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!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Here Rock Bunting, here Rock Bunting, come on...

Does not quite roll off the tongue, but I bet you can guess what I am going to write about ;-)

Of the buntings, it is only really the Yellow Hammer (Goldammer) that has any real level of abundance in Tirol. The Ortolan Buntings are hanging on by the skin of their teeth (teeth ?) in the Silz area and I had heard rumours of a few Rock Buntings (Zippammer) about on the "hot", rocky northern slopes of the Inn Valley. So I started to ask about, and it seemed that they had been seen by a few different people right by my house, on the slopes above the winefarm in Zirl.

first Rock Bunting photo - sun playing havoc with my photo success...

Sunday morning I hauled my still sleepy legs out of the house just before sunrise and headed first up to Ehnbachklamm to look for the Wallcreeper on my way to looking for the Rock Buntings [kill two metaphoric birds with one stone]. As I was about to enter the Ehnbachklamm (a very tight little gorge), I heard my first Rock Bunting singing in the trees above me.
To say the least.
I have been here innumerable times and never picked up the Rock Bunting!

Still no wallcreepers. grrrr. they are a figment of photoshop's imagination!

So I headed back down the hill and up the other side of the gorge, towards Martinswand and the Zirler Steinbruch (quarry). It did not take me long to find the next pair to Rock Buntings, doing just what rock buntings do: sitting on a dead tree, right on a cliff, singing. Wonderful.

Racing up the road to try to get a better position, I got to the quarry edge and heard another two Rock Bunting (territory three and counting!), but I carried on up to the little bridge over the rocky channel where I had seen the second pair. Poor photographs ensued, and maniacal climbing of cliffs with telescopes. I still didn't get a great photo, but at least I got to watch the pair feeding on the cliff. As the pair flew up from the cliff, it was interesting to see how the female would fly to the lower branches of an exposed tree, and the male would fly directly to the top of the tree/bush/snag to sing his merry little heart out.

those are the houses of Zirl in the background

The Bonelli's Warblers (Berglaubsänger) were back in full force with at least 20 individuals calling across the mountain slope. Good to have them back!

Heading out towards the Kaiser Max Grotte (a cave overlooking Innsbruck in the Martinswand), I picked up yet another Rock Bunting. It was ridiculous to see how many I was finding of a lifer that has, for all this time, lived just a few minutes walk behind my house. I blame at least part of this on the "I did not expect it so did not find it" psychology. The other part is, quite clearly, my incompetance ;-)
you put your left leg in, you take your left leg out, you do the hokey pokey and turn around...

In terms of habitat preference, it seems the Rock Buntings in Tirol prefer steeper slopes that are: South-facing (warmer), rocky with exposed rock sections/cliff areas, steep but not vertical, low canopy cover (fairly open woodland flanking open rocky areas), and the vegetation is dominated by small/stunted Austrian Black Pine (Pinus nigra, Waldkiefer). Conversations with other local ornithologists have revealed that they occasionally move out on to the valley floor, particularly in areas adjacent to their typical habitat, and will also utilize more closed pine woodland flanking the open rocky areas. These woodlands are typically great for picking up Bonelli's Warbler.
A Black Redstart alit briefly when I was in "hunting" position. the green in the background is from the distant fields.

You see, it does help to know what you are looking for in order to find it - pyschologists have been telling us for years, and it finally makes sense.

Happy birding
Dale Forbes


SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Isn't it annoying when we go searching and searching for these elusive creatures then find them under our noses at home!! Grrrr!!

Chris said...

Hi Dale,
Well you are right, it is better to know where these little creatures are, and their habits to be sure to get nice shots of them. I love your black redstart shot. it is well composed and the background is awesome.

Philip said...

Dale my favorite is the last shot the Black Redstart excellent background I recently found a Cape Robin in my garden and I thought they were only found in the Cape shows you how much I know :)

Matt Latham said...

Fantastic to have such a great looking bird on your doorstep!

Kelly said...

...first time here. I saw you on the Nature Blog Network page. One of my degrees is in German Lit, but I never get to use my German. I enjoy reading about the German and Austrian birds and seeing their names in German too! Glad I found your blog!

Dale Forbes said...

well Kelly, then you should definitely come visit!

you are unlikely to see any racoons or great horned owls, but there are plenty of other goodies to find!

Kelly said...

...one of these days I'll get back for a visit! Thanks!!

den said...

I had to smile when I read where you eventually found your rock buntings. I think many birders must have had similar experiences. I travelled miles to 'good' areas to find pygmy owls before I worked out they could equally well be living in the woods behind our chalupa, went whistling in the dark and promptly found them. Even better (worse?) I spent days following up old stories of Montagues harriers breeding in the area driving for 2 or 3 hours 3 times a week whilst my wife went swimming in our local town only to find them nesting within sight of the swimming pool. I still can't understand how I managed to miss seeing them 'by accident' for several years. den

Dale Forbes said...

that is a great comment, den. I love the montague's story.

thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!