Saturday 9 February 2013

5 star birding with SHORT-EARED OWLS

What a fantastic day I had yesterday! Early in the morning I went on a trip in northeastern Slovenia with a couple of friends from DOPPS (Birdlife Slovenia) for some top-quality birding. First of all I must mention my personal highlight of the day: no less than 4 SHORT-EARED OWLS at the Medvedce reservoir! One of my top favourite birds. It was quite an experience because the owls appeared all at once at dusk and began to hunt low over the fields surrounding the reservoir. There was still enough light left to see them quite well - at least with the scope. Up to six birds were seen in the area a few days ago, so there's a kind of wintering population here.
Later we also had a perched LONG-EARED OWL by the roadside, hunting on the ground, right in the car's headlights.
The Medvedce reservoir also held a lot of wildfowl as usual, but mainly the commoner species. The Goosanders were the most interesting, along with a flock of White-fronted Geese in the fields. Three Stock Doves were nearby and a few Hen Harriers were hunting above the fields (+5 later at the roost). A small nearby wooded area produced a calling Black Woodpecker and a flock of 100 Fieldfares was feeding on the edge of a garden.

Earlier in the day we also visited several places around Ptuj and Maribor. The lake of Ptuj held more or less the same species I saw here at the beginning of January (see this post). The female LONG-TAILED DUCK was still present at the dam of Markovci, always associating with the Velvet Scoters.

Long-tailed Duck
The lake also held a nice total of 17 Smews (pic on top of the post), +7 Velvet Scoters, a lot of Goosanders, 1 male Ferruginous Duck, Goldeneyes, Pochards, Tufted Ducks and commoner species. A mixed flock of TUNDRA BEAN GEESE (118 ind.) and White-fronted Geese (+100 ind.) also landed on the lake. Quite astonishing as I never had such a big flock of Bean Geese! Also some Rooks were seen around Ptuj during the day.

Velvet Scoter with Tufted Ducks

On the surrounding fields the two BEWICK'S SWANS were still present as well (ad + juv), but there was no sign of the Whoopers - apparently gone by mid January.

Bewick's (adult and juv)

A nice urban Peregrine entertained us on the main bridge over the Drava river, in the town of Ptuj. It also landed several times on a bell tower - see below:

In the afternoon we also checked a popular LONG-EARED OWL roost in a nearby village, which held more than 15 birds, roosting on some pines. Fortunately not all the birds were on the higher branches and some were staring down at us from 8 metres away (see pics). These were actually viewed from a private garden - some friendly owners allowed access to it. In these area we also had two other Black Woodpeckers (1 seen from the car, 1 heard).

Obliging Long-eared Owls

 LEO in the scope at 60x!

We also added an additional 4 Smews (1m, 3f) at the ponds near Rače (Rački ribniki) which rose our day total to 21 Smews!
All in all a good load of birds for a single day!