Monday 18 June 2012


What a day! Yesterday evening I joined a small group of ringers from the DOPPS for some night Corncrake action. The target of the mission was to capture and ring as many Corncrakes as we could in the course of the night. The chosen area were the steep grassy slopes of Breginjski Stol - a mountain in the Julian Alps above Kobarid (in NW Slovenia).
We started at about 22.00 pm and finished at 03.30 am the next morning. I don't really remember, but in total we managed to catch something like 13 CORNCRAKES. There were several others we couldn't get (too far away in the valley) so the total of the singing birds was at least 20.
Three Corncrakes were actually recaptures - ringed in the same place last year. So it's nice to see they've made it back from Africa! As you can imagine twice the enjoyment for the ringers. The captures were made in a funny way and consisted of: 1) walking up really steep grassy slopes towards the nearest singing Corncrake, 2) blasting it with playback... then waiting and 3) catching it with a large fish-net when it came close enough (under our feet actually). This way I also experienced my first and successfull Corncrake catch and the bird in question is pictured with me in the last pic above.
As I said we finished at 03.30 am, slept a few hours and woke up to the sound of singing Tree Pipits at 06.45 am. After a quick breakfast we enjoyed some upland birding. Top bird here was the Rock Thrush. We got at least 5 different birds (nearly all were singing). Some Corncrakes were still calling well into the morning. Other birds included: 1 Common Quail (singing), Spotted Flycatcher, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch, 1 female Honey Buzzard, Skylark, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Red-backed Shrike, Rock Bunting and on the way back home also several Crag Martins.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Lagoon breeders

Škocjanski zatok NR: back to the reserve after two weeks of absence, but nothing really exciting to report today. A Little Tern in the brackish lagoon was the best bird - probably one of the presumed breeding pairs in the area. A good record anyway.
Lots of Common Tern activity otherwise. I counted 52 birds in total, including the numerous juveniles on the sandy islands. But many went overlooked due to the thick vegetation growing all over the islands. In the lagoon a flock of 15 Common Redshanks was also of note. This year there are at least 3 breeding pairs in the area, but the ones I saw are probably migrants.
Also lots of other chicks around including Black-winged Stilt's, Moorhen's and Coot's. Three to four pairs of Yellow Wagtails are also breeding in the lagoon.
Pics above: Common Tern, Black-winged Stilt (adult) and Black-winged Stilt (juvenile)

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Alpine birding - part 1

Spent a nice day up in the mountains with a friend, surveying some upland birds for a local monitoring. It was quite tiring work (waking up at 03.30 am and finishing a few hours ago) but we got a nice selection of alpine birds. Highlight of the day was the BLACK GROUSE with +4 heard singing in different parts around the Montasio (Montaž) plateau. Unfortunately we didn't spot any bird, but it was great to hear them singing (lekking actually) for the whole morning. Other non-seen birds were the many singing Western Bonelli's Warblers around forested areas. Visual delights during the day included lots of RING OUZELS (very cool to see as they were my firsts this year), a pair of Dippers feeding their fledged chicks on a local stream, flock of +50 Alpine Choughs, lots of breeding Northern Wheatears and different Crag Martins flying about. Also plenty of commoner species, some were really abundant (like breeding Common Redstarts). Others were: Siskin, Bullfinch, Song and Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Dunnock (breeding in upland habitat), Crossbill, Grey Wagtail, Cuckoo, Raven, 2 Willow Tits, 1 Little Owl, Firecrest, Tree Pipit, Red-backed Shrike, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Water Pipit (breeding in upland areas), Griffon Vulture (large numbers around Venzone and Portis - also a chick on a local nest), 1 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Tawny Pipit & Woodlark (open dry grassland area in the valley). The Cavazzo lake produced a few Great Crested Grebes, a Green Sandpiper and both Great Reed & Reed Warbler. Mammals included Alpine Marmots, Alpine Ibexes, Roe Deer and a Red Squirrel.
Pics above (to to bottom): male Ring Ouzel, Dipper, Alpine Marmots, Alpine Choughs and a view over some mountainsides.

We ended up the day with this beautiful male Redstart taking food to its nest:

In the next few days I'll be up in the Alps for a second session of monitoring, so I'll post some more stuff later.

Saturday 2 June 2012


I didn't have much time to be in the field in the last few days. This afternoon I ventured out with a couple of friends and spent some time around the Karst on both sides of the border. We also checked the Barred Warbler site and confirmed there are now at least 2 singing males hodling two different territories. The birds are easily observed in the bushy areas, especially when the male is singing on the top of low trees. The song is usually quite short, but their dry rattling calls are more obviuos. A pair of birds was particularly showy today; chasing each other around the place and showing well out in the open (both sexes in a scope view!).
A few shots of the male bird:

Apart from that we had some entertainment with other common birds (Skylark, Woodlark, Common Whitethroat, Red-backed Shrike, Corn Bunting ect.) plus a singing Quail, 2 Hoopoes (one in the local village giving excellent views), a flock of migrating BEE-EATERS (+5 birds) and a singing Common Redstart (male perched on a walnut in the village). Other birds seen on different sites around the Karst included also Cirl Bunting, Yellowhammer, Stonechat and Melodious Warbler. The flowering meadows with lots of butterflies and other insects were also very attractive to photograph - see pics below. We also managed to find a few orchids (last three pics) including Orchis ustulata and Gymnadenia conopsea.

Orchis ustulata:

Gymnadenia conopsea: