Sunday, 30 June 2013

Summer patch update

Wall Brown on Centaurea cristata
Local patch: everything is tuned to summer mode at the moment, so there's little around. This morning I was up on the cliffs where the SUBALPINE WARBLER delivered a few notes of its song - a sign that the birds are still in the area and they are probably breeding. I didn't manage to see it though. Sylvias are quite difficult to observe in this season.
The situation was otherwise pretty calm with just 2 singing Rock Buntings (also 1 juv. seen), a Honey Buzzard and a Goshawk overhead. The latter was a welcome sight as it was quite a while now from my last one in the patch. Also around were a Coal and a Crested Tit and Common and Alpine Swifts. I didn't see any Blue Rock Thrushes, nor hear them, so it could be that they failed to breed this year in the area.
Golden Orioles are sometimes performing well at the woodland's edges and I had several observations of male birds chasing each other in the last couple of days (also 3 ind. together).
Meanwhile on the sea the Common Terns have appeared a few days ago (birds that finished breeding or non-breeders) and 2-3 individuals are regularly seen patrolling the coast. Also quite a lot of Shags around, especially at Miramare, where they are seen fishing in large "rafts".

Friday, 28 June 2013

Late year's firsts

Been to Isola della Cona NR yesterday afternoon and got a nice selection of late firsts-of-the-year. It's pretty odd but things like Squacco Heron and Little Bittern were the firsts, mainly because of my lack of visits to wetlands this spring. Well, better late than never. Yesterday two pairs of Little Bittern showed briefly in front of the two main hides, doing some brief flights between patches of reedbed and perching in the open for a few seconds. Squacco Herons were seen later at the heron roost, where about 3-4 birds were present. Nice to see also all the other species of European herons (except Bittern): 2 Purple, +10 Night Herons (2nd above), Great, Little and Cattle Egrets and the usual Grey Herons.
However the main afternoon's highlight was not a heron but a GLOSSY IBIS (1st above). It showed well in the freshwater marsh for most of the afternoon before flying around a few times and then definitely heading east towards the estuary. This one was also a year's first.
Otherwise the area held the usual array of species with actually good numbers of waders for this season (I didn't really expect so many). The most obvious of the migrants were Spotted Redshanks (about 20) all in nice black breeding plumage (except one individual). Also several (up to 10) Wood Sandpipers and good numbers of Green Sandpipers. A few Little Ringed Plovers were also around, along with 3 Curlews and the most common waders: Black-winged Stilts (with lots of juveniles). Other birds included also: 15 Spoonbills, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Cuckoo (still singing), Great Reed & Reed Warblers, Lapwing, 2 Garganeys, 1 male Pintail and several commoner dabbling ducks.
The Bee-eater colony is still active with the usual great views of the birds, sitting on the perches in front of the first screening.

A brief visit to Lisert produced the breeding pair of RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS, 2 Peregrines (prey exchange in mid air!), 1 Ferruginous Duck, 1 Pochard, a Marsh Harrier and some Melodious Warblers.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Botanical lifers

Afternoon strolls on the Karst seem to be the a good way to escape from the hot temperatures down on the coast, while seeking freshness elsewhere. Yesterday me and a friend went to see some (more!) wildflower meadows which haven't been mowed yet. We found such amazing plants like Lilium bulbiferum (2nd above) and Gladiolus illyricus (1st above), which I've never seen before, as well as stared at the endless carpet of many other wildflowers.
On the bird front the highlight was a SHORT-TOED EAGLE carrying a snake in its beak, probably heading to its nest. Other raptors included a nice Hobby which was frequently seen hunting in the air during the afternoon, sometimes along with up to 5 Common Buzzards and a Kestrel. Two juvenile Honey Buzzards were also around and put on good show while perched on some low poles out in a field. Pretty unusual behaviour for a Honey Buzzard. In the open grassland area we also found a Hoopoe's nest, down on the ground among some rocks. There must have been several juveniles in it - we heard them when the parents entered the nest hole to bring food. The adults were otherwise seen frequently flying around with beakfuls of insects. Other birds around also included a singing QUAIL, 1 Cuckoo, Skylark and Woodlark, 1 Stonechat, Hawfinch and the quite abundant Red-backed Shrikes and Corn Buntings.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Golden Oriole for breakfast

Local patch: I heard a singing Golden Oriole this morning (as I do quite frequently these days) so I went out on the terrace to see if I could find it perched somewhere. And indeed a very handsome male was sitting on the top of some dead trees, delivering its song. It stayed there for just a few minutes (above) before taking off and flying towards the broadleaved woodland. A very pleasant encounter that brightens up these dull days of very hot temperatures when little else is to be seen around.
A Serin though began to sing a few days ago and I can now hear it on a daily basis.

On Monday I had my monthly Shag roost count on the border between Slovenia and Italy and scored a total of 406 Shags. Not bad. The buoys also held a good roost of Common Terns with up to 60 birds counted in the few minutes before dark. Quite an impressive number. Of note was also an immature Mediterranean Gull, a singing Cirl Bunting in the neighbouring farmland and a Scops Owl in the evening.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Corncrake on the Karst

Yesterday evening I went to get some fresh air on the Karst. Visited both the Slovenian and Italian side. I waited dusk in an area of lush meadows (covered by impressive "carpets" of colorful wildflowers) while listening to the songs of: a QUAIL, no less than 6 Cuckoos (together), 1 Golden Oriole and a few Nightjars (total of 5 later).
In the hour before sunset I also managed to see 2 Hoopoes carrying food to their nest, +15 Red-backed Shrikes (really abundant here), Corn Buntings, Skylarks, 1 Wryneck (heard), Mistle Thrush and other commoner birds.
After dark I moved to an area on the Italian side where a CORNCRAKE has been holding territory for the past few weeks. As soon as I arrived, the bird was there, advertising its presence with the incessant and repetitive song. A good record for the Karst, where the species is rare due to the lack of good habitats.
The above photo is from last year's ringing session on Breginjski Stol.
Lush meadows before sunset
Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi) on Knautia illyrica

Sunday, 9 June 2013

More wetland birds

This afternoon I had a guided walk along the rocky coast between Duino/Devin and Sistiana/Sesljan which produced only a fly-by Peregrine. Before the trip I took advantage of some spare time and had a brief visit to Isola della Cona NR. The wetland was quite calm as usual in this season. Just lots of chicks and fledglings around, the most numerous being Black-winged Stilts'.
The most notable birds and the ones I was targeting most were 1 LITTLE GULL (immature) and 4 WHISKERED TERNS - both firsts of the season for me. To add a bit of interest were also 3 obliging Cuckoos flying around and calling all the time (see above), a nice drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 1 Ferruginous Duck and a Hobby. Otherwise more or less the usual mix of common waterbirds (including a Garganey, 28 Pygmy Cormorants, 14 Spoonbills, 2 Redshanks...).
The Bee-eater colony is in full breeding activity with something like 20 or more pairs on the sand bank in front of the first hide. In my opinion this is the best place to see a Bee-eater here. They usually come very close to the screenings and allow great views (below).
A happy colorful party

Friday, 7 June 2013

Evening in the marsh

Today late in the afternoon I finally spent some time back in the field. First I visited a dry scrubland area and then the Lisert wetland in the evening. The scrubs held two singing Sardinian Warblers (showing in flight) a few Melodious Warblers, several Woodlarks, 1 Cirl Bunting and an overflying Honey Buzzard.
At Lisert the highlight was a pair of RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS that is breeding in the same area as it did last year. The pair constructed a second igloo-nest which is now probably occupied by youngs.  
Soaring high above the swallows (and many House Martins) was a nice Hobby, while two more were also seen later.
The freshwater reservoir held 6 ducks in total: 2 male Ferruginous Ducks (last pic above), 2 Pochards (m & f) and 2 Tufted Ducks (m & f) all swimming along a nice breeding-plumaged Great Crested Grebe (2nd above). At sunset 4 Purple Herons flew over the reservoir and dropped down into a reedbed (1st above), while a nice female Golden Oriole was showing well up on a poplar tree. Other birds included a male Marsh Harrier flying past, 2 Sand Martins, singing Great Reed and Reed Warblers and a few Melodious Warblers here too.
Two female Roe Deers were grazing along the old railway line (below).
Roe Deers
Sunset at the freshwater reservoir

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Goatsucker time

Local patch: yesterday night was goatsucker time spent on the cliffs and driving around the Karst. About 6 Nightjars recorded in total with two also seen quite well (2 were in the patch area). One particular bird seen up on the cliffs at dusk performed well while there was still good light: it circled for a while in the air, giving the "kuik" call, then landed on a dead branch and sang there for a few seconds, before taking off again. In flight it appeared quite odd to see against a light sky background. Also quite a lot of wing clapping, usually performed at the end of the song, when the bird takes off.
Completing the dusk (and later night) chorus were also about 5 Nightingales, a few Blackbirds and a solitary Robin. Quite a lot of Roe Deer activity including loud barking.
On the daytime front just the usual bird sounds of the season, heard from home: Nightingale, occasional Golden Oriole, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Scops Owl. A Sparrowhawk yesterday was the first in a while...I don't see them so frequently in this season.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Subalpine Warbler breeding in the patch!

Local patch: been up on the cliffs today for a couple of hours in the late afternoon. I was very pleased to find a singing male SUBALPINE WARBLER which is most probably breeding in the area (it probably did so also last year). The bird showed briefly for a few minutes and sang in a bush down on the steep rocky slope beneath the cliffs. It was very difficult to follow when it moved through the thick vegetation, so I soon lost it (see above). I then heard it singing for a couple more times.
It is an excellent find that documents the breeding activity of the bird in this area. And by the way it is also a patch year-tick - species number 108.
Subalpine Warbler breeding habitat with the city of Trieste in the far background

Orlaya grandiflora now in full bloom
Alpine Swift
Other birds around the cliffs included the usual and very noisy Alpine Swifts (+12), Common Swifts, 2 Rock Buntings (1 singing), 1 male Black Redstart, 1 Golden Oriole, Nightingale, Marsh & Coal Tit and so on. No sign of the Blue Rock Thrush though.

On Friday night I had saw my first Beech Marten of the year, crossing a road on the Karst. Always nice to see.