Tuesday, 13 July 2010

How Hot is Hot?

It was extremely hot last weekend. The temperature rose steadily from Thursday through the weekend until it we realised that staying in and around our swimming pool was the only way to keep sane. Of course the World Cup was on and we were forced to drink lots of beer and shout for various teams (I'm sure some of you understand fully my predicament...) Anyway, Spain won Viva España!
Anyway, the very hot weather was just perfect for our largest lizard, the Ocellated Lizard who just loves to get out there and catch the rays. The problem is, that our Short-toed Eagles equally love such food and lizards often end up as a succulent meal for our large avian reptile hunters!

Little Ringed Plovers at La Janda

A Blue-winged Grasshopper
These strange insects use 'flash colour' as a way of confusing predators. Their wings have bright colours in flight and a bird thinks he's on to a butterfly and gives chase, only to watch the insect fols wings and blend in beautifully with perfect camouflage into the background. 'Strange? No butterfly there...'

But here's a real beauty.
I really like to see Spanish Festoon butterflies. Their structure and subtle colours are lovely and this fresh example was just beautifully set against a sympathetic background

Posing with pride in the evening light, our local Little Owl sits under the canopy of an Acebuche or Wild Olive tree

A Hoopoe probes in the heat of a local pasture

A few juvenile Eurasian Spoonbills are around the La Janda area now that the rice is starting to get taller. Juveniles can be identified quite easily by dark wingtips and pinkish tinge to their most specialised bill. If you see them at a greater distance you can always pick up the sweeping side-to-side feeding movement, as they move their head and upper body through the water.

A Cattle Egret perches on a local horse

A Black Kite perches on a post

Black-winged Kite near Los Charcones

Booted Eagle over our house and garden

Echinops flowering in the heat

An Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar in our garden. Strange looking but an effective scare for would be predators!

The lovely clean lines of the still rare Audouin's Gull

...coming in to land

A juvenile Montagu's Harrier learns how to hunt for dragonflies above the rice-fields

A male Lesser Kestrel arrives back with a bush cricket in his beak, at one of the newly installed nest-boxes at the lovely Hotel at El Palomar de La Breña

Sunflowers are stunning at the peak of their bloom. I took several groups through head-high, kilometer long pathways in the local area, discovering family groups of Red-legged Partridges, Spanish Sparrows, Calandra Larks, Red-rumped Swallows and when we got down through the brilliant yellow flowers to the rice-fields, we saw Green Sandpipers, Common Kingfishers, Squacco, Purple, Grey and Night Herons on the canals and ditches. White Storks, Great, Little and Cattle Egrets fed in the open and Eurasian Spoonbills sat around on the mud dykes. Short-toed Eagles and Booted Eagles patrolled the skies as Montagu's Harriers hawked for newly emerged dragonflies and darters.

Just one example of the fantastic design and diversity of nature. A sunflower head developing its seeds in the most productive space saving way

So, where did you say those Ocellated Lizards were basking?
Some of our Short-toed Eagle photos from over the years. One of my favourite raptors

Saturday, 3 July 2010

July's Jewels

A juvenile Peregrine shows a Yellow-legged Gull who is King of the air with a few aggressive passes. The gull was screaming and flying as fast as it could as 'kick' after 'kick' the peregrine struck it on the back, head and rump. Revenge, as Yellow-legged Gulls are responsible for mobbing countless incoming raptors on migration, all along the seventy-five or so kilometers of The Strait of Gibraltar, from Cape Trafalgar to Europa Point on Gibraltar. Some birds are forced into the sea and eventually drown. This happens even to the mighty Griffon Vultures as well.

Goldenring - at first it looked a bit different from common and I thought perhaps Atlas. Unfortunately I took this photo with the big lens and it flew off before I could take a proper back view. Stunning insects though!

We have Marsh Frogs as well as these little chaps, the Stripeless Tree Frog in our garden. Click the photo (below) to look at the eye in better detail. All amphibians and reptiles have amazing eye structure and colour

We have a pair of Turtle Doves nesting in a Cork-oak tree in the meadow behind our house

Young Montagu's Harriers are out and about....but

.......danger is all around

Hunting for insects to take back to their chicks, Lesser Kestrels are working with every daylight hour that's available.

Spotted Flycatcher in the act of hunting!

Cactus blooms are short lived but absolutely spectacular!