Yellow-billed Diver and other rare birds along the Gulf of Trieste

Recenly I went twice to the area of the Gulf of Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) to twitch some rare birds that, earlier than usual, came there at the end of autumn: Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii), Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) and Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus).

I’ve already described in the past the area in the post “Bad wheater, hard birding” (link), telling something about the richness of wildlife, expecially in winter time, but also about the weather conditions, often harsh in this time of the year.

During my last two visits, the weather was mainly sunny, but the “bora” was often rather awful and cold: despite this, birding was excellent!

The first day I went to the Monfalcone shore and the sea was rough, but, among the waves, I managed to spot a Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata), an Arctic Diver (Gavia arctica) and 2-3 Slavonian Grebes (Podiceps auritus).

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

Then I went to the Isola della Cona reserve, at the mouth of Isonzo river, one of the best birding area in Italy, and I stopped at the Canale Quarantia to enjoy the view of at least 6 Arctic Divers and of a far female of Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra).

Arctic Diver (Gavia arctica)
Arctic Diver (Gavia arctica)

Then I entered in the heart of the reserve: here some nice hides allow to watch the wildlife without disturb it. A flock of about 3,000 White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) was resting and grazing in the marsh: there were many more individuals than usual, in this time of the year, because usually the biggest flocks arrive around Christmas or even later.

White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons)
White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons), but also few Greylag Geese and a Great Egret

I saw also a dragonfly, probably the last of the year: a single Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum).

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

I started to scan the flock, knowing that in the previous days a Red-breasted and a Lesser White-fronted Geese were both be found by Silvano Candotto. It wasn’t easy at all, with such a big flock of geese spreaded on every corner of the wetland, but at the end I managed to spot the two rarities!

Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis)
Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) among White-fronted Geese
Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) among White-fronted and Greylag Geese
Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) among White-fronted and Greylag Geese

I finished my day along the shore of Valle Cavanata, where an amazing flock of about 900 Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) was feeding, together with Wigeons, Mallards, Pintails, Gadwalls and Teals, in the shallow waters of the sea. The light of sunset was superb!

Mute Swans (Cygnus olor)
Mute Swans (Cygnus olor)

My second trip to the Gulf of Trieste came after that Fabrizio Cimino found a very rare Yellow-billed Diver in the waters around Duino. This Siberian bird was reported less than 10 times in Italy and I have a great predilection for divers, so I couldn’t avoid to go to twitch.

The first bird that received me was a Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) in the marine.

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Then I started with the sea-watching, scanning the bay: further, nearby the mussel farms, there were a couple of tens of Eiders (Somateria mollissima) and a Red-throated Diver, together with few Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes.

More close emerged 7 Arctic Divers, a Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii) and 4 Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator), but no signs of presence of the Yellow-billed.

Arctic Divers (Gavia arctica)
Arctic Divers (Gavia arctica)
Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii)
Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii)
Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator)
Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator)

Later than midday, I finally spotted the Yellow-billed Diver that was swimming fast from the mouth of Timavo river!

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)
Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

I met many other birders where the diver decided to start to fish, amazingly close to the sea shore!

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)
Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

The bird was particularly tame, despite the dozen of observers, and continued peacefully to fish crabs. The perspective, in order to take good pictures, was too high for me, so I decided to get away from the group and to descend among the rocks of a little bay, hoping in the arrival of the bird closer to me.

After few minutes of waiting, the diver incredibly came!

Unfortunatelly the light was particularly harsh, almost in back light, but there were no other possibilities to be almost at water level in other places, so I tried to do my best.

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)
Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Than the diver slowly moved on. Some more birders came later from all around Italy and Slovenia, so I joined them in following the movements of the bird along the cliffs of Duino.

In the sea we spotted a single far Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) and another Red-throated Diver.

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

In the afternoon the light got golden, when a Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) appeared conceding a rather good panning.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

I left the Yellow-billed Diver almost at sunset, in order to try a last and unsuccessful twitching of a Long-tailed Duck observed during the day at Isola della Cona: probably the Goddess of Fortune had already give me enough for today!

Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)
Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)

Luca Boscain

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