I had several days off from birds and birders in between and dealt with normal people. In fact the weather was so poor too that there was no real urge to get out. But on Sunday evening we used the opportunity, as the wind dropped and there was a pause in the showers, to make a count of nocturnal songbirds in the Ropka - Ihaste water meadow and Aardla polder. Along with Tarmo Teppe we tried to cover the whole area, I moved around in the Ropka – Ihaste meadow, the Aardla polder was left to Tarmo. We agreed that if the weather would go too cold and the birds would not be calling we would stop early and try to repeat the count on some warmer time. But fortunately the rails (Rallidae) were very vocal all night and we were out for quite long (from 21:30 to 02:30). There were really many birds to listen to. Spotted crakes (Porzana porzana)were altogether more than 100 birds, they were particularly many and calling at the overgrown river bend verges in the Ropka meadow. In the area already 9 little crakes (Porzana parva)have been seen; even at Ihaste water meadows the species showed up for the first time. More than 25 water rail (Rallus aquaticus)altogether were heard, record many for the area too. Because we by no means had the time to check the whole area and the larger part of suitable areas for rails were inaccessible anyway, the number estimates for the total area will obviously be quite large at the end. We have found great snipes (Gallinago media) in three areas already.Even at lek spots that still remain on the Tartu city lands rattles and clicks can be heard. But the best areas where large common snipe leks have been observed in the last years are still unchecked. Bitterns (Botaurus stellaris)have been thought to be 3-5 pairs at most earlier. Now we know that they are 6 at least. Among more exciting creatures the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)is now in the area too. From early spring it has been seen here regularly, even today one bird was flying around at the Ropka water meadow. The short-eared owl is the 261st bird species in my 2012 species list. In addition this year the white-spotted bluethroat (Luscinia svecica cyanecula) also nests in the area this year. This rare nesting bird has been seen repeatedly in Tartu at Raadi this year. It seems that the species still nests in the Emajõe willow coppices. It was a powerful night experience. Come a slightly warmer night we will try to make another count, then we can provide more precise estimates of numbers for the area.
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