Birdwatch, January 2017

Steve Jones has had a great start to the year!

Goldfinch Goldfinch Photo: Steve Jones

Steve's report for January 2017:

I was expecting to see quite a few species at the end of last year, especially brambling and fieldfare, but they didn't appear. Finally in mid-January I saw a Brambling! I don’t think I had been missing them up to then, I think they arrived recently, perhaps with the cold spell. January 2017 was much colder than the same time last year. I had thought I had seen a Brambling on 15th January, but was waiting to confirm. So I was delighted to confirm several Bramblings on 19th January, a couple pictured here among a host of Chaffinches. Also by chance there's a Serin (with yellow breast) in there too.

Brambling circled in blue, chaffinch in red. Photo: Steve Jones

I think it fair to say I have never seen so many Chaffinches as here, huge flocks everywhere, always feeding, Blackbirds are also feeding on berries in great numbers. Because of the way people tend their ground there are great plots of land left unattended throughout the winter and it is a great source of food for these birds. On the 10th January on the airport road to Stari Grad it was particularly cold, and all along the road there were birds - by far the majority Chaffinches and Blackbirds. I would think that there were several hundred in number. They were all descending on any indentations in the road where ice had formed, presumably to take in the liquid where possible. It was quite a sight. Often amongst the flocks one could spot the odd Goldfinch or Serin. In the photograph above you can make a comparison between the Chaffinch and the Brambling. During the month it was impossible to count the number of Chaffinches, but, by contrast, what has been interesting is that I have only seen the Brambling on two occasions.

Female blackbird. Photo: Steve Jones

13 1 2017: I was asked to do a survey of seabirds on the following day, although identifying seabirds isn't my greatest strength. Hopefully there would be nothing too complicated, and there might even be surprises. I had seen some Black Headed Gulls in Jelsa the previous week, which was unexpected.

Black-headed gull. Photo: Steve Jones
Black-headed gull. Photo: Steve Jones

On 14th January it was another particularly cold morning bordering on snow, in fact there was a white ground covering in Prapatna and a slight covering at Grebišće. So I did the “Seabird count” for another Croatian organisation as requested, but it didn’t provide me with much.

Yellow-legged gulls, Jelsa June 2012. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

There were the usual Yellow-Legged Gulls, Black-Headed Gulls and three Cormorants. Had the weather been what would be described as a normal winter's day, I don’t think it would have changed my count.

Cormorant. Photo: Steve Jones

22nd January brought a new sighting for me here down at the airfield. I was first attracted by the call. At last, a Fieldfare! This is another of the winter thrushes, about the size of a blackbird. Initially it was difficult to get a photograph, as they are off at the slightest movement. On the 22nd I counted in the region of 20 birds but over the rest of the month I saw them several times, An early trip to the airfield on January 23rd produced more sightings of Fieldfares, as well as my first Heron of the year. There were good numbers of Goldfinches, with about 60 - 70 in a single flock, and more Chaffinches. That brought my tally of sightings up to 23 species, slightly up on the numbers in January 2016.

Fieldfare. Photo: Steve Jones

On January 31st I saw between 50-60 Fieldfares on the airfield. There was also a new species for me on Hvar. I had caught fleeting glimpses of this bird while driving, but that's not good enough for certain identification. It was a bird of prey, about the same size as a buzzard. Buzzards circling above us are a fairly common sight on Hvar, but this one moved differently, gliding quite low over the fields. In birdwatching, the odds are that a few sightings will allow for clear identification sooner or later, and so it proved. The Hen Harrier was my highlight for January 2017.

Hen Harrier. Photo: Steve Jones

In total I saw 26 species during the month. Birdwatching on Hvar has brought out several differences in comparison to the UK. For instance, a friend in England keeps track of birds which touch down in his garden, and counted 25 species during January, whereas in my garden on Hvar the total would be about six..In my garden in Devon I would see about 12 species within an hour.


© Steve Jones 2017

Eco Hvar footnote.

At the end of January, the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) organized its Big Garden Birdwatch, an exercise in bird observation which has taken place every year since 1979. Due to the cold weather in northern countries, they were expecting an influx of waxwings, beautiful colourful birds which only visit the UK every few years. The annual Birdwatch scheme produces interesting details about bird numbers and movements. Numbers of house sparrows, for instance, have declined by about 58% since the annual count began. The aim of the scheme is to make people aware of the birds and wildlife around them, whether in cities or countries,  and to promote conservation. It has been extremely successful, with mass participation. Much work is being done in the field of nature studies and conservation in Croatia. A participation scheme involving the nation's schoolchildren would be of great benefit in helping future generations to understamnd and care for the world around them.

For more of Steve's beautiful nature pictures, see his personal pages: Bird Pictures on Hvar 2017, and Butterflies of Hvar

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