Thursday, 31 March 2011

Images of Spring - The Strait of Gibraltar

I though I'd post these panoramic shots on the Finnsticks blog, showing some scenic views as well as the wonderful variety of nature during March.
Day tour information can be found on the side bar...

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Migrating towards the end of March

Strong easterlies have continued all week. During the last hour of suntlight, and ocassionally through the night the wind died down and I guess that's when the bulk of the passerine migration is taking place. At breakfast, just as the wind starts to pick up again, we can hear Nightingales singing a then a flock of Bee-eaters is heard high above our house, fortunately the wind isn't strong enough to drown out their lovely summer 'churring and chirping'.

Most of the visble migration on The Strait has been with larger birds like birds of prey or storks. They set off early in the moring from the Moroccan coastline taking a bit more time to travel into the Mediterranean then take off nothwards for Spain and Gibraltar. This extended leg along the North African coast will help where they land as the force of the wind, particularly in the middle of The Strait can be torturous for birds. An enormous drift out down the narrow stretch of water and to compensate for this wind effect, birds have to use valuable muscle power, burning off fat reserves that are required during migration. Reaching Europe may be just one small challenge during a long and often hazardour journey.

Many of the raptors will take time to stop off and hunt, like this second calendar year (2cy) Marsh Harrier. La Janda is still a good place for them to feed and rest and quite often on windy periods like this week, you'll come across many birds sitting around

This Short-toed Eagle takes to the air during the spring migration. Perhaps it's final destination is somewhere in France?

Short-toed Eagles do prefer to sit up from a higher vantage point like electricity pylons. When it's windy they will change from that 'sloped' profile that you normally see, to a more squat position - always facing into the wind!

Nervous and keeping their eyes peeled for danger, this Red-legged Partridge scuttles through new spring vegetation

More and more Woodchat Shrikes are now streaming through, with hundreds seen this week

Resident Rock Buntings have been singing despite the wind

A Sparrowhawk comes in off the sea

Corn Buntings had their annual 'Beak Opening' Competition. This year's winner...

Hoopoes like many other birds, know that there is an abnormal danger with such a concentration of predators in one area small area is extremely high and their nervousness displays this phenomenon. If you think about it, this has been like this each step of the way for many smaller birds during their entire journey time both in autumn and once again in spring. Lots of Hoopoes stay in Spain during the winter months and their survival during this time may be higher than the hazards of longer return journeys.

Yellow Wagtail, fresh and full of energy

Looking donw to Tarifa and The mouth of The Strait at the Moroccan side, called Cape Espartel

White Stork trying to cope with the wind yesterday!

Such a smart looking bird - our migrant Black-eared Wheatear. This is the form where males show a white throat rather than a black patch on the throat

Statice or Sea Lavender along the Barbate coast

Great Egrets are much more common birds nowadays with their expansion westwards through central and southern Europe

A lovely male Common Linnet in spring. There are some very large linnet flocks this year

Orb Spider with some insect that it trapped in its web

Montagu's Harriers have been arriving in larger numbers each day. This is a shot of their typical habitat in SW Spain

A male Marsh Harrier is four times heavier that the sleek Montagu's

On broader, more powerful wings, the Marsh Harrier takes small birds, mamals, reptlies and amphibians

We had some smaller groups of migrating Black Storks again this week but yesterday was quite special with a group of twenty of these rare birds passing close to us at Bolonia

Black Storks over Bolonia beach between Zahara de Los Atunes and Tarifa

Panting, with beak agape, this Booted Eagle arrives in Europe. Final destination unknown

Booted Eagle

This is a Booted in spring with some moult or new feather growth. Compare this photo with the newly fledged bird below, taken in September and you see the uneven trailing edge of the wing. Below it's uniform, brand new, in fact just out the wrapper!