Monday, 7 November 2011

November Passerines

As autumn changes to winter and temperatures cool down, especially during the night, birds flock to rich feeding areas in the south of Europe. Millions of passerines that migrate or disperse from their breeding areas fill the maquis, woodlands and agricultural areas on The Strait of Gibraltar. Keeping alive by sourcing food in warmer areas is the soul motivation during this time.
The European Goldfinch is such a stunning little finch that it's no wonder that visiting birders from other parts of the world are so amazed by it's vibrant colours!

A 'Charm of Goldfinches'…Such a sight is always great to see. Here, Goldfinches feed on rice seeds after the harvest at La Janda

Our resident birds like this charming little Zitting Cisticola and the Goldfinches live their lives so quickly, moving around searching for food, hardly pausing in any one place for long. Observing these little passerines can be at times pretty frustrating and like a lot of birdwatching, you have to have patience

The Zitting Cisticola, formerly named Fan-tailed Warbler, is an inquisitive bird and likes to get up on a dried stalk and have a look at what's passing by their own patch

A captured moment as the tiny 'zitter' takes-off. Not only can they fan out their tails but the wing opens just like two Spanish hand-fans or 'abanicos'

Open grazing land that hold many species of passerines and can be seen out in the open, now that the main body of the raptor migrants have past south

Meadow Pipits, Chaffinches, Black Redstarts, Northern Wheatears, European Robins, Bluethroats, White Wagtails, Crested Larks, Thekla Larks, Greater Short-toed Larks and Skylarks, Eurasian Starlings and Spotless Starlings, Wood Pigeons in the hundreds of thousands and hordes of mixed flocks of House and Spanish Sparrows are all feeding and building up their fat reserves for onward travel or just to keep warm

A Penduline Tit. One of the part-migrants that we have along the reed beds and tamarisks in La Janda and other similar areas where they feed on insects

A view of La Janda's huge agricultural plain

Reed Buntings are found in greater numbers wintering with us

Meadow Pipits seem to be everywhere

Cetti's Warblers are resident birds and to be honest, they have such short wings they probably couldn't move any great distance at all! Heard much more than seen, Cetti's skulk about in the undergrowth feeding and letting our their explosive call when anyone approaches, as well as blasting it on a regular basis during the build up to their breeding season

Despite the cooler temperatures many insects are around and of course many migrate or move to warmer more sheltered areas as well

This is a European Wasp, sometimes called German Wasp or Yellowjacket (Vespula germanica).

Large Paper Wasps (Polistes gallicus), like this evil thing above, are the ones to avoid. Their sting is particularly painful and causes a large swelling around the sting site. I'm speaking from experience and even though I have been stung by them each year for the last ten years, the reaction I get is just as painful and the swelling is just as inflamed, hot and itchy for days. Gardening is usually the cause of an attack by these wasps.

Large Paper Wasps hate gardeners. They build their nests (above) on the underside of leaves or against the stems of bushes and quite often hoping to catch up with the gardener. You don't know they are there as you cut back some plants and incite them to set upon you. You can try and and run off but they will strafe you from all sides without mercy. They are bastards and we hate each other.
On a happier note and fortunately for me, Polistine nests are considerably smaller than many other social wasp nests, typically housing only around 250 wasps, compared to several thousand wasps in the the European Wasp's nest. The European Wasp is also referred to as the German Wasp or the Yellowjacket (Vespula germanica).
A few of the social wasps are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of fallen fruit, nectar, and carrion. You'll often see them feeding off dead flies or other insects on the front of your car.

A female Sardinian Warbler, another of our lovely residents, is another bird you hear 'scolding' with it's rapid 'che-che-che-che-che' call around our garden. Males often attack their own image in our car mirrors!

The European Robin, quintessentially and traditionally the Christmas card image in the north of Europe

Serins are flocking together for winter

Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs are feeding all over the county

Here are a few images of a much sought after bird by birdwatchers, the Bluethroat.

It's another 'skulker' but will react to you 'pishing' and will come in very close..often a bit too close to focus!

That's better a more acceptable pose

Oh no, another skulker...
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