Monday 6 June 2011

Alarmed birds among the tranquilty

On Saturday, had the pleasure of birding the local patch of "Rhopodi birder" with the man himself. We saw 41 species although the object was not to collect numbers but to better understand this area and its birds. "Rhodopi birder" is a great teacher with special expertise with the tit family. I know very little about either the area or the family! but three days here in the Rhodopes and a day with RB I finally think I'm getting somewhere.

an alarmed starling

We saw plenty of woodland and meadow birds east and south of Smolyan but more about that later. I'm going to start at the end!  On the way back to Chepelare we stopped at a meadow where we had seen a small number of rosy starling on the way out. They weren't there when we came back but a birding drama was being played out. One starling was siting on a wire and was very alarmed. He was flapping his wings agitatedly and screaming. I haven't seen this behaviour before (see picture above) but  RB told me it was real distress.

Rhopodian meadow flowers

We stopped to look at the situation (and to observe other birds). There were very recently fledged starlings around. Our best guess is that the adult birds had seen something dangerous for the fledglings.

newly fledged starling

Actually it was not just starling fledglings in this neighbourhood. There were also white wagtail fledglings too.

newly fledged white wagtail

We had three suspects for the agitation. First there were hooded crow in the area.

hooded crow and nest

Second there were magpie about too. However we believe the most likely bird to cause alarm was a goshawk seen fleetingly.

crossbill camouflages well in pine trees!

This stop turned out to be a bit of a goldmine. On near-by trees were four crossbill feeding. Apologies for the photo but through a camera lens they were amazingly camoflaged against the rusty reds and green of the tree . 

greater spotted woodpecker

On a dead tree a few metres away was a greater spotted woodpecker. No camouflage problems here.


Same with a greenfinch which was also on a dead tree.

This last stop was a fine finale to a great day's birding. 

Previously we had visited two main areas east of Smolyan. One was near RB's home village. Here the prize sighting was probably the marsh tit. We decided to leave this birding area earlier than planned as there was very recent signs of wild boar!

great tit in garden in Chepelare

The Rhodopes are full of tit family members. We saw crested tit and great tit in the woods and sombre tit in RB's guesthouse garden! (along with black redstart and blackcap by the way) 

chiffchaff in forest

The forest we visited held green woodpecker, black woodpecker and grey headed woodpecker (to add the greater spotted woodpecker seen elsewhere)

dunnock on edge of forest

There was much more than just tits and woodpeckers especially in the second area we birded. On the edge of the forest were dunnock. In a near-by meadow were a pair of long legged buzzard. However, one of one of the best incidents was when we spotted a wryneck. We decided to follow it. This took us into some long grass. 

Just as we lost sight of the wryneck, we heard very loud calling from two separate spots (separated by 30 metres or so) in the grass. We spent 10 minutes slowly creeping towards the source of one of the sounds. When we got very close it stopped and so did the second one. When we walked away it started up again a couple of metres away from where it had been. The second bird joined in too. Corncrake are the ultimate escape artists aren't they?

It's a shame I am leaving Chepelare today. I could really get into this upland birding.


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