Saturday, 12 April 2014

Stalking Cuckoos

Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Grim and cloudy day but still good enough to be on the Karst enjoying some spring sights. I'm still in a Cuckoo mood as they are now singing from almost every woodland. This morning I heard 7 of them; 6 were relatively close to each other. A bird in particular was especially collaborative while singing and catching caterpillars from an exposed perch (above). A singing Hoopoe on the top of a bush was a similar thrilling sight. Other good birds included 2 Wrynecks, 1 male Common Redstart (year's first), 4 Northern Wheatears, 1 Grey-headed Woodpecker, Rock, Cirl & Corn Buntings plus Yellowhammer and loads of commoner species.
Singing Hoopoe Upupa epops. Note the inflated throat.
Male Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Male Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
A flock of +20 Common Swifts above the local patch, earlier this morning was a welcome sight. My firsts were seen just yesterday in the late afternoon on the cliffs of Mt.Grisa, where among the several Alpine Swifts I also had 1-2 Pallid Swifts migrating past. On the vis-mig front a flock of about 70 Curlews was of note and a female Marsh Harrier was seen flying above the sea. Nightingale is now regularly heard singing in the patch (from the house) as well.
Two days ago I had my first Wood Warbler of the year, singing in a patch of woodland, together in a chorus with Willow Warbler and Chiffhcaff. The same evening I also had a double chorus of Scops and Tawny Owl.

And to round up with some flowers...
Paeonia officinalis
Iris illyrica

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A heavy dose of spring in the vein

Male Cuckoo Cuculus canorus - the first I see this year
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra
Orchis morio (left), Pulsatilla montana (center), Alyssum montanum (right)
Orchis morio in two colour varieties
Narcissus poeticus
Vicia grandiflora
Globularia punctata
Globularia cordifolia
Pulsatilla montana
Pleasant spring afternoon spent on the Slovenian Karst. Lots of wildflowers on the meadows and several good spring birds like Cuckoo (at least 3), Hoopoe (1 singing), Cirl & Corn Bunting, Skylark & Woodlark, Lesser Spotted, Green and Black Woodpecker (4 of the latter). A massive female Goshawk chasing a Woodpigeon was also a good sight. The most satisfying encounter was that with one of the three singing Cuckoos - a bird perched on the top of a high oak (above). Spotted after a long stalk through the woodlands. Success at the end!

Yesterday at Škocjanski zatok I also had my first Nightingales of the year. At least 3 birds were singing in the hedges. One also showed briefly.
The lonely Common Crane was still present in the freshwater marsh, but it flew north-east in the late morning. One Little Gull was still around. Otherwise more or less the usual seasonal birds.

Monday, 7 April 2014

A thrid Black-eared Wheatear!

A pale-throated Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
This afternoon I checked again Campo carri and was surprised to find a BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR... Surprised because this was a pale-throated bird and thus not of of those seen yesterday (see previous post). So yet a third bird! The above pic is a phone-scoping attempt in too strong light. The situation was otherwise calmer, with just another male Wheatear around. New for the year this time was a Tawny Pipit. Still some Swallows passing overhead plus usual commoner breeding birds already reported yesterday.
A good record was that of two separate flocks of Curlew migrating high in the sky, going north-east. In total I estimated about 350 birds. They were quite vocal - otherwise I would have easily missed them.
This afternoon on the Karst I also had my first CUCKOO of the year which was quite cool to hear again.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A wave of rare migrants

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica

Two Black-eared Wheatears!
Black-eared (right) and Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe


Quite unbelievable afternoon! I had a visit at the grassland of Campo Carri - my first this season, so hopes were mainly towards common migrants like Wheatear or similar. Well, just before my first two Northern Wheatears of the year I found two stunning BLACK-EARED WEATEARS! A speciality of this area, but hardly expected today. The two birds, both males of the black-throated morph, were very collaborative and showy, sitting on the low pines along with 3 Wheatears (2 m & 1 f) and a single Whinchat (also a year's first). Later also a female Stonechat joined the show.

After the initial excitement the situation slowed down a bit, until a large raptor soar overhead: a GRIFFON VULTURE heading north towards the Alps. Good.

Later in the afternoon I was joined by some friends which came to twitch the Black-eared Wheatears. Together we watched the two birds for some time until... suddenly something flushed them away. We looked around in the sky and were astonished to see a snowy male PALLID HARRIER flapping past the grassland! The harrier remained on view for a few minutes, until it disappeared southwards. This is something like the first Pallid Harrier for the area of Trieste and a rarity even on the national level.
Record shot of the Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
Minutes later two female Marsh Harriers migrated overhead in the same direction, suggesting a passage of Circus was going on.
The last surprise of the day came shortly afterwards when I glimpsed a "Blackbird" landing on one of the taller pines at the edge of the grassland. On binoculars it was rather far, but unbelievably it seemed to show a white crescent on the breast. A quick look through the scope confirmed my thoughts: male RING OUZEL! After a few seconds the bird flew off and we later saw it flying above the grassland in direct flight southwards. It was again my first for the area of Trieste and I think a really scarce bird on the Karst.
Supporting cast on the grassland and nearby woodlands included: 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Rock Buntings, Woodlark, +10 Swallows, Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, Mistle Thrushes, Coal Tit, Serin, Hawfinch, Green Woodpecker and on the butterfly front a Southern Festoon (Zerynthia polyxena).
I'm also glad to report my first HOOPOE of the year seen two days ago on the Slovenian Karst. The same day I also had a pleasant chorus of Black, Green and Grey-headed Woodpecker singing to each other in a small patch of woodland.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

New spring migrants from Africa

Common Crane Grus grus at Škocjanski zatok
First Narcissus poeticus of the season on the Karst
A few updates from the past couple of days. Škocjanski zatok NR this afternoon held a COMMON CRANE in the freshwater marsh which was the major highlight. Also quite interesting to see was a Marsh Sandpiper (scarce bird for the reserve), some Redshanks, Ruffs, Black-winged Stilts, Wood Sandpipers and 1 Black-tailed Godwit. The two Little Gulls were still present, as were also a couple of Garganeys and +100 Swallows over the marsh. Also Penduline Tits were heard in the reeds. Earlier in the morning I had my first Common Terns of the season flying over the town of Koper.
Yesterday evening I also had the first singing SCOPS OWL in Koper and a couple of Alpine Swifts over the town. Swallows are now a common sight and are seen on a daily basis. Crested Larks are sometimes heard singing around the car parks.
A few days ago I took a stroll on the Slovenian Karst and was pleased to see the first returning WRYNECKS in the vineyards (at least 3 birds were singing), along with singing Corn and Cirl Buntings and the local breeding Swallows darting over the village ponds.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKER in Slovenia

White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi
Typical tree stump shaved by White-backed Woodpecker
Brilliant morning spent in the extensive Dinaric forests of Mt. Snežnik. Had an exciting encounter with one of Slovenia's rarest breeding birds: WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKER. Two territorial birds (male and female) were seen. Also both calls and drumming were heard several times in the course of the morning. A "shaved" tree stump was also a good sign of the presence of this species. Not far away from the woodpecker's location, a Brown Bear's footprint was found in the mud. Plenty of other birds in the forest seen/heard, including: Coal and Willow Tit, Buzzard, Raven, Dunnock, Goldcrest & Firecrest (both holding territories), Siskin, Bullfinch and Crossbill. A flock of +100 Woodpigeons on passage was also of note.
Bear's footprint (Ursus arctos)
Helleborus niger
Crocus vernus
Snow-covered Mt. Snežnik (1796 m)

Friday, 28 March 2014

Glinščica valley

Biscutella laevigata - typical plant of the limestone screes
Coronilla emerus ssp. emeroides
Glinščica waterfall
Upper course of the Glinščica stream
Scorzonera austriaca
Thlaspi praecox
Austropotamobium pallipes
Took a stroll in the Glinščica valley/Val Rosandra this afternoon. On the bird front the highlights included 4 singing Blue Rock Thrushes (2 seen), 1 Raven, Rock Bunting and a few Grey Wagtails. Looked hard for any breeding Dippers, but failed to find them.
The other day I had a fly-by Marsh Harrier and Kestrel over the house. At least one Willow Warbler is still in the garden (singing), while the occasional Swallow or House Martin is seen passing by.
On Wednesday in Škocjanski zatok NR the 2 Little Gulls were still present in the freshwater marsh, together with the seasonal mix (incl. 2 Garganeys). Two fly-by Yellow Wagtails were new for the year.
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