Thursday 28 April 2011

A walk in my local valley

Once again I am birding regularly. I was knocked out of my stride when I left Benghazi. There was much to do to re-organise my life. I'm comfortable that's under control so birding is finally taking its renewed priority.

It's not a moment too soon. I am not as fit as I was. Birding on foot for 8 hours a day  - one or two days a week is a surprisingly relaxing way to keep fit. I used to do it. I need it now.

Yesterday, I walked, just for a couple of hours, in the valley near my village. The valley eventually makes its way down to the Black Sea. I can see the sea from my balcony. However yesterday I combed the upper valley.

Last summer I recall the most obvious bird sounds and sights in the valley were the bee-eaters. They haven't arrived yet but it can't be long now. I saw my first golden oriole near here two days ago and orioles don't arrive much before bee-eaters.  

 male yellow wagtail (feldegg)

In the middle of the valley is a meandering stream. It was along the stream that I spotted the yellow wagtail above. I am pretty sure it is a local breeding bird because the feldegg sub species doesn't venture much further north than here. This is the end of its migratory journey. He seemed keen to drink. I'm guessing he hasn't been back long.

the valley with the Black Sea in the background

Without the bee-eaters, the most obvious birding presence were corn bunting. Plenty were singing individually on on tree tops but there was also a mobile flock.

corn bunting

The corn bunting above was not really typical. He was slightly yellow tinged and the throat pattern was not very pronounced. The yellow bill ruled out yellow hammer so I am stuck with the conclusion it was just an atypical corn bunting.

male northern wheatear

The northern wheatear above was also a little bit atypical. No sign of any buff on the chest. Although there are four types of wheatear in my area- pied, black-eared, isabelline and northern, only northern wheatear comes close to look of this bird.


Plenty of goldfinch were present. Some of them were flocking with linnet. Some of the linnet had paired off. I had seen mixed flocks of goldfinch and linnet a lot in Libya and was pleased to see it again here.

male linnet

In the more sheltered parts of the valley are many trees. Two of the more common birds here appear to be great tit and long-tailed tit.

male great tit

I have seen great tit in other wooded areas around the village (and in mid winter too) but this was my first sighting of long-tailed tit here.

long tailed tit

Another bird in the wooded area was whitethroat.  I have'nt seen this bird much in my birding career. In Libya I have seen many spectacled warbler. My first reaction was that a whitethroat is just a slightly larger version of a spectacled warbler. Like all warblers the two I saw wouldn't keep still and evaded my camera -this time! 

A group of whinchat also escaped my camera. I can't tell for sure whether they were on passage or some of the local breeders. However, my instinct tells me they were on passage are they were still a loose flock and there has been poor weather in south eastern Europe this season. The poor weather has persuaded many birds to take it slowly on their migration north.

crested lark

Finally there is one bird I seem to see almost everywhere I bird within the western palearctic (I saw it in Senegal too). I would have thought this valley was too green and lush for a crested lark but I would be wrong.  There is at least one. Looks a lot greyer than the type we got in Libya but its definitely here.  

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