Sunday, 30 September 2012

Osprey after soooo long!

Finally an OSPREY after so long!
I saw one today flying over the Isonzo's estuary, where it's been seen regularly in the last few weeks. The bird was heading lazily upriver towards Isola della Cona. Later me and a couple of friends relocated it when it sat on a semi-submerged tree trunk in the middle of the mudflats. It remained there for about half an hour or more. As it was quite far, we decided that we could get some better views from the main hide at Isola della Cona, so we moved there. On arrival we watched it perched for some more minutes before it flew off again towards the river mouth. The pic above shows an Osprey that took residence for a few days in the same place at the estuary in spring 2008. That bird was approached by boat.
In the freshwater marsh at Isola della Cona and in the Caneo area at the estuary we also had: +100 Grey Plovers, +600 Curlews, Greenshank & Spotted Redshank, large flocks of Wigeon, about 800 Dunlins (mainly at the estuary), 6 Ringed Plovers, Sandwich Tern, 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Water Rails, 2 AVOCETS (inland), 9 Pintails, 1 Garganey (+ other commoner ducks), +50 Lapwings, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 5 Little Stints, 1 Ruff, 2 Med Gulls, 2 Wood Sandpipers, +50 Cattle Egrets (!), 1 Green Sandpiper. Also of note were the incredibly numerous Pygmy Cormorants - we counted a maximum number of 127 birds all at once! This is surely my life record number for the species.
                                                   Spotted Redshank
                                                     Female Pintails

Earlier in the morning we also had a quick visit at Lisert and Banco Mula di Muggia (beach near Grado).
At Lisert we enjoyed about 6 juvenile HOBBIES hawking for dragonflies above the freshwater marsh. Also a Wryneck, 2 Curlews, some Swallows and a flock of Woodpigeons were of note.

The high-tide roost at Banco Mula di Muggia produced a flock of 21 BAR-TAILED GODWITS (juveniles and ad winter), +100 Dunlins, 145 Grey Plovers (some still in breeding plumage), 6 Little Stints and 3 Ringed Plovers.
                                                   Bar-tailed Godwits

Local patch: birds of note yesterday included 2 JACKDAWS flying NW in the morning and a female KESTREL around Monte Grisa. Also usual Coal Tits, Robins, 1 Black Redstart, 6 Blackcaps and good numbers of Swallows flying SE.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Bramblings arrive

Local patch: the day began with a call from a friend that informed me of two Arctic Skuas and some Yelkouan Shearwaters off Miramare. I woke up a bit late, so was in seawatching position later than thought. From about 10.30 onwards the only thing I could see on the sea (from Miramare) was a Sandwich Tern and an adult Med Gull. There was too much haze on the horizon to spot any far-flying skua or shearwater. However I managed to see and hear some overflying migrants in the form of Siskin, Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit, House Martin and a Chiffchaff in the bushes. A Dolphin's dorsal fin was also spotted, but was too far to identify the species.
In general today there was a strong influx of Swallows coming from NW and W and working their way southwards along the coast and the Karstic ridge.
Later in the morning I was very pleased to hear the autumn's first BRAMBLING flying over the house with some Chaffinches. The garden was also stuffed with autumn birds like Coal Tits, 1 Nuthatch, several singing Robins (a real feature of the coming winter) and a load of Jays.
Above: Brambling in Trnovski gozd - 2009

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A week in Slovenia

Here we are again. Back at home after six days spent on a camp in Slovenia. Settled in the tiny village of Rakitovec (southernmost Karst) we explored some nearby areas, but also concentrated in finding the typical birds of the different habitats (grassland, forest, coast, wetland). It wasn't real hardcore birding, but it was good anyway. We managed to see 105 species.
The weather remained extremely changeable during all the time (cloudy with a stiff south wind and sunny sprouts, plus rain showers).
In general there was a large migratory frenzy with Jays literally everywhere and Willow Warblers calling from every bush. Also quite a lot of migrant Common Redstarts. Other common birds we used to see regularly inlcuded: Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Goshawk, Kestrel, Wheatear, Cirl and Rock Bunting, small flocks of Swallows and House Martins (flying south), Marsh, Coal & Crested Tit, Chiffchaff, Mistle Thrush, Raven (up to 20 on the Lipnik), Garden Warbler, Black Redstart, Nuthatch, Tree Pipit, Yellowhammer, Lesser Whitethroat, Whinchat, Stonechat, Pied Flycatcher, Marsh Harrier, Woodlark, Hawfinch.
Around Rakitovec we had Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on a daily basis, as well as a calling Little Owl in the evenings. Mount Lipnik (just above the village) was visited on the first day. The highlight was a Quail that we flushed on the grassy slopes on the top of the hill.
On the second day we explored the forest and meadowland around Pivka (pic on top of the post) and the nearby forest of Mašun (Snežnik mount). Here we got great views on a Tawny Owl in the evening, but weren't successfull with the other forest owls. There was the usual assortment of upland birds of conifer forests like Willow Tit, Goldcrest, Crested Tit, Crossbill and Black Woodpecker. We also saw a small group of Rock Buntings in a forest clearing at Mašun and were quite surprised to find them here in this habitat.
Mammals were at large in the evening and included Roe Deer, Brown Hare, 2 Foxes and a Beech Marten. The real spectacle though were the RED DEERS. Several rutting males were heard around the forest and two magnificent stags with huge antlers were seen at dusk, quite close to our car.
The next day we visited Škocjanski zatok nature reserve where we enjoyed a really exceptional ringing session. There were about a hundred birds caught in the nets, but included some real goodies: up to 8 BLUETHROATS, 1 juvenile GRASSHOPPER WARBLER, 3 Common Redstarts and a handsome male Wheatear (still in beautiful plumage). Other more numerous catches included Garden Warblers, 2 late Great Reed Warblers, 2 Whinchats, lots of Robins, 1 Cetti's Warbler, about 10 Blackcaps and good numbers of Reed Warblers. Of course also the odd Blue Tits got caught in the nets a few times. 
Bluethroats, Grasshopper Warbler and Wheatear
The freshwater marsh and lagoon in itself held fewer birds than expected with the highlights being a female Marsh Harrier, 2 showy Sedge Warblers and several of the already mentioned warblers in the hedges.
On Tuesday we visited the Sečovlje saltpans (salinas) and saw some more waders. The most notable were 6 juvenile Ringed Plovers, 1 Ruffs and 1 Wood Sandpiper. At the river Dragonja's estuary there was a mixed flock of 5 Pintails, several Shovelers, 1 Wigeon and Teals. A male Pochard in one of the inner saltpans was also of interest, along with a flock of 100 Alpine Swifts circling above the Dragonja's valley.
We then spent the last day on the Karst (both Slovenian and Italian) exploring different areas of cliffs and woodland. Highlights came in the form of a hunting Short-toed Eagle (watched hovering for 15 minutes), a Peregrine sitting on a crag and two Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers calling to each other and giving brilliant views.
A good couple of days!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Peregrine & Goshawk

Local patch: yesterday it's been a wonderfully clear and fresh day, with an easterly breeze and excellent visibility. Though I hadn't much time for a proper vis-mig session, I managed a quick look from the house for any passing birds.
The highlight was a PEREGRINE that arrived from NW following the Karstic ridge and soared for some minutes quite high over Barcola. Always an excellent sightings to do from home!
Almost at the same time also 3 Goshawks were in the air, performing some kind of aerial chase. They showed quite close when they dropped down from considerable height and chased each other just meters above the woodland's treetops.
Otherwise pretty calm now in the gardens and overhead. Big part of the hirundines seemed to be gone, as I haven't seen any in the last three days.
One or two Coal Tits are always around, along with the odd overflying Grey Wagtail. I think it's just a matter of days before we get the wintering and migrating Robins in the gardens. I'm also expecting to see some more Crossbills, Siskins and perhaps a Brambling.
In the meantime I'm going to have a bird-camp in nearby Slovenia for a week. So any posts will be published next weekend.
Of course I hope to see some amazing stuff. Stay tuned!

P.S. It's a bit freaky with this new blogger interface... I need to get used to it.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Quick update

Local patch: birds of note in the past few days included Tree Pipits on passage, 1 Lesser Whitethroat still on the figs, 1 Spotted Flycatcher in the garden (found yesterday), Coal Tit on a daily basis, Grey Wagtail passing overhead, 1 calling Cirl Bunting and mixed flocks of House Martins & Swallows, catching insects low over the garden (present for some days). Also single observations or "hearings" of Nuthatch and Long-tailed Tit. This morning I was happy to hear again a Black Redstart trying out its singing.
Yesterday on the sea it was quite lively with a reported Arctic Skua off Miramare (seen by a friend of mine). Today I went to have a quick seawatch, but only found a couple of Sandwich Terns and a Common Sandpiper.

On Monday evening I had my monthly Shag roost count at Lazzaretto on the border with Slovenia (Ankaran area). Shags numbered 531 individuals sitting on the buoys. Also around were quite a lot of Med Gulls (in all plumage combinations), Sandwich Terns and Common Sandpipers. On the small area of mudflats I was surprised to find a juvenile Dunlin, feeding along with the Common Sands. The small stripe of reedbed held a Reed Warbler, while the trees around the bay produced an extremely tame Pied Flycatcher that allowed close views down to 3 meters.
Earlier in the afternoon I also had a quick check at Škocjanski zatok. It was all pretty quiet, but I managed to see 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 juvenile Common Whitethroat, 2 Willow Warblers and a nice monospecific flock of +30 Sand Martins in a feeding frenzy over the wetland.
Above photo: House Martin by Nikolaj Noel Christensen (taken at Miramare)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The patch and beyond

Local patch: I'm having some intense days with this constant patch-work. Today the highlight was a HOBBY seen hunting for hirundines, somewhere in front of the cliffs. If I don't go wrong it's the second for the local list. Always a cool bird to see.
Also around today at least 12 Alpine Swifts (still present around Monte Grisa), along with +100 House Martins, steady flow of single Swallows, 1 female Kestrel passing by, 2 Sparrowhawks, 1 Hawfinch, and an unexpected BLACK WOODPECKER singing from the woodland (one of the few sightings of this species in the patch...although it could be breeding somewhere).
By the way in the late morning I met up with a friend at Campo Carri where we had 2 Goshawks, 1 Honey Buzzard, several Tree Pipits, 2 Whinchats & 3 Wheatears, 2 Common Redstarts, flock of 4 Woodpigeons flying W, 3 juv Red-backed Shrikes and a showy Lesser Whitethroat in the hedges (pics above).
Quite a lot of Jays a bit everywhere; there seems to be a small invasion at the moment.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Pallid Swifts from the house

Local patch: I went out on the balcony today for a late check at midday. After a Short-toed Treecreeper showing well in the garden and some overflying Grey Wagtails, I was delighted to the sight of 2 PALLID SWIFTS on migration. After I spotted them high above the Karstic ridge, I followed them with the scope, until they passed over the house, heading south-east.
A few days ago I had a similar encounter with two doubtful (very pale) swifts, but they just remained as two Swift sp. Today instead there was no doubt about the identification, as I managed to obtain good views of them, when they passed overhead. Quite striking was the colour of the upperparts, being chocolate-brown and identical to that of Alpine Swifts. On closer views I realised the underparts were very pale as well, forming the distinctive contrast between some lighter and some darker wing feathers.
Actually a third bird appeared later over the house and showed better then the first two.
So the tally for today stands at 3 Pallid Swifts, being the 2nd ever record for the patch! Probably an underestimated species.
Also one or two Coal Tits still present in the garden (visiting the conifers on a daily basis), a Hawfinch (heard), some House Martins forming small flocks high overhead and a constant movement of Jays (flying in and out of the woodland, or following the coastline).
Above Pallid Swift by Igor Maiorano.

Friday, 14 September 2012


Škocjanski zatok NR: despite the promising weather conditions, today the situation was a bit bleak. There was a strong cold northeasterly that could have been pretty good for vis-migging. Instead the only true passage migrants were House Martins (+200) and Swallows (100) in constant flow, usually following the coast line.
There was a pretty winterish feel as well, with increasing wildfowl numbers on the freshwater marsh: 19 Wigeons, 34 Shovelers, 1 female Pintail, 108 Teals, 1 male Tufted Duck (above) and lots of Mallards. Also a male Garganey flying around was pretty obvious.
Waders were literally absent, except for the usual Greenshanks and the hedges were of course impossible to work because of the wind. Small migrants included 1 Wheatear and 1 Whinchat on the grazing marsh, plus a single Yellow Wagtail.
Six Jackdaws flying around were also of note.
Second pic above shows a view over part of the freshwater marsh, with Koper's port in the background.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Eleonora's chase

Well, it all began when I was birding calmly on my own at Lisert and I got a call from another guy who was nearby at Isola della Cona. He had just seen an Eleonora's Falcon flying towards the sea! This ruined all my initial plans to work slowly and quietly the hedges in search of scarce small migrants.
I quickly headed to the Timavo's estuary and had a look at the sea, in the vain hope that I could spot something falconish flying around. Then I decided to check the river Isonzo's estuary in the area of Caneo.
Before heading there I had of course a look around Lisert first, which produced a nice scattering of common migrants: 5-6 Pied Flycatchers (second two pics above), 4 Common Redstarts, 2 Spotted Flycatchers (first two pics above), 1 Robin (migrant!). On the sea in front of the Timavo's estuary I also got 3 Black-necked Grebes, 11 Curlews, 2 Common Sandpipers and the usual Common Eiders.
Later when I arrived at Caneo I discovered that the wind was stronger than I thought, so I couldn't check properly the whole estuary. So I decided to move to a sheltered place under a bank, from where I could see the extensive mudflats (there was an extremely low tide). The beach was completely covered in Curlews (several hundred birds!), Spotted Redshanks (150), Dunlins (+200) and Grey Plovers (40) - some of them still sported the summer plumage. After a bit of scanning I could also add to the wader list a KNOT (juvenile), a few Greenshanks, a Redshank and a Marsh Sandpiper. Good numbers of Wigeons (in winter plumage) were also present, feeding on the Zoostera sea-grass. A few Sandwich Terns were flying around as well.
By mid-afternoon I moved to the freshwater marsh of Isola della Cona, where I met another birder. There were good numbers of Spotted Redshanks and Greenshank roosting on the main scrape, along with 5 Dunlins, 2 Curlews Sandpipers, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Grey Plover, 5 Little Stints and other commoner birds. There was a moment of tension when an adult Hobby flew past, spreading panic among the waders. Also some small migrants in the bushes like Garden Warbler, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Warbler.

Local patch: the other day, still present were 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Common Whitethroat and 1 Garden Warbler. Also the first Robin of the season in the garden.
Still no luck with the Eleonora's...

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Migrant boom in the garden!

Local patch: an excellent day in the garden migration-wise. In the course of one hour in the morning I managed to pull out almost all the common migrants (usually present around in this season). I've actually never seen all this species together in the garden before.
There seemed to be a pre-migration feeding frenzy on the plum and fig trees with: 1 ICTERINE WARBLER (best bird of the day), 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Common Whitethroats, at least 2 Spotted Flycatchers (doing their favourite thing: fly-catching), 1 Pied Flycatcher, 1 juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE (it's been quite a few years from the last one in the garden), 1 Garden Warbler. Most of this migrants were the autumn's first records of the species in the garden area. Also a male Blackcap was around, along with several Blue Tits (now a regular garden visitor), a flock of Long-tailed Tits, one or two Coal Tits (heard on a daily basis), 1 Grey Wagtail (passing overhead, calling), 1 Nuthatch (heard), 1 Woodpigeon, 1 female Sparrowhawk (above the woodland's treeline) and several Jays (common daily visitor). About 8 Alpine Swifts were around Monte Grisa and several House Martins were passing overhead (15-20).
The last Red-backed Shrike in the garden was the bird in the above pic, photographed in August 2008.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Up on the cliffs

Local patch: after some months of absence, this morning I made a short visit to the cliffs. One of the first birds I saw there was a nice ICTERINE WARBLER in the small trees along the path. It showed pretty well and allowed good views of the whitish wing-panel, long primary projection and grey legs. Excellent find!
After that I positioned myself in a good place to see the whole area well and waited a some time. Raptors started to appear over the horizon and I was soon watching 4 Common Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk and best of all a PEREGRINE (probably a juvenile). Later also a Goshawk appeared high above Kontovel. Just before leaving the area I spotted a very high-flying Marsh Harrier (male), heading south (pic above).
Passerine vis-mig movement was slower than expected. However I managed to see 1 Siskin passing by, 1 Tree Pipit and one or two MEADOW PIPITS (first autumn sighting in the patch). Some small mixed flocks of House Martins and Swallows went past as well. Alpine Swifts are still present in the area, although I didn't find any Blue Rock Thrushes. Otherwise the usual mix of birds was present like Coal, Marsh and Crested Tits, Rock Bunting ect.

Friday, 7 September 2012

BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER at Škocjanski zatok

Škocjanski zatok NR: several good finds today on the reserve and an exceptional migration movement. The absolute highlight of the day was the above BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER - a true rarity in Slovenia, with just a few records. I had the pleasure to find this nice little peep on the far southern corner of the brackish lagoon, while finishing my weekly bird census. The bird was in the company of two Dunlins and several Common Sandpipers in what can be called the worst part of the reserve. The lagoon ends with some rough vegetation before joining the railway line (and station) of Koper and several shopping centers. Needles to say, the brackish marsh here is littered with rubbish. Well, for the birds it seems a good place though, as it usually holds some cool waders - last year the reserve's first Bar-tailed Godwit was stationing in this very spot for some days!
After dipping the Broad-billed Sandpiper at Isola della Cona, it was really good to find one for myself in Slovenia!
As I said before, the day was otherwise full of interesting birds. For example another in-the-same-place-as-last-year coincidence happened. A GRASSHOPPER WARBLER was in the hedges along the main path! (see this post) The bird remained in view for several seconds allowing to see quite well the streaked undertail coverts.
And shortly after the third goodie: BLUETHROAT! A worn bird with literally no remaining blue on the breast showed briefly on the same bush as the Locustella. It made a few calls before plunging back into cover. By the way, yesterday I also managed to see one pretty well on the other side of the reserve.
And here are the other sightings from today's count, with some numbers: 1 Black-necked Grebe, 1 imm Night Heron, 5 Wigeons, 25 Shovelers, 56 Teals, 1 female Garganey, 91 Coots, 1 singing Water Rail, 1 Black-winged Stilt, 2 Ringed Plovers (juveniles; in the lagoon), 1 summer-plumage Grey Plover (lagoon), 2 Dunlins (adults moulting to winter plumage), 1 Ruff, 6 Curlews, 7 Common Sandpipers, 32 Greenshanks, 2 Wood and 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Snipe, 2 Kingfishers, 3 Wrynecks (all three seen well in the hedges), 4 Sand Martins (flying past), 18 House Martins plus a single Swallow, 8 Tree Pipits, 13 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Nightingales, 6 Whinchats, 1 male Wheatear, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers, 1 Common Whitethroat, 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Jackdaws (flying overhead) and the autumn's first 2 Reed Buntings.

Yesterday I went to look for Dotterels on the mount Vremščica - on exactly the same day as last year - see this post. This time I wasn't successful though. Bird activity was quiet but two showy NUTCRACKERS enlightened the situation. A juvenile Marsh Harrier, a Wheatear and some Meadow Pipits were otherwise the most notable birds. In the pine woodland also usual Coal and Crested Tits plus a gang of Goldcrests.

Who knows if I'll manage to see a Dotterel this year? For now I got a nice consolation!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Common Redstart in the garden

Local patch: there's still a good passage, with almost no weather change from yesterday, apart that it rained overnight (thus bringing down a few more birds). A nice addition for the autumn was a gorgeous male COMMON REDSTART present in the garden today. It preferred to perch on a small fig tree, which was actually the favorite perch of the male Redstart I saw this spring... perhaps the same bird?? Above is a photo for documentation - the only sign of moult is the white "necklace".
Otherwise also 1 or 2 Willow Warblers in the garden (one seen and one heard).
Visible migration was a bit less visible today, with just a single flock of about 100 House Martins passing by and heading SE (11.00 am). There were just a few other hirundines around... not the numbers and constant presence I had yesterday. Tree Pipits were still passing overhead, with 8 birds recorded during the morning. A great surprise were also the first SISKINS of the autumn which I heard passing above the house earlier in the morning.
A female/immature Golden Oriole speeding past was also of note.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Local patch - migrants update

Local patch: a really good passage this morning in the garden areas and overhead. It seems the northeasterly and low clouds are doing a good work to stop some migrants in the area. Two WHINCHATS sitting on the cherry tree were a good discovery, along with 1 Spotted Flycatcher & 1 PIED FLYCATCHER at the edge of the woodland plus several Willow Warblers flitting through the canopies of the bigger oaks. A Nuthatch was nice to see on the top of a pole, mobbed shortly after by the Pied Flycatcher. Also lots of Blackcaps around with 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker and small flocks of tits.
Vis migging was also quite productive with a steady flow of Swallows and House Martins flying overhead. Among one of the flocks I managed to pick out 2 SAND MARTINS - representing the second record for the patch. They flew west with the rest of the flock. A few Alpine Swifts are still present around the cliffs. Also several small passerines seen flying far overhead. I managed to identify just a few TREE PIPITS from their calls and spotted one flying west.
Raptors included 3 Common Buzzards and 1 Sparrowhawk... a bit poor.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Afternoon raptor session

A warm afternoon spent on the grassland of "Campo Carri" represented the first autumn visit to the area this year. The skies were quite changeable with sunny sprouts and clouds coming from north and east with a stiff breeze from the same direction. I expected to see more small migrants, but the score was on the raptors instead. A SHORT-TOED EAGLE gliding past was the highlight, along with 1 juvenile Goshawk, 12 Honey Buzzards on migration (in different small flocks, all heading W), 1 juvenile Marsh Harrier, plus male and female Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel and 1 Common Buzzard. The resident Ravens were frequently in the air as well.
Passerines and smaller birds included: 1 Red-backed Shrike, 3 Tawny Pipits (juveniles), 2 Wheatears (including a nice male), 3 Whinchats, 1 Hoopoe and a Common Swift mixed within a flock of migrating Swallows.
Above is one of the twelve Honey Buzzards that went past.

Yesterday I went to check the hills of mount Vremščica for any Dotterels, but I was unsuccessful. Me and the other friends will have some proper search later in the week towards the 6th September - the day when we got two birds up there last year - see the post here.
I really hope to find them this year as well.