While I love this blog, I now pretty much only write on my other two blogs: BirdingBlogs.com and 10,000 Birds - I would love to see you there!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Yellow wagtails, grey wagtails and great big Golden Eagles!

I have always had an interest in wagtails. There is something about their nature that always caught my eye. That calm demeanour. And a ritualistically wagging tail. It is like looking at a monk calmly chanting his maha mantra. I remember being fascinated by the little cape wagtails that visited our garden as a child. Scoured every brook for a longtailed wagtail, and never failed to point out the odd pied wagtail. A little later, the pipits (basically ridiculously difficult to tell apart brown versions of wagtails) drew my attention.

This morning we went out on a joint walk with BirdLife Austria, and WWF to Schloss Tratzberg to walk about in the fields and stream-side habitats. Early on, we found a few cute little birds; some of my favorites being the european blackcap and the jackdaw. But when the sun started to rise in the sky, and the day started to "warm" up a bit (all relative of course - the snowy peaks do not lend themselves to warm mornings), the wagtails started to come out.

A gorgeous grey wagtail presented himself for examination alongside a little stream. Our competant guide Andreas Schwarzenberger regaled us with his trick to telling the grey from the yellow wagtail: "It's easy" he said "just look at the colour of their back." You see, both species are rather variable in their coloration but their back color is always rather constant: if it has a greenish or brownish back, it's a yellow wagtail, and if the back is grey then (you guessed it), it's a grey wagtail. Easy when you know how!

The day's highlight was, for me, two gorgeous golden eagles. Granted, I am prone to exageration. But these birds were absolutely incredible. They were way up, circling the peaks and they still looked impressively large. One of the birders had brought along his Swarovski telescope, affording us great views as they circled in and out of the morning mists. Previously, I had thought that they may be somewhat difficult to tell apart from other large raptors, but their distinctive eagle wing shape and their sheer size gave these guys away in a snap - keep a look out for the bulging trail edge to the wings (thanks Andreas!), and the enormous wingspan.

To add to the day's raptor tally, we also saw a couple of black kites (sorry, couldn't resist noting them here), a steppe buzzard and a pair of greater kestrels (being mobbed by the jackdaws).

All in all, a lovely morning.

Dale Forbes

No comments: