Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Less is more - a birding technique

In the last week, I have been birding throughout eastern Bulgaria with a friend Paul Bowden from the UK. I have tens of pictures to show which represent the over 130 species we saw. This hectic time is the reason I haven't blogged for near a fortnight. However in the next few days I hope to make up for that with some exciting finds.

This blog though is about the birding I did just before the birding tour. It was in my village at just two places. One was hidden in a small local wood and the other next to a water trough. The difference between this and previous local birding was my technique. At both venues, I simply stayed in one place for two hours and waited. I am happy with the results. I call this technique "more is less".  Not only did i get some birding results it also stopped me wilting in the extremely hot mid summer weather.

male golden oriole, greater spotted woodpecker and great tit on one local tree

In the wood I stood under a larger tree and was well camouflaged. Soon I witnessed a gathering of two or three families of golden oriole. it seems they gather at about 5pm each night at the moment at this place. I don't know why but it would appear they are being sociable well ahead of any roosting time. 

part of the meeting place of the local orioles

I managed to get some prolonged views of the golden oriole until they varnished just as easily and suddenly as they arrived.

male golden oriole

Luckily part of this area has some old trees which lack leaves. This helped especially as the orioles did seem to mind perching on them.

female golden oriole

Clearly there were aslo juveniles in the group too.

juvenile or female golden oriole

This starling below was imitating the sounds of golden oriole and his imitation was very good!  He had a good chance to practice here.
local starling who could imitate orioles

Another bird which allowed me good views because of my cover and because I stood still for so long was one of our greater spotted woodpecker.  I have to be careful in identifying woodpeckers here because both Syrian and greater spotted are both found in the same area. Furthermore I have even seen Syrian woodpecker on the same tree as the greater spotted woodpecker is here (but not of course at the same time).

greater spotted woodpecker

Both greenfinch and goldfinch flew in and out of the area.


long tailed tit

However the best chance to see many of the smaller birds was when a flock of long tailed tit breezed through.  It would appear that other birds attach themselves to their flock for awhile.  I saw great tit, blue tit, the two finches and chiffchaff appearing to be travelling with them. 

I hadn't seen the village's long tailed tit flock since late April when it was out in the valley near the stream. It looks like they have moved up and into the wood. I wonder if that is because its so much cooler there?

great tit

As well as chiffchaff there are clearly other warblers there too. I heard blackcap and saw a whitethroat. I didn't hear any nightingale which I know has been there. They seem to be silent in the day in mid summer but there were some of its cousins, blackbirds.

whitethroat made a brief appearance

The second place I visited close to the village was a water trough in a local field on the edge of the forest. I have visited there before and know many birds go there to drink and bathe. This time I waited and didn't move for over an hour. 

I chose to be there in the hour before dusk though its possible there may be more birds in the hotness time of day - I don't know. Anyway, there was a steady stream of birds visiting including three types of bunting: corn bunting, black headed bunting and  ortolan bunting.  There were barn swallow, red runped swallow and house martin skimming the water as usual. They were occasionally drinking too.

However the most frequent visitors were a family or two of yellow wagtail which love bathing. The second most common visitor are greenfinch. I had no idea before watching this site how much greenfinch clearly need to drink.  My other theory is that the birds could see me and that greenfinch are simply bolder than many others. 
great reed warbler in the open

However the most surprising sight of the evening was not a bird coming into the area but one which was leaving it. The water from the trough empties out into a basin with a small number of reeds round it.  The total area of the reeds can't be more than 5 square metres. Yet out of it came a great reed warbler for an evening walkabout the fields in the cooler air and jumping from one hogweed to another.I was so shocked to see it that I couldn't identify it at first. I completely misplaced it as a nightingale which can be heard from the trees which come close to the reeds.

another shot of the great reed warbler on giant hogweed

This unusual sight made my evening. I am beginning to understand just how brash this species really is.

video of yellow wagtail bathing

male ortolan bunting arriving to drink just before dusk

The next few blogs are all about my trips around eastern Bulgaria from Shabla in the north to Bourgas in the south and  Srebarna in the middle. It was great to see and capture on film some of more birds  both common and rare. I hope you will enjoy reading about them.

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