Thursday, 27 February 2014

Kokra river

Dipper pin badge - today's most satisfying Dipper
Goosander Mergus merganser male in flight
Helleborus niger - quite common in woodlands
A nice trip today brought me to the Gorenjska region in Slovenia. The focus was primarily to check the river Kokra for breeding Dippers for a future study on the species. Only three birds were seen in the course of the day, although a total of 6 active nests were found (out of 11 nests in total) - mostly under concrete bridges crossing the river. Apart from the Dippers, the most attractive birds of the day were Goosanders - a total of 20 birds seen on the lake of Trboje. This lake and the one at Zbilje were checked and produced a good number of other winter species like 11 Goldeneyes, lots of Tufted Ducks, 1 Pochard, Great Crested and Little Grebes and commoner stuff.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

From Pygmy Owl with love

Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum
Trnovski gozd in the snow
Dipper Cinclus cinclus - smart as always
Sunny afternoon in the snow-covered Trnovo forest with a PYGMY OWL above your head. Can you ask for more? I don't think so.
Sorry for the above pics, it's just a documentative phone-binning attempt. Nevertheless a great moment watching a Pygmy Owl sat for 15 minutes on the top of a fir.
Other birds in the forest included the commoner species like Coal and Willow Tit, Crossbill, Bullfinch, Brambling and so on. An unexpected surprise were 3 ROOKS in a field near Ajdovščina. Pretty scarce winter visitors here. Highlights along the Hubelj river included the pair of Dippers still building their nest, 1 Kingfisher and 2 Grey Wagtails. All the three river specialists.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Primula auricula

Bear's-ear Primula auricula
This morning, a proper botany-orientated excursion on the Karst. Main target: Bear's-ear Primula auricula. In Slovenia this plant has its stronghold in the Alpine region, but there are also several isolated "island populations" (in glacial refugia), including a handful on the Karst. It usually grows on calcareous soils and thrives on steep vertical limestone cliffs. With a bit of searching (and climbing) I found several flowering plants (above).
Supporting cast on the karstic woodland's floor included the typical early spring wildflowers like: Galathus nivalis (snowdrop), Primula vulgaris (primrose), Helleborus multifidus, Hepatica nobilis, Corydalis cava, Isopyrum thalictroides, Cardamine enneaphyllos and Crocus reticulatus.
Quite a lot of bird activity in the woodlands, consisting mainly of the common species - nothing really extra to report.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Bearded Tits

Male Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus - phone-binned!
Škocjanski zatok NR: this afternoon I made a 20 minute stop at the reserve and got rewarded with brilliant views of a pair of BEARDED TITS, feeding at the edge of a reedbed, close to the "double screening". Besides the two birds observed close by, there were at least another two calling deeper in the reedbed. This small flock is wintering in the area and can be sometimes observed quite well from the main circular path. My visits of the reserve have greatly diminished in the last months, so I didn't have the chance to catch up with this little reedbed beauties until today. My last proper Bearded Tits were in Hungary back in 2011, although I heard them in January 2012 at RSPB Minsmere (England).

Friday, 14 February 2014

Golden Eagles in the sun

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, incl. 3 birds together (2nd pic)
View from the Nanos plateau, looking N. On the left side to the back is the Trnovo forest, while in the far back, the snow-covered Julian Alps are visible.
The view from the Nanos edge down into the Vipava valley and Karst
A splendid sunny day, perfectly clear and unusually warm for being February. The best possible idea for today was to go on Mt. Nanos (Slovenia) and enjoy some Golden Eagles while basking in the sun. And so I did. As soon as I arrived on the grassy plateau, first 2 and then 3 GOLDEN EAGLES performed very well while soaring above the Vipava valley. I identified them as 2 subadults and one adult. After the initial show, the birds disappeared very high in the sky. Then, for the rest of the morning, only one bird (an adult) made quite regular appearances above my head and kept me entertained...until about midday, when two birds were seen again together. Almost at the same time I noticed another massive raptor gliding SE above the Nanos ridge: it was a Griffon Vulture. Other raptors included a Sparrowhawk and a few Buzzards, but not much else. Smaller birds of note included Rock Bunting, Siskin, Crossbill and Woodlark (singing). A pair of Ravens was constructing its nest on a cliff ledge on the rocky slope.
Later in the day I made a brief visit to the river Hubelj, not far from the town centre of Ajdovščina, where a pair of DIPPERS was building a nest in a concrete bank.
Later on I also added Great Grey Shrike to the day list (seen perched on a bush) while I was driving back home. Perfect way to round up a pleasant day.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Wetland birding at its best

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Displaying male Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus - part of a flock of 149 birds
Spent the day working the coastal wetlands. Started at Lisert which held 6 Ferruginous Ducks (freshwater) and 51 Common Eiders performing display on the sea (buoys area).
A quick look at the bay of Panzano (Monfalcone) revealed the 3 wintering LONG-TAILED DUCKS (females) and several of the commoner grebes and other waterbirds.
Valle Cavanata NR and the Averto canal held, among the numerous Pochards and Tufted Ducks, also 2 female Greater Scaups, a few displaying Goldeneyes and 12 Spoonbills.
Perhaps the day's best sighting was that of a flock of 149 FLAMINGOS feeding in the deep water of Valle Artalina (Grado). There were both nice pinkish adults as well as a lot of juveniles. A nice spectacle to watch, with the the lagoon and the snow-covered Julian Alps in the background.
A look at the sandy beach at Banco Mula di Muggia (Grado) added 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, +10 Bar-tailed Godwits and several commoner waders to the list (incl. Kentish Plover, Grey Plover...).
The last stop was at Isola della Cona NR where the main interest was provided by a BITTERN walking out on the grass, a Great Grey Shrike on the fields, 2 Hen Harriers (m & f) and 5 Spoonbills. The usual wetland assortment was also present throughout the day (all common dabbling and diving ducks, White-fronted Goose, Water Rail, Marsh Harrier, Pygmy Cormorant, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Lapwing ect.). Several Green Woodpeckers were also seen or heard (yaffling) today.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Slavonian Grebe in the patch

Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus - a first for the patch
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata - the above bird is blind on one eye
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
Male Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator (front) and Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis (back)
Local patch: this morning I checked the stretch of coast from Grignano to Barcola's quay and gathered a good number of seabirds. In general the sea was unusually rich today. The top highlight was a SLAVONIAN GREBE near Miramare which represented the first patch record (for me - patch species number 161.) What was even more exceptional was the large number of divers, in particular Red-throated Divers. I haven't seen the species around here this season, so today was a bit of a surprise to see no less than 8 birds, evenly distributed along the coast. Most allowed very good views while swimming close to shore...but interestingly, several showed some kind of damage on one eye or around the beak. Some birds were not in very good form (above for example). To make the situation even better from an ID point of view, there were also at least 8 Black-throated Divers in small groups of 3 or 4. Additional interest was provided by the presence of 3 Red-necked Grebes, 21 Great Crested Grebes, 9 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Sandwich Terns, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers (3 m, 2 f) and 2 Cormorants. Very few Shags were around (about 10 juvs in total), because most adults are now in full breeding season on the Croatian islands.
All the above pics were phone-scoped.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wallcreeper memories

Not quite the perfect time for birding, due to a lot of studying, flu and a terrible weather. So here's a small selection of a must-see bird in winter...Wallcreeper. Just in case I don't see it this season, because no winter is complete without a Wallcreeper post on the blog!