Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Black-throated Divers down the coast

Black-throated Diver - group of 8
Black-throated Diver - 3 of the 4 more showy birds... seen from my window
Local patch: a very calm winter season in the garden with nothing really brilliant to report. Not even the seasonal Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting or the like...not even a Dunnock! The weather's been simply too mild.
The sea instead is holding an interesting aggregation of Black-throated Divers. Two days ago I counted a total of 12 birds (compact groups of 8 and 4) between Barcola and Miramare, which is my personal highest count of the species in the area. Above are some pics for documentation - phone scoped, so bad quality. On the sea also several Great Crested Grebes which today numbered 15 birds in flock. About 6 Black-necked Grebes as well, plus 2 showy Sandwich Terns patrolling the stretch of coast.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Crocus power

Crocus reticulatus
Crocus weldenii
Today was sunny and quite chilly - actually the first day of real cold and sun in a while. Wallcreeper searching seemed a good idea, but at the end it didn't produced the hoped-for crimson butterfly-bird. This winter they are very difficult to see on the Karst and there has been just one single observation for the area as far as I know. The situation is a bit different in the Alps, where today 6 birds were seen by a single observer. Probably the lack of real cold until now has kept the birds up in the mountains.
Alpine Accentors instead are always present with small numbers. Today I saw two of them, feeding on the rocky slopes of the Glinščica/Val Rosandra valley. A pair of Ravens is now probably nesting in the area. A singing Mistle Thrush was also of note, along with 3 Rock Buntings on the ridge.
When there's a lack of birds, flowers are a real salvation on the Karst...even in winter. Today I found the year's first Crocus reticulatus (common species) and a nice carpet of Crocus weldenii (a rare Balkan endemism) - see last year's post.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

BEWICK'S SWAN and Flamingos

Bewick's Swan
The adult Flamingos at Lisert
Went to see the above BEWICK'S SWAN at Valle Cavanata NR yesterday. It's a local mega, present now for several days in the area. The reserve held also 12 Spoonbills.
The FLAMINGOS were instead in the brackish lagoon at Lisert. Six birds in total: 2 adults and 4 ugly juveniles.
Other birds of note in the gulf of Panzano (Monfalcone) included 2 Slavonian Grebes, 4 Velvet Scoters, 2 Red-throated and 6 Black-throated Divers, a few Goldeneyes and 6 Eiders. Plus a real abundance of commoner grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers.
Quite a lot of interesting birds at the moment around the coastal wetlands, including 2 Red-breasted Geese & 2 Lesser White-fronts within the large goose flock, 3 Long-tailed Ducks, the Bewick's Swan and the 6 long-staying Flamingos at Lisert. A good time to visit.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Shyly into spring

A classic Great Grey Shrike
First Snowdrops Galanthus nivalis
Helleborus multifidus
Primrose Primula vulgaris
Hazel Corylus avellana - male flowers
Stroll on the Karst today produced a few goodies in the form of 2 Great Grey Shrikes, 2 male Black Woodpeckers (displaying) and a flock of 43 odd Greylag Geese migrating overhead. Also glad to see the first signs of spring like singing Woodlarks, the first Snowdrops, Helleborus and Primroses. Woodlands are full with the songs and territorial fights of Nuthatches, Short-toed Treecreepers and tits of all kind. Very little birding in the past few weeks. Had a few Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers here and there and a singing Tawny Owl on the Karst one evening.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Smrekova draga - Trnovski gozd

Crossbill - male
Smrekova draga (foreground) and the Julian Alps (bakcground)
The bottom of Smrekova draga covered with mountain pine Pinus mugo
Mountain pine Pinus mugo
Mushroom on beech tree
Great Grey Shrike
Visited the Trnovo forest (Trnovski gozd) with a friend today; once again with complete absence of snow and relatively mild temperatures. We took a nice walk down to the bottom of Smrekova draga - a karstic doline with vegetational inversion - mountain pine Pinus mugo and Norway spruce Picea abies are covering the bottom, as it's otherwise usual for the top of the mountains. The walk through the mountain pine stand was quite an experience! Best birds of the day were 2 singing PYGMY OWLS heard at dusk. Still quite a lot of activity in the forest, with Crossbill being the most obvious species - the above bird was part of a very collaborative and fearless flock. Otherwise quite a lot of Coal, Willow & Crested Tits, Goldcrests and 2 Ravens.
An out-of-place Cormorant was migrating above Predmeja; the Vipava valley produced 2 Great Grey Shrikes and a Peregrine with a freshly killed pigeon in the talons.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Karstic Eagle Owl

Male Eagle Owl singing
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Black Woodpecker calling
Above are the highlights of today's short afternoon stroll on the Karst. Saw a pair of singing Eagle Owls at dusk, 1 male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Black Woodpeckers (m & f). All pics are phone-scoped.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Cinclus fever

On the 1st of January I was early in the field in Slovenia, seeing my first birds of the year. One of them was the above DIPPER on the Unica river near Planina, which entertained me for quite some time in the morning. The water current was pretty wild (with an awful lot of water in the river), but despite that, the Dipper kept diving and swimming with a certain ease. I didn't imagine it could perch on the submerged rocks in the middle of the riverbed, where the current was the strongest... but it did. Amazing.
Next on plan was a visit of the Cerknica lake (Cerkniško jezero). The large water bodies held just a small portion of the usual wildfowl present in the area. Among a consistent flock of Coots I only managed to spot some 20 Goldeneyes, +25 Wigeons, 1 Gadwall and 2 Pochards. However the major highlight on the lake were 2 adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLES perched for most of the morning on some low poles in the lake's centre. Both birds were seen flying off from time to time. One of the two even took a bath in the lake and then went to perch back on the pole to dry the feathers in Cormorant-like fashion. Never seen anything like that.
Other birds of note around the lake included a Redwing (in a small flock of Mistle Thrushes), a pair of Grey-headed Woodpeckers (both on the same tree), 1 Great Grey Shrike, 3 female Hen Harriers, several Fieldfares, a flock of 14 Common Gulls and several commoner species like Yellowhammer, Brambling, Black Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Coal, Marsh, Crested & Willow Tit, Goldcrest and so on.
All in all an excellent start of the year in the field, even better than last year's.