Last birding morning in 2010 with the highest number of geese in the season

We spent another freezy morning in the Old Lake observation tower to count geese before they are chased away by the New Year’s Eve exploding petards and fireworks. We were lucky in terms of the numbers. Laci, the well experienced goose counter counted more than 32,000 geese. This was the highest number counted in this well monitored season.

Sadly the visibility was decreasing after sunrise by descending fog making it impossible to find any raritiy.

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Bohemian Waxwing is a scarce winter visitor in our region. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the meantime Fieldfares landed on the trees around the tower. While I was spotting the Swarovski scope on a lovely Redwing suddenly a Bohemian Waxwing landed on the same branch. This was the first Waxwing record of the season from Tata but I neither found any record from Hungary based on the Hungarian birding site, the birding.hu.

While we were watching the geese another local birder informed us about 6 flying and calling Whooper Swans just abour 8 kms from us. The birds were heading towards Tata but finally they did not land on the Old Lake.

Birds recorded:

Mute Swan 8
Great Cormorant 30
Greater White-fronted Goose 29,000
Tundra Bean Goose 300
Greylag Goose 100
Mallard 300
Eurasian Teal 10
Common Pochard 1
Eurasian Coot 3
Yellow-legged Gull 50
Black-headed Gull 150
Mew Gull 90
Black Woodpecker 1 heard
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 heard
Fieldfare 250
Redwing 3
Bohemian Waxwing 1
Long-tailed Tit 8
European Robin 1
White Wagtail 1

This was the last birding activity in 2010 from my side. Thank you for following my blog and I just hope you enjoyed it reading as I did writing it.

I wish all of my readers and friends an eventful birdy New Year with joy and happiness.
Love and be loved!

Thrush galore in the park

Dani and me decided to stay in bed longer and have a pre-lunch walk to the close park which is normally a very good place for wintering songbirds. In the past few days I saw several large flocks of Fieldfares around the town.

The park was, as expected, full of Fieldfares feeding on the berries of Common hackberry. There were about 800 birds in the park alone but I am sure more birds were flocking around the Old Lake where food was widely available. I was hoping to show Dani all the possible thrush species during the one and half an hour long walk. We did it. Fieldfares (800), Eurasian Blackbirds (25), Mistle Thrushes (4), a single Song Thrush (1) and a Redwing were recorded. 

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Song Thrush regularly overwintering in the park. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Eurasian Blackbird is a common resident both during winter and summer. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Other birds seen was Eurasian Sparrowhawk (2), Middle Spotted Woodpecker (1 heard), Eurasian Nuthatch (5), Great Tit (20), European Robin (2), Common Blackcap (4), Hawfinch (1), Common Chaffinch (6), European Greenfinch (4) and Eurasian Tree Sparrow (2).

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The Great Tit population has obviously crashed due to bad spring weather. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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European Greenfinch was not so abundant in the park. © Gyorgy Szimuly

White-tailed Eagle vs Wild Geese: 1:3

What an incredible morning I had with my friend, Laszlo Musicz. In the past few days geese numbers were changing rapidly by overnight attracting many local birdwatchers for possible rarities.

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Greater White-fronted Goose. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Counts were made almost daily and some very nice rare geese were found. Yesterday goose numbers doubled to the previous day’s and we registered an even higher jump in their numbers today. Due to the very low daily temperature the lake had been frozen again restricting the waterbirds to a small open area of the lake.

Bird numbers recorded today:

Mute Swan 8
Greater White-fronted Goose 24,900
Tundra Bean Goose 2,800
Barnacle Goose 1
Mallard 500
Euriasian Teal 40
Common Goldeneye 15
Common Pochard 4
Great Cormorant 130
White-tailed Eagle 1 imm

There were some incredible actions made by an immature White-tailed Eagle who chased all the 27.700 geese off the water. One juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose has been separated and both the eagle and the goose was landing on the ice. Obviously the geese had been injured. It was a little bit grotesque to see the goose ‘peacefully’ walking by the eagle. The eagle then fed up waiting and landed on the goose with open talons. It apparently caused a fatal injury and despite the eagle flew off it again the goose collapsed after a few meters walk. The eagle soon returned and killed it but for our biggest surprise it left the prey almost untouched and started to chase another goose separated on the ice. The goose was in good condition and escaped. The third, a Tundra Bean Goose, was surprisingly allowed the eagle to close it to one meter when it took off and escaped as well. There was another attack on one group of the remained geese but that was also unsuccessful. It was strange that the eagle has never returned to the killed goose and let it for the hungry Hooded Crows.

Today we again saw a neck ringed Tundra Bean Goose but only one character was identified as the bird was hided by other geese.

In the afternoon an adult male Northern Goshawk chased a flock of 1,200 Fieldfares with a few Redwings.

Freezing and windy goose watching

After reading local reports of rare goose galore at the Old Lake, we agreed with Dani to go out this morning to find some of them. We woke up early and realized the heavy rain as looked through the window. Anyway we walked to the observation tower as that was a nice shelter from rain.

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Winter plumaged Black-headed Gull. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The rain couldn’t have been problematic but the strengthening and chilly wind was really annoying. It was hard to keep the tripod and spotting scope steady. The number of geese has dropped by more than 10 thousand most probably due to the mild weather and the increased water level. The large mud island has disappeared which was a roosting site for the geese.

Birds seen this morning:

Great Cormorant 20
Mute Swan 12
Greater White-fronted Goose 10,500
Tundra Bean Goose 7,000
Mallard 500
Eurasian Teal 100
Northern Pintail 2
Common Pochard 60
Common Goldeneye 30
Tufted Duck 10
Eurasian Coot 50
Black-headed Gull 1,300
Mew Gull 600
Yellow-legged Gull 100

Yesterday a Lesser White-fronted Goose and a Barnacle Goose were seen by other local birders while two days ago a Brant Goose was spotted.

Peaking wild geese at the Old Lake

We had an incredibly cold morning. The thermometer showed -16°C (3.2°F). Most of the lake’s surface had been frozen making the waterbirds crowded in a small ice-free area. My target was to enjoy watching the wild geese and find some interesting birds in the flocks. I made just a rough estimation on the number of geese which spent the night on the lake. There was about 29,000 geese and a few hundred ducks, mainly Mallards.

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Geese were resting on the ice of Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As the huge flock of geese were disturbed by unknown reason several times they moved away from the water to the icy center of the lake. Most of the birds landed just a hundred meters away from the observation tower allowing us to watch them one by one.

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It was incredible to listen and watch the birds when flushed up. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Despite the fact that most of the bird was asleep I could spot 6 Red-brested Geese and 5 Barnacle Geese among the mixed flock of geese. The flock contained about 22,000 Greater White-fronted Geese and 7,000 Tundra Bean Geese. I found a color neck ringed Greater White-fronted Goose but unfortunately I could not read the fist letter of the code as it was sleeping all the time.