Monday, May 9, 2011

Birding Summary for April 17-May 6

April 17,  Zeljeznica River-Butmir (Sarajevo):  A male Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) was present again today, probably one of the two that were here yesterday.

April 19:  A Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) were highlights along the Zeljeznica River, while earlier in the morning I heard my first Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) of the season.

April 25: Vrelo Bosne (Ilidza-Sarajevo): Of the 27 species I recorded in about an hour's walk through Vrelo Bosne Park, Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), Short-toed Tree-creeper (Certhia brachydactyla) and Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis) were new for my Bosnia list. Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) were in full song as were Song Thrushes (Turdus philomelos) and Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) among others.

April 26, En route to Dubrovnik: With my mother visiting from the US, we left Sarajevo by car for 6 days on the Croatian coast (mostly non-birding). On the way near Konjic, overlooking the reservoir, I picked up a singing Serin (Serinus serinus).
Further along, our route took us through the town of Trebinje on the Trebišnjica river. A fantastic concentration of birds were present on a shallow and slow-moving half-kilometer stretch with reed beds and floating algae mats in places. Common swifts (Apus apus) and hundreds of swallows (Barn Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin) hunted over the surface and perched on the electric wires that crossed the river. There were at least 60 Common Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) as well as several Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis). A Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), 2 Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides) and a Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) were nice surprises. At least 2 Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) called from the emergent vegetation. A brief 15-20 minute stop added 7 new species for my Bosnia list. 
Trebinje is perhaps an hour drive (or less) from Hutova Blato, one of the premier birding sites in Bosnia, and it is along the more direct route from Mostar and Sarajevo to Dubrovnik. I recommend the stop for interested birders.

April 26-May 1 in Croatia: Highlights of a mostly non-birding five-six days in Croatia include a European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) fly-by while we were enjoying a late afternoon glass of wine on our deck at the Hotel Vila Tina in Arbanija overlooking the bay across from Split. A Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) was on the Ostra Peninsula at the southern end of Croatia. Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), Sub-alpine warblers (Sylvia cantillans), Black-eared Wheatears (Oenanthe hispanica) and Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) in full song were easy to locate in suitable habitat. The road from Cavtat to Pridvorje produced several Red-rumped Swallows (Cecropis daurica). During the crossing from Cavtat to Dubrovnik by boat, I spotted two Red-necked Grebes (Podiceps grisegena) in the bay. Common and Alpine Swifts (Apus melba) plied the air over Cavtat and Dubrovnik.

May 3, Kobelja Glava (Sarajevo) - Flock of at least 10 Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra) and 5 Western Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava) in a plowed field this morning.

May 4, Zeljeznica River in Butmir (Sarajevo)- As I was gathering my binocs and telescope from the car, I saw two marsh terns fly by headed down river away from me. I was sure that they were not White-winged Black Terns, but wanted a more definitive look before declaring whether they were Whiskered or Black Terns. As luck would have it, I subsequently saw a single individual (one of the originals?) in flight at close range and at eye level that was unquestionably a Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida), a species that is not listed in Ptice Kantona Sarajevo, (2010) by Kotrošan et al. However, It does breed in good numbers in Croatia, Serbia and Hungary according to Birds in Europe: Population Estimates, Trends and Conservation Status (2004) by Burfield and van Bommel on behalf of Birdlife International, so its occurrence during passage is not unexpected.
Also present, were the following waders including Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubious), Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) and a Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).

May 5, Kobilja Glava (Sarajevo): Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) and Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) were seasonal firsts this morning. Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) and Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) highlighted the sightings this evening along the Zeljeznica River. The latter species is apparently quite rare in the canton, recorded only from the month of August; but like Whiskered Tern, it breeds fairly widely in adjacent European countries and no doubt at scattered locations in BiH, its appearance as a vagrant is not unexpected.

May 6, Kobelja Glava and Zeljeznica River (Sarajevo): The highlight of this mornings dog walk was the unmistakable call of a Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) or two passing high overhead. Efforts to see the bird(s) were fruitless. But later this morning, at the open field along the Bosne River near Dolovi, a subdivision of the Sarajevo metropolitan area, I saw a group of 12 hawking after insects and perching in a dead tree along the river. This is another species for which there is scant data in Sarajevo Canton, especially in the Spring; records exist for August and September only. However, its presence as a scarce breeder in the rest of BiH, and its occurrence in neighboring countries would suggest it has been overlooked.
While watching the Bee-eaters, a seasonal first European Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia turtur) landed in a nearby tree, and a Hobby (Falco subbuteo) passed through.
Later while standing watch along the Zeljeznica River on this gorgeous, sunny day, I watched as a group of 6 Red-footed Falcons (Falco vespertinus) hunt the skies high over the river, moving up and downstream for at least 45 minutes.

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