Birdwatch, April 2017

Steve Jones reports from Dol.

Wood sandpipers by the pond. Wood sandpipers by the pond. Photo: Steve Jones

The pond near the airfield has given me the most sightings without doubt this year, March and April being no exceptions. So much so that I have shortened “my patch” significantly. Last year and the beginning of this year I used to regularly go in to Jelsa via Vrbanj and stop along the roadside, but as nearly all of my new sightings have been coming from near the airfield and the pond, for the last six or seven weeks I have been concentrating on that area only. I am out almost every morning at a variety of times whilst new arrivals keep coming in.

Wood sandpiper. Photo: Steve Jones

4th April brings a new sighting to me and another new one to the Island that I have recorded: the Wood Sandpiper. Initially there were just two, but at various times during April there have been up to eight along with the previously seen Green Sandpiper. When I first saw it, it was in a group of four waders, three of whom flew off as I arrived. I was almost 100% sure, but not quite, that it was an Adult Wood Sandpiper, slightly different to the Green Sandpiper which appeared in March. As both these birds are new to me, it is confusing when there are just small variations between them.  I also read they can be confused with the Solitary Sandpiper. However, in the end, after consultation with birdwatching friends in the UK, I was able to confirm that it was a Wood Sandpiper.

That day, I did a check with the Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve site (not the best comparison site to use, but it gives an idea, and they are at just over 100 species at the moment). They get a lot of sea birds and waders which we don’t. I also looked up Wood and Green Sandpiper in 2016 and both were sighted at the Warren in August. My guess is they were heading south after breeding up north. I am puzzled “our” waders haven’t moved on.

6th April I heard my first Nightingale and heard my first Scops Owl (Ćuk) of the season, although have since been told the Scops was being heard in Pitve some time back in March.

Scops owl. Photo: Steve Jones

Managed to pick up the Hoopoe down by the pond on 7th April.

Hoopoe. Photo: Steve Jones

On the 8th April the sandpipers were joined by another new species for me on the Island – Greenshank.

Common greenshank. Photo: Steve Jones

I did try and get a photograph of both birds in the same shot so that you can get a size comparison but was not terribly successful.

Greenshank with wood sandpiper. Photo: Steve Jones

9th April I briefly see another new species for me here a Little Ringed Plover, one very poor photograph and it was gone. I have seen it just once since, in flight.

As the month has continued more and more Swallows are arriving and I am also seeing just two Alpine Swifts, presumably the same ones as arrived in March.

Sub-alpine warbler. Photo: Steve Jones

The Sub-Alpine Warbler continues to call and is not as elusive as the Nighingale. I eventually manage to get a picture of it on 13th April.

Sub-alpine warbler. Photo: Steve Jones

13th April. I was in Jelsa to see the Maundy Thursday all-night Procession off, and heard three Scops owls calling. One call seemed to be coming from the park by the car park, another from up by the old diving school and one opposite. I  tried to get a picture but wasn't lucky enough for that.

On 14th April I was driving the car and saw what I thought was a Wheatear. On stopping and getting binoculars on it I was pleasantly surprised by another new bird for the year although not new to me on Hvar: the Whinchat.

Whinchat. Photo: Steve Jones

While at a neighbour's later in the morning of the 14th I heard a Chiff Chaff calling. This is another bird that I haven’t managed to see here but the call is quite obvious, and very similar to last year when I heard it on 22nd March 2016. I can only presume it was passing through, as on both occasions I only heard it on the one day.

I continue to see Serin, Yellow Wagtails, Linnets, Corn Buntings and Hoopoes as the month goes on.

Little egret. Photo: Steve Jones

15th April, yet another new species for me to record here on the Island - a Little Egret. Similar to the other waders it is very wary of me and wouldn’t let me get too close and equally I don’t like to put the birds up unnecessarily. However I managed to get several shots. It's always fascinating to watch the Little Egret, even though I have seen it many times before. It has black legs and yellow feet, and it wiggles its foot in water so as to distract prey, and then strikes like a dart at whatever its target is, nothing substantial from what I can see.

Little egret wading. Photo: Steve Jones

17th April, there were two female Hen Harriers flying for some considerable time before heading off in Vrbanj direction – superb display.  Sad that I still can’t get a picture of a bird in flight.

18th April, I saw a bird I couldn't identify. Later I found out it was a curlew sandpiper, another new one for me!

Curlew sandpiper. Photo: Steve Jones

20th April, yet another bird I didn't recognise! I found out later it was a female Ruff –  confirmed by three sources from my not-spectacular picture. A real shame it wasn’t the male, I would have recognised that instantly. I also saw what I am 99.9% certain was a purple heron. I've never seen one before, it didn’t land, and I couldn’t get a picture but I am seriously tempted to list it, it really couldn’t be anything else. In the afternoon there was another new one to me and of course to the Island since I have been recording: Red Footed Falcon – I saw a pair hunting, couldn’t get any decent pictures, but just enough to ID.

Red-footed falcon. Photo: Steve Jones

21st April, I went to Jelsa again, but no sign of Bee-Eaters: I've been expecting them each day, as from my notes they appeared on April 10th last year. Swifts were also earlier last year, and I had my first 2017 sighting just this morning. As I'd been seeing two Alpine Swifts for several weeks, I had expected to see the Swift sooner. And I've only heard one cuckoo calling so far. I saw the Red Footed Falcon again, but mostly  rear view only, as above, so I couldn't get any decent photos. Still you can’t have it all!

22nd April. On my way to the ferry, I saw a pair of turtle doves. As I am away for the rest of the month, I expect I will miss the arrival of the bee-eaters. But it has been a rewarding month. I have taken over 200 pictures, mostly of the sandpipers down at the pond. Mainly so I could study the differences between the Green and Wood Sandpiper, as both birds were new to me, and the birds are pretty small and often missed. It has got more difficult to see them in the last two weeks, as the pond vegetation has grown somewhat. Narrowing my patch has certainly paid off. I've been out almost every day, and have been pretty well picking up things as they just come in, which is fantastic. Even so, I still wonder what I miss. Last week, for example, I could hear an unfamiliar call but couldn’t get anywhere near close enough to see the bird without blatantly trespassing.

Sightings in April 2017
* Heard, not seen, identified through the call.

© Steve Jones 2017

There are more of Steve's pictures of beautiful birds on his personal blog spot, 'Bird Pictures on Otok Hvar'.


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