Tuesday 26 September 2017

Bluethroat at Škocjanski zatok

September is an excellent month for bird migration and Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve on the Slovene coast offers good birding opportunites. After several days of rainy weather, yesterday the skies cleared a bit and a northeasterly wind kicked in. So we set for an afternoon visit of Škocjanski zatok, hoping to see a Bluethroat Luscinia svecica - a regular autumn migrant to this area. We were successfull quite soon...
This female Bluethroat Luscinia svecica was feeding at the edge of small reedbed patch, close to the main observation tower. In late August and September this is a quite easy species to see at Škocjanski zatok, as several birds stop on migration at the freshwater marsh. The best technique for spotting this species is scanning the muddy edges of freshly-cut reeds; sooner or later a Bluethroat will appear and feed out in the open for a few seconds, before jumping back into cover. A few years ago we observed up to seven Bluethroats at the reserve.
The same searching technique is also excellent for spotting migrant crakes, feeding at reedbed edges. We were also lucky with that...
This handsome Spotted Crake Porzana porzana was on view for several minutes, not far from the spot where the Bluethroat was feeding. Spotted and Little Crakes P. parva are regular migrants to Škocjanski zatok with September and March being the best months to observe them. In Slovenia both species are rare breeding birds at continental wetlands, for example Cerkniško jezero.
Yesterday at the reserve we also observed a few other migrants, including Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides, Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, Hobby Falco subbuteo, Sand Martin Riparia riparia, Swallow Hirundo rustica and Whinchat Saxicola rubetra. A large flock of Starlings Sturnus vulgaris (+1000) was preparing for the roost in the reserve's reedbed, while a Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus was also of note.
Two views on Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve and its freshwater part. In the first pic the imposing wooden visitor center is obvious. The second pic shows the variety of habitats within a few kilometers from the coast: the wetland of Škocjanski zatok in the very front, the hills of Slovenian Istria, the limestone cliffs on the Karst edge and mount Slavnik in the far back.