni (GO). While scanning the sea I was soon rewarded with a flock of 16 VELVET SCOTERS. Quite far, but still managed to get some decent views. Both sexes were present, with the males sporting a nice yellowish base of the bill. Sometimes they flapped their wings, showing the extensive white panels.
The sea and the beach were full of birds: 510 Dunlins feeding in tight flock (see pics below) along with many Curlews & Grey Plovers. Also lots of Wigeons, about 50 Black-necked Grebes, 150 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Black-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 female Goldeneyes, 2 Red-necked Grebes and 1 Red-throated Diver.
Curlews, Dunlins & Grey Plovers:

Later I went to see the 3 reported FLAMINGOS in the Valle Cavanata Nature Reserve. I found the birds almost immediately - three juveniles, one of them had a green ring on the right leg.
The main reservoir/lagoon was absolutely stuffed with wildfowl: especially large numbers of Shoveler and Pintail, Teal, Mallard and some Gadwalls. Quite a lot of Lapwings too. Also an adult Spoonbill was present in the area. On the Averto canal and on the sea part of the reserve: 200 Pochards, 2 Goldeneyes (male and female), 2 Water Rails (both seen), 4-5 Grey Plovers (see pics below), 1 Greenshank, 8 Sandwich Terns, lots of Red-breasted Mergansers, 1 Common Sandpiper and even here large numbers of Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes out on the sea.
Two of the three juvenile Flamingos (with a Pintail on each side):

Grey Plovers on the shore:

For the afternoon, few other places could be better than Isola della Cona NR. I stayed in the area from 13.00 to 15.50 approx. The top bird of the day was found here in the form of a really nice female MERLIN sitting on a bush (see pics below). The bird perched there (just over the saltwater marsh) for about 5 minutes, giving distant but good views. Then suddendly took off, made a few circles over the reedbed and returned to the same perch. My first Merlin of the season by the way!
Other interesting birds on the reserve included: +500 White-fronted Geese + Greylags as well, 4 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE, 5-10 Curlews, lots of Lapwings, 2 Dunlins (in the freshwater marsh), Water Pipits, 3 Pintails, 5 Tufted Ducks, 1 Sparrowhawk and 3 Marsh Harriers (4 in the evening). A BITTERN in flight was also a great sight. It landed on the edge of a distant reedbed and showed for a while, before disappearing into cover.
A perfect end to the day!
Female Merlin:

Female Merlin...with Miramare's castle in the background (!!):

Some views on the snow-covered Nanos in nearby Slovenia (with Karst plateau in the foreground):