Size of Common Tern colony is still increasing

Mocsa:

Black-necked Grebe 1
Black-winged Stilt 11
Little Ringed Plover 2
Ruff 5
Wood Sandpiper 6
Common Tern 12 (4 pairs incubating)

Ferencmajor fishponds

White-tailed Eagle 1 ad.
Pied Avocet 2+3 pull
Northern Lapwing 12
Little Ringed Plover 4+1 juv.
Eurasian Curlew 1
Ruff 3
Wood Sandpiper 1
Green Sandpiper 1
Common Tern 60 nest
Little Tern 1 ad.

 

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Pied Avocet chicks have just hatched

I made a short visit to the Ferencmajor fishponds with Dani to count the actual number of breeding birds on the only tern island. Wind was too strong for any other birds to find but the island was clearly visible which is inhabited mainly by breeding Common Terns.

In my previous post I reported 39 occupied nests plus 5 pairs already having chicks. Today I counted 57 occupied nests including the chicks grouping by clutches. Their number is still increasing as the conditions on the island is quite ideal. Plants has not started to grow high and obviously the Greylag Geese feed on the grass emerging from the bare and dried muddy ground.

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The single Pied Avocet pair has hatched 3 adorable downy chicks in the Common Tern colony. © György Szimuly

Today we saw the first Pied Avocet chicks which most probably have just hatched. It was funny to see them walking in strong wind. On the island a pair of Little Ringed Plover is breeding but an additional adult bird has been continuously observed.

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Three gorgeous breeding plumaged Spotted Redshanks and 5 Gargeneys were also present on the island.

Remembering to a fabulous birding in a fabulous Chilean forest

Just weeks before I make all my bird images retired, I found one of the crappiest bird image I have ever taken on a fantastic bird species. Here is a very short story of that birding moment back from 2005.

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Araucaria is an Andean pine tree species which was typical at the edge of the Nahuelbuta National Park. © György Szimuly

I travelled to Chile in November 2005 with a very good birding friend of mine, Zoltán Ecsedi. Zoli is an awesome birder with lots of knowledge on birds and conservation as well as guiding. One of our target was to find two excellent tapaculo species in the Nahuelbuta National Park, central Chile on the last day of November. The beautiful park hold several good bird species but the main target was to find the Des Murs’s Wiretail, the spectacular Black-throated Huet-huet and the Chucao Tapaculo.

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Fabulous mossy forest in the Nehuelbuta National Park, c Chile. © György Szimuly

The trail to the best spots run through an Araucaria forest. We felt we were on a time travel. The whole are with this forest looked so ancient and remote. When the habitat turned into a beautiful mossy forest we thought we are closing the spot where we can see the birds. As usual for every tapaculos it was extremely hard to locate them in the dense undergrowth. Sometimes we felt they were calling from the canopy but in the next seconds they called from the ground. Finally the Black-throated Huet-huet provided an excellent view for minutes in the bush just next to the trail. Not far from this spot a Chucao Tapaculo called and suddenly jumped on a dead trunk in a very dark part of the trail. I fired my camera but the result was far from pleasant. Anyway I took a few frames just for remembering those moments.

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Chucao Tapaculo (Scelorchilus rubecula) was showing well for a short time for the camera. © György Szimuly

Hardest of all the three targets was the wiretail. This bird behaved like a mouse. There were several attempts to find it in the dense bamboo-like thin grass but we had no chance until it popped out from the vegetation to a dry stick. It was one of the most challenging birding ever.

Other birds seen in the National park was Red-backed Hawk, Southern Caracara, Eared Dove, Austral Parakeet, Green-backed Firecrown, Magellanic Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, White-throated Treerunner, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Des Murs’s Wiretail, Black-throated Huet-huet, Chucao Tapaculo, Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, Fire-eyed Diucon, White-crested Elaenia, Chilean Swallow, House Wren, Austral Thrush, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Patagonian Sierra-Finch, Common Diuca-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow.

Gull-billed Terns showed up at the fishponds

One of our local birders sent me an SMS an hour ago about the presence of a Gull-billed Tern at the Ferencmajor fishponds. I picked up my guys and drove to the site. I have not seen this bird for a long time at the finshponds. When we arrived the bird was not found but I was sure it just feeding somewhere around.

In a few minutes I found a bird sitting on the tern island but soon found another one next to it. As I let others to see them through the spotting scope the third bird appeared in the viewfinder. They provided excellent views in the warm lights. On the island there were 39 incubating Common Terns, a single Pied Avocet and also a single Little Ringed Plover.

Other birds seen here included a few Whiskered Terns, 3 Black Terns and 51 Northern Lapwings seen by another group of people.

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Pied Avocets are returning to breed here when there is a suitable habitat. © György Szimuly

Suspected new Eastern Imperial Eagle territory: a story of a hot raptor watch day

The conservation of Eastern Imperial Eagles in our region has been playing an important and leading role in our bird protection activities. This year the number of records of an unknown bird has been increased in the western part of the Gerecse Mountain which made us hoping to have another breeding pair. To find evidence or at least sign of the territory keeping pair I decided to have a raptor watch today. We departed to a prominent raptor watching point where we thought to see the birds showing territorial behaviour.

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Beautiful view from the raptor watching spot in the western Gerecse Mountain. © György Szimuly

The weather was more than perfect for excellent rising warm air currents which the raptors love to use. We stayed at the same spot from 8AM till 3PM. It was a killer raptor watch as having no shade from the best spot in 31°C air temperature in shade.

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Eastern Imperial Eagle is one of the rarest breeding raptor species in our region. Image was kindly offered by Peter Csonka, who is the ranger in this area.

Birds started to show up after 9AM but the most productive period was between 10:30AM to 1:00PM. We supposed to find territories of Common Buzzards, Northern Goshawk and Eurasian Sparrowhawk. At midday I picked two Common Buzzards flying next to the Danube river together with an Eastern Imperial Eagle. The eagle was gliding over the potential hunting habitat then moved over a smaller hill just in front of us where showed a characteristic display flight. The fight lasted for about 2 minutes then the bird suddenly started to dive into the forest. I soon lost it as it moved to a valley. It should have a nest somewhere there or just a resting tree. More observation days needed to find evidence of their breeding in the given forest section.

Birds seen during the 7 hours raptor watch:
Black Stork 3
White Stork 1
European Honey Buzzard 4
Western Marsh Harrier 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 2
Northern Goshawk 2
Common Buzzard 8
Eastern Imperial Eagle 1
Northern Raven 4

Year list has been increased by one to 221.

Not a bird but a lifer flower

During the search for breeding Red-breasted Flycatchers I found a protected plant species in the Gerecse Mountain which I have never seen before. The Turk’s Cap Lily or Martagon (Lilium martagon) blooming is close its end but I still found some nice ones. Red-breasted Flycatcher was not found this time but I try it again another day… maybe a bit earlier than midday.

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Turk’s Cap Lily is a protected plant species in Hungary. © György Szimuly

First to Hungary again: Audouin’s Gull was twitched

Originally I was planning to have a raptor watch near my home with my kids. A few hours before our early morning departure I once again checked the Hungarian birding site for actual bird news. I was again shocked by the last news item. An adult Audouin’s Gull was found in the southern part of the Kiskunság National Park. The bird was found by a local ranger while searching for colour ringed European Spoonbills and checking roosting gulls.

Changing the plan was not a question for me. As the meeting was at 3AM close to the site it seemed silly to have an hour sleep before the departure, as not much time left.

We arrived to the site in twilight. On our way an Eurasian Stone-curlew was calling. On the soda lake mainly Yellow-legged Gulls and a few Caspian Gulls were seen but we could not spot the Audouin’s Gull. Just before the sunrise three gulls were flying including a smaller sized, thinner winged and very dark billed gull was flying in front of us. Only a few of us was picking the bird actually at the same time. Sadly the others who looked for sitting birds through their scope could not locate the bird in the air. Soon after all the gulls left the area for feeding in the wide region.

As our attempts to locate larger flocks around failed we decided to return home and have a short rest. It seemed to have sense to be back for the late afternoon to check the roosting birds again. During the search we saw a couple of European Rollers, Red-footed Falcons, Lesser Grey Shrikes and a few European Bee-eaters. On the soda lake dozens of Pied Avocet families were seen.

In the afternoon Dani an me picked another birder in Budapest and we headed back to the Kiskunság National Park. We arrived at 5PM but nothing happened by 8PM. Gulls were arriving in very small flocks but they were all Yellow-legged Gulls. Silently a Lesser-Black-backed Gull arrived to the roosting flock. Another Lesser Black-backed Gull was found was suspected to belong to the L. f. intermedius subspecies. Common Shelducks, Eurasian Curlew, Kentish Plover, Common Redshanks, Whiskered and Common Terns were seen.

Then I picked 3 birds coming from the south and called the guys’ attention to check the birds. A guy who followed their landing could identify it as an Audouin’s Gull, what others could also confirm. Patience paid off. The bird was seen well through the excellent new generation spotting scopes and its age was modified to 3rd summer. The smaller and slimmer size, the red bill and greyish legs was clearly visible. After enjoying the views lights heavily decreased and forced the team to go.

Year list moved to 220 and Hungarian total changed to 345. I saw my first Audouin’s Gull almost exactly 11 years ago in Turkey along the Mediterranean coastline. Thanks to Csaba Pigniczki for the excellent find and the guidance.

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Some images of the small group of birders during the exciting times. © György Szimuly