Sunday, 25 November 2012

Good birding in the fog

After a meeting of the local bird organization in Palmanova, me and a couple of friends had a few hours of birding in the area of Bosco San Marco near Aquileia (UD). Despite the miserable, damp and foggy weather, we managed to find some interesting birds. A Great Grey Shrike on the top of some wires greeted us as soon as we arrived. The fields held also Meadow Pipits, Stonechats, Skylarks and Linnets. Shortly afterwards a massive female Goshawk was spotted perching on the top of a pylon (see 1st pic above). It is quite unusual to see this big predator perched on such an exposed place. Even if a bit far and in the fog, we had good views of it for about 15 minutes.
In the small pine woodland on the top of the hill, I insisted to check carefully the trees for any roosting owls... And after a while I was soon watching the distinctive silhouette of a LONG-EARED OWL. The bird was asleep, but slightly to the left another LEO was well awake and staring down at us (2nd pic).
Finally we checked the exposed mudflats of the nearby lagoon where a flock of +300 Dunlins was feeding along with several Redshanks, +50 Grey Plovers and Curlews. Mixed among them were also at least 14 KNOTS.
A nice ending to an otherwise boring and foggy Sunday!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Fieldfares - an autumn's essence

The Karst just tuned to silent mode. Everything is so calm and the countryside looks quite empty. Apart from the odd Great Grey Shrike here and there, the thrushes seem to be the only other thing to enlighten the atmosphere. This afternoon a flock of 9 chatty FIELDFARES made my walk through the fields more pleasant. Almost at the same time, a Bullfinch gave its calls from a nearby patch of woodland... which was quite as good. It was my first truly karstic Bullfinch!
Now that we are almost in winter time, I'm really looking forward for some Fieldfares in the garden. A small invasion like last year's would be cool (see pic).
And by the way it would be really pleasant to hear a Northern Bullfinch or two. I still lack those.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A late year's first

Škocjanski zatok NR: the local highlight today was a Cattle Egret. It was quite of interest because it was a year's first for the reserve. It is still a scarce bird in Slovenia and usually autumn is not the prime season for the species. Although in nearby Italy it's becoming an increasingly common sight through the winter months as well.
Other birds of interest today included 1 Black-throated Diver & 1 Bar-tailed Godwit (both still present in the lagoon) and 1 Shelduck (freshwater marsh). Also some more Snipes around, feeding along with a few Curlews on the wet grassland (freshwater part). Wildfowl numbers as usual: 59 Shovelers, 205 Teals, 54 Wigeons and 7 Pochards. No sign of any Tufted Duck though. About 668 Coots counted.
Also a nice Water Rail seen moving around on the mud and other usual birds of the area like Penduline Tits, Reed Buntings ect.
The Great Grey Shrike just out of the reserve was also still present today. Hopefully it will overwinter in the area.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Winter goodies on the coast

Today I had a really good time along the coast, discovering some freshly arrived "winter gems". In the morning we had a walk with the local bird group at Lisert where we managed to see quite an astonishing number and diversity of grebes and divers. Best bird of the day was a handsome SLAVONIAN GREBE fishing on the sea, just metres away from the concrete bank we were standing on (pics above). Thus I had my best views ever of this northern species. Needles to say it was a season's first.
The sea was literally stuffed with divers: +30 Black-throated Divers (incl. 17 together and one breeding plumaged bird!) and +10 Red-throated Divers (pics below). Two Red-necked Grebes were also present, along with just a few Great Cresteds and about 30 Black-necked Grebes all concentrated in the bay of Panzano. In a nearby marina we picked out the first COMMON GULL of the season among a group Black-headed Gulls.
Other birds in the Lisert area included: 20 Curlews, 2 Common Eiders, Water Pipit, 6 Pintails & Shovelers, 15 Skylarks, 1 Greenshank, 1 Peregrine (soaring high above Monfalcone), 5 Common Sandpipers, several Sandwich Terns out on the sea, 2 Goldcrests, Reed Buntings & Penduline Tits in the reedbed, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Short-toed Treecreeper, both Rock and Cirl Bunting, 15 Jackdaws, 1 Stonechat, 1 Snipe and a few commoner things.
In the afternoon we went to Isola della Cona and had some additional highlights in the form of: 1 male MERLIN hunting on the saltmarsh (first of the season), 2 ringtail Hen Harriers, 1 Red-necked Grebe (Quarantia canal), 2 Tufted Ducks, about 15 Goldcrests, 6 Dunlins, 1 Marsh Harrier and other commoner marshland stuff.
Also glad to see the returning White-fronted Geese - at least 60 seen today in the freshwater marsh. But others will follow...

Friday, 16 November 2012

Skyfall Peregrines

Škocjanski zatok NR: spent a nice hour just after sunset at the reserve, where the highlight came in the form of two hunting Peregrines over the freshwater area. They both performed some amazing hunting displays as well as some stoops against Starlings. Quite entertaining show (maybe not for the Starlings).
Nothing much of interest otherwise, although a Common Crane was seen yesterday evening in the lagoon. Today it was obviously gone.
However a Water Rail crossing the path was funny to see, along with at least 4 other individuals singing in the reedbed.

And to round up the day I had a nice finale:
Really cool movie.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

First Fieldfare of the season

Škocjanski zatok NR: typical winter birds are starting to appear around. The first FIELDFARE of the season was perching on top of the highest tree in the marsh this morning (see pic). Quite strangely, a solitary bird. Wildfowl numbers and variety are building up. Today the most notable sighting around the reserve included: 49 Wigeon, 48 Shoveler, 229 Teal, 5 Pochard (see 3 of them in the above photo), 9 Tufted Duck (mostly in the lagoon), 1 Red-throated Diver (still present in the lagoon), 1 Black-throated Diver (a new arrival to the lagoon and also a rare bird here), 525 Coot, 1 Lapwing, several common waders (Greenshanks, Curlews), Skylark, 12 Water Pipit, Penduline Tit, Reed Bunting.
While driving from the reserve to Koper I spotted a "white fluffy ball" on a nearby fence. I stopped the car, had a look at it and confirmed my initial thoughts: Great Grey Shrike. Nice one!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

PALLAS'S GULL - Medvedce reservoir (NE Slovenia)

Just back after a successful twitch of the above PALLAS'S GULL (aka Great Black-headed Gull). I went to see it this morning, on the other part of the country; to be precise on Zadrževalnik Medvedce (Medvedce reservoir, NE Slovenia). The first-winter bird was discovered yesterday and fortunately it stayed around long enough for me to see it. I spotted it at 9.40 am, minutes after I arrived. I had some good views of it, also in flight, until 10.30 am when it took off and headed directly north with a Yellow-legged Gull (see last two pics). Not seen again after that.
If I don't get wrong this should be the 5th record for Slovenia...or something. The area held the usual mix of waterfowl, but the other most interesting birds were 1 male HEN HARRIER quartering the fields (first for the season for me), 2 Great Grey Shrikes and a nice flock of 45 ROOKS feeding on the ground.
Waders included something like 30 Lapwings and 2 Dunlins. Also 34 Greylag Geese and quite a lot of Penduline Tits feeding on the Typhas.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Stock Dove... again

I spent some time at the airfield of Divača this afternoon, checking the always potentially good fields and grasslands.
A pleasant surprise was a STOCK DOVE sitting on a wire of the high-voltage line. It gave pretty good views in the warm autumn sunshine (see pics above). In my opinion still an interesting bird - the second I see on the Karst in a short period of time.
Two handsome Great Grey Shrikes were also present in the area; as always, sitting on the bushes right by the airfield. Needles to say, they were flushed every time a propeller took off. After a long flight, one of the shrikes landed on some low pines right next to a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. So I had both birds in the same scope's view! Later another two (clearly different) Lesser Spots called from the nearby woodland.
The area was otherwise pretty silent and calm. The only other birds of note included 5 Rock Buntings (feeding on the path), +30 Mistle Thrushes (always common on the airfield), 3 Ravens, 1 Black Woodpecker, 1 Crested and 1 Coal Tit, flock of 10 Woodlarks, a couple of Meadow Pipits on the ground, some Siskins going overhead and a female Black Redstart.
I also tried some nearby cliffs for the potential Wallcreeper, but with no success. Maybe it's still too early...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Waxwing invasion 2008/2009

These are quite dull days... the only good thing I'm seeing are the photos of Waxwings literally everywhere on the net. So here are some shots of the magic Bombycillas I took in March 2009. The above photos are from the town of Udine, where I went to twitch a flock of +80 birds. I hope something similar happens again soon...
As I said, nothing truly exciting turned up these days. In the local patch just the more or less usual birds around including Coal Tits, Dunnocks, Black Redstarts, 1-2 Goldcrests (in the garden), Siskins going overhead (at times) and regular activity at the birdfeeder. The sea usually holds good numbers of Med Gulls, along with 1 or 2 Sandwich Terns and up to 4 Black-throated Divers. The other day, the Red-necked Grebe in the bay of Grignano was still present - it was closer, so I could notice it was still in complete breeding plumage! This evening 15 Cormorants migrating W were of note.
Today, on the way from Trieste to Koper I added Hawfinch to my (actually non-existing) check-list of "birds seen from the motorway".
Not enough for a true gratification... roll on Sunday!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Red-throated Diver & Redwings

Škocjanski zatok NR: two relaxed hours spent on the reserve this morning, where some ringing was going on. I checked the nets with the wardens and top ringing-birds were 3 REDWINGS. After the release, the birds remained in the hawthorn hedges for some time and allowed good views as "wild birds". Other interesting captures included 3 Snipes, a Water Rail and some Bramblings.
In the brackish lagoon a RED-THROATED DIVER was seen earlier this morning, so I went to have a look at it. I found it floating right in the middle of the lagoon, along a few Pochards and the usual Black-necked Grebes. This is the second ever Red-throated Diver for the reserve after the renaturation process. It used to be a more regular sight here, when the lagoon used to be part of the bay of Koper - directly part of the sea (decades ago). Above is a phone-scoping attempt... 3.2 pixels are clearly not enough.
In the hedges there were some showy Hawfinches and a few Bramblings were also around. Siskin & Linnet passage quite good as usual in these days.