Birdwatch, February 2017

Steve Jones' bird sightings in February 2017. Happily, gaps are being filled!

Great Tit: more in evidence a year ago. Great Tit: more in evidence a year ago. Photo: Ian Kirk

I have been really pleased with my February sightings as birds I would have expected to see over the Winter have appeared, and I hadn’t seen them last year, the cold spell no doubt responsible. Admittedly I went out pretty much every day in February this year, whereas looking at my notes from last year it was seemingly every two to three days. The days have been a bit warmer and the birds were beginning to take on a bit more colour, with some starting to sing as the breeding season approached.

My garden Chaffinches which come to the feeder were quite active now, but apart from Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin, Blackcap and occasional Black Redstart there wasn’t much else. Last year I was seeing good numbers of Blue Tits and Great Tits. This year I have been hearing the Great Tit, but the Blue Tit and the Wren have been very scarce. The Blackbirds which were so prominent in January had largely moved on in the early part of February.

On February 1st a male Hen Harrier flew right in front of me whilst I was driving into Stari Grad. I saw it a few times in January, but only twice in February, the second time almost at the end of the month on February 27th.

Redwing with a Fieldfare, February 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

February 2nd brings another first – Redwing, not a very good picture but it shows the difference in size between the Fieldfare and the Redwing.

February 4th: feeding on the Vrbanj airfield there were in excess of 100 Fieldfares and Mistle Thrushes.

Then on February 7th I saw my first Pheasant, although I had been hearing them before this.

Cirl bunting, February 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

February 9th: I was out for just an hour in the morning, and concluded that the Fieldfares had moved on. It's interesting what a difference a couple of days can make. Blackcaps were very active. I tried to get a decent picture of them, but they were too flighty. I was hoping to show how the male and female have different coloured "caps", but alas that was not to be at the moment. I heard my first Cirl Bunting of the year singing (22nd in 2016), staking its territory. This bird is an all year round resident and very pretty as you can see from the picture.

There were also two very bedraggled looking Starlings. At first I thought I was mistaken, not having seen them here before, and to make matters worse the battery had run out on my camera. But once I got my binoculars on them it was clear as to what they were.

Starlings lined up. Photo: Steve Jones

On the evening of the 10th I heard my first Eagle Owl of the year, quite close to my house in Dol.

11th February brought me two new species for the year, the Rock Dove and, for the first time on the island, the Wigeon. Keeping an eye on bird movements in migration, I noted that some of the Cuckoos had started moving from their African wintering grounds. Hopefully heading our way! They should arrive in the United Kingdom by about the third week of April.

Wigeon, February 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

February 14th brings me another first for the island – Lapwing. Initially I saw 4 birds on the Vrbanj airfield,  but later in the month I saw them again: 2 on the 17th, 10 on the 20th and 1 on the 22nd.

Lapwing, February 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

February 22nd brings another two species to add to the year list. A solitary Raven which flew off in the Brač direction before I could get the camera out to photograph it. I didn’t see any last year, but heard one with a friend who also recognised it. Then there was a Pied Wagtail, rather late, as it was a bird I had been expecting to see in January.

Chaffinch visiting the Cafe Splendid in Jelsa. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

By far the most common bird on the island during February was the Chaffinch. Far too many for me to count but it seemed to me as the month was coming towards the end that several flocks had flown onwards to their breeding grounds. Many were feeding at my bird tables - I counted 14 at a time towards the end of the month, and they were starting to sing more noticeably. There were also large numbers of hooded crows. Buzzards were still in evidence, but not in such great numbers as in January and early February.

Almond blossom 'confetti', February 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Well, February left us with blossom beginning to show on trees, more Red Admirals and Brimstone butterflies on the wing. There were birds starting to sing as they set up their territories. While more birds will be leaving us in this early spring phase, we should start to see the arrival of the summer migrants in March.

Almond blossom with bee. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

SUMMARY OF BIRDS SEEN DURING FEBRUARY 2017

© Steve Jones 2017

Lead photo of Great Tit by Ian Kirk from Broadstone, Dorset, UK (Great Tit  Uploaded by tm) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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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