Czech Republic, May 17th – 23rd 2003

Published by John Hopper (johnattheroost AT ntlworld.com)

Participants: John Hopper and Mike Hodgkin

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Itinerary.

May 17th. Early morning flight from Stansted to Prague. Drive from Prague to Volary in the Sumava Mountains.
May 18th. Sumava Mountains.
May 19th. Sumava Mountains and Trebon Region.
May 20th. Trebon Region.
May 21st. Trebon Region, Nove Mlyny Reservoir and area around Mikulov.
May 22nd. Confluence of the Morava and Dyje Rivers around Soutok and Lanzhot.
May 23rd. Mikulov Lednice and Pastvisko. Return to Prague

May 17th..

The drive from Prague to Volary took approximately three hours including occasional roadside stops for birding. Birds en-route included at least four Honey Buzzards, several Common Buzzards and a couple of Red-backed Shrikes. We arrived in Volary, which was to be our base for the next two days whilst we explored the Sumava Mountains. Before leaving, we had arranged to meet up with our guide, Slavek, who knew the area well. The forests are vast and access to some parts appeared to be restricted. Slavek had the necessary permits, which enabled us to visit all areas.

It was not long before we were standing close to a nest box, which was occupied, by a pair of Tengmalm’s Owls. After a short while the female became inquisitive of our presence and peered out, looking straight at us. After a few moments, she flew out of the box and perched in some nearby bushes allowing superb views, this was an excellent start to our trip. Some of the other more interesting species noted during the day were, White Stork, a single on the nest, Hen Harrier 1, Woodcock 2, Corncrake 2, Black Redstart 4, Whinchat 15, Fieldfare 10, Grasshopper Warbler 15, Red-backed Shrike 15, Great Grey Shrike 2, Serin 4 and Crossbill 3.

May 18th

We spent the whole day exploring various sites in the Sumava Mountains. Our main target species were Woodpeckers, which unfortunately proved very difficult, and there was little evidence of calling and drumming. The foliage cover was very dense and we were unable to locate either White-backed or Three-toed. Early April is a far better time to find Woodpeckers and this was proven the case when we visited the area again during April 2004.

A single Black Woodpecker was seen flying around the forest canopy and later in the day, we managed to have brief views of a perched bird. Grey-headed Woodpecker was heard but not seen. At times during the day, the woods and surrounding areas were typically quiet but we still managed to record several interesting species the best of which were, White Stork 1, Honey Buzzard 2, Woodcock 3, Black Redstart 1, Whinchat 15, Fieldfare 6, Ring Ouzel 3 birds of the race alpestris, Grasshopper Warbler 6, Marsh Warbler 1, Wood Warbler 3, Firecrest 4, Crested Tit 3, Red-backed Shrike 8, Great Grey Shrike 1 and Crossbill 1.

May 19th.

Early morning was spent birding in the Sumava Mountains. The missing Woodpeckers continued to elude us along with the hoped for Ural Owl, Pygmy Owl and Hazel Grouse. However, we did see Black Grouse, 10 males displaying, Corncrake 1, Fieldfare 30 and a single Ring Ouzel.

We departed the Sumava Mountains and drove east to the Trobonsko region. This superb area consists of over 500 fishponds of various sizes connected by a network of drains and canals. There are also plantations, reedbeds, marshes and peat bogs.

On route to Trebon, we visited a quarry where there was an occupied nest of an Eagle Owl, the female and two well-grown young giving excellent views. The whole area around Trebon was rich in birdlife and we saw well over 100 species there. The highlights included, Night Heron 12 birds including 8 at a breeding colony, Spoonbill 13 birds at a breeding colony, Garganey 1, Red-crested Pochard 20, Goldeneye a female with young, White-tailed Eagle a breeding pair and a single at a second site, Marsh Harrier 5, Quail 1, Avocet a pair, Black-tailed Godwit 5, Black Tern 1, Nightjar 5, Grey-headed Woodpecker 3 heard, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 1, Redstart 10, Black Redstart 4, Whinchat 8, River Warbler 1, Marsh Warbler 5, Icterine Warbler 4, Penduline Tit 2, Short-toed Treecreeper 2, Red-backed Shrike 5, Golden Oriole 5, Serin 1 and Hawfinch 1.

May 20th.

Today we explored further sites in the Trebon region and recorded several more different species.

A total of five Night Herons were seen along with 17 Great White Egrets and nine Black Storks. Greylag Geese were common as were Red-crested Pochard of which we saw approximately 100 individuals as well as ten Goldeneye. A total of 11 White-tailed Eagles included the amazing site of seven birds, all immatures, feeding in the grass around the perimeter of a lake and jumping in to the adjacent reeds. Other birds of prey included ten Marsh Harriers, 20 Common Buzzards and five Honey Buzzards. We enjoyed good views of both Grey-headed Woodpecker, feeding on a large felled log and Middle Spotted Woodpecker feeding quietly amongst the mature Oak trees.

Two family parties of Grey Wagtails were noted along with several Redstarts, Black Redstarts and Fieldfares. Ten species of Warblers included two River Warblers, ten Marsh Warblers and ten Icterine Warblers. One of the highlights were Collared Flycatchers and we had excellent views of at least seven birds. Further species included Short-toed Treecreeper 10, Red-backed Shrike 1, several Hooded Crows, Golden Oriole 10, Serin 3, and a single Hawfinch.

May 21st.

Early morning was spent in the area around Trebon where we added a few new species to the trip list. Best of all was probably the Little Crake, which despite calling remained hidden in a dense reedbed. Also new were a single Black Kite, Water Rail, two or three White Spotted Bluethroats and three Savi’s Warblers.

On the journey to Mikulov, we stopped at Nove Mlyny Reservoir, which holds a colony of European Beavers. Along with much evidence of activity, we were fortunate enough to see a single animal. After arriving in Mikulov, we took a walk to the nearby Jewish Cemetery to search for Syrian Woodpecker where we heard one calling but were unable to locate it. Barred Warbler is reasonably common in the area and we located a bird singing in a dense thicket. Some two hours later, we were still trying to see it and getting any sort of acceptable view was proving impossible. A little way along the road, we found another suitable area. This was slightly more open and the birds proved far less elusive. We enjoyed good views of a least five singing males. Other notable species recorded today included, Night Heron, Great White Egret, Black Stork, Honey Buzzard, River Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Penduline Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Great Grey Shrike and Golden Oriole.

Mikulov also produced our second mammal highlight of the trip in the form of a Pine Marten. We saw it, not in the forest as could possibly be expected, but running along the middle of a road in the town its self.

May 22nd.

Before leaving Trebon, Slavek had arranged for us to meet one of his friends who would take us to a restricted area close to Lanzhot, which was an important site for breeding raptors. After meeting Peter, we transferred in to his car before driving off along various tracks through the forest. It certainly looked an interesting, with large open areas amongst the woodland. Before long, we were being treated to fantastic views of one of the Czech Republics rarest breeding raptors, the Eastern Imperial Eagle. We were able to watch the female on a nest that contained young whilst the male remained close by flying over the adjacent forest.

Peter then took us to an old nest of a White Stork, which was now being used by a pair of Saker Falcons. On our approach, both adults left the nest site and flew off over the forest. We concealed ourselves close by and about an hour, later one of them reappeared with what looked like a Wood pigeon. We were then treated to uninterrupted views of the adult feeding three well grown young.

The area was obviously excellent for raptors and we also saw 15 Red Kites, 8 Black Kites, 5 Common Buzzards and 20 Honey Buzzards, several of which were displaying. The supporting list of species included, Black Stork a young bird on a nest, White Stork 40, Corncrake 1, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 1, Black Redstart 2, River Warbler 10, Marsh Warbler 1, Great Reed Warbler 1, Icterine Warbler 2, Collared Flycatcher 1, Penduline Tit 1, Red-backed Shrike 20, Great Grey Shrike 1, Golden Oriole 10 and Corn Bunting 6.

Before returning to Mikulov, we visited Lednice and also found a nice area of reedbed close by at Pastvisko. Species noted included Night Heron, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Garganey, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Common Tern, Savi’s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and Collared Flycatcher. Back in Mikulov, we decided to visit the Jewish Cemetery again with the hope of seeing the Syrian Woodpecker. This time our luck was in and we enjoyed prolonged views of a female.

May 23rd.

On our final day, we visited the grounds of Lednice Palace. Despite the area being quite busy with tourists, the birding was still good. The site holds a large colony of Night Herons, approximately 250 pairs, and we saw several birds. The mature woodland makes it an excellent area for Woodpeckers. As well as Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker, we recorded single Black Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Collared Flycatchers were common and we saw at least ten birds.

Prior to leaving for the drive back to Prague we called in at Pastvisko where we noted, Great White Egret, Black Stork, Spoonbill, Red-crested Pochard, Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Goshawk, Hobby, Wood Sandpiper, Stonechat, Savi’s Warbler and Red-backed Shrike.

Mammals. European Beaver, Pine Marten, Musk Rat, Roe Deer, Red Squirrel.

During the week, we recorded over 150 species. The Czech Republic is certainly worth considering as a birding destination. Flights to Prague by the budget airlines are excellent value. Accommodation and food are inexpensive and the country is home to several sought after species.

John.hopper1 AT ntlworld.com