Sunday, 26 March 2017

Still waiting for the first Swallow, but...

Hoopoes Upupa epops (slo. smrdokavra) have arrived! In the last few days we have seen them on a daily basis and this morning we even woke up to the song of a Hoopoe! Up to 3 birds together were seen from our kitchen's window, feeding on the ground.
White Storks Ciconia ciconia (slo. bela štorklja) are also back to the reserve. They breed with a few pairs on pylons and electricity poles not far from our base and hunt in marshy areas nearby.
One of the two newly-arrived Purple Herons Ardea purpurea (slo. rjava čaplja).
One morning we were lucky to spot this Osprey Pandion haliaetus (slo. ribji orel) carrying a fish to the Letea forest. It is a regular migrant at the reserve, although this was our first one so far.
Garganeys Anas querquedula (slo. reglja) and Ferruginous Ducks Aythya nyroca (slo. kostanjevka) still remain the commonest duck species at this time of year. Up to 40 Ferruginous Ducks were counted in a single flock, although larger numbers are present, scattered around the reserve and hidden away in the vast reedbeds.
Tree frogs Hyla orientalis (slo. zelena rega) have begun to emerge at large and are now frequently heard singing (both by day and night). But not all singing individuals are bright green in colours (as above); some sport the brown morph and are more difficult to spot in the grey-brown vegetation. 
In recent days we managed to relocate the two Ruddy Shelducks Tadorna ferruginea (slo. rjasta kozarka) present in the Letea-Periprava area. We have observed them on a salty lagoon in the steppes near Letea (first pic) as well as at our reserve's edge. On both occasions they proved very unapproachable and wary, usually taking off at great distances. Nevertheless we managed to have good views and take some more shots.
While driving along reedbed edges it sometimes happens to see unusual shapes...
...Bitterns Botaurus stellaris (slo. bobnarica) mimic reed stems and pretend to be invisible, while the observer has the opportunity of some unbelievably close views!
One of our "garden birds" - a male Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus (slo. brkata sinica) photographed in a small patch of reeds by the house. 
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta (slo. sabljarka) and Shelduck Tadorna tadorna (slo. duplinska kozarka). In the recent days the first Avocets have joined the still very numerous Shelducks in the salty lagoons.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa (slo. črnorepi kljunač) on the salty lake near Letea village, where a good number of waterbirds gather in this period.
Dalmatian Pelicans Pelecanus crispus (slo. kodrasti pelikan) in tandem flight.
A little brown job hidden in the reeds: Moustached Warblers Acrocephalus melanopogon (slo. tamariskovka) have returned in great numbers and are holding territories all over the reedbeds. Our reserve holds the largest breeding population of this species in the Daunbe delta. However, spotting one can be quite hard work!
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina (slo. tatarska žvižgavka).
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (slo. belorepec). On a trip to the steppe lakes near Letea we witnessed an attempt of predation: an adult White-tailed Eagle chased a Shoveler Anas clypeata (slo. žilčarica) in flight, hit it and smashed it to the lake surface, but the (un)lucky prey managed to escape with a swift dip underwater. The above shot shows the Shoveler re-emerging, away from the eagle.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus (slo. postovka). This male seems to be cheking one of the nest boxes close to a photo-hide and is frequently perched in front of it.
This handsome male Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius (slo. črna žolna) entertained us for more than 30 minutes, while feeding on a rotten stump in the Letea forest.
VIDEO (watch HD).
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor (slo. mali detel). Three individuals have been seen together on the same spot in two occasions. These days aerial displays are quite common, involving both male (above) and female (below - note the display posture with open wings).
An intreresting (and unexpected) encounter with a pair of Syrian Woodpeckers Dendrocopos syriacus (slo. sirijski detel) on the edge of Letea forest. The species is apparently not only found in villages such as Periprava, but reaches also the outskirts of the forest.
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus (slo. pivka) perched on one of its favourite singing posts near our home. We hear it singing many times a day, even while we are indoors (frequently from the bathroom!).
Most of the old Black Woodpecker's holes in the Letea forest are readily occupied by noisy Jackdaws Corvus monedula (slo. kavka). 
Treecreepers Certhia familiaris (slo. dolgoprsti plezalček) are very common in the Letea forest as well as in riparian willow-poplar woods along the Danube.
There are still small numbers of Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula (slo. kalin) around, usually seen feeding on the seeds of ash Fraxinus sp. like in the above picture.
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus (slo. plavček) is another very common bird in all forest environments. Surprisingly there are no other tit species here, apart from Great Tits Parus major, nor there are other common woodland birds such as Nuthatch Sitta europaea and Jay Garrulus glandarius. We kind of miss this lack of quintessential woodland birds!
Starlings Sturnus vulgaris (slo. škorec) also benefit from old woodpecker's holes for nesting. There's a thriving population in the Letea forest and holes not occupied by Jackdaws and woodpeckers are usually taken by Starlings. Tits and Treecreepers follow the hierarchy.
Willows Salix sp. (slo. vrba) are now in full bloom.
One of the freshwater canals at the reserve, lined by willows which are the first trees that have already started to put on their leaves.
A freshwater pool at the reserve, fringed by extensive reedbeds.
Salty marsh in the steppe, just south of our reserve.
At the end... one of the usual sunsets.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Spring waterbird movements

This handsome Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia (slo. kaspijska čigra) was repeatedly observed in the past days at the reserve's lagoon together with Common Gulls Larus canus (slo. sivi galeb) and Black-headed Gulls Larus ridibundus (slo. rečni galeb). The species is a regular migrant to the Delta, on the way to its breeding grounds in the Baltic.
Garganey Anas querquedula (slo. reglja) - numbers of this typical spring duck have greatly increased in the last days. The species is now the commonest duck at the reserve, seen in almost every lake and pond (up to 100 ind.). Its rattling calls are a quintessential sound of springtime in the marshes!
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (slo. kostanjevka). Flocks are gathering all over the reserve, especially in freshwater pools with extensive reedbeds. In the first photo a male (note white eye) together with two female Gadwalls Anas strepera (slo. konopnica).
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina (slo. tatarska žvižgavka) - a pair swimming in a pool with two Gadwalls Anas strepera (slo. konopnica).
Two Ruddy Shelducks Tadorna ferruginea (slo. rjasta kozarka) sharing the airspace with a White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (slo. belorepec). These rare shelducks breed in small numbers in the saline steppes to the south of our reserve. This was the first sighting we had (hence the bad image) but hopefully we'll catch up with them later in the season on their breeding sites.
Wildfowl mix: Wigeon Anas penelope (slo. žvižgavka), Gadwall Anas strepera (slo. konopnica) and Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (slo. kostanjevka).
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena (slo. rjavovrati ponirek) in almost complete breeding plumage. The species nests on floating vegetation on the inner lakes of the Danube delta.
Shelducks Tadorna tadorna (slo. duplinska kozarka) are quite numerous at the reserve with single flocks reaching 50 or more birds.
The first Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia (slo. žličarka) of the year was seen on migration over the reserve, heading north.
An artistic photo of a Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus (slo. kodrasti pelikan) descending in one of the reserve's lakes.
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus (Larus) minutus (slo. mali galeb). On two occasions we witnessed a steady passage of about 10-15 birds, flying low over the reserve. More will continue to migrate through in the coming months.
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (slo. belorepec). One or two adults and a few immatures are regularly seen over the freshwater pools - adults always look glorious in full sunshine.
A quite brief, but very thrilling encounter with an Otter Lutra lutra (slo. vidra).
Golden Jackals Canis aureus (slo. zlati šakal) are frequently very obliging and easily photographed from the car.
This Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius (slo. črna žolna) is regularly observed chiseling an old poplar tree in front of a photo-hide. See VIDEO (watch HD).
Submerged willows Salix sp.
Marsh Frog Pelophylax ridibundus (slo. debeloglavka).
Polypores on a rotting tree in a willow riverine forest by the Danube.
Tussilago farfara - for the moment (and unfortunately for us) these are the only flowers to be seen around. To be honest, we pretty much miss this.
We frequently see Grey-headed Woodpeckers Picus canus (slo. pivka) such as this, feeding on the ground on their favoured grassy banks by willow-bordered canals.
Water beetles from the Dytiscidae family such as this (probably genus Agabus) are common in freshwater ponds.
A young male Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus (slo. skobec) after a failed attack towards a flock of tits and finches.
Flowering willows Salix sp. are now adorning the banks of canals, reservoirs and marshes.
Feeding the ducks! All our wildfowl photos so far were taken in the field and not from photo-hides. We are still working hard to bring ducks closer to the hides, so they can be easily photograhed.
A lone Letea horse "grazes" in the flooded steppe at the reserve's southern edge.