Friday, 22 June 2012

Birding in Latvia - Part 3

Friday 8th June

There was no birding on Thursday but I managed to sneak a few hours in on Friday. First thing I wanted to do was check the RB Flys briefly and see how they were getting on. So it was back to the local woods where the female was still feeding young birds but sadly no sign of the male. In fact I never saw him again and wondered had he been predated or was he sick? The Pied Flys were still busy going in and out of the tree-hole nest so good news there. To complete the picture then the first Spotted Flys of the year were chasing mosquitos high in the pines. By now there were at least 3 singing Wood Warblers. One of my favourite birds so I decided to give it a little time and try for a decent shot. They're very interesting to watch when they're singing. They were aware of my presence but as long as I kept still they carried on singing and displaying. I thought that if I gave it enough time one would hopefully start to sing from a branch close to where I stood......and I was not wrong!

Singing Wood Warbler - movie clip

Even though I'd been fairly liberal with mosquito repellant I got some nice juicy bites, but you just put up with it and try not to wave your hands around too much as it spooks the birds. I guess it's about suffering for your art!

Wood Warbler, Jurmala, Latvia, June 2012

Happy with the results I left the woods just as a pair of Crested Tits fed high above me in the pines, pity they weren't lower down as that's a bird I'd love to get some good quality pictures of.

I headed up to the Lielupe river once more where by now all the usual suspects were singing (Marsh, Sedge, Reed, Great Reed, Icterine, Blackcap, Whitethroat and now a Garden Warbler too). A Cuckoo was in song somewhere quite nearby but I couldn't see it. As I lunched in the jeep a Sedge Warbler flew out of the reeds over my head and smack into the window of an apartment opposite! It dropped like a stone to the ground below and lay stunned for several minutes. I watched carefully and could see it was starting to come to but to be sure I carefully gathered it up in my hands and returned it back to the reeds where it would be safe from the local cats. It felt so small and light in my hands, how does something that diminutive make it from sub-Saharan Africa to the Baltics and back......several times..........amazing really.

A little stunned but coming to - Sedge Warbler
One thing that occurred to me was that I had seen no Shrikes this year. In the same spot last year I had a family party of Red-backed Shrikes and enjoyed nice views of the adults bringing food to 3 young shrikes. This year no sign. Here's some shots though of the Lielupe Shrike family from 2011.

Male brings food to juvenile Red-backed Shrike, Lielupe river, July 2011

Male Red-backed Shrike, Latvia 2011
The other notable absentee this year (and last) were Nuthatches. Present in the garden when I first visited in 2007 I have seen none since, which is odd as the habitat is perfect and they are the Fenno-Scandia form europaea so that little bit different from any you'll see in the UK.
I was also a little curious about the Robins I saw....or more specifically....heard. Robins, in this part of the world are migratory, the temperature drops very low here in the winter so survival is probably tough for small birds. Those that I heard singing sounded like our Robins but slightly different, still recognisable as a Robin singing but still different nonetheless. I would love to super-impose sonograms of Latvian Robins and UK/Irish Robins over one another and compare. The difference would be subtle but different nonetheless. And while I'm on it I wondered were the Chiffers abietinus??

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