Saturday, 30 May 2009

Catching Up.....

Booted Eagle - dark form

Here's a roundup of some of this weeks birds on the coast and up in the Serania de Ronda area.
Yesterday I took Rebecca, Richard and Kirsty through Alcala towards Cortez de La Frontera to see if we could escape the strong Levante (easterlies) that have been punishing the coast this week with unusually high winds.
Coming across a pair of Southern Grey Shrikes led us to a dark form of the Booted Eagle and then to an incredibly active Bonelli's Warbler which we first heard calling from nearby trees.

Short-toed Eagles displayed above our heads, Golden Orioles called and we had brief views of males in flight and even found a oriole's nest!

Alpine Swifts, Black Wheatears and Lesser Kestrels were also watched and we got onto one adult Bonelli's Eagle hunting.

Short-toed Eagle

My pair of Pied Flycatchers are back nesting again this year. A bird not normally found breeding in the far south

Turtle Dove

A Booted Eagle with it's prey - a young rabbit. Thankfully the rabbit poulation is healthy in Cadiz province.

Bonelli's Warbler

Tawny Piptis were very much disant birds and this photo was taken on a quieter day near our house

On a clear day..... Looking to Morocco across The Strait

Yellow Wagtail male- some photos taken with Nick Dexter, eariler in the week across on the Guadalquivir. This time we went off-road where the dried out winter mud tested the Land Rover!

Pied Avocet

Gull-billed Tern

Little Egret with Slender-billed Gull in foreground

Kentish Plovers

Collared Pratincoles drinking

Calandra Lark

Little Tern
Salt discharge - Salt glands work in conjunction with the primitive avian kidney to rid the bird's body of toxic salt levels. A high concentration of solutes, such as the salts and minerals accumulated from ocean or saline feeding, is a danger to that delicate balance of a sea-birds life. Salt glands, which are located just above the bird's eye, restore this balance by secreting excess salt and minerals though a duct that empties into the nostrils. I had heard about this process but never captured this with a photo before!

Nose clean - Back to work!

Squacco Heron views

I'm off again next week to the Bavarian Alps, leading another Limosa Holidays group. If I have time between now and then, I'll post some more photos and news. The wind has died down but is still easterly and very warm.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Trip to Austria

A Tree Frog clings to a tower hide

I've been absent again from my 'own patch', leading another tour to central Europe, this time to Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland Austria. The lake lies in the SE corner of the country, close to the border with Hungary. Apart from some great views of most of the wetland species We travelled to the Eastern Alpine chain where we took the 'Salemanderbahn' a rack-and-pinion railway to the Schneeberg mountain to look at the Alpine flowers, birds and other wonderful wildlife.
I've got loads of photos to edit and I have posted some of them up on my Picasa pages. You can have a look here at lots of the Austrian trip ones from 2007 and this year. Click here to whisk you off into another part of slideshow cyberspace

I managed to get out yesterday to take Nick Dexter from Australia on a day tour to the southern Guadalquivir river and our part of the Coto Doñana park within Cadiz province. The El Rocío processional groups were mustering at various locations and the thunderflashes could be heard on both sides of the river. It's estimated that over one million pilgrims, tourists and party-goers head down to El Rocío and the surrounding area to take part in the annual fiesta. Not really a time to go birding over there....

El Rocío - standing room only to witness the procession of the effigy of Maria.

Nick and I managed to see a fair number of lovely birds and with Osprey, Montagu's and loads of Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Raven, Slender-billed Gull, Collared Pratincole, Squacco Heron, Purple Swamphen. Greater Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, Calandra Lark, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Avocets, Eurasian Spoonbills, Greater Flamingo, Red-crested Pochard and lots more commoner species being seen.

Anyway, back to last week in Austria. I thought I'd share some pics here on my blog.

The wet meadowlands around Lake Neusiedl

A juv male Red-footed Falcon.
Unfortunately John Muddeman and myself were alone doing a recce of another lakeside site when I took this passing bird. The group were having a break from the heat at the hotel!
More an Eastern European raptor, Hungarian Red-foots turn up each spring and summer in greater numbers thanks to the success of the falcon colonies in the National Park's protected areas, around the famous Hortobagy steppe lands.

A male Red-backed Shrike poses on top of one of the 'denkmals' or monumental artworks that line the road to the former border with Hungary at the Bridge at Andau.

Penduline Tit

The Marsh Warbler (above) is a fantastic mimic of other birds songs. This chappie was doing a Bee-eater song for ages, then lapsed into Reed Warbler, Starling and a bit of a Serin thrown in for good measure! It would be great to teach one how to curse and swear at key birding sites.....

Marsh Warbler swearing...

The Moustached Warbler

Fieldfare gathering food for its chicks - Crickets, worms...whatever

Grazing wet pasture around the lake

A Nutcracker sings out with its amazing rasping call at the Hohe Wand

Early morning Hares

Great Egrets are common on the lake side. This adult shows off it's breeding plumage which includes the bright red thigh, greenish base of the bill and bright yellow eys - just lovely!

Burnet Moths on a Scabious flower head

Blue Beetle - possible Trichodes species? Anyone want to have a look...?

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

A Bee-eater shows off that wonderful rich, range of plumage colouring

We saw a fair number of Black Storks

And a few of that great little raptor, the dragonfly-catching Hobby

Dawn at Lake Neusiedl National Park

Collared Flycatcher - best to get a view from behind to confirm ID

Displaying Bluethroat

...and the lovely Bluethroat lands to sing

Bluethroat, head-on!!

Bluethroat in the early morning light - resting a fter all that singing!

Beeeaters havng a territorial 'tussle'!

Such a great little bird - The Bearded Reedling. This male was particulary inquisitve

Here he is again...

Barred Warbler photos always seemed to elude me in Hungary and Austria, but this year I managed to get a couple of descent shots that show this Central/Eastern European migrant off in reasonable light

Here's a side view of the Barred Warbler

Flight shot of a Bee-eater

Alpine Choughs on the Schneeberg mountain - The altitude on this cliff edge was 823m and we had some stunning scenic views back down to the train station in Puchberg

Alpine Chough

Black Tern at Lake Neusiedl. We had White-winged as well as the commoner Whiskered Terns around the huge 320 square km lake