Czech Republic (early June 2000)

During the week of June 5-9, 2000, I attended a conference at the Castle of Zahradky (Zamek Zahradky), which is about an hour and a half drive north of Prague and just south of Ceska Lipa. I was very pleased to see that good habitat is abundant in this part of Europe. This was only my third trip to Europe since becoming interested in birds. It was a welcome opportunity to increase my familiarity with the birds of this continent. Fortunately, I had time for birding each day in the early morning and late afternoon. I arrived in Prague late in the morning of June 4. After checking into a hotel, I took a walk along the Vltava and saw Mute Swan, Mallard, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Swift, Swallow, Blackbird, Jackdaw, and House Sparrow.

The next day, I drove to Zahradky and scouted out some of the habitat along the way. I noticed a few lakes and lots of wooded areas. I didn’t stop to look for birds but saw some Lapwings in a field beside the road. After checking in at the castle, I took a walk on the grounds and saw Great Spotted Woodpecker, Swift, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Serin, House Sparrow, and Tree Sparrow. It was nice to get great looks at Fieldfare (both adults and juveniles) for the first time and to see Song Thrush for the first time. I had always wondered why Song Thrush was placed in the genus Turdus since it resembles (at least superficially) Catharus thrushes. The mystery was resolved when I saw that it behaves much like an American Robin, hunting for earthworms in the lawn and singing from a perches high in trees. I also took a walk on a trail behind the castle, which goes through nice habitat along a creek. I saw my first Hawfinch in addition to Cuckoo, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Nightingale, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren, Jay, and Chaffinch.

Another nice place for birding that is within easy walking distance of the castle lies to the south. A few hundred meters straight out from the front door and across the road there is a dirt road between two rows of trees that crosses a field and enters a wooded area with a marsh. At the end of the dirt road, I turned right on a small paved road and walked for about another kilometer. On this route, I saw Gray Heron, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Coot, Moorhen, Cuckoo, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, a flock of about twenty Long-tailed Tits, Starling, Goldfinch, and lots of Yellowhammers. I had an excellent view of the Marsh Warbler and enjoyed its amazing mimicry and other vocalizations.

I explored several areas within a short drive of the castle. I drove about a kilometer north of Zahradky on Route 9, turned right, and drove another kilometer or two into a wooded area. I parked near where the main road veers to the right and a smaller road splits off straight ahead. I took a long walk along a dirt road that goes off to the left through the woods. I saw Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, a skylarking Woodlark, Robin, Redstart, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Jay, Hawfinch, Chaffinch, and Yellowhammer, I returned to this area in the evening and enjoyed a nice performance by a Nightjar but didn’t hear any owls. I visited a lake and some wooded areas to the south of Zahradky, where I saw Pintail, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Whinchat, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Tree Creeper, Red-backed Shrike, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Jay, and Chaffinch.

Late in the afternoon on the last day, I drove north of Liberec to the mountains near the border with Poland. I stopped on the way and got my first good look at Turtle Dove and saw my first White Stork and Hobby. In the mountains, I got my first good look at Gray Wagtail and saw my first Tree Pipit. As I was driving along a dirt road, I saw a bird on the road ahead at the last second. It was impossible to stop, but fortunately the bird hunkered down as I passed over it. I got out and found that it was a Blackcap fledgling, which I encouraged to fly to a tree.

Gray Heron, *White Stork, Mute Swan, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, *Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, *Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, *Hobby, Pheasant, Coot, Moorhen, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Nightjar, Great Spotted Woodpecker, *White-backed Woodpecker, Woodlark, Swift, House Martin, Swallow, *Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Gray Wagtail, Robin, Whinchat, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Redstart, Blackbird, Fieldfare, *Song Thrush, Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, *Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, *Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Wren, *Tree Creeper, Nuthatch, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, *Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jay, Starling, Jackdaw, *Hawfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer