Thursday, 31 October 2013

Common Redstart in the garden

Female Common Redstart (1st two) and showy Rock Bunting
Local patch: today while checking the activity at the birdfeeder, an unexpected female Common Redstart popped into view and foraged among the roses in the shade of small bushes. Sometimes it perched on a wall for longer periods in between aerial flycatches. I think this is my latest record of Common Redstart so far. It's been a few weeks now from the last load of trans-saharan summer migrants. Yesterday, as the wind turned to north-east I also heard a few Hawfinches passing by along with a strong influx of Chaffinches and some Water Pipits.
This morning I also had two brief encounters with a female Firecrest and a Rock Bunting (above) on the Karst, near Doberdob.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Škocjanski zatok update

Phone-scoping at its best (top to bottom): Tree Sparrows, Cattle Egret with cattle, Stonechat and Pygmy Cormorants
Škocjanski zatok NR: back at the reserve today after several weeks of absence. In the meantime I missed some Bearded Tits and a few other seasonal birds. All in all I had an enjoyable morning, but with nothing too special to report. Wildfowl numbers are building up but probably involve migrants as well: 546 Teals, 10 Wigeons, 167 Shovelers and a lot of Mallards. Coots today numbered 647 individuals. A Black-necked Grebe is now regular in the lagoon along with several of the wintering Great Crested and Little Grebes. Three Cattle Egrets in the freshwater marsh were a pleasant surprise, though they usually appear annually at this time of year. A female Marsh Harrier provided some interest while hunting over the marsh and spreading panic among the Teals. Waders in the brackish lagoon included the usual numbers of Greenshank (22) and Curlew (a few) plus some Dunlins (about 4) and a Spotted Redshank. A solitary Lapwing was in the freshwater marsh. Passerines included at least 7 Stonechats, 2 Water Pipits, 6 Reed Buntings, Chiffchaffs and usual numbers of Cetti's Warbler and a small flock of Tree Sparrows. Also quite a lot of Black Redstarts around in this period.

Local patch: yesterday's highlight was a female HEN HARRIER migrating high above the house, heading towards the Karstic edge and disappearing over the pines. A good local record and a patch year tick by the way. Other sightings from the past few days included: Woodpigeon (70 in flock overhead), Siskin & Linnet (small flocks on migration), Chiffchaff (daily in the garden), Song Thrush (2-3), Water Pipit (passage), Black Redstart, Dunnock, Sparrowhawk, Blackcap ect. Still an awful lot of Jays around - the essence of autumn. I also started to feed the birds in the garden again and the first birds that appeared at the feeders were Great and Blue Tits.
Hen Harrier from home

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Autumn wildflowers

Colchicum autumnale - Karst
Aethionema saxatile - Karst
Allium montanum - Mt. Nanos
Satureja montana - Karst
Carlina acaulis - Mt. Vremščica
Gentiana asclepiadea - Trnovski gozd
Gentiana pneumonanthe - Cerkniško jezero
Echinops ritro subsp. ruthenicus - Mt. Kavčič
Linum tenuifolium - Karst
Campanula pyramidalis - local patch
Vincetoxicum hirundinaria - local patch
It's all quite dull at the moment, especially bird and weather-wise, so here's a botanical post to liven up the situation. A selection of wildflowers took at the end of September, mostly in Slovenia, on the Karst.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Dinaric forest full immersion

I'm back from three days of university field lessons on the Snežnik plateau and surrounding Dinaric forests (Slovenia). The weather has been absolutely brilliant with sunny conditions and some nice chilly mornings and evening (touched 0 degrees C). We mainly visited forest areas around Mašun and Sviščaki, climbed on the top of mt. Snežnik (1796 m.a.s.) and visited the Krokar primary forest (virgin forest) near Kočevje. The trip was conduced for the subject of ecology, so wasn't strictly birding-related. However I managed to see a couple of interesting species here and there. Highlight were my first REDWINGS for the season - flock of 6 seen on two consecutive days at Mašun. A few times I also heard autumn's first Bramblings and Siskins passing overhead, among the very abundant Chaffinches. Common, but interesting upland forest species included: Crossbill (very common), Bullfinch (feasting on rowan berries), Goldcrest, Coal and Willow Tit, Raven, Mistle Thrush, Hawfinch, Black Woodpecker (2 heard), Crested Tit, Treecreeper (2). Also a single Nutcracker was heard calling. Interesting raptors included a Peregrine and a Goshawk soaring above the steep cliffs of Krokar plateau. On the way back home I also spotted a Great Grey Shrike at Bloško polje (from the bus). All in all a good couple of days. Here's a few landscape pics:
Mt. Snežnik (the right top) as seen from Sviščaki
Top of mt. Snežnik with its extensive mountain pine Pinus mugo stand
Mountain pine Pinus mugo
Temperature inversion in one of Snežnik's valleys
Clear-cut border between upland beech forest and mountain pine stand
Looking north-east
Carlina acaulis
Erica carnea
Krokar primary forest - mainly composed of beech Fagus sylvatica and silver fir Abies alba
Krokar's south-facing edge with cliffs - Peregrine's habitat
Native black pine Pinus nigra stands on thermophilic south-facing slope

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Local patch vis migging

Phone-scoping attempts with the new phone...
Local patch: Sunday was a good day for vis migging as the skies were clear and I saw a good selection of scarce local species. The highlight were 3 PALLID SWIFTS which represented the 3rd record of the species in the patch. They passed by in steady flight, heading towards Trieste. One of the three (or perhaps a fourth bird) was seen circling overhead several times and in good light. As for the Pallids in Trieste, breeding has been confirmed in the last few days and small numbers are regularly seen in the town centre - around the colonies.
Here are some other numbers from Sunday's patch's birding from the house: Swallow (4 - probably the last few this year), Jackdaw (1), Woodpigeon (+70), Cormorant (6 over the ridge), Linnet (6), Song Thrush (2-3 now daily in the gardens), Dunnock (a few), Chiffchaff (daily 1-2 birds in the garden), Serin (1), Grey Wagtail (2), Sparrowhawk & Buzzard. Also saw the first Black Redstart in a while, the first Great and Blue Tits at the sunflower feeders, Robins everywhere, Jays infestant and increasing Starling numbers.
Water Pipits are also regularly heard, both in the patch and in the town of Koper or Trieste as they fly overhead. better with macro - Colchicum autumnale

Saturday, 12 October 2013

RED KITE double score

Cracking surprise this morning on the Italian Karst, while I was having a chat with a friend. We looked up and saw 2 RED KITES soaring low above our heads. Seen on naked eye only for some seconds, before they drifted past, blown by the SW wind and under a light rain.
I had a similar encounter of this species back in 2008 when a wind-blown Red Kite flew past my house.
Pity we had no good views, but still a very exciting find. Red Kites are annual rarities to north-eastern Italy and Slovenia.

Friday, 11 October 2013


This afternoon I failed to see the 145 Flamingos reported yesterday at Valle Cavanata, but managed to see a single adult FLAMINGO in the nearby lagoon of Grado (phone-scoped above). The species is an regular, but still rare visitor in the region and at the moment there are several hundreds present in the wider lagoon complex. It was nice to see an adult after so many juveniles I used to see in the past years at Valle Cavanata (the classic place to see the species in winter).
Grado's lagoon held also good numbers of waders with 7 BAR-TAILED GODWITS being on top of the list. Also lots of Grey Plovers, Dunlins (+200), Lapwings, Curlews (+100) and other common waterbirds. Water Rails are beginning to be more prominent at this time of year, as they are usually heard calling in the reedbeds. The lagoon's large water bodies are already holding an awful lot of Great Crested Grebes and a few Black-necked Grebes as well. A GREAT GREY SHRIKE at Bosco San Marco near Aquileia was also of note.

Local patch: this morning the local weather conditions seemed good for seawatching, but a short session at Miramare didn't reveal any shearwaters or true seabirds. Instead I was very pleased to find the season's first RED-NECKED GREBE swimming close o shore. The sea held also a few Med Gulls and a Sandwich Tern 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Lanius excubitor!

Today I caught up with the first GREAT GREY SHRIKES of the season. Precisely three birds seen in the course of the morning, on the Slovenian Karst between Sežana and Senožeče. I was quite glad to find one in each of the habitats I checked. The above pics are just for documentation as usual with these little beasts and show two different individuals. They tend to be quite wary and "distant".
Low clouds, rain and misty conditions are keeping late-autumn migrants still grounded these days and the Karst was quite alive with passerines. Song Thrushes were everywhere this morning, along with hundreds of Chaffinches, Jays, Robins and Dunnocks. Other birds seen included Yellowhammer (2), Hawfinch, Grey Heron (1 in karstic scenery), Meadow Pipit (small flock), Skylark (10), Woodlark (singing a bit everywhere now), Blackcap (good numbers), Chiffchaff, Raven, Black Redstart, Kestrel and Buzzard.
Yesterday during a short session of unplanned urban birding in Trieste I found a female Common Redstart in a small garden. In the evening I watched about 25 Jackdaws going to roost and reasonably big flocks of Starlings gathering on kaki trees.

Local patch: this morning a flock of 10 Swallows was still present in the area. Also some House Martins still occasionally found here and there. In the last three days good numbers of Water Pipits were migrating along the coast with quite big flocks of Chaffinches and even a flock of +60 Woodpigeons flew over the suburb. Dunnock invasion has begun and now they are fairly common in the gardens.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Last migrants in the garden

Phone-scoped Common Redstart. Can you find it?
Local patch: I'm having a good couple of days here in and around the garden as the low clouds, mist and rain are keeping some late migrants grounded. The most notable was a Common Redstart, this time a male, as opposed to the female I had some days ago. A Garden Warbler is now regularly seen feasting on the figs and elder bushes along with up to 3-4 Blackcaps. A single Chiffchaff and 2 Willow Warblers are also regularly heard.
Jays are now one of the commonest birds to be seen around the countryside and here in the gardens they are usually seen carrying a walnut or acorn in the beak. Male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker are showing well on the walnut tree as they come here to feed on the seeds (below) although Green Woodpeckers are more shy (as usual).
A flock of Swallows (+30) with some House Martins was also present in the last two days and many other Swallows (more than 50) were seen migrating past yesterday. These are probably the last hirundines I see this year...
Other birds of note yesterday included an impressive flock of 600-800 Woodpigeons flying far above the gulf (the firsts of the season), 2 Jackdaws flying over the house (patch year ticks!) and a Song Thrush in the garden (also a season's first here). Robin numbers continue to increase, along with Blue and Long-tailed Tits and the odd Grey Wagtail is still seen passing over the suburb on a daily basis.
A Sparrowhawk today was the first in a while and in the morning I also heard a fly-by Serin.
Great Spot on the walnut tree

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

October begins

Not quite an intensive couple of days, but still managed to see a few birds here and there. Notable passage of more late autumn migrants and some winter arrivals as well.
Yesterday in Škocjanski zatok NR the highlight were a Red-breasted Merganser (usual bird), Wigeon (7), Shoveler (42), Pintail (2), Teal (127), Pochard (1), Black-necked Grebe (1 first of the season), Marsh Harrier (1), Coot (358 - increase!), Red-backed Shrike (1 juv), Swallow (25 south), Penduline Tit (small flock - the firsts), Reed Warbler (3), Yellow Wagtail (+30), Grey Wagtail, Water Pipit (5 - autumn firsts), Tree Pipit (1), Reed Bunting (season's first). No sign of either the White Stork nor the Glossy Ibis.
Today instead a few hours at Isola della Cona NR produced: Dunlin (10), Lapwing (+50), Snipe, Little Ringed Plover (10), Wood Sandpiper (2), Ringed Plover (1 juv), Green Sandpiper (2), Black-tailed Godwit (1), Little Stint (3), Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Ruff (2), Grey Plover (1), Spoonbill (1 juv - see above), Marsh Harrier (2), Goshawk (1 female), Hobby (1 juv), Water Pipit (heard), Swallow (10), plus all common wildfowl, including several Pintails.
Also an awful lot of Jays around, usually seen from the car whilst driving on the road.
A quick check of Lisert a few days ago revealed a pair of RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS still on the nest (!), Grey Plover in the brackish marsh, plus good numbers of small migrants in the hedges (Common Redstart, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Robin, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher).

Local patch: a few interesting birds in the last few days included the female Common Redstart still in the garden, a Garden Warbler in the company of migrant Blackcaps on the fig trees, 2 Chiffchaffs (today), a few Swallows + House Martins passing by and a Sandwich Tern & Med Gull on the sea. Also lots of Robins now arriving in the gardens and Jays a bit everywhere.