Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday, April 16: Late Season Snow Brings in the Migrants

     We woke up Thursday to a blanket of white covering the landscape. After all the fine weather we had through the early part of April - the greening of the hillsides, the flocks of sheep, the blossoming of the fruit trees, the gardens tilled - we were lulled into thinking that indeed winter was past.

     Along with the moderation in the weather, migration seemed to be trickling through, not much - here in Sarajevo anyway - seemed to be happening. At Vrelo Bosne, there was much song in evidence, but for the most part, these songsters were year round residents, or early returnees.

     In the meantime, some waders trickled through one partially flooded field near the confluence of the Bosne and Miljacka Rivers; Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), and Common Redshank (Tringa erythropus), but little else as migration seemed to slow with the fair skies and moderate temperatures. A Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) and Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) on April 7 were the only new additions during the first two weeks of April.

     Then it snowed! On Thursday evening, along the Zeljeznica River in Butmir, a subdivision of Ilidza, I spent about an hour walking the river banks. Swallows were moving over the river; besides the predominant Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica), I also picked out House Martin (Delichon urbicum), Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) and 1 Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica), all new for me in Bosnia. The river is channelized in places with artificial banks to control flooding and the depth is rarely more than 50-100 centimeters, if that. So it was somewhat surprising to see two male Common Pochards (Aythya ferina) and a Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) floating with the current. Several Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola) and Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax) were also present as were at least 5 Little Ringed Plovers (Charadrius dubius) and a pair of Common Sandpipers (Actitis hypoleucos), both new on my Bosnia list.

     That was enough to whet my appetite, so I headed back a little further upstream on Friday afternoon where I happened upon two beautiful male Ferruginous Ducks (Aythya nyroca), always a bonus, and a Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) in addition to many of the same waders I encountered the night before.

     While the Sarajevo valley lacks really good wader habitat and numbers are quite low,  I have been pleasantly surprised so far with the variety, 11 species since the first of the year. The Friday morning the dog walk also produced some surprising waders at one very small wet patch up in Kobilja Glava above the city. I have seen a couple of straggler Green Sandpipers () there, but today, there were 6 Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola), a Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) and the real piece-de-resistance: a Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus)!

     I will report later on a trip to Hercegovina April 2 and 3 to survey three Poljes - karst depressions in the area of Livno and Tomslavgrad, an excursion that took us by Ramsko and Buško Jezeros (lakes) and that also produced 10 new firsts for me in Bosnia.

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