Monday, November 30, 2009

Planning Your Holidays!

So, it is that time again, the winter months when many of us birders sit down and decide where we are off to next year. Here are some ideas for you: South Moravia (Czech Republic) in February for Geese, Raptors, Wallcreeper & the Valtice Wine Festival! Estonia in March for Owls, Grouse, Woodpeckers & Steller's Eiders! Serbia in May, an exciting new destination for Breeding Balkan Birds! Romania in August, the classic tour in the Danube Delta and along the Black Sea Coast! All kinds of birding delights in this selection and I will be guiding these trips myself. Just get in touch if any appeal to you and I will gladly send more details.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Owl Food

One of the reasons so many Long-eared Owls, and for that matter Common Buzzards, winter in northern Serbia is that there is LOTS of food. For example, the Steppe Mouse Mus spicilegus is abundant. Fallow fields, harvested crop fields and grasslands are dotted with their storage mounds which can contain up to 10kg of grain and be around a metre in diameter. Here is a photo of one taken near Zrenjanin in the Banat region.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Owls In The Mist

Here you go... more Long-eared Owls in the fog in Serbia. As I mentioned, we found dozens of roosts like this.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Owls In The Mist

Just back from Serbia. Another original and great trip with 8 nice folks from the UK. Only downside was a good deal of fog, but that did not stop us seeing about 1000 Long-eared Owls. We visited various parks, yards and cemeteries in villages in the Banat region with 722 seen on day 2 of our trip. The most owls in one place was 432.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud...

Here you go, the therapeutic mud of Lake Rusanda in Serbia. I know lots of places in Eastern Europe where the locals swear that their mud, usual around a thermal spring, is a cure for all kinds of aches, pains and diseases. You do not eat the stuff, of course, but rather dab it on or wallow in it. I will be at Rusanda soon and if I get a minute away from searching for owls, I will try it out (just a dab) and let you know how feel afterwards...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Serbia Trip

I am now getting ready for a short birding trip with some folks from the UK to Serbia. To be precise in the north-east in the Banat region. We will look for all kinds of resident and winter birds in the open country there, such as goose flocks, Saker, Great Bustard, Common Cranes and Syrian Woodpecker, but the highlight will probably be in some villages where there are large roosts of Long-eared Owls. In parks, yards and cemeteries there 100s can often be seen together, the average roost has 50 birds, many are 250 birds strong and some number over 400. Just look at the droppings and pellets below the trees in this photo! The roosts develop in October and numbers build up before the owls leave around March. This species will not be "new" for any of us, no, it is the numbers are are impressive and the photographic opportunities are superb. Watch this space!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Moravia... Next March...

I am just finishing off some arrangements for a trip to South Moravia, the southernmost region of the Czech Republic. From March 4 - 7, 2010 we will be looking for a good mix of late winter and early spring birds, including 7 woodpecker species such as Black, Grey-headed, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Syrian, Hawfinch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Long-eared Owls in roosts, Eagle Owl, Eastern Imperial Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Red Kite, Smew, Red-crested Pochard, Tundra and Taiga Bean and White-fronted Geese. Last March we also saw some Red-breasted Geese there, too. South Moravia really is a favourite birding area and one I visit every year. The visit coincides with a local wine-festival, too, for those who like that sort of thing! Drop me an email if you'd like more info on this trip and might want to come along.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back to Summer... Again !

So just when I thought it was save "to go back into the water" I look through another batch of summer photos and remember the sun. It is now wet and miserable here, and the winter tyres are on the the car in preparation for ice and snow. So here is a photo (thanks again to John Pitts) of some of the "keen" lepidopterists I took around Croatia last summer. What a trip that was! I can tell you that it is a myth that all birders are mad keen twitchers whilst butterfly-watchers carefully pick their way around the countryside. When a real rarity was found it was like a rugby scrum... well, almost... not quite...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Romania: A Birding Holiday

It's winter and next summer seems far off, but I am fully into the arrangements for several tours I will be guiding then. One I do every summer is Romania, to be precise the Danube Delta, Dobrudja and the Black Sea Coast. Dates next year are August 21-28, 2010. It is a bird-filled trip. A comfortable trip, too, cruising the Delta on boats, sipping drinks as you watch flights of White Pelicans flat over, herons exploding from the reedbeds, shorebirds on the lagoons and European Rollers sitting in the bare tops of trees. Really special birds here include Dalmatian Pelican Levant Sparrowhawk and Caspian Gull. Non-birding partners always enjoy this trip and photographers are in heaven! Drop me a line if this appeals to you...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Woodpecker versus Snake

I came across this amazing video on YouTube. I am sure the person who shot it in Peru won't mind me linking to it here. Now, as you might know, I am keen on woodpeckers, and I like snakes, too. So, ladies and gentleman, here it is... Olive Whipsnake versus Crimson-crested Woodpecker! Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Last Summer...

Well, actually, the summer just gone. It seems so far away now as it is getting colder here by the day.But John Pitts just reminded me of it, in particular our butterfly tour to Croatia in June, by sending me a CD of photos. Here is one, from up in the Velebits, that is all blue skies!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Absolute Nuts!

As I walked down a street in Buda this morning, I heard the sound of something falling on the road behind me. I turned to look and there was a Hooded Crow pecking at a walnut in the road. The bird then picked up the nut and flew up to the top of a telephone pole from where he took off and dropped the nut. As the nut hit the tarmac it's shell cracked this time and the crow quickly ate some of it before hopping off the road as a car approached. Another crow then flew from a garden with a walnut in its beak up to a metal gutter on a house. There it started to hammer the walnut against the hard gutter. So.. intelligence. These crows were using the hard road and the hard metal to crack a problem.