March 16, 2011

Europe IV: Birding Trip Report

I know this is much delayed but for anyone interested, here's my birding report from our trip to Europe last month. Pics and species list is at the bottom of this post.February 20 – Sarah and I have been enjoying the first few days of our trip to Europe. We arrived in Munich on February 17. CARRION CROW (Life Bird) was the first bird of the trip, followed by GREAT TIT (Life Bird) and ROOK (Life Bird) on the train ride into the city. We spent a little time birding in the late afternoon around the English Garden. We added a nice variety of common woodland and water birds including EURASIAN BLUE TIT (Life Bird), EURASIAN NUTHATCH (Life Bird), COMMON BLACKBIRD (Life Bird), COMMON POCHARD (Life Bird), EURASIAN COOT (Life Bird), TUFTED DUCK and BLACK-HEADED GULL. The last two weren't life birds but it was the first I've seen more than one at a time! There were also lots of GREYLAG GEESE (Life Bird) and BAR-HEADED GEESE but I'm not sure if they're countable or not. On February 18 we explored the grounds of the Nyphenburg Palace. We had a bit of a hike to get there and on the way we found some really nice stuff. Highlights were a single, fairly distant MISTLE THRUSH (Life Bird), a pair of LONG-TAILED TITS (Life Bird), EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Life Bird), COMMON CHAFFINCH (Life Bird) and a few GOLDCRESTS (Life Bird) visiting a feeder with Great and Blue Tits. On the pond directly infront of the palace we had three beautiful RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (Life Bird); definitely one of our favorite birds of the trip so far. Such amazing color on the head! We had a pair of BARNACLE GEESE fly over here and we saw them again later on once we were inside the palace. GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Life Bird) and a couple MARSH TITS (Life Bird) were new in the woods and we had a frustratingly brief look at a COMMON BUZZARD (Life Bird) as well. I also saw a Treecreeper right before we left but I have no idea which species. On our way back, near the Botanical Gardens on Menzingerstrasse we were extremely lucky to see a female EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK (Life Bird). It was a brief look but a really terrific find. Our last new bird of the day was another favorite, a group of five EURASIAN JAYS (Life Bird) that posed nicely for some photos in a bush (though lighting was pretty terrible). Yesterday we took the train to Salzburg and this morning I got up early and hiked around Moenichsberg a bit. Mostly tits and nuthatches though I did hear and see a SONG THRUSH (Life Bird) which was nice. It was doing an alarm call that sounded like electric sparks of some kind. Before we left Salzburg we visited the castle and I was very happy to find a pair of EURASIAN JACKDAWS (Life Bird) and a probable Peregrine Falcon. So cool to see these birds flying around the walls and towers. Our trip list is up to 33 species and most of them have been lifers! My newly created Clements World List is now at 572.

February 27 – Sarah and I arrived back in Austria yesterday afternoon after a wonderful side trip down to Venice, Italy. We left Vienna on February 23 by train and transferred to a double decker bus in Villach. I saw a lot of tantalizing birds from both the bus and the train but looks were usually too brief and distant to clinch an ID. As we were approaching Venice though I did pick out a flock of NORTHERN LAPWINGS (Life Bird) close to the road and what I believe was a PYGMY CORMORANT (Life Bird)! Sarah saw this bird as well. It flew up out of a ditch and we both had a couple seconds to view it before it was out of sight. It was obviously a cormorant by shape but it was hardly any bigger than a Great-tailed Grackle and looked to me to have an odd stubby little bill. From the bridge over the lagoon I managed to pick out a COMMON SHELDUCK (Life Bird) and once we were in Venice I had wonderful looks at YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS (Life Bird) all over the place. On February 24 we took a morning ferry ride out to Lido and along the way I had my first GREAT CRESTED GREBES (Life Bird), Black-necked Grebes (I guess the same species as Eared Grebe?) and tons of beautiful, breeding plumage Great Cormorants along with the ever-present Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls. Lido itself was a little disappointing. We hiked around the beach and north end of the island. I saw and heard a WREN (apparently still considered the same species as Winter Wren by Clements) as well as my first EUROPEAN ROBINS (Life Bird) which were easily one of my favorite birds of the trip. Also had a large flock of European Goldfinches, many COMMON WOOD-PIGEONS (Life Bird), Common Blackbirds, Hooded Crows, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits. During the ferry ride back to Venice I briefly saw a gull fly directly over head that had absolutely pure white wing-tips. Unfortunately by the time I got on this bird and grabbed a couple quick photos it was pretty much out of sight. Still, I think I can be fairly certain it was a MEDITERRANIAN GULL (Life Bird) based on general size, shape and lack of other possibilities. Sure would like a better look though someday. On February 25 we took another ferry ride to the island of Sant'Erasmo. Along the way we saw some spectacular breeding plumage Great Crested Grebes. I picked out a large, pale plover on one of the sandbars we passed. Managed to get a few distant, fuzzy shots... it was probably a European Golden-Plover but I'm not certain. As we got closer to the island LITTLE EGRETS (Life Bird) began turning up as well as my first definitive GREY HERONS (Life Bird). We walked around the island for several hours and really enjoyed being out of the city for a change. EURASIAN KESTREL (Life Bird) and DUNNOCK (Life Bird) were both seen well. There were several interesting birds that we saw fairly well but still can't quite identify: a nearly featureless songbird, reminded me of a phoebe, that I think may have been a Black Redstart; a distant, tiny, yellow finch that I think was a Serin; several bland, striped field birds that were probably pipits but seemed too small; two very distant curlews (large size, down-curved bills) but I can't rule out Whimbrels unfortunately. A nice surprise was a COMMON SANDPIPER (Life Bird) along one of the canals. On the boat back to Venice we had a couple pairs of LITTLE GREBES (Life Bird) that capped the day off nicely. Yesterday, February 26, I saw and, thankfully, photographed a COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (Life Bird) in a small park right before we boarded our bus back to Austria. I initially identified it as a Willow Warbler but details of the face pattern and behavior, as well as the time of year, seem to point to Chiffchaff. During the first hour of the bus ride I had another flock of (presumed) Northern Lapwings, a possible Shag and a very probable Green Woodpecker but as is usually the case with birding from the road, I just can't quite be certain. I have had many more, half-way decent looks at Common Buzzard though. My World List is now at 588. FINAL EUROPE ENTRY: Late in the afternoon on February 27 we visited a park in Graz where I had a couple new birds: a pair of BRAMBLINGS (Life Bird) and a more definitive, though still brief and distant look at a GREEN WOODPECKER (Life Bird). Really enjoyed watching the Bramblings chase each other around. Such a pretty shade of orange. Also saw my first Eurasian Tree Sparrows of the trip and another, still inconclusive look at a Treecreeper species. My Clements World List is now at 590.

FieldfareRed-crested PochardGreat Crested GrebeGreat CormorantBlack-headed GullMediterranean GullYellow-legged GullEuropean GoldfinchEurasian JayEuropean RobinGreat Tit
  1. Mute Swan
  2. Greylag Goose
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Common Shelduck
  5. Gadwall
  6. Mallard
  7. Red-crested Pochard
  8. Common Pochard
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Common Merganser
  11. Little Grebe
  12. Great Crested Grebe
  13. Black-necked Grebe
  14. Great Cormorant
  15. Pygmy Cormorant
  16. Little Egret
  17. Great Egret
  18. Grey Heron
  19. Northern Harrier
  20. Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  21. Common Buzzard
  22. Common Kestrel
  23. Eurasian Coot
  24. Northern Lapwing
  25. Common Sandpiper
  26. Mediterranean Gull
  27. Black-headed Gull
  28. Yellow-legged Gull
  29. Common Wood Pigeon
  30. Eurasian Collared Dove
  31. European Green Woodpecker
  32. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  33. Winter Wren
  34. Dunnock
  35. European Robin
  36. Common Blackbird
  37. Fieldfare
  38. Song Thrush
  39. Mistle Thrush
  40. Common Chiffchaff
  41. Goldcrest
  42. Long-tailed Tit
  43. Marsh Tit
  44. Eurasian Blue Tit
  45. Great Tit
  46. Eurasian Nuthatch
  47. Eurasian Jay
  48. Common Magpie
  49. Western Jackdaw
  50. Rook
  51. Carrion Crow
  52. Common Starling
  53. House Sparrow
  54. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  55. Common Chaffinch
  56. Brambling
  57. European Greenfinch
  58. European Goldfinch