Dates: March 8th – 12th, 2017
Number of participants: 3
Number of species: 84
Day 0. After our arrival to Prague and assemble with the rest of the group on March 8th, we started driving South towards Sumava National Park. The transfer is normally of about 120 minutes, but due to some works in the highway, our transfer was a bit longer than expected.
Because to this delay we were arriving during the night to our accommodation and lost the chance of searching for some owls around. We still had a short time around but unfortunately we got nothing of interest.
Day 1. After a very early breakfast we headed directly to look for one of the main target species of the trip: Black Grouse (Lynurus tetrix). After a short driving we arrived to the proper habitat and we started scanning all around looking for some birds already lekking in the meadows.
It didn’t take long to located the first 4 males in the open, standing up and very showing. After enjoying this very successful start we decided to move a bit to have a better view. This movement allowed us to find 2 more males even closer to us. One of them was in full display, showing the beautiful white feathers of the open tail and also heard the calls of the male.
It was a quite active morning for birds and these same fields we had the firsts of many Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella), Mistle Thrushes (Turdus viscivorus), Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) and Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo). A distant European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) called from a lane of poplars.
In the while, 4 Black Grouses were flying over the field, showing their long, lyre-like tail and their wing white band, and stopped near the displaying male, reacting quite agresively… This was one of the best moments of the trip! Wonderful.
Delighted for such as fast a wonderful sight in one of the main targets of the trip we decided to spend more time scanning some other of the favourite places for this species to display in the Sumava area. After a short drive we scanned different places around for them but we had no other views on the birds. Still, we got white-headeds Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus caudatus) showing very well around as well as Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris), Great Tit (Parus major), Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Redwing (Turdus iliacus) and Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) as well as Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and 2 Common Teal (Anas crecca).
This area also produced lovely views on Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) showing very well in the taller bush while overwatching the open fields for preys. A further exploration of the area only produced some groups of Roe Deers (Capriolus capriolus), a pair of Ravens (Corvus corax) and a lovely flock of Eurasian Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula europaea) feeding on ground.
After this we decided to try a pair of places for Hazel Grouse (Bonasia bonasa), a very shy species, very shy and thus many times not appearing. A first trial brought us to a typical habitat of spurce forest with some fir and, of course, hazel trees. Here it was a lot of activity with several Crested (Lophophanes cristatus) and Coal Tits (Periparus ater) moving around as well as Common Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), European Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Marsh Tit, Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) moving around. Unfortunately we found no grouses in this spot but our effort was not lost since we had good views on 1 Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes).
When coming back to the car we listen a Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) calling by the minor road we came by so we decided to go fast to try this really good bird. Once we arrived the bird was calling really close so we decided to walk a bit inside a field to try have the best view possible. We walked about 200 metres inside the area scanning all around but the bird seemed to move further away, clearly out of patch we were in. We were about to withdraw when a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) called from really close so we walked few metres towards the area where the huge woodpecker was calling from and, suddenly, two birds flew off from the ground, ten metres in front of us: Mistle Thrush to the left… and Hazel Grouse to the right!
We immediatly concentrated in the Hazel Grouse. The bird typically flew some 20 metres to stop inside a low fir. We decided to envolve the tree and scan very carefully the inner branches… nothing.
We decided we get a bit closer and then the bird flew off rear. We decided to do some waiting… 5 minutes and nothing. We are about to withdraw when, suddenly, the bird started singing from the canopy! It had to be really, really close (less than 20 metres!!). Still some more waiting (and taping) to try to attrack the bird, a main target for anyone in the group! Our waiting proved to be useful since the bird was suddenly appearing flight and stopping deep inside a fir, right in front of us!! We still waited, breathless. Some seconds after the bird flought immediatly above us in a impressive view, showing the very long neck and typical small crest of the males!! The bird stopped for a while in a visible place up in a fir, unfortunately too short for any shot right before it did a second flight over us!!
What a view!! We all agreed we would not get a better views on that male as it was quite unlikely to do anything else but fly over us over and over. Very content with such a great (and rather unexpected) sight we headed to our accommodation for a wonderful garlic soup & gulash and some rest before concentrate in woodpeckers during the afternoon.
After lunch & rest we still had some three hours before dinner and we went directly to try to have good views on woodpeckers. After a short drive we arrived to one of the best places for them in Sumava and the place fastly proved its value since immediatly after leaving the car we had a Black Woodpecker calling really close to us. This time we enjoyed of really close views on it! Excellent start!
We kept going on and walked a mile or so, carefully scanning and listening for the main target, Grey-headed Woodpecker. We went into two different territories, trying to locate them, but everything we got was Great Spotted Woods, Nuthatches and a pair of Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) mating not far from us. Still, a wonderful sight! Landscape here was also impressive, with a mature Beech forest with some impressive Maple trees (Acer sp.) as a secundary tree.
As our scan was being not very successful we decided to come back to car and try somewhere else. But only 200 metres after walking we had a Grey-headed Woodpecker calling really close from the path! After some waiting we had excellent views on both male & female, perched in the trees around!!
Everybody was really happy after such a excellent and long views on the bird! But, as it took longer than expected, we decided to directly come to our accommodation in order to have dinner and to enjoy longer time to scan for owls during the sunset and dusk.
After an, again, wonderful dinner (salad & stew, good combination!) the group headed to our first place for owls. We didn’t have to wait long since even after we closed the doors of the car we were hearing a Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) some 100 metres from the parking place. We immediatly go for it and, after some minutes of accurately scanning of the canopies we got the male singing from one of the trees! It was a beautiful image kept singing for several minutes, watching us at times but mainly taking an eye around… what a view!
Encouraged for this early success we then moved to an open area around, were Ural Owls (Strix uralensis) are likely to be hunting at dusk… unfortunately we had no luck this time… Still, we had a very close Ural Owl singing from the canopies but, despite we tried to find the bird, our efforts produced nothing. A further exploration of another territory still produced a good listenning in 1 Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus), also known as Boreal Owl, singing in the area. Unfortunately, we got no sights in any of them…
Day 2. New very early start this time to scan in the highest areas of the Sumava National Park. After a good breakfast and about 40 minutes of driving we arrived to our first location of the morning. This is an open spurce forest where it Capercaillies are likely to show up in the tree branches during very early morning. Unfortunately, weather didn’t helped us so much, since it was quite foggy at times, windy when not foggy…
Despite our efforts scanning all canopies around we could not have any Capercaillie… only a distant Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) and a overflying Northern Bullfinch (P. pyrrhula pyrrhula) were of interest. But just when thinking about leaving for a coffee, we listened a very, very distant Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) calling in the large forest… We then decided to invest some time scanning and taping, and after some efforts, the bird came close and it was briefly located while calling from the top of a spurce tree!!! Excellent! The bird was very showy and turned up the white tail while calling, as normally Nutcrackers do when marking its territory. This sight was really short and, unfortunately, not every one in the group enjoyed the bird… We still invested quite long scanning all canopies around but no new signal of the bird was found…
After a short break for a coffee and warm up we headed to our next location. Our main goal was Three-toad Woodpecker, a really endangered species only living in mature conifer forests. Unfortunately, when arriving to the location was really windy and, during the two hours that we spent walking in the impressive primary forest we had no contact on any woodpecker at all! The best bird here was a pair of Willow Tits (Poecile montanus) quite showy when walking up the trail.
After lunch we started the transfer to Moravia (Eastern Czech Republic) but, before, we had time to visit an enclousure where about 25 Eurasian Bison (Bison bonasus) are living in half-freedom. A free population has been already living not far from Prague during the last years but unfortunately they are inside a military area so they are not possible to visit. Still, we were lucky to see the Bisons so well, as they were out of the forest and allowed good views on them! White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), Fieldfares and Yellowhammers we also all around!
After this and short stop in Holasovine village (UNESCO site) we drove to Nové Mlyny area for two more overnitghts.
Day 3. After a good rest we soon realised that this was in the way to become a great day. Even before leaving the parking place of the accommodation we had a fast-flying Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus)!! We searched for the bird, but was lost quite far away…
A pair of minutes later we were enjoying a large flock of some hundreds of Tundra Bean Geese (Anser fabalis rossicus) and White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons). A carefully scanning of the flock produced at least 2 Taiga Bean Geese (Anser fabalis fabalis)!
Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Common Gull (Larus canus), Marsh Tit, Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix), Magpie (Pica pica), Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) were also around.
After such a wonderful start we decided to take a look to the lake. Just few metres after leaving the car we had a Black Woodpecker overflying us! Wow! Once in the lake, we got even better views on the geese and also Mallard, several Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and drake Smews (Mergellus albellus) and Goosander (Mergus merganser). Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) were flying around and, a bit more far away, wonderful Caspian Gulls (Larus cachinnans) were also easily spotted along with Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) and a flock of Common Pochards (Aythya ferina). Here Bauke spotted probably the only one Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) of the trip, while Eurasian Jays (Garrulus glandarius) were all around…
A second stop along the Nove Mlyny lake produced a wonderful view on thousands of geese that were probably resting in their migration back to the North from their winter grounds in South East Europe. Here we also enjoyed our firsts 14 White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) of the trip! One of them showing really well while perched on a tree but most of them flying above the lake. What a impressive birds!!
Still with plenty of time that morning we decided to explore a pair of smaller ponds for geese and ducks… Our first stop was really, really impressive since a not very large flock of mainly White-fronted Geese were in front of the hide. A fast scanning produced 4 Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna), 6 Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), Great White Egrets (Casmerodius albus) and Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea). A carefully scanning of the geese was promptly reporting the first surprise: one superb Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) was swimming along with them!! The whole flock was moving quite fast left to right and we soon got blocked by the reedbed. Still, everybody in the group had really good views in this impressive goose!!
Red-breasted Goose is a rarity in Czech Republic. I was told it was one in Nové Mlyny this winter but I didn’t think we could be lucky enough to have the bird, especially after the news informing of massive geese migration flying back to the far North in the previous days before our arrival to Nové Mlyny!!!
A further scanning of the flock was still even more surprising, since our local guide located what it looked like a Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) sleeping along with White-fronteds!!! He was not totally sure, thought. But we all pointed our scopes and, yes, it was a wonderful Lesser White. What a spot! The bird was actually sleeping but, even when doing so the yellowish ocular ring was obvious and the shape and coloration of the bill were also indicating to a Lesser White-fronted Goose. A bit of patience and finally the bird showed the full neck and head. Excellent views!
Especially because only 30 seconds after the whole flock flew out (because of an overflying White-tailed Eagle) and didn’ show any more as we were totally blocked by the reedbeds… The wonderful views of the White-tailed Eagle fishing in the lake and latter being chased by 3 other WT’s didn’t compensate the rather short views on the geese… Still, we had been extremelly lucky. Only five minutes later and would miss these really good birds!
The last stop in this long morning was in a small quarry. And well, I felt as being at home, as our target bird was a Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria). We were told one of them was overwintering in this area so, as having time, we decided to invest some time and try to have this wonderful bird. Once again that day we were lucky and even before arriving to the quarry we could easily spot the bird, a male, that was showing very well and even singing!!!
After some minutes enjoying the bird around us and having incredible views with the scope we decided to go for lunch and a bit of rest. It had been a wonderful morning!
Our short siesta time brought us back to the field full of energy so, before taking the car, we just did a short-walk around our accommodation. 3 Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros) were feeding in the orchads around and a Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) flew off around us.
Soon after we had a Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopus syriacus) flying around a line of poplars. The bird was not really cooperative but we finally got long and excellent views on the bird! After that we decided to spend some time in some large gardens, expecting to have more woodpecker. Surprisingly the gardens were quite busy and we failed to have any woodpecker. Instead of that we enjoyed several views on Hawfinches, some of them really close! Here we also took a look to a Long-eared Owl winter roosting place for but, as expected, was already empty.
After enjoying for a while the magnificient XVIII gardens in Lednice we decided to come back to our accommodation for an early dinner. This was allowing us a better rest and an earlier start in our last morning, when we were having less than two hours of light before heading to the airport!
Day 4. Very last morning! Priority to woodpeckers. We directly headed to an oak forest since our goal was to have good sights on Medium & Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.
When we arrived to the area several Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming around. After some scanning we got nice views on 1 Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis). Black Woodpcker was also calling in the distance. After some scanning we soon had a Medium Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus medius) showing really well and, with a bit of patience, we got excellent views on the bird! Wonderful sight!
We then moved a pair of miles up the same minor road. Once we went out of the car we enjoyed scoped views of a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) sitting on a branch deep inside the canopy. After much scanning for LSs we finally managed to have one Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) in the top of an oak, calling and drumming. Some 3 more males were listenned drumming around!
We still had time to stop for a final view on the lake, with good views on Smew, Goosander, Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) and the only 3 Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope) of the trip!
It has been a wonderful birding break! I’m already looking forward our 2018 issue, it will be even better, for sure!
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