Sunday, February 13, 2011

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment