Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Local patch birding

When Paul Bowden and I toured Eastern Bulgaria a couple of weeks ago, we alternated long journeys and short ones every second day. So every second day we birded relatively close to home.  Some of the short trips were only a walk away from my house.  

This blog is about the "local patch" birding we did. We all have an idea in mind as to what defines a "local patch". My definition is somewhere I could have walked to but didn't necessarily travel that way!

Here are some of the places that met that specification and which we did.
  • hiding under a tree as camouflage in a copse in the middle of the village
  • visiting a water trough in local fields on the edge of a forest
  • travelling to neighbouring Osenovo to bird the wooded valley of the stream there
  • visiting a tailor-made bird hide in the wood at Albena resort
  • and even just walking out of the front door of my house to the village road

very young scops owl on a walk very close to my house

One of the first places we visited on my local patch was the neighbouring village of Osenovo in area known for its diversity of birds. 

We didn't get anywhere near Osenovo before we stopped. We "had to" stop close to the link road from my village to the main road less than two kilometres from starting out in the car. We turned off having seen a long legged buzzard resting in a tree with a newly captured vole.

local long legged buzzard

After a while it flew off to seat on a post only to be disturbed by a car on the main road close by. We tracked it in the air but things got confused as there was at least one other bird of prey airborne at the same time.

long legged buzzard in flight

The moral is to focus on one bird at a time. We had also sighted an eagle in the air which landed in the next field along. 

probable lesser spotted eagle

This was mid afternoon in the searing heat and the last thing I wanted to do was walk through the tall grass to get a closer look at the landed bird. The idea had been to shelter in the shade of Osenovo wood!

By our observations in flight at great distance and its "gizz" in the field we can only tentatively declare it as a lesser spotted eagle. This species does breed in this area and has been spotted in fields near Albena (ie close by) according to a recent birding trip report.  Of course during passage there are hundreds which pass this way.

local hare seen two weeks ago

There is plenty of food about for such an eagle.

We finally got to Osenovo more than  hour later than planned.

green woodpecker

This spot is especially good for woodland birds though the roar of quad bikes ridden by holidaymakers from the village's holiday complex must disturb them somewhat.  I'm not going to list every bird seen but they included bee-eater, starling, greenfinch, white wagtail, great reed warbler, greater spotted woodpecker and a first for me at this venue - green woodpecker.

On another day we visited baltata wood within Albena resort. This was more leisurely woodland birding. We walked to the three storey bird hide and stayed there for a couple of hours.  

I have to tell you the hide is dangerous. I know it was built to hold tour groups and Albena is on many bird trip itineraries. However,it only just about felt safe with two people on the top level. There was lots of sway and there is no way a tour group could mount it at the same time..  

Adding to the birding difficulty, there was a steady stream of beachgoers walking along the road near-by.

Despite all this, patience paid off.  I am grateful to Paul Bowden for the next two photographs. He has superior photographic equipment to me which particularly made a difference in the strong dappled light in the wood that day.

lesser spotted woodpecker by Paul Bowden, Albena

One of the highlights of this "mini trip" was the sighting of two woodpeckers I haven't seen in my village or at Osenovo.  There were both lesser spotted woodpecker and middle spotted woodpecker.

middle spotted woodpecker by Paul Bowden

A cross section of other birds included both great tit and blue tit, wood pigeon and spotted flycatcher.  If you want a full list then please wait until the trip report for the week's birding!

This section of woodland is a well known place to see semi-collared flycatcher during spring and summer. Indeed it was the first place I ever saw this bird in company of expert birder, Dimiter Georgiev.  We did see black and white flycatchers there but without a prolonged view we can't say with 100% certainty they were semi-collared. However it would be very early indeed to see returning pied flycatcher or collared flycatcher which breed in more northerly latitudes.  

Syrian woodpecker in a copse in the middle of my village

That wasn't the end of woodland birding, On another occasion, during a hot part of the day, we walked round the corner from my house onto the village road and then stepped out into a copse. 

We waited under a couple of trees which allowed us cover and views of the rest of the copse. It is here that I can often see golden oriole meet ahead of their journey to a roost later in the evening. I have blogged about this place recently.  

Once again, the orioles showed up but not for as long as I had hoped.  You can't train wild birds to turn up on demand!  We saw long tailed tit, great tit, garden warbler and Syrian woodpecker. We heard several blackcap. The Syrian woodpecker was videoed. Please see above. Ironically it was on exactly the same tree as a greater spotted woodpecker seen a week before.

greenfinch bathing at the water trough

One day I also showed Paul the water trough in the fields north of the village. This is a great spot for three types of bunting - corn bunting, black headed bunting and ortolan bunting. The scrub land nearby suits red backed shrike too.

male black headed bunting

This is a good place to compare male and female black headed bunting. Some books describe the female as a washed out version of the male. I think this is stretching things too far. They look completely different to me! 

female black headed bunting near the water trough

The scrub near the trough has an extremely high density of red backed shrike. We counted about 20 in a small area. We lamented the fact that in England farmers don't set aside land like this between fields to allow bird life and other fauna to flourish.

red backed shrike

We probably didn't explore the full potential of the water trough. No doubt a large number of species would have come and visited for water and/or a bathe if we had been hidden better. The braver species made a visit such as greenfinch, barn swallow, the buntings and wagtails. Even a pair of turtle dove came but perhaps there should have been more. This would be a great place for a  hide.

local turtle dove which are very shy

We leant to keep our eyes open even when close to my front gate especially in the early morning or late evening. One morning we saw a little owl from my garden. This had been the first time I had seen one in my part of the village. Unfortunately it turned its head away from me.

little owl on a house close to mine

More exciting still one evening (an hour before sunset) as we walked back from a local sight, there was a very young scops owl sitting out on a telegraph pole barely 40 metres from my house. This was a special treat for me .

young scops owl close to my house

Birding with Paul in my local patch proved that two sets of eyes are better than one. I am more confident than ever that the Klimentovo area is an excellent birding venue (and the passage hasn't even started here yet)!

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