Sunday, 27 May 2012

Barred Warblers & co.

I've just spent a great day of good birds and wildlife on the Karst. Late in the morning I went on the Slovenian side to check the site where Barred Warbler was found last week. The area held a good variety of the usual coutryside birds: Red-backed Shrikes and Skylarks everywhere, 3 Ravens, Corn Buntings, 2 Common Whitethroats, Buzzard, Spotted Flycatcher, a singing Hoopoe, Black Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Cuckoo ect.
Raptors were very active from about 12.30 onwards. Six Red-footed Falcons were still on site; usually seen hovering over the grassland or perching on a dead tree:

Later a beautiful male Honey Buzzard joined them:

...and eventually a Short-toed Eagle showed up as well:

While scanning the sky with bins I immediately noticed a far away black dot in the sky - almost motionless. I pointed the scope and realised it was a GRIFFON VULTURE! In was probably on migration either down to Croatian colonies or northwards to the Alps. But this is still a good bird to see on the Karst! After that a female Marsh Harrier appeared in the sky and then the true star of the day started to perform: BARRED WARBLER! Initially I spotted a bird that I aged as an immature/female on a small Fraxinus tree - showing pretty well while feeding there for about 10 minutes. Later when I heard an adult bird singing I pointed the scope to a bush and... bang! A perfect male with the yellow eye, singing in full view. Unfortunately the view was very short, so I couldn't take any pics of the male. I then got nice flight views of it when it was chased away by a Red-backed Shrike! Before leaving the area I realised there should have been a third bird around (just heard).
Some pics of the immature/female (see also top of the post):


In the late afternoon I attended a talk about birds and butterflies on the Karst that was held by a friend of mine in the Doberdob lake nature reserve. After that we had a walk around the rocky path above the lake to see a bit of butterflies. Best birds noted here included 3 singing Rock Buntings, a Hobby and a male Red-backed Shrike.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Yet another double surprise!

Local patch: just finished to write the latest post about Nightjars, when I heard some BEE-EATERS out of the window. So I jumped out to see and spotted a flock of +20 noisy birds circling over the house and mobbing a Common Buzzard! The flock passed by quite quickly and headed north. While looking at the last birds disappearing over the karstic ridge, a giant beast materialised in my scope. It was a SHORT-TOED EAGLE!! Incredible!
Double score in a few minutes. I love these completely out-of-nowhere unexpected sightings!
Above is a poor pic of the distant ST Eagle

Dawn chorus with Nightjars

The Goatsuckers aka Nightjars are back! Actually they were already back from Africa at the end of April, but this morning I had my first of the year. I had some pre-dawn & dawn chorus on the Karst while driving home from unofficial business (read party). Between 03.30 and 04.30 am I heard three different churring NIGHTJARS, two of which were actually on the rocky slope of M.Grisa in the patch.
Also very nice to hear were two singing Woodlarks and lots of Nightingales. Mammals seen crossing the road included a Red Fox and a Roe Deer... no martens this time.
By 04.40 am the first Blackbirds and Great Tits started to sing and the true dawn chorus began. So I went to bed.
Pic above by Chris Knights from RSPB images

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Honey Buzzard over the house

Local patch: this female Honey Buzzard came in from the sea today and headed east, straight over the house. I had enough time to grab telescope & camera and take these two shots.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Acros & Hippos

Škocjanski zatok NR: with and overcast sky and wet air there was an incredible number of small migrants around the reserve this morning. The hedges were literally full of Acros and also a few nice Hippos. Most of them were singing while foraging in the vegetation. In the course of the morning I counted a total of 23 Great Reed Warblers, 32 Sedge Warblers (also 8 singing together!!), 2 Marsh Warblers (heard + seen), 47 Reed Warblers (!), the 2 usual Melodious Warblers (already on territories), 2 Icterine Warblers (showing well while singing in the highest bushes - pic above), 5 Nightingales, 3 Garden Warblers, 1 female Common Whitethroat and 4 Blackcaps.
Other good birds included a male Ferruginous Duck resting in the grass on the freshwater marsh, two Little Terns in the lagoon (first of the year for me), 3 Turtle Doves, a fly-by male Little Bittern, 4 Night Herons resting in the tamarisks, 20 Pygmy Cormorants together (highest number for me in the reserve) and the usual waders plus a few Sand Martins overhead.
Also nice to see the first fledged Common Tern's chicks in the lagoon.
One of the two Little Terns in the brackish lagoon:

Monday, 21 May 2012

The 150th species for the patch!

Local patch: 10 minutes of "lucky birding" from the window produced a fly-by Turtle Dove this morning - a patch tick! The bird was probably on migration as it was flying quite high and fast, without changing direction and coming straight from the sea, heading N. The species is a scarce breeder on the Karst and I've actually never seen one in Barcola. Thus the local patch list goes to 150 species!
Today also quite a few Swallows passing by, 2 Hawfinches and a female Marsh Harrier migrating over my house.
Above picture by Igor Maiorano

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Top quality birding - Magredi with Stone Curlews, Ortolan Buntings and shrike trio!

Today I was back on the steppe-grassland areas around Pordenone called magredi. This time I was "escorted" around by a friend of mine who showed me some characteristic birds of the area. We had some great species, including several rare breeders of this habitat.
We had an excellent start at 8.00 am in the morning with two STONE CURLEWS flushed with the car along a gravelly path. Later in the morning a search for this elusive species revealed 2 other birds resting in a field. They both showed well, even if a bit distant and with a bad heath haze (see second pic above).
As we started to scan the bushy areas for Ortolan Buntings we soon found a Short-toed Eagle perching on a small tree. Later it took off and flew past us. After a few fruitless stops we finally heard a singing ORTOLAN BUNTING that immediately showed up (last two pics above). We enjoyed the bird perched on some nearby bushes, while another male started to sing.
Minutes later, right in the same habitat my friend spotted an adult LESSER GREY SHRIKE perched on a dead tree (third pic above).
The area held also a nice variety of commoner birds including: 1 Honey Buzzard, Spotted Flycatcher, 2 female Montagu's Harriers, Skylark and Woodlark, tons of Corn Buntings and Red-backed Shrikes, Cuckoo, 3 Yellowhammers, 2 Northern Wheatears, several Stonechats, +5 Tawny Pipits, 1 fly-by Sand Martin, singing Common Whitethroats, 2 Red-footed Falcons (male and female), 5 singing Common Quails, 2 Turtle Doves, Golden Oriole, some breeding pairs of Lapwing, 2 Hoopoes, Melodious Warbler, several BLACK KITES (common in the area), 2 migrant Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, 5 White Storks feeding on a mown grassland, Common Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Linnet and Cetti's Warbler.
At lunchtime we went to see some wetter areas of scrubs and grasslands close to some small water bodies. Here we had the luck to observe a pair of nesting Montagu's Harriers. Male and female displayed above our heads, exchanging the prey with the talons. After that the female dropped down into the grassland - probably to the nest. In the willow bushes two Marsh Warblers were singing and showed as well. Four Honey Buzzard were migrating overhead.
In the afternoon we got back to the grasslands, visiting the area where the Lesser Kestrels are to be found on migration. Even this time we had no luck with the kestrels, but found a beautiful WOODCHAT SHRIKE perched on a bush (see first pic above). A perfect end to a great day and by the way, today I managed to score 3 shrike species!
When driving back on the motorway I also saw 2 Night Herons and several Pygmy Cormorants flying by.
Several orchids were also flowering in the meadows:

A view over the flowering grasslands:

Friday, 18 May 2012


Today I had some unplanned but quite productive birding on the Slovene Karst. A singing male BARRED WARBLER was discovered and I just happened to be nearby so I went to have a look. After a bit of searching in the good area I finally heard the song and shortly afterwards located the bird. It was a nice male singing in the center of a high bush. When it moved it wasn't difficult to follow it and see it properly - unlike the many other Barred Warblers I've seen in Slovenia in the past. So I was quite happy. The species is also a very rare breeder on the Karst so twice the enjoyment of finding it.
In the wider area there was a rich birdlife; the other top sightings included a group of 5 RED-FOOTED FALCONS (all females) hunting over some grassland, lots of Red-backed Shrikes, 2-3 Corn Buntings, 1 Stonechat, several Common Whitethroats, 1 Raven, 1 fly-by Marsh Harrier, 3 singing Cuckoos, both Woodlark and Skylark and 2 Kestrels.
Earlier in the afternoon I also had a Tawny Pipit, a stunning male Honey Buzzard (very white and contrasting) and a female Northern Wheatear.
Not bad for a short afternoon stroll.
Pic above from Arkive

Thursday, 17 May 2012

May surprises

Škocjanski zatok NR: had a couple of good birds today around the reserve with the highlight being a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW among a large cloud of Common Swifts and a few Swallows. The third I find this year! Above is the only thing I managed to do with the camera (last pic).
Other migrants included a singing Garden Warbler in the hedge by the path, 1 Marsh Warbler (singing), 1 Sedge Warbler, a female Marsh Harrier hunting over the reserve, 1 male Common Whitethroat, a Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Alpine Swifts, 20 Sand Martins and a male Red-backed Shrike on the bushes bordering the lagoon. Otherwise more or less the same species I had the other day (incl. 1 Squacco Heron, 1 m Little Bittern and 6 Melodious Warblers) plus the addition of 3 quite unexpected Pochards.
Pics above (top to bottom): Common Swift, Squacco Heron, Melodious Warbler and Red-rupmed Swallow.

Local patch: yesterday after a rain shower I had a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER in the garden, perching on the fence. Bad weather brings lovely surprises!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

BEE-EATER - a new bird for the patch!

Local patch: I was back on cliffs this afternoon mainly to collect some wildflowers for university, but also for birds. The open grasslands a bit everywhere on the Karst are now full of flowering False Dittany aka Burning-bush (Dictamnus albus). They are very nice as they give a bit of pink colouring to the grass... but beware of their highly inflammable essential oils!
One of the first birds I glimpsed over the ridge was a female Honey Buzzard mobbed by several Hoodies. After a bit of soaring it flew away to the east. Alpine Swifts were seen in surprisingly small numbers. Later I discovered that big part of the flock was circling very high up in the sky.
A male Blue Rock Thrush and nearby a Rock Bunting were delivering their songs from the top of the cliffs.
The real highlight today was quite unexpected: 3 beautiful BEE-EATERS materialised in the sky just over my head, calling loudly as they migrated SE. Not only these are my firsts this year, but they are also a new species for the patch! After years of waiting finally they found a place on my list as well. So far I have 149 species on the local patch list. The above painting is by Szabolcs Kokay.
After the Bee-eaters I enjoyed a stunning Golden Oriole performing an aerial display: a male was chasing away a Hooded Crow just above the broadleaved woodland. I witnessed this kind of behaviour (with speedy flight, twists and turns) a few times, when a male oriole tried to drive away a Sparrowhawk.
Other birds in the area included a singing Cuckoo, 1 Nightingale, 1 female Sparrowhawk and small family parties of fledged Long-tailed and Marsh Tits.
Overall a pleasant May afternoon!
Dictamnus albus:

Vincetoxicum hirundinaria:

View on the cliffs and Trieste in the background:

Monday, 14 May 2012

Migration blow - again!

Despite the fact we're in mid May today it was quite windy and cold. A strong north-easterly began to blow on Saturday night and brought some rain showers as well.
First of all this morning I had a quick look over the grassland of Campo Carri and found some evidence of migration: 4 Northern Wheatears and 6 Whinchats. Two Tawny Pipits were also around as usual.
Later at midday I had a meeting with a group of English birdwatchers visiting Slovenia for a few days. Together we went to see some birds in Škocjanski zatok and nearby areas.
The reserve was surprisingly alive with migrants. An ICTERINE WARBLER was perhaps one of the top birds of the day for me. It sang in a hedge along the path and showed briefly a few times. That's my first this year and always a good find! Three other Melodious Warblers were singing on the bushes nearby. One showed extremely well on the top of a small tree, while we were just few meters below it.
Another good find in the freshwater marsh were 2 WHISKERED TERNS - the firsts this season. In comparison with the last week, today there was a nice movement of waders too. Ruffs in flocks numbered about 25-30 birds, while Wood Sandpipers were seen in smaller numbers. Some Greenshanks were present in the freshwater marsh as well.
On the garzing marsh there were also at least 8 Whinchats sitting on the wired fence - another clear sign of migration.
Three Squacco Herons and a fly-by Little Bittern were also seen in the freshwater marsh. Other commoner birds included Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, nesting Common Terns in the brackish lagoon, a few Sand Martins, cinereocapilla Yellow Wagtails (Ashy-headed), 1 singing Sedge Warblers and lots of Reed and Great Reed Warblers.
Later in the afternoon we went to look for some cliff-birds on the karstic ridge of Socerb. The best find here was a SHORT-TOED EAGLE soaring over Trieste and showing quite well from above and below. Minutes later a Honey Buzzard appeared in the sky, quickly followed by a female Marsh Harrier on migration. Two or three Alpine Swifts were also recorded as well as a Red-backed Shrike and a few Hawfinches.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Marsh Warbler deep in the bush

Škocjanksi zatok NR: back at the reserve for the weekly census today. By 9 o'clock it was already quite hot and the bird activity (especially songbird) was really low. I must say that here it already feels like summer!
Best bird of the day was a MARSH WARBLER (a year's first) singing in a thick stand of bushes and reeds by the main path.
I also had my first Melodious Warblers of the season, singing on the bushes all around.
Great Reed Warblers were literally everywhere and by the end of the morning I counted something like 15 singing birds. A few Reed Warblers and a single Sedge Warbler were also noted.
Ducks numbers are obviously really low now with Mallards being the most numerous. Actually there were no other species of ducks around, except for a fly-by Shoveler and a drake Garganey.
Herons are now pretty much the main attraction. Today I got nice views on the three best species: 2 Squacco Herons, 2 immature Night Herons (flying by) and one Purple Heron.
The breeding activity in the brackish lagoon is in full swing now with lots of Common Terns on the nest, along with several pairs of Black-winged Stilts (also freshwater marsh) and Little Ringed Plovers. It is presumed that a pair of Common Redshanks is breeding this year as well - there are two very noisy (territorial) birds around.
The only other things of interest today were 6 Wood Sandpipers, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Ruffs, 1 Alpine Swift (fly-by), 2 Sand Martins, Yellow Wagtail and a few Nightingales.
In the last week the Glossy Ibis was joined by several other birds and yesterday there were about 5 birds around. Today I didn't see any (even if there probably were some) because of the high vegetation cover all over the marsh.
Above is the great painting of a Marsh Warbler by Szabolcs Kokay

Monday, 7 May 2012

Honey Buzzard in the patch

Local patch: there were a few things of interest in the past days around home. First of all, today I had a HONEY BUZZARD soaring in front of the karstic ridge and over the house. Ok, it was quite high up in the sky, but clearly above my head!
One or two Golden Orioles singing from the nearby woodland are heard on a daily basis, as are two Scops Owls in the evenings and the usual Nightingale. There's usually a mixed flock of Common and Alpine Swifts flying over the woodland and some single Swallows or House Martins.
The other day, after a heavy rain shower, I was pleased to hear a Cuckoo singing somewhere very close to the house.
On the sea the situation is pretty calm although there are several Med Gulls around. Yesterday I counted 8 nice summer-plumaged birds.

Other non-local-patching things from today included a Rock Partidge "miss". In the morning I had a botanical trip for university along the Karstic ridge in Slovenia (on the border with Croatia). Walking down a rocky path, someone at the head of the queue flushed a bird that disappeared quickly over the corner... I was at the back and obviously missed it.
Well at least I'm very pleased to see that there are still some Rock Partridges around the Karst as well. I thought they were completely extinct here!
The only other birds I saw during the day were 2 Northern Wheatears hopping on the path.

Pic above taken last year - that's more or less how it looked the Honey Buzzard I saw today.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Grassland in spring - part 2

Back to Campo Carri this evening to check a possible Black-eared Wheatear that was reported earlier today. I didn't find the bird but there were at least 5 male Northern Wheatears along with 3-4 Whinchats on the low pines. Two quite territorial Tawny Pipits were chasing each other and gave close views as usual.
Also about 5 Red-backed Shrikes of both sexes, a Spotted Flycatcher some fly-by Tree Pipits and lots of Rock Buntings. Singing Nightingales always present in the wooded area along with a Golden Oriole.
Pics above (top to bottom): Northern Wheatear, Rock Bunting (2x), Tawny Pipit and Woodlark.