Snowy woodpeckers

The snow covered estuary of Által Stream was full of bird songs. ©) Gyorgy Szimuly

The snow covered estuary of Által Stream was full of bird songs. ©) Gyorgy Szimuly

I met Dani at 7AM and we headed to the Old Lake in Tata, Hungary, for a snowy morning birding. It was a chilly morning with no clouds, no winds, and the landscape was wonderfully painted white by the fresh snow. Having no scope with us, we targeted to look for songbirds in the embracing woods of the lake. Anyway, much of the lake was frozen, but still a large area was free of ice.

The frozen Old Lake before sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The frozen Old Lake before sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Fresh snow covered the riparian forest around the lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Woodpeckers were super active in the woods along the stream. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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We had an absolutely fabulous morning with great lights and sunshine. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Reeds are empty now but soon will be filled by reed warblers. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As expected, birds were rather active after a day long snowing on the previous day. Some species provided excellent views and were present in surprising numbers while some, like Goldcrest, was totally absent. The biggest surprise was the unusually high number of Hawfinches seen mainly in the western side of the lake. They were flying all around in the town, but mostly preferred feeding on Common Hackberry with mixed flock of winter thrushes (Fieldfares, Redwings and Mistle Thrushes).

The early morning blast off of a large flock of wintering Rooks and Western Jackdaws is always the first event at the Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The early morning blast off of a large flock of wintering Rooks and Western Jackdaws is always the first event at the Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another highlight of the day was watching the incredible activity of woodpeckers. We managed to see 7 out of 7 local breeding woodpeckers and 7 out of 9 Hungarian breeding woodpeckers. (The White-backed Woodpeckers is breeding in the mountains, while the Eurasian Wryneck is a summer visitor in Hungary.) Especially Great Spotted Woodpeckers were quite territorial and we saw several courtships and territory defences. Personally, I was very pleased to see the long seen Grey-headed Woodpecker and the powerful Black Woodpecker.

Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were rather active and territorial mainly in the southern woods. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were rather active and territorial mainly in the southern woods. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This the combined eBird list of 6 completed checklists consisting 53 taxa.

Tundra/Taiga Bean-Goose 2,500
Greater White-fronted Goose 400
Greylag Goose 8
Mallard 1,270
Northern Pintail 8
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) 38
Common Goldeneye 1
Great Cormorant 106
Pygmy Cormorant 3
Grey Heron 16
Great Egret 5
Common Buzzard 2
Black-headed Gull 140
Mew Gull 95
Yellow-legged Gull 12
Common Wood-Pigeon 1
Common Kingfisher 2
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 1
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 21
Syrian Woodpecker 2
Black Woodpecker 4
Eurasian Green Woodpecker 5
Grey-headed Woodpecker 2
Eurasian Jay 2
Eurasian Jackdaw 300
Rook 3,000
Hooded Crow 28
Common Raven 2
Marsh Tit 2
Great Tit 85
Eurasian Blue Tit 60
Long-tailed Tit 35
Eurasian Nuthatch 25
Eurasian Treecreeper 4
Eurasian Wren (Eurasian) 2
European Robin 6
Common Blackbird 66
Fieldfare 352
Redwing (Eurasian) 20
Song Thrush 1
Mistle Thrush 29
Grey Wagtail 1
Yellowhammer 1
Reed Bunting 2
Common Chaffinch 7
Eurasian Bullfinch 1
European Greenfinch 15
Eurasian Siskin 3
European Goldfinch
Hawfinch 104
House Sparrow 11
Eurasian Tree Sparrow 5

After sunset I counted from my window 525 Fieldfares and a few Redwings flying for roosting. Altogether, over a thousand wintering thrushes must be present in the town.

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Personal birding highlights of 2014

Such annual reviews are normally posted before the end of the year, but I was busy with the preparation of a new and exciting project of World Shorebirds Day (to be announced soon).

2014 was an interesting year with waves of ups and downs. Birding wise the first half of the year was good with a nice amount of days in the field. It drastically reduced after selling our car in mid September.

One of the most important events of the year was an idea, born in February and came into reality on the 6th September. The World Shorebirds Day was celebrated for the very first time on hundreds of different locations around the world. This definitely was one of the biggest success in my life, and it encouraged me to come up with new ideas, all supporting shorebird conservation.

Bellow are the facts and figures of 2014.

Life birds in the United Kingdom (4):
Sooty Shearwater (Portland, Devon),
Manx Shearwater (Portland, Devon),
Pink-footed Goose (Colne River Estuary, East Mersea, Essex),
Ross’s Gull (RSPB Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham, Devon),
Parrot Crossbill (Budby Common, Nottinghamshire).

Life bird in Hungary (1):
Ural Owl (Zemplén Hills, Sátoraljaújhely)

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A long desired and my most sought after bird, the Ural Owl was the last of the regularly breeding bird species in Hungary, what I could only manage to see after more than 30 years of birding. Illustration by Szabolcs Kókay

1 Self found rarity: European Bee-eater (Otmoor RSPB Marshes, Oxfordshire)

• 184 species seen in the United Kingdom;
• 52 new species were added to the British list;
• British list is up to 193;
• Hungarian list is up to 345;
• World life list is up to 2,182;

• 460 complete eBird checklists were submitted in the United Kingdom;
• I was ranked 2nd on the Top 100 eBirders (based on the number of submitted complete checklists) in the United Kingdom.

New birding equipment: Zeiss Victory HT 10×42 binoculars.

Other milestones

Relaunching my publication project, The New Shorebirds Handbook with a new and talented artists from Thailand.

2015/01/img_5574.pngBuilding up partnerships for a new fundraising project for the protection of shorebirds.

Thanks for Szabolcs Kókay for the excellent Ural Owl illustration. Special thanks to anyone who helped me in any way!

5,350 birds from the window

I wouldn’t say I’m going crazy by our actual home, but at least one aspect definitely makes it lovable. It is very ‘birdy’, especially in winter. We are living in a big block in the middle of the daily route of thousands of birds. While living next to a massive wasteland doesn’t sound pleasant, it doesn’t harm our life in any way. (I wish I could tell the same about our neighbours and the incredibly noisy and busy roads.)

The view from the window.

The view from the window.

Birds, mainly gulls and Corvids, fly several times a day between the wasteland and their nearby night roosting sites. They fly within a very close range from our window, sometimes they are as close as 30-40 meters.

An hour before sunset I started counting birds from the window of our livingroom. It was warm, comfy and the window provided about 160° field view to the south.

Black-headed Gull numbers have been up since the last counting in late December. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Black-headed Gull numbers have been up since the last counting in late December. © Gyorgy Szimuly

So this was the bird list from this afternoon:

Great Cormorant 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1
Red Kite 2
Black-headed Gull 2,163
Mew Gull 418
Herring Gull (European) 504
Lesser Black-backed Gull 971
Great Black-backed Gull 23
Common Wood-Pigeon 2
Eurasian Jackdaw 808
Rook 213
Carrion Crow 176
European Robin 1
Eurasian Blackbird 1
Redwing (Eurasian) 1
European Starling 43
White Wagtail (British) 23
Common Chaffinch 2

Happy bird filled 2015

As in many, many years in the past few decades, I started the year with birding. I didn’t start early as allowed myself a little bit extra time in bed following an intensive shift on New Years Eve.

As public transport was on limited availability, I took the first bus and headed to the Grand Union Canal. It became one of my favourite birding sites in Buckinghamshire. Today I covered a bit more than 11 km long section of the canal and added a few new ebird spots.

Covered section of the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes. Map generated by Trails app.

Covered section of the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes. Map generated by Trails app.

Due to gusts and dark clouds, bird activity and detectability was limited. Anyway, I managed to see 37 taxons. Considering that mainly songbirds were seen and the major water bodies were not visited, it doesn’t seem to be a bad start. 37 species of today is 20% of all species I saw in the United Kingdom in 2014.

Here is the trip summary:

The Grand Union Canal (Section 74-90B), Milton Keynes

This is a combined list of 27 submitted eBird checklists from today. Continue reading