Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Woodland patch

Local patch: this afternoon I had a walk in the woodland and nearby grassy limestone slopes. The main target was to find some migrants to add to the patch year list. I was quite successful as I found both Spotted (2) and Pied Flycatcher (4) and a Garden Warbler. The flycatchers were of course doing what their name says - catching flies at the edge of the woodland. The Garden Warbler instead was lured out of the bushes (fig trees actually) with pishing. A male Golden Oriole was also quite nice to see flying around. Other birds were mainly the common woodland ones including: Great Spotted & Green Woodpecker, Marsh, Blue and Crested Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Robin, Nightingale, Rock Bunting (family party on the limestone grassland), Raven, Common Buzzard. The usual welcome selection of birdlife to be found in the patch.
Interesting to note that the commonest animal in the oak woodland was the Woodland Grayling (Hipparchia fagi) - above.
At the end of my walk I had an unexpected surprise. While I was walking on the steep limestone and grassy slope, I flushed a Nightjar which flew off and gave good flight views, before landing back on the ground. Now I must say that in this same area I saw more Nightjars by day than anywhere else. All involved casual encounters of birds flushed from the ground (daytime roost). Finding a nest though, requires Jedi skills!
Earlier this morning I also saw 4 Honey Buzzards soaring above the karstic edge.
The season is quite late for wildflowers and plants, but a few were still to be found. Some of the more obvious and typical for the area included: Chrysopogon gryllus & Stipa eriocaulis (grasses), Dianthus monspessulanus, Pistacia terebinthus, Paliurus spina-christii, Dictamnus albus, Satureja sp., Eringium amethystinum, Campanula pyramidalis and the more widespread stuff like Centaure jacea, Betonica officinalis and Anthericum ramosum.
Pistacia terebithus - a typical mediterranean plant. Quite common on the grassy slope, along with Paliurus spina-christii

Dictamnus albus - now dispersing its seeds
The view towards Trieste with the dry grassland and oak woodland
Dry grassy slope on limestone

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Forest birding in Slovenia

Yesterday's evening was spent in the dinaric forests of Slovenia around Mašun. A gorgeous adult BLACK STORK (above) was the first in a series of excellent birds seen in the afternoon. At the stork's site an unexpected Tawny Owl put on show in complete daylight as it perched on a maple tree in front of its nest-hole (or roost) in a church's wall.
The open fields and meadows held the first Wheatear of the autumn as well as lots of migrant Whinchats which are now very common.
The forest of Mašun itself was also alive with migrants, which were mostly Spotted and Pied Flycatchers (3rd above), Wood Warblers and Chiffchaffs and a single Common Whitethroat, all flitting through the high canopies of conifers and beech trees. Among them was also a rather unexpected Icterine Warbler. Supporting cast in the forest also included 3 Nutcrackers, a Black Woodpecker, Honey Buzzard, Coal, Crested and Willow Tit, Firecrest and Raven.
In the evening a pair of URAL OWLS performed a duet song at very close distance, while another female was calling far away in the forest. The commonest mammal was as always Edible Dormouse, but two Foxes and a few Roe Deers were also seen.

Local patch: yesterday in the morning I was alerted by the screaming gulls and crows of the presence of a raptor. So I looked out of the window and to my amazement found, not the usual Buzzard, but a female Goshawk soaring above the suburb. It then proceeded in direction of Trieste, leaving behind the cloud of noisy gulls and crows.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Gallicus again and again

Here we are again with Short-toed Eagle! I'm sorry to bore you with this species, but this seems to be the only thing that flies over wind-swept karstic grasslands these days (4 birds seen today). And it's also one of the few decent things on the bird front. Well, actually a pair of Black Storks this afternoon was also very much appreciated.
The first migrant Whinchats have appeared in the fields, but I'm still waiting to see autumn's first Sylvias, flycatchers and warblers.
Migration fever is here... stay tuned!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Short-toed Eagle once again

Here it is once again, my dear friend the SHORT-TOED EAGLE - perched on a pylon this morning near Divača. I had no scope or camera with me, so the above two pics were phone-binned. Still better than nothing. The bird sat there for about 15 minutes (watched at a distance of 100 metres), then suddenly plunged down to the ground, beyond some pines. In the same area I also flushed a Hoopoe from the path and 2 Red-becked Shrikes were around, while Alpine Swifts were screaming in the air.
Always good to have 15 minutes of unplanned birding...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Motorway Circaetus

This afternoon I was driving on the Slovenian motorway near Sežana, while a SHORT-TOED EAGLE had the brilliant idea to appear above my car, right when I was overtaking a truck. Great timing! Later in the afternoon near Škocjanske jame I saw another Short-toed Eagle hanging in mid-air, almost motionless above the hills. Most probably the same individual was also seen later a few kilometres away near Divača. So at least 2 different individuals. The above pics were taken at Divača's airfield where the bird was hunting over the grassland; note the typical dangling massive head.
Other birds seen briefly also included a few Alpine Swifts, 4 Ravens 2 Stonechats and 2 Honey Buzzards.

Local patch: this morning I also had two Honey Buzzards soaring above the patch, together with a Common Buzzard. A few migrant Swallows have appeared in the last few days and also some migrant Common Swifts are seen on a daily basis (the local breeding birds are long gone now). A whistling Nightingale from the nearby woodland was also of note today (as it was clearly a migrant). Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker on a daily basis in the garden. The Alpine Swifts around Monte Grisa are always there in their usual numbers. Otherwise it's all pretty quiet in the patch at the moment, but soon migration will pick up...

Škocjanski zatok NR: earlier this week I was on site for the weekly monitoring, but the situation was quite calm. A juvenile Black Tern (still in the lagoon) and a male Little Bittern were the most notable birds.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Slow turn into autumn

Green Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Yesterday at dawn I was at Isola della Cona NR for some post-rainstorm birding. I was hoping for big numbers (or variety) of waders, but as I then discovered, the tide was extremely low and probably most of the waders were out on the mudflats by the sea. Anyway, the semi-dry and muddy freshwater marsh held the seasonal array of waders. The most numerous were Wood Sandpipers, along with Little Ringed Plovers and Spotted Redshanks (+80). The main interest was provided by a flock of 10-15 Little Stints with 2 Dunlins and 5 Black-tailed Godwits. But still, not enough Little Stints to hold a Broad-billed Sand in their flock. Other waders also included Ruff (2), Common (just 1) and Green Sandpiper, Redshank (1), Snipe (4 showing well a few metres away from a screening - above), Curlew, Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt ect.
The calm situation in the marsh was sometimes livened up by a hunting Peregrine (juv.) which tried its luck on different waterbirds (including a Night Heron!) but without success.
In the hedges by the main path I was glad to see my first Garden Warbler of the autumn - personally my earliest record in this season. The bird was hopping between bramble bushes and poplars together with 3-4 Nightingales, a few Reed Warblers and Blackcaps.
Other birds of interest around the reserve included: Bee-eater, Yellow Wagtail, Golden Oriole (6 birds; the species being very prominent in this season), Pygmy Cormorant (+30), Marsh Harrier (1f), Garganey (4), Cattle Egret (30), Turtle Dove (1) and Night Heron (2 juvs).
When I left the reserve, the tide was still pretty low so I decided to take a look on the mudflats of Lido di Staranzano, where I found 3 Whimbrels - firsts of the autumn.
Later a check of Lisert produced in addition a juvenile Purple Heron, 1 Pochard (inner reservoir), 1 Honey Buzzard and 2 Golden Orioles. I also checked the Red-rumped Swallow site, but didn't see the birds. It was probably too windy.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Dipper afternoon

This afternoon I spent a few hours on Planinsko polje in Slovenia, looking for some characteristic birds of the fast-flowing streams. The highlight and main target was the DIPPER which put on great show - two birds (probably the local pair) were showing brilliantly while feeding, swimming and running underwater and also while preening on the rocks or flying up and downstream. The light was pretty bad so the above photos are purely for documentation. Other typical birds of this habitat included a family of Grey Wagtails and 2 Kingfishers. Two nice Hobbies were hunting over the meadows of Planinsko polje where 4 White Storks were also feeding. About 6 Crag Martins were also seen on the way back home, at the usual site near Postojna.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

First migrants!

Škocjanski zatok NR: I was on site early this morning at around 6 am and for the first time in a while the hedges were again alive with birds. Not the ordinary, local birds though, but migrants! While pishing out some warblers from the bushes I managed to attract a nice Wryneck (2nd pic) and minutes later a Sedge Warbler (1st pic). There were also lots of Great Reed and Reed Warblers, along with 2 showy Nightingales. The freshwater marsh held the usual array of common waterbirds plus two eclipse male Garganeys along with increasing numbers of Teal (18 counted). Three Night Herons, 2 Snipes and 14 Wood Sandpipers were also of note there.
Today the lagoon held not one, but 2 juvenile Black Terns and 4 Pochards. Otherwise more or less the same old things, with birds like Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, LRP and so on.

Local patch: had a Chiffchaff in the garden the other day - an increasingly scarce species in the area.

Friday, 2 August 2013

August at last!

Škocjanski zatok NR: autumn migration is kicking in and it's getting quite lively in the wetland. The main problem now is the limited visibility on the overgrown freshwater marsh, which usually hides the best birds (impossible to see if not flushed by the cattles). Fortunately the wardens have begun with the mowing, so in a few weeks we should have a very nice view across the area. Yesterday morning a juvenile Black Tern (above) was of note and one of the Glossy Ibises was still around (feeding in the brackish lagoon). Wood Sandpiper numbers are building up (15 ind.) as are those of other waders like Common and Green Sandpipers, Snipes (4 yesterday), Curlews and so on. A juvenile Med Gull was in the lagoon - a scarce bird at the reserve. Little Egrets have also reached good numbers with up to 121 counted yesterday. Also 2-4 Night Herons and 13 Pygmy Cormorants and still 38 Common Terns in the lagoon. Other birds of note included Turtle Dove, Yellow Wagtail and a family of Nightingales.
A few days ago one of the wardens also recorded the first Little Crake of the autumn.

Local patch: yesterday in the evening I had the pleasure to listen to the song of a Nightjar, while relaxing on the armchair at my sister's home. The bird performed the long an insisting song for most of the evening and included in its repertoire lots of "kuuik" calls, wing-clapping and every kind of eerie calls. A Nightingale was also whistling nearby and after a while a Scops Owl began to sing. All in all a pleasant local patch chorus from the comfort of the armchair!