Thursday, 16 February 2012

Merlin, Alpine Accentor, Wallcreeper - the best of winter on a sunny February day!

Škocjanski zatok NR: this morning I was back doing my monitoring, after several weeks of absence. The main water bodies were still frozen after the very cold spell. Wildfowl has decreased steadily, but was compensated with a flock of 474 White-fronted Geese. These birds are present in the area since the beginning of February (maybe even before), but numbers fluctuate between the 300 and 500 birds. As I said, today I counted 474 birds, grazing on the freshwater marsh (last pic above). The best bird in the area though was a nice male MERLIN that decided to perch on the ground in the grazing marsh - giving excellent views for 10 long minutes (pics above).
Other birds around included: 8 Little Grebes (!! where have all the grebes gone?), 4 Greylag Geese (among the White-fronts), 17 Wigeons, 1 female Pintail, 8 Shovelers, 35 Teals, 15 Pochards, 10 Tufted Ducks, 1 Buzzard, 496 Coots (steady numbers), 3 Curlews, 4 Greenshanks, 465 Black-headed Gulls, 48 Common Gulls (interesting and quite high number for the area), 6-7 CASPIAN GULLS (still several 1st winters in the area; some were very distinctive), 282 Yellow-legged Gulls, 4 Skylarks, 5 Water Pipits, 10 Penduline Tits, 23 Jackdaws and a flock of 30 Linnets on the saltings.
This 1st cy Caspian Gull was very obvious:

Goose flock on the grazing marsh:

Early in the afternoon I enjoyed the warm sunshine on the cliffs of mount Stena - Glinščica valley, just out of Trieste. The first thing I saw when I got out of the car was a migrating flock of 35-40 White-fronted Geese heading north. Perhaps part of the flock from Škocjanski zatok...?
Initially the situation on the cliffs was very calm, with nothing of note apart from a Raven. I waited in silence for about 45 minutes. Suddendly some odd calls: quite metallic and... they were approaching. Few seconds after I was watching 2 ALPINE ACCENTORS flying over my head along the cliff ridge. Pity they didn't stop.
Then a Peregrine followed: it arrived in very quick flight from west (maybe from the town) and landed on its usual perch (see pic). From the colouring I guessed a female.
One last bird remained to be seen... But it was time to go. A last scan with bins on the cliff...and there it was: WALLCREEPER! Like my first one several years ago - same place, same circumstances: at that time I was leaving when I decided to take a last look at the cliff. That look gave me my first ever Walcreeper, flashing those crimson butterfly wings.
In the pine wooddland a few Crested and Coal Tits were of interest as well as a calling Black Woodpecker.