Brief Nature Watch, Spring 2022

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Nature watcher Steve Jones paid a short visit to Hvar in April.

Hvar mongoose Hvar mongoose Photo: Steve Jones

Steve has now moved back to the UK for family reasons, but is still drawn to Hvar and its beautiful natural resources. He plans to visit as often as he can. This is his report from the few days he was on the island in April.

"Nice to be back! A very brief visit to “my old patch” on the island brought in the usual expected sightings. It gave me great pleasure to walk along the airfield and down to the pond, catching what is about, no day ever the same.

Cirl bunting. Photo: Steve Jones

Some birds were singing and setting up territory, so you know if a Cirl Bunting is singing at the bottom of the airfield it will be singing daily from that area, and a further two of them were heard on the way to the pond. Early April is a great time to visit as birds are arriving and setting up territories, while others are passing through to breed elsewhere – 4th April for example I saw a Redstart, only seen twice before on the Island (unlike the Black Redstarts that come in in October for the Winter), this will be clearly moving on.

Before I reached the island I saw several Swallows flying over between Zagreb and Split, and there were good numbers on Hvar over the airfield and around the pond. Some clearly just arriving.

Swallow. Photo: Steve Jones

During the first couple of days the weather turned colder, but there were still quite a few birds to see, including the Wheatear.

Wheatear. Photo: Steve Jones

On Sunday 3rd April 60-70 Yellow Legged Gulls were on the airfield where there was a covering of a heavy of hail appearing like snow. [Weather expert Norman Woolons identified this type of soft hail as 'Graupel'.]

Graupel hail in a Hvar field. Photo: Steve Jones
Yellow-legged gulls. Photo: Steve Jones

At the lower end of the airfield I picked up by call some yellow wagtails, I am thinking about 20 . You get several sub species of yellow wagtail so I group them all in the main species.

Black-headed yellow wagtail. Photo: Steve Jones

Of those I saw, one had a blue head, the other a black head. I saw another species at the pond but could not get a clear enough picture to publish.

Blue-headed yellow wagtail. Photo: Steve Jones

Whilst walking down to the pond saw a Kestrel perched on a tree looking out for prey and also a solitary Corn Bunting.

Kestrel on watch. Photo: Steve Jones

Sardinian warblers, which are resident, were also singing and calling.

Sardinian warbler. Photo: Steve Jones

On 4th April saw my first Whitethroat of the year, two others elsewhere on following days. Sadly I was not quick enough for a picture. Sub Alpine warblers, also recent arrivals, were beginning to sing, I saw them at three locations.

Sub-alpine warbler. Photo: Steve Jones

I had read and been told that Nightingales had already been in for a couple of weeks, so I was really disappointed in not hearing one, particularly when normally there would be three in 'my patch'. Nightingales are rarely seen, but I was lucky enough some time ago to have a regular Nightingale singing on display every morning in the early summer at about 06:30-06:45. Sadly all the pictures I took were looking into bright sunshine, so I have never managed to catch a decent picture of one. However a friendly, rather quizzical blackbird made up for that disappointment!

Blackbird. Photo: Steve Jones

There was a Wood Sandpiper or two at the pond and around but they are very sensitive to sound / movement. A couple of times I saw them fly well before I was at the pond or nearby. However the one day I first of all manged to see one through the short grass and managed a picture. It didn’t fly so I persevered for 30-40 minutes. Another flew in as well. I managed eventually a couple of quite decent pictures and getting to within five or so metres of the bird, obviously delighted.

Wood Sandpiper. Photo: Steve Jones

Last Wednesday I heard my first Cuckoo once again from an area heard in previous years. Sadly can’t get close enough to get a picture or even a sighting and it was only calling sporadically. Finally after visiting my old neighbours in Dol on Thursday, as I was leaving a Hoopoe flew right in front of the car, so I was delighted with that.

Hoopoe. Photo: Frank Verhart
A little mongoose family. Photo: Steve Jones

I saw a Mongoose on three separate occasions, possibly the same one three different times, once standing on its hind legs.

Also whilst out I saw several butterflies on the wing, Orange Tip, Bath White, Wall Brown and both Swallowtail and scare Swallowtail.

While I saw nothing that surprised me but more than happy with all the species picked up. Here's the list, in no special order:

Cirl Bunting
Swallow
Sardinian warbler
Chaffinch
Great tit
Cuckoo
Hoopoe
Blackcap
Hooded crow
Yellow legged gull
Wheatear
Kestrel
Blue tit
Wood sandpiper
Yellow wagtails
Serin
Corn bunting
Sub alpine warbler
Whitethroat
House Martin
Redstart
Greenfinch
Blackbird
Pheasant
Buzzard
Sparrowhawk

Until the next time ……………………."

© Steve Jones, 2022.

Footnote: Steve is sorely missed on Hvar, but we know he will be back as often as he can. In the UK, his birdwatching is very fruitful, and he has many like-minded friends to share his interest with. Shortly after his return, he sent us this picture of a Yellowhammer, a bird he has never seen on Hvar.

Yellowhammer. Photo: Steve Jones
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