Monday, 29 March 2010

The Colours of Spring

Today was utterly brilliant - not just with the colours of spring, but the quality and volume of the visible migration heading through Andalucia. A sight to behold and it always raises the hairs on the back of my head!

From the 22nd of March our European Bee-eaters return to various countries to feed, breed and then return to winter in Africa - but first let's admire and appreciate their beauty and presence with us before September comes back once again.

Pure elegance and acrobatic brilliance. One of the real delicate stars of the raptor world, the nimble Montagu's Harrier

Those eyes tell all - not just the aggressive look but the age as well. As females age their iris colour changes from amber through to a delicate yellow



The newly arrived Montagu's Harrier female

Zitting Cisticola or 'Spitting Pepisicola' as my friend Ray Balfour called it after its name change from the more romantic sounding Fan-tailed Warbler

Blue Tit in Cadiz province. Not rare, just lovely

Short-toed Treecreper. creeping up a tree

Puff those feathers out..

Yellow Wagtail turns in the phragmites to show how lovely the Iberian race are

Adult Whiskered Tern looking very business-like

Male Subalpine Warbler

Palm Sunday in Trebujena

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Odiel Marshes a UNESCO Biosphere

DANGER! Don't swim, paddle, fish, breathe or look here at all - Paraje Natural

Delta Blues at the edge of the UNESCO biosphere reserve of the Odiel Marshes, a tidal inlet where discharged effluent, mainly titanium dioxide from the Huntsman Tioxide, 112 acre plant just outside the city of Huelva, turns the waters a vivid azure-blue colour for miles around.

Titanium dioxide dust, when inhaled, has recently been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen possibly carcinogenic to humans. Titanium dioxide accounts for 70% of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is widely used to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light. Huntsman Tioxide has increased production at the plant to 17,000 tonnes a year.
There's lots been written about titanium dioxide and possible poisoning from dust or with mixed metal gases, but what interested me was the use of this metal in sunscreens and other products claim to protect our skin from sunlight. The whole industry is worth billions in skin care products alone. More reading here:

Huntsman Corporation is the world's largest privately held chemical company. Its operating companies manufacture basic products for a variety of global industries including chemicals, plastics, automotive, footwear, paints and coatings, construction, high-tech, agriculture, health care, textiles, detergent, personal care, furniture, appliances and packaging. Originally known for pioneering innovations in packaging, and later, rapid and integrated growth in petrochemicals, Huntsman-held companies today have revenues of approximately $8.5 billion, more than 15,000 employees and facilities in 43 countries. Three-hundred and fifty people are employed at the Huelva plant.

Great Reed Warbler belts out his song after arriving at the El Rocío laguna in Huelva province

Down by the sea - Men at Work..... Well a Whimbrel introduces himself to a crab...

Montagu's Harrier having a ménage à trois - a French term which originally described a domestic arrangement in which three people having sexual relations occupy the same household – the phrase literally translates as "Grassland of three". In contemporary usage, the meaning of the term has been extended to mean any living relationship between three people (humans), whether or not sex is involved, but because it has also been extended to refer to the actual sexual act between three people, otherwise known as a threesome the term retains its suggestive quality.....More information than you may need but hey-ho!

Mating flies on my car windscreen

Male and female Montagu's Harriers checking each other out

Weather you're a cat or not - a Iberian Lynx weather vane at El Rocío

Sand Martins roosting

Woodchat Shrikes chatting

Azure-winged Magpie's feeling blue

Friday, 26 March 2010

Cooler, Stronger Easterlies

Buffeting the birds - a Black Kite makes landfall near a windy Bolonia

Wednesday was a slower and less visible migration day than Tuesday. I had Ola Jörnstedt and two birding friends from Sweden out with me for the day and strong Easterlies kept most of the larger birds on the Moroccan coastline. Black Kites came in flapping regardless and one or two Booted Eagles turned up at various locations all along the Andalucian coast on The Strait with a peppering of Short-toed Eagles. Quite a few Sparrowhawks came in and we watched a lone Osprey powered straight in below us, showing us its strong business like flight.
At an Egyptian Vulture nest site we watched adults change places with egg incubation. Pregrine Falcons screamed overhead mobbing the returning Egyptian and the other nesting Griffon Vultures. The resident common Kestrels too had a go at passing migrants including bobbing a newly arrived young Booted Eagle that wheeled above us, relieved to have made the windy crossing that no doubt sapped a lot of energy. 'Welcome to Spain' screamed the diving Kestrel!

Other migrants included Woodchat Shrikes, Black-eared and Northern Wheatears, Common Cuckoos, lots of Hoopoes as well as catching up with Thekla Larks and comparing their subtle bill shape ans size with the commoner Crested Larks.
Below you can see some of the photos of the Black-eared Wheatear male, one without a black throat patch - always great birds to watch and they are brighter in the peachy colour of the Eastern race.
We also witnessed Short-toed Eagles mating atop a electric pylon. 'Mum! Where was I conceived?'

Some Short-toed Eagle flight shots

Booted Eagle

The joy of flight

The majestic beauty of this Short-toed Eagle

The dark form of the smaller Booted Eagle

Dark Booted

Egyptian Vulture with food for mate at nest site

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Across County to the Guadalquivir River

Red-rumped Swallows preen and show us their 'pink' rumps!

They look so casual in flight, unlike the more numerous Barn Swallow that always jink about in the air

Subalpine Warbler newly arrived yesterday

White-headed Duck

Marbled Teal

Slender-billed Gulls in profusion - over 200 birds seen yesterday

Yellow Wagtail

Common Snipe

A passing helicopter put up this flock of Greater Flamingoes