Birdwatch, June - July 2019

Published in Nature Watch

Steve Jones of Dol recounts his observations during June and July 2019, a mixture of some disappointments balanced by unexpected joys, including a couple of bird rescues!

Pygmy Cormorant Pygmy Cormorant Photo: Steve Jones
Little Bittern, well camouflaged! Photo: Steve Jones

On June 4th 2019 I had a bit of luck, which gave me a good observation: a Little Bittern at the pond, superbly camouflaged round the fringes. A totally new sighting for me, so I was delighted. It stayed around for three days, long enough for me to get pictures which were adequate to prove its identity. Incidentally, I learned just recently that the pond is known locally as 'Dračevica'.

Little Bittern. Photo: Steve Jones

On June 10th I was not so lucky: I came within 25 metres of a male cuckoo, which is quite close, but for some unknown reason my camera wouldn't focus, so the 15-odd shots I took all turned out to be rubbish. I know "the bad workman blames his tools" but the camera failure was a complete mystery. However, on June 13th we at Eco Hvar were extremely glad to receive a beautiful photograph of a cuckoo which went a long way to making up for the disappointment. Birdwatching enthusiast John Ball, who visits Hvar and has previously provided us with some of his exquisite pictures wrote most generously: "I thought I would share an experience I had in May when I was present at an occasion at Thursley Common in Surrey, where a Cuckoo came in so close and enabled me to get some special photos. In all my time as a lover of wildlife and from experience of following the Cuckoo call to get a distant image this was a real treat. Apparently the bird has been returning to the same area for 5 years and so has covered a lot of miles! The attraction being meal worms which it consumes gratefully and is totally unfazed by human presence and will readily come to within 4 metres to enjoy the worms. To see a bird of naturally retiring nature this close was a lifer for me."

Cuckoo. Photo: John Ball

Cuckoos are great travellers! The British Trust for Ornithology have a fantastic website where you can track individual tagged Cuckoos. I used to follow a couple from Dartmoor, although I think our local society 'Devon Birds' doesn't sponsor any now. At the time I noticed one which would have passed close to here on his way from Africa to South East England. On June 14th 2019 I managed a picture of a Cuckoo from a distance of about 50 metres. I was quite pleased with this, as they would not be around much longer. The previous evening I was down at the pond from 20:00 to 21:30. I specifically wanted to listen out for Cuckoos. I had forgotten to take any mozzie spray, but managed to survive and was rewarded by hearing two male Cuckoos and two females calling from some distance apart. One pair was at the place where I had been checking out. However, I couldn't fathom the host bird, although I wondered if it might be a Sub-Alpine Warbler. To find out, I need to concentrate on excessive activity, but really it's a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Roller. Photo: Steve Jones

On June 12th I had a sighting of a Roller, which is pretty rare here, and anywhere else for that matter. It landed on a branch some distance away, but I managed one token picture before it flew off. I also caught a Scarlet Darter Dragonfly on camera - dragonflies, although always present, have been more in evidence this year than previously.

Scarlet Darter dragonfly. Photo: Steve Jones

On June 14th there was a turtle dove perched on a branch for my photo-call, for which I was duly grateful. Around dusk I saw two nightjars, and heard several more calling with their unmistakable 'rattling' sound. I was hoping they might come out a bit earlier in the evening so that I could photograph them, but no.

Turtle Dove. Photo: Steve Jones

On June 16th I was given a young Hoopoe by some friends. It had crashed on their terrace two days before. As they have two cats they couldn't keep it. They said it hadn’t eaten anything. I made a little cage for it and watched it for an hour or so the following day. It seemed quite healthy, but whilst I had given it water and meal worms it didn’t appear to have eaten them. (They are insect feeders.) I tried to feed it a meal worm by hand but got no reaction. I was pretty sure it couldn’t fly although it looked pretty well developed so it had to be close. I was loath to keep it if it was not eating anything, but then again I didn’t want to put it outside and let it fend for itself as the cats around would soon have it. If it was eating, I would have made it a bigger cage. The following day I was due to be away in Split, and I was contemplating testing at the pond whether it could fly on my return the day after. If it could, I would let it go.

Red-Backed-Shrike. Photo: Steve Jones

Happily on June 17th my Hoopoe successfully flew from the pond. Then there was another casualty on June 18th when a Red-Backed Shrike fell into a water trough. However, he was rescued and ready to fly first thing the following morning having dried out. After that the bird scene was very quiet, apart from the elusive Oriole. I was seeing them often, but didn't manage a decent picture... A couple of weeks later in early July, as I was trying to sneak up on an Oriole in another failed attempt to take its picture, by pure luck I got a shot of a Red-Backed Shrike in my garden, so that was some consolation.

Pygmy Cormorant. Photo: Steve Jones

On July 4th there was a Pygmy Cormorant at the pond, but one that was a totally different species from the normal one. About a week later there were two, but only for one day. After that, one stayed at the pond for another couple of weeks, apparently taking up residence, but then it disappeared, presumably moved on. During its stay I was happy that it apparently got used to me and allowed me to take some good pictures.

Pygmy Cormorant. Photo: Steve Jones

Birds of prey were in evidence in July. I photographed one which I thought was a Buzzard but a couple of people suggested it could be a Honey Buzzard, so I didn't add it to the list of sightings until I was 100% sure. I have seen both the Honey Buzzard and the Common Buzzard on the island, pictured below, and it can be hard to spot the difference at a distance.

Common Buzzard. Photo: Steve Jones
Honey Buzzard. Photo: Steve Jones

Another bird of prey I caught on camera in a distant shot was possibly a Levant Sparrowhawk, but as it was so far away I won't count that one in the listing.

At 07:15 on the morning of July 18th I caught sight of another new species which I hadn't seen before on Hvar, a Curlew. Sadly I couldn't get a photo of it, as it flew up when it heard me close my car door. It circled the pond a couple of times, giving me hope that it would come down again, but no such luck. Anyway, it brought the number of species sighted this year to about 86. It's a shame that there was no water in the pond earlier in the year, and no really cold temperatures, otherwise there might well have been another eight or nine species to be seen.

Montpellier snake. Photo: Steve Jones

There are of course other interesting creatures to see on Hvar when one goes out looking at nature. In early July I got a decent picture of a Montpellier snake (Latin: Malpolon insignitus, Croatian: Zmajur), just down the road from my house. Looking at it I think it was full or digesting something, as I read they are supposed to be quite quick. This one needed to be prompted to move on and was quite lethargic about it all – I guess it was a metre in length. They can grow to more than twice that length, and although they can look (and be) aggressive, they are not particularly dangerous to humans, as their poison is contained in their back teeth. If they manage to bite a human (for instance if they are provoked or picked up) the venom generally causes numbness and swelling, sometimes a fever, all of which will subside naturally within a few hours (although it is wise to seek medical attention if you are in doubt). Male Montpellier snakes fight each other for a mate, but have a charming courtesy towards their females: a male will offer a gift of food, such as a mouse, to the female of his choice, and if it is accepted the courtship will continue! These snakes can also be useful to humans, as they are apparently the enemies of Nose-horned vipers (Latin: vipera ammodytes, Croatian: poskok), which are potentially dangerous to humans.

Montpellier snake. Photo: Steve Jones

Later in July birding was quiet, but, saying that, there was more happening than last year, as the pond levels were higher following the heavy rain. I picked up a few new species for the year but none that I hadn't seen before, apart from a Pallid Swift. The picture I took of it was poor, but two knowledgeable people in Devon kindly confirmed the identity. I have to say here that I have paid more attention to the different types of Swifts since we received a detailed list of sightings from an experienced Dutch birdwatcher who visited the island in May. The Alpine is easy to tell apart from the others, the Pallid less so.

© Steve Jones 2019.
For more of Steve's nature pictures, see his personal pages: Bird Pictures on Hvar 2017Bird Pictures and Sightings on Hvar 2018, and Butterflies of Hvar
You are here: Home Nature Watch Birdwatch, June - July 2019

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Tiny particles including tyre dust found in ice cores stretching back 50 years, showing global plastic contamination

    Nanoplastic pollution has been detected in polar regions for the first time, indicating that the tiny particles are now pervasive around the world.

    The nanoparticles are smaller and more toxic than microplastics, which have already been found across the globe, but the impact of both on people’s health is unknown.

    Continue reading...

  • Morrison government hails engineering milestone but researchers raise concerns and say it could increase emissions

    Australia will export its first load of liquefied hydrogen made from coal in an engineering milestone which researchers say could also lock in a new fossil fuel industry and increase the country’s carbon emissions.

    Under the $500m Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) pilot project, hydrogen will be made in Victoria’s LaTrobe valley from brown coal and transported aboard a purpose-built ship to Japan, where it will be burned in coal-fired power plants.

    Sign up to receive an email with the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

    Continue reading...

  • The best of this week’s wildlife pictures, including beluga whales, a ‘snow fairy’ and two egrets hitching a lift

    Continue reading...

  • Government considers scrapping scheme that pays for energy efficiency measures for poorer households

    More than 30,000 jobs would be put at risk if the government were to scrap the energy bill levy that pays for home insulation improvements for poor households, the industry has warned.

    Ministers are mooting an end to the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), a £1bn levy on energy bills that pays for energy efficiency measures for people on low incomes. The energy price cap is expected to rise by about £700 to £2,000 for the average household bill in April, after a surge in gas prices.

    Continue reading...

  • Stunning images from the 10th year of the worldwide Ocean Art underwater photo competition. Thousands of entries from 81 countries were judged with the winners including nine taken in Australia

    Continue reading...

  • Some rightwingers claim renewables have increased costs, but Energy UK blames over-reliance on gas

    Energy companies want the government to implement policies to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, the industry’s leader has said, despite claims from some on the political right that high energy prices should spark a rethink.

    Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive of Energy UK, which represents the industry, said: “The government should press on with net zero policies. That’s something they still need to do. We are missing the carbon budgets.”

    Continue reading...

  • Stamford, Lincolnshire: It’s the coldest night in winter. I almost enjoy the sense of it working its way inside me

    It’s the coldest night of the winter. Just hours ago, the world was agleam with wet cold, now – with the dark – it’s solid cold. Things that rustled now rattle, and the grass is in a beautiful rigour of felty frost. It catches the moonlight and sparkles, a miracle that turns the colourless and drab suddenly starkly beautiful under the light of the dark.

    Clear winter nights like this are wonderful for stars. That, and to just go out and feel the cold and its tight silence around you. I stand and breathe deep, exhaling stiff, granular steam. And I start to feel it as it works its way in. Fingers, feet, nose. Then deeper, like an alarm of rising volume. Stand still enough for long enough and it takes hold of your core, a sickly pain, that – left long enough – will stop your life.

    Continue reading...

  • The deal to build an electric car battery plant near Blyth will bring up to 3,000 jobs to the area by 2028

    The UK government will invest £100m in Britishvolt as the car battery manufacturing startup seeks to build Britain’s first large-scale “gigafactory” in the north-east of England.

    The government’s Automotive Transformation Fund will invest alongside asset management company Abrdn and its majority-owned property investment arm, Tritax, to fund a sale and leaseback deal for the huge building that will house the electric car battery factory, near Blyth in Northumberland.

    Continue reading...

  • With meat consumption twice the global average, citizens of EU27 have to reconcile environmental concerns and culinary traditions

    A row over meat consumption in Spain over the last month is just the most recent eruption of the debate all over Europe, as the continent grapples with making its famous cuisines more sustainable.

    Food is inextricably intertwined with national identity for countries in continental Europe; a good steak, with perfect fritesstacked beside it; a plate of wafer thin carpaccio, drizzled with dressing or plain old olive oil; wurst, served with good mustard; jamón ibérico laced with creamy white fat.

    Continue reading...

  • Exclusive: Officers say cuts and operational decisions have made England’s regulator ‘toothless’

    Staff at England’s Environment Agency say it has been cut back to such an extent that they cannot do their jobs and the regulator is no longer a deterrent to polluters.

    Three officers at the EA have described to the Guardian and Ends Report how they are increasingly unable to hold polluters to account or improve the environment as a result of the body’s policies.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

  • In partnership with Conservation International, chefs in Hawaiʻi are cooking up creative ways to control invasive species populations.

  • Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

    1. 1,000 experts & leaders say “climate action failure” is perceived as top global risk

    Climate change and environmental degradation are among the gravest threats to humanity, says a new report.

    The story:The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risk Report this year finds that the top five long-term risks to our world are all environmental — with climate action failure, extreme weather and biodiversity loss ranking as the most severe. Risks were gathered from surveys with approximately 1,000 experts and leaders, Ashira Morris reports for World War Zero. Though climate change has already arrived “in the form of droughts, fires, floods, resource scarcity and species loss, among other impacts,” current climate commitments are not sufficient to meet the challenge, according to the report. 

    The big picture: “The World Economic Forum finds public and private-sector leaders in broad agreement … decisive climate action cannot wait,” Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan told World War Zero. “To date, the industrialized world has consistently failed to make good on their climate promises. As we look ahead to COP27,” — the international climate negotiations set for later this year in Egypt — “governments, companies and financial institutions must not only increase their own decarbonization ambitions — they must make fairness a priority [for] communities on the frontlines of climate change.” 

    Read more here.



    2. The great Siberian thaw 

    Russia’s frozen lands contain vast amounts of carbon, which is being released as the permafrost melts.

    The story:In northeastern Russia’s boreal forests, where permafrost can be a kilometer deep, annual temperatures have risen by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution — twice the global average, Joshua Yaffa writes for The New Yorker. Climate change, exacerbated by deforestation and wildfires, is melting the permafrost. As it thaws, once-frozen organic matter — everything from woolly mammoth remains to tree stumps — is releasing “a constant belch of carbon dioxide and methane,” writes Yaffa. This fuels a dangerous feedback loop: Greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere lead to higher temperatures, which in turn contribute to further melting these frozen soils.  

    The big picture:Irrecoverable carbon” refers to the vast stores of carbon in nature that are vulnerable to release from human activity and, if lost, could not be restored by 2050 — when the world must reach net-zero emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Due in part to its massive land area, Russia contains the most irrecoverable carbon of any country, with high concentrations in its boreal peatlands and forests, according a recent studyby Conservation International, which mapped irrecoverable carbon around the world — providing policymakers with the clearest view yet on the areas that most need to be protected. 

    One mountainous region, the East Russian taiga in the southeast corner of the county, contains 2 percent of Earth’s irrecoverable carbon — and the last Siberian tiger range — making it a priority for protection, experts say.

    Read more here.



    3. A third of commodity-hungry firms have no deforestation policy — report

    Companies that supply the world’s commodities are also driving deforestation, according to a new report. 

    The story:Protecting forests is critical to limiting climate change, yet a third of the 350 companies most involved in commodities such as soy, beef and palm oil lack policies to ensure their products do not contribute to deforestation, reports Simon Jessop for Reuters. According to Global Canopy’s annual “Forest 500” report, 93 of the world's 150 leading financial institutions — providing US$ 5.5 trillion in finance — do not have a deforestation policy covering their lending to companies in key commodity supply chains. 

    The big picture:Each year, large swaths of tropical forests are destroyed to make room for palm oil, cattle, soy and other commodity-driven agriculture. But this destruction of nature comes at a climate cost; tropical deforestation accounts for 8 percentof annual emissions, equivalent to those released by the entire European Union. 

    In November, at the UN global climate summit known as COP26, more than 100 countries — accounting for about 86 percent of the world’s forests — committed to stop deforestation on their lands by the end of this decade. In addition, more than 30 financial institutions pledged to eliminate deforestation driven by agriculture from their portfolios and increase investments in nature-based solutions by 2025. 

    “The new political space created at COP26 can pave the way for stronger and more broadly applicable legal frameworks … but these proposals could be strengthened, and must be enforced, with clear accountability and penalties for breaches,” according to the “Forest 500” report.

    Read more here.



    Vanessa Bauza is the editorial director at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

    Cover image: Alder Fire in Yellowstone National Park (© Mike Lewelling, National Park Service)

  • In case you missed it: Carbon offsets are helping protect mangroves and support local communities in Colombia, a vacuum could help pull genetic information for wildlife from the sky and more.

  • The UN climate talks (COP26) yielded key climate commitments. Our experts weigh in on the main takeaways — plus needed next steps.

  • Earth is teetering perilously close to a tipping point — but it’s not too late to bring us back from the edge, says Conservation International’s Chief Scientist Johan Rockström in a new Netflix film.

  • In case you missed it: Solar and wind power gain traction as global coal consumption plummets, violence and extreme weather pushed millions from their homes last year, and a growing number of people care about protecting nature.

  • Learn how Indonesia has taken incredible steps to protect these fascinating — and valuable — creatures.

  • In a historic announcement, the global civil aviation industry has paved the way for airlines to help neutralize their climate footprint by protecting nature.

  • In case you missed it: Pope Francis is imploring people to protect nature, the world’s largest coral reef is facing mass die-offs and restoring one-third of the Earth’s most degraded ecosystems is crucial to slowing climate change.

  • In case you missed it: Global greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly rising as countries ease COVID-19 restrictions, plastic pollution is growing across national parks in the western United States, and new research revealed that heat and air pollution could cause birthing problems for pregnant women, especially for Black mothers.