Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Late summer at home

I have been in Oman in my new job for a couple of days now and I have already have blogs lined up on Omani birding. However I first need to wrap up the bits and pieces of birding I did in Bulgaria in the last week in August before I left.

Those bits and pieces were observations around my village while going about other business, a morning's walk near the forested area in Rogachevo and a final walk into the valley below my village on my last day.

spotted flycatcher

Starting with the observations in the village: it was good to see a spotted flycatcher on a wire one day. Passage birds must have been mixed in with the summer breeders here and my guess is this one was on passage.

barn swallow

One of the main birding "events"in the village in late August is the gathering of large numbers of local barn swallow and house martin on wires in early morning and early evening ahead of the collective decision to move off on migration. The numbers are so many they bend the wires.

house martin

The two house martin nests on my house both had a second brood this year and the young ones had only just fledged the nest as I was leaving. They will be making a long journey almost straight away.

juvenile blackbird

Other fairly random observations as I walked around included a juvenile blackbird actually in the open. This birds are timid in Bulgaria. Red back shrike are very common in summer in my part of Bulgaria and, in contrast to the blackbird, can be seen very readily.

Most golden oriole left in mid August but I did see one in the last week.

juvenile red backed shrike

The morning of Sunday August 24th was the only time in late August I had time for a proper birding session and I chose to bird on the edge of the forest at Rogachevo.


The woods were alive with the sound of great tit (seen) and woodpeckers (unseen) but I concentrated on the birds along my woodland path.


One of the best moments was when I spied a muddy pool some twenty five metres ahead. It was attracting a variety of birds including a nightingale and two male blackcap as well as blackbird and house sparrow.

two male blackcap

I suspect I would have seen more if I had stayed longer but as is often the case there was a flurry of activity involving several species followed by absolutely nothing. I suspect another flurry would have occurred if I had had the time.

male red backed shrike

Elsewhere on the route were several of the ubiquitous red backed shrike.

long legged buzzard

The only bird of prey seen all session was a lone long legged buzzard.

European bee-eaters

Like in my village the skies were full of barn swallow and house martin though Rogachevo also has red-rumped swallow.

Waves of European bee-eater were passing through all morning.

closer view of a European bee-eater

In the village of Rogachevo at the end of my walk, goldfinch was the final bird added to the day list.


My third spot of birding was a short walk into the valley next to my village. I could see that the stream was swollen this year and had changed course. All was as a result of the increased rainfall this year. Probably as a result of the increased water there was a higher density of yellow wagtail than I have seen in previous years.

a family of yellow wagtail (feldegg)

I had to check carefully that there were no grey wagtail among them.

single yellow wagtail

Finally this valley throngs with the sound of corn bunting in all but the coldest weather.
corn bunting

I am now in Oman and back in to Middle eastern birding. My next blog reports on what I saw walking round the block by my hotel during a short stay in Muscat. This was before going on to Salalah where I am now working.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Summer at home

I have been at my home north of Varna, Bulgaria on several occasions during the last month. While there, I haven't had much time for birding. However I have seen some good birds even from my own garden and have managed some light birding on a couple of walks to the neighbouring village.

One of the highlights, was from my door step when I saw 200 white stork fly over four days ago. This was one of several waves of white stork  last week seemingly heading south already.

some of 200 white stork over my house

The next evening, I was looking out at dusk from the front when I noticed a little owl on  a neighbour's house. I used to see them there in previous summers but last year I couldn't find them. It's good to know they have been seen again.

little owl from my house

The walks to the neighbouring village were quite interesting too. There are several fields of sun flower. If I look hard, I often find well camouflaged male black-headed bunting on the flower heads.

female black headed bunting

This time, I managed a duller female black headed bunting.

corn bunting

Corn bunting is more common and much more easily seen. Other very common local birds include skylark in the fields and golden oriole along the avenue of trees following the road.

European turtle dove

Around my village is a stronghold of the diminishing European turtle dove. In summer they are readily spotted on wires near-by but they are extremely skittish.

lesser grey shrike

Lesser grey shrike is the less common of two shrikes in the area. Red-backed shrike is around in greater numbers. 

young red backed shrike

These include both juvenile and adult birds.

male red backed shrike

Seen on my walks, spotted flycatcher was no surprise although they prefer more shaded areas than most of the route.

spotted flycatcher

Blackbird may be abundant in the area but it is quite difficult to see. It is shy around people here. 

young blackbird

House martin is extremely abundant especially near my house. The wires heave with them at dawn and dusk. Barn swallow are numerous too and, unlike house martin, frequently land on the avenues of trees between the villages. Here, at the moment, you can see young swallows on these trees still being fed by their parents.

young barn swallow waiting to be fed

I have observed only two birds of prey in the area over the month. One was a short toed eagle, seen last month, which is is a known summer breeder in the area. The other was more recent. It was a hobby seemingly flying with some of the barn swallow high in the sky.


There is much more other wildlife too including hare.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Rimini, Italy

Rimini has plenty of parkland used extensively by locals and tourists. I undertook some leisurely birding among them on the morning of August 5th.

My first objective was to get good views of  male Italian sparrow. It looks like a house sparrow body with a Spanish sparrow head. In habits it appeared to me more like a Spanish sparrow. For example, it seems rarely to visit houses. 

male Italian sparrow

While tracking Italian sparrow, I inadvertently came across tree sparrow in some trees.

Tree sparrow

There are two birds which are often out in the open within wooded areas alomst any where in southern Europe in summer. These are spotted flycatcher and red-backed shrike.

spotted flycatcher

Spotted flycatcher was particulrly common within the town.

red-backed shrike

As in San Marino, blackbird was extremly common and tame.

young blackbird

There were so many young birds, it was good to see an adult male every now and again.

male adult blackbird

Both goldfinch and greenfinch were in the parkland areas.

young greenfinch

Only one warbler was seen and that was a male blackcap.

adult yellow-legged gull

It would be easy to build a very large birding list at Rimini if you had the time. As well as parkland and gardens there is the coast. I didn't visit the coastline but even in the marina, there were two types of gull readily observed.

first year yellow-legged gull

Yellow legged gull and black-headed gull were present in about equal numbers.

black-headed gull

This was the first time I had ever done any birding in Italy however light.

Species seen during walks around Rimini on August 5th.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

San Marino

Bird watching is not my only hobby. I have two other serious ones. One of which is travel. I aim to visit every country in the world. San Marino was my latest and happened last week.

I based myself in Rimini, Italy and visited San Marino from there although it was only for one day.

While in San Marino I indulged in some birding, of course. This was necessarily near the top of the city (altitude 750 metres) where the tourists (like me on this occasion) get dropped off.

As in Italy, the house sparrow is missing. Italian sparrow is not really a house bird and was rare up at San Marino city. However  black redstart occupies the housing niche instead at least in summer. I saw many on roof tops and around houses as well as in trees.

I can't believe I am the first person to record this bird on the e-bird database and yet two others have recorded common redstart which I didn't see. 

black redstart

It was hard work finding a variety of species though I was helped by a mobile and niosy group of hooded crow making a brief appearance in a car park as we arrived.

view from the top

Apart from black redstart, the next most easily seen and common bird was blackbird. There were tame family groups everywhere.

juvenile blackbird

This tamest reminds me how they behave when I have birded in the UK and in New Zealand and is in stark contrast to Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Kurdistan where they are really skitish.


Other birds were hard work. I got glimpses of Euoprean blue tit and of European serin before one or two of the latter kept still for a while.

very yellow serin

The male serin were very variable looking. The one above was at the colouful end of the spectrum. Taking this with it's pink bill and washed out mantle and wings made me contemplate whether it has some canary genes.

common buzzard

As well as looking down to see the views in San Marino, its worth looking upwards too. In the air I spotted a common buzzard. Furthermore common house martin were around all day.

European jay

I ventured down away from the old town for a while in search of different habitat and birds. I was only rewarded with a single jay in the distance. To build a better picture of San Marino's birds, spending more time down in the plains would be rewarding but I was only on  a tourist bus out of Rimini.

The next day, I did a spot of birding there too. I will blog about that next.

Species seen in San Marino and recorded on e-bird