In search for the Short-toed Eagle pair

In a hope to find the previously seen Short-toed Eagle pair in the northern part of the Gerecse Mountain (Süttő, Hungary), we climbed to the top of the Nagy-Teke Hill. A very talented birdgirl, Hanni, a professional and well experienced raptor expert, Peter, Dani and myself tried to overlook a large area from the hill.

The survey team on the way to the top of the hill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The survey team on the way to the top of the hill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The morning started slow allowed us to talk about birds and their future locally and globally. It is always nice to learn something from each other. In the meantime, a Tree Pipit was endlessly singing next to us. Despite we had a rather hot weather (34°C) birds didn’t show up before 9AM. The first Common Buzzards were followed by European Honey Buzzards, providing amazing views by flying just above us. We could enjoy seeing different plumage variations in perfect light conditions.

The working team. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The working team. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Unfortunately, the Short-toed Eagles didn’t show up, at least until we left the hill shortly after 12PM. However, I spotted a pair of Black Stork, showing territorial behaviour over the Great Gerecse Hill.

Compared to the previous years’ raptor-watch, the species richness was much lower. No Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle nor Northern Goshawk were seen. There could be multiple reasons, including the extreme weather during the breeding season, as well as the lack of food resources, but the increasing breeding population of Peregrine Falcon could also result ‘cleared space’ areas. We witnessed the local breeding pair of Peregrine Falcon chasing away every bird of any size around the Pisznice Hill.

The hill top is scattered by Downy Oak. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The hill top is scattered by Downy Oak. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Cow Parsley covered Mediterranean-style hilltop. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Cow Parsley covered Mediterranean-style hilltop. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breeding habitat of Tree Pipits. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breeding habitat of Tree Pipits. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Birds detected:

Black Stork 2
Gray Heron 1
European Honey-buzzard 3
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 2
Common Buzzard 15
Stock Dove 2
European Turtle Dove 1
European Bee-eater 1
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Golden Oriole 3
Eurasian Jay 2
Common Raven 5
Common House Martin 1
Great Tit 3
Eurasian Blue Tit 6
Long-tailed Tit 3
Eurasian Nuthatch 2
Eurasian Wren 1
Blackcap 2
European Robin 2
Collared Flycatcher 1
Eurasian Blackbird 2
Song Thrush 1
Mistle Thrush 1
European Starling 4
Tree Pipit 1
Yellowhammer 3
Hawfinch 4

Great Backyard Bird Count 2014 is under way

Common Starling. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Starling. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A few years back, I was whining about the Great Backyard Bird Count focused only on North America. From last year it was not anymore a North American birding event, but a global one. I joined as well and already submitted one checklist for 2014, despite the torrential rain we are having. I submitted all the three species and 7 individuals. Hahaaa

I encourage you to do the same until Sunday 17 February! It is a fun and after all, it is birding.

The statistics of last year result are just mind-blowing.

39% of the world’s bird species was seen and counted!
111 counties involved on 7 continents
4,258 bird species of 108 bird families reported (5,162 species needed to be recorded during this weekend to reach 50%)
137,998 total checklists were submitted worldwide!
The most bird species, 645 was recorded in Mexico in four days!
More than 33 million individual birds were counted!

Do nothing else, just spend a minimum of 15 minutes in any location (your backyard) and identify and count birds. After that upload your data to the website of GBBC.

Have fun!

Staying at my ‘social media’ friends: an alternative way of birding abroad?

Kelp Goose in Patagonia. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Kelp Goose in Patagonia. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Just for fun and curiosity I posted a question to my Facebook page whether I could make birding trips abroad staying in the home of my social media friends to reduce costs. This is especially interesting knowing that I have almost 3.500 Facebook friends, over 1.200 followers on Twitter and a few hundreds on LinkedIn. If only a fraction of the friends would offer me/us a room to stay for a few days I could reach some awesome birding destinations. Based on the responses I have already received or I will get, I make a map of the ‘offers’. Any new offer will be added to the map. Send your words as a comment here in the blog or with my posts on my Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn wall.

Needless to say that any of my friends who I have ever or never communicated with is warmly welcomed in our humble home including an introduction and guidance to local birdlife.

The map with locations of friends who already responded can be seen here.

 

First contribution to WeBS

Despite being a little bit exhausted by guarding over my Sweetheart with her battle of illness, I forced myself to wake up and go out birding. It was a kind of brainwashing to me. The other reason I wanted to go out to make my very first contribution to the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) what has been running by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). I used to participate in such programs in Hungary and I always enjoyed it. It is good to see my bird records used for bird conservation purposes. By the way, today is the World Migratory Bird Day (see the trailer here)!

I did not want to leave Andi all alone with Kea for the whole day so I changed the plan and covered ‘only’ two wetlands of Milton Keynes. Oh yes, the other reason was the Barcelona Formula 1 Grand Prix which I didn’t want to miss. Anyway it was a nice and productive morning in beautifully sunny, partly cloudy weather.

I started at the Mount Farm Lake which is the closest wetland to me holding a relatively good number of wildfowl. There was nothing significant found, but it was still nice to walk around the lake early in the morning and enjoying the bird songs. One of the benefits of going birding very early on Sunday morning is the lack of traffic noise. Brits are still sleeping at 5:30AM.

Sunrise behind the Mount Farn Lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sunrise behind the Mount Farm Lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Freshly hatched Canada Goose goslings. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Freshly hatched Canada Goose goslings. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

12May04

One of the Canada Goose families. Goslings hatched last week. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

12May03

The first 10 days of these goslings will be critical as nearby nesting Grey Herons are their potential predators but Red Foxes are patrolling around as well. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

At my arrival two Common Terns stopped by at the lake but they soon disappeared. On the side pond Mute Swan cygnets have hatched. 9 cute little cotton skeins were swimming with the adults. At the Mount Farm Lake at least 3 pairs of Mute Swan are nesting at the moment. The number of Canada Goose goslings has dramatically decreased despite I found new families today. Probably there is a predation pressure by the local Grey Herons.

I found quite territorial Garden Warblers which I mapped them. I will map the songbirds in the coming days around the Mount Farm.

Complete list of birds counted:

Greylag Goose 28 (5 goslings)
Canada Goose 68 (6+5+11+1 goslings)
Mute Swan 14 (9 cygnets)
Mallard 12 (2+8 ducklings)
Tufted Duck 6
Great Crested Grebe 5
Grey Heron 4
Common Moorhen 5
Eurasian Coot 31 (2+4+4 chicks)
Common Tern 2
Common Wood Pigeon 39
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Common Magpie 9
Carrion Crow 8
Great Tit 1
European Blue Tit 5
Long-tailed Tit 3
Eurasian Wren 8
Willow Warbler 1
Common Chiffchaff 4
Sedge Warbler 2
Eurasian Reed Warbler 14
European Blackcap 4
Garden Warbler 4
Common Whitethroat 1
European Robin 6
Eurasian Blackbird 9
Song Thrush 2
European Starling 1
Dunnock 2
Common Reed Bunting 2
Common Chaffinch 2
European Goldfinch 2

Greylag Goose family. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Greylag Goose family. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

The next unallocated WeBS site, I offered BTO to cover, was the Willen Lake. I walked all around the north lake then the northern and western part of the south lake. It was quite productive though the waterbird numbers were not so impressive. Besides of the regular species I found a drake Mandarin Duck and a pair of Red-crested Pochard. The latter was new to my British list.

My entrance point to the north lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

My entrance point to the north lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

South corner of the north Willen Lake is home for the reed warblers. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

South corner of the north Willen Lake is home for the reed warblers. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the muddy-rocky island a Dunlin was together with Little Ringed Plovers. The Dunlin and one of the Little Ringed Plovers then left the area. They were actively flying together most of the time. While sitting in the hide the number of Common Swifts have increased from 6 to 25. On the other side of the island 2 Eurasian Oystercatchers showed defending behaviour towards the roosting Canada Geese (sign of nesting?).

12May07

Habitat of Cetti’s Warblers. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

At the SE corner of the north lake I wanted to get a better view on the Cetti’s Warblers so I crossed the dense vegetation along the footpath and found myself in a nice floodplain-like habitat with scrub and mainly willow trees. I love these kind of habitats. A Cetti’s Warbler sang shortly after I entered the territory. The whole area was very noisy by different bird songs. After about 20 minutes scanning the bushes and trees I spotted two Cetti’s Warblers chased each other. While I watched the chasing birds another (different) bird was singing right to me. Also Garden Warbler was very active.

The south lake produced the regular species. Common Terns hunted over the water but a courtship behaviour was also seen. The most exciting sighting was a female duck species overflying the area towards the north lake. Based on the characteristics it probably was a female Mandarin Duck. I was happy by seeing an increasing number of swallows and Common Swifts. This increase was reported from other part of the county as well. Flocks are worth to scan for rarities! An Alpine Swift and some Red-rumped Swallows have been reported today from other parts of England.

12May09

This Mute Swan was incubating just next to the footpath at the south lake. iPhone 4s. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Complete list of counted birds:

Greylag Goose 22/20 (8 goslings)
Canada Goose 39/6
Mute Swan 4/98
Mandarin Duck 1/1
Mallard 35/27
Red-crested Pochard 2/0
Tufted Duck 17/0
Great Crested Grebe 5/16
Great Cormorant 2/1
Grey Heron 6/0
Little Egret 1/0
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1/0
Common Moorhen 5/2
Eurasian Coot 33/14
Little Ringed Plover 3/0
Eurasian Oystercatcher 2/0
Dunlin 1/0
Black-headed Gull 6/0
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5/0
European Herring Gull 0/2
Common Tern 0/9
Common Wood Pigeon 22/1
Eurasian Collared Dove 3/0
Common Cuckoo 1/0
Common Swift 25/45
Eurasian Jay 1/0
Common Magpie 21/1
Eurasian Jackdaw 1/0
Carrion Crow 36/3
Skylark 1/0
Barn Swallow 6/30
Common House Martin 4/35
Great Tit 4/2
European Blue Tit 4/0
Long-tailed Tit 0/2
Eurasian Wren 2/3
Cetti’s Warbler 3/0
Sedge Warbler 6/2
Eurasian Reed Warbler 26/5
European Blackcap 6/1
Garden Warbler 9/1
Common Whitethroat 4/0
European Robin 4/10
Eurasian Blackbird 12/1
Song Thrush 4/0
European Starling 6/2
Dunnock 2/0
Common Reed Bunting 5/1
Common Chaffinch 5/3
European Goldfinch 8/3
House Sparrow 4/3

It would have been better to learn more about the BTO Common House Martin Survey and to place a few artificial nests to improve the local breeding population. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

It would have been better to learn more about the 2013 House Martin Survey, running by BTO, and to place a few artificial nests to improve the local breeding population. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

12May10

Common House Martins are breeding in the Premier Inn next to the South Lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly