Busy times without any birding but great progress with the shorebird project

I have been stucked to my desktop for the last two weeks due the launch of the WorldWaders website. The only outside activity is when we go out with Kea for a short walk and I drink my ‘daily’ ice(cream) coffee at the terrace of Platan Restaurant.

This new website and the related organisation will drive my time for the coming months. The site is still under developement but an important feature has just been introduced. The Breeding Shorebird Mapping Project were introduced to the birding world on 11 May. Since then a lots of user have registered and submitted data. As May is the busiest month for birders in the field, the data submission rate is still low but progressing well. 10% of this year’s target has been achieved in a bit more than two weeks.

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I have already been working on the non-breeding part of the Shorebird Mapping Project as I targeted to go live by 15 June. Most probably that feature will be even more popular than the breeding shorebird mapping. Some of my friends are translating the online data form to other languages. New languages will include Spain, Portuguese, Dutch, Hungarian and German but more will come later this year.

These are exciting times indeed and I really looking forward to work for the foundation and for shorebirds. Finally my long fonded dream will come true. Shorebirds forever!

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Peregrine Falcon public ringing in the Gerecse Mountain

Peregrine Falcon has returned to its original breeding site in the Gerecse Mountain where it is successfully breeding for the 2nd consecutive year. Prior to its return the very same nest had been used by a pair of Shaker Falcon which is now moved to lowlands. Today the members of the local birding community were invited to see the ringing of the chicks. The nesting area is guarded by volunteers for many years. We had the permission to enter the are just for the time of ringing.

The weather finally was what all would dream about. Sunny and warm, clear and dry. There were just a few birds seen but those were really cool. I have been visiting this area for many years but I was never lucky enough to see the breeding resident Rock Buntings. Today I did it. A nice male landed on the top of a close bush providing excellent view. Some of the young birders were really happy by watching a lifer.

While chicks were carefully transported from the nest we were watching the female Peregrine Falcon whirling over the area many times together with a beautiful European Honey Buzzard. A Common Kestrel, a Western Marsh Harrier and a few Common Buzzards were also seen. Common Ravens heard only. Year list moved to 174… a slow progress.

We were interviewed the raptor researchers about the composition of food remains they had found in the nest. Pigeon species proved to be the most common food source for local Peregrine Falcons but remains of Common Starlings and even an European Bee-eater was found as well.

The set of images will talk about the untold.

Unusual floods in Tata

Not even the oldest people remember such a terrible weather in May what we have this year. It’s been heavily raining since midday of last Saturday (15. May) and as a result rivers and streams are filled by water rolling down from the mountains. Our town, Tata, doesn’t belong to the regions where floods are frequent or exist but now protection is under way in many part of the city against water.

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The large Old Lake is now about to flood the adjacent areas as simply more water runs into the lake that can run out to the Danube River. The victims of this horrible weather are the swallows. We have seen quite many exhausted adult Barn Swallows and heard reports of many dying birds. Situation is worse and worse every day as new supplies of food is almost completely missing. Luckily many swallows, mainly Common House Martins were seen flying just above the water surface.

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During our short walk it was still raining and wind was so strong. Out of the swallows I could see just a single Common Tern sitting on a white barrel. Workers tried to protect the threatened areas along the walkway of the lake.

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Tomorrow we are checking the lake around the Castle of Tata and probably I can go out to the fishponds where all this water runs to. The water level is raising by 1cm (0.393 inch) each day (earlier up to 3cm a day) and the peak is excpected in 10-14 days.

Breeding shorebird survey at the Seewinkel, E Austria

It’s been a while I posted anything in my blog. The main reason was the lack of time due to the launching of my new WorldWaders website. It took all my time from birding and from posting here. As a part of this new project I decided to organise a shorebird birding day and visited a area which is not too far from my home.

I picked up my kids and departed at 3:30 AM for the salt lakes of Eastern Austria. It was a kind of new experience for me as I haven’t been up that early for the last couple of months. Birding at the small natron lakes east of the Neusiedler See is always very nice. That is a unique place in a way. Best known by the vineries which embracing the lakes.

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Beautiful natron lake nearby the Neusiedler See, Austria

I always love to visit this area as there are so many breeding and migrating shorebirds around. While in my home shorebird observations are fully depending on the availability of drained ponds, here they are everywhere. I wanted to get a big picture of the size and distribution of the breeding population of waders at the lakes and wanted to enter the data into the new Breeding Shorebird Mapping Project (BSMP). I know that for a detailed monitoring the time, lack of permission and guidance is not possible but for most of the places I have got a general overview about the current breeding population of shorebirds.

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Incredible density of breeding birds on one of the small islets in the natron lakes. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breeding shorebirds are the Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Northern Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Snipe and Eurasian Curlwe (which we have not seen). We have found nice number of Northern Lapwings and Pied Avocets and good number of Common Redshanks breeding in the area. Most of the Northern Lapwings escorted one or two weeks old chicks. Surprisingly Black-winged Stilts were somehow missing or maybe I just could not find them. I found only two incubating birds at Zicklacke near Illmitz.

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Breeding Pied Avocets. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pied Avocets were found breeding on a few ponds but the majority colonised on two larger islets holding more than 110 breeding pairs. Black-headed Gulls, a few Mediterranean Gull and Common Terns were mixing on the very same island making it a really busy looking nesting place.

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Public is frequently warned by the road crossing small Greylag goslings. Some still could not survive the high traffic. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The mapping went well despite the weather was really unpleasant. The cold, windy and cloudy conditions didn’t make this morning so pleasant. Honestly without shorebirds I would have left the area way earlier than we did. I simply love the calls of the Black-tailed Godwits and the simplicity of the design of Pied Avocets.

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Black-tailed Godwits are breeding in the wet grasslands often edging the natron lakes. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I have not counted other birds this time as migrating is a little bit over at this part of the world. However, I found some very nice species at the lakes and at the edge of the Neusiedler See. A lovely adult Ruddy Turnstone in full breeding plumage made my day. I also saw beautiful Dunlins and Temminck’s Stints, a few Common Greenshanks, Common Ringed Plovers and a single Ruff.

I hope I can develop a nice relationship with local guys and cooperating with them for the success of the BSMP. Luckily Martin Riesing, who runs a nice birdwatching website in Austria, has already offered his help for getting a better picture of the breeding waders in the Seewinkel.

We spent a part of the afternoon in Vienna, a beautiful capital of Austria. My kids have never been there so I was happy to show them another part of Europe. Too bad Kea and Andi could not come with us…

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Sandra (two days before her 18th birthday), me and Dani at the Parlament of Vienna. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Three new birds to year list and lifer orchids

I have received nice birding news from the last couple of days from my favourite birding spot, the Ferencmajor fishponds. Yesterday two Pallid Harriers were spotted which is quite a rare bird here. I was trying to find one today as migrations peaks.

The morning was a bit chilly and fog clouds covered the sun. Bird activity was surprisingly low although bird songs filled the air. I love this time of the year in the temperate zone when Common Nightingale’s and European Reed Warbler’s songs mixing on the same place. The fishponds are home for a good number of many European breeding songbirds. Some heard for the first time this year.

As usual our first spot was the camp hide where we had an nice view to the closest lakes and the air space for possible early migrant Pallid Harriers. We were not so lucky as for the success a whole morning is needed. While others had already reported European Golden Oriole I heard and saw the first ones today form the hide. I was expecting to see the first Little Bitterns but I have to wait for it for a while. A fast Common Swift was flying over the hide.

Leaving the hide I was checking the small islet on one of the lake where Common Terns made some display flight. Despite the lack of suitable muddy grounds, terns tend to use the small islet as a breeding place. 4-5 pairs were flying together above the lake. One of the many disadvantages of such a man made habitat used for commercial purposes is the unpredictable availability of suitable breeding sites. This typically valid for shorebirds. Both migrating and potential breeding shorebirds, such as Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet or Common Tern is highly depending on drained ponds. Fishpond management is dictated by the market which is not necessarily good for an establishment of stable population of shorebirds.

The reported Purple Herons were not found but a single unreported Squacco Heron were seen for the first time this year.

I heard several Common Grasshopper Warblers but I could not spot one. On the southern part of the fishponds an adult White-tailed Eagle and a Common Kestrel appeared.

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From this point flowers were dominant. We found two species of orchids at the pasture of Réti-major which we had never seen before. I have wanted to find he threatened Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes for a while and now we found many on a small area. The other species was the Military Orchid Orchis militaris almost on the same site but they didn’t overlap in local range. More expected to bloom and hopefully I will find more species in the coming weeks. They are quite exciting and I love them a lot.

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Early Spider Orchid

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Military Orchid

In our way back home I found a Syrian Woodpecker which normally is not a challenge to see except if it is needed for the year list…