Wednesday, 16 April 2014

April Migration around Barbate

Male Subalpine Warblers are just stunning…

 A Melodious Warbler blasts out his long spring song

Montagu's Harriers are such wonderful birds of prey to watch. Their slight and light bouncing forms come across the rolling landscape in Cadiz province each spring as the breeding season once again kicks in and the cycle of life continues. Female birds like this one compete for males who sit around and watch the girls tussle or fight it out with one another or themselves display across green and yellow fields.

 The Montagu's Harier is a very agile and light bird, weighing only a quarter of say a robust female Marsh Harrier. Their speed and energy is fascinating to watch and often they forget about the mammal on the ground pointing a camera at them! Below are some interesting shots of two females fighting it out...

The male Montagu's Harrier sits in the morning sunlight surveying the developing 'fight for the right' as the females tussle and expend an enormous amount of energy or the right to breed with the waiting male. He watches and assesses each of the females stamina, strength and determination as a suitable breeding partner.

I managed to take some flight shots of the single Spanish Imperial Eagle from last year's brood near La Janda. The plumage change is slowly progressing and darkening in shade as the bird matures.

I took this full-frame shot of a male Little Bustard displaying near Vejer de la Frontera. There were three females quit distant and keeping well hidden. Below is a crop of the male leaping and 'clicking' as he shows his wonderful 'Newcastle United football scarf ' breeding plumage!

Always lovely and impressive to watch is the Short-toed Eagle. This bird has quite a lot of new plumage coming in...

A newly arrived Tawny Pipit at Barbate Marismas sings amidst the spring flowers

Female Stonechats are already on their second brood

More news from The Strait later….

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Black Forest Birds - Long-tailed Tit

The Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) is a bit different to other true tits, a bit like the Bearded Tit or Bearded Reedling as it's now officially called.  These tiny birds can be seen from Portugal to Siberia in a variety of forms. I've often looked and listened for the bird in North Africa but as yet have never come across any. All the true tits are pretty small, squat passerines that like a variety of woodland and forest habitats. Most of the group including the Long-tailed are resident birds, meaning they stay in their place of birth and don't migrate. 

The Long-tailed Tit would probably be a candidate as Europe's smallest bird if it weren't for the long tail!
The top photo shows no tail which works quite well with this head-on 'tennis ball' appearance.

Here's a photo of a bird with nesting material. See how long the tail is in flight

One of the more interesting recent observations involving Long-tailed Tits was that they co-operate with other neighbours of the same species in feeding young in the nest when they have lost their eggs or brood to predators or bad weather. This co-operation is not so unusual in the bird world with around 9% of birds show activities of co-operative breeding. This flies in the face of Charles Darwin's theory of Natural Selection. Birds that are in some way genetically related of course respond more to this communal helping.
The research of this study with Long-tailed Tits was done between 1995 and 2011 in the Rivelin Valley near Sheffield, UK. You can read more on this here. On Peter Clark's blog there are some photos and more links and other interesting info. and photos on the project

Here are some more photos of this lovely bird

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Black Forest Birds - Eurasian Nuthatch

 A fairly common bird that can be found in European woodlands is the very smart looking Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea). It's a very photogenic and most agile species and often hangs or walks up trees at all kinds of angles and is obviously oblivious to any blood rushing to it's head!

The Eurasian Nuthatch can be seen in both deciduous and mixed woodlands and can be found foraging and nesting in neighbourhood gardens and town parks which contain large, mature trees. Although it spends most of the year in mixed woodlands, it often prefers to breed in places where there is an abundance of coniferous trees.

This nuthatch is a small bird, weighing only 17-28 grams and measuring just 14 cm long. However, it has a longer lifespan about 9 years on average which is more than similar sized small birds.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Back Briefly in Barbate - Swiss Photo Tour Group

White-headed Duck displaying
Our family had a relatively smooth transition with our house move from Spain to Germany and we have been busying ourselves with all the domestic chores that such a move entails. There were lots of things to organise and gradually we reduced the many boxes that filled our cellar to a mere handful. Where did all this stuff come from? Anyway I had a long-planned photo tour at the start of February with Beat Rüegger from his Swiss based company which gave me the chance to come back down to Andalucia and check out what was current in and around The Strait.

Griffon Vultures mating
Kentish Plover
I have to admit that we had pretty poor weather during the eight day tour but nonetheless we managed to see most of the key birds and everyone managed some excellent photos. The weather has been pretty nasty all through Western Europe with severe damage and flooding in a lot of low lying areas.

Audouin's Gulls
Audouin's Gull with Black-legged Kittiwake at Zahara de Los Atunes
Audouin's Gull in flight
It was good to be back and also good to get back to my new home where the hills and valleys of the Black Forest have their own special charm.

Black-winged Stilt flock at Bonanza, Cadiz
Waders beside the Guadalquivir River, Bonanza
Zitting Cisticola dives off his perch

Northern Bald Ibis

Mutual bowing at the colony at La Barca de Vejer
Black Stork
Black-winged Kite at La Janda

Thekla Lark blasting out his song
Same Thekla - this time a better ID view!
Common Sandpiper
Wintering Golden Plovers at Messas de Asta
Hen Harrier (female) at La Janda
Bald Ibis snack

Spanish Imperial Eagle, adult female
A 1st winter Spanish Imperial Eagle (top right)  with a 1st winter Bonelli's Eagle
Close shots of the  you Spanish Imperial Eagle

Natural hunting at La Janda - the only way it should be
White Storks
Stone Curlew
Common Cranes heading to roost at La Janda