Thursday, 15 June 2017

Danube Delta - top highlights

1. Having the opportunity to observe many Otters Lutra lutra in their natural habitat.
2. Seeing on a daily basis one of Europe's rarest waterbirds: 
the Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus.
3. Seeing large numbers of White Pelicans Pelecanus onocrotalus too.
4. Finding up to 7 Citrine Wagtails Motacilla citreola in a singe day.
5. Finding the nest of a White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (1st pic). It was even more exciting than seeing an adult bird landing in front of our noses (2nd pic).
6. Tracking down woodpeckers for whole days on end and finding two nests of  
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius.
7. Having Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus as a common garden bird and hearing it even from the toilet!
8. Watching numerous Bitterns Botaurus stellaris in Europe's largest reedbed.
9. Watching elusive and rare Ruddy Shelducks Tadorna ferruginea in the salty steppes.
10. Seeing Hoopoes Upupa epops everywhere on a daily basis in spring.
11. Getting to know some Syrian Woodpeckers Dendrocopos syriacus in the local villages.
12. Having Pallas's Gulls Larus ichthyaetus flying overhead as a standard gull on a regular basis.
13. Being completely bored of watching Golden Jackals Canis aureus after a while.
14. Experiencing the very east of Europe.

Our Danube Delta Experience was amazing and very formative, but at the end we are happy to be back home. That's because of one main reason... this :-)

Keep tuned to Carniolicum and enjoy!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Our last days in the Delta

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola (slo. citronasta pastirica). One day we witnessed an extraordinary influx of White Wagtails Motacilla alba (slo. bela pastirica) and Yellow Wagtails Motacilla flava (slo. rumena pastirica). Mixed among them were also at least 8 different Citrine Wagtails (both male and female) which stopped on migration on their way to the east European breeding grounds.
White Pelicans Pelecanus onocrotalus (slo. rožnati pelikan) passing in formation above the reserve. We counted two different flocks of about 45-50 birds each, heading towards the Danube.
Swallow Hirundo rustica (slo. kmečka lastovka) - finally they arrived and have returned to last year's nesting sites at the reserve. Some large flocks on migration have also been seen recently.
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (slo. kupčar) - a quite common summer migrant at this time of year. Other new arrivals recently also included: Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca (slo. mlinarček), Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus (slo. srpična trstnica), Sand Martin Riparia riparia (slo. breguljka), Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (slo. plevica) and others.
Hoopoes Upupa epops (slo. smrdokavra) are very common in the Danube delta, not only as migrants, but also as breeders. The bird in the second pic has chosen to nest in an old nestbox on a broken tree branch.
One of the most amazing finds recently was the nest of a pair of White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla (slo. belorepec) in a forest-island by the Danube. The nest was quite far, but easily seen and the female was sitting in it (visible in the second photo). Some distance away from the nest was also a perched male, controlling the surroundings (first pic).
Ukrainian fishermen on the river Danube.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (slo. rjava čaplja).
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius (slo. črna žolna) at the nest site in the Letea forest. The male continues the excavation of the nesting hole.
Fire-bellied Toad Bombina bombina (slo. nižinski urh) - singing in large numbers all over the reserve's canals, puddles and ponds.

This is our last updated post from the Wild Delta as our two-month experience by the river Danube has concluded. In the near future we'll prepare a review post with all the highlights from this amazing adventure.

 Now you can switch back to Carniolicum ;-) Enjoy! 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Spring is advancing and eagles are landing

This adult White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (slo. belorepec) was photographed from one of the photo-hides at the reserve (VIDEO - watch HD; sorry for the bad framing, but YouTube keeps cutting heads off). Recently two adult birds were repeatedly observed around the hides and hopefully they will put on show in the next weeks as well. Hordes of hungry photographers are waiting to capture such images!
We have now located two nest-holes of Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius (slo. črna žolna). The first pic shows a newly-discovered nest in the Letea forest, while the second pic involves the one we found in March. At both nests the pairs are regularly observed, but they are still excavating and arranging the holes, so apparently they haven't got a clutch yet.
Many bushes and small trees are in full bloom at the moment, such as this Prunus we yet don't know the species name. 
Hoopoe Upupa epops (slo. smrdokavra). These colourful birds are seen on a daily basis and frequently directly from our kitchen's window. The species seems to be quite common here and we are pleasured to have breakfast with them. Today we also did a bit of "guerrilla gardening" to improve Hoopoe habitat and installed a nestbox (see end of post).
We are now seeing White Pelicans Pelecanus onocrotalus (slo. rožnati pelikan) more frequently above the reserve's lakes. They are usually seen in single numbers, often soaring quite high in the sky (so for now only poor shots). Apparently they are returning from their wintering grounds and will soon occupy the colonies in the Delta's inner lakes.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (slo. rumena pastirica). This individual looks like a "dombrowksii" or "superciliaris" subspecies/form and was our first and only wagtail so far this year.
The willows Salix are getting greener and greener...
A smart male Garganey Anas querquedula (slo. reglja) photographed from one of the photo-hides designed for waterbirds. These ducks are still one of the commonest waterbirds to be seen at this time of year.
Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus (slo. trstni strnad) are holding territories in extensive reedbeds - if you'd like some sound as well, see the VIDEO (watch HD).
Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus (slo. pritlikavi kormoran). Numbers of this common species are slowly building up and birds can be easily photographed at different sites around the reserve.
European Pond Terrapins Emys orbicularis (slo. močvirska sklednica) are fortunately still common in this part of Europe. Invasive, non-native species of turtles have greatly reduced the numbers of our native species all over European wetlands. In many parts, the introduced species have already driven European Pond Terrapins to extinction. Here the situation seems to be better as we see good numbers of these on a daily basis. They inhabit freshwater pools, lakes and canals, where they are frequently seen sunbathing on semi-submerged branches and other floating vegetation.
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus (slo. rjavi lunj) - female. Up to 3-4 pairs are graviting around the reserve's extensive reedbeds; this is one of the most commonly-observed species during our daily work.
Dalmatian Pelicans Pelecanus crispus (slo. kodrasti pelikan) are still sporting the gorgeous orange bill-pouches of the breeding season. Several birds are choosing the reserve's freshwater lakes to rest and fish.
Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus (slo. kanja) in eastern Europe replaces Common Buzzards B. buteo buteo. Commons are seen in the Delta only in winter, whereas Steppe Buzzards are summer migrants. They are now beginning to return from Africa and will spend the breeding season here. The above was our first so far.
Golden Jackals Canis aureus (slo. zlati šakal) are performing well in front of several photo-hides at our reserve. Here is a VIDEO (watch HD).
A flooded riverine forest by the Danube which has a quite primeval look - a lot of dead wood! Most of the trees here are untouched by man and some willows Salix reach quite astonishing widths and age; perfect woodpecker habitat...
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus (slo. pivka) is the most typical bird inhabitant of riverine willow-poplar forests. Here it can find both old trees for nesting and sites for foraging.
VIDEO of a bird drumming nearby (watch HD).
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major (slo. veliki detel), photographed on the same tree as the above Grey-headed. The snag on which it is perched was used as a drumming site.
Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus (slo. sirijski detel) - a female in the village of Periprava. In comparison with the above, similar-looking Great Spotted, note: pinkish vent colour (not red as in Great Spot) & lack of the post-auricular black stripe (present in Great Spot).
A cosy little garden with daffodils in the village of Periprava.
Jackdaw Corvus monedula (slo. kavka) with nest material in the forest of Letea.
Blossoming trees are an irresistible attraction in the early spring days.
Guerrilla gardening and nest-boxing for Hoopoes.
The first immediate result of our gardening action - this morning a Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla (slo. kratkoprsti škrjanček) appeared on a grassy patch we cleared from weeds.
Another of our usual sunsets over one of the reserve's largest lakes.