Thursday, 23 October 2008

Destinations: Serbia

Serbia is a great birding destination but one which few birders visit. Here is a brief introduction to some of this country's best lowland sites. Stari Begej - Carska Bara is a remnant of the once extensive flood plain of the lower reaches of the River Begej. It is a mosaic of fishponds, swamps, marshes, forests, meadows and dry steppe, crossed by rivers, canals and lined with embankments. The vegetation mainly consists of salt-tolerant plants, aquatic flowering plants and typical steppe plant communities. This rich diversity of habitats supports a range of rare, endangered and vulnerable fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. Deliblato Sands
is a fascinating wilderness comprising some 33,000 hectares of steppe and mixed forests that growing on one of the largest areas of sand in Europe. The area is bordered by the Danube, Tamis and Karas rivers and is home to a great variety of mammals including lesser mole-rat, marbled polecat and grey wolf. The Slano Kopovo nature reserve is a good to watch the spectacular autumn migration of Common Cranes. It consists of a large saltwater lake, fringed on one shore by extensive reedbeeds and surrounded by an arid region of saline steppe. There is a large number and variety of breeding and visiting waterbirds and raptors. Zasavica (see photo above) is dominated by a 33 km long riverine habitat set in a mosaic of aquatic and wetland ecosystems. The slow flowing River Zasavica is fed by underground springs and the surrounding farmland is dotted with oak, ash, poplar and willow woods. In the coming months I will include more on this underbirded country in this blog. Thanks to Milan Ruzic was background information.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Special birds: White-tailed Eagle

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla is not, as often presumed, mainly a bird of Europe's sea coasts. This large and powerful raptor (with a wingspan of over 2 metres) is in fact a quite widespread breeder on inland lakes and fishponds systems from the Baltic to the Balkans. In such places it constructs a huge nest in a tree. In winter some sites in Hungary, Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic also see dozens congregating. Indeed breeding and wintering numbers in most Eastern European contries have increased in recent years. Despite is formidable size and powerful talons and heavy beak the species is often an eater of carrion rather than a hunter of live prey.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Destinations: Ferencmajor-Naszaly fishponds - Hungary

These fishponds are typically Hungarian being in a lowland landscape and surrounded by reedbeds, trees and bushes. Breeding birds include Common and Little Bitterns, Purple Heron, Red-crested Pochard, Little Crake, Savi's Warbler, Bluethroat and Penduline and Bearded Tits. In autumn many of the basins are drained to reveal mud and attract many passage ducks and waders, including rarities. The ponds are also a drinking and roosting place for 1000s of Bean, Greater White-front and Greylag Geese in late autumn and winter. White-tailed Eagle also visits at this time. The area lies by the village of Naszaly, just north of the town of Tata in Komarom County, just south of the Danube, about one hour west of Budapest. The ponds are private but birdwatchers are generally welcomed as long as they stick to the dyke roads between the ponds and do not disturb the fish-farming work.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Destinations: Veliko Blato - Croatia

Veliko Blato is a shallow wetland with reeds and sedge that lies tucked away on the island of Pag in Dalmatia, Croatia. It is an excellent site to see freshwater birds in an otherwise dry, barren landscape. In spring and summer there are Pygmy Cormorants, Squacco and Purple Herons, Great White and Little Egrets, Ferruginous Ducks, Garganey, Black-winged Stilts and the black-headed race of Yellow Wagtail. On spring and autumn passage parties of terns, waders and wildfowl pass through. The surrounding sheep-grazed land hosts Stone Curlew, Montagu's Harrier, Little Owl, Tawny Pipit, Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed and Crested Larks and Black-eared Wheatear. Pag can be reached via a bridge which connects its southern tip to the mainland, about 30 minutes (25 km) north of Zadar.