March Bird Watch, 2016

Steve from Dol reports on the new sightings which herald the arrival of spring.

Scops owl Scops owl Rod Coysh

March, much like the UK, has proved the month of arrival and very little difference in dates as far as I can tell.

I missed two weeks' data  (8th – 22nd) as I visited UK, but friends in Dol kept me up to date.

Blackcap. Photo: Steve Jones

As February ended early March continued the same with the regular species feeding on and around my feeders. I noted on March 2nd there were 14 Chaffinches feeding on the ground. Also on March 2nd heard both Cirl Bunting and Serin singing on the road between Dol and Vrbanj, and as I continue to monitor they are singing regularly although they are sometimes difficult to see.

Cirl bunting. Photo: Steve Jones

Blackcaps are also singing regularly and are quite common. I do a lot of my bird watching/ID by call recognition, and whilst I am not very good in comparison to several people in the UK, I am familiar with a fair number of species. It also helps greatly when picking up something new, and I am expecting a lot of that here this Spring.

Serin. Photo: Steve Jones

On March 6th I had a Black Redstart actually touch down in the garden. I have been them seeing them reasonably regularly, but this is the first time one has actually been on the ground. Also on that day a Dunnock. Once again, they are common in the UK but rarely seen here.

As I spent the next two weeks in the UK very little to report although I did receive an email from a neighbour to say he had seen one solitary Swallow over Dol on or around 20th. However, while I suspect the odd bird may have arrived then, I think the real “new arrivals” have come in the last 10 days. These dates differ little from the UK, a friend emailed from UK to say his first Swallow was on 24th two days earlier than normal. While I was in the UK several migrants had been arriving.

On returning on March 22nd I heard a solitary Chiff Chaff calling in Dol and sadly only once. I can only guess that this was passing through, as I have not heard or seen one since. This is a bird which in the UK signifies the arrival of Spring, being one of the first birds to arrive and start singing.

An obvious thing on my return was the disappearance of the feeding birds. I am now just getting the odd Chaffinch or the odd Great Tit, everything else has clearly gone off to mate or has found a natural food source.

A neighbour reported to me that on March 24th he saw a Hoopoe/Pupavac and coincidentally I saw my first one of the year two days later.

Hoopoe. Photo: Frank Verhart

Also on March 26th I saw 100 or so Swallows, several Cirl Buntings and another recent arrival, the Wheatear. I also had a good view of a hunting Sparrowhawk trying to take one of the finches, this time unsuccessful.


Wheatear. Photo: Steve Jones

March 27th was the highlight of my month, seeing a Subalpine Warbler, a new species for me. This was highlighted by the call initially, not because I knew it, but because I didn’t, so immediately I was drawn to it. I managed another (poor) photograph and have had it confirmed by two friends so I am happy to confirm the sighting.

Subalpine Warbler. Photo: Steve Jones

I am also hearing periodically Greenfinch, which is slightly confusing, so it almost makes me question myself. This was one my most common garden birds on leaving the UK, and only on March 27th do I pick up the first call here on Hvar. Since that time I have heard and seen two or three more as confirmation. I would have had a dozen or so feeding regularly in my UK garden, as a comparison.

March 28th – a bird I have never seen but one instantly recognisable is the Scops Owl. The “Ćuk” call is unmistakable, and since the 28th I have been hearing one or two birds. I am not sure if the second is a female answering.

Scops owl.                   Photo: Rod Coysh 

Anyhow another month over and already - hot off the press - I heard the arrival of the Nightingale/Slavuj on April 2nd, also saw a Scarce Swallowtail on the same day, following the first Swallow on the wing on April 1st..

Until next month …………………………

© Steve Jones 2016

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Scops owl calling, (Lot Valley, France) Sussex Scrapbook
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