Birdwatch March-April 2018

Steve reports from Dol on the unsettled spring weather, and the welcome bird arrivals on Hvar: March and April have continued to bring the species in and as at April 24th I have seen 77 species with possibly two or three unidentified.

Spring-time and the Golden Oriole is back. Spring-time and the Golden Oriole is back. Photo: Steve Jones

March continued to be another month with a very heavy rainfall. My “marker stick” (an indicator as to pond levels in 2017) has completely disappeared and is still not visible near the end of April.

I am thinking the birds have been arriving slightly earlier than last year, up to two weeks in many cases. As my data is limited, does it mean they were late coming back in 2017? Without several years' data you can’t get an accurate picture of their movement, but at least you do have a general idea on when you would expect to see certain species.

By March 10th, things were already starting to move on. The Great Tits that were the most numerous feeders had gone, I could hear the odd one singing here and there but by and large the bulk had disappeared. Blue Tits and Chaffinches were continuing to feed, but would stop in the next 10 days or so. Blackbird numbers dropped dramatically so I was wondering if a fair proportion have gone off to breed elsewhere. The Lapwings which had been pretty numerous in comparison to last year arrived on February 22nd this year, as I recall, but now by March 10th I had not seen not seen one in three days. My first sighting of a Lapwing on the island was on February 14th 2017.

Lapwing. Photo: Steve Jones

The arrival of the Scops Owl and Nightingale was pretty much to the day as it was last year. I have also heard a Chiff Chaff in three consecutive years at pretty much the same place and time, and I am convinced it pauses briefly here and then moves straight on.

Ruff. Photo: Steve Jones

In early March there were several species of duck on the pond, Teal, Wigeon and a new one for me, Garganey. They proved very difficult to get a picture of despite numerous attempts, the slightest movement and they were off. Under normal circumstances they may well have returned quite soon, but because all of the surrounding fields were water-logged these and several other species were flying further away. I found evidence of this on numerous occasions with the Lapwings and Ruffs.

Garganey. Photo: Steve Jones

Another highlight for me was the touchdown of the Common Crane. In 2016 I noted a big flock passing over in the Autumn. Here at the beginning of March I saw twelve just fly over. March 2nd however three birds landed on the airfield. These three were seen at various locations for a further eight days or so.

 
Common Cranes. Photo: Steve Jones

March was also clearly the month for watching birds of prey. Sparrowhawks and Kestrels were seen almost daily.

Sparrowhawk. Photo: Steve Jones

Also there have been several Marsh and Hen Harriers around. Although I took many pictures I am afraid they are more as a record of the species than for publication. I did capture a Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard, our most common birds of prey on the island.

Kestrel. Photo: Steve Jones

March 24th was the end of a fantastic week, when I saw Marsh Harriers daily three days running. I think they were only passing through. I didn't manage any decent pictures. But I did get a fantastic picture of a Golden Plover that morning, in its transition phase, changing from winter to summer plumage. This brought the number of species seen so far in 2018 to about 58.

Golden Plover. Photo: Steve Jones

April continued with the steady trickle of new arrivals. I noticed a lot more Sub-Alpine Warblers this year than last: perhaps they enjoyed a successful breeding season in 2017. I would suggest they are probably the most numerous summer residents along with the Nightingales which are singing at all hours of the day and night. I keep trying, but I have still yet to photograph one of the latter.

Sub-Alpine Warbler. Photo: Steve Jones

From about the 14th April, the Buzzard seemed to have moved, appearing less and less frequerntly towards the end of the month, though you still might see the odd one.

Buzzard. Photo: Steve Jones

I have been trying for a long time to get a picture of a cuckoo, with difficulty. This one is not great, but at least you can see what it is.

Cuckoo. Photo: Steve Jones

I think without any doubt the highlight for me so far this year was ( whilst searching for a Cuckoo ) finding the Eagle Owl in daylight, probably just before 07:00 hrs on 17th April. I had a good view of it for about a minute, I managed three poor photographs but for the many people that hear these birds now you know what they look like.

Eagle Owl. Photo: Steve Jones

Between 18th and 19th April there was a big movement of birds coming in, with several Whinchats and Whitethroats appearing on the morning on the 19th, and my first Apline Swift of the year, Last year's first sighting of the Alpine Swift was on March 30th. On April 21st the Bee-Eaters arrived in my area, as did Turtle Doves, and there was a Purple Heron at or near the pond. The Golden Oriole arrived but it was moving about and only calling periodically. Golden Orioles are very nervous of movement of any kind, so they fly to nearby trees at the slightest disturbance when I spot them near the pond. One needs to use the binoculars to get a good view of them.

Purple Heron. Photo: Steve Jones

Towards the end of April, the Blackbirds which had settled were often to be seen carrying food, a sure sign suggesting they now had young. The warm weather at the end of the month ensured that the early morning chorus of birdsong has been particularly joyful!

 

 

© Steve Jones 2018

For more of Steve's nature pictures, see his personal pages: Bird Pictures on Hvar 2017, Bird Pictures and Sightings on Hvar 2018, and Butterflies of Hvar

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