Sunday, 27 June 2010

Go Fling Yourself off a Mountain - I Did!

It was my birthday present from Patty and the girls, so off we went up into the high sierras to the town of Algonodales. There behind the town is an impressive mountain where several companies take people off the top paragliding and thrill them with the sensation of being just like one of the many impressive Griffon Vultures that fly in the area.

Of course there's always a spot of birding en route. This newly fledged Black-winged Kite landed in a tree as we were travelling through the Villamartin area

Once at the top (steep climb, takes ages..) at the take-off site, we went through unpacking the paraglider,listened to instructions on take-off, additional things to remember...and of course some important facts on landing

Out the big bag....

comes the whole jimmy...

With helmet secured....

and checked....

Off we went. 'Run, run, run', shouted Mario... So I ran and off we lifted....simple as that. What a sensation. I've flown lots of times before in gliders, ultralights, microlights and lots of small aircraft, helicopters and even an autogyro, but this was special. The exhilarating, quiet free feeling just absorbs you completely. I wanted the sensation to last for hours.

Algonodales below

Our canopy or wing

Looking towards Zahara de la Sierra

This is where we will land...

Coming down at a reasonable speed , over the road and towards the target area

Looking back to the top from whence we came..

Packing up

Patty drove down and collected us and the equipment

View of the surrounding area at the landing site - a beautiful place indeed

If you want to experience this for yourself or think that it might be a great birthday present for someone that you'd like to score insurance money off..... then contact Mario Moreno and the team at:

I'd thoroughly recommend it!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Great Weather - Great Birding!

Watching Black Kites can sometimes cause confused identification by birders in the field. Often Red Kite is the first that would spring to mind or female Marsh Harrier or even a dark form of Booted Eagle. The crux of Black Kite ID would be to eliminate all those confusing points from other raptor species. Take the bird as having a much more compact shape than that of Red Kite, with a duller brown colour overall. There will be no white underwing panels and that 'crooked wing' look of the Red Kite is missing with Black Kite having a straighter wing form. The flight is different too with Red having a sort of 'floppy' flight compared to the 'business like' flight of Black Kite.
Both kites have a 'v' shape in the tail but the tail of a Black Kite is blunter with no deep 'v' shape. Red Kite tails are sharp with a deep cleft.

Black Kites are one of the first raptor species on the Iberian peninsular to leave for the south. This usually happens in August, when the Andalucian beaches are full. I'm always being asked 'What are those birds flying along the beach towards Tarifa?' and 'Why are you on a beach with a telescope anyway?'

In flight, both Black and Red Kites pivot their tails in a more exaggerated way than most other raptors, compensating for the wind with more visible movements as they hunt for food

European birds winter south of the Sahara in tropical Africa, although it's now accepted that many birds spend more time in southern Morocco on the fresh water bays, marshes and inlets on the Atlantic coast. As they are the first main species of migrant raptor to head south after their breeding season, they are also the first to arrive back in Europe around February.
Western birds migrate mainly through The Strait of Gibraltar, whilst eastern birds pass through the Bosporus in Turkey and Sinai in Egypt.

Short-toed Eagles can usually be seen most days on day tours - if the 'levante' or easterlies are not blowing a gale out of the Mediterranean Sea. So far, so good this last six weeks!

A Short-toed Treecreeper - no relation to the previous bird at all...

Couldn't see any of this Red Deer's fawns but they were not far away. The males have all wandered off together leaving the females to tend the fawns during the summer

I have had some great views of this impressive lizard this summer, managing to show a good number of clients them as they bask in the sun

I had a great day out with Jes Knapp last week on the Guadalquivir. We managed to see over 60 species of birds, 30 of which were 'lifers'. This was a European Reed Warbler taking flight after feeding for aquatic insects at reedbeds and tamarisk

The European Reed Warbler

A juvenile Moorhen crossed our path - Is this a sign?

Little Egret and Eurasian Spoonbill together

We had a distant Osprey - not so close as this one from last year

The black legs with 'Golden slippers' of the Little Egret.

I have only managed to find one European Chameleon this summer

A female Little Grebe feeds her chick

Not far from our home is a huge military exercise area. Here lives this one-eyed Little Owl. I've seen him for about eighteen months now and seems to be doing very well

To me Audouin's Gulls are lovely creatures with clean lines and bold, blood-red bills.
These globally rare birds are on the increase at one of the main breeding colonies at Punta de La Banya in NE Spain (Ebro Delta). In the past they had been predated on by rats and Yellow-legged Gulls but numbers have increased since 1990. Spain has over 70% of the world population

A hummingbird hawk-Moth loves Lantana or Spanish Flag flowers

Camouflage as worn by this lovely Iberian Hare

Flock of this, flocks of that... Isn't it great to see such good numbers of Eurasian Spoonbills down this way?

Glossy Ibis too...Coming to colonise an area near you!

(Greater) Short-toed Lark

The Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild), is a small passerine native to sub-Saharan Africa but has been introduced to Spain and to many other regions of the world. It now has an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10,000,000 km²

A Calandra Lark turned up on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, in May 2006 and one this April at Skegness in Lincolnshire, England

This rather large Black-crowned Night Heron juvenile had just left the nest and one of the adult was on hand to stop it sliding into the water

Slender-billed Gulls with similarly structured Black-headed Gulls

White-headed Duck can be seen without any trouble at all. ( of the time) on The Lagua de Medina. You can't walk all the way around this fair sized freshwater lake but you can visit the hide where checking for Red-knobbed Coot normally the best vantage point. Also Common Kingfisher, Black-necked, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Yellow Wagtails, Great Reed, Reed, Savis, Cetti's, Melodious, W Olivaceous and Sardinian Warblers are all to be seen in the vicinity. Summer waterfowl include Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbills (when lower water levels) Great, Little and Cattle Egrets, Grey and Purple Heron, Little Bittern, White Stork, Common and Red-crested Pochard, Northern Shoveller, Mallard. Raptors include visiting Osprey, Black-winged Kite, Black Kite, and Marsh Harrier. Montagu's Harrier, Stone Curlew, Red-legged Partridge etc an be seen in the surrounding rolling cereal fields