Common Cranes and leucistic Dunlin

This afternoon I picked up my kids and business mate to visit the fishponds for checking the number of wild geese. Yesterday we wisited the Old Lake where the number of geese increased nicely. At the lake there were about 10,000 birds already including 2,700 geese (mainly Tundra Bean Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose), 1,000 Mallard, 3,000 Black-headed Gull (with a few Yellow-legged Gull) and 3,500 Rook.

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Black-headed Gull. © György Szimuly

The Ferencmajor fishponds was quite active this afternoon and nice amount of birds were seen moving around us. The highlight of the afternoon was the appearance of 3 migrating adult Common Cranes. The performed a very nice flight interaction which looked like an aerial ballet. The pond 4 was still drained providing nice resting place for the geese.

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Common Crane is an irregular migrant in our region. Main migration route is in the Eastern Hungary. © György Szimuly

Here are the numbers of some species:

Greylag Goose 550
Tundra Bean Goose 75
Greater White-fronted Goose 650
Common Goldeneye 4 juv. (first for the season)
Great Egret 82 ( a single evening roosting flock)
Pygmy Cormorant 76
White-tailed Eagle 1 imm
Northern Lapwing 72
Dunlin 13
Black-headed Gull 400
Yellow-legged Gull 70
Mew Gull 1
Stock Dove 16
Common Starling 1

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Dunlins are the latest migrants among shorebirds. They probably spend the winter in the Mediterranean. © György Szimuly

Among the Dunlins there was an almost all white individual. Based on the personal comment of Péter Szeimann, it has been here for about a week now.

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Returning to the Old Lake Goose Watching

The winter season has started! Swallows and most of the summer visitors have already gone and nordic migrants arrived about a week ago. The Old Lake which is embraced by the town I have been living is an internationally important bird area, a Ramsar site which holds tens of thousands wildfowl every winter.

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Tundra Bean Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese arriwing to increasing numbers to the Old Lake wintering area. © György Szimuly

This morning we had the first birding appointment at the lake. The lack of transition between summer and winter made this morning quite unpleasant. 10 days ago we had 28˚C daily peak while this morning we had -1˚C and not more than 11˚C in midday.

Slow fogging made birding challenging and we could not make complete count especially on ducks. Laci Musicz, my local birding friend and goose expert, wanted to check the number of wild geese as a part of the very long running goose monitoring in the region. Dani, my son, who is recovering from illness, came also with me.

There were two surprise for this morning. I spotted a crow endlessly chasing a Black-heded Gull, probably, for food. It finally landed in front of us It was a Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) which is not so common here.

The other great surprise was a walking Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) from the direction of the town. It soon entered the water and disappeared. This was the first observation for me but Laci, who has been birding here for more than 30 years, seen it only for three times.

Birds seen (not complete list):

Tundra Bean Goose 80
Greylag Goose 19
Greater White-fronted 5
Mute Swan 1
Mallard 100
Eurasian Teal 6
Common Pochard 6
Great Crested Grebe 1
Great Cormorant 20
Great Egret 6
Grey Heron 13
White-tailed Eagle 2
Black-headed Gull 130
Yellow-legged Gull 25
Common Wood Pigeon 5
Stock Dove 17
Black Woodpecker 2
Rook 2,800
Western Jackdaw 200
Hooded Crow 120
Carrion Crow 1
Fieldfare 3
Grey Wagtail 1
White Wagtail 25
European Siskin 8

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Mute Swan at the Old Lake. © György Szimuly

During the day a small birding group from Budapest saw a nice Merlin, many Eurasian Teals and a single Dunlin at the lake.

Visible White Wagtail migration

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Evening view from the fishponds to the hills of Gerecse Mountain. © György Szimuly

I had only a brief visit to the fishponds before the Sun went down. The drained pond was started to be filled again but nice mudflats were still available. Hundreds of Black-headed Gulls and about a hundred Yellow-legged Gull were resting on the mudflat.

We saw only a single Northern Lapwing and 42 Dunlins.

Over the other ponds a Peregrine Falcon, a Western Marsh Harrier and 3 Common Buzzards were flying. A single Tundra Bean Goose and 14 Greylag Goose was also crossing over us.

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White Wagtail prefers the open mudflat during migration which is used for feeding. © György Szimuly

The most interesting birding momentum was to see the roosting White Wagtails. I counted about 300 White Wagtails on the mudflat. Later they were chased away by the crossing Peregrine Falcon. The wagtails moved into the dead bulrush field just like when pre-roosting. After the Sun was down 180 birds started to depart from the pond and flew high up and left the area to southwestern direction. It seemed to be a beginning of a night migration and was quite interesting to vitness it.

EuroBirdWatch 2011 Weekend

As a part of the popular EuroBirdWatch 2011, organsied by BirdLife International, we initiated a birding event for the weekend for the public. Introduction of bird ringing and birdwatching was in the main focus. We had a nice number of visitors and good number of birds trapped during two days. The majority of ringed birds was again the European Robin and Eurasian Blackcap.

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Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) is a fall migrant in the fishponds. © György Szimuly

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Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) is froming nice and cute flocks in the bushes. © György Szimuly

Beside ringing we concentrated on the drained fishponds to see migrating shorebirds stopping by at the fishponds for incresing their body mass. Weather was more than pleasant with close to 30˚C at the peak which was really unusual for early October.

Results of the shorebird counts:

Grey Plover 9
Common Ringed Plover 1
Jack Snipe 1
Common Snipe 31
Spotted Redshank 6
Common Greenshank 10
Green Sandpiper 8
Wood Sandpiper 2
Sanderling 1
Little Stint 1
Curlew Sandpiper 2
Dunlin 24
Ruff 2

A nice White-tailed Eagle, Western Marsh Harriers 8 Barn Swallows were also seen. We saw color banded Black-headed Gulls but there was no chance to read the codes.