Fascinating display of Great Bustard

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Great Bustard (Otis tarda), the heaviest flying bird of Europe, was the main aim of our next trip. This majestic king of the steppes was common also in Slovakia in the past. During 1890 -1900 lived in Slovakia estimated 2400 individuals. In the year 1956 it was 1165 individuals, but in the year 1973 only 410 – 693 individuals. The abundance of the nesting population in late 90´s was estimated only 5 -10 females. In present Great Bustard regularly occurs in Slovakia only at one site, during winter. So to observe the display of this majestic bird we went to our south-western neighbors to Austria. We went to the regular nesting area of several individuals.

After nearly one-hour drive we reached our destination. While driving slowly, we noticed on the field flying Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe), so we stopped to take a closer look. Besides Wheatears there were also Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra). As we observed these small passerines, one of us suddenly took a glimpse of the first Bustard in the distance. As we looked if we saw some further individual, we noticed flying owl in a distance. It was Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus). We had a good luck and nearly all participants observed it through spotting scope. It was a veryinteresting observation for us, as it is not a everyday matter to see this nocturnal animal and especially not during the day  and while flying. After a while we went towards small observation tower. Here were also Stonechats (Saxicola torquata) and aslo other song birds. Here we saw more Bustards, and even while displaying. Displaying male flips his feathers, which is white from the underside, so a brown bird becomes a white ball. This way male flaunts before female, which he wants to impress. To see such behavior is really interesting. We stopped at another tower, from where we conveniently surveyed Bustards, and also other flying birds in the vicinity. We saw for example Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) and Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava).

We continued to the canal at the Austro – Hungarian border, the line of former iron curtain. We saw several species of birds here, mainly small song birds. From the bigger ones we were pleased by Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), which is a typical inhabitant of floodplain forests. We even spot one Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) in a distance from this place. By attempt to take a picture of Common Cucko (Cuculus canorus) we had the opportunity to see at least a flying Curlew. Gradually we moved to the last observation tower, from where we went to Hungary.

We had a hearty lunch in a local csárda. As we sat outside, we saw House Martins (Delichon urbica) in the air and Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) sitting in a distance. After the lunch we went to the Fertő-Hanság National Park, where we saw several tens of Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax) from a short distance and Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola). Greylags (Anser anser) with gooslings, as well as Black-winged Stilts (Himantopas himantopus) and Spotted Redshanks (Tringa erythropus) were a bit further away. Two photographers stayed near the observation tower and the rest of us went to the colony of European Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus citellus), unfortunatelly we did not see any of them. This disappointment was saved by the observation of several Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avossetta) in a short distance. We picked up our photographers and just the last part of our journey was ahead of us. We went to a short, approx. 2 km long, walk towards one of the observation towers. On our way we registered few warblers. The most fascinating was probably the meeting with a heard of several hundreds Racka Sheep. This domestic breed was on its way back to sheepfold, where they went with a loud bleating. About halfway we saw Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea) on the field. At tower a Common Cuckoo provoked us for a while, but managed to escape before our lenses. At a near water surface were all our common species of genus Anas. Besides those also Common Terns (Sterna hirundo), Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) and Mediterranean Gulls (L. melanocephalus) flew in the air here. On our return walk we saw three Whiskered Terns (Chlidonias hybrida). The last observation of our trip was a Barn Swallow sitting in a close distance. Satisfied with totally 85 observed bird species we set off home to Slovakia.

List of observed bird species:

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata / Spatula clypeata)
Pintail (Anas acuta)
Garganey (Anas querquedula)
Teal (Anas crecca)
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
Great Egret (Ardea alba / Egretta alba)
Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmeus / Phalacrocorax pygmeus)
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Great Bustard (Otis tarda)
Coot (Fulica atra)
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Curlew (Numenius arquata)
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos / Tringa hypoleucos)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus / Larus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus / Larus melanocephalus)
large gull (Larus cachinnans/michahellis)
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)
Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)
Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)
Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)
unidentified woodpecker (Picidae)
Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)
Common Magpie (Pica pica)
Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula / Corvus monedula)
Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus / Parus caeruleus)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
Common Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
House Martin (Delichon urbicum / Delichon urbica)
Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia)
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola / Saxicola torquata)
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Serin (Serinus serinus)
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris / Chloris chloris)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

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