Wednesday, 25 January 2012

January at home

Earlier this week I was at home in Bulgaria. Among dealing with domestic issues and seeing friends, I managed to reserve some time to get in a little bit of birding on my local patch. This consisted of two short walks on two separate and quite different days.

I like birding in winter in Bulgaria (providing its not too cold). The birds are mostly in large flocks and have got no where to hide. They also seem more approachable with honourable exceptions which I will mention later.

male greater spotted woodpecker

We have two types of woodpecker within the village confines. These are the more urban Syrian woodpecker and the more rural greater spotted woodpecker

I saw two greater spotted woodpecker close up for over twenty minutes and in the end I left them. They were totally disinterested in me just feet below them. How unlike summer.

There was one male and one female which made me look up whether this species is monogamous. Indeed, it does pair for life.

female greater spotted woodpecker

They were two of very few birds who weren't in a flock. Near-by them were  flocks of corn bunting and yellowhammer which sometimes, but not always associated with each other. After all they are close relatives.

corn bunting

You'll have to wait for the next blog to see the more photogenic yellowhammer. In the meantime I have shown a picture of a corn bunting. In summer corn bunting is by far the more common of the two species. However its clear in January that yellowhammer outnumber corn bunting. Northern yellowhammer have clearly flown south to strengthen the local numbers.

common buzzard

Winter in Bulgaria also brings large numbers of common buzzard south to increase local numbers. They are a truly common sight.

local magpie

All the local magpie I saw were flocking. I think they may have got over the trauma of a goshawk stealing a full grown magpie under my nose back in the summer. Completely unsurprisingly the starling were flocking too.

the view down my road

On the second day it had snowed, it was much colder and birds were even easier to see. Goldfinch were seen both days but stand out like sore thumb against a white or sky blue background. Such was the second day.

a very cold house sparrow

There were roaming flocks of both house sparrow and tree sparrow all over the village. Both birds were extremely approachable but a bit stupid. I put out bird seed on my bird table which they lap up in summer. However they didn't seem to have touched it during my winter stay. I don't think they flew into the garden at all. 

part of flock of house sparrow

I mentioned at the top of the blog that some exceptional birds weren't flocking.  Two more were blackbird and wren. they weren't ultra-approachable either.

You can tell when you have spent too long birding in hot climes. My first instinctive reaction when seeing a wren was that it was a graceful prinia - they act and even sound a bit like them. I then foolishly realised I was 800 kilometres and 20 degrees centigrade from the nearest graceful prinia.

I spent a fruitless 20 minutes darting around trying to get a photo of one of the several wren around. Still it was only 10 days ago I finally got a decent one of a graceful prinia in Riyadh. Everything comes to he who waits.

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