Tuesday 7 April 2015

WALLCREEPER in the patch!

Yesterday in the late afternoon I made a short visit to the limestone cliffs of Monte Grisa, in my local patch. I went there with the intent of a short walk and to look around for any newly arrived migrants.
The area indeed held my first 2 Common Swifts Apus apus of the year, along with 4 Alpine Swifts Apus melba, 4 Swallows Hirundo rustica and 2 House Martins Delichon urbicum. Somewhere under the cliffs, in the shrubby vegetation a Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala was calling, while a migrant female Kestrel Falco tinnunculus flew overhead. While looking at the cliffs and wondering about the blooming "explosions" of the sulphur-coloured Euphorbia wulfenii, a restless bird caught my attention. I immediately knew what is was: a WALLCREEPER Tichodroma muraria. My first in the patch! Moreover it was a stunning male with extensive black on the face and chest. I was quite astonished by the extent of the black - covering almost all the underparts of the bird. I'm certainly not used to see this plumage, as most of my observations are from the winter period. The only other time I saw a summer-plumaged male (actually 2 together) was several years ago, one April day in the Glinščica/Val Rosandra valley (always on the Karst edge), so basically away from its breeding grounds. It looks like the birds that winter here leave the areas, not before April.
As I said the bird in question was quite restless and kept hopping and flying on the cliffs all the time. I watched it for 10 long minutes, usually quite close-by. At a certain point it also delivered a short note of its rarely-heard song! A video of the bird here (watch in 720p).
Male Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria with flowers of Euphorbia wulfenii - a characteristic plant of the Eastern Mediterranean, blooming very prominently at this time of year along the rocky coast of Trieste.
Wallcreeper nearby another typical Mediterranean plant: Teucrium flavum.
Frequently sticking its beak in the crevices. In the last pic, the leaves of Campanula pyramidalis are visible - another typical plant growing frequently out of the limestone rocks.

After those 10 minutes, the bird made a short flight to some nearby, lower cliffs, where I couldn't see it and later I didn't relocate it. I remained there, staring at the cliffs with a smile on the face while the last rays of sun were shining on the rocks.
Views on the Wallcreeper cliffs, with the extensive flowering of E. wulfenii. On the second photo, the city of Trieste is visible in the distance.