The ‘Brat’ Patch — Bratislava, Slovakia
During the summer, I had an invitation to spend a long weekend in Bratislava from a Slovakian friend of mine. I didn't need much persuasion. However, a quick internet search resulted in zilch information on the birding sites within the city, let alone the birds. I was on my own!
Well, the worst case scenario would have been a great chance to immerse myself in Slovakian culture, marvel at splendid architecture, look at some beautiful women and laugh at drunken Brits on their stag nights!
Nonetheless, I jumped on a plane arriving in heat soaked Bratislava a few hours later. After checking in at my hotel smack in the middle of the gorgeous Old Town and yards from the mighty Danube.
I discovered some ‘green’ areas on the other side of the river on the cheap, car rental sponsored street map that the hotel provided me with. So, the following morning I arose at sunrise and five minutes later I was walking over one of the plentiful bridges that span the Danube to investigate.
The first area I came to was a municipal park populated by tall old isolated trees. I immediately clocked up Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Blackbirds and several Black Redstarts — but little else. On the nearby river were a few Black-headed Gulls and loads of hawking Swifts and House Martins.
I continued walking east along the river until I came across another bridge with a curious flying saucer structure on top of it. I later found out that this was The Nový MostA (New Bridge) and the ‘UFO’ bit was indeed a restaurant. Apparently, during the communist days Bratislavans were not allowed to enjoy the view from this vantage point for fear that they would be tempted by the sight of nearby capitalist Austria!
It was at the bridge that I stumbled into the other ambiguous green patch on my near useless map, Sad Janka KralaB. Named after a Slovak poet it is a heavily wooded park that is apparently one of the oldest in Eastern Europe. I later discovered that despite this site's apparent richness in wildlife, the developers are hovering with their beady eyes peeled and chainsaws revved.
I immediately saw the potential here for some reasonable birding and for the remaining three days of my stay I made the area my patch. My dedication was quickly rewarded with plentiful Hawfinches (a bird so difficult to catch up with in Britain), Blackcaps, Spotted Flycatchers, Hooded Crows and even more Black Redstarts.
I had an immature Hobby drift low over one morning being mobbed by squadrons of House Martins, scores of which nested on the undercarriage of Nový Most.
The ornithological delights of my patch were the fifteen or so Golden Orioles that I saw daily flying around the canopies, singing and travelling from one clump of wood to another. A family of Collared Flycatchers were a delight to see despite being a nightmare to decipher from the very similar Pied Flycatcher.
Perhaps my favourite sighting was of a pair of Red-back Shrikes feeding what seemed to be just one fledgling in a small clearing on the edge of the woods. The stunning male was seen hunting large burrowing wasps on the cycle track that bypassed the clearing. Interestingly, there was another male present in the same area that was tolerated by the paired male.
Before I could say ‘Andalusian Hemipode’, it was time to board the plane to head back to England. I learnt two things from this visit. Firstly, always have faith in your chosen patch even if, like mine, it is popular with cyclists and dog walkers. And secondly, get a decent map next time!
Sad Janka Krala (D. Lindo)
Eastern Bratislava (D. Lindo)
Southern Bratislava (D. Lindo)
Nový Most (D. Lindo)
These birds were quite commonly seen flying along the Danube.
Only sighted twice in 4 days. Initially a bird was seen flapping distantly from my Sad Janka Krala patch and another flew over whilst we were cruising down the Danube on the way back from Vienna.
A fairly commonly seen dabbler that was usually only seen in and around the Danube. All males were in eclipse.
A party of 7 flew overhead whilst I was at my patch.
A bird was watched soaring over a patch of Austrian forest from the boat on the way to Vienna.
Odd birds were seen over Bratislava and Vienna.
This falcon was occasionally seen in Bratislava itself and a family party were seen daily on my patch.
A singleton was watched drifting overhead being mobbed by hirundines at Bratislava airport. Another drifted fairly low overhead at my patch being attacked by a squadron of House Martins. This bird may have been a juvenile because although the moustachial stripe was clearly visible, the underparts were brownish with no clear red ‘trousers’.
A male frequented my patch and was heard daily and seen once.
Several were seen along the Danube whilst on the boat to and from Vienna.
This Larid was commonly seen in the vicinity of the Danube.
This species was commonly seen patrolling the Danube.
Common Wood Pigeon
This was a scarce and shy bird with never more than 3 being seen at any one time. They were normally glimpsed flying through my wooded patch.
A few were seen in Bratislava. They seemed quite scarce.
A few were come across within the woods at my patch. It was nice to hear their purring song again.
This bird was abundant, especially over Bratislava.
One was briefly seen flying over some trees in my patch heading towards the Danube.
Regularly heard and occasionally glimpsed in the woods of my patch and elsewhere.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Commonly seen in family parties all over the woods.
A locally common bird with the c30 I saw on a daily basis being far outnumbered by the House Martins.
Numerous and seen throughout the region with large breeding colonies under the bridges spanning the Danube.
A female was flushed from the rocky shores of the Danube.
A common passerine seen within the city itself as well as in the quieter areas along the Danube and in my patch from where several juveniles were identified.
These birds were much shyer than their UK cousins. They were usually noted skulking in the undergrowth of the woods in my patch.
Fairly commonly seen though shyer than the British birds.
By far and away the most commonly heard warbler in the area with the sound of their song constantly filling the woods. A few were seen.
The only other warbler I saw on this trip — or heard for that matter. Classic cross between an ‘Acro’ and a ‘Phyllosc’ it had the ‘Hippo’ jizz with large pale bill, pale-ish wing panel, yellow below, brownish green above with slate grey legs and feet. Around 3 birds were briefly picked up in the bushes in roughly the same area over a couple days whilst watching other birds.
This species turned out to be a frequently seen bird that was often found in family parties.
A ‘female’ type was discovered briefly on one day.
A family party was watched intensely in order to rule out the possibility of Pied Flycatcher. Their general jizz and behaviour resembled the afore-mentioned species, but to my eye the head and mantle were colder brown - more like the ground colour of a Spotted Fly.
The blackish rump, tail and rump were relieved by a greyish wash over the rump, white outer tail feathers and quite a lot of white in the wing. I also noticed the white patch at the top of the folded primaries which is not afeature shared by Pieds.
This party despite flycatching a little, were difficult to focus on as they keep on moving and were often obscured by foliage.
This species was a very common woodland encounter.
As with the Great Tit, this species was commonly seen.
A singleton was seen on 2 separate days from the same vicinity.
Only one pair noted briefly in a shrubby area in my patch.
At least one bird was heard calling loudly in the middle of the woods.
A pair was watched feeding what seemed to be just one fledgling in a small clearing on the edge of the woods. The stunning male was seen hunting large burrowing wasps on the cycle track that bypassed the clearing.
Interestingly, another full adult male was discovered just yards from the family group. It was not seen to participate in hunting for the family unit and was completely unchallenged by the breeding male. Cooperative breeding occurs in a couple of the genera within the Shrike tribe and a few Lanius including Red-backs (Tony Harris & Kim Franklin ‘Shrikes & Bush-Shrikes’).
A pair was noted briefly in trees very close to the Danube.
A flock of 14 flew overhead after lingering around a tall building on the fringe of my patch. Strangely, this could have been the most interesting sighting as I have rarely (if ever) seen both full Hooded and Carrion Crows in the same vicinity.
This crow was a seemingly common if wary resident of Bratislava, especially around the Danube and on my patch. They seemed more rakish in comparison to Carrions and had a different tone to their vocalisations.
After initially hearing a snippet of a song for a few seconds on the first day of investigating my patch, I found up to 15 birds for the remaining days flying around the canopies, singing and travelling from one clump of wood to another.
A locally abundant bird with family groups noted especially along the woodland edges of my patch.
A few were noticed amongst the sparrow flocks.
A fairly common bird along the woodland edges, though only males were noted.
A few were seen flying around.
A couple were noted.
A couple were glimpsed invariably flying away.
This beauty was the most commonly seen finch with upwards of 30 birds including juveniles seen daily.
A gorgeous male was discovered feeding in short grass near the woodland edge.
- Great Cormorant
- Grey Heron
- Northern Shoveler
- Common Buzzard
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk
- Common Kestrel
- Eurasian Hobby
- Ring-necked Pheasant
- Common Sandpiper
- Black-headed Gull
- Yellow-legged Gull
- Common Wood Pigeon
- Collared Dove
- Turtle Dove
- Eurasian Swift
- Green Woodpecker
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Barn Swallow
- House Martin
- Grey Wagtail
- Black Redstart
- Song Thrush
- Common Blackbird
- Icterine Warbler
- Spotted Flycatcher
- Pied Flycatcher
- Collared Flycatcher
- Great Tit
- Blue Tit
- Willow Tit
- Long-tailed Tit
- Eurasian Nuthatch
- Red-backed Shrike
- Eurasian Jay
- Carrion Crow
- Hooded Crow
- Golden Oriole
- House Sparrow
- Tree Sparrow
- European Goldfinch
- European Greenfinch
- European Serin
48 species recorded, Sad Janka Krala & environs, Slovakia 20-24 July 2006