Monday 23 June 2014

Week in review

Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana - male carrying food to the nest
Another week spent with the Ortolan Buntings. The birds have become less active and vocal, but there has been increasing activity of both sexes carrying food to the nests. With the help of colour rings I managed to identify two different active pairs in a small area of dry grassland. Some other Ortolans in the surroundings were only heard singing. Up to 5 birds in total - anyway this is a good portion of the Slovenian population.
Meanwhile the pair of Golden Eagles is doing well. A chicken-sized juvenile is now sitting on the nest, while the parents are usually seen cruising around the grasslands, occasionally also sitting on the nearby rocks.
Adult Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos perched and in flight
The major highlight on Saturday was a Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes) on a dry stony wall on the grassland "at the Buntings". It was a quite small individual, so probably still a young. The area is a great place for Nose-horned Vipers which prefer stony and dry places on calcareous grounds. They have a Balkanic distribution and in Slovenia they are found mainly on karstic terrains.
Otherwise lots of Hoopoes (up to 8) which are frequently flushed from the road. Also of note were Hobby (1 mobbing the eagles), Subalpine Warbler (1 singing), Tawny Pipit (2), Turtle Dove, Crossbill and a male Honey Buzzard displaying in the air (wing clapping).
Tragopogon tommasinii
Linum tenuifolium
Today was my first day of weekly bird monitoring (again after a long time) at the Škocjanski zatok nature reserve. The wetland is now in full breeding swing with lots of juveniles around. I counted no less than 66 Black-winged Stilts (about 30 pairs bred this year), 53 Common Terns and lots of Coot chicks.
The most welcome news is that of the breeding of LITTLE TERN in the brackish lagoon. This year the species is breeding again after many years of absence on the site. Today I saw the pair: one bird sitting on the nest, the other fishing nearby.
The tall reeds are now covering much of the freshwater marsh, so viewing is quite difficult. From the depths of the Phragmites stands there are literally tens and tens of singing Great Reed and Reed Warblers as usual in this season. Perhaps the most interesting are Little Bitterns (4 today) giving brief flight views as they fly from one patch of reed to the other. Also a few passage waders in the form of Common and Wood Sandpiper and Lapwing - not really common at this time of year. Breeding birds also include several pairs of Little Ringed Plover and Yellow Wagtail (cinereocapilla) in the lagoon.