Birdwatching, April 2023.

We are delighted to share Steve Jones's report from a fruitful week's birdwatching in April 2023.

Wood Sandpiper Wood Sandpiper Photo: Steve Jones

Although no longer resident on the island, Hvar's dedicated birdwatcher Steve Jones comes back to his favourite haunts for spells of birdwatching and catchiong up with friends..We look forward to many more 'flying visits'!

Birdwatching on Hvar - 17th-23rd April 2023.

Monday 17th April. I walked from Dol heading down towards Hora and then down the tracks towards Dračevica. I stopped for every sound. As a start, I heard Nightingale, Blackcap, Serin and Cirl Bunting on the way.

Nightingale. Photo Steve Jones

Walking down one of the tracks I saw a Sardinian Warbler and then seconds later a Sub Alpine Warbler.

Sardinian Warbler. Photo: Steve Jones
Sub-Alpine Warbler, Photo: Steve Jones

More Nightingales were calling, but from experience I don’t often spend any time looking for the bird, they're extremely hard to spot. Very shortly into the walk I came across a Redstart, several Wheatears in a field and also Whinchats.

Redstart. Photo: Steve Jones

In my leisurely four-hour four hour walk to Jelsa via Vrbanj I believe I counted around nine Nightingales singing. These were the most common, followed by Sub-Alpine, Corn Bunting and Cirl Bunting. There were a couple of Whitethroats singing, one very close to the pond.

Whitethroat. Photo: Steve Jones

By 11:30 I was sitting at a bar in Jelsa and positive I was hearing a Blue Rock Thrush. I went to look for it a couple of times, but didn't manage to see it.

Blue Rock Thrush. Photo: Steve Jones

Later I managed a photograph on top of a building in the Jelsa Pjaca.

Wheatear. Photo: Steve Jones

In the late afternoon I walked around Dol near the church and the children's play area. This proved interesting: I was hearing a Wryneck, possibly two. However, getting close to the location proved quite difficult, in 40 minutes I glimpsed one three times just for a fraction of a second. The highlight bird for me on the day was a Pied Flycatcher. In several years of birdwatching on the island, this was a first for me, so I was delighted.

Pied Flycatcher. Photo: Steve Jones

My photographs were just sufficient for identification purposes, but poor quality, so this picture is one I took in the UK in 2022.

Whinchats in a field. Photo: Steve Jones

After day one I had 30 species recorded, with probably 8 species by sound only, so about 22 sightings.

Cirl bunting (female). Photo: Steve Jones

The rest of my week followed a very similar pattern, wandering around Dol in the early morning and late afternoon, and in the day-time following some of the tracks, always ending at Dračevica. I did try and vary the times I was getting to the pond just in case it affected species numbers. However after the week there was no noticeable difference.

Cirl Bunting (male). Photo: Steve Jones

On Tuesday April 18th whilst walking by the airfield I saw a few House Martins and Swifts, clearly just arrived, as I'd seen no indication of them in Split, Stari Grad, Vrboska or Jelsa in the days before. As I arrived at the pond, which incidentally was as full as I had seen it for a long time, more Swifts were flying overhead with Alpine Swifts amongst them. I think the Alpine swifts were just passing through as there was only the odd bird appearing within the group. On my early morning walk around Dol by the children's play area a Wryneck was calling close by and also a Black Redstart - these are birds that over winter on the island, generally arriving in mid-October, I've never seen any evidence of them breeding here. During the week I was seeing several large flocks of Yellow Wagtails.

Yellow Wagtails. Photo: Steve Jones

As they appeared in several different locations in the fields I couldn’t be sure if this was one flock of up to 30 birds or several separate groups. For recording purposes I am counting all Yellow wagtails as one species. On the island you do get several sub-species.

Yellow Wagtail. Photo: Steve Jones

I was seeing Hoopoe most days, but was unsure as to whether this was one bird in three different locations or three birds.

Hoopoe. Photo: Steve Jones

Wednesday April 19th followed a similar pattern, although there was no sound from the Dol Wryneck. During my walk down I encountered a brief glimpse of a Mongoose, which was clearly aware of me, but I managed a poor photograph of it standing on its hind legs.

Mongoose. Photo: Steve Jones

During the week I saw three more at different locations. The Wood sandpipers at the pond were going up at the slightest movement and generally one alerted all others. I noticed this as the Swifts were coming in to drink, they weren’t so bothered by the Swallows, but the Swifts often seemed to trigger them to fly up. Then they didn’t return to the pond but were settling in fields nearby.

Wood Sandpiper. Photo: Steve Jones

Whilst scanning the fields not only did I pick up several Sandpipers scattered around, I also picked up a solitary Ruff, which of course was another new species for the week. Very shortly afterwards I had my favourite bird of the week – a Purple Heron. I had super views with binoculars for around a minute and watched it go down in a field about 400 metres away. I went off in search, hoping to get a photograph, but after 30 minutes of looking alas I couldn't find it.

Ruff. Photo: Steve Jones

Having seen several Whinchats and Wheatears at the beginning of the week, they appeared less and less as the week wore on, so no doubt they were just passing through.

There was nothing at all different on Thursday April 20th, but Friday April 21st brought in three new species for the list. The first being the Woodchat Shrike, initially seen in fields 400 metres down from Hora, with probably another three seen at various locations in the following days. The Shrikes seem to appear and disappear with very little sound.

Woodchat Shrike. Photo: Steve Jones

At Soline beach I heard my first Turtle dove and then another. The third new species of the day was down at the pond and was picked up by an app on my phone. I often record sounds so as to test myself, however on this occasion when the Sandpipers flew the app picked up a Green Sandpiper: I hadn’t previously noticed anything other than Wood Sandpipers but on the strength of the app identification I added it to the list. I visited the pond a further three times in the next couple of days, alas I only saw Wood Sandpipers and that was also all the app picked up.

Disappointingly, Bee-eaters were not in evidence. During the week I paid three visits to Gringo's boatyard in Jelsa, where they usually settle for the summer, but without seeing or hearing any. On one occasion I thought that I picked up the characteristic Bee-eater chirruping call quite high up, but as I couldn’t see any I didn't include it in the list.

Saturday April 22nd followed a similar pattern, I picked up another first for the week and a first picture for me on the Island: a Raven. I'd often seen them in flight overhead, but never settled on a tree, albeit 150 metres away from me. So unfortunately my picture is not great, and the same goes for my photo of a Cuckoo, taken from about 300-350 metres away, just for the record.

Raven. Photo: Steve Jones

On the Saturday afternoon I visited Pitve museum which I thought was well worth a visit. On leaving I immediately heard and saw a Blue Rock Thrush on the roof of the building. Sadly I was without binoculars or camera, conditions were perfect for a good picture!

Sunday April 23rd was my last day, and a new bird for the list at the pond was a Red Backed Shrike, clearly another new arrival.

Red-Backed Shrike. Photo: Steve Jones

Finally while eating lunch on Sunday a Cormorant.

Cormorant. Photo: Steve Jones

I really enjoyed my week and it was certainly the right time to come to enjoy the birdwatching!

List of Species:
  1. Scops Owl (Ćuk)                                                                                 24 Linnet (Juričica)
  2. Blackcap (Crnokapa grmuša)                                                             25 Collared Dove (Gugutka)
  3. Nightingale (Slavuj)                                                                             26 Wood Pigeon (Golub grivnjas)
  4. Sardinian Warbler (Crnoglava grmuša)                                               27 House Martin (Piljak)
  5. Wheatear (Sivkasta bjeloguza)                                                            28 Pied Flycatcher (Crnoglava muharica)
  6. Corn Bunting (Velika strnadica)                                                         29 Wryneck (Vijoglav)
  7. Redstart (Šumska crvenrepka)                                                            30 Black Redstart (Mrka crevenrepka)
  8. Whitethroat (Grmuša pjenica)                                                             31 Green Sandpiper (Crnokrila prutka)
  9. Hooded Crow (Siva vrana)                                                                  32 Swift (Čiopa)
  10. Blackbird (Kos)                                                                                    33 Alpine Swift (Bijela čiopa)
  11. Great Tit (Velika sjenica)                                                                     34 Pheasant (Fazan)
  12. Goldcrest (Zlatoglavi kraljić) * heard only                                          35 Wood Sandpiper (Prutka migavica)
  13. Serin (Žutarica)                                                                                    36 Ruff (Prsljivac)
  14. Yellow Wagtail (Žuta pastirica)                                                           37 Purple Heron (Čaplja danguba)
  15. Swallow (Lastavica)                                                                             38 Yellow Legged Gull (Galeb klaukavac)
  16. Blue Rock Thrush (Modrokos)                                                            39 Chaffinch (Zeba)
  17. Kestrel (Vjetruša)                                                                                 40 House Sparrow (Vrabac)
  18. Cuckoo (Kukavica)                                                                               41 Turtle Dove (Grlica)
  19. Whinchat (Smedoglavi batić)                                                               42 Woodchat Shrike (Riđoglavi svračak)
  20. Greenfinch (Zelendur)                                                                          43 Raven (Gavran)
  21. Sub Alpine Warbler (Bjelobrka grmuša)                                             44 Red Backed Shrike (Rusi Svracak)
  22. Cirl Bunting (Crnogrla strnadica)                                                       45 Sparrowhawk (Kobac)
  23. Hoopoe (Pupavac)                                                                                46 Cormorant (Veliki Vranac)

© Steve Jones, April 2023

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

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    Max Marcovitch is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Also, please consider supporting our critical work

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