Birdwatch, January - February 2018

Well as I type this on March 1st looking out at my bird feeders amidst heavy snowfall, the birding calendar tells me Spring is on its way.

Kingfisher, January 2018 Kingfisher, January 2018 Photo: Steve Jones

January was interesting, bringing me several new species on the island. But it was also notable for the absence of “winter birds” such as Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare plus Brambling. The absence of Brambling, which is similar to the Chaffinch and often seen with them, is a mystery. With Chaffinch being by far the most numerous bird on the island, try as I might I am just not seeing Brambling amongst them.

January 1st was a great start in as much as I saw a Peregrine Falcon on the airfield. It doesn’t mean they aren’t here all the time, but this was the first time I had seen one. However, I only managed a poor picture.The Hawfinch I saw in the latter part of December was visible with two others on a few more occasions during January, which I consider unusual. Oddly, there were also numerous sightings of these birds in the UK at about the same time.

Peregrine falcon. Photo: Steve Jones

Most days Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were to be seen. Not quite so often, but enough times to say they over-winter here, I saw Hen Harriers. In mid - January I was seeing the Kingfisher almost every day in Stari Grad.

Blackbirds were notably active everywhere, mostly feeding on ivy berries, or enjoying a bath in the water tray in my garden. Equally my bird feeders continued to bring in good numbers of Chaffinches, Great Tits and Blue Tits, probably peaking at 30 birds. Blue tits were present in far greater numbers during January than before Christmas. Apart from these, I also saw the occasional Robin, Wren and Dunnock.

Blue tit. Photo: Steve Jones

On January 11th I had a fantastic morning. There was some sunshine and no wind, and I saw loads of assorted Finches, Wrens, Dunnocks, Cirl Buntings, Wood Larks (which I thought at first were Tree Pipits), and 30 hooded crows in one flock. There were also Sardinian Warblers and Stonechats, both of which clearly over-wintered here - I had suspected as much in the case of the Sardinian Warbler, as I had seen one or two during the winter of 2016, although before that I used to think it arrived with other migrants in the Spring. January 11th brought this picture.

Sardinian warbler. Photo: Steve Jones

The pond I visit most often for birdwatching was at last beginning to take on water come the third week of January. I had thought to myself in December about how low the levels were. Little did I know what was to come, and that there was no need to worry. By the end of February it has surpassed the levels of last Winter. On 28th January in Stari Grad I sort of dismissed hearing a Woodpecker. At the time I was concentrating on identifying a diving bird in the channel leading up to Stari Grad. Then I caught sight of the Woodpecker, if briefly, and, more importantly, could easily recognise the call of the Great Spotted Woodpecker. In over ten years of birdwatching on Hvar, I had never come across one. However, a friend in Jelsa told me later that there was a woodpecker nest close to his home last year. Obviously I can't hope to spot all the resident or visiting birds on Hvar so it is pleasing when gaps are filled in by other enthusiasts, and even more so when I catch up with those I haven't seen in previous years. 

Great spotted woodpecker. Photo: Steve Jones

The diving bird I was tracking on January 28th also turned out to be another first for me on the island, a Black Necked Grebe. Nobody was more surprised than me when I managed to identify it with certainty on 31st January.

Not much new to report in February, I did note that 21st of February the pond levels were back at winter levels of 2017. ( I have a marker placed last year as an indicator – until someone finds it that is). I did note that the Black Redstart was just starting to take on its summer breeding plumage. February 22nd brought in 10 Lapwings on the airfield, in recent days, particularly since the arrival of the snow, I would estimate 50-60 birds but spread out now. They don’t like you getting too close for photographs but have managed this.

Lapwing. Photo: Steve Jones

I have been trying to get out twice a day during the cold spell to see what it has brought in and I have been more than surprised with a few sightings. In addition to the Lapwing some returning waders are now at the pond. 27th on the airfield I caught by chance amongst the Lapwings a Grey Plover, a first for me on the island. Also a Swallow - so despite the snow Spring is on its way. Yesterday afternoon whilst trying to take a picture of a Snipe (another new one for me on the island), a dozen Common Cranes touched down briefly.

Common cranes in flight. Photo: Steve Jones

The tally of first sightings for the first two months of the year was 49. Let us hope it dries up and warms up in March, bringing more arrivals.

© Steve Jones 2018.

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

 

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