Saturday, February 26, 2011

In the Wake of the Storm

Saturday, February 26: Winter is back. After a very Spring-like late January and first half of February, it started snowing here three-four days ago, lightly at first, then more heavily the past two days. The landscape is a wintery white with a blanket of about 20-25 cm of new snow. This morning's dog walk in Kobelja Glava produced the omnipresent Hooded Crows, Magpies, English Sparrows and Eurasian Tree Sparrows,  plus there were Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) (20), Blackbirds (T. merula) (5), and 2 Mistle Thrushes (T. viscivorus), 2 Ravens (Corvus corax) and a resident male Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) that has been calling off and on this past month - maybe the same individual that made a brief feeder visit back in January.

After an absence of a couple of weeks, the Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) have returned to the feeders during the storm. At least two Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla) were present again yesterday. The current feeder list also includes Somber Tit (Poecile lagubris), Marsh Tit (P. palustris), Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) and Great Tit (Parus major), Greenfinches (Chloris chloris), not to mention the Hooded Crows, Eurasian Tree and English Sparrows, feral pigeons, and Magpies. There was also a flock of 8 Starlings (Sternus vulgaris) - scarce so far all winter -  in the apple tree across the street from our house.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Nice to have a male Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) visit the feeder today for the first time. I have previously seen a few this winter out in the area past the airport known as Vrelo Bosne (Source of the Bosne River). 

When I first put the feeders up in early January, the Chaffinches predominated; after a few days one Greenfinch was present. One day recently, I counted 31 Greenfinches perched in the trees and bushes near the feeders and no Chaffinches. The slightly larger Greenfinch seems to have out-competed the Chaffinch.

A Target List

     I spoke today about promoting birding tourism at a conference organized by Dražen Kotrošan, ornithologist at the National Museum in Sarajevo. I emphasized that the Internet was the ideal medium for disseminating information about the birdlife in BiH, information that currently is lacking. While the tourism industry in BiH is among the fastest growing in the world, bird related travel here is virtually non-existant. Regardless of where they travel, birders are interested in important bird reserves and locations, and they are eager to know where to find certain target species.
     In an effort to correct this information deficit, I proposed a Website that would provide details of this nature. I am currently working with two Wiki sites, Wiki Spaces and Google, in an effort to find the best host platform.
     In order to gather information about potential target species - birds that tourists from Northern and Western Europe might desire if they were to plan a trip to BiH - I have drawn up a tentative list based on the BiH master list and species distribution. The list is available now for download by clicking on the following link:

     As always, I invite comments on the list.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another Harbinger?!

Monday, February 14: Was out with the dogs this morning in our neighborhood (Kobelja Glava) when a flock of 24 Skylarks  (Alauda arvensis) (#70 on my Bosnia listflew over giving their flight calls and then landed in a nearby wet, muddy field. A long-time resident of northern climes, I am well aware how these signs mean nothing when it comes to the wintery blasts of March and early April. It will be interesting to see what happens here. Fieldfare, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush  are regular in the neighborhood every day.

Sun-kissed February! 01-12 February

     Can’t complain about the weather the past several days! It has felt more like early Spring than winter - not good for the skiers, and I am one. However, it’s difficult to dislike the near constant sunshine that has a warmth to it, even when the temperatures are below freezing as they are in the early morning. We have experienced a daily freeze-thaw cycle, clear nights below freezing and days rising to as high as 10C. The smog has been a daily fixture as well, but one can easily get above it by either walking or driving up the hills that surround Sarajevo.

Thursday, February 3: Trip to Mostarsko Blato, a large flooded basin in the hills northwest of Mostar. It was a brilliant, cloudless day with gale force winds that funneled down the canyon of the Neretva River en route from Sarajevo to Mostar. The scenery is spectacular, especially between Konjic and Mostar. The village of Jablanica, is surrounded by dramatic, precipitous crags that tower over the narrow valley. Very impressive! Driving time from Sarajevo to Mostar ca. 2.5 hours.

     Mostar is in another climate zone, enough so that one sees occasional palm trees. The hills are essentially treeless - more Mediterranean in appearance. It makes for incredible vistas. I came through a snow storm out of Sarajevo down to Konjic, but in Mostar the temperatures were +8-10C. While the wind wasn’t quite as strong as it was in the Neretva Canyon, it was sufficiently strong to stir up the surface of the reservoir into white caps.

     This was more of a one day reconnaissance trip and I made little effort due to time constraints to count individuals. However, Coots (Fulica atra) and Pochards (Aythya ferina) numbered in the hundreds. Oddly, I saw only one Mallard, the only dabbling duck of the day! Here is the list of species seen. Species marked with an Asterix are new to my Bosnia list.

Mallard  1
* Common Pochard
* Tufted Duck  20
* Common Goldeneye  40
* Smew 1f
Little Grebe  50+
Great Crested Grebe  1
* Eared Grebe  15-20
Eurasian Buzzard
Black-headed Gull
* Lesser Black-backed Gull  1
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Eurasian Magpie
Hooded Crow
Marsh Tit
Great Tit
Eurasian Blue Tit
Common Chiffchaff
European Robin
* Black Redstart
Eurasian Blackbird
Mistle Thrush
White Wagtail
* Meadow Pipit
* Rock Bunting
Common Chaffinch
European Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Saturday, February 5:  My 67th species here in Bosnia (since our arrival on December 25, 2010) was a Spotted Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), a bonus during a hike above 1300 meters in a popular local area above the old part of the city called Barice (Bar-its-sa). People go here, at least in winter, to escape the smog and to walk on one of the many trails and narrow roads that criss-cross the mostly open country. I have been expecting to see Nutcracker before, and was mildly surprised not to see it during brief trips to the two ski areas nearby. However, on a gorgeous clear day in the hills, looking out over the city shrouded in a white carpet of smog, the TV tower atop one of the hills nearby to our home, stuck up like a nunatak, I heard then saw a single individual perched on the top of a spruce.

Saturday, February 12: I saw two “firsts” today! During my morning walk with the dogs in our neighborhood, I spotted a European Starling (Sternus vulgaris). In Kyiv, Starlings are very common throughout the year except for November to March when they are mostly absent. They are an early harbinger of Spring there; perhaps here too.

Later in the day, we walked up above 1100 meters in an area on the maps known as Gornji Kromolj. My experience so far has been that the bird life in these high meadows with scattered pine and spruce copses, has been quite sparse - Magpies and Hooded Crows - but during these walks, I usually encounter something of interest as I did today I  finally saw Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) mixed in with an estimated 15-20 Crested, Blue and Coal Tits. We were also entertained by three Common Ravens doing barrel rolls, and by a Common Buzzard.