Bad weather, hard birding

In the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia winter can be truly arsh, with the local strong north-eastern wind, called “bora”, and heavy rain or snow. To be outside birding with that kind of conditions is a challenge, but often the bravers are rewarded with fantastic sightings!

I started my lonely day of birdwatching along the Grado lagoon: the gusts of wind were so strong to shake my car, making hard to use the scope.

Santuario di Santa Barbara
Santuario di Santa Barbara

Big flocks of Eurasian Wigeons had decided to shelter in the inner lagoon: I estimated about 2.000 of them, together with 70 Little Egrets, some waders and 2 Stock Doves.

Then I moved into the beach of Grado: tide was low, exposing wide mudflats with algae. Rain was heavy and the wind made impossible to keep still the tripod and the telescope. But huge numbers of birds were there!

Waders and gulls
Waders and gulls

I estimated 1.000-2.000 Dunlins, 400 Grey Plovers and 300 Curlews, together with hundreds of Wigeons, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers and few grebes.

Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola)
Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola)

I was overflown by 18 Pintails (Anas acuta).

Pintails (Anas acuta)
Pintails (Anas acuta)

A couple of Bar-tailed Godwits had been observed in the days before, but the wheater was so inclement and birds rather far, in the growing tide. I managed to spot only 4-5 Red Knots (Calidris canutus), an uncommon bird in Italy, before leaving almost frozen to death.

Red Knots (Calidris canutus)
Red Knots (Calidris canutus)

I travelled to Valle Cavanata, a lovely reserve where I saw 150 Flamingos and hundreds of waterfowls: Teals, Mallards, Pintails, Shovelers, Gadwalls, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, 1 Shellduck…

Northern Pintails (Anas acuta)
Northern Pintails (Anas acuta)
Gadwalls (Anas strepera) and Common Pochards (Aythya ferina)
Gadwalls (Anas strepera) and Common Pochards (Aythya ferina)

But I loved to find expecially a ten of wonderful Goldeneyes in courtship!

Common goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula)
Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula)
Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula)
Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula)

I spotted also a Red-breasted Merganser and a lonely female of Greater Scaup (Aythya marila).

Scaup (Aythya marila)
Scaup (Aythya marila)

An funny Yellow-legged Gull showed an unusual dark iris.

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)

In the fields of Terranova, near Isonzo river, I observed 3 beautiful Roe Deers in the open.

Roe Deers (Capreolus capreolus)
Roe Deers (Capreolus capreolus)

My next stop was Marina Nova: the waves made harder the job of finding birds. I managed to spot Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes and a dozen of Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator)…

Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator)
Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator)

…but also about 6 amazing individuals of Slavonian (or Horned) Grebes (Podiceps auritus), a rare winter bird in Italy!

Slavonian Grebes (Podiceps auritus)
Slavonian Grebes (Podiceps auritus)
Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus)
Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Was a nice surprise to encounter 8 Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus) on the rocks: it’s a species of which number is dropping down dramatically in the last years, so it’s always a good news to see some.

Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus)
Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus)

So I left the Gorizia province and I passed into the Trieste province, visiting first the Villaggio del Pescatore of Duino, in order to see the Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima) on the mussel farms, and, later, the Karst (“Carso”) range, along the border with Slovenia. This is probably the best place in Northern Italy for woodpeckers: 6-7 species are supposed to nest there.

But here the climate was even colder than along the Adriatic coast, with strong wind and snow. The landscapes were definitely magic.

Karst
Karst
Karst
Karst

Unfortunately weather conditions were truly too extreme for observations, so I managed to find just a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius).

Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)
Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)

I finished my day hearing an Euroasin Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo): an happy end of one of the hardest birding days of the year!

Luca Boscain

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