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 KotroŇ°an, 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.

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