Saturday, 28 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
Like most other larks, this is an undistinguished-looking species on the ground, mainly brown above and pale below, but with distinctive white superciliar meeting on the nape. In flight it shows a short tail and short broad wings. The tail is tipped with white, but unlike the Skylark, the tail sides and the rear edge of the wings are not edged with white.
The nest is on the ground, with up to 6 eggs being laid. Food is seeds supplemented with insects in the breeding season.
Sexes are similar, although the male may be contrasted in appearance. Young birds have browner heads and underparts.
The Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) is a European member of the thrush family Turdidae.
It is the mountain equivalent of the closely-related Common Blackbird, and breeds in gullies, rocky areas or scree slopes. It breeds in the higher regions of western and central Europe and also in the Caucasus. Most populations are migratory, wintering in the Mediterranean and North Africa region, particularly in the Atlas mountains where a winter food source is Juniper berries. (The Juniper berry is quite fascinating to read about - here.)
The Ring Ouzel is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, earthworms, rodents, lizards and berries. It nests in bushes or amongst rocks, laying several pale blue eggs, mottled with brown, in a neat cup-shaped nest.
It is territorial and normally seen alone or in pairs, although loose flocks may form on migration. When not breeding, several birds may also be loosely associated in good feeding areas, such as a fruiting tree, often with other thrushes.
The adult male is all black except for a white crescent on the breast and a yellowish bill. The wings have a silvery appearance due to white feather edgings. The male sings its loud and mournful song from trees or rocks.
The female is similar but duller, and younger birds often lack the breast crescent. The juvenile has brown plumage. Birds in Southern and Central Euope belong to a sub-species group, alpestris and show a paler and very scaled breast and flanks. In the photo a male from Northern and Western Europe shows a mostly dark breast.
"Ouzel" (or "ousel") is an old name for Common Blackbird from Old English osle. "Ouzel" may also be applied to a group of superficially similar but unrelated birds, the dippers, the European representative of which is sometimes known as the Water Ousel. As with the English name, the scientific name also refers to the male's obvious white neck crescent, being derived from the Latin words turdus, "thrush", and torque, 'torc' (neck ring).
Saturday, 14 November 2009
Reed Buntings and Bluethroats
This photo was taken earlier in the year in Austria
This is a very confiding bird from the Sierra de Gredos in C Spain
I had a fairly busy week without telephone or internet. Telefonica made a major blunder and left over 5,ooo customers without a connection during this last week. Making use of the time, I carried on with all the small off-season and domestic jobs both around the house and in the office.
Counting the Common Cranes at La Janda was also something I managed to do, gaining access to several farms and spending some time just on my own listening to the magical sound of these lovely ceatures.
The Common Crane (grus grus) is a large, stately bird and a medium-sized crane at 100-130 cm (40-52 in) long, with a 180-240 cm (71-96 in) wingspan and a weight of 4.5-6 kg (10-13.2 lbs). It is grey with a white facial streak and a bunch of black wing plumes. Adults have a red crown patch. It has a loud trumpeting call, given in flight and display. It has a dancing display, leaping with wings uplifted.
There are around 600 Cranes beside us right now and they have been feeding on the harvest remains in the paddy-fields, sunflower and maize fields.
It breeds in wetlands in northern parts of Europe and Asia. The global population is in the region of 210,000-250,000, with the vast majority nesting in Russia and Scandinavia. In Great Britain the Common Crane became extinct in the 17th century, but a tiny population now breeds again in the Norfolk Broads and is slowly increasing.
It is a long distance migrant wintering in Africa(south to Morocco and Ethiopia), Southern Europe, and Southern Asia (south to Northern Pakistan and Eastern China). Migrating flocks fly in a V formation.
It is omniverous eating leaves, roots, berries (including notably the cranberry which is probably named after the species), insects, small birds and mammals.
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Our Common Cranes are back in Andalucia from the North. Just a few have arrived so far and we could expect more as colder weather pushes down from the North Atlantic. Even down this way, we can feel the effect of the NNW winds cooling effect (must be getting soft!)
The downside to the appearance of our wintering cranes is their vulnerability to wind turbine strikes. Again, recommendations as to the siting of these giants in such a sensetive ornithological area and pleas to allow larger 'corridors' for migrating birds, fell on deaf ears. The dentist of Denmark, the lawyers of Germany and the rest of the so-called 'Green Investors' really had the wool pulled over their eyes when it came to selling them shares in this joke for energy. Half the time they shut them down to allow the nuclear plants of Spain to keep their waters boiling as demand during the night falls with no factories demanding energy and domestic consumption at it's 24 hour low. The wind down in SW Spain blows, the turbines stay still and everyone pretends on being 'green'. Job done.
The Bonelli's Eagle (Aquila fasciata) is a large bird of prey. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae. It breeds in southern Europe, Africa both north and south of the Sahara Desert and across southern Asia to Indonesia. It is usually a resident breeder which lays 1-3 eggsin a tree or crag nest. The Bonelli's Eagle is a species of wooded, often hilly, country with some open areas. The African race prefers savannah, forest edges, cultivation, and scrub, provided there are some large trees; this is not a species of very open or densely forested habitats. This is a small to medium - sized eagle at 55-65 cm in length. The upperparts are dark brown, and the underside is white with dark streaks. The wings are relatively short and rounded. The long tail is grey on top and white below and has a single broad black
terminal band. The feet and eyes are yellow.
I took some photos of at least three, possibly four different juvenile Bonelli's Eagles last week around our local patch last week. It was rather grey and overcast but on examining some of the photos I rattled off, I came across one bird that was fitted with a radio transmitter and antenae. This particular transmitter was quite small and looked pretty modern in comparison of the larger 'backpack' typpes of old. I have to make some more enquiries as to the origins of this bird to make sure it doesn't get shot in an area full of partidges and pheasants. The Bonelli's Eagle is called the Partridge Eagle in Spanish Aguila Perdicera, and has a difficult time surviving where game keepers try to kill them.
Soaring on high, two juvenile Bonelli's Eagles ride the thermals checking each other out. The lower bird has already undergone a partial moult and looks visibly darker. The upper bird still retains much of it's original plumage and will mould through the winter.
I'm often asked about the numbers of Black-winged Kites around The Strait of Gibraltar. The honest answer is that although I feel that there are good numbers for such a rare bird, it's difficult to estimate exactly how many there are all together, during the breeding season. I know that last year there were over 35 pairs recorded in Cadiz province and you can double this number during this time with non-breeding and dispersed birds from other areas. There is of course a Northwards 'drift' of these, essentially African birds and it won't be long before a pair nests in the S of England. They frist bred in French-France in 1989.
Let's explain the change of name thing...
The Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae raptors such as eagles, buzzards, and harriers. which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as eagles, buzzards, and harriers.
This species was formerly referred to as the Black-shouldered Kite, but this name is now only used for the Australian species, Elanus axillaris, which at one time (along with the American White-tailed Kite E. leucurus) was treated as a subspecies of E. caeruleus.
This bird is unmistakable. It has a white head with a black "mask", and white underparts except for black tips to its narrow falcon-like wings. Upperparts are blue-grey except for black shoulder patches.
The tail is short and square, quite unlike the more familiar Milvus kites.Although not resembling the Black or Red Kites, they do have a rather long and fairly broad wing. Hovering, their colour and structure make them instantly identifiable in the field, even in silhouette.