Birder's diary - 17.05

Birder Margus Ots,
Photo: Kaarel Kaisel
Translation: Liis
Red-necked phalarope
At 5 in the morning the weather in Ristna was foggy and rainy, so we slept on. At 6 o’clock it was even foggier and rainier; we decided to pack our things quickly and go to the mainland. On the road we saw an eagle owl (Bubo bubo)on the Kõpu peninsula, the bird was sitting in a tree at the road. The creature has become so rare in Estonia that I have not even seen it every year. This year however the eagle owl has crossed my path three times already. Since there was some time left before the ferry was leaving we inspected the Nuutri river mouth in Kärdla. On the sand dunes there some waders landed from migration might be seen. There were no birds to talk of but as new species I saw a red knot (Calidris canutus).
On the mainland I had already said goodbye to my travel companions and reached Põgari when a message came by Rariliin (Birdline) that a little egret (Egretta garzetta) had been seen in Pärnumaa at the Pikla ponds. So I at once turned around, passed Haapsalu once more and headed for Pikla. The only small diversion was in the Rõuge area where I listened from the car window in the right place and one more new species for the year – an ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana) – got heard. Before reaching Lihula, where I should turn off for Pärnu a new message came by Rariliin (Birdline) saying that a terek sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) was in place on Muhu island at the Kõinastu road. Plans were quickly reorganised, that is, the road to Pikla would now be by way of Muhu island. Luckily the ferry was to leave soon and we were in place quite fast. But twitcher’s luck was not with us and the only bird that was no longer there was the one searched for. We checked the whole area carefully but there were no traces of the terek sandpiper. In the course of the search however I found 4 more new year species – the little stint (Calidris minuta), curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), red-necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)and broad-billed sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus), but they are quite common species that I will meet many more times this year.
We thundered back to the mainland by the first ferry and continued on the road to Pikla. Additional information however arrived meanwhile that the species identification of the little egret was not all that certain. The little egret certainly is considerably smaller than the great egret but the clearest identification mark is the colour of the toes. Both species have black feet but the great egret’s toes are black and the little egret’s yellow. Unfortunately the toe colour was not seen because the bird that had risen in flight had quickly landed to hide in the reeds. But a few days earlier a great egret much smaller   than usual had been seen in the neighbourhood and even now this bird might be seen. Because it all started to look debateable I went on alone from Pärnu towards Pikla. In Pikla I noticed at once at the first dried-up pond a white egret that seemed somehow small but certainly a great egret (Egretta alba). Maybe the same bird was seen in the morning? I did not find any more white egrets although I inspected the area carefully. But I still hope that a little egret was seen in the morning and that it will be found again in the next few days. In the course of searching for it I found a couple of citrine wagtails (Motacilla citreola) and a bunch of bearded reedlings (Panurus biarmicus) in the Pihkva reeds, interesting creatures too. With the bad weather, large numbers of chats, flycatchers, Sylvia warblers and warblers had landed from migration into the Pikla nina shrubs. A greenish warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) was among the others too. This bird is the 246th bird species  in my 2012 list.
The preliminary plan was to go out to the Põõsaspea peninsula in the evening but since I was rather tired from the long day I stopped half-way. In the morning I will be telescoping the migration in Virtsu instead of at Põõsaspea.




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