Monday, 30 July 2012

Late summer

A quick morning stroll on the Karst (mount Volnik area to be precise) resulted in 2 nice migrant PIED FLYCATCHERS. I didn't quite expect to see them and I think this is my earliest autumn record of the species. They were flitting and flycatching around the canopies of some high oak trees before quickly darting away in typical Ficedula fashion.
Apart from the other common woodland species also quite a lot of Mistle Thrushes around (up to 50 birds feeding on a mowed grassland) a fly-by Hoopoe and 5 Red-backed Shrikes.
Above: Eryngium amethystinum, view on a woodland's path, Centaurea sp. and Quercus cerris leaf.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Black Terns

Škocjanski zatok NR: some further signs of movement this morning on the reserve with top birds being 3 juvenile BLACK TERNS (flying both around the brackish and freshwater marsh). See photo above. Other good stuff included 1 Teal, 1 male Tufted Duck, 2 male Little Bitterns, 1 Night Heron, 7 Wood, 1 Green and 10 Common Sandpipers, 1 Ruff (first of the autumn here!), 1 Snipe, 1 juvenile Med Gull in the lagoon (good one!), 1 Turtle Dove, 1 Wryneck in the hedge, 3 Yellow Wagtails and 3 juvenile Nightingales showing well in the bushes by the path.
Plus of course the commoner local things. Today there were just about 5 Common Terns left in the lagoon.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Lesser Kestrels on the island of Rab

In the past two days I was on a Lesser Kestrel mission on the island of Rab, Croatia. There's a breeding colony nearby so numerous "naumann's falcons" use the rocky hills of the island as a feeding site. The colony numbers between 25 and 30 birds.
There were about 25 LESSER KESTRELS (both sexes) showing well on a daily basis. Tuesday was still a bit windy so the birds were just seen in active hunting flight. On Wednesday instead the weather was very calm and that allowed several Lesser Kestrels to settle down and perch on some low trees (see pics above). They were usually seen taking large insects from their favourite perches. I can say that all the main features were appreciated very well in the field (of course the most difficult to see were the white nails!). Several males had the distinctive blue-grey "bands" on the wings, but there were also some males without it.
Females were of course more tricky:

Their preferred feeding area:

Other interesting observations on the island included: 2 Short-toed Eagles (seen on both days in the same area), at least 10 Eastern Black-eared Wheatears (both varieties), 1 Icterine Warbler (first of the autumn), 2 Subalpine Warblers.
Black-eared Wheatear:

Short-toed Eagle perched on a pylon:

Small areas of brackish marsh around the island held also 1 Whimbrel, 1 Curlew, 2 Wood Sandpipers & +6 Common Sandpipers, 2 Common Redshanks and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover. Common birds included: Alpine Swift, Woodlark, 1 Honey Buzzard, Cirl Bunting, Bee-eater, Red-backed Shrike, 1 Melodious Warbler, 1 Great Reed Warbler, Golden Oriole, 1 Nightingale, Serin, Turtle Dove, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.
On the ferry back home 2 Common Bottlenose Dolphins and a probable Pochard (quite odd) were seen on the sea between the islands or Rab and Krk.
A big thanks goes to my friend Jurij who arranged the whole twitch and with whom I shared the excellent observations.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Goosander family

Yesterday afternoon I spent a few hours with a couple of friends on the Isonzo river. We had great views on some Goosanders - initially a female with 6 juveniles, later also 3 other adult females appeared. The family showed well when the juveniles came out of water to rest and preen on the shore (see above). A short video can be seen here. Nearby we visited a small colony of Bee-eaters nesting on sand bank just meters away from the nearest village. Several birds were flying around and some were entering the nest-holes.
In the area we also saw 2 Hobbies, 1 Honey Buzzard and a Kingfisher.
Earlier in the afternoon we made a quick visit to Isola della Cona NR which held more or less the same species as last Sunday. Nice to see were 2 Glossy Ibises (insead of one) and bigger numbers of Curlew Sandpipers, among +10 Little Stints, Wood, Green and Common Sand, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, lots of Spotted Redshanks ect.
A Squacco Heron also showing well, along with a fly-by Purple Heron, 2 Hobbies and +30 Med Gulls.

Friday, 20 July 2012


Alarm clock set at 04.40 am this morning and by 06.55 am I was already watching the monster above. It is a BLACK VULTURE indeed! But not just one...
After last year's repeated dips at the Cornino lake nature reserve (NE Italy) this spring another Black Vulture re-appeared at the same site. It was only yesterday that Oviedo (last year's bird - born and ringed in the Cevennes) returned again at the reserve and joined in.
Luckily this morning both birds were still around. When I arrived Oviedo (the ringed bird) was foraging at the feeding station with about 30 Griffon Vultures, 10 Black Kites and lots of Ravens. At 08.05 am when other Griffons started to descend from the mountains, the second bird joined the game. In flight it looked huge and overall very dark with almost no tail at all (see flight pics above). When foraging both birds appeared very agressive towards other Griffon Vultures and usually had the priority on them (last pic shows both birds in the same telescope view). They showed well until 08.45 am when I left the site.
In the area there were also several singing Western Bonelli's Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher, Hawfinch and other common woodland birds.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Calm again

Škocjanksi zatok NR: not very lively today in the marsh. I expected some more waterbirds to be present but the water levels were a bit high on the freshwater side, so there were no good muddy areas. Highlight of the morning included a Wryneck showing well in a hedge (migrant??), a juvenile Mediterranean Gull flying over the lagoon (one of the few times I see this species here), 6 Wood Sandpipers, 7 Common Sandpipers, 4 Curlews plus usual other waders, 3 Night Herons (sitting in the tamarisks) and 3 Little Bittern. Still around were the 6 Teals. Common Terns in the lagoon numbered 14 birds.

Local patch: highlights from yesterday included a Honey Buzzard gliding over the ridge, 1 female Sparrowhawk hunting the gardens and a nice juvenile Golden Oriole perched on a distant dead tree and singing. Later it gave some flight views as well.
In the evening I had a juvenile Scops Owl calling around the house and perching in full view on the TV aerials, poles and wires in front of my window. An adult was also singing nearby and showed briefly too.
The juvenile Common Buzzards in the nearby woodland have also fledged, because I now see 3 to 4 birds soaring over the house on a regular basis.

Pics above showing a sleepy Night Heron in Škocjanski zatok (note a bus passing by in the background!)

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Life in the marsh

Local patch: in the morning I had a sort of seawatch with some friends, but failed miserably to see any shearwaters or similar. Instead we got a nice juvenile PEREGRINE that came in from the sea. Quite unexpected. Also usual Common and Sandwich Terns around and 3 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls.

In the afternoon I spent a few hours at Isola della Cona NR which to my delight was alive with waders. Top birds were 5 CURLEW SANDPIPERS in nice rufous plumage (moulting from summer to winter plumage) - see pics below:

There were also about 10 Little Stints, but the most numerous were Wood Sandpipers of course (+100). Also smaller numbers of Common Sandpipers (5-7), Green Sandpipers (5), then 1 Black-tailed Godwit, single Lapwings, 1 Snipe, +100 Spotted Redshanks, +40 Little Ringed Plovers, 30 Ruffs, 20 Greenshanks, 5 Common Redshanks and some Whimbrels on the mudflats.
Little Stint:

Little Ringed Plover:

Wood Sandpipers:

Common Redshanks:

Another good bird was a GLOSSY IBIS feeding in the shallow water - can you find it below?

I was also quite surprised to find a big flock of gulls on the scrape - most were Black-headed Gulls (100) with about 80 Mediterranean Gulls mixed among them:

Other cool birds included: Bee-eater, 2 Squacco Herons, Black-winged Stilts (large numbers), 2 Purple Herons (flew past), 10 Garganeys, +16 Spoonbills, 4 Marsh Harriers, Reed & Great Reed Warblers, 1 Sparrowhawk, +10 Cattle Egrets, 1 juvenile Night Heron, 3 Common Terns (flew in briefly), 1 Pygmy Cormorant.
Squacco Heron:

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Terns on sea

Local patch: two or three Common Terns are now patrolling the coast in front of my house on a daily basis. Yesterday also a Sandwich Tern went by which is a good record for the area.
I checked many times the sea for any shearwater movement, but got just an adult Med Gull.
This morning a female/immature Golden Oriole flying over the woodland was the highlight, along with one of the resident Woodpigeons.
Above Sandwich Tern taken on Inner Farne (2010)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Local patch and beyond

Local patch: latest sightings from the past few days included a singing Nightjar in the small patch of meadows in the nearby woodland (I used to see birds here by day, but never stopped to hear one at night) and a Coal Tit heard in the garden. It seems there's a big post-breeding dispersal of Coal Tits around the Karst and especially up in the Alps. It's been a good year and the birds are dispersing a bit everywhere, including in the gardens and towns.
The other day I also had a Honey Buzzard over the pine woodland. One or two Golden Orioles are singing on a regular basis. On the sea 3 Common Terns were of interest around Miramare (incl 1 juv).

Škocjanksi zatok NR: usual summer activity in the area, with a bit of wader movement as usual. Birds of note this morning included: 4 Little Bitterns, 1 imm Nigh Heron, 6 Teals, 2 Garganeys (see pics above), 5 Pochards, 8 Common Sandpipers, 14 Wood Sandpipers (increasing!), 1 Turtle Dove, 3 Melodious Warblers and the first post-breeding Penduline Tits (5 birds). Also usual stuff like Common Terns, Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Curlew, both Reed Warblers ect.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Rare and local stuff

This morning a friend of mine took me to the Red-rumped Swallow's area at Lisert to show me their nest. As we arrived on location it wasn't difficult lo locate it (second pic above). A couple of RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS were flying around and an adult seemed to enter the nest. Maybe the pair is raising a second brood...
In the wider area a very rare grasshopper was re-discovered years ago and this is one of the few locations where it can bee seen in the world! I didn't know the species so my friend showed me that as well. We managed to see two males of Zeuneriana marmorata (that's its name) but plenty others were singing all around us in the Juncus and reed vegetation. The grasshopper looks overall quite dark (blackish) with a pair of bronze-brown wings (see photo above). Here's a better pic of it (photographed in Slovenia).

Earlier in the morning I took a stroll along the Rilke path over the sea-cliffs of Devin-Duino. Two Sardinian Warblers were singing in their usual places and there were also two juvenile Blue Rock Thrushes on the crags, plus the usual Common Eiders at sea.
On the steep rocky slopes, just metres away from the sea I could also spot the characteristic Centaurea kartschiana - a plant that is endemic to this area of northeast Italy (see here). And that was a plant-lifer for me!
This is how it looks (taken from a local board):

Local patch: yesterday morning I confirmed the presence of "the" Subalpine Warbler on the cliffs of Monte Grisa. I heard a singing bird in the same area where it was seen in June, so probably it bred there. Now I just need to find the visual evidence (fledged juveniles). That would be a new breeding species in the patch!

Friday, 6 July 2012

RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS & Gull-billed Terns

Early this morning, around 6 o'clock I was in the area of Lisert looking for the Red-rumped Swallows that nested there this spring. Three individuals were seen in the area in the past weeks and someone also found the nest.
It wasn't that difficult to find them and soon I was watching a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW flying past. After a while I spotted other 4 birds circling around with House Martins. Then at a certain moment I got at least 5 at the same time, so that's the highest number. Most were juveniles with short tails and there should have been 2 adults I presume (pics above).
A good find and especially an excellent record as a breeding bird here. It's quite rare to have breeding Red-rumped Swallows in North-eastern Italy and if it happens it's not annual.
Later I moved towards the sea and the Timavo's estuary where the highlight in the brackish marsh were 2 Gull-billed Terns (resting among Black-headed Gulls). A pleasant surprise. On the scrape were present also several Common Terns and later the gull flock was joined by 3 immature Sandwich Terns that arrived from the sea. Thus I had a nice scope view with both Sandwich and Gull-billed Tern for comparison.
Waders were in the form of 2 Wood Sandpipers, 3 Curlews, 1 Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover and 1 Common Sandpiper, while I also had great views of two adult male Golden Orioles chasing each other in flight. The usual Marsh Harriers were hovering above the reedbed area where plenty of juvenile Reed Warblers were present. On the sea just the odd Common Eiders in eclipse plumage.
Can you spot them?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

First signs of movement

Škocjanski zatok NR: there's finally a touch of migration in the air. This morning the situation on the reserve was a bit livelier than in the past weeks. Wildfowl numbers are increasing and today I also found some goodies. An immature Ferruginous Duck was perhaps the best find, but I was also quite happy to see 3 Gadwalls - the only ones I've ever seen here! It's amazing, but here in Škocjanski zatok they are quite rare. Another good duck was a female Garganey that quickly disappeared into some reeds. Commoner ducks included the numerous Mallards and 7 Teals.
There were at least 7 Wood Sandpipers around (both on the freshwater and brackish marsh) and 3 Common Sandpipers. Surprisingly in the lagoon I didn't find any Common Redshanks, but instead a Kentish Plover was present. I'm afraid this is a non-breeding bird that arrived from nearby areas like the Sečovlje saltplans.
Other birds around included: 4 Little Bitterns (2 m and 2 f), 1 adult Night Heron, 1 singing Water Rail (the first after so long!), 19 Black-winged Stilts, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 1 Curlew, 3 Greenshanks, 15 Common Terns, Yellow Wagtail, 2 Nightingales and usual Great Reed and Reed Warblers (plenty of juveniles) plus a singing Cirl Bunting.
Above: Wood Sandpiper, duck mix with Gadwall & Ferruginous Duck, juvenile Great Reed Warbler.