Saturday, January 29, 2011


29.01.11  ca 0800. Kobilja Glava.
Now that I have feeders set up, I was anticipating the first visit by an Accipiter, either Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) which I saw in the area on 23.01, or Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). A Gos came hurtling through stirring up all but a considerably smaller and gutsy Hooded Crow that chased it across the road downhill, where it made another dive before circling up and heading south over the valley. Always fun to watch that.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Good Birding Around Sarajevo in Winter 1: Gornje Telelovo Polje

Location: Gornje Telelovo Polje (outlined in blue on the map). Observation date: 28.01.11 Number of species: 21

In the month I've been here, I've focused on three sites in the metropolitan area:

1. Kobilja Glava, my home territory and immediate area, on the ridge that separates Sarajevo from Vogošća (VO-gush-cha). Elevation range here is 600 meters and up to over 900 meters.

2. Vrelo Bosne (literally source of the Bosne) where the waters of the Bosne River that ultimately flow into the Black Sea via the Sava and the Danube, gush out of a subterranean spring from the mountain. That area is a popular park at the very southwestern edge of the valley with a mix of open woodland, small artificial ponds and fields and crystal-clear water!

3. The immediate vicinity of the confluence of the Miljacka and Bosne Rivers. These latter two locations are on the valley bottom at 480-500 meters.

Today's Notes: This is perhaps the flattest part of the Sarajevo Valley where the Miljacka and the Bosne Rivers converge, no doubt a floodplain for the rivers. On either side there are open fields with only scattered trees, two of the largest fields are cultivated (corn?) in summer. A sewage treatment plant is there as well as a small factory of some kind. The whole area covers more than 320 hectares.

As there is no substantial standing body of water anywhere in Sarajevo, the rivers attract a few wintering waterbirds. As you might guess, Mallards are everywhere. There were an estimated 200 in the immediate area today as well as 3 Teal. I also counted 81 Gray Herons standing out in the snow in a 100 hectare field between the Miljacka and Bojnička Street.

Also on while biring here on 23.01, I saw the same group of species, but also a Green Sandpiper and a European Robin. Both of these were uncommon over-wintering species in Kyiv too where the average temperature is a little lower (avg min. in Kyiv -10 vs -4 in Sarajevo - BBC Weather data).

Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos 200
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) - Anas crecca crecca/nimia 3
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea 81
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo 5
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica 30 Eurasian Jackdaw - Corvus monedula 10
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix 30
Common Raven - Corvus corax 4
Marsh Tit - Poecile palustris 2
Great Tit - Parus major 10
Eurasian Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus 1
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula 1
Dunnock - Prunella modularis 1
White Wagtail (alba) - Motacilla alba alba 1
Water Pipit - Anthus spinoletta 1
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs 35
Brambling - Fringilla montifringilla 2
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis 7
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus 5
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus 5

Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Month Part 2: Tuesday, January 25 - A Sarajevo Canton First Record

Sarajevo sits at 530 meters above sea level nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. In the winter, people burn wood and coal to defray fuel costs as gas for heating is very expensive. This is a recipe for smog in the winter. Even at over 600 meters where we live, well above the valley, and with the windows closed, the smoky air permeates our home at times. Furthermore, In the month we’ve been here, there has been little or no wind, day after day with barely a breeze. So the fog settles in. It’s particularly dense in the morning, but there have been days when it simply did not burn off. It’s much worse in the valley and the main part of the city, and especially so at its southwestern end where the airport and a couple of my favorite birding sites are located. Flights are cancelled and birding is impossible with visibility so limited. I am told that this is a winter phenomenon.

Nothing like a snow storm over last weekend to clear out the smoky air. When the skies cleared on Tuesday, it was brilliantly sunny; the air was fresh and the sun felt warmer than the actual temperature (-3C). With the carpet of snow from the storm last weekend, the light was dazzling. It felt almost Spring-like. Perfect day for a walk!

Traveling with my birding companions on these solo excursions, our dogs Tuchka and Luna, I hiked up to 900 meters from Kobilja Glava to Gornje Kromolj along back roads through habitat I would call rural residential. Except for road edge and occasional overgrown thickets, the countryside is mostly open fields affording excellent views. Some of the homes have fruit trees. Predominent birds here include Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix), Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica), Blackbird (Turdus merula), Great Tit (Parus major), Eurasian Tree (Passer montanus) and House Sparrow (P. domesticus), and the occasional Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus). There are at least two resident Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) in the area, and as I am very partial to Ravens (Corvus corax), two perched atop a power line stanchion was a bonus. After more than a month, I finally added my first BiH European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), a species I had not expected to be so difficult to find. I’m sure usually it is not.

A little farther along above 800 meters, the road does pass through a patch of pine forest mixed with spruce that is no more than 7 hectares in extent. It was here I added two more not unexpected species to my BiH list: Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus) and Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) mixed in with Great, Marsh (Poecile palustris) and Coal (Periparus ater) Tits. 

But the best bird of the day, and perhaps in the month we have lived here - that is if one judges this based on its rarity where one is birding - was not more than a half kilometer from our house back in Kobilja Glava where I observed a group of three Cirl Buntings (Emberiza cirlus), an adult and two females working the roadside where the snow had melted enough to expose the grass and stripping exposed sedges of their seeds in the adjacent field. Drazen Kotrošan, ornithologist at the National Museum, wrote by email saying that this was a Sarajevo Canton first, and he confirmed as I suspected that it is found in the southern part of the country closer to the Adriatic (Herzegovina).

Summary for today: hours afield 3, 20 species, one new Cantonal record! Total BiH species to date: 54. A nice climax to the first month in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My First Month in BiH, Part 1

Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of our move to Sarajevo from Kyiv, Ukraine. Though my birding experience in Europe is extensive, I am new to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Today, my BiH list reached 50 (48 for this year) when a Eurasian Greenfinch showed up at our feeders, the first finch other than Chaffinch to make an appearance.

Highlights for the past month have to include three species that have not previously occurred in Sarajevo Canton during January, this according to Ptice Kantona Sarajevo by Kotrošan et al. (2010).

1. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) on 16.01 at one of the few extensively flat areas surrounding Sarajevo. On the local maps it is called Gornje Telelovo Polje, the area immediately adjacent to the confluence of the Miljacka and Bosne Rivers. I heard the bird initially repeatedly giving its "Cur-lee" alarm call, and then spotted it in flight as it circled over the field between the Miljacka and Bojnička Street. This species is reported previously from the Canton only from March-April and October-November according to PKS.

2. Dunnock (Prunella modularis) is not listed in Sarajevo from November through February.  I have seen at least one on two occasions, probably the same individual(s) in the overgrown dense vegetation along a small brook that drains Kobelja glava where we live. I saw this species on 02.01 and on 23.01 along the same stretch of brook.

3. On 22.01, three Redwings (Turdus iliacus) perched for several minutes in a tree about 50 meters downhill from our sunroom that overlooks our feeders. There are apparently no previous records for either January or February.