Bird Watch, May 2017

After a brief absence from the island, Steve Jones caught up with the bird activities in May. Lots of early-summer action going on!

Purple heron Purple heron Photo: Steve Jones

Well, I came back from the UK on 7th May, and there were audible signs of new arrivals, most notably the Golden Oriole. Whilst in the UK I was told the Bee-Eaters arrived in Pitve on 3rd May. Last year my first sighting of both Bee-Eater and Cuckoo was 10th April.

Bee-eaters. Photo: Steve Jones

In fact from the house on 7th I heard Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, Turtle Dove, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackcap, Cirl Bunting and Cuckoo.

Black-headed bunting. Photo: Steve Jones

8th May, This was my first day back at the pond and, being car-less I did a 14km cycle in the morning, starting out just after 0700hrs. There were plenty of Bee-eaters, I counted 52 on my travels in two areas. Also that morning there was a Turtle Dove (they had been just arriving during the third week of April), and I saw Corn Bunting, Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper, Red Backed and Woodchat Shrike.

Red-backed Shrike. Photo: Steve Jones

 I've been seeing more woodchat than red-backed shrikes this year.

Woodchat Shrike. Photo: Steve Jones

A special treat was a very pleasing new arrival for the Island, my first sighting here of a Spoonbill.

Spoonbill. Photo: Steve Jones

10th May brought in another new wader for the count - Dunlin

Dunlin. Photo: Steve Jones

I was surprised to see a solitary Starling in Mid May, a bird I was expecting to see more of. They made their first appearance in early February, stayed for a short while and then moved on. I was seeing all the usual species every day, but 13th May brought in a Whitethroat. I saw one last year in Split but this was a first for me on the island. Then I saw my first dragonflies on the wing on 14th May.

18th May: I was out at 5am this morning, trying to photograph some Bee-Eaters from two sandbanks, but saw nothing. Clearly they are not roosting there, and yet I have seen groups of up to 50 flying about. Maybe later in the day is the right time to see them. However, I did see a Little Ringed Plover, which I also saw last month, and this time I managed to get a decent photograph of it.

Going out every day to the same place I was seeing nothing new until the 19th May, when I got three new species: Spotted Flycatcher, Black Headed Bunting and a new one for me on the Island – Purple Heron. (On 18th April I had made a note to myself that I might have seen this, but the sighting was all too brief, so I sort of dismissed it). Anyhow the Purple Heron, which was about for two or three days, brought the count for the year to just over 80, so I was very pleased with that.

Continuing to go the pond not far from the airfield every day, I have been seeing a lot of Woodchat Shrike this year, seemingly far more than in previous years. Waders seemed to be hitting the pond most days, never in great numbers, but some two or three were appearing most days up to 28th. There was a Black-Headed Bunting calling nearby and several Linnets about. Unfortunately a decent picture of the Linnet escapes me.

Cuckoo. Photo: Steve Jones

30th May. I have kept varying my times going out just in case it might bring different species, but it hasn't made too much difference. The Nightingale is hardly singing at all now, and with only three weeks to longest day that will signal the end. I’m not into finding nests with young, but I have seen evidence of birds feeding their young. I suspect the last of the waders have moved from the pond, as I have not seen anything in three days now. Blackbirds are singing again as are Blackcaps. A couple of Corn Buntings were singing again this morning, and I've been hearing the Black Headed Bunting periodically.

Finally, 30th May saw me a get a reasonable picture of a Cuckoo at last, still some distance away, but for those of you who have heard but not seen them, this is for you.

With the few new species spotted this month, there are 83 in total now for the year so far.  There are also a couple I haven’t mentioned in writing, as I couldn't get decent enough photographs to highlight them. They tend to be a bit nondescript. The Spotted Flycatcher and Garden Warbler for example, and the Spanish Sparrow is another one which is difficult to pick out.

I have a potential new wader which I photographed a week ago, but I am not entirely convinced that it is different from the Little Stint which is already on the list. When these birds are only 18cm high and you are seeing them from a distance, plus they are just coming into breeding plumage, it makes ID ( for me) difficult. But everything I have listed I am 100% happy with.

© Steve Jones, 2017

Steve's pictorial bird blog: Birds of Hvar 2017

Postscript: a female cuckoo made its presence known with its unusual call on May 20th, just behind my house in Pitve, and again for three days after that. I haven't heard her since, so I presume she concluded her sneaky egg-swapping business and then flew off to pastures new! VG June 12th 2017.

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