Birdwatch, June - July 2017

The summer months were intensely hot. By June 12th there was very little about. On a trip to the pond that morning I found that the biggest area was about to evaporate later that day– there was a tiny little pool with the remaining fish all gasping. Equally I saw a Cormorant, probably stocking up with an easy source of food.

Scops Owl Scops Owl Photo: Steve Jones

There had been an influx of Alpine Swifts during those days, also a Cuckoo still calling near the pond 300-400 metres away.

Pond dried up. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

As I’m sure most of you know the longest day marks the sign of change in nature’s calendar and the singing for territory and mate virtually ceases. Nightingale were one of the first to disappear: from my observations this year I would suggest there were reasonable numbers of Nightingales singing in “my patch”. Sadly despite numerous attempts, I have still yet to photograph one.

Eugenie, Will and Steve by the pond. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

On July 15th, two keen bird-watchers, Will* and Eugenie, joined myself and Vivian for an early-morning tour of some bird-watching sites in our part of Hvar Island. They particularly wanted to see the Bee-eaters, so I had sent them a photograph I had taken on July 8th and warned them that good pictures might be hard to take on a single trip: "[Bee-eaters] don’t like you getting too close and also at the moment the sun is so bright difficult to get a really decent shot at this location. I’m also of the opinion they disperse to different locations in the day. Are you familiar with the call of Bee-eater? I can sometimes hear them over my garden in the afternoons but often quite high up when I come to look. So you might be lucky enough to hear them where you are staying....If you can get to Jelsa, although nothing is guaranteed, I should think we can knock off Bee-Eaters and Red Backed Shrike for you. Hoopoe are a little more difficult as are Woodchat Shrikes now, I’ve only seen two Hoopoe in the last month and both in flight whilst driving, and they have stopped calling now like most." (email July 9th 2017).

Turtle Dove, July 8th 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

I also sent through a picture of a Turtle Dove, taken on July 8th, as they are a fairly rare sight in the UK now. The response was pleasingly enthusiastic: "Love those bird shots you took Steve. It's true, Turtle Doves are so rare these days in the UK it'll be lovely to see them." The words of true bird-lovers!

Bee-eaters, July 8th 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

We started our quest in Pitve, moving on to the pond in the Stari Grad Plain, and then to Jelsa.

Steve, Eugenie, Will in Pitve, July 15th 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

We were rewarded with more sightings than I expected, including an unknown wader at the pond. In Jelsa the Bee-eaters were happily swooping over their favourite nesting area.

Will watching the Bee-eaters, July 15th 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

It was a great start to Will and Eugenie's brief weekend visit, which was followed up by them spotting the elusive Golden Oriole near their accommodation.

Golden Oriole, July 17th 2017. Photo: Will Rose

Without doubt the highlight of my summer was being able to catch the Scops Owl in daylight, I just happened to pick up a contact call. Before, I had managed several shots at dusk, when it was coming to the power cables outside my house every evening, but the pictures were poor. On July 13th, I had a Scops on wire outside my house during the day, sadly it was off as soon as it saw me, I would have loved a daytime picture.

Scops Owl at night, June 17th 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

Then, on July 18th: done it! Albeit early in the morning (5:15am) as opposed to dusk where it would perch on my electric cable every night.

Scops Owl, early morning July 18th 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

And then over the next couple of days came the real daytime shots. So I was delighted with these. Then I had some doubts as to whether it really was a Scops Owl, as reading about their behaviour Scops is apparently a true night owl, whereas the Little Owl (Sivi ćuk) can also be seen in the day, which I know from seeing them in the UK. Their calls are similar. However, a knowledgeable friend from the UK confirmed that in his opinion it was a Scops – they do have two forms, grey and brown.

Scops Owl July 20th 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

Despite frequent visits to the pond and the airfield throughout the summer it remained very quiet and nothing new was observed. Perhaps you too noticed that numbers of Swallows were slowly building up on cables towards the latter part of July: on July 20th I counted 56 Swallow lined up on a power cable on my way back from Stari Grad ……was it a daytime roost or were they getting ready to go perhaps…?? and I believe the first weekend of August saw a lot move on. This doesn’t mean you won’t see a Swallow after that, but they are seen in smaller groups, as are Swifts and House Martins. Similarly Bee-eaters mainly went in August but I was still hearing them passing overhead as late as 13th September.

Just-fledged Red-backed Shrike, July 27th 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

Photographed in and around Dol during the latter part of July, a just fledged Red Backed Shrike still being fed by parents. I was still seeing these birds around, mainly in single numbers, into mid September.

Red-backed Shrike feeding, July 27th 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

© Steve Jones, 2017

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

*Will Rose is an animator and illustrator, mainly for children's programmes, and he uses his interest in wildlife in his professional work: http://wilbojonson.tumblr.com/, and https://vimeo.com/170155454

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