Sunday, 31 August 2008

Destinations: Macin - Romania

The Macin NP is an area of dry hills and steppe in NE Romania, located about 80km west of Tulcea and the Danube Delta. The area is best accessed from the villages of Horia, Cerna and Macin. This is a great place for birds of prey with Levant Sparrowhawk, Long-legged Buzzard and Saker breeding and the likes of Honey Buzzard, harriers, hawks, Booted Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle passing through on autumn (Sept) migration. It is also a good area for Ortolan, Rock Thrush, Isabelline and Pied Wheatears and Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrikes.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Special birds: Lesser White-fronted Goose

Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus is one of Europe's most sought after birds. It is nowhere numerous, having declined in its Fenno-Scandian breeding areas and on passage often threatened. One of the very best areas to search for this small goose (with a wingspan of just 115-135com and a length of around 60cm) is in Hungary, especially the grasslands and ponds of the Hortobagy in autumn. Here a flock of from 30-200 birds is regular from late August through to November. Elsewhere smaller numbers can be found amongst larger flocks of other geese.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Special birds: Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius is Europe's largest woodpecker at some 45-47 cm from beak to tail-tip and with a wing-span of around 70cm: that is twice the size of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and almost a big as a Rook! Though it does not occur on the British Isles it is fairly widespread and common, in the right habitat, over the continent, especially in Eastern Europe. "Right habitat" means different things in different areas, but in general it equates to mature natural, semi-natural and man-made forests from sea-level to over 2000m above sea-level. Open forests are favoured and there must be some stands of large trees where nesting holes can be excavated. In the last few decades Black Woodpeckers have increased in range across Eastern Europe (and indeed elsewhere) occupying lowlands where they were previously very rare or even absent.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Destinations: Pogari - Estonia

The hamlet of Pogari lies on the north-west coast of Matsulu Bay, on the the Puise Peninsula, by the sheltered Lope Bay. In spring the wet coastal meadows here (Pogari-Sassi) are one of Estonia's best goose watching spots with 1000s of Barnacle Geese feeding and roosting. A few Red-breasted Geese and/or Lesser White-fronted Geese are often found with them and White-tailed Eagles are also often here, following the geese. The meadows are a noted passage shorebird site, too, with Temminck's Stints regular. Songbirds such as thrushes, wagtails and pipits also often drop in. The area is some 20km south of the regional centre of Haapsalu. A good viewing spot is in a roadside parking place by the main gravel road where there is a farm-building and an information board (see photo here).

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Special birds: Levant Sparrowhawk

Levant Sparowhawk Accipiter brevipes is for many birders one of Europe's most mysterious birds of prey. It is a summer visitor to the Balkans, with lightly wooded, lowland country in eastern Romania and Bulgaria particularly good areas to search for it. In late summer into autumn this dainty raptor migrates in flocks and indeed late August-September is one of the best times to observe this otherwise often secretive bird. Levants look similar to Eurasian Sparrowhawks but have more pointed wings (recalling a small falcon) and a shorter tail. The dark wing-tips are particularly striking on adult males. This fine photo of a male was taken in Dobrudja, eastern Romania, by Daniel Petrescu.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Special birds: Middle Spotted Woodpecker

Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius is mainly a bird of mature, mixed deciduous woods, especially those dominated by oak. Though there are population in western Europe the bulk of Europe's birds reside in the east, particularly in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary. Unlike most other "pied"woodpeckers, the male and female of this species are almost identical in plumage. In particular, both have red crowns, though the female's is slightly shorter at the back and not as bright red in the breeding season. Middle Spotteds do not drum as often as other Dendrocopos species, in fact they rarely do so. This superb photo of an adult male with crown feathers erect was taken by Laszlo Nehezy in Hungary.